Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Three Little Girls Lost

Albert Dyer, convicted of strangling three young girls, poses for reporters

Murder in Inglewood
by Robert A. Waters

It was a blazing hot Saturday afternoon when three girls went missing. Jeanette Stephens, 8, and her friends, Melba Everett, 9, and Madeline Everett, 7, up and vanished from Centinela Park in Inglewood, California. In 1937, that just didn’t happen.

The girls had packed a picnic lunch and walked the short distance from their homes to the park. When they didn’t arrive home for dinner, their parents began searching for them. By nightfall, police had been notified and hundreds of cops and volunteers were scouring the countryside. At daylight, police enlisted the aid of 500 Boy Scouts.

Investigators were already interviewing people who had been known to frequent the park. Nell Cracroft, called the “matron of the park swimming pool,” stated that the girls had told her they were going off into the hills to hunt rabbits. Olive Everett, eleven-year-old sister of two of the missing girls, was taken to the police station and asked to look at police photos of “known sexual degenerates.” A man known as “Eddie the Sailor” had shown children in the park how to tie knots – he was interviewed and quickly eliminated as a suspect in the disappearances.

Meanwhile, thirty-two-year-old Albert Dyer seemed concerned about the girls. He’d known them, he told his wife Isabel, because he worked as a traffic guard at Centinela Elementary School where the children attended. It might be nice, Albert said, to start a scrapbook of newspaper clippings dedicated to the girls.

By Monday, an army of searchers braved the scorching heat to continue searching for the girls. Dyer hung around the cops, offering theories about the case and ordering searchers about. That afternoon, a Boy Scout was working deep in a ravine about two miles from the park when he found the bodies. According to a local newspaper, “the bodies were in a straight line on the sandy [soil] of the ravine about 25 yards from each other. They were barefoot. Their clothing was disarranged, their tiny dresses pulled up above their heads. On the bank of the ravine, searchers found three pairs of little shoes, all side by side...”

As soon as Albert Dyer heard that the bodies had been discovered, he raced to the scene. According to police, he was hysterical. He came upon a throng of spectators and began screaming at the men to put out their cigarettes out of “respect for the dead.” He rushed down to where the girls were lying and insisted on helping to remove them.

The next day’s headlines read: “Missing Girls Found Slain: Sexual Degenerate is Object of Police Hunt.” Californians were outraged. Many in the area vowed to lynch the killer when he was caught. Cops took the threat seriously. Just four years earlier, “vigilantes” in San Jose had lynched Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes for the kidnap-murder of Brooke Hart.

Investigators had begun their investigation on the theory that a stranger had abducted the girls. Now they began to focus on Albert Dyer, an acquaintance. His bizarre behavior at the crime scene had popped their antennae.

Meanwhile, local newspapers interviewed the father of the Everett girls. “We came here three months ago from Boston,” Merle Everett said. “We wanted to bring our children up in the open air and sunshine of California. We moved near the park so they would have a place to play. We never dreamed this would mean the deaths of our little girls. I am not vindictive, though. At least, I’m glad their bodies were found. I think the killer is insane. I want to see him captured so he can’t perpetrate another crime such as this.” His wife was under sedation, he said, as were the parents of Jeanette Stephens.

Dyer was taken to the Los Angeles jail to prevent him from being lynched. During questioning, he denied that he had murdered the girls. Detectives grilled him for hours, growing more suspicious all the time. Finally, they played their trump card. If he didn’t tell them the truth, they said, they would take him to Inglewood and let him explain to the crowds outside the jail the discrepancies in his statements.

Unorthodox maybe. Unconstitutional perhaps. But effective.

“Don’t let them take me back to Inglewood,” he pleaded. “They’ll tear me to pieces.”

With that, Dyer confessed. “I had no other reason than sex,” he reportedly said. He had “played” with the three friends earlier at the park and asked them to meet him about noon so they could go hunt rabbits. “They said their mothers didn’t want them to,” Dyer said. “But I kept telling them how much fun it was and finally they agreed to meet me.

