January 10, 2018

The Death of Nicholaus Contreraz

During Nicholaus Contreraz' short life, he was often in the wrong place at the wrong time and given the short end of the proverbial stick.

It started when his father was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1994.  The elder Contreraz was a victim of mistaken identity; worse, young Nicky, who had turned twelve just two months earlier, witnessed the murder.  Such trauma led the boy, previously a good student, to slip academically and to begin committing petty crimes, like shoplifting.  The Sacramento teenager finally pushed his luck when he was caught joyriding in a stolen car. A judge told him and his family that in order to avoid California juvenile prison, he would have to go to the Arizona Boys Ranch.

Nicky was reportedly optimistic about the Ranch - - he was told by a Ranch representative prior to his arrival that the Ranch was his golden ticket to starting a new chapter in his life.  He was excited about getting high school credits and earning his diploma because he wanted to be a firefighter.

At the time Nicky arrived at the Arizona Boys Ranch in January of 1998, the facility was celebrating its forty-ninth birthday.  It was a privately run, military-style "bootcamp" located near Oracle, Arizona in Pinal County. Over the years, it had received the support of numerous politicians and lawmakers.  It also received funding from California, a state that did not allow staff in juvenile institutions to physically restrain their wards.  Arizona, sadly for Nicky, had no such law on the books.

He arrived on January 8 and was examined on arrival by Dr. Virginia Rutz. He had asthma, a condition that likely was exacerbated by the change in elevation and atmosphere.  Dr. Rutz would prescribe inhalers for his condition, but not until a month later and a second medical evaluation, on February 8.  That was inexplicable enough but Nicky was told that he was not allowed to use the inhalers without permission of the staff.

A quick note about Dr. Rutz.  At the time Nicky arrived at the Ranch, she was reportedly on probation by the State of Arizona for the illegal use of narcotics, prescribing medication to herself and inadequate maintenance of medical charts.  Her license had been yanked, she went to rehab and then her license was reinstated.  Marvelous.  We can see that the Ranch had high standards, can't we?

Nicky had also begun to experience nausea and diarrhea but staff members berated him, telling him it was "all in his mind" and that he was being "a baby." 

On his medical chart, it was indicated that between January and March, Nicky suffered with muscle spasms, severe chest pains, chills, sweating, rapid pulse, impaired breathing, dry heaves, cyanosis, coughing, wheezing, a "moldy" body odor and fevers of over 100 degrees.  He also lost nearly 20 pounds.  Nevertheless, the oh-so-caring staff at the Ranch believed that Nicky was not only faking it but milking it. 

As the young man became more ill, he began receiving worse and worse treatment.  Believing him to be lazy, staff used calisthenics to get him in line; when he slowed down or faltered, he was shoved on the ground and punched. When he lost consciousness, he had water thrown on him.  He was routinely denied the right to use the restroom, with privileges only being given in the morning after breakfast and in the evening after completion of what they termed "physical training."   Nicky became unable to control his bodily functions, resulting in him soiling his clothing and his mattress.  He was punished for this, moved into the barracks' bathroom and forced to sleep in his soiled clothes and on his soiled mattress.  Staff made him eat his meals while sitting on the toilet, and encouraged other wards to tease and scrutinize Nicky when they ordered him to drop his pants.  When he did leave the bathroom, he was made to carry his urine/feces/vomit soaked clothing around in a trashcan with him.  Staff made him do push-ups over that same trashcan.  As if the young man wasn't being humiliated enough, the staff could tell when he was about to become sick and they would mockingly do a "3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . ." countdown. They also told the other wards that Nicky had AIDS, a complete fabrication.

On February 27, Nicky had a phone conversation with his family, which was monitored by staff. His grandmother recalled later that her grandson could barely put a sentence together, he was so unresponsive and weak, but he did state his chest was hurting badly, he wanted to die and be with his dad, that it was "too hard."  His mother recalled that he coughed uncontrollably during the conversation.  Ranch staff informed his family at that time that Nicky hadn't eaten in a week - - but it was nothing to be concerned about. 

Amazingly, there appeared to be no further attempt by his family or by Berg to intervene on Nicky's behalf or ensure that he received medical attention.

On March 2, 1996, Nicky was awakened from his bathroom bedroom at 6:30 a.m.  During the day, he collapsed repeatedly.  Staff told him he deserved an Academy Award before bouncing him off a wall and throwing him to the ground for push-ups.  After he collapsed during an uphill run, another ward of the Ranch pushed him in a wheelbarrow while Nicky was ordered to make sounds mimicking an ambulance siren. 

Somewhere around 1:00 that afternoon, he spoke to Don Berg, his Sacramento probation officer.  Nicky told Berg that he was sick; Berg chose to ignore him.

Following his phone call and plea for help to Berg, he was taken back to his physical activities, where he again vomited and defecated on himself.  Pursuant to statements given by other Ranch wards, he was not allowed to clean himself up or change clothes. At 5:30, he collapsed for a final time.  Ordered by staff to get up, Nicky responded "No."  It was the last thing he would ever say.

Upon this collapse, Nicky was picked up by two Ranch staff members, one on either side of him, and, with his toes dragging on the ground, they attempted to force him to consume water. As he had already gone into cardiac distress, their attempts were unsuccessful.  It was only then that EMS was called but it was far too late for Nicky. 

Two autopsies were performed on Nicky's body and the results were shocking, horrifying and disgusting.  Nicky had been suffering with a massive infection in both of his lungs.  One lung had partially collapsed.  Both lungs contained fluid that was most likely vomitus that had been inhaled.  His abdomen was distended with more than two and a half quarts of pus from a different combined infection of both staphylococcus and streptococcus.  His body, including his head and face, was covered with seventy-one separate cuts, bruises, abrasions, scratches and minor puncture wounds that were determined to have come from manhandling.  Blood was found in his stomach.  Nicky suffered a cardiac arrest, likely brought on by the fluid build-up in his lungs and chest cavity.

Ranch nurse Linda Babb, who took Nicky's temperature and listened to his lungs approximately once,  and on the day of his death, denied any type of responsibility and claimed there was no outward sign of infection.  You know, like fevers, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, odor . . . She also took victim blaming to new heights by claiming that he most certainly had the opportunity to tell people if he were sick.   I am torn between my eyes rolling painfully to the back of my head and wanting to punch Babb in her nether regions.

A relative of Nicky's would later say that the Ranch had initially told the family that Nicky had committed suicide via a self-induced hunger strike. 

Given that Nicky was a resident of California and a minor, the California Department of Social Services began an investigation. They found his death was the result of medical neglect and physical abuse. (Because clearly having dipshit assclowns in charge is not a legitimate cause of death.) 

The president of the Ranch, Bob Thomas, denied there was any physical abuse whatsoever.  Seventy-one separate cuts and bruises?  Yeah, no big deal.  This denial was despite the findings of two separate autopsies.  He believed the California report, a report which he could not be bothered to read, was made simply and solely to make the Ranch look bad.  Never mind that California had been funding the Ranch.  I've got news, Bob Thomas.  You don't need a report from California or anywhere else to make your facility look bad.  He also opined that you need to believe either the staff or the kids.  Hmmmmm.

