Archive for June, 2011
Defense Attorney Jose Baez went for the gold yesterday, asking George Anthony if he’d ever molested his daughter Casey. Of course, Mr. Anthony denied the allegation. Then Baez asked if he’d admit to the horrible act if he did indeed commit it, and he added the fact that life in prison would be motivation for not admitting to the unspeakable act. Again, Anthony denied the allegation.
During this line of questioning, Casey Anthony’s image was also displayed onscreen. When Baez asked Casey’s father the question regarding molesting her, and he denied it, Casey shook her head slowly from side to side and tears filled her eyes. Now, it’s unusual to see Casey Anthony display her emotions. So this, to me as a former police investigator who relied heavily on reading body language, was important. George Anthony’s denial clearly struck a nerve with his daughter.
Obviously, I’m can’t and won’t say this event(s) occurred during Casey’s childhood, but Mr. Anthony clearly displays signs of guilt about something. What that guilt is about we may never know.
So what do we know about the father of accused murderer Casey Anthony?
1. The defense has accused him of discovering his granddaughter’s lifeless body in a swimming pool and then covering up that death. To do so, he’d have had to physically place the child’s body inside three bags and coldly discard her in the woods like yesterday’s garbage. Keep in mind, though, that someone, if not Mr. Anthony, actually was heartless enough to do just that.
2. George Anthony is a former police officer, someone trained to recognize details of crimes and crime scenes. He’s also testified that he knows the smell of death from his experience as a police officer. If the defense’s drowning theory is true, why would Mr. Anthony not attempt to revive his granddaughter? After all, police officers are trained as first responders and they’re all certified in CPR.
3. The accusations are out there that Mr. Anthony had an affair with River Cruz/Krystal Holloway. In fact, Jose Baez asked Mr. Anthony if he’s ever been intimate with Cruz. Anthony’s response was no, and that he thought the notion was funny. But, Mr. Anthony doesn’t deny, well, he can’t deny that he’d been to Cruz’s home on several occasions to “console” her. And these visits were without the presence of Mrs. Anthony. All during the time the family should have been focusing on locating their granddaughter. Mr. Anthony was a trained police officer, right? Perhaps he should have put those skills to work instead of “consoling” Cruz behind his wife’s back.
Also, Cruz says that Mr. Anthony told her that Caylee’s death was an accident that snowballed out of control. Normally, this would be a very damaging statement when introduced. However, Ms. Cruz seems to have quite the reputation as someone who’s less than truthful.
4. Anthony purchased some beer and went to a hotel room. He says it was his intent to commit suicide by drinking the beer and taking some prescription medication. Prior to doing whatever it was he maybe intended to do, Anthony called several members of his family and texted others of his intention. Soon after, police found Anthony at the Hawaii Motel in Daytona Beach. They knocked on the door, which Mr. Anthony opened, and, after speaking with the officers, he walked with them to their police cars. An officer then drove Anthony to the hospital where he was admitted for mandatory observation. Almost immediately after his release from the hospital, Mr. Anthony and his wife flew to California to appear on several TV shows. Upon their return, they were booked into the Ritz Carlton hotel, a stay paid for by media.
5. When Casey Anthony was first allowed out of jail on bond corrections officials met with the family to instruct them on the rules of house arrest, and there are several. For example, there can be no alcohol in the house, including shaving lotion and mouthwash, no drugs, and no weapons. And no weapons means NO GUNS. Any violation of the rules could send Casey back to jail. So what does dear old dad do? Well, he immediately goes out and buys a gun. He claims he was going to use the firearm to threaten people into telling him what happened to his granddaughter. Oddly, the corrections officials show up at the Anthony home a couple of hours after dad bought the gun. And they were there BECAUSE he’d bought the weapon. Pretty fast and coincidental timing, huh? How’d they know so quickly? It’s almost if dad himself tipped them off so they could remove Casey from the home. Not saying that’s what happened, but it’s an extremely bizarre coincidence. But bizarre is a word that goes hand-in-hand with this family.
