1140 Hours – February 17, 2013

“Slow night?”

“Pretty much,” Collins said, as he leaned to the passenger seat to retrieve his hat and what was probably once a full thermos of coffee. “Same old crap over on Elm Street—”

“They at it, again?” said Officer Martin. “What’s that, the third time this week?”

“Fourth, actually. He finally put her in the hospital this time, though. Broken arm, probably a fractured cheek, and a concussion.”

“Let me guess. He didn’t mean it, and she said it was an accident,” said Martin as he poked his hands between the rear seat and seat back. A quick look under the seat and he was done. No hidden contraband left behind by any of the thugs arrested on the previous shift.

“Everything okay?”

“Clean, as always,” Martin said, moving to the driver’s seat to begin the routine—checking the lights, radio, siren, shotgun, and a quick calibration of the radar unit.

“The usuals were out and about in “The Bottom.” Lots of traffic down there too. I stopped a few cars as they were leaving.”

“Anything?”

“No, if they were holding I didn’t see it,” said Collins. He stood beside the patrol car holding his hat and a half-empty gear bag in his right hand, waiting patiently for Martin to finish the mandatory pre-shift vehicle and equipment inspection. “There was a new guy hanging out with the crowd on Reynolds Street. Never seen him before. Tall, really dark skin, hair’s in long braids, and a gold star on one of his front teeth. I stopped and talked to him. Most of the guys scattered, but he never flinched. Smart mouth on him too. Had an accent that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Sounded a little like that old guy who works at the motor pool. He’s Haitian, right? Anyway, the new guy said he was Popcorn’s cousin from New York. Claimed his name was Reggie Jackson. He also claimed he lost his ID last week.”

“Think he’s the guy bringing the stuff in?”

“Could be.”

“I’ll head down there in a few minutes to keep the pressure on. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”

“Maybe so,” Collins said. “Well, if you’re all set, I’m going inside to finish writing up my reports and go over a few notes. I’ve got court in the morning. You?”

“No, but I do have to be at the range at ten for qualifying.”

“Man, is it that time of the year already?”

“Yep. They haven’t let you know when you’ve got to shoot?” Martin asked.

“Not yet, but I’m sure it’ll be on one of my days off, as always.”

“The brass don’t know any other way.”

“I guess not,” Collins said, giving his old friend a pat on the arm, a habit he’d never been able to break. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow night. Stay safe out there.”

“Always.”

0001 Hours – February 18, 2013

“All south-side units. Shots fired corner of Reynolds and Parker. One suspect down, possibly wounded. Caller reports several men in the street fighting. She believes there are numerous guns involved. I heard four shots fired while the caller was on the line. Rescue has been dispatched.”

“10-4,” said Officer Martin. “I’m en route. Have the ambulance hold back a few blocks until we have a chance to see what we’ve got.”

“10-4, 1234.”

0002 Hours – February 18, 2013

“All south-side units. I’ve got a second shots-fired call at 219 Jackson. Caller is advising that it’s her husband and he’s standing in the front yard, totally nude except for a pair of sweat socks, firing his shotgun at passing cars. She states the husband has been off his meds for two days.”

“10-4,” said Martin. “See if someone from Precinct four can take that one until we clear from The Bottom.”

“1234 to 1245, 1263. You close?”

“10-4, 1234. 30 seconds out. I hear gunfire already. I think we’re going to need some assistance with this one.”

0348 Hours – February 18, 2013

“Thanks for coming back to help out.”

“No problem. You’d have done the same,” said Collins. “Besides, I hate paperwork. And, ten minutes earlier and it could’ve been me instead of you taking those rounds.” Collins reached over to pat Martin’s arm. “The doc says you should be fine in a few weeks, though. Maybe even back to work in a couple of months. Depends on the rehab.”

“Well, this is one way to avoid going to the range on my day off.”

Collins’ lips split in a slight smile. “I think I’d rather spend a few hours at the range than five minutes in this place.”

“Honestly, me too,” said Martin. “Me, too.”

1400 Hours – February 22, 2013

Officer Collins sat in the second row, holding his hat in his trembling hands. He was listening, but not hearing the words the chaplain spoke to a standing-room-only congregation. Officers had come from as far away as California to pay their respects.

