When writing about criminals it is sometime necessary for your fictional bad guys to, for a variety of reasons, conceal their identities. And they do so by wearing disguises, which could be anything from shielding the eyes by pulling a hat brim low over the eyebrows, to wearing elaborate makeup and a wig. These methods are extremely effective when found within the covers of a novel because you make it so. But could it be that easy to trick someone in real life? Do simple disguises work?

Well, obviously they don’t work as well when someone is familiar with the person who’s trying to conceal their identity. But when you’re not familiar with the person who’s attempting to disguise themselves, well, a simple change of hair style or color may be all that’s needed to fool someone, including trained observers, such as police officers.

When writing, keep in mind that people, even untrained observers, tend to look deeper than a friend or close acquaintance’s hair color or style than they would at someone they don’t know. Friends know the facial features of other friends—the lines  and shapes of the eyes, noses and mouths. They know the fine details, the features that can’t be readily or easily altered without major surgery. The same with family. They know those details almost as well as their own.

Strangers, on the other hand, see an overall picture of us. They’re not focusing on the crinkled lines and grooves around our eyes, or even the spattering of freckles on Sally Sue’s earlobes. At least not at first glance. Therefore, it’s easier to fool a stranger such as the character who entered the scene on page 47 of your latest book.

Two methods used by criminals to conceal their identities are impersonation and evasive disguises.

An impersonation disguise is trying to look like someone else, such as the jewel thief who dresses up in the clothing of Poirot’s sidekick, Hastings, to allow him to slip off the ship without being readily detected by police.

An evasive disguise is one that’s used to not look like yourself. A perfect example of this is the undercover police officer who wears clothing to better fit with the target group, change hairstyles (grow it long or shave the head), grow or shave facial hair, etc. Such as the transformation I made when working a longterm undercover narcotics assignment.

Me, working undercover narcotics.

Dig and Cover!

To take your character a step further. Let’s have him alter his looks while at the same time evading a professional tracker. Yes, the bad guy in your book, Squirt Jenkins, is running, and he’s running hard to prevent being captured by the hero of your book, Brute Studly.

So what should Jenkins, and others, do as part of a getaway plan? Well, for starters they must avoid leaving telltale signs that he’s been where he’s been, such as:

  • Don’t leave behind waste—gum, gum wrappers, soda cups, and the scraps of paper that tend to fall out of pockets when you’re digging for that single M&M that you dang well know fell from the bag a week ago when you tore the tiny sack with your car keys.
  • Do not do things in the woods that should be done in the privacy of a bathroom stall at Jimbo’s Truck Stop and Flower-A-Ranging Emporium. No human waste in the forest! If you absolutely must go, use a stick or rock or the heel of a shoe to “dig and cover.”
  • A famous tracker once said (I heard this a police training event) something to the effect of, “Don’t leave honey wells,” or honeypots, or honey-somethings. I don’t remember which. But it had something to do with honey. Anyway, what he was referring to was leaving a ton of evidence behind when making your way through areas where such evidence is really seen. These places are fields and yards filled with tall grasses and weeds, snow covered areas, sandy beaches, mud, etc. If you must walk in the snow, do so only when fresh snow is falling so that your tracks are covered. Hide your tracks!
  • Take care to not overturn leaves and pine needles and rocks and limbs. Don’t scrape bark from trees. And whatever you do, as creepy as they are, don’t break spiderwebs, leaving the sticky trails flopping in the breeze. To an experienced tracker, these things are like flashing neon arrows.
  • Don’t smoke, don’t eat smelly foods, don’t wear perfumes and colognes, and keep your body stink to a level that’s below that of Farmer Brown’s pigs. It would be a shame to go to the trouble of devising the perfect disguise, an oak tree, only to be discovered because you smell like a funky pile of high-schoolers’ dirty gym socks.
  • Stay low to the ground, especially at night. It’s a dead giveaway when you pass in front of a full moon while walking along a mountain ridge. Plus, it’s spooky.

To sum up, disguises work, especially evasion disguises. They’re the most effective.



I’ve met a lot of truly good patrol cops in my day—hard-working, honest men and women who truly care about their communities, the people they serve, their families, and their fellow officers.

And, I’ve met and worked with a lot of truly good detectives who possessed the same fine human qualities.

But there are some cops who rise above the rest. Not due to high stats and the numbers of ribbons and medals worn on the fronts of their Class-A uniform shirts. Not because they wrote the most traffic tickets or served the most arrest warrants. No, the superstars of the business are the men and women who go above and beyond those who go above and beyond. They do just a bit more. They put others before their own needs.

As a police detective, I believed in the greater good. That everyone should have a voice, no matter their backgrounds, situations in life, or their own self-inflicted stupidity. People should have a fair shake is what I thought, and still do. In addition, I believed that the victims of violent crimes deserved to have a detective who was working on their behalf to solve the crime so that justice would prevail.

I’ve investigated a few murders in my day, more than I’d care to count, or to recall. When solving those crimes I tried to look at the case from the viewpoints of the victims. To put myself in their shoes, hoping that by placing myself as closely in those positions as possible, it would provide clues that would could’ve otherwise gone unseen. It works. Not all of the time, but some.

It was nearly eleven years ago when I crossed paths with one of the most brilliant police detectives I’d ever encountered. He was sharp, smart, methodical, relentless (the latter being how he earned the nickname, “Bulldog”). He dressed nicely—shirts and pants neatly pressed, shoes shined to perfection, not a hair out of place, and his ties always matched the outfit du jour.

When he entered a room there was no doubt that he’d assumed charge. He was tough, but tender. Gritty, but compassionate. He was the textbook example of “Command Presence.”

He spoke softly and always to the point, especially when discussing a case. He was passionate when it came to crime-solving, and about the victims of those crimes.

When I first met him—we were two of several panelists at a seminar—he’d been in the police business a long time, and he’d put away some of societies worst. He’d solved more murder cases than many detectives work in a lifetime. He was a cop from “back in the day.” Crusty and tough. He’d seen it all. In fact, the murders in and around his city were some of the bizarre I’d ever seen or heard of.

