I’ve seen more than anyone’s fair share of murder victims. More than I’d care to count, actually. I’ve also seen a variety of methods and instruments used by killers to achieve their goal(s)—gunshots, edged weapons, etc. Of course, some of those victims were poisoned, while others were killed by hanging, strangulation, fire, torture, beatings, blunt instrument bludgeoning and, well, you name the manner and I’ve probably seen the end result. Unfortunately, it’s not long before dead bodies—the victims of senseless violence—quickly begin to stack up in the old memory bank.
Sure, cops get used to seeing carnage. They have to in order to survive the job. Still, there are cases that cling to the outer fringes of the mind, remaining fresh in our thoughts for many years. These, the often thought of, aren’t necessarily the most gruesome or the most difficult to solve. Not at all. In fact, what sticks with one officer may not affect another in the same way.
A few homicides occasionally creep back onto the “replay” reel inside my brain—the killing of children, the crazy guy who hacked his sister-in-law with an ax because she wouldn’t give him money for a pack of cigarettes, the kid found hanging from an extension cord in an abandoned factory, and, of course, the case I’m about to describe to you. It came to mind today because of the much-needed rains we’ve received lately here in Northern California.
So slip on a pair of boots and a raincoat, and join me on a brief journey into my memory.
It was a brutal storm that night, one that delivered a hard-driving and bitterly cold winter rain. Accompanying winds tugged hard against my long, school-bus-yellow rain coat, sending its tails fluttering and flapping, exposing my brown over tan deputy sheriff uniform. It—the uniform—was not waterproof. Not even close.
The ground at the crime scene was extremely muddy, and with each step my once shiny brown shoes collected gobs of thick, wet soil until it felt as if bricks were tied to the bottoms of my feet.
These were the deplorable conditions in which I met the crying dead woman.
Raindrops the size of gumdrops pelted the victim’s face, gathering and pooling at the corners of her eyes, eventually spilling out across her cheeks like tiny rivers that followed the contours of her flesh until they poured from her in miniature waterfalls.
It was one on one, just me and the victim.
Passenger door open.
She’s lying there, bottom half in, top half out.
Her face aimed at the sky.
Rain falling into her open mouth.
Cheap dollar-store tennis shoes and half-socks, the socks her youngest daughter—the seven-year-old—called baby socks.
Her hair, mingling with mud, rainwater, sticks, and leaves.
Power lines crackle and buzz overhead.
The yellow Maglite beam against her dim gray eyes.
Not a flicker.
Different pattern than the rubber on her Chrysler.
Driver’s window down.
Three rounds—one to the head and two to the torso.
Five empty casings.
Not a revolver.
Half-empty wine bottle.
Not her brand according to the ladies in her church group. “Oh we don’t drink. Neither did she. Except on special occasions. Yep, it must have been something or somebody really special for her to drink that stuff.”
“Was there a somebody special?”
Eyes cast downward.
Blushes all around. “Well…she did stay after Wednesday night preaching a few times. But they were meetings strictly about church business. After all, he is the Reverend. A good man.”
A stammer or two.
A good man.
The rain comes harder, pouring across her cheeks, meandering through her hair.
Droplets hammer her open eyes.
She doesn’t blink.
A dead woman crying.
The other, long strides.
Running away, possibly.
Zigzagging to the woods.
Bullet lodged in base of a spruce pine.
One round left to find.
Water inside my collar, down my back.
Cloth snagged on jagged tree branch.
Plaid shirt material.
Still visible in the rain?
The missing fifth round?
Maglite never fails, even in torrential rain.
Cop’s best friend.
Light catches shoe in underbrush.
Shoe attached to adult male.
Bullet in back.
The fifth round.
Coming together nicely.
Special wine for special occasion…
Tiny face peering from window.
Waiting for Mama?
Scent of frying bacon in the air.
Door swings open.
“No, she didn’t come home after church. Called friends and family. Nobody knows.”
Yes, I have ideas. I promise.
Tire tracks match.
Preacher hangs head in shame.
Today, our rains have stopped but,
I’m thinking of the crying dead woman and her kids, her loving husband and, of course, baby socks.
As most of you know, I’ve been in Green Bay, Wi. for the past couple of days nailing down the final details for the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy. It was a whirlwind trip that’s ending with a snowstorm, but WOW have we ever designed a program for you that’s second to none, starting with a hotel that will knock your socks off!
The Radisson Hotel and Conference Center not only features top of the line sleeping rooms, it also showcases several in-house restaurants (a group of us sampled the banquet food tonight and it was absolutely delicious), very nice and well-stocked bars, private fireside sitting areas, and one extremely flashy and eye-catching conference perks that you’ll only find at the Writers’ Police Academy—the Oneida Casino. The casino also feature several wonderful restaurants and bars.
