I’ve never been fond of working traffic details—running radar, crash investigations, issuing parking citations, standing in intersections during the pouring rain, wildly waving my arms and hands to send vehicles on their way, all while blasting tweets from a tin whistle, and the like.

Patrol was an assignment I preferred and I suppose that’s because of the diversity of calls. One minute you’re helping an elderly person who’s locked himself out of his house, and the next you’re wading chest deep into a pile of brawling drunks, or searching an abandoned and crumbling warehouse for a murderer on the run.

I suppose one of the major reasons I grew to despise stopping cars due to high rates of speed, recklessness, and the general failing to obey traffic laws, was, well, the outright lack of common sense of some drivers. I’ve long thought that Driving While Stupid (DWS) should be included among the many traffic laws in the books.

A motor vehicle, while traveling along the roadways, is basically a great big, fat, projectile that’s just as capable of killing people as any gun. In fact, the chances of survival are perhaps a bit greater when hit by a bullet. Don’t believe it? Try standing in the path of a car roaring at you at 80 mph and see how well you fare when it strikes you, even with a glancing blow. A bullet, on the other hand, may simply pass through a drooping love handle leaving you with nothing more than a couple of stitches.

But let’s back up a bit to stupid drivers. In fact, let’s narrow the category down to distracted-stupid drivers. I once saw a headline in the San Jose Mercury News that read, Woman Painting Toenails Gets First Prize For Distracted Driving. To quote the writer (Gary Richards – Mr Roadshow), “I saw a woman PAINTING HER TOENAILS as she drove eastbound on the 237 freeway. She had her left foot up on the dashboard in front of the A/C vent so the cool, dry air would blow across her toes, and she was painting her toenails as she drove during the afternoon commute.”

And you thought texting while driving was bad!

Toenail painting is definitely not an activity that should take place while driving to work. But this lady is not the only commuter guilty of driving while distracted. I, as well as other police officers, have a ton of “distracted driving” stories we could share, and they’re not all about cellphones. A few of the ones I’ve seen and issued a summons for, include …

  • Pouring milk and cereal into a bowl and then eating it while driving in heavy traffic. All while driving beside my marked police car.
  • Eating a bowl of ice cream at 75 mph.
  • Applying full face makeup with one hand while holding a large mirror in the other.
  • Reading a book (the book was propped against the steering wheel). This, at speeds varying from 45 to 80 mph, on a major interstate highway.
  • Two nude couples having sex in the same car, while driving at speeds over 60 mph. Yes, the driver was one of the four people in the car.
  • One totally nude man … um … enjoying his time alone.
  • A man driving his expensive car while a nude woman stood on the seat with a leg on either side of him, with the top half of her body through the sunroof. She smiled and waved at us. II was training a rookie at the time. He was driving when we switched on the blue lights.
  • A man wearing a corrections uniform driving a car late at night on a deserted stretch of interstate. His passenger, a totally nude (male), was handcuffed to the car door. His uniform was on the backseat in a crumpled pile.
  • A teenager sat on the top of the backrest with his upper body through the open sunroof. He was using his feet to drive while a buddy operated the gas and brake from the passenger side. There were four other teens in the backseat, along with a cooler full of cheap beer and a rear floorboard littered with empty bottles.
  • A teen driver passed by me doing a little over 100 mph. On each of the passenger window sills (windows down) sat a teen (boys and girls) with their bare rear ends hanging outside for all the world to see.
  • A car zipped by me traveling well above the posted speed limit. What really caught my eye was the large German Shepherd behind the wheel. When I stopped the car I was somewhat relieved to see a very small human woman situated behind and beneath her “lap dog.”
  • The passenger of a small pickup truck who wore a horse’s head (mask).

  • The nude couple having sex in the rear area of an SUV, with back door in the up position. By the way, the description of the back door in the up position fits both the vehicle and one of the parties engaged in the public sexual activity. It was not a pretty sight.

Finally, the day I learned that Santa no longer employed reindeer as part of his holiday staff.

How about you? What’s your worst stupid driver story?

It was many years ago when I worked in Virginia’s state prison system, back before I began my career as a certified law enforcement officer. I’ve done a lot of unpleasant things in my day, to make ends meet, but working in the prison was truly one of the worst.

When I say to make ends meet I’m speaking about being a single dad raising a daughter while earning little more than peanuts. At my first state job my salary was $6240. per year. When I moved up the ladder a bit the pay moved up to $6700. Then it grew to a whopping $8320. Then I transferred to a maximum security prison, one that housed the worst of the worst inmates., those that other prisons didn’t want. My  pay increased to a little above $12,000 annually.