It very soon came to light that in the previous five years, nearly 100 counts of child abuse had been leveled at the Ranch.  These counts included an incident in which a boy was burned so badly with hot water he required skin grafts, a boy whose nose was broken after being slammed into a table and another who was struck in the head with a shovel by a staff member.  In 1994, a Mississippi youth drowned in a canal after attempting to flee the Ranch.  In 1995, a California boy was struck twenty-five to thirty times (the two employees responsible were fired.)  In 1996, five employees claimed the Ranch was hostile and continued to abuse children. Also in 1996, the Ranch's license was put on provisional status due to abuse - - the third time it had happened.

Employees directly implicated in Nicky's death were either fired, laid off or resigned. Seventeen former staff members were placed in the Arizona Child Abuse Directory as a result of what they had done to Nicky.  The Ranch lost its license on August 27, 1998.  Bob Thomas (again) publicly stated his intention to get the license reinstated but board members of the Ranch got smart and put him on administrative leave. 

Staff employees Geoffrey Lewis, Montgomery Hoover, Michael Morena and Troy Jones all had criminal charges brought against them for Nicky's death.  Nurse Linda Babb was charged with one count of  manslaughter and one count of child abuse.  Babb, if you recall, was the nurse who claimed that Nicky had every opportunity to let on that he was sick.  For her part, she cleared Nicky for physically demanding exercise and, via reports to staff, encouraged them to "hold Contreraz highly accountable for his negative behavior." 

The charges truly did not fit the crime.  With conviction, each defendant only faced some twelve years for Nicky's homicide.

Sadly, the case went nowhere when the Pinal County District Attorney dropped all charges. No one involved in Nicky's horrific end served time or was legally punished.  A technicality let them all walk.   The employees were supposedly relying upon Linda Babb and her (lack of) judgment; Babb reportedly didn't have enough information about Nicky to know his life was in danger and was absent most of the time period in question. 

The only true repercussion suffered was that California pulled its funding and canceled its contract, leading to the closure of the Ranch.  Nicky's mother settled out of court with both the State of Arizona and County of Sacramento, reportedly for three million dollars.

Despite the Ranch being closed (although a Queens Creek location still operates, albeit under "Canyon State Academy"), there was zero justice for Nicholaus Contreraz.  No one was forced to answer for his miserable, painful death.  This was a boy who died only two months after his sixteenth birthday.  He was abused, physically, verbally and mentally, by persons who were responsible for his care.  The double infection that caused a disgusting two and half quarts of pus to seep into his abdomen was almost certainly due to his being forced to do push-ups over raw waste.

Poor Nicky was let down by the adults in his life.  His father died in front of him, something that certainly caused him to act out.  The Sacramento judge who, rather than letting him serve his juvenile time in California, where facilities like the Ranch did not exist, sent him out of state.  The employees and medical personnel at the Ranch did not look out for his best interests and had a depraved indifference toward his welfare.  Linda Babb listened to his lungs on the day he died and could not tell that one lung had partially collapsed?  She could not see his abdomen was distended by the over half gallon of pus building up?  She did not notice the multiple abrasions and bruises that littered his body?  His parole officer was not apparently alerted by Nicky's deteriorating health or by the Ranch's statement that he had not eaten in a week.  Nicky's assigned caseworker at the Ranch said that Nicky never mentioned to him about feeling well and said he was treated with "compassion" by the Ranch staff.  Even his mother and grandmother, who certainly loved and cared for Nicky, did not take action after that last phone call, in which he sounded weak, sick, in pain and with zero desire to live. Why didn't they, or his parole officer, notify local authorities?  Contact the judge in Sacramento who had sentenced Nicky?  Get on a plane, or jump in a car, to Arizona? 

I think it's important to point out that the Pinal County Sheriff's Department conducted their own investigations, as California did, which resulted in a 1,000 page report.  While there were conflicting statements, the medical evidence and findings were never disputed.

His murder - - because it was murder - - is the greatest tragedy in this story.  The fact that not one person was held responsible, not forced to stand trial for depraved indifference or negligent homicide, at the very least,  adds flagrant injustice to the tragedy.

My heart hurts for this young man, who wasn't a bad kid . . . simply a confused and hurt one.  Nicky looked forward to his time at the Ranch, a time when he thought he could continue his education and get his life on track.  Not where he would meet an early death.

December 31, 2017

The MacDonald Case: The Suitcase

The suitcase, on right, as it was found on February 17, 1970
Photo: thejeffreymacdonaldcase.com

In this case, with enough gore to fill the pages of a lengthy book, the presence of a suitcase seems tame and uneventful and is very rarely mentioned.  It's one of the lesser pieces of evidence at a crime scene that has much but I believe its presence tells a very important story.

The suitcase was noticed by both William Ivory and Robert Shaw, initial investigators at 544 Castle Drive the morning of February 17, 1970. It sat on the white shag carpeting in the master bedroom, near the right hand corner of the footboard of the master bed and in a southward direction from Colette MacDonald's body.  It wasn't far from a pile of bloody bedding that had been placed or dropped outside the master closet door, immediately adjacent to the bedroom door.  The right side of the closet stood open; white shoes just inside the right side of the closet bore blood spatter.

The suitcase itself had no blood on it.  The carpet around it, and underneath it, however, had quantities of blood  - Colette's blood. The obvious inference is that the blood was shed before the suitcase was placed in that spot in the master bedroom.

Paul Stombaugh, once a Special Agent for the FBI, who became a qualified expert in fabric impressions, stains, hairs and fibers, and who examined the physical evidence in this case and testified for the prosecution in 1979, believes that Jeffrey MacDonald, after butchering his family and before deciding on the drugged-out-hippies-intruder theory and inflicting a wound on himself, grabbed that suitcase and planned to pack it and flee.

It is one theory.  MacDonald's narcissism, though, always gives me pause.  Would a narcissist like MacDonald actually flee?  And if he was going to flee, why wouldn't he do so before laying a hand on his youngest child, Kristen?  Wouldn't it make more sense, grotesquely, at least, to plan to flee while Colette and Kimberley were both unconscious, but still alive, in the master bedroom and Kristen had not yet been touched?  And if he was going to run, would he change out of his pajamas, especially given that the top was already torn and Colette's blood had already stained it, and into street clothes before packing?

Another view of the case, on right, with bloody bedding and open closet door
Photo: thejeffreymacdonaldcase.com 

Let's consider another theory.

We know from Mildred Kassab's later testimony and statements that Colette called her on the morning of Monday, February 16, 1970.  It was winter in North Carolina, gray and raining, and pregnant Colette had two children that were cooped up in a small apartment and no car. (The family's vehicle, one that was given to her by her aunt, was taken by MacDonald to and from work each day, leaving Colette to do her errands and shopping on foot.)  She was also increasingly unhappy in her marriage, although being private, she did not tell her mother this. She asked Mildred if she and the children could come home (to New York) for a visit.  Ground in the Kassab backyard had recently been broken for a swimming pool that the Kassabs hoped they, as well as Colette and the children, would enjoy for years to come. This was on Mildred's  mind as she considered the danger to the children and suggested that Colette wait until spring. By spring, the pool would be completed and therefore safer.

What if Colette, dispirited and unsatisfied with her domestic situation, had packed a suitcase with clothing for herself and her girls, in anticipation of going home?  She must have been thoroughly disappointed at not being told to get on the next flight.  Perhaps rather than unpacking, she simply placed the suitcase in the master bedroom closet, under the bed or in some other location.