“I watched the three girls coming down the road. They were dressed in bright-colored clothes and looked fresh and nice. Their route lay through a bean field and a steep-sided dry wash. We sat down to rest and I asked Madeline - that was the youngest one - to come with me up the draw a bit and see if we could scare up a bunny. She came right along and the others agreed to stay behind. When out of sight of the others, I reached out and grabbed Madeline by the neck and choked her to death. When I thought she was dead, I knotted a rope around her neck to make sure.

“Then I singled out Jeanette. I told her we’d trapped a rabbit and we wanted her to help us catch another bunny for her. With my hands I choked Jeanette to death and bound her neck with a rope. I wanted to make sure she was dead.

“[Melba then] went with me without question. When I began choking her, she tried to scream. She fought. She almost got away from me but I choked her just like I did the others. She struggled on the ground. She clawed at the dirt and kicked but pretty soon she grew quiet. I knotted a rope around her, too.”

After murdering the youngsters, Dyer raped Madeline’s corpse. (Some newspaper accounts claimed that he "ravished" all three bodies.) Then he laid the shoes of each girl side by side and prayed to God to forgive him.

Albert’s wife and two neighbors were placed into protective custody to protect them from the surging crowds outside the jail. His wife, Isabel, would not believe that her husband could commit such crimes. “Albert couldn’t have done this thing,” she said. “We both loved children. We lost two of our own.”

Investigators found clothesline in the Dyer home that they said matched the rope around the girls’ necks. They also found a paper bag beneath the body of Madeline that bore the name of a drugstore where Albert had recently bought supplies.

He was quickly tried and convicted. Though Dyer later repudiated his confession, he was hanged at San Quentin. By this time, his wife no longer believed in his innocence. No one claimed his body.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another Convenience Store Clerk Murdered

Convenience store clerks should get hazardous pay. Year in and year out, the job is ranked as one of the most dangerous in America. A few days ago, Linda Raulerson became another victim. While the killer hasn’t been caught, it’s safe to say that he’s a doper who has been in and out of the justice system time and again. Odds are he’s on parole and has committed robberies, and maybe other murders, in the past. You don’t need a Sherlock to figure out that our criminal justice system is broken. [Photo of Linda Raulerson]

Somehow, Columbia County, Florida has so far staunched the poisonous growth that has eaten the soul of the state. Most of the county is still rural even though I-75 and I-10 intersect its mid-section. Lake City is its largest town with about 11,000 inhabitants.

Thousands of convenience stores are scattered along the two interstate highways that criss-cross Florida from Jasper to Miami and from Jacksonville to Pensacola. These highways can be a death-trap for clerks and offer a quick getaway for predators.

On Tuesday, July 22, Linda Susan Raulerson, 56, was closing Joy American Foods. The convenience store is located about ten miles north of Lake City where U. S. Highway 441 intersects I-10. Just before 9:00 p.m., a white sedan pulled into a parking space near the front door and a man wearing a hoodie entered. Without hesitation, he walked toward the counter holding a pistol. Placing both hands on the gun, he raised it and fired. According to Columbia County Sheriff Bill Gootee, the first shot hit Raulerson in the arm. She screamed but maintained her composure.

“Open the drawer,” the shooter said. “Give it up.”

Raulerson did exactly that. The video shows her reaching into the cash register and handing the robber a handful of cash. “Gimme the money,” he yells. She then lifts the drawer and shows him it’s empty. Another shot is heard, then the shooter rushes outside and into a car. The car, believed to be a white 1993-1995 Buick Regal with a black stripe, leaves the parking lot.

A few minutes later, three customers entered the store and found the clerk lying in a pool of blood behind the counter.

In a press conference, Sheriff Gootee said, “This murder is especially heinous as Mrs. Raulerson did nothing but comply with the suspect and she was shot in a cold-blooded manner.”

If the robber came in off the interstate, as the sheriff believes, he could be anywhere. “It didn’t look like this was his first time,” Gootee said. “He did things like trying to conceal his face by pulling the hood lower, and he walked directly to the counter and showed her the gun. We definitely want to find this individual. He has already proven what he’s capable of doing.”

On July 25, the sheriff’s department took the unusual step of releasing the store video to the media. The family agreed with that decision since it might help catch the killer.