Well, the defense is about to wrap up their case. Will Casey testify that her father helped dispose of Caylee’s tiny body? I suppose we’ll never know the truth surrounding this family. How could we? Their stories are as squiggly as a bucket of worms.
So what do you think? Is George Anthony a loving grandfather. Or, is he a lying, cheating, child molester?
You’ve found several prints at the murder scene and you ran them through AFIS. This time luck was on your side. You got a hit on two of the latents. The first belonged to one of the usuals, a guy who goes by the street name “Popcorn.” You’ve arrested Popcorn several times over the years for assault, a few larceny charges, and a B&E or two. The dead guy was one of Popcorn’s card-playing buddies. Popcorn definitely could be good for this one.
The second suspect is an older man, Ima Forger, with a record of writing bad checks and one charge of embezzlement that occurred almost ten years ago. Violence just doesn’t fit. But, his prints were found at the scene. So, you round up both men and haul them back to your office for a little I&I (Interview and Interrogation).
Both men admit to visiting the home of the deceased, a Mr. I.M. Coldnclammy. Forger admits to being there, stating that the two of them had shared a pizza and watched the Red Sox and Yankees game. He claimed that his friend was very much alive when he left. But Forger also stated that just as he was leaving, Popcorn showed up and boy did he ever look mad. Forger said he could hear the two men arguing all the way from the bus stop in front of Coldnclammy’s house, some fifty-feet away from the front door.
Popcorn, however, says he hadn’t been to Coldnclammy’s house in over two weeks. But he has no solid alibi and everyone who knew Coldnclammy has already told you that he and Popcorn were not on good terms—something about one owing the other a great deal of money. And, there’s a rumor floating around the streets that Coldnclammy has been seen around town with Popcorn’s girlfriend on his arm.
So, all you have so far is the word of two crooks and a couple of fingerprints. One thug says he was there and the other says he wasn’t. But one man clearly implicates the other. You glance to the fingerprints. Both look the same to the naked eye.
They’re both attached to a white backing covered by the clear plastic of the hinged lifter from Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories, you’re favorite brand.
What if the prints could tell you which man was truthful? The only way that could happen is if you knew the age of the prints. If Popcorn’s print was older than Forger’s, well…
Actually, it is possible to tell the age of a fingerprint, and it’s done by using a sensor that detects extremely faint electrostatic charges, such as those occurring over the surface of a fingerprint. Not only does this method allow the technician to successfully photograph the formerly invisible fingerprint, the process also detects the gradual reduction of electrical charge as the print ages. And, when compared to the time a crime occurred, officials can now eliminate or include potential suspects as the possible perpetrator of the crime in question.
In the case of Popcorn and Forger, well, the print was hotly charged and wasn’t very old. Definitely not two weeks old. So, you’re able to rule out Popcorn as a suspect for this crime. But he’ll be back. Forger, on the other hand, confessed when confronted with the “electrifying” evidence against him
Everyone likes the Fourth of July–fireworks, food, and fun. For some of us, it’s a time of hard work, thrills, and sometimes danger.
For the past seven years, I have been a professional pyrotechnican working in the fireworks display industry.
The BATF—Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, abbreviated to ATF has defined various classes of fireworks. Consumer fireworks are most often classified as Class 1.4G—stuff you can buy in stores and shoot in your back yard—state and local laws permitting.
Most display fireworks are classified as Class 1.3G. I have a federal license to posses and shoot Class 1.3G fireworks as long as I am working for the display company that sponsored my license.
Now that the legalities are out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff!
The cone at the bottom of a typical shell is where the lift charge is located which is simply a bag of black powder enclosed in a protective cone of cardboard.
five inch shell
Tied into the bottom of the shell is quickmatch which is black match—cotton string covered or soaked in black powder that is enclosed in a paper tube or plastic tube all along the whole length. The tube forces the fire down at a very high speed (approximately 30 feet per second). This is what we light to “lift” the shell from the mortar, either electrically or by fire.
You can see the blackmatch in the close up above.
The whole shell is wrapped in craft-type paper secured with glue.
On the top is a loop of string that is used to keep the quickmatch in the right place and in larger shells is used to lower the shell into the mortar.