What if before or during the argument that erupted fatally later that evening, Jeffrey MacDonald found that suitcase and didn't like that his wife was leaving, even for a temporary visit home?  The suggestion that she was going to leave certainly would not comport with the idyllic family life that MacDonald later told authorities.

Imagine that after Colette, Kimberley and Kristen had been murdered, MacDonald, while staging the scene, and/or after making the phone call for help and before the MPs arrive, must remove evidence that Colette had packed to leave.  He pulls her things from the suitcase and returns them to her dresser drawers, quickly.  The children's clothing is placed in a stack on the hallway floor, closest to the sofa in the living room, either due to forgetfulness, expediency or because MacDonald had no wish to again see what he had done to his children by returning the items to their proper bedroom.  Although he unpacked the suitcase, he forgot about it and left it on the floor, on top of and around blood evidence.

When that suitcase was inspected by Ivory, it was found to be empty.  An inspection also revealed that one of the dresser drawers, one belonging to Colette, was found that morning slightly open and the contents were in a jumble. Perhaps Colette had opened that drawer while preparing for bed that evening.  Perhaps she herself had put her own clothing in the drawer, without taking care for being neat.  Or perhaps Jeffrey MacDonald did it.

Either theory regarding the suitcase could be accurate; both could be wrong.  Just another enigma in the puzzle of this case.

What do you think?

December 29, 2017

Erik and Lyle Menendez: Was Justice Done?

Erik (left) and Lyle - before August 20, 1989

I remember vividly the 1989 shotgun murders of Jose and Kitty Menendez.  I was living on the east coast and desperate to move to southern California.  The news stations were giddy over the murder of Jose, an entertainment executive, and his blonde wife, in their plushy Beverly Hills home - - calling it a nightmare on Elm Drive (taking off from the then-popular Freddy Krueger franchise.)  I knew only what was reported in the media (so basically what they wanted me to know) and grew to believe that the brothers had massacred their parents solely for greed.  Case closed.

Or is it?  Watching the recent A&E program called "The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All" led me to do some serious digging in this case.  All is not what I thought, that's for certain.

The one fact that is absolutely not in dispute in this case is that Erik, then 18, and Lyle, then 21, shot their parents to death on August 20, 1989.  The motive behind the killings, however, may not be what you think.

Jose and Kitty
On the evening of Sunday, August 20, Jose and Kitty were in the den of their fancy home at 722 North Elm Drive.  They had been watching a videotape of The Spy Who Loved Me and snacked on blueberries and cream.  It was a quiet night in. Around 10 p.m., their sons entered the room, armed with 12-gauge shotguns.  Jose was shot in the back of the head, point blank, killing him instantly. Three more shots to his arms followed. Kitty, who may have been dozing, jumped from the couch and attempted to flee.  She was shot in the leg and in left arm, causing a fracture. She fell in front of the couch, leaving her vulnerable to the blasts. Once down, she was shot in the left breast, right arm, left thigh . . . she was still alive and writhing on the floor when the tenth and final shot was delivered to her, when the barrel of the shotgun was placed against her cheek and the trigger was pulled.   It was incorrectly reported that both Jose and Kitty were shot in the knees after death in order to make the murders look as though they were Mob related; however, pictures of Jose, clad in shorts at the time of his death, show his knees unmarked and unwounded.

Despite statements repeated in the press, neighbors did hear the shots but attributed them to kids playing around with fireworks.  Having driven through the neighborhood and seen the house years after the murders, this is not surprising.  The houses, while grand, are close together and it would be insane to think that two 12-gauge shotguns could be blasting inside one of the residences without being heard.  Seriously.   What was the media thinking?  That it was somehow more ninja-like or shifty to suggest that these murders were committed silently? 

At 11:47, a 9-1-1 call was made by Lyle in which he stated "Somebody killed my parents!"  Both he and Erik told police they had been at the movies and returned home to find their parents dead.  They should have been prime suspects, as immediate family normally is, but for whatever reason, the LAPD neglected to treat them as such or test their hands and clothing for GSR (gunshot residue.)

While the LAPD apparently wasn't seriously investigating Jose and Kitty's sons, they were checking out theories that the murders were indeed a Mob hit and/or due to shady dealings by Jose and/or his company and/or by a disgruntled employee.  They found out that Jose was not well liked by his coworkers and employees and that he had extracurricular interests outside his marriage to Kitty.

Months later, after Lyle and Erik began spending lavish amounts of money on cars, clothing and Rolex watches, Erik began seeing therapist/psychologist Jerome Oziel.  Dr. Oziel, as you will soon find out, gives therapists a bad name. 

Erik confessed to Dr. Oziel that he and his older brother had committed the murders, after being tormented by his crime, suffering with anxiety, depression, insomnia and suicidal thoughts.  Oziel, who was having an affair with his patient Judalon Smyth, convinced Smyth to eavesdrop on his sessions with Erik.  He also told her what Erik discussed during his sessions  - a very clear and egregious violation of the doctor-patient privilege.  Oziel would later state that Lyle threatened him and he had Smyth eavesdrop in order to ensure his personal safety.

Oziel was married (what a catch) and attempted to end things with Smyth (as most wives don't appreciate their husbands having mistresses, much less those that are also patients.)  As hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, Smyth promptly called the police and blabbed all that she overheard and that Oziel had told her.

Under arrest
Lyle was arrested in March of 1990; Erik, who was in Israel for a tennis tournament, surrendered voluntarily three days later.  They would not be indicted for murder until December of 1992, as it took two years to determine whether or not Oziel's taped sessions with Erik were admissible.  (Some were but not those in which he discussed the murders.)

The trial began in 1993.  Lyle and Erik both testified that they had been abused, sexually and physically, for years by their father, with their mother turning a blind eye to it, and it was this abuse that led to their committing the murders.  Judge Stanley Weisberg allowed the defense to present the "abuse excuse" and call witnesses to support their case.  The trial, with a jury each for Erik and Lyle, ended in a deadlock, with the males in both juries voting to convict. The DA elected to try the Menendezes again.

On trial
Incredibly, in the second trial, where Weisberg once again presided, he reversed his decisions from the first trial and did not allow the claims of sexual abuse and rape to be presented as a defense.  That effectively meant that Erik and Lyle, while admitting to the murder of their parents, had no real defense for their actions.  As the abuse was not allowed, the many witnesses who took the stand in the first trial, to recount having seen the abuse, were not permitted in the second trial.  The juries, having only the option for first degree murder or acquittal - - not manslaughter - - , convicted both brothers of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  The state wanted the death penalty; Erik and Lyle were spared due their lack of a past criminal history and on July 2, 1996, Weisberg sentenced them to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As expected, attorneys for Lyle and Erik filed appeals.  In February of 1998, the California Court of Appeals upheld the convictions. In May of that same year, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the convictions and the sentences with none of the justices voting to review the case.

The habeas corpus petitions filed by both were denied by the Supreme Court of California in 1999.  Attorneys then filed habeas corpus petitions on behalf of both in the U.S. District Court;  the petitions were denied in March of 2003.  An appeal was then made to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District. The denial of the petitions was affirmed in September of 2005.

Legally, this is where the road ends for Lyle and Erik Menendez.

