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History > 2009 > USA > Violence (I)




DNA Tests

Aim to Identify Calif. Family Killer


December 16, 2009
Filed at 1:53 p.m. ET
The New York Times


SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) -- Authorities are conducting DNA tests to determine if a woman who lost custody of her two children is responsible for killing her family in a murder-suicide.

The Orange County sheriff's office says it is unclear whether Elizabeth Fontaine, a Texas attorney, or her mother Bonnie Hoult was responsible for the shootings Monday in an upscale home in San Clemente.

Both were found dead along with 4-year-old Catherine and 2-year-old Julia after Fontaine failed to show up for a custody hearing.

Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino says investigators found a handgun between the women's bodies and will examine any DNA evidence on the weapon to identify the killer.

A judge had gave temporary custody of the children to Fontaine's sister.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) -- A Texas attorney involved in a bitter custody dispute was ordered to return to a Southern California court Monday afternoon with her two young daughters. She never made it.

The bodies of 38-year-old Elizabeth Fontaine, her daughters, 4-year-old Catherine and 2-year-old Julia, and her mother, 67-year-old Bonnie Hoult, were found in an upscale Orange County home later Monday in a murder-suicide. All had been shot to death.

Forensic tests are needed to determine which of the two women pulled the trigger, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.

Fontaine appeared in court Monday morning and was ordered to return with the children later that afternoon so the girls' maternal aunt could take temporary custody. Authorities responded to the red-roofed, yellow stucco house when they did not show and found a bloody scene: Four bodies, each with one gunshot wound, in a first-floor hallway.

Amormino said investigators spoke to the father, Jason Fontaine, and do not consider him a suspect. The father, who divorced the children's mother, was not at the home, authorities said.

''He's traumatized,'' Amormino said. ''He's coping with it the best he can.''

A message left with his attorney by The Associated Press was not returned Tuesday afternoon.

Elizabeth Fontaine moved to Houston a month ago with her daughters, but they returned to California after their father requested a custody hearing, according to court documents and authorities. Neighbors said the family and the mother were staying at a friend's home when the killings occurred.

Investigators were still piecing together what happened, but they believe the child custody dispute may have been a factor, Amormino said.

The deaths stunned the neighborhood of 42 luxury houses overlooking a golf course. The homes, with four to six bedrooms, sell for more than $1 million each, and Amormino said the area has a ''very low'' crime rate.

''It's very shocking,'' said next-door neighbor Rebecca Vandehei, who lit a stick of incense on her property in memory of the children.

''I did a prayer. ... I wanted to try to help,'' she said.

    DNA Tests Aim to Identify Calif. Family Killer, NYT, 16.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/12/16/us/AP-US-California-Family-Killed.html






Boy, 14, Accused of Raping Girl at Calif. School


December 15, 2009
Filed at 1:03 a.m. ET
The New York Times


EL CERRITO, Calif. (AP) -- A 14-year-old boy is facing charges, and two school officials are on administrative leave, after authorities say a 12-year-girl was raped in a stairwell at a San Francisco Bay-area school.

El Cerrito police say the girl was attacked at the Portola Middle School last week.

Police Cmdr. Michael Regan says another student witnessed the attack after walking into the stairwell and reported it to a school resources officer.

The suspect was arrested Thursday night at his home. He was charged Monday in Juvenile Court with rape and false imprisonment. Police haven't released his name.

A spokeswoman for the West Contra Costa Unified School District says the school's principal and assistant principal have been placed on paid administrative leave while police investigate.


Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle 

    Boy, 14, Accused of Raping Girl at Calif. School, NYT, 15.12.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/12/15/us/AP-US-School-Rape-Investigation.html






Claims of Child Abuse Remembered Divide Town and Lead to Charges Against 6


November 18, 2009
The New York Times


BATES CITY, Mo. — On a dead-end dirt road, through frosted crops and bales of hay in this sleepy town about a half-hour east of Kansas City, state investigators spent much of last week excavating the yard around a farmhouse, looking for decades-old evidence of sex crimes against children.

Their search was prompted, law enforcement officials say, by a 26-year-old woman who went to the police in nearby Independence, Mo., in August and accused her grandfather, father and three uncles of sexually abusing her and her siblings as children, beginning in the winter of 1988 and continuing for seven years.

According to criminal complaints and other court papers, the woman said she had recovered suppressed memories of mock weddings, sexual acts involving children, rape and a sex act involving an animal that took place in and around the secluded old Bates City farmhouse, a wooded 55-acre property formerly owned by her grandfather, Burrell E. Mohler Sr.

The sprawling case has roiled this rural community, on the rolling bluffs above the Missouri River. And it is especially controversial because it involved what are said to be the years-old repressed memories of one woman.

Family and friends of the Mohlers are questioning the reliability and validity of such memories, which legal experts also debate.

The authorities, though, say they have physical evidence to back up at least some of the claims. Five siblings of the 26-year-old woman, four girls and a boy, have also come forward with similar accounts of abuse, law enforcement officials say.

Mr. Mohler, who has been characterized by prosecutors as presiding over the abuse, has been charged with forcible rape and the use of a child in a sexual performance. His sons — Burrell E. Mohler Jr., 53, Jared L. Mohler, 48, Roland N. Mohler, 47, and David A. Mohler, 52 — were also charged with various felonies, including rape.

On Tuesday, a sixth family member, Darrel Mohler, 72, a brother of the elder Mr. Mohler, was charged with rape, and prosecutors filed new charges of child sexual abuse against Burrel Mohler Sr. and his previously accused sons.

None of the Mohlers has entered a plea. On Tuesday, the men told a judge that they were still organizing their defense.

When asked if he had a lawyer, Burrell Mohler Sr. told Judge John E. Frerking of Lafayette County Circuit Court, “My family’s been working on that possibility.”

Shackled at the wrists and ankles, the four Mohler siblings, their father and his brother searched the courtroom for friendly faces, and in return got some waves and thumbs-up from at least a dozen supporters among the spectators.

“The charges seem to be so absurd, they’re unbelievable,” said Robert Bruch, a friend and former employer of the elder Mr. Mohler. “Everybody’s in total shock.”

Mr. Bruch said he worshiped with Mr. Mohler at the Community of Christ Church in Bates City. “There was never a question about his loyalty to the church or Christ,” Mr. Bruch said. “Never one complaint about his behavior.”

A spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Sgt. Collin Stosberg, pressed on the question of “recovered” memories leading to criminal charges, said, “We feel like we have enough evidence, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten to this point.”

Bob Ramsey, a retired chemistry professor who lives next to David Mohler in Lamoni, Iowa, said that he had been close to the Mohler family for 20 years and that he had worked with David Mohler and his wife at Graceland University.

Mr. Ramsey, 71, said he had never had concerns about suspicious behavior or abuse in the Mohler family. “My reaction was absolute unbelief,” he said. “It just does not fit the character of David. He has been a super helpful, kind individual.”

Late Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that a search warrant filed in the case said three of the children told the authorities that they had observed “several murders” and had been forced to help kill and bury a man in April 1988.

An investigator said in a court document that at the old farmhouse he found a broken glass jar, glass fragments, other jars and a bone, although it remains unclear what type of bone was recovered.

Law enforcement officials had been looking specifically for glass jars with written statements inside. The complainants, they said, told them that as children, they had written what happened to them on pieces of paper and buried them in glass jars in the backyard, hoping that once buried, the memories would go away.

When asked if investigators had found any written statements, Sergeant Stosberg declined to comment.


Emma Graves Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.

    Claims of Child Abuse Remembered Divide Town and Lead to Charges Against 6, NYT, 18.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/us/18family.html






More Bodies Found at Cleveland Home


November 4, 2009
The New York Times


CLEVELAND (AP) — More remains were discovered Tuesday at the Cleveland home of a convicted rapist, raising to 10 the number of bodies that has been found there, the authorities said.

Four more bodies and a skull were found at the home, where the remains of six women were removed last week, said the police chief, Michael McGrath. Anthony Sowell, 50, who lives in the home, is in jail and was charged Tuesday with five counts of aggravated murder.

“It appears that this man had an insatiable appetite that he had to fill,” Chief McGrath said.

He said the additional bodies were found buried in the backyard. The skull was found in a bucket in the basement.

The authorities do not know whether the skull belongs to an 11th victim, said a police spokesman, Lt. Thomas Stacho.

The search was to continue Wednesday, with Fire Department crews planning to search in the walls of the home, Chief McGrath said.

Last week, investigators said they found one body in a shallow grave in the backyard. The rest were inside the house: one in the basement, two in the third-floor living room and two in an upstairs crawl space.

The police discovered the first six bodies Thursday and Friday after a woman reported being raped at Mr. Sowell’s home, and Mr. Sowell was also charged Tuesday with rape, felonious assault and kidnapping related to her complaint.

The Cuyahoga County coroner is trying to identify those women through DNA and dental records. All six were black, and five had been strangled.

The bodies could have been there for weeks or months or years, said Powell Caesar, a spokesman for the coroner.

On Tuesday, detectives brought in cadaver dogs and digging equipment to scour the home and backyard, Lieutenant Stacho said.

A crowd of about a hundred people milled about and chatted near the home Tuesday evening.

One of those in the crowd, Antoinnette Dudley, 29, lives a few houses away. Ms. Dudley said that all summer, she had smelled a terrible odor that suggested something was dead.

Mr. Sowell is a registered sex offender and required to check in regularly at the sheriff’s office. Officers did not have the right to enter his house, but they would stop by to make sure he was there. Their most recent visit was Sept. 22, just hours before the woman reported being raped.

For the last few years, Mr. Sowell’s neighbors thought the foul smell enveloping their street had been coming from a business in a brick building where workers churned out sausage and head cheese. The smell had become so overpowering that the owners of the business, Ray’s Sausage, replaced their sewer line and grease traps.

City Councilman Zack Reed, whose mother lives in the area, said he had called the city health department several times.

“What happened from there, we don’t know,” Mr. Reed said. “It was no secret that there was a foul odor. We don’t want to point fingers, but clearly something could have been done differently.”

Mr. Reed called for an investigation into whether the police and health inspectors missed any signs that could have tipped them off to the bodies inside the house.

    More Bodies Found at Cleveland Home, NYT, 4.11.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/04/us/04rape.html






Police Say Dozen People Watched Calif. Gang Rape


October 27, 2009
Filed at 2:45 a.m. ET
The New York Times


RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) -- Police believe as many as a dozen people watched a 15-year-old girl get beaten and gang-raped outside her high school homecoming dance without reporting it.

Two suspects were in custody Monday, but police said as many as five other men attacked the girl over a two-hour period Friday night outside Richmond High School.

''She was raped, beaten, robbed and dehumanized by several suspects who were obviously OK enough with it to behave that way in each other's presence,'' Lt. Mark Gagan said. ''What makes it even more disturbing is the presence of others. People came by, saw what was happening and failed to report it.''

The victim remained hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Manuel Ortega, 19, was arrested at the scene and was being held on $800,000 bail for investigation of rape and robbery. He is not a student at the school.