Collins used his sleeve to wipe a lone tear from his right cheek.

Ten minutes earlier and it could’ve been him.

 

Christopher Dorner: Murderer

The rapid staccato sound of gunfire was reminiscent of similar sounds accompanying film clips of the Vietnam war. Only this war unfolded on U.S. soil near Big Bear Lake, California. The shooters—police officers and a man believed to be former LAPD officer/fugitive Christopher Dorner.

You all know Dorner’s story, a tale where he described himself as a victim of the LAPD’s racist good ‘ol boy system. So I won’t go into those details. Instead, I want to focus on Dorner the murderer of innocent citizens and police officers. Dorner, a man angry at his former department, and, apparently anyone in law enforcement who didn’t let him have his way. A cold-blooded murderer of the worst kind.

And then there’s Christopher Dorner, a man many are calling …a hero. Someone who stood up to the LAPD and his superiors. A hero because he didn’t back down, taking his personal war straight to the enemy, facing them head-on, using guns and ammunition to murder his opponent(s). Dorner, a man who crept up on an innocent man and woman, murdering them in cold blood simply because the woman’s father represented Dorner in the proceedings that cost him his badge. Yeah, that’s a hero all right.

Back to the people who praise Dorner and his spree of murders. A quick search on the internet will lead you to Facebook pages in his honor, featuring comments of praise and encouragement. Urging him to kill more police officers. Comments such as:

“This guy is a HERO, someone to stand up against un-constitutional cops and to stop Tryanny. GOD SPEED DORNER!”

“…chris from me, take out as many as you can cause they have no plans on hearing your case, God Bless you brother, Do your thing son.”

“Keep fighting the good fight, man.”

“Keep fighting Christopher!”

“…If you Support the man’s Movement then good for you …”

“Mr Dorner I hope u see that as far as most of the citizens are concerned your name has been cleared. My only hope is that u flee the country and find a place to regain a life and live happily. It’ll b sad to see u die they’re not worth your life.”

“You shot a cop you do it again with out getting cought and i will tip my simbaro to you.”

“I don’t think he shot anyone!! I believe they set him up!! And now its on!! Good luck sir!!”

“i salute u and ya mission no innocent people i f u can help it goddess god bless”

“Very pathetic police force we have in the USA. Disarm these pathetic pigs now.”

“All police precincts are KKK organizations. I hope he gets away with it.”

“He is a hero.”

These comments are just a few of the thousands out there praising Dorner for killing police officers and anyone else who stands in his way. Many of the comments indicate the poster’s joy at the notion of police officers dying. Many express their own desire to have enough courage to kill a few officers.

I ask you, after seeing these comments, is there any solid reason to wonder why police officers are wary when approached by people they don’t know, especially during violent and/or confrontational situations?

Well, Christopher Dorner just may have met his end yesterday in that burning cabin on the side of the snow-covered mountain. Personally, I can only hope the charred body that was found inside is positively identified as Dorner. Besides, life in prison for him would have been grand. Many of his fellow thugs and killers would have seen him as a true hero for killing cops, and they would have catered to his every whim. He’d have had inmates cooking meals for him, cleaning his cell, washing his clothes, shining his shoes, and tending to his other “needs.”

I’m not a big fan of the death penalty, and it is normally my preference to see most killers sentenced to life in prison without parole. I say so because I believe life in prison is far worse than execution, which is a peaceful ending for someone who caused so much pain and grief to others.

As for Dorner, however, I say good riddance to someone who was nothing more than a murdering coward.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims in this case.

*Top photo – CNN

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Don’t forget, the new season of Southland begins tonight!

Gracie Watson: Reincarnated

All alone, in a secluded section of Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery, is the grave of little Gracie Watson. Born in 1883 to W.J. and Francis Watson, formerly of Boston, Gracie, an only child, lived only 6 short years. During her short life, Gracie quickly became well-known and deeply loved by Savannah residents and tourists alike.

W.J. and Francis managed the Pulaski Hotel, catering to Savannah’s elite society, a group Francis longed to be a part of. Guests and visitors were often greeted and entertained at the Pulaski by little Gracie. She was a shining star in the lives of many.