Jim Nugent was this detective’s name and he’d followed in the footsteps of family members. Jim began and ended his decades-long law enforcement career in Hamilton, Ohio, a city not far from Cincinnati.

Before pinning on a badge to serve is city, Jim first worked in a paper mill alongside an uncle who told him stories about his grandfather back when he was Hamilton police officer back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, a time when Hamilton was called Little Chicago. The city earned the moniker because Chicago gangsters came to Hamilton to hideout when things grew too “hot” for them in the Windy City. Of course, with the gangsters came organized crime, prostitution, gambling, and illegal liquor. Serious illegal business.

Charles Nugent, Jim’s grandfather, was a small city cop tasked with keeping peace in a jurisdiction where gun-toting gangsters roamed the streets and hung out in bars and taverns down by the river. Charles Nugent started out as a patrolman and was promoted to the detective position on December 16, 1922.

Like Jim, Charles Nugent never met a man too big to handle. And handle the bad guys he did.

Charles Nugent’s detective’s badge

Jim was only four-years-old when his grandfather passed away. His father refused to talk to his kids about their grandfather’s days as a police officer. He was afraid that if they knew the history they might live in fear of retaliation from people the elder Nugent had encountered, or angry family members of the people he’d killed while in the line of duty. And there were more than a couple in each category, including the man who decided to gun down the detective while inside a local bar. His attempt was not successful. His name was added to the list of those killed by the lawman.

So, as I said earlier, Jim relied on information from his uncle and from locals, such as an elderly man who’d been beaten and robbed. During an interview with Detective Jim Nugent, the man recognized Jim’s last name and proceeded to tell him of yet another bad guy who tried to shoot his grandfather—another name to the list of the unsuccessful.

I fondly recall sitting in a conference room interviewing Jim Nugent who was, at the time, retired as a police detective, but was then working as an investigator in the county prosecutor’s office.

Me, on the left, chatting with Investigator Jim Nugent

The purpose of our interview was for me to obtain information for a true crime tale I was writing about the murder and dismemberment of a young mother of a small child. Jim had been the lead detective on the case.

Even though the case was long resolved and the killer was serving time in state prison, Jim was still extremely passionate about the case. His compassion for the victim is what struck me the most. It was obvious that he’d immersed himself into the murdered woman’s life. To him, she was like a family member, which was extremely important to him since the woman’d family members were basically absent and weren’t around to speak in her behalf, or to help with the arrangements that come with a sudden death. Jim’s heart ached for the deceased young woman. I soon found myself in the same situation. The young woman’s story was extremely compelling and I, too, began to feel as if I knew her. She, even though I’d never met her, felt like a family member.

Tragically and ironically, Jim had a step-daughter who was a victim of a violent crime. So, remarkably, Detective Nugent worked this case while dealing with an ongoing personal tragedy within his own family. And here’s where the “Bulldog” rose to the occasion. His own personal situation made him all the more determined to solve the murder of the young mother.

The victim had close friends, but were some distance away so they knew little about the her life in “Little Chicago.”

Jim located a suspect, but with little or no physical evidence, he chose to hound the man, day after day until a crack eventually broke in his armor. The man confessed to Detective Nugent and he led the investigator to the woman’s remains. Finally, there was a bit of closure. The dead woman had a voice, by way of Detective Nugent.

At the close of the case, when the victim’s remains were buried in a small secluded section of a local cemetery, Jim Nugent visited her grave site where he placed flowers atop the freshly turned dirt. He continued to do so on a monthly basis until he was unable to continue. He didn’t want her to be alone.

I was in Hamilton one day, a day when Jim planned to visit the grave. I went him and looked on as he placed a small bundle of brightly-colored flowers next to a small concrete marker bearing her name. Like Detective Nugent, not wanting the dead woman to “be alone” and not remembered, the murderer’s mother purchased the stone and had it placed at the site of the victim’s remains.

Detective Nugent knelt for a moment, silent, with his head down. When he looked up his brown eyes were rimmed in pink. Moisture pooled at each of the bottom lids.

When Jim sent messages to me he always wrote in CAPS. Even with something as simple as an email, Jim was in charge. But I knew that behind the Bulldog exterior was a kind, generous, and extremely compassionate man. A brilliant investigator and a wonderful human being.

Sadly, Jim passed away a few days ago, on January 13, 2019. It’s taken me this long to find these words.

Never have I encountered a detective who fought more for victims of violent crime than did Jim Nugent. He was determined to be the voice for those who no longer had the opportunity to tell their stories.


Jim Nugent’s Detective’s badge


One of the last email’s I received from Jim ended this way. Notice Jim’s “all caps” style of writing.



Investigator James A. Nugent
Butler County Prosecutors office


If we’re to believe novels and old movies and even some television news reports, spying and gathering information by way of torture go together much like peanut butter and jelly, French fries and ketchup, and bacon and eggs. And, well, bacon and anything.

Torture, according to Merriam Webster is: the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure.

The CIA softens the sound of the word “torture” by calling it “enhanced interrogation.” But no matter the words, interrogation techniques that include sleep deprivation, slapping, subjection to cold, simulated drowning (“waterboarding”), electrical shocks, and/or otherwise beating the snot out of someone to learn some sort of information is plain old torture.

Making use of hot lights and rubber hoses and trips to the soundproof basement to obtain confessions is nothing new. In fact, police have been accused of it for as long as, well, forever. Unfortunately, there is some truth mingled in the mix, such as back in the early 1980s when three Chicago police officers arrested Darrell Cannon in connection with a murder case.

The officers drove Cannon to a remote area to “convince” him to confess. Cannon, according to court records, said that when he refused to say what the police wanted him to say,  the officers forced the barrel of a shotgun into his mouth and repeatedly pulled the trigger. When that didn’t worked they used a cattle prod to shock his genitals. He finally gave in.