Richmond police Sgt. David Harris said he did not know if Ortega had retained an attorney.

A 15-year-old student also was booked late Monday on one count of sexual assault, Gagan said.

Police said the girl left the dance and was walking to meet her father for a ride home when a classmate invited her to join a group drinking in the courtyard. The victim had drank a large amount of alcohol by the time the assault began, police said.

Officers received a tip about a possible assault on campus and found the girl semi-conscious near a picnic table.

Marin Trujillo, a spokesman for the West Contra Costa Unified School District, said there were four police officers and three school administrators monitoring the dance, but the assault happened away from the gym.

    Police Say Dozen People Watched Calif. Gang Rape, NYT, 27.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/10/27/us/AP-US-Homecoming-Gang-Rape.html






Parishioners Recall Priest and Suspected Killer


October 26, 2009
The New York Times


Parishioners at the New Jersey church of a popular Roman Catholic priest who was stabbed to death in his rectory last week on Sunday remembered fondly both the victim and the unlikely suspect who the authorities said had confessed to the crime — a 64-year-old janitor at the church.

The janitor, Jose Feliciano, of Easton, Pa., was described as a warm, friendly family man who often played with parish children, parishioners at St. Patrick’s Church in Chatham, N.J., said after morning Masses on Sunday.

Mr. Feliciano admitted to stabbing the pastor, the Rev. Edward Hinds, 61, during a quarrel on Friday evening, wounding him 32 times and leaving his body on the kitchen floor, according to the Morris County prosecutor’s office. He pretended to discover the body the following day with a church deacon and even made a half-hearted attempt at CPR, said the prosecutor, Robert A. Bianchi. Mr. Feliciano has been charged with first-degree murder. A motive remains unclear.

The Rev. Owen Moran, a former assistant pastor at St. Patrick’s who celebrated the Sunday Masses, asked for support for the janitor.

“We pray in a very special way for Jose, a prayer of hope and consolation,” he said. “The Father Ed we know would forgive Jose. Father Ed probably did forgive him before he died.”

Mr. Feliciano began working at St. Patrick’s in 1992, after moving to the area from Puerto Rico, parishioners said. He moved to Pennsylvania several years after that. In 1996, he was baptized after completing a class at the parish. He has two children, a daughter in the eighth grade at St. Patrick’s school, and a son who graduated from the grammar school and is now in high school, Father Moran said. Both children were undergoing grief counseling, he added.

“They have a very important place in the community of St. Patrick’s, and they always will,” he said during one Mass. “They are innocent victims of this. This is their parish.”

Parishioners left the church in tears, and outside, expressed a disbelief that seemed to be unanimous.

“This is a good man,” said Maureen Haggerty, a former trustee at the church, referring to Mr. Feliciano. “Whatever happened, maybe it will become clear someday.”

The janitor was particularly good with children, friends said. “Jose was a nice man,” said Lily Garrison. “His kids grew up with mine. I know him and his wife. There’s just evil in the world — what can I say?”

Just last week, Mr. Feliciano was seen cheering up a teary-eyed preschool boy, playing with his hat. “He would sing, dance and fool around with the kids,” said Michele Fischer, 42. “He was a jovial soul.”

Mr. Feliciano confessed to the killing in a written affidavit, prosecutors said. In the affidavit, he said that he and Father Hinds were arguing in the rectory at 5 p.m. on Thursday. He then got a knife and stabbed the priest, according to the affidavit.

Afterward, he cleaned the scene with rags and paper towels and took them, with Father Hinds’ cellphone, back home to Easton, the police said. The police later tracked the cellphone to Easton.

Mr. Feliciano and a deacon went into the rectory after Father Hinds did not show up for 8 a.m. Mass on Friday morning. After attempting CPR, Mr. Feliciano looked up and said, “There’s nothing we can do,” the police said.

Another parishioner, Dr. Neal T. Collins, an oncologist, said he wondered if Mr. Feliciano had suffered some sort of head injury or brain tumor, provoking the attack. “He was much more than a janitor,” said Dr. Collins, 50. “He was like family.”

    Parishioners Recall Priest and Suspected Killer, NYT, 26.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/nyregion/26priest.html






Priest Is Found Slain in New Jersey


October 24, 2009
The New York Times


Until midmorning Friday, life in the bucolic commuter borough of Chatham, N.J., was bustling uninterrupted: residents caught trains for work in Manhattan, children went to school, and Halloween decorations were splayed on the lawns and porches of homes throughout the tree-lined streets.

Violent crime is virtually unheard of there, and certainly not anything like this: On Friday morning, a Roman Catholic priest who did not show up for 8 a.m. Mass was found dead in his rectory with multiple injuries.

“We’re not getting into the nature of those wounds, but they are consistent with a homicide,” Robert A. Bianchi, the Morris County prosecutor, said Friday afternoon.

The priest, the Rev. Edward Hinds, 61, of St. Patrick’s Church, was outfitted in formal black vestments when he was discovered shortly after 8 by a deacon and a maintenance worker who used a key to enter the rectory. He was found in the kitchen, off a hallway that connects the church and the rectory, according to another priest, the Rev. Owen Moran. Father Moran said he would take over Father Hinds’s duties for at least the weekend.

The prosecutor said the medical examiner’s staff found “significant trauma” to the priest’s body, injuries that initial responders had not seen. He said the severity of the wounds suggested that much effort had been put into ending the priest’s life.

As of Friday afternoon, he said, no suspects had been identified. The authorities would not say if there were signs of forced entry.

As a bracing October day wound on, and a phalanx of law enforcement officers descended on the church and strung up yellow crime-scene tape to close off some streets, many who knew Father Ed, as he was known, described him as a pious man who immersed himself in helping others, including the homeless and the needy.

Father Hinds was seen this week walking his cocker spaniel, said Kathy Phillips-Bodie, 47, a crossing guard whose son attends the K-8 Catholic school at St. Patrick’s. When Father Hinds’s body was found, the dog was nearby, the prosecutor said.

Eileen Ruggiero, 35, whose son was baptized by Father Hinds, called the priest “a wonderful man” and “an integral part of this community.”

The death made for “a very sad day,” said V. Nelson Vaughan III, Chatham’s mayor.

“This is almost unbelievable,” Mr. Vaughan said. “I’ve lived here since 1950, and this is the second homicide in town I know of. It’s a peaceful, quiet, friendly town.”

Mr. Bianchi, the prosecutor, said that Chatham’s last homicide occurred in 1990, and that was a case of aggravated manslaughter.

After hearing that a killer might be at large, some parents took their children out of the parish school.

Father Moran said the last time anyone remembered seeing Father Hinds was between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursday. The death is believed to have occurred between 11 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday, Mr. Bianchi said.

Mr. Bianchi said that Father Hinds attended a meeting on Thursday night, but he would not specify what that meeting was about. Separately, a meeting on school and public safety was held at the church on Thursday night, but Father Hinds did not attend, according to Mr. Bianchi and Father Moran.

Born in 1948 in Morristown, N.J., Father Hinds was ordained in 1974, in Rome, and earned a master’s degree in church administration from the Catholic University of America in Washington, according to the Diocese of Paterson. He first served in the St. Patrick parish from 1974 to 1978 and held a variety of posts elsewhere before he returned to St. Patrick’s as pastor in 2003, the diocese said.

In a statement, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli said: “We await the outcome of the official investigation regarding the circumstances of his death. We offer our support and prayers to the parishioners, families and friends of Father Hinds.”

    Priest Is Found Slain in New Jersey, NYT, 24.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/24/nyregion/24priest.html






School Violence Plan Focuses on Potential Victims


October 7, 2009
The New York Times


CHICAGO — The new chief officer of the public schools here, Ron Huberman, a former police officer and transit executive with a passion for data analysis, has a plan to stop the killings of the city’s public school students. And it does not have to do with guns or security guards. It has to do with statistics and probability.

The plan comes too late for Derrion Albert, the 16-year-old who was beaten to death recently with wood planks after getting caught on his way home between two rival South Side gangs, neither of which he was a member, the police said.

The slaying, captured on cellphone video and broadcast on YouTube among other places, has once again caused widespread grief over a seemingly intractable problem here: Derrion, a football player on the honor roll, was the third youth to die violently this academic year — the 67th since the beginning of the 2007 school year. And hundreds of others have survived shootings or severe beatings on their way to and from school.

But if Mr. Huberman’s hunch is right, about 10,000 high school students with the highest risk of becoming the next victims will be better off once his plan is in place this winter.

Financed by federal stimulus grants for two years, the $60 million plan uses a formula gleaned from an analysis of more than 500 students who were shot over the last several years to predict the characteristics of potential future victims, including when and where they might be attacked. While other big city school districts, including New York, have tried to focus security efforts on preventing violence, this plan goes further by identifying the most vulnerable students and saturating them with adult attention, including giving each of them a paid job and a local advocate who would be on call for support 24 hours a day.

From the study of the 500 shootings, Mr. Huberman said officials know that deadly violent outbursts are not truly random. The students at highest risk of violence, by statistics, are most likely to be black, male, without a stable living environment, in special education, skipping an average of 42 percent of school days at neighborhood and alternative schools, and having a record of in-school behavioral flare-ups that is about eight times higher than the average student.

Attacks have typically happened beyond a two-hour window from the start and end of school — that is, late at night or very early in the morning — and blocks away from school grounds, where neighborhood boundaries press against one another.

Within the three-dozen or so schools where 80 percent of the victims in the study attended classes, the plan calls for a rethinking of the security philosophy so that policies favor mental health strategies and prevention over policing and punishment. And officials are becoming more strategic about providing safe passage to school by keeping tabs on gang and clique activities in real time as their turf wars hopscotch around school catchment areas.

The new approach, which took a team of eight people six months to create, is the most detailed and expensive effort to be put to the test to date in Chicago. But made public last month, it is not without some controversy.

Public school parents on the South Side have grown weary of new plans as they watch the death toll for mostly minority children in poor neighborhoods rising. About 85 percent of the public school student population lives in poverty. Some question why only 10,000 students — a small fraction of the 410,000- student population — should get extra resources.

Chicago typically spends $55 million a year on security for what is the third largest school system in the nation. With the new plan, it will be spending $30 million a year on just the 10,000 adolescents most at risk.

“We’re living a nightmare, and the community is very upset,” said Stacey Willis, a parent of a high school sophomore.

Mr. Huberman said one of the inspirations for the new approach came from his years as a rapid response officer with the Chicago Police Department, but he is clear-eyed about the plan’s limitations in a school setting. Derrion Albert, a student in good standing, would not have been on a risk list, for instance. But, as the official thinking goes, perhaps his attackers would have been, and that could have made a life or death difference.

“What this model won’t do is get every kid who gets shot, but what it does do is give us a fighting chance to identify those kids who are most in trouble,” said Mr. Huberman, who was appointed in January after the previous schools chief, Arne Duncan, was tapped by the Obama administration to be secretary of education. Mr. Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder are scheduled on Wednesday to visit the school that Derrion Albert attended.