After I left the casino I took a walking tour of the hotel and I discovered an extremely unique feature that I’d never seen in all my many travels across the country. You know how in many hotels you find a newspaper outside your door in the mornings? Well, this place took that freebie to an all new level…appliances.
Yes, guests opened their doors this morning to find, not the U.S. Today, but a brand new mini-fridge. I was, however, a bit disappointed to learn that these goodies were there in preparation of replacing the current in-room refrigerators, but what a great concept, right!
Still, the hotel is loaded with all the bells and whistles, even if they’re not giving away free refrigerators. And, they’re the official hotel of the Green Bay Packers.
So, not only do we provide a great hotel, a place where you eat delicious food, mingle with your fellow writers in bars, restaurants, a casino (how cool is that!), and get plenty of rest in super nice sleeping rooms, we also search long and hard to bring you the best instructors money can
bribe buy. In fact, we’ve lined up some really top talent this year.
Yes, to keep up with the insatiable learning appetites of writers we’ve moved to larger academy this year, and we, your dedicated staff, are bursting-at-the-seams-ready to introduce you to the place and to the real instructors.
Our new academy (above image is from inside the academy) allows us to offer a larger array of exciting hands-on workshops, such as…well, for now let me ask you this…have you watched the Netflix series Making a Murderer? Hmm… I better stop there before I give away too many details, but keep in mind we are in Wisconsin and the Avery case took place in Wisconsin (that’s a clue, by the way).
Anyway, some of you have asked what exactly goes into planning the wildly popular Writers’ Police Academy, so I took a photo during one of our intense meetings just this afternoon. It was rough, and much blood was spilled, but we survived.
I know many of you are currently digging out from the results of a major snowstorm. So, instead of shivering and blowing your noses, why not go to beach hopping! And here’s a great place to start.
Each year, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire hosts a sand sculpting championship that attracts master sand artists from all the world. Over 300 tons of special sand is trucked to the beach for the event. Each contestant is given ten tons of sand and just twenty-one hours to complete their masterpieces. Denene and I were on hand to witness this spectacular display of talent.
Forrest Gump by Merideth Corson took the fourth place honors.
Michele Lepire’s Tropical Paradise placed third in the overall contest, but took home the most prize money, winning both the People’s Choice award and the Sculptor’s Choice award.
Salvador Dali Lama by Fred Mallet won the fifth place honors.
Steve Topazio of Rhode Island created this angry sun blowing down a sand castle.
Tim Russert remembered in sand.
Morning Bath by Carl Jara took the second place spot.
The winner of the 2008 Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting contest was titled Japanese Garden by Karen Fralich of Ontario, Canada.
Karen adds a few finishing touches to her masterpiece.
Denene and I truly understand what it’s like to look outside and see nothing but snowy whiteness, while sitting inside with no electricity, no water, and even worse, no internet. Here are some photos that explain why we decided to return to California to live, where, by the way, it’s currently 60 degrees. However, it is raining and has been for several days, off and on, and the skies have been a lovely shade of Seattle-gray for a couple of weeks now.
Anyway, here are photos from a few of our old neighborhoods, starting with our house in North Carolina.
Next up is a shot of the salt marsh at Plum Island, Ma., near our weekend place where we enjoyed kayaking in the Merrimack River.
Our Seattle home.
Our Boston neighborhood.
Finally, a brisk winter day in our California neck(s) of the woods…
Officer Douglas Scott Barney, 44
Unified Police Department, Greater Salt Lake Utah
January, 17, 2016 – Officer Doug Barney was shot and killed while attempting to assist a man and woman who were involved in an automobile crash. As he approached the couple the male suspect pulled a handgun and shot Officer Barney in the head, fatally wounding him.
When other officers arrived the male suspect engaged them in an intensive shootout where he was killed and another officer was wounded. The woman fled the scene and is still at large.
Officer Barney is survived by his wife and three children.
Officer Thomas W. Cottrell, Jr., 34
Danville Ohio Police Department
January 17, 2016 – Officer Thomas W. Cottrell, Jr. was shot and killed by ambush.
A female called the police department to warn them of her ex-boyfriend’s plan to kill a police officer. She stated he was out and he was armed.
After not being able to reach Officer Cottrell on the radio a search for him was initiated. A half-hour later, his body was located behind the village municipal building. His service weapon and patrol vehicle were missing. The suspect was arrested later that night.
Correctional Officer Adam Conrad, 22
Marion County Illinois Sheriff’s Office
January 20, 2016 – Correctional Officer Adam Conrad was killed in a vehicle crash while transporting a prisoner. He was driving in snowy conditions when his vehicle lost control and crossed the median where it was struck by a tractor trailer traveling in the opposite direction. The prisoner, a juvenile, survived the crash.