These are my thoughts.  They are clearly guilty of killing their parents.  There is no dispute on that.  Was there abuse in the Menendez household?  I think so.  Not because Lyle and Erik testified there was (although I can't imagine any teenage boy - - or a young adult of Lyle's age at the time - - who would be willing to claim that his father, an adult male, forced him to give and receive oral and anal sex) but because they had witnesses to back it up.  And not just friends, their tennis coach and Erik's therapist post-Oziel but also the son of Jose Menendez' brother and the sister and niece of Kitty Menendez.

It's really incredible when you think on it.  Not one person during the first or second trial spoke on behalf of Jose Menendez to defend his character. Not one individual said he was a nice, good, decent person.  Not saying that meant he deserved to be killed but it says something, doesn't it?  Jose's own mother sat in the courtroom, supporting her grandsons  - the same Lyle and Erik who killed her son.   Kitty's sister spoke of the abuse she and Kitty were exposed to while growing up, which may have slanted her view on Jose's abuse; Jose's nephew testified as to Kitty's addiction to prescription pills and alcohol.  While the press took such revelations as victim blaming, victim shaming and putting the victims themselves on trial, they were only correct in that the victims were indeed on trial.  And should have been, based upon the allegations.

I believe that Judge Weisberg was correct during the first trial, where he allowed Leslie Abramson, Barry Levin and Jill Lansing to present claims of abuse and belief of imminent danger from their parents.  It was a legitimate defense and the jury should have been allowed to consider it and debate on it (as they did.) 

When the Los Angeles D.A. essentially lost the case via a mistrial, I think he erred greatly in reversing that decision.  Did he do so under pressure from the D.A., who surely had egg on his face?  Weisberg had sat through the first trial.  He knew exactly what would happen if Lyle and Erik were unable to present the abuse defense.  Things were made worse for the defense when Weisberg sealed the deal by taking manslaughter off the table.

As someone who once believed that the brothers killed their parents for good old fashioned money, I have changed my stance.  I believe after years of abuse, they snapped.  Do I believe they were convinced their lives were in imminent danger on the night of August 20, 1989?  I honestly don't know.  I can't answer one way or the other because I don't know what years of abuse may or may not do to someone psychologically.  According to Erik, on the afternoon of August 20, he told Lyle that Jose had been sexually abusing him for years and was still doing so, an admission which pained Lyle greatly as he too had been abused by Jose and, as a child, had turned around to abuse Erik.  Also that day, Erik claimed that he was told by his parents that rather than living in the dorms for his upcoming freshman year at college, he would remain at home.  Where he would be available for any type of abuse.  Would these two occurrences be enough to push the brothers into a murderous act? 

Erik, in a telephone conversation for "The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All," admitted guilt for his act.  A crime, he said.  He apologized to his mother's sister and niece and his father's mother for the effect his actions had on them - - pushing them into the spotlight and causing them grief over the loss of Jose and Kitty.  The same aunt, niece and grandmother who have stood by him (and Lyle) since their arrests and who, as recently as this year, have visited Erik in prison in San Diego.  Erik also told his therapist, Dr. William Vicary, that if he could do anything differently, he would - - he would have killed himself rather than his parents. 

Should Lyle and Erik Menendez have been convicted for the deaths of their parents?  Yes.  I think manslaughter may have been a better option but even convicting for first degree murder, their home lives and the abuse they suffered at the hands of both parents should have been an extenuating factor and circumstance given weight during the penalty phase.  Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was wrong.  Even the Manson killers are given opportunity for parole.

In my opinion, the Menendezes have served their time.  They have been incarcerated since 1990.  That's twenty-seven years.  I think it's enough.  I wish the State of California felt the same.

"The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All" can be viewed via On Demand or at A&E's website.

Following their murders, Jose and Kitty were buried in New Jersey, at Princeton Cemetery.

722 North Elm Drive
The Mediterranean style house in which they died was sold in 1991 at a $1.2 million loss to a television writer (it was sold for $3.6 million.)  In 2001,  it was sold to a telecommunications executive.  Extensive interior renovations were done in 2002 but the exterior remains much the same as it did in 1989.  Over the years, many A-listers have rented the property, including Elton John and Prince.

Their first California home in Calabasas, a property they still owned at the time of their deaths, was bought at auction for $1.3 million in 1994, well under the $2.65 million appraisal.

The Menendez estate, valued at $14.5 million at the time of the murders (an amount that would be equivalent to nearly $29 million today), was nearly bankrupt by 1994.  Lyle and Erik reportedly went through close to a million dollars before their arrests.  The proceeds from the sale of the Beverly Hills home went to pay off the mortgage and the IRS. The money netted from the sale of the Calabasas home paid off the outstanding $864,000 mortgage and some $600,000 in outstanding taxes.  The remainder of the estate was quickly drained by the defense attorneys.

Two made-for-television movies were made about the Menendez murders;

Erik's former therapist, the sleazy Dr. Oziel, lost his license in 1997.  Breaking confidentiality and sleeping with female patients will do that for you.

Judge Stanley Weisberg retired in 2008.

Lyle married on July 2, 1996, the same day he and Erik were sentenced to life in prison.  The marriage ended in divorce in 2001; he remarried in 2003.  He is currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison, where he runs a support group for inmates who have experienced sexual abuse.

Erik married in 1999, becoming a stepfather in the process, and remains married to date. He is currently incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, where he works as a caregiver for terminally ill and physically challenged inmates.

The brothers remain in contact via letters.

November 21, 2017

Does the Death of Manson End the Family Mystique?

The news that Charles Manson had died of natural causes (unlike the victims who died due to his orders/influence/crazy) on Sunday has put his infamy back on the front page and dredged up the summer of 1969. 

From this . . . 
I have to admit that while news of Manson's passing isn't wholly surprising (he was 83 and in failing health, after all) there was still a part of me that figured Manson would outlive everyone else involved in this horrible case.  I'm happy to be wrong here.

Manson, whether alive or dead, seems to generate more vitriol and hatred than any other Family member.  Understandable, to a degree, since he was the "face" of the Family and certainly the one who garnered the most press attention, both during and after the trial.  Does that hatred now transfer to the still living killers?  It should. 

Tex Watson should be hated just as much as Manson.  He personally shot Steven Parent to death; he personally shot and stabbed Jay Sebring and Voytek Frykowski to death; he stabbed an already dead or dying Abigail Folger; he personally stabbed to death Leno LaBianca; he at the least held Rosemary LaBianca, and more likely stabbed her.  He admitted to cutting Sharon Tate's face before she was slaughtered; who personally stabbed her to death has been under debate for decades.

. . . to this. 
Bobby Beausoleil personally stabbed Gary Hinman to death, after Gary begged him not to.

Bruce Davis was present when Gary Hinman's ear was sliced off by Manson.  He was also present when Donald "Shorty" Shea was killed, as well as when Family member John Philip Haught committed suicide (or should I say "committed suicide" since Haught was playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded handgun.) 

Patricia Krenwinkel was present at both the Tate-Polanski residence and the LaBianca residence on both nights of murder.  She personally stabbed Abigail Folger in the residence and, wielding an upraised knife, ran after Abigail when the poor woman made a break for it, out the back door.  She caught Abigail on the lawn and continued to stab her.  She stabbed Leno LaBianca after Watson had killed him and left a carving fork and knife in his body.  She stabbed Rosemary LaBianca and helped to hold the woman down.  She wrote in blood at the LaBianca residence.