Raulerson had been married to her husband, John, for thirty-eight years. She had two children and five grandchildren. According to her obituary, Linda was a Lake City native who enjoyed raising Persian cats, fishing, painting, craft work, and cooking. She also had the unusual hobby of sewing period antebellum dresses for the annual Battle of Olustee Festival. She had won many awards for her dresses.

In addition to her job at the convenience store where she was murdered, Raulerson worked a second job at U. S. Cold Storage. “She loved the job [at Joy American Foods] and the people,” her husband John said. “Everyone who came in the store was family.”

It’s obvious that Linda Raulerson was a well-loved, productive member of her community.

If the killer is caught, he deserves a fast trip to the death chamber.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

If You're Ever in Daytona Beach...

My wife and I just took a mini-vacation to the Daytona Beach area. While shopping some of the antique stores, I ran across Mandala Books. The plate-glass window was decorated with a series of multi-colored circular paintings that had “New Age” written all over them. Anyone who knows me knows that New Age is anathema to me, but they also know that bookstores pull me in like a moth to a flame.

We walked into a huge six-room store that was cram-packed with more than a hundred thousand books. They were well-catalogued and I immediately walked to the “Florida” section and found a First Edition of the classic Lake Okechobee: Wellspring of the Everglades by Alfred Jackson Hanna and Kathryn Abbey Hanna. Although it was an ex-library copy, it was in my price-range and I picked it up and put it on the counter for the clerk to keep.

After browsing a while, my wife found the true crime section and hailed me over. There I found a 1927 American edition of Twentieth Century Crimes by Frederick A. MacKenzie. After another hour of browsing, I bought both books for less than fifteen bucks and went away rejoicing. While my wife shopped at a nearby sea-shell store for a souvenir of our trip, I sat in the car and read the entire story of the Ashley Gang that terrorized south Florida in the early 1900s. The Hannas called them the Jesse James gang of the southeast and indeed they were. They murdered Indians and cops and many others while robbing banks and bootlegging. In the end, four of the gang died in a supposed gunfight with law officers. (Many claim it wasn’t a gunfight, but a revenge massacre.) Whatever the case, like Jesse and most of his gang, they died violent deaths.

When I got back to our hotel room I picked up the MacKenzie book and was drawn to “The Stockholm Dynamite Murder” in which two ne’er-do-wells blew up a taxi-cab in an attempt to collect insurance on their business partner. I’d never heard the story before and was mesmerized by the clear writing of the author and the arrogance of the two killers.

I later found the following review of MacKenzie’s book published in Time Magazine in 1927 (if you’re offended by the so-called racist terminology of the day, please skip this review): “Non-murderers, eager to identify themselves with victim or assassin, eager to hear in their own minds the angry drumming of strange terrors or desires, will read eminent Reporter-Criminologist Mackenzie's recountals with a creepy wonder. Having read them they will comprehend the greedy, grimy twists of whim or hatred that caused ‘Gyp the Blood,’ ‘Lefty’ Louie, ‘Whitey’ Lewis and ‘Dago’ Frank to kill a gambler called Rosenthal. They will be able to wriggle upon the same tenter-hooks that pricked Loeb and Leopold, to share the sarcastic denials of Landru, the French bluebeard; most intensely of all they will feel the play of fear and fury that killed Rasputin, Russian minister monk, and the wind of horror and despair that howled around the Czar of Russia in a shambles at Ekaterinburg.”

If you’re ever in the Daytona Beach area, I’d suggest you stop into Mandala Books, no matter what interests you. You’ll find modern paperbacks mixed in with turn-of-the-century classics and an occasional autographed book can be found here and there. Whole sections are packed with books about trains, musical instruments, literature, theater, art, poetry, fiction, and, of course, mystical religions and eastern philosophy. And these are just the ones I can remember. Go there, you’ll love it.

Here’s how to contact the bookstore:

Mandala Books
Used and Rare Books
127 W. International Speedway Boulevard
Daytona Beach, Florida 32114
Local: 386-255-6728
Toll Free: 1-888-318-9696

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Missing in America - Five Unsolved Cases

In this country, tens of thousands of people go missing every year. One case, the disappearance of Dee Scofield, occurred in my hometown of Ocala, Florida so I have a major interest in seeing it solved. [Check out my article entitled “All American Girl.”] The other disappearances mentioned here are equally as mysterious.

