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.

“LEE. I NEVER GOT TO KNOW OR TALK TO MY GRANDFATHER AS I WAS ONLY FOUR YEARS OLD WHEN HIS PASSED AWAY.  I SURE WISH HE WAS WITH US AS I GOT OLDER SO I COULD HAVE TALKED WITH HIM ABOUT HIS HISTORY. LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR BOOK SO I CAN PUT IT WITH MY VIDEO OF THE CASE.

THANK YOU.”

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.

Cuba

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 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.

 

Our Thanksgiving trip south took us through the Harbor Tunnel in the Crab Cake Capitol of the World, Baltimore, Maryland (aka Bodymore, Murderland), and Washington D.C.

On the drive past D.C., the Washington Monument was slightly visible on the horizon. On the way back we were so close to it that we could almost count its bricks. As we drove through the area at a snail’s pace, I told Denene that I hoped the bumper-to-bumper barely moving traffic traveling in the opposite direction would ease up before our return trip. It did not.

By the way, in July of this year, the murder rate in Washington D.C. was up approximately 50%. Included in the 90 murdered at the midway part of the year was 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson, who was shot and killed in a quintuple shooting in Northeast D.C

Then came Northern Virginia where traffic moves at snail’s pace on a good day. But hey, the Commonwealth still boasts it’s for lovers. Tell that to the families of the victims killed in a state that can claim one of the highest murder rates in the country, per capita. In fact, in the 1990s, Richmond found its way to being ranked number two in the nation. As far back as 2012, there was a a 1 in 23 chance of being the victim of a crime if you lived in the city of Fredericksburg, Va.

I remember having to step across blood-soaked sidewalks to question suspects and witnesses in one Richmond housing complex. In fact, to simply question a man who had information about a stolen tractor trailer, well, we went in deep—several police officers and a K-9 unit just to be certain I’d make it to the front door and back. And that was in the middle of the day on a weekday. Weekends were worse, especially at night.

Anyway, next came our wonderful visit with family members. This Thanksgiving was the first opportunity in a long, long time that Denene and I had been together with all members of our immediate families. And, as many of you know, we have a lot to be thankful for this year.

While in the south we were reminded of things we’d left behind, such as cotton fields that stretched as far as the eyes could see.

And there were the BBQ restaurants featuring buffets piled high with black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes, pigs feet and fatback, chicken livers, collard greens, homemade rolls and biscuits, and gallons of sweet tea.

On Thanksgiving day, among many other dishes, we feasted on smoked and fried turkey, corn fresh from the family farm, sweet potato casserole, country ham, and even homemade corn pudding, and a delicious chocolate chess pie baked by our daughter Ellen.

Since I’m not able to handle a lot of movement due to my failing and extremely painful hip joint (surgery is scheduled for January 3rd), my mother-in-law’s home was the center of all activity. My brother and his wife and Ellen and her family all visited with us there, in addition to Denene’s brothers’ families that now include several little ones (I received my very first lesson on how to make homemade “Slime” from a cute 7-year-old).

I cannot begin describe the intense warmness I felt in my heart when I saw both my mother-in-law and our daughter, two people who’ve faced terrific battles with cancer over the past year. And to have them prepare food for us and to see their smiles and to hear their laughter was nothing short of the miracle for which we’d all prayed.

Then came the time for our trip to end so we loaded the vehicle and made our way back through Richmond and Washington and Baltimore. The weather during the drive back was  not at all good. Raindrops the size of garden peas pelted and drilled at our vehicle the entire trip. Visibility was poor and for well over two solid hours we crawled along at no more than 20 mph.
There was a sea of brake lights in front and sea of headlights to the rear.

But we made it home safely. We even made it through Richmond, D.C., and Baltimore without seeing the first sign of gunfire.

Not a single bullet hole in our vehicle.

 

 

Here are answers to a few of the most often asked questions I receive regarding police and the work they do.