Homan Square – a ‘black site’ run by Chicago Police that’s used to interrogate people out of view of law enforcement’s regular chain of command?

I’m old enough to remember having “cattle prods” as part of a sheriff’s office’s arsenal of weapons. They were kept in the armory for use during riots or should we be called upon to assist with large prison disturbances at one of the nearby institutions. A couple of the crusty old-timers carried them in the trunks of their cars, and I’d heard tales of their use on suspects who wouldn’t climb into the back seat of a patrol car fast enough. They chuckled as they told tales of shocking the you know what out of a drunk homeless man or zapping a smart-ass punk who enjoyed taking swings at cops.

When I worked at a maximum security prison, there was a row of cattle prods lined up on shelf inside the armory, alongside rifles, shotguns, teargas guns, helmets, and the like.


History tells us that the Russians, Chinese, Germans, and the good old U.S. of A. are all masters of the pain game. However, it is Cuba, an island roughly the size of Pennsylvania, that sits where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean join, that perhaps tops the spy/torture chart.

Yes, U.S. officials believed that Cuban masterminds had cleverly devised the most diabolical, devious and most horrific pain-inducer known to man. It is unrivaled, to say the least. And it is invisible.

In 2016, the first attack caught embassy staff by surprise. After all, how does one defend against something that can’t be seen as it advances toward its target at the speed of sound?

Staff members began reported neurological symptoms, along with concussion-like indications. Signs pointed toward head injuries, yet there were none. Not a single knock on the noggin had been recorded.

Next came reports of diplomats experiencing sounds they described as buzzing noises (like bees inside their heads), the sounds of metal grinding against metal, horrible, piercing squeals, and/or a persistent humming. And there was that weird and maddening and “ear-itating” feeling we sometimes get while inside a moving car with the windows partially rolled down—the  pressure-induced vibrating/air “baffling” that sort of hurts our ears when it occurs.

Canada and the U.S. became understandably alarmed. They thought it was possible that Cuba had lunched some sort of sonic attack and withdrew had of their Embassy staff, and they expelled Cuban diplomats in retaliation.

It was a big deal with lots of chest thumping and finger-pointing.

Fortunately, two biologists, while doing things biologists do, decided to listen to a recording of the mysterious Cuban sounds. We’ll dang if they didn’t discover, instantly, that the entire near-war, mass hysteria incident was nothing more than a bunch of local crickets belting out tunes to attract new mates. Special songs that other crickets found to induce love and sex appeal were sickening and ear-splitting to nearby people.

So yeah, two biologists single-handedly prevented what could have been the “Cuban Crooning Cricket Crisis.”

* The Indies short-tailed cricket is found around the Caribbean. Over-reacting, non-trusting and suspicious humans are found worldwide.



Sylvia and Dave Dungan of Salinas, California, did a smart thing when they installed surveillance cameras around their home. After all, they sometimes leave their children at home, locked inside and protected by a security system. The cameras are a part of the electronic fortification.

A few days ago, while the adult Dungans were out for the evening, their home surveillance camera alerted them to unusual activity, specifically at the front door of their house.

After seeing that their kids were safe they reviewed the security footage and, as they say, video doesn’t lie. There for all the world to see was an intruder, a man named Roberto Daniel Arroyo who, for three solid hours was filmed licking the front doorbell, practically nonstop.

At the conclusion of his doorbell tongue-lashing, Arroyo was featured on camera relieving himself in the front yard and then he stole an extension cord, but dropped the electrical wire in a neighbor’s yard as he made his lickety-split getaway.

Now, Arroyo’s case is weird, yes, but his doorbell love-fest doesn’t come close to topping the Bizzarro-Meter. Ask any cop and they’ll spend hours telling you about the “time when,” or “that other time.” Still, I believe that winner-winner-chicken-dinner of 2018 goes to … well, read it for yourself. But please allow me to first set the stage.

So close your eyes and picture this (and have a puke bucket on standby).

Chicago. It’s March and it’s cold and it’s cloudy and there’s fog and there’s a bit of light snow falling. Again, it’s Chicago.

As the snow flies … On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’ ~ Elvis

Officers pick up a man for a misdemeanor offense and dutifully carted him to jail.

Okay, the sentence above, the one about officers carrying a man to jail, is the single normal thing that occurred in this entire story. So buckle-up, this gets ugly (and gross).

During booking, the arrested man began to speak of suicide, that he wanted to die.
Therefore, officials had no choice but to transport the suicidal offender to an area hospital for evaluation. By the way, this sort of thing happens quite a bit, arrested offenders faking illnesses of various types to stall going to lockup.

Officer Carlyle Calhoun, 46, a 10-year-veteran of the police department, and another officer were tasked with taking the prisoner to see a doctor/professional.

Once at the hospital, the medical staff had the prisoner change from his clothing into a hospital gown. The officers handcuffed the man to the bed—one wrist and one foot.

Calhoun’s partner decides he’s hungry so he goes out to forage for food, leaving his partner to stand watch over the prisoner. Now alone with the shackled man, Calhoun begins to make small talk about the guy’s charges and offering relationship advice and something about pressure points. Then he, the 10-year veteran police officer who was in full uniform wearing a badge and gun, suddenly began sucking on the prisoner’s bare toes while massaging his feet.

Next, and as quick as a flash, Calhoun reached up, grabbed the man’s (well, you know), and used his cell phone to snap a photo of the “item in hand.” The astonished prisoner asked the officer to stop. To further his goal of cease and desist, the prisoner requested to use the restroom. He’d hoped the move would throw the officer off course. Well …

Officer #2 and a Belly Full of Cafeteria Food

Officer #2, with belly full of hospital cafeteria delicacies, returned to the room and Calhoun then escorted the prisoner down the hallway to the restroom. Once inside, Calhoun dropped to his knees and performed a sex act on the prisoner who, by the way, was still protesting the sexual assaults.