The youth safety issue has presented numerous school chiefs here a vexing paradox. As crime is down in general and the Chicago schools themselves are among the safest places for students to be — none of the recent killings has taken place on school grounds — children continue to be cut down in their neighborhoods, often on the way to or from school. Reinvigorated gang wars, some say from the large-scale demolition of public housing and the scattering of tenants, have turned some West and South Side areas into terrifying places for children to crisscross for school. Over the years, some of the shooting victims have been gang-affiliated, but many have not.

One was a 7-year-old waiting at a hamburger stand with her father.

“You can track where we’ve spent more or less money on security and initiatives, and it hasn’t helped,” Mr. Huberman said. “So we knew that fundamentally it was not going to make a difference for the kids. So we needed to alter how we do things.”

Other cities will be watching what Chicago does to try to solve its youth violence problem.

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a Washington-based coalition of the nation’s largest school systems, said education officials in Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Miami and other cities have also worked on reducing violence against students. “But the Chicago proposal strikes me as far more comprehensive than you often see in other cities,” he said.

The immediate challenge for Chicago is rolling out the complicated plan, which involves the coordination of various city departments and agencies and local nonprofits and community groups.

The students will also have “to bite,” as Mr. Huberman puts it. To help get their buy-in, the program includes part-time jobs for students who participate. (No student who participates would be publicly identified, officials said, except to the adults involved in his or her intervention.)

“We believe that if we can change the behavior of these 10,000 students,” Mr. Huberman said, “we’ll be able to make a significant difference in the level of violence in the city.”

    School Violence Plan Focuses on Potential Victims, NYT, 7.10.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/07/us/07chicago.html






4 Teenagers Charged in Youth’s Beating Death


September 29, 2009
The New York Times


CHICAGO — The videotaped beating death of a student last week has drawn renewed outrage over the level of violence facing students in Chicago, where 34 public school students were killed last school year.

Four teenagers were charged Monday with murder in the death of the student, Derrion Albert, 16, who the authorities said had unknowingly walked into the path of a brawl between rival groups.

Derrion, whose beating was captured by a passer-by on a widely broadcast amateur video that the police are studying, is the third student killed since the school year began, school officials said.

Prosecutors said Derrion, an honor roll student, was pummeled with wooden planks and kicked in the head after he found himself in the midst of a large fight on Thursday afternoon between two groups of youths a few blocks from his school, Christian Fenger Academy High School, on the South Side.

Prosecutors said the fight followed a shooting earlier in the day outside the school, involving the two groups.

Silvonus Shannon, 19; Eugene Riley, 18; Eugene Bailey, 17; and Eric Carson, 16, were charged with first-degree murder on Monday and held without bail. The police said the video helped them identify the suspects.

School officials here are starting a new anti-violence plan this fall and plan to provide extra counseling and assistance to schools and students seen as most likely to be involved in violence, said Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Public Schools. Officials were focusing on 38 schools with the most problems, including Fenger.

“This incident tells us that we have a lot of troubled youth that need help, and we need to figure out a way to give them the help that they need,” Ms. Bond said. At least 290 students were injured last year in shootings, she said, the most common form of violence against students.

On Monday, school officials met with dozens of leaders in Derrion’s neighborhood, Roseland, to discuss how they could protect students. They joined hundreds of people at an afternoon prayer vigil with his family outside a community center near where he was attacked.

Tio Hardiman, the director of the violence prevention group CeaseFire, met with the family of Derrion, who played on the football team. “We have to do our best to make sure these kids are not living in fear,” Mr. Hardiman said. “They are living in danger zones, and they don’t know who they can talk to when something comes up.”

    4 Teenagers Charged in Youth’s Beating Death, NYT, 29.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/us/29fight.html

    Related > http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/metro/police_question_student_derrion_albert






Coroner: 'Fed' Written in Pen on Ky. Census Worker


September 25, 2009
Filed at 1:32 p.m. ET
The New York Times


BIG CREEK, Ky. (AP) -- Authorities said a U.S. Census worker died by asphyxiation but were releasing few other details about the mysterious case nearly two weeks after Bill Sparkman's body -- with the word ''fed'' scrawled on the chest -- was found hanging from a tree near a family cemetery secluded by Appalachian forest.

The word was written with what appeared to be felt-tip pen, Clay County Coroner Jim Trosper said Friday. He did not elaborate.

The substitute teacher, 51, was discovered Sept. 12 in a remote patch of Daniel Boone National Forest in Clay County where he was working part-time for the government. Still, law enforcement officials weren't saying Thursday whether he was working at the time of his death or whether they believed it had anything to do with his job. Authorities have so far been unable to determine if it was an accidental death, homicide, or suicide.

Mary Hibbard, a teacher in Manchester, recalled Sparkman visiting her over the summer to ask typical Census questions, such as the size of her house and the average monthly utility bills. After she answered, she turned the questioning on him -- quizzing him about his faith and learning he had a strong belief in God.

She said she was shocked when she saw his picture on the news.

''I think the negative publicity of it is a stigma on our county,'' she said. ''It makes people think less of us, even though this is an isolated incident. When it happens here, it seems like it's emphasized.''

Authorities for the first time Thursday said the preliminary cause of death was asphyxiation, but even the details behind that were murky. According to a Kentucky State Police statement, the body was hanging from a tree with a noose around the neck, yet it was in contact with the ground.

The word ''fed'' had been scrawled on his chest, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the case.

There was no visual evidence of any crime -- or even any police investigation -- at the Hoskins family cemetery, which includes dozens of tombstones, many bearing the Hoskins name. It sits on a steep hill less than 200 yards from the narrow road that cuts through the forest.

At the entrance to the path leading there were two white rubber gloves, and there was other litter on the ground, including discarded soda cans and a children's toy.

Lucy Wagers, who owns a grocery store in the area, said her husband delivers mail around the cemetery, and she often goes with him. Never had she seen any strange activity there, nor noticed any police traffic, even after the body was found.

''Who would have done it like that around here?'' she said. ''I've been here 32 years and never had nobody bother me.''

Although anti-government sentiment was one possibility, some in law enforcement also cited the prevalence of drug activity in the area -- including meth labs and marijuana fields -- although they had no reason to believe there was a link to Sparkman's death.

''Now they're taking their meth lab operations into the rural, secluded areas,'' Clay County Sheriff Kevin Johnson said. ''We've had complaints in the area, but not that particular location.''

On one day last week, law enforcement in the county rounded up 40 drug suspects, most of them traffickers, Johnson said.

Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies in nearby Whitesburg, said the federal government has done ''precious little'' in Clay County other than building a federal prison in Manchester in the 1990s. But he is not aware of any deep-seated hatred of the government.

''Government is not seen as the enemy, except for people who might fear getting caught for what they're doing,'' he said.

University of Pittsburgh sociologist Kathleen Blee, co-author of a book about Clay County, says that when she heard of Sparkman's death, she initially wondered whether he had stumbled across a marijuana plot.

Pot growers seeking to avoid federal forfeiture statutes often plant their crops on national forest land and have even been known to booby-trap plots with explosives and rattlesnakes.

''Like any poor county, people are engaged in a variety of revenue sources,'' she said. ''Not all of them legal.''

Army retiree George Robinson did door-to-door census work in Clay County in 2000. No one ever threatened him, but some people questioned why the government needed to know some of the information, especially income, requested on the census form.

''You meet some strange people,'' he said. ''Nothing is a surprise in Clay County.''


Breed reported from Raleigh, N.C. Associated Press writers Roger Alford and Joe Biesk in Frankfort, Ky., Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Ky., and Devlin Barrett in Washington also contributed to this report.

    Coroner: 'Fed' Written in Pen on Ky. Census Worker, NYT, 25.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/25/us/AP-US-Census-Worker-Hanged.html






Calif. Horrorcore Rapper Suspected of Killing 4


September 21, 2009
Filed at 3:20 a.m. ET
The New York Times


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A 20-year-old California man calling himself Syko Sam rapped in his horrorcore lyrics on ''the best feeling'' derived from killing people slowly, watching their last breaths.

Richard Alden Samuel McCroskey III is now accused of killing a Virginia pastor, with authorities saying Sunday they expect to charge him in three more slayings at the home of a college professor. Police charged McCroskey of Castro Valley, Calif., with murder, robbery and stealing the automobile of Mark Niederbrock, a pastor at Walker's Presbyterian Church in Appomattox County.

Niederbrock has been tentatively identified as one of four people discovered Saturday in Farmville, about 50 miles west of Richmond, at the home of Longwood University professor Debra Kelley. Niederbrock and Kelley were separated, said Farmville police Capt. Wade Stimpson. He emphasized that the state medical examiner's office would not officially identify any of the victims until at least Monday.

McCroskey recorded horrorcore music, which sets violent lyrics to hip-hop beats, and his songs spoke of death, murder and mutilation. His MySpace Web page said he has only been rapping for a few months but has been a fan for years of the genre.

''You're not the first, just to let you know. I've killed many people and I kill them real slow. It's the best feeling, watching their last breath. Stabbing and stabbing till there's nothing left,'' McCroskey sings in ''My Dark Side.''

McCroskey will be formally charged with the other three killings once the bodies are identified, Stimpson said. He said ''there are a number of factors relating to why'' police couldn't identify the victims. He would not say how they were killed.

Police went to Kelley's home Thursday after a West Virginia woman called to say that it had been days since she heard from her teen daughter, who was staying with Kelley and Niederbrock's daughter, Emma, Stimpson said.

Investigators went to the home, where a man matching McCroskey's description told them the girls had gone to the movies. When the mother still didn't hear from her daughter Friday, police went to the home and found the bodies.

Police arrested McCroskey at the Richmond airport Saturday as he waited to take a plane back to California. He is being held in the Piedmont Regional Jail and has an initial court appearance on Monday to determine if he needs a court-appointed attorney.

Stimpson said messages posted online led police to believe McCroskey knew Emma Niederbrock and that he may have been visiting her.

On McCroskey's MySpace page, someone who goes by Ragdoll, which friends identified as Emma Niederbrock, wrote several messages to McCroskey. In a post dated Sept. 7, Niederbrock says she is excited for McCroskey's visit to her house.

''The next time you check your myspace, YOULL BE AT MY HOUSE!'' the post reads.

A friend said McCroskey, Emma and her friend were brought together by horrorcore music.

Andres Shrim, who owns the small, independent horrorcore music label Serial Killin Records in New Mexico and performs under the name SickTanicK, said he saw all three Sept. 12 at an all-day music festival in Southgate, Mich.

Shrim said despite the morbid music he and his friends loved, they were not violent people.

''You look at the music we do and it's kind of harsh and somewhat brutal at times, but there's a different side of life that people aren't normally accustomed to, and being an artist, I think it's important to see both sides of life,'' he said.

Shrim asked others not to judge McCroskey by the lyrics to his songs or his disturbing Web pages.

''This is not something from the Sam I know,'' he said. ''This is not something that I would ever, ever in a million years envision him doing.''

Stimpson called McCroskey's songs and writings ''a little disturbing,'' and said police were looking into that.

A phone message left Sunday at McCroskey's California home was not immediately returned.