Dorothy “Dee” Scofield. In the shiny-new Marion County Public Library in Ocala, Florida, the ghost of a missing girl haunts the aisles. It was the last place Dorothy “Dee” Scofield was seen alive. In 1976, the building housed J. M. Fields department store. Dee, 12, walked into the store to exchange a pair of sandals. She was seen browsing in the jewelry section and later someone thought they saw her leaving. Investigators believed she walked back out into the parking lot where she was abducted. There were never any real clues, except for one possible sighting near the Ocala National Forest. A store clerk said she saw a crying girl with two men. The girl supposedly matched Dee's description. Thirty-two years later there are still no leads. It’s as if Dee Scofield simply evaporated.

Morgan Nick. On June 9, 1995, six-year-old Morgan disappeared from a crowded Little League baseball game in Alma, Arkansas. Despite an immediate search by police and volunteers, she has never been seen since. How can a little girl vanish from the midst of hundreds of people? As Morgan played with two other children a few yards away from her mother, a tall, thin man walked over to her. Her playmates heard him say something. Then came the final out of the last game that night and the crowd moved toward the parking area. In the confusion Morgan vanished. Was she snatched by a sex predator? Or by someone who wanted a child of their own? If alive today, Morgan would be nineteen.

Mikelle Biggs. The day after New Year, 1999, eleven-year-old Mikelle and her sister rode their bikes down the street from their Mesa, Arizona home to wait for the Good Humor Man. They seemed to be the only ones in the neighborhood who heard the calliope music of the ice cream truck – it wasn’t running that day. The weather was cool, and Mikelle’s sister went back to the house for a jacket. When she returned, Mikelle’s overturned bicycle was lying a few feet off the street. Two quarters she’d been holding lay on the ground. Mikelle was gone. Police began an immediate search. Sex offenders were checked out and cleared; possible sightings were investigated and found wanting; and all ice cream truck drivers in the area were eliminated as suspects. Was this an abduction by a stranger who happened to see the lone girl standing by the side of the road? Or could the kidnapper have been someone closer, maybe an unseen monster in the neighborhood? The question remains: what happened to the little girl who only wanted ice cream?

Tabitha Tuders. It took Nashville police years to admit that thirteen-year-old Tabitha was probably kidnapped. At first, they thought she was a runaway. Five years later, some cops still believe that. At about 7:50 on the morning of April 29, 2003, Tabitha walked from her home to the bus stop where she was to meet her school bus. She never got on that bus and has not been seen since. One witness said he saw her climb into a red car, but police were skeptical, claiming the boy was not reliable. As Tabitha’s birthdays began piling up with no sign of the missing girl, many cops began to believe - really believe - that the teen was abducted. What happened that morning? Did a friend or acquaintance offer Tabitha a ride to school then kidnap and murder her? Did one of the many sex predators who inhabited her neighborhood snatch her? Did she run away as cops initially believed? Where is Tabitha?

Tara Leigh Calico. Her mother died without ever knowing. Were Patty Doel's last thoughts about the daughter who went out for a bike ride and never came home? Patty and stepdad John Doel stayed in their old house in Belen, New Mexico for fifteen years after Tara disappeared. Back then, Patty was still vibrant, still full of hope that her daughter would come home. Whoever took Tara probably never understood or cared that they would subject her mother to a lifetime of torture. When the Doels finally sold their New Mexico house and retired to Florida, they hoped to get away from the raw hurt of not knowing. But they could never drive far enough away to kill the pain. A series of strokes disabled Patty, but every time someone would pass on a bicycle, she cried out. Thinking it was Tara. Thinking it was the girl whose picture was found in a parking lot in Florida. That picture, published above, is one of the most frightening in the annals of crime. Maybe John and Patty moved to the Sunshine State to be near the last sighting of their Tara. By then the years had worn Patty down, the not knowing had eaten a hole in her soul. She died still wondering, where is Tara?