To lift a shell, you need a mortar. They come in various sizes and are often held together to accomplish certain effects—the one below is called a finale rack—a series of mortars tied together that all lift shells at the end of a show.
As you can see, there are several different sizes and the company I work for has a few of them.
Single mortars are what you see below and are often buried into the ground to stabilize them.
And, they come in a wide variety of sizes.
single mortar storage
Our mortars are constructed of fiberglass which doesn’t cause the shrapnel problems if they blow out like the old steel mortars. They are also cheap to make and are lightweight.
Shells blowing apart mortars happens more often than you would think and makes for an exciting experience when you are close to them.
This is why we wear protective clothing: it’s mandatory that you wear blue jeans, a cotton shirt, a helmet with a face shield and ear protection, gloves, and safety glasses.
The most complex of shows to set up and shoot are electrically fired. Some shows are also required to be electrically fired—like those set to music and every barge shoot.
The shells are ignited by an electric match which, when an electric current is applied to it, ignites a combustible compound. Think of a model rocket igniter but much more powerful.
The matches are wired into slats which are screwed to the top of the mortar racks.
The slats plug into cables.
As you can see, it takes more than a few cables to wire up the shows.
The cables are plugged into a firing panel.
firing panel back
Firing panels come in a wide variety of configurations and sizes, some small:
small firing panel
Note the battery cables—most shows are fired using a car battery.
And some large-bigger shows are fired with larger panels.
100 shot firing panel
You may only notice that there are fifty switches. There are two banks. When you’ve fired the first fifty-shells, you flip a switch and you can shoot the second bank of shells.
The really difficult part is making sure that the shells will fire when you flip the switch. There is a test function on the firing board which you can see below.
test and firing switch
There is an LED over each switch and if it doesn’t glow when you hit the test switch, then you have to figure out what is wrong with the circuit which can be very tedious to track down.
Once the shells are loaded, wired, tested and otherwise ready to go, you can sit back and enjoy the show.
Next time we get to my favorite way of shooting a fireworks show—hand fired.
Imagine how difficult it is to solve a murder when all you have as evidence is a single fingerprint. And, that print is not in any database, anywhere. Sure, there were eight men who were seen near the scene of the crime on the night it occurred, but you have nothing solid pointing you in their direction.
Man, if only that print could talk.
I guess, for starters, the print could tell the investigator what the suspect had been holding in his hand, recently. For example, a cigarette, or a bottle of beer. Or even a bag of cocaine. But would it help to know if the fingerprint belonged to a smoker? Well, during your surveillance of the suspects you’ve seen six of the eight puffing away at various times. So that’s not a lot of help. How about if the print belonged to a person who drank alcohol? During the course of your investigation you’ve learned that only four of the suspects consumed alcohol. And you verified that information with family and friends. What about a drug user? Would it help to know if the print belonged to a drug user? After all, one of your informants says the guy with the big ears and red hair smokes crack regularly. So you try to dig up similar information about the other seven. Nothing. They’re all clean. No drugs. Red-On-The-Head is the only one who uses drugs.
So, if you knew for sure that the print belonged to a drug user and one of your only seven suspects is a confirmed crack smoker…What does that tell you?
The fingerprint, if it could talk, would probably say,
But can a single fingerprint provide that sort of information? Sure it can, and here’s how.
Our bodies deposit metabolites—tiny traces of what we’ve consumed—into the sweat released from the pores located in our fingerprint ridges. Scientists use gold nanoparticles to detect the metabolites in fingerprint sweat to learn what, exactly, that individual has taken into his body, such as cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine. And the beauty of detecting cotinine is that a person would have had to ingest it, not merely touch a tobacco product, for it to show up in test results.
The process is simple. Dab the print with a solution containing gold nanoparticles with attached antibodies that bind to the metabolite. Scientists then apply a second antibody, one that binds to the cotinine antibodies. This solution also contains a fluorescent dye. If the person is a smoker, the dye will then glow along the ridge patterns when exposed to an alternate light source.
The test is also capable of testing for alcohol and drug use, which could help narrow a field of suspects. If the test detected cotinine and the guy you’re looking at for the murder is a non-smoker, then you need to at least start looking for an accomplice.