    Calif. Horrorcore Rapper Suspected of Killing 4, NYT, 21.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/21/us/AP-US-Virginia-Killings.html






Relatives of California Mass Murderer Speaking Out


September 15, 2009
The New York Times
Filed at 12:15 a.m. ET


FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- More than four years after a central California man was sentenced to die for the rape and murder of his nine children, his wife and surviving descendants are speaking about what it was like living with him.

Marcus Wesson, who led a clan he bred through incest, was sentenced to death in 2005 for sexually molesting several of his children and killing nine of them in the family's Fresno home.

Surviving family members are describing a terrifying past.

Wesson's wife, Elizabeth, says she was 15 years old when the two were married. She claims Wesson had threatened to kill her if she ever left.

Thirty-four-year-old Adrian Wesson describes himself as ''mortally afraid'' of his father.

The comments come as the new book ''Where Hope Begins'' is due out describing the family's ordeal.


Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle 

    Relatives of California Mass Murderer Speaking Out, NYT, 15.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/15/us/AP-US-Fresno-Murders.html






Yale Killing Not a ‘Random Act,’ Police Say


September 15, 2009
The New York Times


NEW HAVEN — The police in New Haven believe the apparent slaying of a Yale graduate student “doesn’t appear to be a random act,” a police spokesman said, suggesting that she had been singled out.

The spokesman, Officer Joe Avery, said the police had no suspects and no one in custody. “We’re not questioning anybody,” he said.

The police believe a body found in a laboratory building near the Yale Medical School on Sunday night was that of a Annie Le, a 24-year-old graduate student. She disappeared last week. Surveillance video showed her entering the building around 10 a.m. Tuesday. None of the cameras trained on the building showed her leaving.

The case raised new fears about security on the main Yale campus, where even Ms. Le had weighed in on personal safety. In February, she wrote an article for a student magazine with tips on how to avoid becoming a crime victim.

“I always take precautions,” said Megan Quattlebaum, 28, a third-year law student. “New Haven is a city. It has city problems.”

But Leslie Tung of Kalamazoo, Mich., whose daughter has just entered Yale, said it would be “terrifically misguided to be walking around consumed by fear.”

“I don’t think you can worry about living in a college setting, or else you stop living,” he said.

He said he was not worried about his daughter. “She knows to lock her door and be careful,” he said.

Ms. Le’s absence was first noticed on Tuesday, after her purse — with her identification, her cellphone and some money — was found in her office, in another Yale building a few blocks away. Investigators watched hours of video from dozens of cameras around the building and saw someone matching her description — a young woman in a bright green T-shirt and a brown skirt — going in.

The body was found on what was supposed to have been her wedding night.

The discovery ended a six-day search for Ms. Le, whose disappearance began with speculation of a runaway bride but quickly gave way to near-certainty that a crime had been committed.

Ms. Le was seen on surveillance video entering the lab building, Amistad Hall, a half-dozen blocks south of the Yale campus, at 10 a.m. Tuesday, but there were no images of her leaving the building.

Her disappearance recalled a troubling case from December 1998 that has never been closed: the stabbing death of Suzanne Jovin, 21, a Yale senior whose body was found in a neighborhood not far from the campus.

Ms. Le had done her undergraduate work in bioscience at the University of Rochester, where she met Jonathan Widawsky, now a graduate student at Columbia University. They planned to be married on Sunday at a catering hall in Syosset, N.Y. They had invited more than 160 guests. Mr. Widawsky was not considered a suspect and was said to have cooperated with the police in New Haven.

By Thursday, Yale officials said that more than 100 law enforcement officials were looking for Ms. Le. A $10,000 reward was posted for her whereabouts.

By Friday, family members had canceled the wedding.

On Saturday, the police reportedly found bloody clothes above ceiling tiles in the lab building, though other reports said the clothes were not the same ones Ms. Le was last seen wearing. On Monday, Officer Avery, the police spokesman confirmed that clothes had been found in the ceiling but would not say if the police knew whose they were.

On Sunday, the search appeared to have moved to a waste-processing facility on the industrial fringe of Hartford where trash from much of New Haven, as well of the rest of the state, is burned to generate electric power. Officials did not say if they had found anything there.

But investigators, armed with blueprints of the new four-story building on Amistad Street that houses three of Yale’s research programs, continued searching every literal nook and cranny of the building for clues.


Robert Davey, Angela Macropoulos, Andy Newman and Sarah Wheaton contributed reporting.

    Yale Killing Not a ‘Random Act,’ Police Say, NYT, 15.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/nyregion/15yale.html






Minn. Town Struggles With Toddler's Church Slaying


September 9, 2009
Filed at 4:05 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WHEATON, Minn. (AP) -- Aundrea Brownlow's father says he's forgiven the man who came to Thy Kingdom Come World Ministries swinging a baseball bat that landed a fatal blow to the 14-month-old girl's head. Her death marked a tragic end to an argument over a $20 debt and a donated washer and dryer.

Still, some residents of Wheaton, a town of about 1,400 near Minnesota's border with the Dakotas, say greater scrutiny of the church and its pastor's criminal history are needed to prevent future confrontations.

David Collins, 50, of Wheaton, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in Aundrea's death last Thursday. He also faces charges of attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault against her father, Claude Hankins.

The men had argued earlier over $20 and the washer and dryer given to Hankins by the Rev. Danny Barnes, who started the church nearly five years ago as a welcoming place for people down on their luck.

''I was very angry at first, which I believe is part of the initial shock,'' Hankins said inside the church where fellow congregants prepared for his daughter's Wednesday funeral. ''What happens if you keep that anger in you and you don't forgive somebody, it's going to stop you from having a productive anything.''

Darryl Kennedy, 42, of Wheaton, also is charged with second-degree assault in the case. Authorities said Kennedy loaned Collins the baseball bat and later showed up at the church and swung at Hankins with a 4-foot-long 2x4.

Collins and Kennedy, who are in custody, have been granted public defenders but were not immediately assigned attorneys.

Barnes said he planned to ''attack the true culprit in this particular incident'' in his Wednesday eulogy for Aundrea.

''We believe that it was the spirit of addiction,'' he said. ''It was enhanced by alcohol and drugs.''

Hankins said he could ''smell the alcohol reeking off'' Collins on the day of the attack and Barnes also said Collins appeared to be under the influence. Collins' wife, Melissa, said Tuesday night that her husband had no comment.

Barnes, 53, touts Thy Kingdom Come's yearlong program to help people, especially those battling addiction, clean up their lives. He said there are about 70 registered members, many of whom were referred to the church by shelters, jails, hospitals, treatment programs and other agencies.

Barnes said his own rap sheet includes arrests in at least five states, making him qualified to help others who make mistakes.

''I was the most violent, the most sexually perverse, the most adulterated,'' Barnes said, declining to elaborate on his crimes. ''It's my belief I was one of the worst sinners and Jesus Christ saved me from my wretched mind. But this is not a Danny Barnes issue. It's about the parents and the little baby who lost her life.''

Some residents say the issues are indeed related. Todd Amborn said he was saddened but not surprised to hear about the violence inside the church, where Wheaton police have responded to numerous complaints.

''Right now he's running damage control for the church,'' said Amborn, who has lived in Wheaton for about 20 years and said many residents want Barnes and his church to leave.

Barnes said he's not going anywhere.

''We believe that there's going to be people in the community and in other denominations who want to find fault or take issue with what took place and take the low road,'' he said. ''But we intend to stay together.''

Hankins said the argument started after he called Collins to arrange a time to pick up the washer and dryer, which was being stored on Collins' porch. Hankins said he had been living at the church for most of nine months but recently closed on a house. Collins became angry about the washer and dryer because Hankins owed him $20, Hankins said.

On Thursday, Collins confronted Hankins at a thrift store and the two had to be separated, according to a criminal complaint.

Collins then went to Kennedy's apartment, where Kennedy loaned him a baseball bat, and to the church, where Hankins was attending a prayer service, Police Chief Michael Johannsen wrote in the complaint.

Collins confronted Hankins at the back of the church while Hankins was trying to seat his daughter and began swinging the bat over Hankins' head, Johannsen wrote. One blow hit Aundrea in the head above her right ear, the complaint states.

Collins fled to Kennedy's, where he threw away the bat, and then to Brookings S.D., 100 miles away, where Barnes found him hours later at a bar.

Hankins called Collins' anger out of character: ''We're talking about a guy that cooked dinner for the church here that I wouldn't mind sending my daughter to the store with or going by his house to play with the dog.''

    Minn. Town Struggles With Toddler's Church Slaying, NYT, 9.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/09/us/AP-US-Fighting-Men-Dead-Toddler.html






Minn. Man Accused of Killing Toddler With Bat


September 8, 2009
Filed at 12:23 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WHEATON, Minn. (AP) -- A court official says a man accused of killing a 14-month-old girl with a baseball bat during an attack in a western Minnesota church will be charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

Traverse County District Court deputy administrator Cindy Blasing says prosecutors also plan to charge David Collins on Tuesday with two counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault. She says another man, Darryl Kennedy, will be charged with second-degree assault.

Prosecutors say Collins attacked the girl's father, Claude Hankins, with a bat on Thursday at a church in Wheaton, which is on Minnesota's border with the Dakotas. Kennedy was armed with a 2-by-4.

Collins' wife has said her husband didn't see the baby when he swung the bat.

    Minn. Man Accused of Killing Toddler With Bat, 8.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/08/us/AP-US-Fighting-Men-Dead-Toddler.html






After ’91 Kidnapping, Community Lost Its Confidence


September 7, 2009
The New York Times


SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Jaycee Dugard had lived in South Lake Tahoe for less than a year before being yanked into a car and held hostage for almost two decades. She is now 29, and her memories of the area — the 60-foot pine trees shading her house, the chickens she kept there, her friends at school — may be fragments in her mind. But in her absence, she has loomed large in the lives of people here.

On Sunday, the wood railings of her family’s old house were wrapped in pink ribbons. Along Lake Tahoe Boulevard, fronting the vast lake, pink bows and balloons festooned tree trunks, telephone poles and the clothes of about 2,000 people who gathered to march in honor of her being found.

Neither Ms. Dugard nor her immediate family members attended, though they were aware of the event, said Erika Schulte, a spokeswoman for the family. But the parade was not solely for them, said Karen Gillis-Tinlin, who was principal of Jaycee’s elementary school in 1991.

“There’s a sadness that this happened here,” Ms. Gillis-Tinlin said. “It changed Tahoe forever. Some of us want to connect with that.”

Angela Gooch, 30, owns a hair salon in this town of about 30,000. She grew up here and had friends in common with Jaycee.

“We’re a small community,” Ms. Gooch said. “Not one person who grew up here doesn’t know her name.” The case “consumed us,” she said.

In the years right after Jaycee’s abduction, said Ms. Gooch, the missing girl was still a peer, a classmate in jeopardy just out of reach. But she remained frozen in time. As the case went cold, she said, “Jaycee” became as much an idea as a person. The pink ribbons that sprouted each year on bushes, backpacks and car antennas marked the fear that what happened had “changed things forever,” said Ms. Gooch, as much as they honored Jaycee’s memory.