Leslie Van Houten was not present for the Tate murders but she was for LaBianca, and she knew full well what was going to happen. She personally stabbed Rosemary LaBianca, possibly administering the death blows. She also aided and abetted in the murder of Leno LaBianca and, with Watson and Krenwinkel, ate the LaBiancas' food, showered in their bathroom and played with their dogs after butchering the couple.  

With old Charlie's death, that's two Manson Family killers who have died where they belong - - in prison.  (If you're not sure, the other is Susan Atkins -  she who told Sharon Tate "Bitch, I have no mercy for you," and who actually tasted Sharon's blood, who died in 2009.  Nope, I didn't cry for Susan then and I'm not now.) 

Manson's death ends an era in a way that the deaths (and eventual deaths) of his followers (convicted or not) has not and will not.  While California taxpayers should be rejoicing that they no longer have to support Manson's sorry ass, they do still have to contend with Watson, Krenwinkel, Beausoleil and Davis.  Van Houten has once again been granted parole by the Parole Board; it's a wait and see game, once again, with Jerry Brown.  But that's another story.

Does the story of "Helter Skelter" die with Manson?  Will interest in the crimes and the remaining Family fade away?  I think not.  The brutality the laughing killers used on their victims, as well as the celebrity factor (Sharon Tate being an actress and the wife of Roman Polanski; Jay Sebring being a hair stylist to the stars; Abigail Folger being heiress to the Folger Coffee empire) and the sad/gory fact that Sharon Tate was heavily pregnant at the time she was killed will keep the murders in the forefront of true crime.  It may be harder to comprehend today, where such violence isn't as shocking, sadly, but the Tate-LaBianca murders truly were the crimes of the century.  Before August 9, 1969, even in Los Angeles, people did leave their doors unlocked. Inviting strangers, or friends of friends of friends, into your home wasn't crazy.  After that weekend in Los Angeles, things changed.

What do you think?  Does the story of "Helter Skelter" die with Manson?  Will the case finally gather dust on the crime books?

May 14, 2017

The Murderous Assaults of Peter and Joan Porco

In the gruesome world of murder, there is nothing worse than family members who turn on each other and kill.  For family members who do so over greed, it's even more repulsive.

The Porco case is a particularly disgusting one, not just in how the victims were attacked but also in what the assumed motive was.

In November of 2004, Peter and Joan Porco were like so many other middle aged, middle class Americans. They lived in Delmar, New York in a comfortable two-story home and worked for a living. Peter was an appellate court clerk and Joan worked as a speech pathologist.  They had been married for thirty years and had two sons.  Peter was very responsible and reliable so when he did not show up for work on Monday, November 15, 2004, a court officer was dispatched to the Porco residence on Brockley Drive to check on his welfare.
The Porco family in the 1980s; Christopher is on the left

The officer was horrified to discover Peter by the front door, where he had apparently collapsed.  He lay in a huge pool of blood and had endured a vicious assault to his head.  A blood trail was noticeable from where Peter had died to the front door, the kitchen, the hallway and up the stairs.

The local police were notified immediately and searched the home. They found Joan in the blood drenched bedroom, lying in bed and, remarkably, still alive.  She too suffered the same grievous injuries to her face and head that her husband had endured - - a portion of her brain was actually exposed - - but she was conscious.  Detective Christopher Bowdish of the Bethlehem Police Department worried, and even expected, that Joan Porco would not survive her injuries and asked her if she knew who had attacked her. Using a nodding or shaking motion of her head, along with moving her hands, she indicated that a family member had attacked her.  She shook her head "no" when asked if it was son Johnathon; she nodded her head "yes" when asked if it was son Christopher.  This exchange occurred in front of the paramedics, as they would later testify.

Once Joan Porco was taken to the hospital, where she would undergo emergency surgery and then be placed into a medically induced coma, the police began their investigation. They quickly discovered that the home's alarm system had been smashed, the telephone landline had been cut and a screen to one of the windows had been slashed.  However, nothing appeared to have been stolen from the residence. Neither Peter's wallet nor Joan's had been taken nor rifled. Joan was still wearing jewelry. None of the electronics had been touched.  They also found a fireman's axe in the bedroom; the weapon belonged to the Porcos.

The blood patterns and trail from the master bedroom to and through the downstairs and out the front door indicated that, unbelievably, after suffering his wounds, Peter had risen from the bed in shock and had moved about, getting ready for his work day, as he often did - - from stepping into the bathroom to starting the coffee in the kitchen, preparing his lunch and beginning to unload the dishwasher. Only after stepping at or briefly out the front door - - either to check for a paper or leave - - did his wounds overtake him and he collapsed.

With his father dead and his mother terribly injured, Christopher Porco received a call from a newspaper reporter, looking for a comment about the murder. Chris was then a twenty-one year old student at the University of Rochester, some 230 miles from Bethlehem. He called police to inquire what had happened at his parents' home and was informed that his father had been killed but his mother was still clinging to life.  If you can listen to the recording, I suggest that you do. Chris is so detached, so emotionally cut off from what has happened, the guy might as well be calling to order a pizza.  Heck, I think most people have more emotion doing that.  I also think it's interesting that, at least from the portions I heard, that Chris doesn't ask how his parents were attacked or anything like that - he's very controlled.

Meantime, the Bethlehem Police had issued an all-points bulletin for Chris Porco.  This would later be criticized by the defense as the police having tunnel vision (but remember that Joan did identify Chris as her attacker.)

However, the police were checking out other leads as well. A tip came in that an unhappy litigant may have taken issue with the outcome of a custody case and had threatened Peter; the investigation into that was a dead end as the man had a solid alibi.  Peter's great uncle Frank had ties to the Mob and was known as "the Fireman."  Detectives wondered if Frank had threatened to talk to authorities and his associates had sent a message to him by killing Peter - - and with a fireman's axe.  That theory fizzled though when they discovered Frank incarcerated specifically because he refused to cooperate with authorities and rat.

One person they couldn't seem to clear, though, was Chris Porco.

For years Chris had been telling friends and classmates that he came from a wealthy family. He spoke of real estate holdings and vacation homes, something the Porcos did not have.  When the same friends would ask to see this magnificent home or one of the vacation homes, Chris would always have an excuse as to why they could accompany to him to one of the properties.

There had also been tension between Chris and his parents with regard to finances and Chris' tendency to lie.  He had taken out a loan, ostensibly to pay for his tuition at Rochester, but had used nearly $17,000 of the loan to finance a new Jeep Wrangler.  He had also done poorly at school, resulting in the University suspending him.  He went to a local community college but fared no better there.  He was touring Europe with friends when his parents found out he was flunking out of community college as well. He managed to get readmitted to Rochester the following year - - the fall of 2004 - - by forging transcripts from the community college.  He told his parents that he was readmitted because a professor had misplaced his final exam from the previous year and because of the University's mistake, his tuition would be covered.  Chris covered that lie by forging his father's signature on loan documents.  He also opened a line of credit with the bank, again forging his father's signature as co-signer, in order to go toward the financing of his Wrangler.

In addition to the acts above, Chris was also stealing property. His roommate's laptop was stolen and Chris suddenly turned up with the exact same make and model of computer. His parents' home had computers and cameras stolen from it in the summer of 2003 and they suspected that Chris was involved.

