Weekend Road Trip: Kentucky Horse Country With Rhonda Lane

Rhonda Lane is a former reporter and TV studio tech. She grew up in Kentucky horse country but now lives in central Connecticut. She’s an aspiring mystery/suspense novelist who also runs and writes The Horsey Set Net, a horses & culture website.

Ogygian, the last living son of the champion racehorse Damascus, loves to be scratched where he can’t quite reach. The fence rail works nicely, but he never turns down help. I’m happy to assist.

An artist painted a portrait for auction of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. The winner held it by the edges of the canvas because it went home wet.

Little Silver Charm, a miniature horse named for Silver Charm, the winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, now runs the show at Old Friends. He has posed, more or less, for a portrait sketched by movie star Jack Nicholson for a special issue wine bottle label. Little Silver Charm is a “never ran,” except when he’s playing soccer with Old Friends founder Michael Blowen.

A valued racing collectible is a halter, complete with an engraved brass nameplate, once worn by a famous racehorse. Old Friends auctions a series of horse halters – some complete with grass slobbers – once worn by champion racehorses who are now breeding stallions, like Storm Cat, A.P. Indy and Giant’s Causeway.

Shelley Hunter, executive director of the American Academy of Equine Art, works on a sculpture of John Henry, the late two-time winner of “Horse of the Year” honors.

A popular part of the Old Friends Homecoming Party is a tour of the farm and visits with the retirees. Some of the horses are friendly, some not so much. Swann’s Way, an “also-ran” who enjoys a retirement at Old Friends, takes treats from one of the volunteers. Swannie is a lot friendlier, and enjoyed his treat more, than his ears in this photo suggest.

The Gallatin County Youth Bluegrass Band performs “Ballad of Danthebluegrassman,” a song they wrote in honor of equine retiree Danthebluegrassman.

Every year for the annual Old Friends Homecoming Party, a new arrival is honored, which suggests the party’s theme. Most recently, Danthebluegrassman poses for adoring fans while a bluegrass band plays in the background. Somehow, he seems to know that the party slightly up the hill from his turnout is his party.

For the 2009 Homecoming, also the day after the Kentucky Derby, a luau will honor new arrival Lava Man.

Old Friends serves as both a retirement home for champion racehorses (as well as some “also-rans” and “never rans”) and as a tourist attraction.

It is the brainchild of former Boston Globe film critic Michael Blowen, who’d been shocked by the ignoble end of past Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand in a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2001. He set up the rescue as an alternative.

Just because we’re deep in winter doesn’t mean we can’t go to a springtime party.

This is the most recent annual Homecoming Party at the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center. The party is often held on the day after the Kentucky Derby.

Old Friends is located at Dream Chase Farm in Georgetown, KY. May in Kentucky is a time of blooming tulips, fruit trees and dogwoods.

*Rhonda Lane is a regular visitor and reader of The Graveyard Shift. If you’d like to share your own Weekend Road Trips with us please contact me at lee@leelofland.com.

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

Officer Chris Jones, 37

Middletown Township Pennsylvania Police Department

On January 29, 2009, Officer Jones was struck and killed while conducting a traffic stop. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

Police Chief Johnny Hamilton, 55

New Ellenton South Carolina Police Department

Chief Hamilton was killed an automobile accident on January, 28, 2009.

Captain Richard J. Cashin, 52

Massachusetts State Police

Captain Cashin was killed in an automobile accident on January, 28, 2009. He leaves behind a wife and four children.

Sergeant Curtis Massey, 41

Culver City California Police Department

On January 28, 2009, Sgt. Massey was killed when a vehicle traveling on the wrong side of the highway struck his unmarked police car head on. Sergeant Massey is survived by his wife and three children.

Police Chief Larry Blagg, 40

Trumann Arkansas Police Department

Chief Larry Blagg was killed on January 27, 2009, by a falling, ice-covered tree branch while assisting with cleanup efforts following a severe ice storm.

Officer Joshua Broadway, 21

Montgomery Alabama Police Department

Officer Joshua Broadway was involved in a traffic accident on January, 15, 2009, when a vehicle turned in front of his patrol car. Officer Broadway succumbed to his injuries on January 25, 2009. He leaves behind an expectant fiancee, his parents, and two brothers.

Deputy Sheriff Dominique Smith, 30

Torrence County New Mexico Sheriffs Office

Deputy Dominique Smith was struck by a vehicle on January 19, 2009, while directing traffic at an accident scene. Deputy Smith passed away the following day. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Officer Jarod Dean, 24

Boston Heights Ohio Police Department

Officer Jarod Dean was struck and killed by a vehicle on January 19, 2009, while clearing debris from the scene of an accident. He leaves behind his parents and a brother who also serves as a police officer.