In 1889, Gracie contracted a severe case of pneumonia, an illness from which she never recovered. Two days before Easter of that year, little Gracie succumbed to the sickness and departed her life on earth. Her parents were heartbroken, as were the residents of Savannah.

Gracie’s body was buried in Bonaventure Cemetery.

W.J. became deeply depressed and left the Pulaski Hotel for employment at the Desoto Hotel on Madison Square, but his term there was brief, as he and Francis decided to leave Savannah and return to Boston.

Before leaving town, the Watsons commissioned Savannah sculptor, John Walz, to sculpt a statue of Gracie out of Georgia marble. Today, the statue is surrounded by a black iron fence to protect it, and Gracie’s grave, from vandals.

It has been reported that Gracie is still seen and heard today, as she visits and plays at the graves of other children. Her laughter is often heard by employees of a bank that sits on the site where the Pulaski Hotel once stood. Visitors and residents alike have reported seeing Gracie playing near the bronze sundial located at Johnson Square. To this day, visitors to Bonaventure Cemetery still leave crayons, coins, and other items at Gracie’s grave-site.

I’ve visited Gracie’s grave site, and found myself drawn to it and the story of the little girl who once touched the lives of so many. I also found myself staring at the statue of Gracie, wondering what it was about the cute little girl that captivated me. Then it hit me, so I hurried home and began to search for one particular photo. I pawed through stack after stack until I found the one I sought. Holding it in my hand, well, I simply couldn’t believe what I saw. Was the photo I held a picture of Gracie Watson, the little girl who died in 1889? The person in the picture certainly bore a strong resemblance to her. The only problem, though, was the photo I held was taken sometime around 1982, or so.

I quickly placed the photo beside a photograph of Gracie Watson, and, well, you tell me. Is it a match close enough to be Gracie reincarnated?

I contacted the modern-day “Gracie” (she’s an adult now) to ask her opinion, and she was stunned when she saw the photos. “It’s like looking at…well, me. She looks like me when I was a child,” she said.

We continued to chat, reminiscing about the times when the early photo of her was taken, and about the days since. The conversation eventually turned to Gracie’s dress. I was reminded that the little girl in the photo above (right) had worn a blue outfit quite similar to the one in Gracie’s statue, when she’d posed for an elementary school class photo. To add a further twist to the story, her pose that day was identical to that of Gracie’s statue—no smile, facing slightly to the right.

I’m still searching for that second photo, and I should have it somewhere, because the little girl in it is my daughter. I remember that day as if it were yesterday…or was it a day in the 1800’s that I recall so vividly? Maybe I’ve been reincarnated, and not Gracie. I wonder…was I, in a former life, once the manager of a Savannah hotel? Was it I, a reincarnated W.J. Watson, who passed on historic genes. Or, does Gracie live on through my daughter?

Hmm… I wonder…

*By the way, I don’t know if you believe in reincarnation, or not. Or, if you’re into superstitions, voodoo, or crystal balls and numerology. If so, you might be interested in knowing that the above article consisted of exactly 666 words.

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Boo!

They see England, they see France

In the days of frequent “wardrobe malfunctions” that seemingly occur most often when paparazzi cameras are conveniently nearby, and when many people couldn’t care less that their pants hang low enough to expose more of their “Joe Boxer’s” than they cover, well, I ask you, who’d even for once pretend that modesty is an issue?

Yet, most of us have a problem with airport body scanners that transform our images into unattractive blobs of various shades of gray? Be for real, people. I mean, everywhere you look there are folks who willingly expose their unmentionables—plaid boxers, striped boxers, white thongs, blue thongs, polka-dotted thongs, and even no thongs, or boxers, just a good-size portion of a refrigerator repairman’s vertical smile. All out there for the world to see…whether we like it or not. And, the bare skin next to the exposed undergarments is displayed in full flesh-toned and natural living color.

Still, many of those people who think it’s their position in the world to showcase their granny panties, compression shorts, boxer and sports briefs, bikini and string panties, and jockstraps, instantly balk, scream, cry, and pout when it comes time to step in front of the full-body scanners at the airport.