So, for less than six bucks an hour I had to pay for housing costs, car payment, food, clothing, phone bill, heat, school costs, and the health insurance premium and retirement were deducted from the salary. Therefore, as everyone knows, paying the bills and supporting a child is tough. Those of you who’ve done so as a single parent, as I was, know how difficult and extremely challenging it is simply to hold your head above water.

When I spoke about unpleasant things I’d done I was speaking of the part-time jobs I held to supplement my income. I continued working part-time jobs for my entire law enforcement career. The pay as a police officer in the early days, unfortunately, was not great.

A Twist in this Tale

Oh, there’s a twist to this story. One of these part-time jobs is not true. The rest are fact.

You’ve all read my blog and social media posts over the years. Many of you have met me and had conversations with me. So let’s see how you fare at picking out a falsehood. Of course, all could be true or they could all be false. I’m just sayin’.

Here’s a list of those jobs … maybe.

I once held a part-time job as …

  1. An electrician for a county government. I rewired part of a jail where I worked as a deputy sheriff. I also rewired parts of a courthouse where I testified in many felony cases. The head cook at the jail made and served delicious liver and onions.
  2. A maintenance person for two hotels, performing jobs such as painting, plumbing, etc. I once saw rocker Joan Jett sunbathing by the pool.
  3. A woodworker for a casket company, where I repaired high-end wooden caskets. The job even once required me to travel to Miami to repair a $30,000 casket, one that had been damaged during transit. On the way down, I drove a pickup truck carrying six additional wooden caskets.
  4. A bricklayer’s helper working on a 300-foot-tall chimney. The bricklayers were relining it and my job was to haul the bricks up by rope and then feed them down inside the chimney using a second rope. I don’t like heights, by the way.
  5. A lead bouncer in a hip-hop/rap-type nightclub. At the time, I was bench pressing just under 400 lbs. and had earned two black belts. There was a stabbing on my first night there. The club is where I first heard TLC’s hit song Waterfalls, written by Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez. I still like the song. I don’t like rap or hip-hop music. I don’t like opera either.
  6. A housepainter working on a crew with six professional painters. I was assigned to most of the grunt work—painting shutters, closets, and ceilings. All by brush. No spraying or rollers allowed in those days.
  7. As a laborer for a concrete company. My job was to use a wheelbarrow to roll in load after load of wet, fresh concrete to the men working inside an open courtyard between buildings at a retirement home.
  8. I worked as a desk clerk at a hotel owned by a Chinese couple who spoke very little English. They offered me $5,000 if I’d marry one of their cousins so she could become a U.S. citizen. I did not.
  9. I worked as a part-time estimator for a major steel company, where I sat at a drafting table figuring the amounts of steel and correct pieces needed to construct large commercial buildings. I even calculated the numbers and sizes of individual nuts, bolts, and washers.
  10. While working night shift as a cop, I taught business math and drafting at a high school during the day for an entire school year. I was offered a full-time job teaching but I felt that police work was far safer, so I declined the offer. One year was all I could take.
  11. Each weekend, three of us, all deputy sheriffs, installed roofs—tearing off old shingles and replacing them with new ones after repairing damaged plywood, etc. Then we loaded the old worn-out shingles onto pickup trucks, by hand, and then hauled them to a county dump where we emptied the trucks. Again, all by hand. I did this every weekend, for a long time. It was backbreaking work but it kept a roof over my head.

Bonus – I taught beginning, intermediate, and advanced guitar at a college. Later in life I became the student and was taught intricate lessons by a guitarist who’d played in bands that opened for The Who and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many more. He’d played with legendary guitarist Joe Satriani and even replaced Satriani as lead guitarist in the popular 80s group, The Greg Kihn Band.

So there you go. Is one of the above not true? Are all of them false? Just one lie? Or, are each of them absolutely factual?

Here are a couple of tunes to enjoy while you decide.

The Greg Kihn Band

Joe Satriani

Every department has at least one officer who doesn’t quite beat the same drum as the others. His, or her, rhythm is slightly off. They can’t quite fit in no matter how hard they try. Sure, everyone likes this person, and they don’t really do anything that’s too weird, yet they always seem to do, well dumb stuff.

Enter my friend Franklin and his first experience with, well, this …

The honky-tonk nightclub was situated just outside the city limits. They were open for business on Saturday nights only and the place was so popular it didn’t take long for the gravel parking lot to fill to capacity with souped-up cars and dented and dusty pickup trucks with gun racks mounted in the rear windows.