Detention Officer Cesar Arreola

El Paso County Texas Sheriffs Office

Officer Cesar Arreola became ill on January 17, 2009, during tryouts for the department’s Special Reaction Team. He passed away the following day. Officer Arreola leaves behind his wife and two children.

Senior Corporal Norman Smith, 43

Dallas Texas Police Department

Corporal Norman Smith was shot and killed on January 6, 2009, as he and other members of the Gang Unit attempted to serve an arrest warrant. Corporal Smith is survived by his wife, also a member of the Dallas Police Department, and two children.

* Thanks to ODMP

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Dr. Katherine Ramsland: Could You Marry A Serial Killer?

Dr. Katherine Ramsland has a master’s degree in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Duquesne University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Rutgers. She has published thirty-three books, including The CSI Effect, Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Healthcare Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers, The Human Predator: A Historical Chronology of Serial Murder and Forensic Investigation, The Criminal Mind: A Writers’ Guide to Forensic Psychology, and The Forensic Science of CSI. With former FBI profiler Gregg McCrary, she co-authored the book on his cases, The Unknown Darkness: Profiling the Predators among Us (Morrow, 2003), and with Professor James E. Starrs, A Voice for the Dead (Putnam 2005), a collection of his cases of historical exhumations and rigorous forensic investigation.

She has been translated into ten languages; published fifteen short stories and over 900 articles on serial killers, criminology, forensic science, and criminal investigation, and was a research assistant to former FBI profiler, John Douglas (Mindhunter), which became The Cases that Haunt Us (Scribner, 2000). With FBI profiler Gregg McCrary, she wrote The Unknown Darkness, and with James E. Starrs, A Voice for the Dead, about his various historic exhumations. She currently contributes editorials on forensic issues to The Philadelphia Inquirer; writes a regular feature on historical forensics for The Forensic Examiner (based on her history of Forensic science, Beating the Devil’s Game) and teaches both forensic psychology and criminal justice at DeSales University in Pennsylvania.

Her most recent books are Into the Devil’s Den, about an undercover FBI operation inside the Aryan Nations (with Dave Hall and Tym Burkey), True Stories of CSI, The Devil’s Dozen: How Cutting Edge Forensics Took Down Twelve Notorious Serial Killers, and Murder in the Lehigh Valley. In addition, she has published biographies of both Anne Rice and Dean Koontz and penned three creative nonfiction books about penetrating the world of “vampires” (Piercing the Darkness), ghost hunters (Ghost), and the funeral industry (Cemetery Stories). From these experiences, she wrote two novels, The Heat Seekers and The Blood Hunters. Currently she’s working on a book called The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds.

Could You Marry a Serial Killer?

I was once on the “Montel Williams” show with Judith Ridgway, the former wife of Gary Ridgeway, who pled guilty to murdering 48 women in Washington State. We had a chance to talk alone and she was clearly dazed about how she could have been married to her “knight in shining armor” for nearly 14 years without seeing anything perverse in him. In fact, if anyone should have been a serial killer, it was her first husband, who, by her account, subjected her to abuse, rigid control, and disgusting sexual practices.

Gary Ridgway

But he was not a serial killer. The man who came through the door every evening, bringing flowers or candy and attending to her needs was also the man who went out on forays to murder prostitutes. He’d once considered killing his own son. Ridgway had successfully managed two separate identities for years: one that included romantic outings and raising dogs, and one that was obsessed with punishing prostitutes and runaway girls.

When Ridgway was arrested in 2001, the police went to his home to interview Judith. She refused to believe what they were telling her. “He’s always been so gentle and caring,” she told them. “We’re best friends.” Gary had never hit or her even been angry. While he’d once been picked up on a charge of soliciting prostitutes, she thought the police had simply made a mistake – even when he’d pled guilty. He’d said it was to save them the crushing legal fees to fight the charges. Judith had moved into the home where Gary had murdered several women before she met him. She knew he’d been a suspect once in the Green River Murders, but had accepted his explanation that he merely resembled someone a witness had seen. He’d passed a polygraph, so that had cleared him. When a detective asked Judith if there was a dark side to her husband, she truthfully replied, “That I don’t know.”

Gary and Judith Ridgway

Ridgway had been such a contrast from her first husband that she couldn’t believe the charges. In fact, she was certain Gary was innocent up until the day he confessed in detail to 48 murders and said there were probably more. She recognized his dual personality when she said, “I miss the man I knew…I hate the man who took him away from me.”