No problem, though, when it comes to “lettin’ it all hang out” in the checkout line at the local Piggly Wiggly, where you and I are forced to view gargantuan moles, freckles, and unsightly warts in places only a fully-licensed and well-seasoned doctor who is, by many years of experience, numb to the horrible truths about those places that should forever remain beneath clothing.

Still, when it comes to body scanners…well, the public just does not like them. “They’re too intrusive. A stranger can see my privates. I don’t want those people to see beneath my clothing.”

Then there are the people who resist. hate, and balk at the alternative to the body scanners…head-to-toe pat-down searches. Even on the street, pat-downs by law enforcement are seen as offensive. No matter that the touchy-feely searches often produce illegal weapons of all types. You know, the weapons used to commit violent crimes, like rape and murder. But…nooo. Heaven forbid that cops try to stop violent crime before it happens.

Well, the days of stop and frisk may be ending. Officers in New York City are currently testing a new way to see if people are carrying concealed weapons. Remember the airport body scanners that people hate so much? Well…

Please allow me to introduce you to ThruVision TS4, a device that detects the human body’s natural radiation emissions (terahertz radiation). And, since the radiation doesn’t pass through things such as guns and knives, what’s left in its place is a clear-as-day outline of the weapon.

Of course,  convincing crooks to go out of their way to walk past the bulky unit may be a bit of a problem, but officials say the outlook for the future is promising.

You know, maybe a simple solution to the nation’s gun problem would be to ban all clothing, not weapons and extended magazines. On second thought, remembering my last trip to the Piggly Wiggly, I think I’ll stick with the scanners and cold hands.

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*ThruVision photos www.digitalbarriers.com

*Top photo – painting by Julie Opell, Fineartamerica.com

Goodbye Dear Friend

My former detective partner, and friend of nearly 45 years, passed away Sunday afternoon. He and I solved a lot of tough cases together, and side-by-side we fought the good fight, sometimes not knowing if we’d ever make it home again. And, believe me, we’d been in many tough spots in our day.

Not only were we police officers who shared a love of our job, we also enjoyed a friendship away from the bad guys, guns, and our gold badges. He was a singer and I a guitar player, and throughout the years we played in a couple of bands together.

I eventually gave up the days of hauling heavy equipment and playing cover tunes to people gyrating on sticky dance floors. He, however, was still performing until the last week of his life. He loved it. In fact, the last time I saw my friend, he gave me a copy of his band’s latest CD.

During his time as a police officer and investigator, my former partner had been shot twice and managed to survive both incidents. He’d also been stabbed once while making an arrest. He pulled through that time too. But his recent illness was far too much for his tired body to bear. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, daughters, and brothers and sister. In just a few short months he would have been a grandfather, but he didn’t make it to see the new addition to his beloved family.

You’ll be missed by many, my friend, especially by me.

I know heaven’s door has opened wide for you.

 

Gun deaths since Sandy Hook

I don’t know how many of you follow the “crime” headlines in your towns, cities, and counties, but it’s something I watch closely. I suppose my obsession with real-life cops and robbers is deep-rooted due to my background and the fact that I, like other unfortunate officers, have been in situations where it was shoot back or be killed. However, the whole gun control/no, or limited gun control issue has greatly enhanced my interest in situations involving death by gunfire, especially here in coastal Georgia.

Slate Magazine, an online publication I’ve contributed to/consulted for in the past, is keeping a running total of gunfire deaths in the United States. As of yesterday, Slate reported 1173 people killed by gunfire since the Sandy Hook school shooting. Unfortunately, this enormous total of senseless killings is not all-inclusive. These are only the deaths they were able to record through various searches and other research methods. And, their graph of stick figures doesn’t include names or faces, such as the pretty young Savannah, Ga. college student, Rebecca Foley, who was gunned down Monday night in the parking lot of her apartment building on White Bluff Road.

Rebecca Foley – Facebook photo

Rebecca Foley was killed when a bullet traveling at a speed of approximately 1,500 feet per second (nearly 700 miles per hour, or so) penetrated the rear window of her car, shattering the glass, and then struck her body, fatally wounding her. And just like that, someone’s precious daughter was dead. Her body was later found lying in a wooded area 100 feet from her beloved red Volkswagen Beetle. Police have no suspects and no motive. This was Monday night in Savannah.