Chris had devised a scheme on eBay to scam persons out of money.  He listed the very computers and cameras he had filched from his parents for sale and collected payment for them but had no intention of mailing the items out. When he received emails about the items not being shipped, he posed as his older brother Johnathon, and stated that his younger brother Chris, who had listed the items for sale, had died and he did not know where the items were nor did he have any way to refund the purchaser their money.  Johnathon, a Naval officer whose career could be impacted by this type of behavior, attempted to reach his younger brother by phone more than 40 times. Chris did not bother returning a single call.
Chris with his infamous Jeep

Things came to a head around two weeks before the murder, when Peter Porco was notified that the loan Chris had taken out was delinquent. It was then he found out that Chris had forged his signature, not just on the loan for tuition but also on a line of credit.  He also found out that Chris had not been his tuition with the ill-gotten loan proceeds. Both Peter and Joan attempted to contact Chris by phone; their various phone calls were not returned by him.  Peter sent his son an email in which he berated him for the dishonesty and told him that if Chris were to do any more such things, Peter would be forced to file forgery affidavits with the bank.  He also told his son that Chris was welcome back into the family home to resolve the matter and while he and Joan were disappointed with Chris' actions, they still loved him and cared about his future.

It was also around this time that Chris met with an investment professional, seeking financial advice.  He told the counselor that he was coming into some money.

With no other legitimate suspects, the police zeroed in on Chris.  His alibi was that he had been at school in Rochester, sleeping on the evening of November 14 and waking November 15 to find out about the attack on his parents by the phone call from the reporter.  The police believed that he had driven the three hours to his parents' home, attacked them and then returned back to school, without anyone in the dorm being the wiser. They obtained surveillance video that showed a yellow Jeep leaving the University dorm area around 10:30 p.m. on November 14 and returning at 8:30 a.m. on November 15.  They also discovered that while the Porcos' burglar alarm had been smashed, it was broken after it had been manually deactivated.  Given this information, they believed that Chris had left Rochester around 10:30, driven to Delmar, deactivated the burglar alarm at 2:14 a.m., attacked his parents, cut the phone line at 4:59 a.m. and headed back to school, returning at 8:30 a.m.  At some point either before or after attacking his parents, he cut the window screen to make it appear as though there was a break-in. With a three hour travel time each way, this was absolutely doable.

Chris' brother Johnathon, an officer in the U.S. Navy who was in South Carolina at the time of his father's murder, said only a few people knew the code for the burglar alarm system and Chris was one of them.  The police theorized that Chris smashed the alarm panel, hoping that would obliterate the fact that the code had been entered (it obviously did not.)

To no one's surprise, Chris Porco was arrested for the murder of his father and the attempted murder of his mother.  The trial took place in July 2006 with the defense arguing that the prosecution had no forensic evidence linking Chris to the crime, save a tollway ticket with his DNA on it. They asserted that whoever attacked the Porcos would be bloody and no blood was found in Chris' vehicle, nor were any bloody clothing recovered.  No fingerprints were found on the axe used to bludgeon Peter and Joan.

Some of Chris' fraternity brothers testified that he was not asleep in the dorm lounge as he had stated and a neighbor testified that he saw a bright yellow Jeep in the Porco driveway on the evening/early morning of the murder. Toll booth attendants that had worked in the "cash only" lanes said they recalled seeing a yellow Jeep like Chris' passing through that evening with who they thought was Chris Porco in the driver's seat.

Although there was no direct evidence putting the axe in Chris' hands or putting him in the Delmar home during the time of the attacks, the jury found him guilty of second degree murder and attempted murder.  He was sentenced fifty years to life on each count, which was a minimum of fifty years in prison.

Chris Porco showed no outward reaction during the verdict or the sentencing, although some said that his neck flushed red.  He said nothing but in the recording of the verdict the sound of the handcuffs being locked on his wrists is very audible.

Joan and Chris, heading into court together
One of the more surprising and heart wrenching aspects of this case was that Joan Porco stood by her youngest son during the investigation and trial.  She had survived the brutal assault that killed her husband; she lost her left eye and a portion of her skull but she had survived. After she awoke from her medically induced coma, she claimed to have no memory of the attack nor of telling Detective Bowdish that Chris was responsible. She asked the detectives and investigators to leave her son alone and accused them of botching the investigation. She got together the $250,000 needed for his bail when he was first arrested and the two attended the trial together, walking into the courtroom hand in hand.  She spent six hours in the witness box, recanting the twisted path of Chris' lies and actions, the childhood he had with his brother Johnathon and denied that he was mentally ill.  She also testified that she had been frightened on two occasions in the month or so prior to the attack by the presence of a stranger in her driveway; one time at night and once during the day.  She stated that the police never followed up on this or questioned her about it.

I think Christopher Porco did it.  I think he killed his father and meant to kill his mother. Peter Porco sustained sixteen blows from that fireman's axe; blows that penetrated his skull and took off part of his jaw. He bled for hours after he was attacked before he succumbed. Joan Porco's skull was split open, her left eye was lost and her right so damaged that she required a magnifying glass in order to read following the assault. That is tremendous rage and resentment.

It's clear that Peter and Joan were attacked in their bed. That fact, along with nothing being stolen from the house, seems to discount a burglary gone bad.

Chris' attorney would argue that Peter would often turn off the alarm late at night to let the dog out and forget to turn it back on and that it may very well have been Peter who disabled the alarm that murder morning.  That could be true.  But no burglar would smash an alarm box or touch it if there was no reason to.  And why wouldn't the dog bark or give an alert if a stranger were in the house?

Why would Chris Porco's toll road transponder be found under the front passenger seat when authorities searched his vehicle?  Possibly because he thought if he put it away or covered it, it wouldn't "ping" going through the toll booths and provide proof that he was not in Rochester during the crucial hours?

August 10, 2006.  Guilty.
I think the time frame is of crucial importance. Just that two weeks prior to the murder Chris Porco's house of cards came tumbling down.  He had screwed over his parents and his brother. They had all reached out to him but he had cut himself off.  It was November. The school semester would be ending shortly and surely Chris would be kicked out of the University.  He had not paid his tuition and he was flunking out. He would have to explain this to his parents, the one thing they may not have yet been aware of  - - that his tuition was not covered by the school and had not been paid.

What did Chris do with the money?  He used a portion of the funds to purchase the Jeep but I have to wonder if he was using drugs. He appeared to be partying and drinking.  Before the attacks, Joan had found out that Chris was using a Mobil card for snacks and food instead of gasoline, which was what the card was for.

I think Chris wanted to remain at the University of Rochester, not because he was an outstanding student but because he had freedom there he didn't have at home and he was partying. His parents reportedly had a two million dollar life insurance policy that would pay out if both of them were dead.

I believe that Chris decided to do away with his parents before the end of the semester. He expected to collect that life insurance policy, at least half of it (as the other half would have gone to his brother.)  He also would have been free to sell the family home and collect half the proceeds on that.

As a killer, Chris was about as adept as he was a student. He didn't manage to kill his mother and his father lived for several hours after the attack, even getting up and stumbling about the house.  He also used a brutal, unwieldy weapon that belonged to the Porcos.  Something a burglar likely would not know they owned.  He smashed the alarm box after the alarm was disabled. He cut the screen, despite the killer entering the home through the front door and with a key. (The key was found by the front door, likely dropped in error and without the killer's knowledge.)  He didn't expect the toll booth operators to remember him, nor for a neighbor to notice his Jeep. He didn't expect for nine of his dorm mates to recognize that he was not in the dorm that evening or early morning.