1. How do I become a local FBI homicide investigator?

Easy answer to this one. You can’t. The FBI doesn’t work local homicide cases; therefore, this three-letter federal agency does not employ homicide investigators for the cases in your hometowns. That’s the job of city, county, and state police.

2. How long does it take to become a detective?

Hmm … As “long as it takes” is a good response to this particular question. There is no set standard. It’s all about who’s the best person for the job. One person may be ready with as little as two years experience, while another may not be ready for a plainclothes assignment in, well, they may never be ready. The job of detective isn’t for everyone. Some officers prefer to work in patrol, or traffic, in the schools, or in the division that inspects taxi cabs and buses to be sure they’re in compliance with local law and standards.

3. Why didn’t you read that guy his rights before you handcuffed him? Aren’t you required to do so by law? Don’t you have to let him go now that someone knows you broke the law by not reading him his rights?

Miranda, first of all, is only required when (a) someone is in custody, and (b) prior to questioning. Therefore, if I don’t plan to ask any questions, and that’s often the case, I don’t have to spout off the “You have the right to remain silent” speech. So, no, not advising someone of Miranda is not a get out of jail free card.

4. Why do cops wear sunglasses?

Umm … because they’re constantly exposed to bright sunshine and the glasses help reduce glare and eyestrain.

5. I got a ticket for not wearing my seat belt, yet the USPS letter carrier in my neighborhood doesn’t wear his. How can they get away with breaking the law?

Most areas have laws that specifically address delivery drivers and similar professions—letter carriers, delivery services, police officers, firefighters, etc., whose jobs require them to be in and out of their vehicles throughout the business day. And, those laws typically excuses the driver(s) from mandatory seat belt laws while performing their jobs. However, many of these businesses and agencies require their drivers to wear safety belts when operating a vehicle.

6. Why are there so many sheriffs in my county?

I’ll start by saying there is only one sheriff per county. The rest of the folks you see wearing the uniform and star are deputies. A sheriff, the boss of the entire department, is elected by the people. He/she then appoints deputies to assist with the duties of the office—running the jail, courtroom security, serving papers, patrol, and criminal investigations, etc.

7. No, it’s not racial profiling to stop a purple man wearing a blue shirt and orange pants in a location near a bank that was just robbed by a purple man wearing a blue shirt and orange pants. That’s called good police work.

8. No, you do not have the right to see the radar unit, my gun, or what I’m writing in my notebook.

9. No, turning on your hazard lights does not give you the right to park in the fire lane in front of the grocery store.

10. Yes, I am concerned about your ability to fight well. Please understand, though, that this is what I do for a living, and they didn’t teach me to lose. Besides, I have a lot of loyal coworkers who’re on the way, right now, to see to it that the good guys win. So, Junior, Jr., you’re coming with me, one way or another.

11. You keep saying you know your rights … but you really don’t. Can you hear what you’re telling me?

12. Yes, no matter how much you hate me, my badge, and my uniform, I’ll still come running when/if you call, even if you punched me in the face the last time I saved your butt from the trouble you were in.


Today’s Mystery Shopper’s Corner

Since the holiday season is nearly here, I’ve decided to feature a few fun items for your mystery shopping needs and wants. I’ll post these regularly throughout the remaining weeks of 2018.

So, for day three of MSC, especially for those of you who’re shopping for writer friends who enjoy a bit of research and/or relaxation, here are my picks.

First up, 400 Things Cops Know
 


Show your support for the men and women in blue.


Dazzle your friends with gun cylinder pen and pencil holder/paper weight.


Finally, I thought I’d wrap up with a couple of books by Michael Connelly. Highly recommended reading material because he really does his cop homework. The story and characters ring true, and Bosch is a detective with whom I strongly relate.

Those of you who met Michael at the Writers’ Police Academy already know what nice and humble guy he is and those traits shine through in his style of writing. Bosch … not so humble, though.

Right to left – Michael Connelly, Denene, and me ~ Writers’ Police Academy.