“As a kid, I would go into the forest with friends and we would try to find her,” said Ms. Gooch, “and I began to associate her with the forest.” Even as an adult, she said, she would think of Jaycee while hiking. “But she was still little, and I had grown up.”

Stephanie Russell, 29, lived two blocks from Ms. Dugard and shared a school bus with her. For almost a year, she said over the phone from Santa Rosa, Calif., they would spend most afternoons at each other’s homes, feeding the chickens that Jaycee kept under her porch, or playing games in the trees. “She was shy, and I was shy,” Ms. Russell said.

The week before the abduction, she said, Jaycee’s parents had conferred with hers and decided to allow the girls to walk alone and “meet in the middle” between their homes. “It was a huge moment,” Ms. Russell said. “I remember the excitement of seeing her walk toward me.”

Jaycee was snatched as she climbed the hill to her bus stop in June 1991. A convicted sex offender, Phillip Garrido, and his wife, Nancy, have been charged in the case.

Jaycee was in the fifth grade, and for years after she was taken, her classmates carried her with them like a phantom limb, said Ms. Gillis-Tinlin. “They gave speeches about her at their high school graduation,” she said. “There was always that connection.”

Most teenagers around town now were not born when Jaycee was kidnapped, said Duane Wallace, who ran an after-school program that Jaycee attended “once or twice.” But they have heard about the girl who vanished.

“The kids around here never fully told their parents how much it terrified them,” Mr. Wallace said at a football game on Saturday. “But I saw it change them. I saw how scared they were.”

Some of Jaycee’s classmates are raising their own children now. Many keep their daughters and sons close, said Ms. Gooch, whose daughter is 10, and use Jaycee as a cautionary tale.

The story, told repeatedly for almost two decades, included monsters befitting a gothic fairytale. The police sketches of the kidnappers — with sunken eyes and hollow cheeks — seeped into the nightmares of children here, Ms. Gooch said.

Some of the loathing was misplaced. Carl Probyn, Jaycee’s stepfather, became the target of communal anger and confusion as months and years passed with no end to the search. “People were mean to her stepdad,” Ms. Gooch said. “They thought he was involved. Everyone boycotted him from everything. He used to do wallpaper jobs for people, but not after that.”

In Santa Rosa, Ms. Russell flipped through a scrapbook she had kept with news clippings, fliers, wilted pink ribbons and photographs of her with Jaycee. “I always thought of her,” she said. “It makes me sick to think that during those amazing moments, the milestones in your life, she was locked away somewhere.”

Ms. Russell added quietly, “I want to finish this book now, to end what I started when I was younger.”

    After ’91 Kidnapping, Community Lost Its Confidence, NYT, 7.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/07/us/07tahoe.html






Man Who Called 911 Charged in Georgia Deaths


September 4, 2009
Filed at 11:41 p.m. ET
The New York Times


BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) -- A man who told authorities ''My whole family's dead!'' in a frantic 911 call was charged Friday with killing the eight people attacked in his family's mobile home in coastal Georgia.

Guy Heinze Jr., 22, was arrested Friday on eight counts of first-degree murder in the slayings last weekend at a mobile home park a few miles north of Brunswick, a port city midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla. Among those killed were seven of Heinze's relatives.

Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering would not say what evidence led police to charge Heinze, who was returned to the county jail Friday less than two hours after his release on bond on lesser charges.

The chief also declined to say whether police think Heinze acted alone or with others.

''Right now, I don't know,'' Doering said. ''I do know he's involved... I would have not allowed him to be arrested if I was not comfortable with that.''

Doering said he wasn't sure Heinze was responsible for the deaths until late Friday afternoon when two new pieces of evidence became available, but he wouldn't say what they were.

In the call to emergency dispatchers early Aug. 29, Heinze said he'd come home to find the bodies and that it appeared the victims had been beaten to death. Seven were found dead at the scene, an eighth died at a hospital, and the attack's only survivor remained hospitalized after being critically injured.

''It's the most heinous crime we've ever had in this community,'' said Doering, who insists that revealing details about the slayings could jeopardize the investigation.

Police haven't released causes of death for the victims. But Doering identified the lone survivor as 3-year-old Byron Jimmerson Jr., the son of one of the slain women.

Hours after the bodies were found, Heinze was charged with evidence tampering, lying to police and drug possession, but police didn't say until Friday that they suspected him of the killings. The arrest warrant for the evidence tampering charge says Heinze admitted removing a shotgun from the home and trying to hide it from police in the trunk of his car. He told police he thought the gun was stolen.

Heinze was arrested Friday as family members of the slain victims gathered for a funeral home visitation the night before they were to be buried Saturday.

The dead included the suspect's father, Guy Heinze Sr., 45; his uncle, Rusty Toler Sr., 44; and his aunt Brenda Gail Falagan, 49. Also slain were Toler Sr.'s four children -- Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell D. Toler Jr., 20; Michael Toler, 19; and Michelle Toler, 15.

Chrissy Toler's boyfriend, Joseph L. West, 30, was also killed and her 3-year-old son was hospitalized.

A phone message left for Heinze Jr.'s attorney, Ron Harrison, was not immediately returned. Harrison said earlier this week that Heinze denied any part in the killings.

Clint Rowe, who has been acting as a spokesman for the family, said he learned of the arrests while at a public visitation for the victims, saying it was ''definitely a surprise.''

''I'm floored right now,'' Rowe, who is an uncle to the Toler children, said from the funeral home. ''But right now it's just an arrest. We have to see where this thing takes us so I'm going to keep my mouth shut until the Glynn County Police Department informs us of more.''

The manager of the New Hope Plantation mobile home park where the slayings occurred said the arrest still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

''I'm feeling just like everyone else is right now, we're all shocked,'' said Gail Montgomery. ''We don't know what any of the circumstances are. We don't know if there was more than one or if it was him by himself.''


Associated Press Writer Desiree Hunter in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this report.

    Man Who Called 911 Charged in Georgia Deaths, NYT, 5.9.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/04/us/AP-US-Mobile-Home-Slayings.html






7 Dead and 2 Injured at a Georgia Mobile Home


August 30, 2009
The New York Times


Seven people were found dead and two others critically injured Saturday at a mobile home near Brunswick, Ga., the police said.

The deaths are being treated as homicides, officials said Saturday, and the two survivors were taken to a hospital in Savannah.

Officers from the Glynn County Police Department discovered the bodies at a residence at the New Hope Plantation Mobile Home Park after receiving a 911 call shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday.

“This is a record for us,” said the Glynn County police chief, Matt Doering, as reported by The Associated Press.

“We’ve never had such an incident with so many victims,” Chief Doering said, adding, “It’s not a scene that I would want anybody to see.”

Chief Doering said that the police were working on leads to identify a suspect but that no arrests had been made as of Saturday afternoon.

Officials said that some of the victims had been tentatively identified, but their names would not be released until family members had been notified.

The mobile home park has about 100 spaces, according to its Web site. It is on Highway 17, a mile east of Interstate 95 and nine miles north of Brunswick.

The police said in a news release that they were withholding further information to avoid jeopardizing the investigation.

Lisa Vizcaino, who has lived at New Hope for three years, said that the management worked hard to keep troublemakers out of the mobile home park and that it tended to be quiet, according to The A.P.

Ms. Vizcaino did not know the victims, she said.

“New Hope isn’t run down or trashy at all,” Ms. Vizcaino said.

“It’s the kind of place,” she said, “where you can actually leave your keys in the car and not worry about anything.”

    7 Dead and 2 Injured at a Georgia Mobile Home, NYT, 30.8.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/30/us/30georgia.html






Kidnapped at 11, Woman Emerges After 18 Years


August 28, 2009
The New York Times


ANTIOCH, Calif. — A woman who was kidnapped as an 11-year-old in 1991 was reunited with her family on Thursday after the police here arrested two suspects in the case and discovered a hidden compound where she had apparently been kept for nearly two decades.

The woman, Jaycee Dugard, was dragged into a car on her way to a bus stop 18 years ago as her stepfather watched helplessly from the family home in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. The police could find no trace of the car, or Ms. Dugard, a blond, blue-eyed girl last seen wearing a pink windbreaker and stretch pants.

On Wednesday, the police arrested Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy, and charged them with Ms. Dugard’s abduction.

Mr. Garrido, a convicted sex offender who was on federal parole for a 1971 rape and kidnapping, was also charged with rape and acts of child molestation and sexual penetration of a minor. The police said that he had apparently fathered two girls — now 11 and 15 — with Ms. Dugard.

Ms. Dugard, 29, and her two children had apparently lived in a collection of ragged tents and sheds secreted behind the Garridos’ home, a ranch-style house in a ramshackle neighborhood in an unincorporated area outside Antioch, a Bay Area suburb of 100,000.

“None have ever gone to school; none have ever gone to a doctor,” Fred Kollar, the under sheriff for El Dorado County, said at an afternoon press conference. “They were kept in complete isolation.”

The break in the case came Tuesday afternoon when a University of California, Berkeley, police officer noticed Mr. Garrido trying to hand out religious literature on campus and asked him for identification. A check of police databases revealed that Mr. Garrido, 58, was on parole.

On Wednesday, Mr. Garrido was called to a parole office in Concord, about 35 miles east of San Francisco, for a meeting with his case officer. At that meeting, Mr. Kollar said, Mr. Garrido brought the two children, his wife and Ms. Dugard, who was using the name Allissa.

Mr. Kollar said the parole officer, who had visited the Garridos’ home on numerous occasions, had never seen Allissa or the children and was suspicious. At some point in the interview on Wednesday, Ms. Dugard apparently told the parole agent her true identity, and both she and the Garridos revealed information known “only by the victim and kidnappers.” The Garridos were subsequently arrested and were to be arraigned on Friday.

Ms. Dugard’s mother, Terry Probyn, was told on Wednesday that her daughter was alive and apparently in good health, and she flew to the Bay Area on Thursday morning to meet her.

Ms. Dugard’s stepfather, Carl Probyn, reacted with relief and with anger, telling reporters that he wanted the Garridos — and accomplices, if any — “prosecuted to the hilt.”

Mr. Probyn said he had no doubts that the woman was his stepdaughter. “She answered all the right questions. That’s why DNA isn’t necessary,” he said, adding that Ms. Probyn, Ms. Dugard, Ms. Dugard’s sister and her aunt were staying at a Bay Area hotel. “It’s her. We know.”

On Thursday, Mr. Garrido told KCRA-NBC in Sacramento that “it’s a disgusting thing that took place with me at the beginning” but that he had redeemed himself. “My life has been straightened out,” he said.

While officials said that they were shocked by the secret compound, neighbors said they had known that Mr. Garrido had structures behind his house. But they had no idea anyone was living there.

“I knew he was always strange,” said Diane Doty, whose back fence was adjacent to the compound. “But I never saw the girl.”