On Tuesday, in the Windsor Forest community, less than a mile from where Rebecca Foley was murdered, 17-year-old Evan Colquitt was shot multiple times, mostly in the chest. He died on a gurney at Memorial Hospital. Another death not included in the Slate tally. Another set of parents who won’t be able to see their child graduate, or grow into an adult.

Last night saw more gunfire. And, again the shots rang out less then a mile from Rebecca Foley’s apartment building—this time in the Turtle Creek apartments just off White Bluff Road. The victim had been arguing with a man and had turned to go inside his home, closing the door behind him. The suspect fired through the door, striking the victim in the upper torso. Police are still searching for the shooter.

Of course, I should mention the fight between two women in Forsythe Park. The altercation started with hair pulling and ended with one of the women pulling a gun and firing. Luckily, she didn’t hit her target.

Oh, and let’s not forget the shooting on 39th Street, or the 8 people shot at the local fair. The latter was a gang-related shooting that occurred in the midst of innocent men, women, and children who were enjoying a fun-filled night of rides and cotton candy. Sadly, some of the innocent were wounded by stray bullets.

Then there was the shooting that happened at the Fred Wessel Housing Complex. Luckily, the victim survived.

Needless to say, city residents are scared. And, normally, they’d merely avoid “trouble spots,” however, the latest shootings occurred in the better, “crime-free” neighborhoods. As a result, a meeting between city officials and the local police has been scheduled for this week to discuss the latest wave of shootings.

The good news to come from all this murder and mayhem is that Savannah police chief Willie Lovett’s latest crime report indicates that violent crime is substantially down from past years.

*By the way, the Savannah Police Department is under currently fire regarding several allegations of “numbers fudging” on their crime reports to make the stats seem better. One of the people to come forward is a former Savannah police officer who says he actually witnessed the cover up on several occasions. Altering police crime reports is a felony. The case may soon be turned over to federal authorities for further investigation.

Anyway, y’all pack a bag and come on down. It’s a great place to visit! (P.S. – you might want to wear body armor under your Hawaiian shirts).

How are things in your neck of the woods?

It’s delightful here…

Happy 5th Anniversary

Next week marks the fifth year The Graveyard Shift has been online. We’ve been through a lot together, you and I—from murder, B&E’s, and cordite, to weddings, funerals, and two U.S presidents. We’ve seen happy days, and we’ve experienced some that were, well, downright tear-jerkers. But, as a team (there are thousands of you, by the way), we’ve prevailed to begin the next five years. To celebrate, we”ll feature some of my earlier blog posts, starting with the writer’s question that set this blog in motion.

At some point between now and next Monday, the actual 5th year mark, there’ll be a fun contest where the winner will receive a free ticket for FATS training at the 2013 Writers’ Police Academy. Monday is also the day when I’ll announce the names of the 2013 WPA keynote and special guest speakers. By the way, the 2013 WPA is the largest and best we’ve ever produced.

So, I thank you all for stopping by throughout the years. I hope you’ve enjoyed The Graveyard Shift, and that you’ve found at least one article that has helped with your writing. Also, I’d like to send a special thanks to all the guest bloggers who’ve contributed to the site over the years. And, as always, I appreciate those who took the time to post comments and questions. After all, without comments I sometimes feel as if I’m at the microphone speaking to an empty room.

Oh, and here’s an extra special thank you to everyone who’s supported me by purchasing a copy of my book on police procedure. I simply cannot thank you enough.

Anyway, here’s my very first blog post.

*Remember, I never edit or proofread. What you see is always a first draft. The mistakes, well, they’re part of the fun. Perhaps one day I’ll post a “blooper” edition.

January 2008 -Blog Post #1

Handcuffs

handcuffs.jpg

Each day I receive many interesting questions and comments about police procedure, CSI, and forensics. So I thought it would be fun to share my answers and experience on a Q&A blog. I welcome your questions and comments. Here’s a question I received yesterday.

Question: Do all cops use the same type of handcuffs?