While no blood was found in Chris' Jeep or on any clothing he had at the dorm, I agree with the prosecution's theory that Chris was probably wearing scrubs from the veterinary office he worked at during the assaults. It would have been easy for him to take those off and dispose of them somewhere along his route back to Rochester, leaving his clothing underneath unsoiled.

As an interesting footnote to this case, Lifetime TV put a made for television movie into production on the Porco case.  Surprisingly called Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story, Lifetime portrayed Chris Porco as a ladies man who was as sociopathic in his romantic relationships as he was in everything else.  Chris had not seen the movie but sued Lifetime.  A judge issued a ban on the movie days before it was to premiere. An appellate court, however, issued a stay on that order and the movie was allowed to be broadcast.  Eventually Chris' case was dismissed.  Not so fast!  In March of this year, a New York Court of Appeals judge reversed the dismissal.  Is your head spinning yet?  And Lifetime is arguing that their program is a fictionalized account of Christopher Porco and so his argument that his privacy has been violated does not stick.  It's an interesting argument from Lifetime's perspective as the movie could hardly be subtitled The Christopher Porco Story if it's a fictionalized account.

In the meantime, Christopher Porco remains incarcerated at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. He will be eligible for parole in 2052.  His mother still believes in his innocence.

The murder weapon

March 10, 2017

O.J. Simpson: Was There a Rush to Judgment?


A friend of mine recently watched Ryan Murphy's American Crime: The People vs. O.J. Simpson - - a surprisingly quality show - - and we were discussing it.  This friend had the opinion that while Simpson is most likely guilty of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole and Ron Goldman, the LAPD had tunnel vision and rushed to judgment.

I am very opinionated about the Simpson case and have no problems sharing my thoughts (clearly.)  So let's talk about the LAPD's response to the murders.

The crimes happened on the evening of Sunday, June 12, 1994.  The first responders showed up on Bundy Drive after midnight, in the early morning hours of Monday, June 13.  Simpson had his infamous slow speed chase on Friday, June 17.  To the layperson it may seem as though that was some quick decision making by the LAPD but this was not surprising.

First, whenever a spouse or former spouse is killed, the husband/wife, current or former, is always, always suspect number one.  And with good reason - - they quite often have something to do with it. So naturally O.J. Simpson immediately went to the top of the LAPD's suspect list.

Being that the minor Simpson children were at the scene, upstairs sleeping while their mother was being murdered, the detectives quickly and safely removed them from the scene.  As their mother was dead, that left their father as their sole remaining legal parent. The detectives elected to make a death notification to Simpson in person; while this in itself is not that unusual it is unusual that they would choose to inform Simpson of his ex-wife's death prior to notifying her parents, who were her legal next of kin, since she and Simpson were divorced. Why did they do that?  I believe it was because of the children, who were taken to an LAPD station to await their father and because, once again, authorities were giving preferential treatment to a celebrity (more on that below.)

So, let's go back to the crime scene.  Both victims were attacked with a knife.  Killing with a knife is a very personal way to take someone out.  You must get up close and personal; there is no distance doing it this way.  The defense would eventually float the idea that a hitman took out Nicole and Ron, citing the infamous "Columbian necktie" and how Nicole's wound was similar.  Preposterous.  Nicole's tongue was not pulled through her neck wound a la Columbian necktie.  Furthermore, the majority of hit men do not use knives unless specifically instructed to. They do not want any type of personal interaction with the victim; that's why guns are normally favored. A gun allows them to keep their distance and not get their hands dirty, so to speak.  A knife would involve not just close up interaction but also a potential battle, which is exactly what happened with Ron Goldman.  A hit man likely would not wait for Nicole to come outside her condo, where anyone might see or overhear the attack (again, what happened with Ron); rather, her movements would be followed and she would be taken out at a time when it wasn't likely there would be a witness.  (All this without even addressing how ridiculous the hit man suggestion is - - who would take out a hit on Nicole?)

I recall reading in one of the many books and articles I have read on this case that Nicole had told one of her friends that she was most terrified of dying by knife.  Don't you wonder if her ex-husband knew that?

The buzzer at Nicole's gate was broken at the time.  Given that Simpson came to the Bundy residence in order to pick up and drop off his children, I'm sure he knew that.

Nicole had also mentioned to a friend that the house key she normally left in a large potted plant outside her residence while she jogged had gone missing in the days before her murder.  Wonder if Simpson knew about that or had anything to do with it?  

The LAPD had two very bloody bodies. The attack on Nicole was precise and methodical; the attack on Ron was frenzied which suggested that Nicole was the target.  A dark knit cap and a leather glove found at the scene, along with bloody footprints that led to the alley, suggested that the killer had arrived prepared with his weapon, cap and gloves and had parked in the back alley and returned there after the crimes.    

Even before the detectives arrived at Simpson's Rockingham Avenue residence to notify him, they were well aware of his domestic violence record.  There had been multiple calls to both the Rockingham house and a rental house on Gretna Green that Nicole had moved into when the couple separated when their fights had become violent. One call to Rockingham had resulted in Simpson being made to do community service for his assault on his wife but he was never arrested or charged with spousal abuse or battery.

All these facts up to this point would be enough to justify questioning Simpson but a whole lot more was going to come into play.

At the Rockingham residence, Simpson's Bronco was parked on the street, rather than in the driveway as he normally parked it.  The Bronco was not parked straight but rather haphazardly, as if the driver had pulled up to the curb in a hurry.  A blood spot was noticed on the outside driver's door handle.  More blood drops and smears would be found inside the Bronco, on the steering wheel, the driver's side floor panel, the carpeting, the middle console and on the passenger seat.  The blood would be a mixture of Ron and Nicole . . . and Simpson.

Blood drops were found in the driveway, indicating this was from active bleeding, as were blood drops noticed at the Bundy crime scene.  Blood was found inside the residence, in the master bedroom, on black socks discovered on the bedroom floor.  This blood would be typed to Nicole.

A leather glove, matching that one found at Bundy, was found on the property by the back fence, stained with blood that was typed to Nicole.

Simpson, however, was not home.  He had left for Chicago late Sunday evening.

The detective making notification to him by telephone would recall that Simpson, upon being informed that his ex-wife had been killed, did not ask how she was killed or what happened to her.  As Nicole was a young 36 and not ill, why didn't Simpson ask what happened?  An innocent person would.

Simpson returned to L.A. later that Monday. Detectives immediately noticed a bandage on his finger and underneath, a deep,nasty cut. Simpson claimed at first not to know how he got that cut, saying that he cut himself all the time and bled everywhere, all the time. Then he claimed that upon hearing the news of Nicole's death in Chicago, he went "a little nuts" and broke a glass, causing the cut.  All of the above is clearly bullshit.

He would sit down with detectives to give them an interview, one that was far too brief and which they, of all things, halted. Simpson had problems nailing down his timeline for Sunday evening. His housemate, Kato Kaelin, had already told detectives that Simpson uncharacteristically asked  him to change a large bill and then went to McDonald's to pick up burgers. Kaelin had offered to help him load bags in the limo for his Chicago trip and Simpson had been adamant that Kaelin not touch a bag that only Simpson handled.