Another neighbor, Heather McQuaid-Glace, said that children had long known to avoid Mr. Garrido — his registration as a sex offender was online and known among parents — but that nothing had aroused suspicion that a crime might be ongoing.

“We never heard screaming; we never heard anyone crying for help,” Ms. McQuaid-Glace said.

Mr. Garrido gave a telephone interview from jail to station KCRA in Sacramento, saying, "In the end, this is going to be a powerful, heartwarming story."

"My life has been straightened out” in recent years, he said. “Wait till you hear the story of what took place at this house. You’re going to be absolutely impressed. It’s a disgusting thing that took place with me at the beginning, but I turned my life completely around."

In a posting on a blog associated with the God’s Desire church, Mr. Garrido told of his ability to control sound.

“I Phillip Garrido have clearly demonstrated the ability to control sound with my mind and have developed a device for others to witness this phenomena,” he wrote. “I have produced a set of voices by effectively controlling the sound to pronounce words through my own mental powers.”

On Thursday, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies were combing Mr. Garrido’s compound.

In one tent, a bouquet of yellow flowers was visible through a window. In front of another, a pair of children’s pink pajama bottoms had been removed and laid out by agents, near an evidence tag. Several ragged lawn chairs were laid about, as was a couch, a well-used barbecue, and several parched garden plants. On one shed, a heart-shape wall hanging was painted with the word “spring.”

Mr. Kollar said that the car believed to have been used in the kidnapping had also been found in the secret backyard area, which he said was strategically arranged “to isolate the victims” and not visible from the street.

Ms. Doty’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Megan, said that she had always found the area behind the fence “creepy,” but that she did not feel that way Thursday. “Finally,” Megan said, “I’m not scared anymore.”


Jesse McKinley reported from Antioch, and Carol Pogash from Placerville, Calif. Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

    Kidnapped at 11, Woman Emerges After 18 Years, NYT, 28.8.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/28/us/28abduct.html






Baby Girl Cut From Mom's Womb Is Found; 2 Arrested


July 30, 2009
Filed at 4:15 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) -- A baby girl cut from her mother's womb was found and a woman arrested after acquaintances became suspicious of her claims that she was the baby's mother, police said.

The body of the girl's mother was found Monday in a closet at her Worcester apartment. It was not until an autopsy that authorities discovered the fetus was missing.

The girl appeared to be in ''fairly good health'' at a New Hampshire hospital Wednesday, Worcester Police Sgt. Kerry Hazelhurst said.

Julie Corey, 35, of Worcester, Mass., and a male companion were arrested in Plymouth, N.H., where police found them with the child. Corey was charged as a fugitive from justice and is to be arraigned in district court in Concord, N.H., on Thursday. She was in custody and could not be reached for comment late Wednesday, and Worcester police did not know whether she had a lawyer. Police in New Hampshire said the man was released.

Police said Corey had reportedly gone to New Hampshire to relocate. A newspaper report said she arrived at a Plymouth homeless shelter Tuesday night. She told workers there that the girl was 6 days old and identified herself as the mother but had no information on the child, according to the Union Leader in New Hampshire.

Corey was arrested the next afternoon as she tried to leave the shelter with the infant after workers alerted police and a nurse began photographing the baby with her cell phone, the report said.

The baby's mother, Darlene Haynes, was eight months pregnant. Her body was found by her landlord, William Thompson, who said a ''horrifying smell'' led him to her apartment, where he found her body wrapped in bedding in a closet. Her death was ruled a homicide.

''It's horrific,'' Thompson said Wednesday. ''There's no words to describe what's going on in this building today.''

The exact cause of Haynes' death has yet to be determined pending toxicology tests, but Worcester Police Detective Capt. Edward J. McGinn Jr. said the autopsy indicated Haynes suffered head injuries.

Police said the 23-year-old had apparently been dead for several days, and that she hadn't contacted family or friends since Thursday.

Haysha Toledo, a 17-year-old neighbor, said neighbors used to hear fighting from the apartment Haynes shared until recently with her boyfriend, Roberto Rodriguez.

''We used to hear her crying and screaming but no one ever really did anything,'' Toledo said, adding that neighbors did not want to get involved.

Haynes had a restraining order against Rodriguez, who allegedly pushed her into a glass table in June and cut her arm, then grabbed her by the throat and slapped her, according to court records. Court records also showed Rodriguez was charged with hitting Haynes in 2008 in a case that was continued without a finding.

In June, Haynes described the 24-year-old Rodriguez as her boyfriend of several years. Her landlord said Rodriguez moved out of the apartment last month.

Rodriguez was interviewed by authorities. He told WCVB-TV that Haynes was ''a nice girl.''

''She had her problems, you know, but nobody deserves to go (through) what she went through,'' he said.

Family members said she had three other children.

Her youngest, an 18-month-old girl, is in state custody, according to Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Alison Goodwin. Family members had been looking after her.

Karl Whitney, Haynes' uncle who is acting as a spokesman for the family, said Haynes' grandmother, Joanne Haynes, is raising the two other children, Jasmine, 5, and Lillian, 3.

He told the Telegram & Gazette that Haynes had picked the name Sheila Marie for her fourth child.


Associated Press writer Jeannie Nuss and Rodrique Ngowi in Boston contributed to this report.

    Baby Girl Cut From Mom's Womb Is Found; 2 Arrested, NYT, 30.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/30/us/AP-US-Cut-From-Womb.html






Police: Woman Accused of Killing Newborn Ate Brain


July 27, 2009
Filed at 1:14 p.m. ET
The New York Times


SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- San Antonio police say a woman accused of beheading her 3 1/2-week-old infant son used a knife and two swords in the attack and ate some of the child's body parts.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told reporters Monday that Otty Sanchez's attack on her son, Scott Wesley Buchholtz-Sanchez, was ''too heinous'' to fully discuss.

But he says Sanchez ate part of the newborn's brain and bit off three of his toes before stabbing herself twice.

Police say the 33-year-old Sanchez told officers who were called to her house early Sunday that she killed her son at the Devil's request.

Sanchez is charged with capital murder and is being held on $1 million bail. She is recovering from her wounds at a hospital.




THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A Texas woman accused of decapitating her 3 1/2-week-old son has been charged with capital murder and is being held on $1 million bail.

Otty Sanchez has not appeared in court or been arraigned on the charges.

Police say officers were called to the 33-year-old Sanchez's home in San Antonio early Sunday and found her sitting on her couch screaming that she had killed her son at the devil's request. They found the mutilated body of Scott Wesley Buchholtz-Sanchez in a bedroom. Two other children were found unharmed in the home.

Investigators removed a sword, machete and knife from the home.

Sanchez was hospitalized with self-inflicted stab wounds to her chest and stomach. Investigators don't believe the wounds are life-threatening.

    Police: Woman Accused of Killing Newborn Ate Brain, NYT, 27.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/27/us/AP-US-Baby-Decapitated.html






Man charged after 6 found slain in Tenn., Ala.


18 July 2009
USA Today


FAYETTEVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — A southern Tennessee woman and her husband, who is accused of killing her and five other people in two states, had been having marital troubles and were not living together, a man who says he knew the couple told the Associated Press on Sunday.

Jacob Shaffer, 30, faces six counts of homicide. His wife, 38-year-old Traci Shaffer, her son, Devin Brooks, and neighbor, Robert Berber, both 16, were found dead Saturday in her home in rural Fayetteville, said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm. The bodies of Traci Shaffer's brother, Chris Hall, 34, and father Billy Hall, 57, were found in a home across the road. Jacob Shaffer is also accused in a killing at a business in Huntsville, Ala., about 30 miles south.

The Shaffers were no longer sharing a home but had not filed for separation, said 29-year-old James Wilson, who was gathering belongings from Traci's home in Lincoln County. He said he is the boyfriend of Shaffer's sister, Jennifer.

The Shaffers had a 4-year-old daughter, and Wilson said police told him the girl was home during the killings but wasn't hurt. Wilson told the AP that he met Jacob Shaffer when they were installing drywall, but they had stopped being friends about a year and a half ago.

Shaffer was still installing drywall around Huntsville, and Billy Hall had been driving him back and forth to work before the couple split, Wilson said. The sixth victim was found at Hall Cultured Marble Granite, which Hall's family owns, Wilson said. The business was closed Sunday.

"Her dad done everything he could for Jacob," Wilson said. "I have no idea why he walked across the street to her daddy and her brother. Her daddy never done anything wrong."

Helm said Shaffer's motive was domestic, but authorities have not released a chronology of the killings or many details, including how the six died.

Wilson said the couple had "gotten into it" as far as fighting, but he never would have expected such violence.

"As far as seeing him do something like this, you just can't see it," Wilson said.

Traci's slain son and a 9-year-old daughter, who wasn't home during the killings, were from a previous relationship, Wilson said.

Jacob Shaffer of Fayetteville was being held without bond at the Lincoln County Jail and no lawyer for him was listed.

Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder said Saturday that his department was investigating three crime scenes and would not confirm the causes of death in what he called "horrendous" killings and "one of the worst crimes Lincoln County has seen." Autopsies were being performed Sunday and Wilson said police wouldn't tell him how the family was killed.

Helm said the family members died Friday night or early Saturday and that Jacob Shaffer was sitting on the porch of one of the houses when authorities first arrived. Huntsville police said information from him led them to the body at the granite business. They have not released the name of the sixth victim.

At Lincoln Memorial Presbyterian Church, just up the road from the crime scenes, members discussed what little they knew about the killings.

"It sent cold chills down my spine," Mary Jane Thompson said of the deaths about four miles from her home.

Killing two teenagers was especially difficult for her to understand.

"I don't see why anybody would want to kill children," Thompson said. "It's just so sad."

A neighbor said the family had moved into the homes earlier this year. Children's toys lay in the yard of one after police finished investigating near the town of 7,000 people about 90 miles south of Nashville near the Tennessee-Alabama border.

Wilson refused a request to talk to Traci Shaffer's sister, saying she was devasted by the loss.

"She's not handling it and I can't blame her," he said. "What can you say to someone who has lost everybody?"

    Man charged after 6 found slain in Tenn., Ala., UT, 18.7.2009, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-07-18-tennessee-slayings_N.htm






Police: Conn. Kidnapper Was on a 'Suicide Mission'


July 9, 2009
Filed at 11:13 a.m. ET
The New York Times


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- An advertising executive who handcuffed his ex-wife and held her hostage inside their home was on a ''suicide mission,'' printing out piles of papers on how to kill himself before setting the house on fire, police said.

Richard Shenkman spent most of Tuesday handcuffed to his hostage, ex-wife Nancy Tyler, and had downloaded piles of paperwork from the Internet on how to kill himself, according to a report by Michael Prescher with the South Windsor Police Services' criminal investigations unit that was released Wednesday night.

The paperwork included a variety of means for committing suicide, including carbon monoxide poisoning, hanging and blowing up a house with explosives, the report said.

Shenkman, 60, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon while shackled to his hospital bed in a Connecticut emergency room. He was heavily sedated and surrounded by police, corrections officers and security guards as Judge Brad Ward set bond at $12.5 million, defense attorney Hugh Keefe said.