Male patrons slicked their hair with Brylcreem or Butch Wax and they wore their best jeans, Stetson hats, dinner-plate-size belt buckles shaped like the state of Texas or a gun of some sort, and spit-shined cowboy boots made of cow, snake, or gator hide, or a combination of two or more. Sometimes the fancier snake hide adorned boots were reserved for Sunday attire along with a store-bought Sears and Roebuck striped suit and pearly-white socks. Many strapped hunting knives to their belts—their handles carved from deer antlers or hunks of wood cut from trees that once stood on family land.

Women curled and teased their hair until it reached heights only before seen by birds, power company linemen, and airline pilots, and then they loaded it with enough Aqua Net to keep it tightly in place for an entire evening of two-stepping and do-si-doing. They slipped into their finest square-dancing dresses and they waited on their front porches for one of those gussied-up farm trucks to pull into the driveway, and when it did … well, “Yipee ki-yay” the night had begun.

This club, the 95 Dance Hall, allowed brown-bagging (bring your own liquor), otherwise known as BYOB—bring your own bottle—because they didn’t have a license to sell alcohol. but they did supply ice and various mixers/chasers. The ice was freshly cracked from 50 lb blocks purchased that afternoon from the local ice and coal business.

Club workers filled galvanized washtubs with the ice and it was free for the taking, with the price of admission. In addition to counter-wiping and keeping a layer of freshly-scattered sawdust on the floor (the ground wood made for a nice “slicker’d-up dance surface, so I was told), the dancehall staff—the wife of the club owner, their kids, and the wives of the steel and banjo platers—refilled the large metal containers throughout the evening as the frozen chunks of water melted.

By 10 p.m, the 95 Dance Hall was flat-out jumpin’. The house band, the Virginia Barn Dance Boys, was in high gear—fiddling, steel-guitaring, banjo-pickin’, and yodelin’ to all get out. Fancy dresses twirled. Scuffed boot heels clicked and tapped against the wood flooring. Drinks disappeared. Bottles emptied. Vision blurred and speech slurred. Voices and laughter grew louder and louder. The music became more frantic. The drummer rat-a-tatted at machine gun pace … And then the inevitable happened.

Somebody winked at somebody’s best girl and as quick as a fresh green grass goes through a goose, the place erupted into a free-for-all. Fists. Chairs. More fists. More chairs. Then, a knife. And then some blood. And then a call to the sheriff’s office. “HELP!”

Now’s a good time to introduce you to our department’s “one guy.” Remember the description above … doesn’t quite beat the same drum, etc.?

Okay, this is Franklin (not his real name, of course), a thin black man who was was quiet and somewhat shy, especially around women. He rarely spoke unless spoken to. He wore thick glasses with black rims and his uniform, the brown over tan, was always, without fail, neatly pressed with creases sharp enough to peel an apple and shoes so shiny they reflected moonlight on a cloudy night.

Franklin did not like to get his clothes dirty. In fact, he freaked out if a speck of mud marred the surface of his shoes and stopped whatever he was doing to clean and polish them. He wore a tie even when it wasn’t required. And he did not, absolutely did not, would not, nor ever, exceeded the speed limit. Even when responding to the worst of the worst emergency calls. 55 meant 55 and by God 55 is where the needle stopped. Dead on the double nickels. Not one mile per hour more.

Franklin was my friend. A good friend too. But he was a bit quirky, to say the least.

I’d seen Franklin heading to murders-in-progress with red lights flashing and spinning and flickering, with siren wailing and screaming like a baby with a handful of thumbtacks in their diaper, but the posted speed limit was 45 mph so …

Franklin was an extremely cautious driver in other ways too. He utilized every safe driving tactic taught to him at the academy and he always drove with both hands on the wheel, one positioned at ten and the other at two. His seat was pulled nearly all the way forward and even then he leaned forward so close to the steering wheel that it nearly rubbed his chin at every curve and turn (he couldn’t see very well at night was his explanation for leaning close to the windshield). Blind as a bat is what we all thought.

This particular night there were four of us working the late shift—Franklin, two others, and me—and we were all dispatched to the “fight with weapons call.” Having been to a few of those calls at the nightclub over the years I knew we’d be outnumbered and I knew we’d have to fight, going toe-to-toe with practically every bumpkin in the county who used the opportunity as a free pass to punch a cop . Therefore, since I’ve never been all that fond of pain, or bleeding, I requested backup from the state police and from a nearby city.