 
Michael’s latest …

 
Finally, one of my favorites …
 

Police officers face many difficult challenges during the course of their careers, challenges most people would avoid at all costs. For example, exchanging a few rounds of live ammunition with a doped-up bad guy. Or how about working really long, odd hours, or the fear of losing everything you own, including your freedom, family, and possibly your life, should you make a bad decision in that fraction of a split second you have to make it.

And there’s this—the joy of being slapped, hit, punched, scratched, spit on, stabbed, cut, cursed at, having urine or feces thrown on you, puked on, bled on, wearing goofy clothing and heavy gear, and seeing people hurt, sick, and even die right front of you knowing there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.

The danger level of the job is extremely high and getting worse every day. All it takes is a couple visits to this blog on any given Friday to know how dangerous the job really is.

And then there’s the ever popular low pay, little time off, missing holiday time with your family (if you still have one), high suicide rate, alcoholism, drug abuse, fear of serious injury or death, and divorce.

Still, through all the pain and agony and odd baggage that’s attached to every police officer, there’s always someone out there who’ll agree to enter into relationships with the poor saps. And that’s a good thing, right? Well, not always, and there’s a secret I’d like to share with you, the writer. First we must address the fact that you guys don’t always get cop romances right.

Here’s why.

The Three “Romance” Categories of Fictional Cops

  1. The ones in relationships, the Hallmark movie/Nicholas Sparks-happy-ending kind of cop. Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware and  Robin Castagna come to mind, even though the partners sometimes experience and on-again-off-again sort of relationship. And there’s Faye Kellerman’s crime-solving duo Peter Decker, a lieutenant in the LAPD, and his Orthodox Jewish wife Rina Lazarus.
  2. The sad sacks who couldn’t hang on to a steady love interest if he/she were a conjoined twin. Little black dress-wearing Kinsey Millhone, bless her heart, well, the closest thing she had to a longterm relationship is with her dear landlord, 80-something Henry Pitts, a baker who spends his free time creating crossword puzzles.
  3. Then there’s the cop who’s so screwed up emotionally even mental hospitals lock their doors when they see him coming. The latter never finds true love, obviously, and remains a loner, stumbling through book after book after book. I’ll leave this one to your imaginations and personal favorites.

But there’s another kind of relationship, one that’s not really talked about in the world of fiction, and it’s definitely kept under wraps in the real world. But I’m spilling the beans, right here and right now. But you must swear to secrecy because, well … it’s a taboo topic!

We Tried to Warn Them!

Part of the exit speech we presented to new recruits leaving the police academy consisted of a few basic warnings about the potential career-ending temptations cops are sometimes faced with, like access to tons and tons of cash, drugs, alcohol, the fast life, prostitutes, abuse of power … and Badge Bunnies.

Badge bunnies? What the heck are badge bunnies? That was my reaction, too, when I first heard about them during the police academy superintendent’s “Welcome to the police officer family” speech during my last day at the police academy.

* Please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not being sexist, just relaying some very real information. Of course this does work both ways. There are indeed male badge bunnies.

The term badge bunny is often defined as (from Urban Dictionary):

Badge Bunny: A female that goes out with only cops and firemen.

Badge Bunny: A female who enjoys “boinking” and actively pursuing sexual relationships with cops.

Badge Bunny: A female, usually of barely legal age, who spends her time chasing police officers, offering her “services” in hopes of gaining status among her badge bunny friends. (Yes, there are many cop groupies out there).

Badge Bunny Synonyms – holster sniffers, holster honeys, seat warmers, fender lizards, pig pals, beat babes. Cop wives refer to them by other names, such as whores, sluts, cause for divorce, and alimony bait.

New cops, the ones fresh out of the academy, are the officers who are most vulnerable to an attack from the vicious badge bunnies. They can’t help it, though. Recruits are young, good looking, and freshly toned from weeks and weeks of exercise and other training. They have shiny new equipment, sharply creased uniforms, tight haircuts, but more importantly, they have guns and badges! And they’re extremely naive.