Calhoun returned his prisoner to the hospital room where he quietly told the man he’d contact him on Facebook in a few days. Then Calhoun and his partner left the hospital.

Meanwhile, the prisoner, and now sexual assault victim, reported the incident. Medical personnel collected the appropriate physical evidence (They administered a sexual assault evidence kit). Later, prosecutors said a saliva swab taken from Calhoun matched the DNA found on the victim.

Chicago PD’s Internal Affairs Division  found the photos of the victim’s “you know what” on Calhoun’s cell phone.

Carlyle Calhoun was arrested and ordered held on a $200,000 bond. He was formally charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault and official misconduct.

FYI – the eyes in the photo below belong to Carlyle Calhoun. The prisoner/victim will probably never forget them as they looked up at him while Calhoun’s mouth was busy with other duties.

Chicago Police Department photo – Carlyle “The Toe-Sucker” Calhoun

Let’s examine one last sickening aspect of the scenario that took place at the hospital. Keep in mind that the victim of Calhoun’s assaults had just been arrested and had not had a shower prior to all of this “activity.” No shower. No soap. Just hot, sweaty prisoner feet … and …

Yeah, yuck.

Hip replacement surgery, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing it, is basically a breeze. The worst part of it all came by way of the nurse who shaved the surgical site. She, and I’m being more than kind, was a sadistic, man-hating demon who enjoys inflicting as much pain as possible in a very short period of time.

She tore open a package containing a razor and then came at me with two glowing eyes and a flickering forked tongue, while reciting some sort of Charles-Mansonish incantation.

When the razor hit the flesh, dry, by the way, it felt as if she’d begun to peel away my skin one layer at  time. I asked her to slow down a bit but my tearful pleas only seemed to fuel her fire.

She was relentless, and evil. She was the the love-child of the Grinch and Freddy Kruger with a side order of Dahmer. The woman has issues.

She, while standing there with razor in hand, told me to remove all of my clothing, leaving nothing but a smile or frown. That choice was mine to make. But everything else had to go.

The surgeon entered my room and signed my left hip. He wished me luck, an odd thing to say since the extent of my luck was in his hands.

Nurses popped in and out and each were as sweet as a slice of Grandma’s homemade apple pie. The “Shaving Demon” should take lessons from them.

The post-surgery doctor popped in to, again, wish me luck and to tell me that I was in extremely capable hands. I already know this because we’d done our homework. My surgeon’s track record is excellent. Besides, I really like the guy. His personality is top-notch and he doesn’t pull any punches.

The anesthesiologist spent a bit of time with me and he, like the others, quickly learned my odd and quirky sense of humor. We spent several minutes cracking jokes while he adjusted dials, knobs, and switches on something that looked like the Wayback Machine from the Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show. His one-liners had the flavor of Phoef Sutton’s dialog from the TV show Cheers, a series Phoef wrote.

And then it was time …

Three nurses approached the side of my bed and asked me to sit up with my legs dangling over the side. The nurse in the middle pulled me close, placing the top of my head just above her cleavage. The other two wrapped their arms around me and held me tightly. More nurses stood ready, as backup, I suppose, in the event that I went all Tasmanian Devil. I surmised, being the savvy detective I am, that what was about to take place was not going to be a high point in my life.

The anethesiologist held up a gilded box containing a sword needle that Indiana Jones would’ve given his very life to obtain. To me, it looked to be approximately nine feet in length with a spearhead large enough to bring down a T-Rex.

The nurses, all at once, grabbed and pulled me close in a death embrace. And that’s when the needle punctured the flesh at my lower spine. This injection was to deaden my bottom half to the point of feeling nothing from the waist down.

With all of the pagentry, I was expecting some horrific and unbearable pain. Pain that not even Superman could endure. But no, it was nothing more than the usual stick.

Two hours later I opened my eyes and it was over. My former hip was gone. Out. Done. Garbage. In its place is a manmade steampunkish device that promises to be a welcome addition to my body.

The best part of it all is that the pain was gone. That horrible pain I’d experienced for well over a year …. was no more.

So, how do I feel about health care in Delaware? Well, finding a primary care physician was an impossibility. There’s a real shortage of doctors in this area and the closest appointment I could find was in the summer of 2019. I’d started the search in the fall of 2018. So I tried making an appointment with a nurse practitioner at the University of Delaware. She saw me two days later and my surgery was scheduled asap.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the care I’ve received from the surgery team and from the medical folks at the University of Delaware. In fact, I begin physical therapy tomorrow … at the University of Delaware’s state of the art facility.

So, for now, my cane, Virgil, is getting a bit of rest until the day comes when he’s once again needed. His stand in, Little Johnny “Walker” (Jack Black’s first cousin) will help to get me from place to place.


By the time you read this I’ll be inside a modern hospital—pictured above—that’s complete with all the newfangled gadgets, hammers, saws, and big box store power tools needed to complete a successful hip replacement.

My surgeon is currently standing outside the operating door, smoking a cigar while using a clean water hose to rinse dish detergent suds from his hands.

Prior to being wheeled into the operating room, nurses marked the incision spot with a bright red X and then allowed me time to post this quick message. Then off we went with the tail of my hospital gown flapping in the wake of the steel gurney.

The anesthesiologist promised a turbulence-free flight and I just heard the doctor telling everyone to watch for my nose to light up. If so, he’d remove the Black and Decker drill he’d received as a Christmas gift from his kids, and try again.

Off we go.

See you all when I’m back at home!

Today marks the end of another year. This one was especially turbulent for me and my family. But above all the bad, of course, came the filling of most of the top portion of a half-empty glass.

As many of you know, both my mother-in-law and our daughter, Ellen, were each diagnosed with serious cancer. They underwent surgeries, a couple each, and they received chemo and radiation.