Answer – The two main types of handcuffs used by law enforcement are pictured above. The top image is of a pair of chain-linked handcuffs. Most police officers prefer to carry and use chain-linked cuffs because the chain between the bracelets swivels, making the cuffs flexible and easier to apply to the wrists of combative suspects.

The lower image is of a pair of hinged cuffs. These are more commonly used when transporting prison or jail inmates. Hinged cuffs are not flexible (the hinge between the two bracelets does not swivel) which greatly reduces wrist and hand movement. This type cuff is somewhat difficult to apply to the wrists during a scuffle.

Both style cuffs operate using a ratchet and pawl locking system. Both are equipped with a second lock (double-locking) to prevent any further tightening of the ratchet which can injure the wrists of the cuffed suspect. The second lock also prevents prisoners from picking the lock.

Steubenville sexual assault

Nearly fifty Steubenville, Ohio teenagers gathered to celebrate the end of summer. Some would soon begin their college years, while others would see more time in high school.

Alcohol, and plenty of it, was at the center of the informal party. And, as usual when too much beer and liquor are mixed with teens, trouble wasn’t very far away. Only this time the trouble came in the form of a sexual assault on an intoxicated 16-year-old girl. An assault that went on for several hours while others looked on.

Some party-goers photographed the assault(s). Others recorded the actions on video. And, after all was said and done, some even urinated on the unconscious girl. No one, not a single person, attempted to stop the actions of the young men who so cold-heartedly violated the girl. Could it be that people today are so desensitized to violence that they saw this as entertainment? Unfortunately, that seems to be the case.

Information, photos, and videos of the sickening crime quickly found their way onto social media, which finally led to the arrest of two high school football players. They were each charged with kidnapping and rape.

Adding to the horrific details of this night is a disturbing video made by some of the teens who witnessed the assault(s). In it, the teens make jokes about the victim and the things done to her by the young men at the party. One of the teens in the video actually talks about the victim as if she’d died during the assault(s), which is even more appalling.

It truly is disgusting to learn that people see humor in such a vile action. And this is one case where words alone can’t do enough to describe the recording. So here’s the video. Warning, the language is sexual in nature, graphic, and not definitely not suitable for young ears (video leaked by Anonymous).

 

Gun violence

We had out-of-town friends visit us yesterday, and it was embarrassing, and sad, that we had to advise them against following GPS directions in order to avoid certain areas of the city. But, it was a necessary evil due to the number of seemingly random shootings that have occurred there over the past few months. Of course, several of the gang-related killings were accidental shootings—the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. But dead is dead, no matter how the unfortunate person became a murder victim.

Our police chief seems to be doing everything humanly possible to combat the gun violence, including assigning a special task force to work nothing but gang-related crimes. He’s saturated the trouble areas with patrol cars, officers on foot, undercover officers, and more. He’s even asked council to approve the hiring of dozens of new police officers. The same is true for surrounding jurisdictions.

Still, the shootings continue…and continue, and continue.

For example (just this week alone):

– local deputies conducted a traffic stop where the driver jumped out of the van and began firing a revolver at the officers.

– narcotics agents arrested a drug dealer who was carrying a .22 pistol containing a 100 round magazine.

– a man came home for the holidays, and then shot and killed his mother before taking his own life.

– a man walking in a local park was robbed at gunpoint, and after handing over his money, he was shot by the robber. The victim, a convicted felon, then pulled his own weapon and returned fire.

– a man broke into a local residence and forced the homeowner to the floor at gunpoint.

– a man walking down the street on his way to a store was shot and killed.

– a man dressed as Santa Claus robbed a downtown bank at gunpoint.

– a suspect wearing a black hoodie robbed a grocery store at gunpoint.

The good news is that our overall crime is down from 2011. The bad news, though, is that gun-related crime is up—over double the number of the same type of crimes in 2011.

So what’s the answer? After all, the chief of police in our city has already attempted, with no luck, to reduce gun-related crimes by increasing the number of good guys with guns.

Will new, more restrictive gun laws do any good? How about banning large capacity magazines?