Graduation day at the academy is like sending a pack of Roadrunners out into a world of Wile E. Coyotes. Badge Bunnies know the rookie’s weaknesses because they’ve studied the uniformed species for a very long time and they know how to cull the weak from the herd.

How does a badge bunny attack? They’re successful in various ways. For the sake of time and space I’ll list a few their deadly methods of operation.

  • The fake car breakdown, needing an officer’s assistance.
  • The fake prowler call, answering the door in a sexy outfit, or nothing at all.
  • The grocery store maneuver. You couldn’t reach the Special K even though you’re a good foot taller and eighty pounds heavier than the cop. Yeah, right.
  • Tapping the brake pedal repeatedly when they pass a target police car. The rookie officer sees the flashing brake lights each time the car passes his patrol car. Hmm, she must be signaling him. Is she in trouble? Or is she trouble …
  • Speeding, knowing she has all the ammo she needs to get out of the ticket.
  • Hanging out in cop bars.
  • Hanging out in restaurants, coffee shops, etc., frequented by graveyard shift cops.
  • Hanging out at sporting events, especially softball games played by cop teams.
  • Wearing tee shirts with logos that read, I Love Cops.
  • Establishing friendships with police dispatchers for the purpose of meeting their gun-toting coworkers.

Relationships with badge bunnies rarely last. In fact most of them rarely make it into the light of day. These are secret relationships—brief meetings, encounters, and … well, I’ll leave it at that. I know, your next question is, “Since part of the attraction is the uniform and the cool cop equipment, where do they meet for the clandestine ‘encounters?'” How about  …

  • patrol cars – inside and out (lots of things to hold onto – light bars, spotlights, handcuffs…)
  • surveillance vans
  • police station warehouses and property rooms
  • department offices
  • hotels
  • small airport runways (for the deputies working the rural areas)
  • wooded areas
  • industrial parks
  • SWAT vehicles

Well, you get the idea.

Some badge bunnies keep a scorecard and move on quickly to the next guy with a gun. Sometimes, but not often, the encounters turn into lasting relationships, with kids, nice homes, cute puppies, picket fences, and everything else that comes with a solid marriage.

I offered a brief statement to the recruits I trained when I was a field training officer. It went something like this, “Keep your gun in your holster and you won’t have to worry about shooting the wrong person.” Now, there were two messages there, right? However, rookies rarely listened to the hidden meaning.

I could practically read their thoughts the second I said those words, and I knew they wanted to say to me, “Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.”

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 11.46.03 AM

Okay, so you’re a bit concerned that you may be experiencing a bit of badge-bunnyitis? Well, if you have any two of these symptoms, you should  steer clear of all police stations until the feelings pass.

  1. Like moths to a flame, you are attracted to bright and shiny things, especially badges and guns.
  2. You prefer handcuffs and leg irons over diamond bracelets and anklets.
  3. You often speed past police cars, pull over, and “assume the position” before the officer catches up to you … even if it’s the day of your wedding … to someone else.

 

1454977635pjp30

4.  In anticipation of a pat-down, you attach your apartment key to a weapon you’ve hidden beneath your clothing.

5.   911 to you is free access to phone sex.

6.  You often initiate high speed pursuits. However, it is you who’s doing the chasing.

7  The scent of gun oil is your preferred aphrodisiac.

8.  The sounds of leather creaking and keys jingling sends your heart into pitter-patter overdrive.

9.  Blue lights and sirens = foreplay.

10.  The phrase that makes your knees turn to jelly. “Turn around and place your hands behind your back.”

* Obviously, this piece is intended as a tongue-in-cheek look at a situation that’s very real. In this article, though, I’m only referring to the bad bunnies—the scorekeepers. However, please know there are plenty of folks who are simply attracted to a certain kind of person, especially the men and women whose career choice includes wearing a uniform as part of their means to earn a living, and they are wonderful people who have wonderful, loving, meaningful and lasting relationships. The others, well …