Our daughter’s primary physician initially mis-diagnosed her troubles, telling her several times during several visits, to deal with the intense pain and other horrible issues, and told her to take Tylenol. He also dismissed obvious signs and symptoms as nothing more than “female problems.” In the meantime, and I won’t go into detail, but she lived a life of crying and moaning while doubled over from excruciating pain, while experiencing an agonizing and extremely anemic hell, for more than a year.

Then, fortunately, she visited a specialist for an entirely different issue. It took him only a minute or two to realize that his patient was in serious trouble and had her rushed to a local hospital for immediate, emergency surgery. Her condition, the troubles dismissed by the original doctor, were life-threatening. Thank goodness the specialist recognized the deadly disease symptoms because we learned that the surgery likely saved her life, that very day.

Then came the cancer diagnosis

During the emergency surgery, doctors discovered the disease, and it didn’t look good. Had the primary care physician performed any sort of typical exam for the type of problem he would have caught the cancer a year earlier. A FULL year sooner.

The oncologist overseeing Ellen’s condition decided to approach with a full-on super-aggressive attack. She wasn’t messing around. Chemo and radiation were started right away and, as a result of the intensity of the regimen, the powerful treatments took a huge toll on Ellen’s body and mind and emotions, as well as ruining her family financially. As a result, they’re struggling to meet even the basic human needs—food, clothing, utilities, and shelter.

The Hurricane

Next came the hurricane, a storm that devastated her city and community. Homes just down the road from Ellen’s house were destroyed by wind and water. Fortunately, Ellen’s home is still standing, but it received damage from heavy rains and floodwaters, damage that included ruining their septic system. They now use a pump to drain the bathtub and sinks and there’s a Port-a-John situated at the end of their driveway. This is how a cancer patient, who’s in pain most of the day, must live. Still, her faith is strong and prayer helps her go about her daily life.

Ellen applied for and was denied public assistance. Disability was also denied. In the meantime, Ellen’s husband’s work hours have been cut as result of company shutdowns of related factories. The cost of medication alone is more than their monthly income. The hospital forgives some of the expenses, and many of you contributed to Ellen’s GoFundMe campaign (please click here to contribute), as well as a few of extremely generous private contributions (no amount is too small). But those dollars are gone and bills still arrive and the medication is ongoing, some for life. By the way, Ellen and I are extremely appreciative for your assistance. I’m forever grateful and will never forget it.

My mother-in-law continues regular doses of chemo. Her surgeon and I chatted, in private, immediately after operation and he said her situation was not great. But, what he didn’t know is that, despite her years, Denene’s mom is a strong, independent woman. Cancer and the life-changing, body-altering surgeries were nothing more than a bump in the road for her. She took it all in stride and pushed forward.

Like Ellen, her faith is strong and she relies on prayer to guide her way. Her family is close and devoted to one another.

As soon as she was able Denene’s mother returned to a fairly normal lifestyle, including yard work, hairdresser appointments, shopping trips and, of course, going to church on a regular basis. She drives to her chemo appointments with the company of a friend. She’s tough.

Ellen and my mother-in-law are fighters. They’re strong. And they’re survivors.

Ellen’s last scan showed she’s cancer free. Not pain and sickness and emotionally free, but cancer free. It’s a miracle we didn’t see coming.

At her last scan, my mother-in-law’s results showed her cancer had reduced in size. Still serious, but less of it and what’s there is smaller. They recently  increased the dosage of her ongoing chemo. Hopefully, we’ll soon learn that she, too is cancer free.

The Gifts

Many of you contributed books and other reading material, and gifts, and prayers throughout these ordeals. Those things meant the world to Ellen and my mother-in-law. They helped them escape the world for a little while each day. They’re both avid readers and thoroughly enjoyed the books, and other things. Ellen told me that she often read a book in a single day. The stories took her away from it all for a while.

The Fires

During all of the above, we, while living in California, we were forced to evacuate our home due to one of the huge wildfires. We watched as the smoke began to rise over the hills in front of our house. A day later ash piled on my vehicle and in the yard and on walkways. The air grew thick and smelled like a water-dampened campfire. Then we saw the sky turn orange and soon the flames reached into the sky above the golden, dry hills.

We loaded our valuables and important papers and fled to an area out of the evacuation zone. A former co-worker of Denene’s owns a very nice condo located in a city near where we lived and she gave us the key and told us to stay as long as we needed. We had no idea if our home would be standing when we returned. Fortunately, it was. The threat of fire continued throughout the entirety of last summer, with many communities near us being totally destroyed. People lost their lives, including firefighters.

The Hip

Meanwhile, my left hip was hurting, a lot. With each step it felt as if someone jabbed an ice pick into the bone. I visited my doctor who said it was bursitis. No exam, just an opinion. She gave me an injection. I saw no improvement and the pain grew much worse, to the point that I was limping like the Festus character on the old TV western, Gunsmoke.

I convinced my doctor to send me to a specialist who ordered x-rays. Again, a diagnosis of, “I don’t see anything work. Take Ibuprofen. It’ll pass.”

Well, it became far worse. I didn’t want to walk because it hurt so bad. Another doctor visit. No luck. Another x-ray. Nothing wrong, they said.

Then we moved to Delaware. Another extremely stressful point in our already turbulent lives. We moved to be closer to our family.

As soon as our health insurance went into effect I visited a nurse practitioner at the University of Delaware. She ordered x-rays and, wait for it, she learned that there’s absolutely no cartilage in my hip joint. It’s bone on bone with three bone spurs wedged between. She said she couldn’t imagine me dealing for so long with the pain this caused. She sent me to a hip specialist. He agreed. A total hip replacement was the only solution

My surgery is scheduled for this Thursday, January 3rd. Again, no cartilage in the joint. It was impossible for even a non medical person to look at the x-rays and not see this. But that’s the care we received from Kaiser Permanente in California. I must say, it was the worst I’ve ever seen. Denene, too, and she’d know since she been in the medical field her entire adult life, including managing hospital labs, teaching at medical universities, contributing to medical textbooks, and running clinical trials for drugs she and her teams developed that are now on the market.