''He's been fading in and out of consciousness,'' Keefe said. ''But he was mentally alert enough for Judge Ward to arraign him.''

Shenkman was released from Hartford Hospital later Wednesday and brought to the MacDougall-Walker prison in Suffield, according to the state Correction Department. He is due in court July 14.

The bedside arraignment took place less than a day after Shenkman held police at bay for 13 hours, telling negotiators he would blow up the two-story house with 65 pounds of explosives, authorities said.

Tyler escaped at about 9:30 p.m. with handcuffs dangling from one wrist and marks on her face from ''the barrel of a handgun being pressed hard against her,'' Prescher said.

Shenkman then allegedly set the house ablaze and used the cover of the growing flames to dart in and out of view, taunting police.

Police said he would point his handgun at himself or outside to fire off shots, at one point shouting ''Shoot me! Shoot me!''

He was taken into custody after police shot beanbag rounds at Shenkman and knocked the gun out of his hand at around midnight, authorities said.

He has been charged with kidnapping, arson, reckless endangerment and the illegal discharge of a weapon.

The standoff was just one of many chaotic episodes in the history of a man described by authorities as a threatening, angry ex-husband. He already faced charges of setting fire to another Connecticut house in 2007 rather than turn it over to Tyler.

Court records say Shenkman frequently violated a protective order and repeatedly threatened Tyler's life and his own, saying the only way they would become divorced was if one of them died.

Voice mail messages, e-mails and handwritten notes in the divorce case file show Shenkman's intense mental anguish.

''I am totally broke. In money. Mind and spirit. All I have left is the ability to shout to the world what you and Nancy have done to me, her children and herself,'' Shenkman wrote in a July 2007 e-mail to Tyler's attorney.

At times, he used those messages to paint himself as a needy, groveling victim: ''I need help praying. You and I could say a prayer together ... Please call me, please call me, please call me. Please,'' he begged in a voice mail to Tyler.

Frequently, he alluded to suicide: ''Nancy, I want to call you back and give you a location. You can call the police and have them go there and find me,'' he said in another voice mail message.

Often, however, he was menacing: ''My goal is to destroy everything because she has destroyed my family and me,'' Shenkman wrote in a May 2007 e-mail to Tyler's attorney.

Shenkman and Tyler, 57, married in 1993. Court records show it was a third marriage for him and a second for her.

After three years of contentious divorce proceedings, a judge granted the divorce last year, but Shenkman has been appealing. On Tuesday, the state Appellate Court rejected Shenkman's appeal.

Later that day, a Hartford Superior Court judge was expected to evict him from the home

On Wednesday, Tyler returned to the rubble of the home and walked the property with a police escort and her two children.

    Police: Conn. Kidnapper Was on a 'Suicide Mission', NYT, 9.7.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/09/us/AP-US-Divorce-Hostage.html






Ohio Coroner: Head and Arms Found in Man's Freezer


June 26, 2009
Filed at 11:50 a.m. ET
The New York Times


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- An Ohio coroner says the head and arms of a woman were found in the freezer of the man charged with killing her.

Columbus police say other remains were found in trash bins, a pond and brush around an apartment complex on the city's southwest side.

Police were called Wednesday night after a maintenance worker found what he thought were body parts in the pond. Police have charged 50-year-old Robert Knight with murder in the death of 44-year-old Tracey Moore, who lived with him at the complex.

The coroner, Jan Gorniak, says she may wait to perform the autopsy until more remains are found.

Knight was in court Friday morning and made no comment as a judge set bond at $2 million. Court records do not list an attorney for him.


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

    Ohio Coroner: Head and Arms Found in Man's Freezer, NYT, 26.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/06/26/us/AP-US-Remains-Apartment-Complex.html





In a Suburban Gangland, Young Lives Cut Short


June 21, 2009
The New York Times



THE phone rang at 4 p.m., just as Francisco Dueñas was leaving his house here on a tidy Long Island block with trimmed hedges. He had no time to talk. He was serving at a wedding reception that started in half an hour, and was already dressed in his tuxedo with the sleeves pulled down over his tattooed arms.

Francisco answered anyway. He recognized the number as belonging to El Niño, a 15-year-old nicknamed for his baby face whom Francisco had taken under his wing the year before, tutoring him in the rules of his gang, Salvadorans With Pride.

“They just stabbed Mikey on the handball court,” the boy said. He sounded panicked.

“Who did?” Francisco asked.

El Niño answered with a curse in Spanish: the slang they used to refer to their rival gang, Mara Salvatrucha.

Mikey — Michael Alguera — was also 15, the younger brother of a friend Francisco had known since middle school. Francisco, now 20, had played hundreds of handball games on the court between Hempstead High School and the Garden City golf course. He usually lost when he was matched up against Mikey, a handball whiz.

The kid was not in a gang, and he was too good-natured to have enemies. Even El Niño was just a wannabe, who aspired to join Francisco’s gang.

Francisco had been seeing the gang less lately, since his family moved to Uniondale from Hempstead. He had dropped out of school after the move — Mara Salvatrucha members controlled the schools in Uniondale. He sometimes wore a balaclava to cover his face when he left the house. Lately, however, Francisco was spending less time on the street, more time in the tuxedo. His girlfriend was pregnant, and he was worried about ending up in jail, or worse.

“Call the homies and go to the park,” Francisco told El Niño that afternoon, Jan. 18, 2008, trying to sound both comforting and authoritative. “I have to go to work.”

At the Sandcastle, a catering hall in Franklin Park where Francisco was serving at a wedding that night, he pushed aside thoughts of Mikey and focused on the promise of good tips. He never mentioned the gang in front of his work friends.

Francisco had become adept at controlling his feelings. Three other friends had been attacked in gang violence since he moved to Long Island from El Salvador in 2001; two had died. Francisco had scars to mark his own close calls: an inch-long swipe across his left eyebrow, a long seam across his right bicep, dents in his shins and over his left knee where he had been sprayed by a pellet gun, a gouge in his lower back dug by an enemy knife.

Mikey died in the hospital early the next morning. That night, Francisco served tables at another wedding. On Sunday, he worked a Sweet 16 party, where his main task was to make sure the white teenagers were not hiding bottles of liquor under the tables. On Monday, he bundled up in a sweatshirt and coat and walked the two miles to Hempstead to find out what had happened to his friend.

Twenty members of Salvadorans With Pride stood around sipping Coronas on the scarred brown grass of a park near the high school. Francisco grabbed a beer.

A few minutes later, as classes let out, 50 others arrived. El Niño was there, and filled Francisco in on details about the attack: There had been about a half-dozen men and they had asked the boys about their gang affiliation, then one had pulled a knife. The S.W.P. members were not certain of the identity of the men, but they had an idea.

S.W.P.’s leader, an old-timer in his late 20s, ordered them to stay vigilant. Mara Salvatrucha was encroaching on their territory, the school grounds. They ended the meeting with the gang’s prayer.

“Sometimes I wonder how I will die, by the bullet wound or a knife in my side,” Francisco chanted along with the others. “Give my heart peace so I won’t have to fight. Heavenly father, please hear me tonight.”

The prayer soothed Francisco when he felt scared. He kept the text on a folded square of paper tucked in his wallet.

FRANCISCO arrived in Hempstead, a decaying inner-ring suburb in Nassau County, nine years after his mother. She had come ahead in the early 1990s, as the Salvadoran civil war was ending, leaving Francisco in the care of an aunt until she could save $5,000 to pay a smuggler to ferry him across the border to join her. Francisco was 12 when he crossed from Tijuana to San Diego in 2001, stuffed in the trunk of a Honda next to several strangers. The trip was terrifying, but later he would say it had toughened him for life on Long Island.

Many of the new classmates he met that year at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School came the same way. They left behind grandmothers and aunts who served as surrogate parents and reunited with mothers and fathers they remembered only from photographs. Their parents believed that the American suburbs offered a better chance at education and jobs than the violent countries they had left behind. In 2002, the Immigration and Naturalization Service picked up more than 5,000 unaccompanied children trying to enter the United States illegally, more than 80 percent of them from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador; in later years, the number increased to 7,000.

On the first day of school, Francisco sat next to Jaime Alvarenga, who had made the crossing in 2001 through the Arizona desert. By the end of the day, the two boys were best friends. They played soccer after school, passed notes in class and kept watch for the bullies who picked on the newcomers. But they lived on opposite sides of town and that summer, drifted apart. Jaime lived in Mara Salvatrucha territory. Francisco’s apartment building was controlled by S.W.P.

The two rival gangs had appeared on Long Island around the same time in the mid-1990s, after the last of the white residents who built Hempstead into a bustling retail hub half a century earlier moved away and Hispanics filled the void. Mara Salvatrucha was formed by a group of older men, some of them veterans of the Salvadoran civil war, who were often victims of the village’s African-American gangs. They adopted the name from a gang gaining a reputation for ruthlessness in Los Angeles and Central America.

Salvadorans With Pride started as a civic organization, also with the intention of protecting members of Hempstead’s growing Hispanic population. The good intentions disintegrated when some of its members — most of them American-born — clashed with Mara Salvatrucha.

Nationally, Mara Salvatrucha was drawing the attention of the Justice Department and the F.B.I., which compared the gang to the Mafia and created a special task force to track it. In Hempstead, the police cracked down and alternated between arresting leaders of each group. The gangs always seemed to grow back: The Hempstead police estimate there are some 1,000 gang members, most of them black or Hispanic, in and around their village of 52,000; the Nassau police count 3,000 in the county.

Francisco had never encountered gangs in El Salvador, but he joined Salvadorans With Pride the summer after his first year on Long Island. His new friends promised to end the teasing and bullying, and, like other teenagers, he wanted to fit in. Back at school in the fall, he learned that Jaime had joined Mara Salvatrucha.

The two tried to stay friends. They still passed notes in class. But Jaime was having trouble at home and disappeared from school for days at a time. Francisco had his own problems. He was fighting constantly with his mother, who felt like a stranger after their years apart. When Jaime disappeared for two weeks in December, Francisco worried, but did not go looking for him.

On Jan. 17, 2003, Francisco woke up to a phone call. Jaime, 14, had been stabbed three times by members of 18th Street, a gang affiliated with S.W.P. that had originated in Los Angeles. Jaime had died alone on the steps of the Long Island Rail Road station. Francisco was devastated, but he was too afraid to go to Jaime’s funeral. Instead, he watched the local news for a glimpse of the coffin.

The next year, Francisco enrolled at Hempstead High, a struggling 1,700-student school. Its graduation rate hovered around 40 percent, and in a village that was more than 80 percent minority, it had a student population that was 99 percent black or Hispanic. He was involved in fights every other day as gangs vied for control over the school.

In November of 2004, Francisco ended up in a group fight with one of his old soccer buddies, Olman Herrera, who was associated with Mara Salvatrucha. As the high school security guards broke up the fight, Olman escaped. Moments later he was found across the street, stabbed to death. The police later charged two older teenagers linked to Salvadorans With Pride in the attack.