Officer Conrad is survived by his parents and brother.
The 4th Circuit (federal) Court of Appeals has ruled it a violation of the 4th Amendment for officers to use a Taser on any subject unless they are a clear and immediate risk. This includes the use of the device in “drive stun” mode (stun gun). This ruling, so far, applies to the states within the 4th Circuit—North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The court says the pain caused by Taser use is excessive force.
I guess officers in those states are now forced to return to the days of painful and sometimes injury-inducing baton strikes, clouds of choking pepper spray, and a dozen or so officers piling on top of unbelievably strong suspects who resist arrest. After all, extreme combativeness and violently resisting are generally not considered to be “risks.”
Here’s a fun fact – Believe it or not, wearing a badge and uniform does not give an officer super-human strength, and the minimum amount of defensive tactics they’re taught in the academy is of little use when attempting to arrest The Incredible Hulk on meth, a person who typically feels no pain and who pepper sprays often do not affect.
So stand by for a new wave of cellphone/YouTube/agenda-driven media videos, and for a list of officers who’ve been treated or hospitalized for injuries received while attempting to handcuff someone twice their size who’s doing whatever it takes to prevent their arrest.
Police Officer - definition: uniform-wearing human designed as a punching bag for anyone and everyone who cares to take a swing. Hated by all until they’re needed. Not to be confused with politicians, who are rarely needed.
Politicians - definition: gun-hating people who surround themselves with gun-toting police officers as a means of insulation from people who want to punch them in their lying mouths.
Lying Mouth - definition – untruths spew violently forward with each movement of the lips. 1st requirement to become politician. Also a known trait of narcissists and people who blatantly steal the ideas of others (these are often one and the same).
Agenda-Driven Media – definition: lying mouths who are sometimes former politicians. Never needed but you can’t make them go away. Taser use encouraged.
But yeah, Taser use in the 4th Circuit, in all but extreme cases, has indeed been ruled to be a use of excessive force. Therefore, police officers are now required to say “pretty please” as the first step in each encounter with suspected criminals. “Pretty please, stop punching me in my face.” Pretty please, let go of my gun.” Pretty please stop strangling your mother.” Pretty please, remove your hand from my chest cavity.” “Pretty please, remove your knife from my intestines.” “Pretty please, help me find the teeth you knocked from my mouth with your extremely large fists.”
This new development reminds me of the good old days when cops carried little more on their belts than a six-shooter, a pair of handcuffs, a flashlight, and a radio (if there were enough to go around). There was no pepper spray to squirt, nor were there Tasers to light up the eyes of the guy who was bashing your brains out onto the pavement.
Back in “the day,” officers didn’t have the luxury of non-lethal devices. Instead, we had to rely on fast talking and sheer muscle power to get out of jams.
Sometimes, the only thing that kept us from getting hurt, badly, was to use a flashlight as a tool to deliver a properly-placed “love tap” to an attacker’s thick skull (an aluminum shampoo). Of course, that’s no longer an option, but the tactic saved my butt more than once. And there’s one such event will forever stand out in my mind.
While arresting a very big and unruly man, a guy who just happened to be twice my size (and I’m not small), my future prisoner decided he was allergic to handcuffs. And, during a brief struggle, my neck somehow wound up in the gentle grasp of the behemoth’s skillet-size hands. In other words, he was “hands-around-the-neck” choking me with every ounce of strength he could muster. I couldn’t breathe, and I knew then how it must feel to be icing inside a pastry bag, because he was squeezing so hard that I thought my eyes would pop out of their sockets at any moment.
The thug had me pinned against a wall in a position that made going for my gun (a .357 in those days) impossible. However, I finally managed to get a hand on my metal Maglite. So I starting swinging (short strokes because of the odd angle), hoping to force the guy to release his grip. Finally, after a few hard whacks to his head, he let go. And, as they say, it was game on!
I finally got that big moose handcuffed and then promptly delivered him to the jail. But, my car was not equipped with a cage to put him in for safekeeping (none of our cars had cages back then), so I made him ride up front with me. And I made a point to let him know that my gun was in my hand with my finger on the trigger, and if he so much as looked at me wrong I’d shoot him. He behaved nicely on the ride in.
We must have been a real sight when we arrived at the jail—clothes torn, badge ripped from my shirt, bloody lips and clothing, flashlight-shaped knots on his head, fingerprint-shaped bruises on my neck, and more. But that’s how it was back then.
Yep, those were the good ‘ol days.
If only we’d had Tasers back then. Maybe then we’d have lost less blood and suffered fewer injuries, both to officers and suspects. I know, I know. The mere sight of a Taser could hurt someone’s feelings, and we can’t have that, right?