Ridgway joins the ranks of serial killers who have devised strategies to pass as normal in order to enjoy a social life or have a family. In 1969, after Jerome Brudos confessed to the murders of four girls in his home workshop, surreptitiously killing even when his wife was nearby, she was charged as an accomplice. No one could believe she didn’t know, despite her insistence that she was innocent. She’d had to bear not only the horror of what her husband and the father of her two daughters had done but also the humiliation of being thought his partner in crime. She was tried and acquitted.

In 2004, when Dennis Rader was identified in Wichita as “BTK,” we once again heard a wife protest that she knew nothing about his penchant for torture and murder. The people who’d elected Rader as their church president had spotted nothing alarming as well. All of these killers knew how easy it is to manipulate others and hide their dark deeds.

Dennis Rader

Many people believe that serial killers cannot maintain careers or relationships. The public wants monsters to be obvious, and many novels and films support that naïve hope. But monsters do live among us – easily, and with little detection, because they know how to deflect suspicion. Two things about human nature assist them: how willing we are to see only what we want to see and much we generally trust that others are like us.

Ted Bundy worked a crisis hotline as he murdered young women; John Wayne Gacy (married, with kids) buried boys beneath his house while he ran a business, threw fundraisers for local politicians, and entertained sick kids; and Spokane’s prostitute killer Robert Yates Jr. was a decorated veteran with five children. “Eyeball Killer” Charles Albright was a science teacher and had a seemingly happy marriage. Child killer John Joubert assisted with a Boy Scout troop. Andrei Chikatilo had a university degree and was married, with children. Christopher Wilder was a wealthy contractor and race car driver with numerous girlfriends. Michael Ross, convicted of killing eight women, had an Ivy League degree.

John Wayne Gacy

Some serial killers blend in because they have the capacity to go through the motions of ordinary living while secretly acting out violently against others. They’re not obviously deranged, and can use a bland manner to hide their deviance. They need only study the people around them to figure out how to “pass.” Since most people pay scant attention to the world around them, it’s not that difficult. Now add in a committed relationship, and the common (and understandable) human tendency to turn a blind eye to avoid the relationship’s collapse, and you have the formula for how someone can date, marry, stay married to, and have children with an active serial killer.

Such predators may attend church (although without struggles of conscience) and even be considered good neighbors. They look for opportunities – taking a security job that positions them to meet potential victims, for example – and they have no qualms about exploiting it. We want to spot them, but they spot us first, and predators always have the preparatory advantage.

As killers get away with murder, they learn the best ways to deflect others from discovering their secrets. They devise different sets of values for different life frames, so that they can speak convincingly about socially-approved venues of right and wrong, yet have no qualms about their “other” behavior. (John Wayne Gacy, convicted of thirty-three murders, described himself in an interview as a crucified Christ and blamed the erosion of religious values for society’s problems.) Their secret lives grow darker and more perverse, because the morality that justifies them is entirely of the killers’ making, separate from the social morality in which they were raised and by which they get along with others. They can also carry on a high level of functioning while they troll for another victim.

Lionel Dahmer, Jeffrey Dahmer’s father, wrote “A Father’s Story” after watching his son’s 1992 trial for the murder of seventeen men. He realized that the manner in which he’d interpreted Jeffrey’s behavior had been influenced by his personal fears. He recalled questioning the reason for the freezer Jeff had purchased and accepting Jeff’s argument that it helped him to save him money. It was actually purchased to store human parts, but why would anyone suspect this?

Jeffrey Dahmer

While Lionel admitted he was unaware of his son’s substance abuse problem, he did notice that Jeffrey often seemed vacant-“enclosed”-as if thinking about nothing. Jeff had filled the bottles in the liquor cabinet with water after emptying them, but Lionel did not recognize this signal of a deep-seated problem; Jeff had a full-size male mannequin in his closet and Lionel accepted it as a “prank.” Lionel wondered why he hadn’t noticed that Jeff had such an obsession with dead animals, but even worse were the revelations about what Jeff had done while living with Lionel’s mother.

She’d complained about a terrible odor. When confronted, Jeff told his father he liked to experiment with chemicals on chicken parts from a grocery store. Lionel discovered smelly liquid near the garbage cans, but he thought it was ordinary meat juice. “…I allowed myself to believe Jeff,” Lionel mused, “to accept all his answers regardless of how implausible they might seem….More than anything, I allowed myself to believe that there was a line in Jeff, a line he wouldn’t cross….”