The Move

As a result of our move to Delaware, Denene left a job she absolutely loved. So switching was a difficult choice to make. And there was the whole moving thing where it’s inevitable that belongings are lost or destroyed. Along with a move comes the stress of finding a house to purchase, selling the old home, and so on. We were lucky to have sold our sold our California home extremely quick and I credit that to a wonderful and extremely efficient Realtor, Phyllis Ballew, with Berkshire Hathaway. We found a really nice home here in Delaware, a place that’s in a state of chaos right now due to a large remodel project that includes a complete custom master bathroom re-do.

The contractor we selected for the bathroom job, after a serious search (we’re picky), is Delaware contractor R.A. (Ron) Barker. He and his crew are wonderfully meticulous down to the finest detail. Since I’m just hours away from hip surgery, having a new bathroom is essential. I think they’ll have it completed just in time. It’s a large space that required a ton of work and they’ve gone above and beyond to accommodate us. The room isn’t finished but already looks amazing.

Since I’m barely able to walk from one room to the other (I rely on a can I’ve named Virgil. Get it? Virgil Cane?) it’s practically killing me to not do some of the work myself. But it is what it is.

The Gratitude

I’ve shared all of this to express my deepest gratitude to each of you for the support you’ve shown for me and my family over the past several months. It’s been a tough year and I don’t know what we’d have done without your generosity and kindness. Believe me, I cherish your friendship.

You guys are the best and wish you all an extremely Happy New Year.

Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart!



It was a Christmas Eve when Denene, my wife for those of you who don’t know her, decided she’d like to ride along with me during my shift so we could at least spend a part of the night together. It would be her first and last in-person experience of what I did for a living.

I was the officer in charge of operations, the OIC, that night so it wasn’t as if I’d be responding to calls, meaning I thought the danger level for her would be extremely low. And I was right, the evening shift was fairly quiet with a few of the typical pushing and shoving drunks, a couple of thefts, a drunk driver or two, a peeping Tom, a disorderly customer at a convenience store, etc. Nothing major.

I took Denene on a tour of parts of the city she’d never seen and to a few she had, but only in the daytime. Believe me, some typically normal neighborhoods totally transform once the sun is down and all the “creepies” come out to play. It’s the time when neon lights replace sunshine and alleyways come alive with feral animals and people who pay for quickie sex behind dented dumpsters overflowing with restaurant waste and wet, slimy butcher shop cardboard and paper.

These are the streets and neighborhoods where wispy tendrils of sewer steam rise from storm drains to twist and writhe their way toward the night sky, floating and undulating until they melt into nothingness. Potholes are deep and overturned garbage cans are scattered about. Front yards are bare dirt and sofas and used kitchen chairs sit on front porches with leaning posts and broken railings. At the curb laying at either side of the streets are empty beer cans and bottles and used needles and condoms mixed with dry, crispy fall leaves.

In the area sometimes called “The Bottom, prostitutes display their wares in barely-there outfits while local businessmen, average Joes and sometimes Janes, and a few city officials cruise along the dark streets comparing the “merchandise.”

Winos and drug addicts begin their aimless marches, stumbling along cold concrete walks and streets until they finally decide upon a random landing spot in a storefront entrance where they smoke, drink rotgut liquor, or shoot poison into their arms or legs. Then they’ll sleep awhile before setting off on another quest for another high.

Drug runners, the low-level, bottom of the drug-selling chain, sellers of crack, meth, heroin, and weed, are at nearly every corner in the “hot” neighborhoods. Many times they damage the corner street lamps by throwing rocks at the bulbs, or by shooting them out, so they can operate in darkness to make it more difficult for cops to see them.

Runners stand alone or in small groups of three or so with each holding only a small amount of dope so not much will be lost should a cop bust them. Users cruise the areas in their cars, driving slowly. When the runner spots a customer he approaches the vehicle. The driver hands over cash ($20 for a single crack rock) and the runner offers the drug. Sometimes he keeps the foil or plastic-wrapped rock in his mouth so he could easily swallow it in case the “customer” is a cop. He’ll spit the wrapped rock into his hand to exchange for the cash.

When the runners sell out they head back to the dealers to “re-up.” The process repeats night after night after night. The runners are always at ready to take off should an officer approach. It’s a cat and mouse game that’s played again and again—we get out of our cars and they run. We chase. They drop the dope and an occasional gun. We pick up the stuff and maybe catch the guy or maybe not.

So after seeing enough of the rot of the city, I drove to areas where officers were on the scenes of various calls/complaints, making sure all was well. Then the radio crackled with an “officer needs assistance” call. She’d stopped a car for drunk driving and the driver refused to get out of his vehicle. She’d struggled with him a bit, through the car window, but had no luck. In fact, he’d spit at her and attempted to bite her. He’d struck her arms with his fist and tried to punch her face.

So off I went to see the trouble for myself. Other officers were on the way to assist. When Denene and I arrived two officers were at the driver’s window grabbing at the man and striking at his arms with batons. A third officer was standing at the passenger window preparing to break the glass. I told Denene I’d be right back (the equivalent to “Hold my beer”) and stepped out of my car.

Since I’d trained each of the on-scene” officers in defensive tactics during their time at the academy, and the fact that I owned my own gym and martial arts school, they assumed, correctly, that I’d handle this situation. So they parted to allow me access to the driver.

I told the wild and drunken and very large man that he had two immediate choices. One, remove his seat belt and get out of the car on his on. Two, I’d cause him intense pain while removing him from the car, through the window. When he spit at me it was my conclusion that he’d opted for choice number two.

A few seconds later, after inflicting quite a bit of pain (I knew this because he was squealing and squawking like a wounded animal), I pulled his fat rear end through the seatbelt and through the window (with his helpful assistance since he wanted the pain to stop sooner than asap), pulled him to the ground, spun him around and over using a wrist turn-out, and cuffed his hands behind his back.