Oh, I know, we could have safe spaces for violent people who want to don’t want to feel the effects of a Taser, pepper spray, and/or handcuffs. That’s the ticket. Hmm… Is it okay to say ticket, or is that too offensive?
I’m going to close my blinds and shut my office door so I don’t have to deal with this stuff. It’s too scary…
*This post, although mostly factual, was meant to be slightly humorous. Please don’t turn it into a cop-bashing, religion-shunning, politically-driven argument on gun control and “I hate everything and you offend me.”
We can all sleep a bit easier tonight knowing that Homeland Security has saved us from a super-duper, mega-colossal attack right here on good old U.S soil.
The plot began in the southernmost U.S. territory, American Somoa, where tuna is the main export and, apparently, the destruction of human life in the U.S. is high on the radar of these vile villains of the worst kind.
As we here in America went about our daily lives, doing the fun and simple-life sort of things we do—hating, killing, vandalizing people’s property, blocking streets, highways, and bridges, stealing, raping, robbing, stabbing, beating, complaining, bashing anyone and everyone who doesn’t agree with our causes du jour, cop bashing, politician bashing, race bashing and baiting, agenda driving, road raging, controlling guns (or not), president hating, potential president hating, using Facebook as the ultimate guide to life, and, for some idiotic reason, listening to and believing, without question, the things said by celebrities who offer uneducated opinions about current events—the evil-doers from American Somoa were plotting to destroy America, starting with the state of California. And this was their SECOND attempt within the past 60 days!
Thank goodness for the quick thinking of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who were stationed at the Port of Oakland this month. It was they who nabbed the pair of adults who were in charge of the ring of killers. With them were approximately ten dozen terror-inducers-in-training.
The captured thugs, while hiding on the docks among a stack of wooden pallets, were resting from their long journey inside a shipping container. The scene must have been intense as agents moved in. However, intensive training and cool heads prevailed. Not a shot was fired.
So we can all rest easy, until the next attempt. For now, though, the captured pair of African Snails and their hundred or so eggs have been safely collected and delivered to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for testing. The shipping container in which they traveled was sterilized before offloading from the vessel.
By the way, African Snails can grow to 8 inches in length with a diameter of 5 inches, and they eat 500 types of plants, including garden vegetables. They love, among lots of others, sweet corn, lettuce, blackberries, cucumbers, strawberries, melons, and GRAPES! Did you see the California danger level rise to the red zone when I typed GRAPES? These slime-trailers also enjoy a nice hearty meal of stucco, plaster, and paint, and even raw meat if it’s available.
In addition to wiping out crops and buildings, these, the most dangerous snails in the world, also carry, among other creepy-crawly parasites, a nematode that can lead to meningitis in humans. Unfortunately, it is unclear what happened to the monstrous snails and their young after the testing was complete.
I understand the #snaillivesmatter organization has planned a march from San Francisco to Oakland, via the Bay Bridge. The parade of angry, protesting snails from all across Northern California and beyond will come together today at 4pm for a slime-in at the Federal Courthouse in Oakland. Commuters are advised to avoid the Bay Bridge. Reports say traffic there is already reduced to no more than a “snail’s pace.” Pedestrians are reporting that walkways and pavements are a sticky, gooey mess.
Oakland resident, Ima Steponem, told reporters she’s sick and tired of snail privilege and wants to see “every damn one of them” in handcuffs by the end of the day. Oakland police chief Sammy Salamander says he’s looking forward to a meeting with the head snail.
Meanwhile, restaurants all across the Bay Area are hurrying to add “jumbo” escargot to their menus.
Chief Salamander urges everyone to remain calm and to not take matters into their own hands. Oakland and San Francisco police are both on high alert as just moments ago panicked citizens began running for cover when someone shouted, “They’re coming! To arms, the snails are coming!”
But, everyone in San Francisco quickly came to their senses, knowing full well that people are not allowed to use guns to commit crimes in their city (San Francisco has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and they still saw a huge increase in the number of homicides in 2015—over 70%—when compared to the 2014 murder rate).
Oakland residents, however, were last seen running for the hills as the snails continued their relentless “flat-foot” march toward the courthouse. An Oakland resident who asked to remain anonymous, told a Graveyard Shift reporter, “Ain’t nothing worse than a slimy-ass snail with a gun.”
*This is a true story…well, the part about Homeland Security agents discovering the dangerous snails is true (now you know what it is these agents do—snail patrol). However, the protest and slime-in scheduled for today…not true. It takes place tomorrow.
Chief Salamander is, of course, fictitious. Salamanders, in case you were wondering, are natural predators of snails.
Escargot is indeed featured on the menu of many Bay Area restaurants. Now you know where they get their snails. Yum…