If more restrictions/laws are enacted, will the bad guys then suddenly come to their senses and begin obeying the law? Will they stop using high-powered rifles with 100 round magazines, and pistols with 30 round capacities, as their murder-weapons of choice?

Honestly, I don’t see a good, solid solution to the problem. However, I know we have to do something, and we have to start somewhere. But where?

In 1975, the unthinkable happened in a small town in Virginia. An 88-year-old retired school teacher was brutally raped and strangled, and her attacker left her lying on the floor believing she was dead. Moments later, though, the woman managed to crawl to her telephone and called the police. While on the phone, in an extremely weak voice, all she managed to get out was that she’d been attacked. Minutes later, when police broke into her back door they found the gasping woman seated in a chair wearing only a torn slip. She managed to tell the two patrol officers that she’d been raped and choked by a “negro man.” The woman died at the hospital less than an hour later.

The local police, assisted by the county sheriff and his deputies, immediately initiated a manhunt. In simpler terms, in 1975, that meant round up all suspicious black men and bring them in for questioning. And that’s what the officers did, but the results were negative. Each of the men brought in were ruled out.

The search for the killer continued for several days until a sheriff’s deputy happened upon a young black man riding his bicycle near a small country store. The man appeared to be a little “odd,” and after a quick background check the deputy learned that his “suspect” had been released from a mental hospital just two days prior. So the officer hauled him in for questioning…lots of questioning.

The local sheriff decided to personally conduct the interrogation, hoping to put away the man who killed that defenseless and sweet retiree, a woman he thought highly of and checked on two or three times a week. A woman who also brought brownies and other treats to the local police on a regular basis.

During the interrogation, the suspect’s attention often wandered, and was extremely unfocused. In fact, he often starting singing, warbling theme songs from old TV westerns. The sheriff’s patience wore thin, telling the man to, “Look at me. Look at me!” Finally, tired of the suspect’s lack of interest, the sheriff said, “”You’re not half as damn nuts as you act like you are, you know that? You know what happened last week, don’t you? Huh?”

Twice, the sheriff took his suspect to the woman’s home hoping get some sort of reaction from him. Nothing.

According to transcripts, the sheriff’s continued interrogation was relentless, and at one point told the man, “Go ahead and tell us what happened so we can go home, OK?” Suddenly, out of the blue, the suspect uttered the words the sheriff wanted to hear…sort of. He said he pushed a woman down, tore her clothes, and then had sex with her. But most of what he told the sheriff was wrong according to what they knew about the crime and what they’d found at the scene. The man also said the woman, his victim, was “colored.” She was white.

Well, after hours upon hours of intense interrogation and hearing the “confession,” the suspect was finally charged with the rape and murder of the sheriff’s elderly friend. And a few weeks later he was tried and convicted for those crimes and was sentenced to life in prison. The evidence used to convict him was a single pubic hair found on the suspect’s clothing (it was not tested), his odd confession, and a single fingerprint that did not match the victim.

In 1983, lawyers for the convicted man appealed his case with success. The court ruled that the sheriff had not, in spite of hours and hours and hours of intense questioning, advised his suspect of his rights. Charges were dropped and he was released from prison after already serving five years. However, he was committed to a mental institution.

The real twist to this case came thirty-three years later, when the Virginia State Police re-opened the case as part of Governor Warner’s effort to exonerate wrongly convicted innocent people. Within a few days of submitting DNA samples for testing, state investigators received a match to items seized at the original crime scene. However, it was not the DNA of the mentally challenged man who had already served five years for raping the schoolteacher. Instead, the DNA matched another man, a man who’d recently been released from prison after serving a sentence for rape and sodomy.

The second man was arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to prison for the schoolteacher’s rape and murder (based on the recent DNA tests), and his conviction finally led to the exoneration of the wrongfully convicted mentally challenged man. Sadly, he’d passed away a few years before he was exonerated.

Experts say intense questioning tactics by the sheriff led to the suspect’s false confession, an attempt to please the top officer so they could both simply go home. Also, taking the man to the scene of the crime provided him with details he otherwise wouldn’t have known. Poor police tactics was the conclusion of many experts.

By the way, the fingerprint that was found at the scene, the one police said didn’t match the victim…it belonged to the sheriff.