Lionel and Shari Dahmer

Lionel’s denials are understandable. Parents, spouses, and other close associates often do seek the best possible interpretation of something a loved one has done. That’s how those same loved ones get away with having affairs or stealing from Mom’s purse. That’s often why children are not taken to counselors for behavior that needs intervention; the parents hope the kids will “grow out of it” on their own. In fact, on the day that Lionel Dahmer realized from an arrest that his son was a liar, exhibitionist, thief, and child molester, he thought to himself, “even all those grotesque and repulsive behaviors could be thought of as a stage through which he would one day pass.” He compared his practice of denial to creating a soundproof booth over which he had drawn curtains. Something similar can probably be said about many other people in close contact with serial killers.

But we must credit the killers as well with the ability to hide their secrets and perfect their acting skills. Even from prison, Gary Ridgway continued to write love letters to Judith as if what he’d done should not come between them. This killer of more than four dozen women told her to think of him whenever she heard the love song from “Titanic.”

*     *     *

Please visit Dr. Ramsland’s website to learn more about her and her work.


* Books by Katherine Ramsland

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Happy Birth-a-versary Graveyard Shift!

Today marks the one year anniversary of The Graveyard Shift. Our first post received 68 hits. Today we’ll see thousands from all over the world. It’s overwhelming.

Please click the play button above and then scroll down for a peek at some of the experts who’ve helped make the blog such a huge success. Of course, you guys, the readers, make it all worthwhile!

Thanks to you all.

* If you’d like to be a guest on The Graveyard Shift please contact me at lee@leelofland.com. All blog posts must relate to police, forensics, or CSI. Exceptions are made for agents and editors. Please, no profanity, sexual content, or any other topics that may be offensive to others.

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Forensic Image Clarification: Say Cheese

Forensic Image Clarification

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been handed a horrible surveillance photograph, or an extremely grainy video of an armed robbery, and was expected to use it as evidence to solve a crime. I’d have been better off taking a page from a mug shot book and tossing a dart at it. The guy’s photo it stuck, well, he’d have to be the crook of the day.

Fortunately, technology exists to clean up and clarify those awful images. Products such as Ocean System’s dTective ClearID v. 20 system are a wonderful addition to any forensic investigator’s toolbox. Clear ID is actually a forensic plugin for Adobe Photoshop that’s nondestructive to the original piece of evidence.

dTective Clear ID can be used to enhance any video from any souce and is used by many law enforcement agencies across the country, such as the FBI, CIA,  DEA, and many local departments.








Fox 9 News Report, Anoka County Sheriff’s Office

Detective Larry Johnson demultiplexes video to solve a robbery.

…The FBI, HCA and the Minneapolis Police Department all use this new technology…

Ohio Organized Crime, Columbus, 10TV News

Ohio University Campus, Rapist Captured Using ATM Video

dVeloper® frame averaging used to clarify the licence plate in only

7 minutes.  With this evidence, the suspect took a plea deal. He is now

serving 30 years behind bars.

Detective Josh Hudson, “most of the people don’t want to contest the video evidence because it speaks for itself… It doesn’t lie.”

Last year they worked over 500 cases.

* Thanks to Ocean Systems

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Christina Katz: Get Known Before The Book Deal

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books). She started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on “Good Morning America.” Christina teaches e-courses on platform development and writing nonfiction for publication. Her students are published in national magazines and land agents and book deals. Christina has been encouraging reluctant platform builders via her e-zines for five years, has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. A popular speaker at writing conferences, writing programs, libraries, and bookstores, she hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon. She is also the author of Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (Writer’s Digest Books).

Interview with Christina Katz on Get Known Before the Book Deal:

What is a platform, and why is it so important for unpublished writers to have one?

A platform is a promise, which says you will not only create something to sell (a book), but also promote it to the specific readers who will want to purchase it. Your platform communicates your expertise to others and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. A platform isn’t what you once did. It’s what you currently do. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform. A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence.

Why is it so important to publishers that writers have a platform?

One writer can have a great book idea at the perfect time and be the absolute best person to write that book and still not land the deal if he or she doesn’t have the platform that is going to fulfill the promise to sell the book. Agents and editors have known this for years and look for platform-strong writers and get them book deals. If you want to land the book deal, today, then you need to become a platform-strong writer. You need to stand out in the crowd by the time you are ready to pitch your book.

Why did you write Get Known Before the Book Deal? What was the intention behind the book?

Most of the other self-promotion books for writers pick up with the book deal. No other book dials self-promotion all the way back to how to get started. My intention for Get Known was that it would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference. It should increase any writer’s chances of writing a saleable proposal and landing a book deal whether they pitch the book in-person or by query.

As I was writing the book, I saw how this type of information was often being offered as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can ask your library to order it and read it for free. Get Known outlines the complete platform basics step-by-step.