Francisco nearly lost another friend in the summer of 2007. On a scorching day in August, he had taken the day off from the catering hall to join friends at the beach. Afterward, they had gone to one of their favorite haunts, Taco Bell, in a dilapidated strip a block from Hempstead High.

It was S.W.P. territory, but Mara Salvatrucha often lurked around the auto body shops across the street. The group lingered over tacos. When it was time to go home, Francisco walked ahead with his arm draped across his girlfriend’s shoulders.

A movement across the street caught Francisco’s eye. He looked back to see a mass of people crossing toward them — Mara Salvatrucha. At least a dozen. Francisco ran, pushing his girlfriend ahead and scrambling to pull open the zipper of his backpack. He felt for the cold metal of his gun and turned around.

He was too late. One of his friends — who was not a member of either gang — lay crumpled on the ground, blood dribbling out of his neck and back. The men who had stabbed him were already running away. Francisco hailed a cab and tried to stop the bleeding as they sped across the highway overpass to Mercy Hospital.

That night Francisco kept a panicked vigil in the waiting room, leaving only after the doctors said his friend would survive. His voice shook when he recounted the story, but he insisted that, like the border crossing, the experience made him stronger.

ON Jan. 18, 2008, not long before El Niño called Francisco, the phone rang in the Hempstead home of Oscar and Clementina Alguera. It was their middle son, Oscar Jr. Their youngest, Mikey, had been stabbed on the handball court. They needed to hurry.

The couple had met in the 1980s, after Oscar made his way across the border from Costa Rica and Clementina came from Colombia. Work was plentiful on Long Island, and Hispanic immigrants were flocking to join the boom. The couple rented an apartment in a cul-de-sac next to an elementary school, and Clementina quit her job as a manicurist to raise their three boys.

The Algueras were strict — no television until homework was done and no friends the parents did not approve first. Mr. Alguera insisted that his sons graduate from high school so they could find better jobs than his, in construction. School was sacrosanct. When the boys called to say they were staying late that Friday afternoon, Mrs. Alguera said yes without a second thought.

After the phone call, Mr. Alguera dropped the tools he had been packing into the shed after a long day’s work. He drove as his wife frantically dialed the phone. But at the school, police officers held them back. They should not see their son this way.

The principal, Reginald Stroughn, had pushed his way through the underbrush behind the school to the handball court within minutes of the stabbing, the police shortly after him. The boys who had been playing with Mikey said a group of men had jumped the fence around the court and demanded to know which gang the boys belonged to. Mikey answered: none. The boys gave up their cellphones and an MP3 player without a fight, but as the men left, one pulled out a knife and jabbed Mikey in the side.

His brother Oscar held him until the paramedics arrived. Mikey died 12 hours later.

It was the first murder on school grounds in Hempstead, and Mr. Stroughn was stunned. After watching the ambulance drive away, he sat in his office in silence for a half-hour, wondering what he could have done differently.

Hempstead’s schools had once been the pride of Long Island, but they had deteriorated quickly as the village became racially and economically segregated. Besides its lagging test scores, state audits had cited the school district for financial mismanagement and violence.

But Mr. Stroughn, who arrived in the fall of 2003, had transformed the place. He reined in the fights, made an effort to get to know the Hispanic students and divided the school into more intimate academies. The graduation rate rose nearly 20 percentage points by August 2007 — though, at 64 percent, it still lagged far behind the 99 percent at the nearly all-white Garden City High School, three miles away. Mr. Stroughn had learned shortly before Mikey’s death that he was to be named the 2008 principal of the year by the School Administrators Association of New York.

But in the year that followed, the graduation rate dipped again. School administrators were too busy comforting grieving students and frightened parents to push Regents exams and college. Principal Stroughn is retiring this summer.

A year and a half after the murder, the Alguera family is broken. A bottle of maple syrup sits on a shelf in the kitchen, unopened: Mikey was the one who made pancakes every Saturday, and no one had the heart to take over his job.

Oscar Jr. dropped out of high school. He said every wall there reminded him of surreptitious games of handball he had played with his little brother when the teachers weren’t looking. Oscar Sr. was angry — at the school, at the gang, at the paramedics who had been unable to save his son. He began drinking. Clementina asked him to leave the house, and he moved out. She found a job as a crossing guard, shepherding middle school students to and from school.

The police investigation into Mikey’s murder yielded no arrests. Mara Salvatrucha’s influence in Hempstead began to wane, but it was replaced by new gangs that were less well known, but just as violent. Three more of Francisco’s acquaintances were killed in the months after Mikey’s death.

Francisco found a second job at a grocery store to support his baby. He told his gang he was “dropping the flag” — laying down his bandana and leaving the streets. Still, he felt compelled to go to the meetings at the park after each of the murders. He also still kept a pellet gun under the mattress in the room he shared with his girlfriend and his infant son, and the worn slip of paper with the gang’s prayer folded in his wallet.


Sarah Garland spent five years following gang members on Long Island for her forthcoming book, “Gangs in Garden City” (Nation). This article is an adaptation based on interviews with people involved.

    In a Suburban Gangland, Young Lives Cut Short, NYT, 20.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/nyregion/21gangs.html






In New York, Number of Killings Rises With Heat


June 19, 2009
The New York Times


A young boxer was shot dead outside a Bronx bodega at 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday last August. Weeks later, a 59-year-old woman was beaten to death on a Saturday night on the side of a Queens highway. On the last Sunday in September, violence exploded as five men were killed in a spate of shootings and stabbings between midnight and 6 a.m.

Seven homicides in New York City. None connected in any way but this: They happened during the summer months, when the temperatures rise, people hit the streets, and New York becomes a more lethal place.

There were more homicides in September than in any other month last year: 52. Next highest was August, with 51. Variations, of course, exist. There were 48 homicides last March, for instance.

Still, the prime time for murder is clear: summertime. Indeed, it is close to a constant, one hammered home painfully from June to September across the decades. And the breakdown of deadly brutality can get even more specific. September Saturdays around 10 p.m. were the most likely moments for a murder in the city.

The summer spike in killings is just one of several findings unearthed in an analysis by The New York Times of multiyear homicide trends. The information — detailing homicides during the years 2003 to 2008 — was compiled mainly from open-records requests with the New York Police Department, and a searchable database of details on homicides in the city during those years is available online for readers to explore at nytimes.com/nyregion.

Of course, the dominant and most important trend involving murder in New York has been the enormous decline in killings over the last 15 years, to levels not seen since the early 1960s.

Still, hundreds of people are killed every year in the city, and The Times’s findings provide insights about who is killed in New York, as well as who does the killing, where murders occur and why.

Women, for instance, are less likely to be either victims or killers. Those who were killed — at least 73 women were in 2008 — were almost always murdered by someone they knew — boyfriends, husbands or relatives. From 2003 to 2008, the number of women killed each year by strangers was in the single digits — excluding cases in which the police do not know if the killer knew the victim. Last year, as few as eight women died at the hands of strangers.

Brooklyn — as it has since at least 2003 — led all boroughs in the number of homicides last year, with 213. Last year, the 73rd Precinct, which includes the neighborhoods of Ocean Hill and Brownsville, had the largest death toll, 31. The bloodiest block in Brooklyn was in the 77th Precinct, in Crown Heights, bounded by Schenectady Avenue, Sterling Place, Troy Avenue and St. Johns Place. But the borough with the most homicides per capita was the Bronx.

More often than not, the weapon of choice is a firearm. Each year the percentage of people killed by firearms hovers around 60 percent. Though slightly less than in recent years, at least 56 percent of last year’s homicides were committed with these weapons.

Of all the trends to emerge, the time for killing was among the most enduring.

In New York, the trend goes back well before the years covered in the database — at least as far as 1981, according to an analysis of reports by the city medical examiner’s office done by Steven F. Messner, a criminology professor at the State University of New York at Albany. And he believes it stretches back much further than that.

Nationally, in the early 1980s, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed a decade’s worth of homicide data across the nation, and found that while suicides peak in the spring, homicides swell between July and September.

A prime reason murder peaks during this time has to do with the routines of people’s lives, according to Professor Messner.

“Homicides vary with social acting,” he said. “It evolves from interactions.”

Summer is when people get together. More specifically, casual drinkers and drug users are more likely to go to bars or parties on weekends and evenings, as opposed to a Tuesday morning. These people in the social mix, flooding the city’s streets and neighborhood bars, feed the peak times for murder, experts say.

And the trend occurs in other cities, in places like Chicago, Boston and Newark, according to criminologists.

Some of the same trends are on display around Christmastime and are believed to be behind the slight increases in murder that occur then, criminologists say.

Thomas D. Nerney, who retired in 2002 as a detective in the New York Police Department’s Major Case Squad, said the patterns were well known within the department.

Assigned as a detective in Brooklyn from 1972 to 1986, he said that on a hot summer night or in the holiday season, a similar set of factors seemed to be behind the killings: a chance to socialize and to drink or use drugs.

He recalled the late 1970s and early ’80s in Brooklyn, when the heavier homicide caseloads seemed to come as neighborhoods got hotter.

“We had so many of them,” Mr. Nerney said. “They would be on rooftops. There might be somebody who lured someone somewhere; you would have a sex-related killing or a revenge killing. Rooftops or backyards.”

The Times analysis, when compared with Professor Messner’s findings from 1981, shows that increasingly, more victims were killed between midnight and 8 a.m. in recent years than in the past.

According to the professor’s study of homicides in Manhattan, 29 percent of the 1,826 victims in 1981 were killed between midnight and 8 a.m. More recently, from 2006 through 2008, 39 percent of all homicide victims were killed during those hours, the Times analysis shows.

Also, as the number of homicides has shrunk, the data shows that more are occurring on weekends. From 2003 to 2008, 36 percent of all victims were killed on Saturday or Sunday, the analysis shows.

Failing to understand the basic connection between time of year and homicide rates can lead law enforcement agencies to faulty conclusions about what is happening in the streets — and it can affect their strategies.

In St. Louis, a 1990s-era gun buyback program begun each fall was thought by some to be behind a drop in violence. But as Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, studied the program’s impact, he found that the annual crime reductions were more attributable to the normal seasonal ebbing in homicide and assaults.

In New York, Vincent Henry, a retired police sergeant who now teaches criminology and who has studied the department’s Compstat program, in which computerized data is used for more efficient policing, said that time was one of many factors in making decisions about staffing and when and how to deploy officers.

But that was not always the case.

In the early 1990s, police managers altered the working hours for various groups of detectives, including those tracking narcotics cases and those seeking to arrest criminals wanted on open warrants.

It seemed to the top officials at the time that too many officers were keeping bankers’ hours — ending their shifts at dusk and taking weekends off — and not working closely enough with counterparts.

Jack Maple, a former police deputy commissioner who helped develop Compstat, wrote a book, “The Crime Fighter,” in which he detailed the issues of the day. He described the shortfall this way: “Unfortunately, the bad guys work around the clock.”

And in the summer months, the bad guys tend to be deadliest.

    In New York, Number of Killings Rises With Heat, NYT, 19.6.2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/nyregion/19murder.html