I told the female officer who’d initially stopped the car to place my handcuffs in the box outside my office door when she’d cleared from processing the man. I then turned and walked back to my car where I nonchalantly asked Denene if she’d like to grab a cup of coffee. Only a minute or two had passed since I first stepped out.

She said, “How can you be so calm after such a violent event? And how in the world did you get that big man to fit through that window and all so quickly?”

I, like every officer out there, didn’t think twice about it. It’s what we/they do. It’s part of the job, like editing is to a writer.

Yes, it was Christmas Eve and we were together. But she never again rode with me.

She eventually stopped listening the police scanner I had at the house. She did so one night after hearing me tell other officers that “I’d go in first.”

Yeah, she’s much happier since writing about this stuff is a WHOLE lot safer …


Aikido uses the attacker’s own force against him.

A wrist turnout applies intense pressure to the joint in the wrist, forcing the suspect off balance.

Proper grasp to begin the wrist turnout (Kotegaeshi Nage) technique. To complete the technique the officer maintains his grasp, rotates the suspect’s hand up and to the rear in a counter-clockwise motion while simultaneously stepping back with his (the officer) left leg. The suspect ends up on the floor on his back (see picture below). Any resistance inflcts excrutiating pain in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.

Combative suspects are normally forced the ground for handcuffing. From this position, a quick turn of the suspect’s wrist and arm will force him to roll over on his stomach. Any resistance causes extreme pain and could severely injure the controlled wrist, elbow, and shoulder.

To effectively control the wrist, the elbow must be stationary. From this position, the suspect is easily handcuffed.

This wrist lock can cause intense pain in the wrist, the elbow, and the shoulder. Forward and downward pressure forces the suspect to the ground.


It was a cold January night back in 1975, a night when the temperatures dipped to the mid 20s. There were no clouds in the coal-black sky, but the overhead inky nothingness was peppered with thousands of tiny off-white dots—winking and flickering wintertime stars.

The victim, a fragile 88-year-old retired school teacher, Eva Jones, was in her modest home located less than a hundred yards, just short of a football field’s distance, from the local police department. She was at home alone, typical of most evenings, when the stranger forced his way through the front door.

Minutes later the elderly woman had been choked, raped, and robbed of $40 cash, all the money she had in her possession. Her attacker then slipped away as quickly as he’d arrived.

The old woman managed to get to her phone and dialed the number to summon police. When the dispatcher answered the call she heard a female voice gasping for breathe as she pleaded for help. Since the station was within sight of her home, officers arrived right away and found the partially-clad victim of the brutal assault.

Two hours later, after being transported to the hospital, Eva Jones was dead. Before she died, though, she told police that “a negro man had torn her clothes off and had choked her.” No further details. Just the man’s race. And then she was gone, leaving police with little—practically nothing—to help with their investigation.

During the next few days police questioned several men who’d been seen in the area, nearly two dozen, or so, but they were each cleared and sent on their way. Eventually, officers set their sights on a 32-year-old man, Curtis Jasper Moore, who’d been recently released from a psychiatric hospital.

Investigators interrogated the man for approximately six hours, nonstop, but Moore never, not once, admitted involvement in the murder of the woman. During the taped questioning, the man repeatedly hummed the theme song of a popular western television show. His mind and thoughts strayed from the matters at hand, and his statements were inconsistent. Some of his words, though, were taken as incriminatory.

So police took the man to the woman’s house—the scene of the murder—hoping the visit would illicit a confession. Again, some of his words, while confusing, were thought to be incriminating, including a couple of statements that seemed to indicate that he’d been inside the woman’s home on the night of the killing. That scant bit of “evidence” was enough for police officers who desperately wanted to close the case. Public and political pressure to do so, of course, was great. They arrested Moore for the murder and rape of the former educator.

A little over three years later, Curtis Moore, the severely mentally-challenged man, was convicted of murder, rape, and robbery and was sentenced to serve life in prison. His guilt was based almost entirely on the statements he’d made to police. There was no physical evidence that connected him to the murder scene. Due to his diminished mental capacity Moore was sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Court appointed attorneys filed state appeals on his behalf but all were denied. Next, a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed. It was only then when a U.S.  District Judge ordered the confession suppressed and set aside the conviction.

The judge ruled that the interrogation was improper because the man had not been offered the Miranda warning until after at least four hours of interrogation had passed. The judge also determined that the state was unable to prove that the man understood his rights after investigators finally got around to advising him.

It took a year and half after the judge’s ruling for the appeals court to affirm his decision, and when they did, finally, the man was released from prison pending a new trial. It was three years after his conviction that he was able to set foot outside of institutional walls.

Prosectors, with no evidence on which to rely, elected to not pursue the case and dismissed it..

Twenty-four years later, the governor of Virginia ordered testing of biological evidence that was found contained in the files of a recently deceased state crime analyst, Mary Jane Burton. Burton, for whatever reason, secretly taped small swatches of biological evidence—samples she used for blood typing—to her test sheets and then placed those sheets in her permanent hard-copy files.

The Burton evidence was discovered in 2001 when The Innocence Project requested all files on behalf of Marvin Anderson, a man convicted of rape. He fought and continued fighting to prove his innocence after his release from prison based on Burton’s saved/hidden evidence..

But saving bits of biological evidence was not the norm. Actually, by preserving the samples the examiner violated the lab protocol that all evidence was to be returned to the submitting agencies/investigators. However, by breaking department rules, the saved evidence samples were indeed tested per the order of the governor and the results produced were nothing short of stunning.

The rule-breaking, highly-meticulous Mary Jane Burton and I have a couple of loosely-based connections.

  • It was Mary Jane Burton who determined the identifying characteristics of biological evidence that would later convict Timothy Spencer, the serial killer known as The Southside Strangler. Spencer was the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death based on DNA evidence. I witnessed Spencer’s execution via electric chair.