Is there a single most important thing authors need to do to build a platform?

When you think about the fact that about 500 books are published each day in this country, you realize that writing a book isn’t going to set you apart. So, the first thing you need to know is what makes you and your expertise unique and communicate that. If you don’t know who you are and what you uniquely offer, how is anyone else going to know? I call this cultivating your identity, not branding, because that word is so grossly overused these days. Identity also nods to the importance of keeping things real and staying true to yourself, while also making self-promotion a priority.

Can you give three specific tips to help writers launch their platform?

Sure. Here’s my top three…

1. Clarify the expertise you have to offer. If you don’t know what your expertise is, then mulling it over could take some time. And that’s okay. Consult experts you respect. Do some self-reflection. Get out and connect with others like you through associations or conferences. Write some articles on things you know how to do. Don’t be afraid to take time for platform development before you start spending a lot of time online…especially if you already are online but are not getting any closer to accomplishing your professional writing goals. When it comes to clarifying your expertise, taking a step back and looking within is a good strategy.

2. Carve out a distinct niche among others who are offering similar expertise. How are you different? Inquiring minds want to know. You’ll have to communicate who you are and what you do quickly. Attention spans are getting shorter, so writing down what you do concisely is critical. Platform isn’t the credentials or your resume; it’s what you currently do. It’s current, constantly evolving, and updated on an ongoing basis. A blog is a good example of a place where a writer can authentically share what she is learning to assist others. Any niche should always be a win-win proposition like this. But again, give your topic some forethought. Realize that a hundred people might already be blogging on the same topic.

3. Identify and respond to your audience. If you are vague about your audience, the whole writing process takes longer and typically requires more rewriting. This applies to books, blogs and everything else. But when you identify your specific audience and begin speaking to them directly, the conversation can spark all kinds of wonderful ideas, connections and opportunities. Small concrete steps build over time and create career momentum.

Times are tight, and people don’t necessarily want to shell out money right now. Do you have any tips that are cost-friendly?

Platform development shouldn’t break the bank. My advice is don’t shell out money at the get-go. Instead educate yourself first and then take small steps. Try to avoid the impulse to slap together a platform quickly to impress others. I suggest a more long-term approach and working slowly and steadily in order to spend less and save more in the long run. This means, while you are working on your novel, you should at least be planning your platform. And if you want to write nonfiction, I suggest platform development first and book proposal development second. Platform development will help you write a stronger and more impressive proposal. The numbers of people you influence will help close the deal.

What are the special challenges for fiction writers building a platform?

Fiction/memoir/children’s writers will often spin off a series of topics they can explore to help promote themes they’ve already written about and hope to sell in book form. For example, novelist Marc Acito wrote How I Paid For College, A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater. Afterwards, it made sense for him to write and teach and speak on how to write humorous fiction and how to write a page-turner. Note how specific his topics were. He spun them off after mastering them in his process.

Other things fiction writers often learn about involve: place, a topic from their research, a time period, a truth or phenomenon, universal human themes, a particular time or phase every person experiences (like coming of age), or the creative process itself. These can become promotional opportunities (sometimes even paying ones) that spark book sales.

How do being prolific and/or productive relate to platform building?

Many writers promise publishers that they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver. This explains why so many books get into print, only to go right out of print within the year. They don’t go out of print because they aren’t well written, mind you. They go out of print because they don’t sell. My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them so this won’t happen to them.

Platform development is crucial to the sustainability of your writing career. Don’t think: get a book deal. Think: get book deals. A prolific writer can churn out words. A productive writer closes deals and signs contracts to write the kinds of books she’d love to read.

Are there any types of writers who don’t need a platform?

Yes. There are dozens of reasons to write but only writers who want to establish themselves as professional writers, who aspire to publish a traditionally published or a self-published book should concern themselves with platform development. If you’re writing for other reasons, such as to heal, to connect with friends and family, or just for pleasure, then perhaps you don’t need a platform.

When you’re done platform building, how do you find time to write?

My career goes in cycles. I have periods that focus on writing followed by periods that focus on self-promotion. I’m in a promo cycle right now and it’s fun! I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. And I’m still writing plenty. I have noticed that these supposed “non-writing times” often yield the next book idea, which has been the case again this time. I can’t wait to pitch it.

If a writer starts today and allows platform development to be an integrated aspect of her writing career, I’m sure she will find that the two efforts-writing and self-promotion-feed each other and help her career to grow naturally and authentically. And what writer wouldn’t want that?

You can learn more about Christina and her offerings at http://www.christinakatz.com.

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