The limo driver, Allan Park, was precise about the time he arrived at Rockingham and the fact that the Bronco was not there on his arrival.  Neither was Simpson.  Despite lights being on in the home, no one answered his repeated buzzings at the gate. Park's supervisor, who he called to relay this information, verified all this was true. Park saw a dark figured adult man, who he suspected to be Simpson, coming from the back yard area, where the glove was later found, and enter the home through a side door.  It was then, after he once again buzzed, that Simpson answered and said he had been asleep, somehow managed to sleep through the constant calls, and was now jumping in the shower and would be down shortly.  When the limo left, with a sweating and bleeding Simpson in the back, Park noticed that the Bronco was now parked on the street.  (My guess is that Simpson had planned on returning the Bronco to the driveway, where he normally parked it, but the limo had blocked his path.)

This is a mountain of evidence and not even all of it.  This is what the LAPD knew by Wednesday or Thursday of that week.   I didn't mention above that the detectives, when notifying the Brown family in Dana Point of the horrible end of Nicole, heard Nicole's sister Denise screaming that O.J. had done it.

It would have been INSANE for the detectives not to suspect Simpson.  He was the ex-husband; he had had a violent relationship with Nicole; their current relationship was contentious; his alibi didn't fully check out; he had a serious cut that he could not explain; his blood was at the crime scene; the victims' blood was in his vehicle and at his residence.

Do I think the LAPD had tunnel vision?  Hell, no.  In fact, I think the LAPD made a massive mistake in not pinning Simpson to the wall during the only interview they would get.  He arrived without his attorney - - a gift!  He was floundering for answers to the detectives' questions and they pussyfooted around him like starstruck fans rather than grilling his ass.

They also gave him privileges that most of us would never get.  They allowed him and his attorney to dictate when he would turn himself in.  Say what now?

When the slow speed chase happened, I don't believe for a minute that he was heading to Orange County to kill himself at Nicole's grave.  Absolutely not.  Class A narcissists like Simpson don't do that.  Would he say he was in order to play victim and gain sympathy?  Sure would.

I believe he was headed to Mexico.  A disguise and a nice stack of money was found with him when he eventually turned himself in.  Why would an innocent man need these items?  And why would someone planning to kill themselves need those items?

No, O.J. Simpson is guilty as sin.

February 22, 2017

The MacDonald Case: The Footprint

Photo: JustTheFacts

In a case rife with physical evidence, the bloody footprint found inside Kristen MacDonald's bedroom is often overlooked in being as "important" as other clues and evidence but the print is vital to telling the true story of what happened the evening of February 16-17, 1970.

The footprint was noticed by the investigators on the morning of February 19, 1970 and classified as a bloody print made by an adult bare foot. While there was a great deal of blood in all three bedrooms, the bulk of the blood found in Kristen's room was under her body, on her bed and splattered on the wall.  So a bloody footprint on the wood floor would definitely stand out.

Photographs were taken of the print and, unfortunately, the print itself was destroyed when, in an attempt to preserve it by removing the floorboards, the boards split and basically eradicated it. However, based on the photographs, analysis and Jeffrey MacDonald's own testimony, it provides an important piece of the puzzle.

MacDonald was fairly descriptive of his alleged attackers, down to sergeant's stripes on a jacket and boots worn by the female intruder and three male intruders.  He never mentioned that any of them were barefoot.  All members of the MacDonald family, however, were at that time.  Given the footprint was obviously that of an adult, both Kimberley and Kristen can be ruled out.  That leaves Colette MacDonald and Jeffrey MacDonald.

Colette's feet were examined and while she did have blood down portions of her pajama bottoms, her legs themselves were not injured and never bled.  Neither did her feet.  Not to mention that the size difference between her feet and MacDonald's feet would be apparent.

MacDonald's left foot, February 25, 1970
Image: thejeffreymacdonaldcase.com 
Back to MacDonald's testimony.  He admitted the footprint was his and this admission was borne out from the impressions taken of his left foot a week after the murders.  

Now, that's not unusual.  This was his home.  He said he put Kristen to bed earlier that evening.  He also said that he went to Kristen's room at least twice after the killings in order to administer CPR and check on her.  So finding a bare footprint is not incriminating.  Not even a bloody footprint.

This is where we have problems, Houston.

That footprint was made in the blood of Colette MacDonald.

It would be expected that in his handling of the bodies, MacDonald would get blood on him.  With the exception of the spot in the master bedroom doorway where Kimberley was felled, all of the blood (and there was a lot of it) shed in the master bedroom was Colette's.  The carpet her body was found lying on was pretty much soaked through.  MacDonald could most certainly have stepped in it while checking on/administering aid to his wife.

But no bloody footprints were discovered exiting the master bedroom, walking down the wood floor hallway nor going into Kristen's room.  Only exiting.

How on earth could someone step in Colette's blood in the master bedroom, leave the bedroom, walk down the hall, enter another bedroom and track that blood on their way out?   It is impossible.

So let's go back to Kristen's room.  As I posted above, the majority of the blood found in her room was under her body, on the top sheet of her bed, in spatters on the wall and some drips going down the side of the bed from her body.  Most of that blood belonged to Kristen.

The spatters on the wall and blood on the top sheet, however, belonged to her mother. None of Colette's blood found in that room was on the floor, save the footprint.

MacDonald never admitted to climbing on Kristen's bed and standing on it.  (For good reason - - he didn't do it and why would he?)  That is the only way he might innocently have gotten Colette's blood on the bottoms of his feet and then tracked it on the floor on his way out.

During his many interviews and his testimony about the events of that evening/early morning, he never said that Colette was in Kristen's bedroom during any of his "visits" to check on his daughter.  So clearly Colette had already bled in that bedroom before MacDonald went in, per his own testimony.

The doorway of Kristen's bedroom
Photo: thejeffreymacdonaldcase.com 
Let's go to what the experts said from the dimensions of the print.  They claimed that the print was made by a person carrying something while exiting the room.

We know that Colette MacDonald bled in that bedroom.  We know that scrapes from the club were found on the ceiling of the room, despite the fact that Kristen herself had not been struck with the club.  We know that Colette's blood spattered the wall and we know that she was struck with the club multiple times. We know that some of her own blood was found down the front of her pajama pants, despite her not suffering any injuries below her chest. We know that she was then moved back to the master bedroom where she was found.  We know that the blue bedspread had a large quantity of Colette's blood in it, as well as bloody fabric impressions from her pajamas.

Take all of this together and what does it mean?

Jeffrey MacDonald left that footprint as he was carrying his wife's battered body back to the master bedroom.  He had struck her at least once, viciously, with the club and had hit her with enough force to leave the scrape marks on the ceiling and cast off blood spatter on the wall.  Colette had bled enough to leave bloodstains on the top sheet of Kristen's bed and then had fallen forward to bleed on her own pajama bottoms.  MacDonald left her there, unconscious and bleeding, while he returned to the master bedroom to collect the bedspread so that he could return Colette to the master bedroom.  He placed her body in that spread and as he was picking her up, as she was still bleeding, he stepped into her blood that was in/on that spread and left the footprint.

There is no innocent explanation for it.  None.  MacDonald himself admitted he left that footprint. He cannot explain or account for its presence in any way.