By the time we arrived, the fight had spilled out into the parking lot. So we, three deputies and several backup officers from surrounding jurisdictions, began the task of breaking up the massive brawl, which quickly turned into a “them against us” battle.

We were well into the thick of it when we heard a squalling and yelping siren coming our way. A few seconds later a brown sheriff’s office patrol car rolled slowly into the parking lot with siren and lights still in full “I mean business” mode. It was, of course, Franklin, the fourth member of the night shift.

Seriously, you’ve got to picture this to appreciate it. Fifteen cops and forty or so cowboys going to it in the parking lot. Fists flying, books kicking, handcuffs clicking, batons swinging, clothing torn and dirty, heads bruised from contact with our lead-filled leather saps and wooden nightsticks, faces bruised and jaws stinging from fists covered with brass knuckles. And Franklin, calmly exiting his police car, then smoothing the wrinkles from his pants before slowly walking toward the massive battle.

Suddenly, it was like he, shiny-shoed Franklin, was sucked into a vacuum. In the blink of an eye, he was pulled into the fracas and was doing his best to restrain, arrest and, well, he was basically doing his best to stop people from hitting him.

We eventually gained control and arrested every fool we could lay our hands on and those troublemakers were hauled away to jail. Those of us who remained on the scene went inside the dance hall to speak with potential witnesses to a couple of pretty nasty stabbings. Franklin was one of the deputies who accompanied me inside.

We were a motley crew to say the least—clothing dirty, shoes scuffed, blood stains here and there, and cut and bruised and sufficiently battered.

Franklin looked as if he’d been dragged through a hog pen, beaten by club-wielding cave people, and then run through the hand-cranked wringer of his grandmother’s antique washing machine. His glasses sat slightly askew on the bridge of his nose. His upper lip was cut and the lower bruised and swollen.

When we stepped from the darkness into the festive interior of the 95 Dance Hall, the lead guitar player of the Virginia Barn Dance Boys was in the process of calling a square dance. Dancers on the floor dipped and swirled and twirled and ducked and hopped like their lives depended on their actions. They paid no attention to what had taken place outside.

The music, if one could call it that, was horrible. The fiddler was busy sawing away at the strings, producing screeches that would cause Poe to lose sleep. The drummer’s timing was off. Way off. First he was a half beat too fast, then his sticks tapped slightly slower than the rest of group’s caterwauling. His right foot pushed the pedal against the bass drum in total out-of-syncness with what his right foot and hands were trying to do. It was almost if that foot had a mind all it’s own.

The guy on the acoustic guitar apparently had never learned to properly tune his instrument. As a musician myself, the sound tap-danced on the raw ends of my nerves. But the crowd did not care. They were gettin’ it done like dancing was their nine-to-five job. Like the world would end if they didn’t go at it like politicians at a debate.

Franklin did not move into the club any further than five feet from the front double wooden doors. He simply stood there blinking his eyes as he looked at the spinning and blinking colored lights. At the dancers. The condensation-covered ice tubs that were now half full of water. Franklin looked like a kid at the circus for the first time.

When we finally wrapped up our investigation and were standing outside in the parking lot beside our respective patrol cars, I asked Franklin if he was okay. His battered lips split into a slightly crooked smile before he said, “I’m fine. It’s just that I’ve never seen so many white people at one time in their own environment. And they were Huck-a-Bucking their asses off. This (he pointed to the club) is just bizarre.”

Franklin shook his head from side to side and turned to walk away, but stopped to look back over his shoulder. He said, “You know I’m going to have nightmares over this, right?” Then he playfully two-stepped back to his car and just before climbing in he raised an arm over his head to give a thumbs-up. He let out a loud, “Yee-Haw!” as he slid into the driver’s seat.

We each stood in silence, and disbelief, that Franklin had displayed some sort of emotion and a bit of humor. It was way out of character for him.

We watched Franklin pull out onto the highway where he sped away, at no more than 45 mph, of course. He tooted his horn twice before rounding the curve that took him out of view.

To this day, whenever I see someone square-dancing on TV I immediately think of Franklin’s descriptive term for those specific gyrations and swirls and twirls.

Huck-A-Bucking, according to Franklin: a traditional dance where participants spin, twirl, stomp, duck, and bow to their partners while semi-following the instructions yelled out to them by a band leader who’s sometimes referred to as a caller. When mixed with alcoholic beverages, huck-a-bucking can quickly switch from fun to fighting. Although, fighting is sometimes considered fun by avid huck-a-buckers. 

Yee-Haw, y’all!



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!