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Want to learn more about fingerprints and the equipment used to detect them? How about bloodstains? Well, you’re in luck. A team of experts from Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratory will be on hand at the Writers’ Police Academy and they’ll be presenting a couple of mind-blowing demonstrations. Bring your questions and your cameras!
* Have you reserved your hotel room for the Writers’ Police Academy? If not, please do so today. The block of rooms we reserved at the Embassy Suites is nearly full and there may not be any additional rooms available once those are gone. You won’t want to miss out on any of the fun! Ask for the Writers’ Police Academy discounted rate.
* Also, spaces for the Writers’ Police Academy are filling fast, therefore, we may be at capacity soon. So register today for this one of a kind event. Remember, Sisters in Crime will pay over half of your registration fee! This offer is open to everyone. See the WPA website for details.
“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse—the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
~ Emily Dickinson
Images by Rachael Kramer
Just when I thought the Casey Anthony murder trial had hit the top limits of the Bizarrometer, Cindy Anthony’s testimony on Thursday added a new dimension to the amount of weird we’ve seen to date. This case has me wondering what sort of response a writer would receive from an agent or editor if they submitted a tale as wacky as this one. I’m thinking an editor would possibly find the story unbelievable and send it back for revisions, if they didn’t totally reject the book. And that’s exactly what I hope the jury in this case will do, reject most of the nonsense we’ve heard from the defense in this case. But that nonsense might be a stroke of genius. After all, if you throw enough crap against the wall, eventually some of it will stick. And so far, Jose Baez is crap-tossing like a crazed monkey.
Apparently, Cindy Anthony was on some sort of medication in 2009 that conveniently wiped her selective memory clean. Sure, she could remember Casey’s exact movements and words during that time, but was unable to recall, during depositions, that she herself had Googled the word chloroform over 80 times from her home computer. At the time, she’d also Googled terms like chest injury and internal bleeding. But she hadn’t remembered searching for those words either. I’m a little curious, though, why a nurse would need to Google the injury terms. Aren’t those subjects covered in nursing school?
And all this brings us to Cindy’s Thursday testimony, which was a bit of a jaw-dropper. The mom of the accused murderer said that her memory was better now since she switched medication, and that she now clearly recalls using the computer in her home to look up chloroform and those injuries she knew nothing about during her sworn testimony at deposition. And, suddenly, she recalled stains on the carpet in the trunk of Casey’s car. Stains that were already present when they purchased the car. Conveniently, these are the stains examined by experts who testified were caused by human decomposition. Chloroform was also present in that section of carpet.
But remember, class. Dr. Wise testified that chloroform evaporates quite rapidly. Yet, it was the number 1 chemical found in the carpet. And there’s a snowball’s chance in…well, you know where, that chloroform would still be present in that car after all this time (since they purchased it). Nope, the chemical most likely contacted that carpet AFTER the Anthonys bought the car. Why it was there…who knows for sure?
Where Ms. Anthony’s story really begins to bug me is when the prosecution asked how she could have been using her home computer when her work record indicates that she was in her office working, not at home, during the time of the internet searches. The Anthony matriarch blew that one off by saying it was common for her supervisor to fill out her time cards incorrectly. Why does everyone in this family blame others for their actions? Are they all psychopaths? Or, are they each really good actors? OR…is the truth really this convoluted and disorderly?
But, when the rubber hits the road, I sort of blame the judge for this entire mess. He never should have allowed Casey’s parents to sit in the courtroom during the trial. They should have been made to wait outside like all witnesses. Now, they can (I’m not saying they are) sway their story and testimony in a direction that would help their daughter avoid the death penalty and maybe even help set her free. And it would be an easy task since they’ve heard every single bit of evidence presented so far.
I’m really hoping the jury is watching and listening to this display of selective memory. And I hope they’re watching closely, with popcorn, peanuts, and Crackerjacks in hand. Because this is becoming one hell of a circus.
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Yes, the posting of this article means there are no officer deaths to report this week. Stay safe, guys. And wear your vests. There’s someone who needs to be tucked in when you get home.