Author Patricia Cornwell worked in the state lab at the same time as Burton. Dr. Marcella Fierro, the state’s chief medical examiner, a colleague of Burton was the inspiration for Cornwell’s character Kay Scarpetta. Dr. Fierro’s office conducted the autopsy on the bank robber I was forced to shoot and kill during a shootout beside a major interstate highway. Dr. Fierro and her assistant had dinner with Denene and me at the Commonwealth Club in Richmond, Va. the night Denene received her PhD.

  • In 2008, the evidence in the Jones murder case that was found in Burton’s file was submitted to the lab for DNA testing. The DNA tests proved that, without a doubt, the murder of Eva Jones could not have been committed by Curtis Jasper Moore.


Instead, the DNA was a solid match to a man named Thomas Pope Jr. Pope’s DNA was in the system because he’d been convicted of abduction and forcible sodomy in 1991. He was paroled in 2003.


My connection to Thomas Pope, Jr.? I’ve had the “pleasure” of investigating and arresting him a couple of times over the years, including for sexual assault (not in the same area as the Eva Jones murder, though). Unfortunately, at the time I arrested Pope his DNA had not yet been entered into CODIS. Somewhere in my files, I still have a copy of one of the Pope’s arrest warrants.


Curtis Jasper Moore didn’t live long enough to learn  that he’d been totally exonerated. He died in California in 2006.


The two officers who interrogated Moore have since passed away, as well. One committed suicide in the mid nineties. The other died of natural causes. Both were elected and served many years as sheriffs in Virginia.


On March 24, 2010, Thomas Pope,Jr., 55, was finally convicted of the rape and murder of Eva Jones, the retired, elderly school teacher. He was sentenced to life in prison.

I imagine Pope is currently residing in a state-run prison somewhere in Virginia after nearly and literally getting away with murder because two cops flirted with disaster by allowing tunnel vision and political pressure take over their investigation. And for taking advantage of an obviously mentally ill man.


There’s a current PC craze that’s attacking practically everything on the planet, from condemning anti-animal language, the lyrics of Christmas songs, and even the coloring of cartoon vegetables. So let’s poke around to see if we can find a few more horrible examples of politically incorrect Christmas tunes that could be offensive. Starting with …

I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas

This lively tune opens with a discriminatory tone that’s sure to send other animals scurrying to their safe spaces. Here, see for yourself.

“I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do.”

That’s blatant and out and out discrimination toward all other animals. And it only gets worse.

“Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles, no rhinosaurus
I only likes hippopotamuses [sic]
And hippopotamuses [sic] like me, too.”

I see this one ending up in civil court where a softy judge will immediately order that crocs and rhinos must “do” as well.

Silver Bells

This song discriminates against the folks who live in rural areas. It’s also bullying to those who don’t have access to “holiday style” attire.

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style”

Next, OMG, what about the feelings of grumpy people who don’t like smiling. Their right to frown as they wish have most certainly been trampled upon in this blatantly derogatory song.

“In the air
There’s a feeling
of Christmas
Children laughing
People passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on ev’ry street corner you’ll hear.”

The Christmas Song
Lyrics by Mel Torme

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.”

Not fair. Not fair. Not fair. Jill Frost loves to nip at noses just as much as Jack. Why no mention of her playful nose-nibbling.

And, Mr. Mel Torme, what about the good folks over the age of 92 who’re now actively enjoying the one or two holiday songs left that we’re able to hear on our radios? Obvious age discrimination. Shame, shame and double shame.

“And so, I’m offering this
Simple phrase to kids from
One to ninety-two
Altho’ it’s been said many times
Many ways; “Merry Christmas to you”

Speaking of Mel Torme, dod you know he played drums? Well …

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

This one is appalling. What about bread and rice puddings? Why is figgy pudding given the nod in this popular tune? The dessert menu should be inclusive. Whomever is hiding behind the name “We” must be publicly shamed on social media. Dox them one and all!

“We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer.”

Up on the Housetop
B.R. Hanby

Two words. Concealed Carry.

Climb down Onion Jenkins’ chimney if you want, but you can count on ole Onion to pop a cap in your red-suited rear end. Besides, it’s age discrimination to brings gifts to kids but not to the grown folks. And hey, why’re you bringing gifts to Onion’s kids, anyway? You don’t know them, you perv.

“Up on the housetop reindeer pause
Out jumps good old Santa Claus
Down thru the chimney with lots of toys
All for the little ones
Christmas joys” 

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
Irish Rovers

Here’s the one that sends me over the edge. This song is flat out evil, from promoting violence and death to outing poor grandma’s drinking problem. They even went so far as to call her out for her addiction to prescription medication. Yes, instead of helping the poor and pitiful old woman seek help for her medical issues, they sent her out into the snowy night where she was run down and killed by a careless reindeer.

“Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

She’d been drinkin’ too much egg nog,
And we’d begged her not to go.
But she’d left her medication,
So she stumbled out the door into the snow.”

To add insult to injury, knowing her state of mind and level of intoxication, they didn’t bother to check on grandma until the next morning when they found her frozen corpse in a snowbank.

“When they found her Christmas mornin’,
At the scene of the attack.
There were hoof prints on her forehead,
And incriminatin’ Claus marks on her back.”

Next we see Grandpa enter the picture. Doesn’t care a wit that his wife’s dead body is in a crumpled heap out on the front lawn, covered in snow with deer prints stamped into her skull. Instead, he’s partying with his cousin, Belle, the family “ho, ho, ho.” Now, I’m not one to spread gossip, but I’m thinking the perfect stocking stuffer for both Grandpa and Belle would be a couple of cans of Acme Incest Repellent. I’m just sayin’.

“Now were all so proud of Grandpa,
He’s been takin’ this so well.
See him in there watchin’ football,
Drinkin’ beer and playin’ cards with cousin Belle.”

*This piece is entirely non-PC and is intended as a tongue-in-cheek bit of weird humor. No hippos or grandmas were harmed during today’s writing. Cousin Belle, however, was immediately transported to the nearest Acme Rehab Center. Ho, ho, ho …