Dark secrets hide grim truths in these cases. But someone knows something. Please come forward.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Texas Death Machine Grinds Back into Gear

Texans take homicidal death seriously - the death of both the victim and the killer. According to Texas logic, the victim must be avenged, the murderer must pay. This drives the anti-death crowd crazy. After the Supreme Court ruled that death by lethal injection was not unconstitutional, the dormant machine chugged back to life. On June 11, Karl Chamberlain paid the ultimate price for murdering Felecia Prechtl and on July 10, Carlton Turner, Jr. died for the murders of his adoptive parents, Carlton and Tonya Turner.

Texas has scheduled thirteen more executions for this year. One of the most deserving members of the state’s Dead Man Walking Club is Jose Ernesto Medellin. The crimes he and five others committed on the night of June 24, 1993 converted many who opposed execution into death penalty zealots.

The hard-to-stomach story is well-told in Pure Murder by Corey Mitchell (Kensington Publishing Company, 2008).

On a steaming summer night in Houston, two girls, fourteen-year-old Jennifer Ertman and her friend, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Pena, decided to cut through T. C. Jester Park to get home before their 11:00 curfew. Both girls were good students from loving, supporting families. Their parents made sure they stayed away from the drug, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll scene. The teenagers were taught to respect themselves and others.

In the park, a group of monsters waited, thirsting for blood. In fact, they had just welcomed a new member into their make-shift gang by beating him up. Each of these sociopaths, including Jose Ernesto Medellin, 18, was the exact opposite of Jennifer and Elizabeth. In school, they were uncontrollable. They enjoyed confrontation and causing pain. They wandered through their lives seeking the next high in alcohol or drugs or violence.

On this night, Medellin’s cohorts were Peter Cantu, 18, Efrain Perez, 17, Derrick Sean O’Brien, 18, Raul Villareal, 17, and Jose’s 14-year-old brother, Yuni. As the girls hurried along the railroad tracks that cut through the park, Cantu jumped out of the darkness and grabbed Elizabeth. He pulled her down the track’s embankment and threw her to the ground. Jennifer was a few feet ahead and may have been able to outrun the group but turned back to help her friend.

What followed was one of the most vicious gang-rapes in the history of Houston. For an hour, the gang violated the girls in every way imaginable. Pure Murder details the assaults in one soul-grinding chapter. When it’s over, the reader wants to bathe the evil away. After the savage rape, the gang dragged their victims into the forest and murdered them.

Here’s a brief excerpt: “Joe Medellin and Cantu grabbed one of Perez’s shoelaces. They looped it around Elizabeth’s neck and began to pull. Elizabeth tried to escape, but she was tackled by Cantu, who proceeded to kick her in the face with his steel-tipped boots. He kicked her so hard and so many times that he knocked out three of her front teeth. He also broke several of her ribs with his boots.”

The bodies were left to the elements while the excited gang traveled to the home of Joe and Christina Cantu where they bragged for most of the night about their crimes. Christina, horrified, compelled her husband, Peter’s brother, to call a local tip-line.

The six killers were quickly apprehended. All were tried and convicted. There was absolutely no doubt about their guilt. Because of his youth, Yuni Medellin was sentenced to only 40 years in prison. The rest of the gang received either life or the death penalty. Derrick O’Brien was executed June 11, 2006.

Since Jose Medellin was born in Mexico, he was included in a lawsuit by the Mexican government against the United States. In that suit, Mexico claimed that the U. S. violated the Vienna Convention by sentencing Mexican nationals to death without first notifying Mexican authorities. On March 25, 2008, the United States Supreme Court rejected that argument, clearing the way for the murderer to face lethal injection.

So, as Medellin awaits his fate, scheduled for August 5, we can go to the website of the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty and read some of the thoughts posted by the killer. The machismo he showed while raping and torturing and murdering two innocent girls is now gone. The braggadocio he displayed while reliving his crimes has vanished.

Here’s a sample of his writing: “Hi! People of the world, the outside world I have not known in so long. My life is in Black & White like the old Western movies. But unlike the movies the good guys don’t always finish first. My name is Jose Medellin. I am currently being held on Death Row, in the state that is at the top of the list for Death Row population, 453, executions this year: 28, as of 9/14/99. The State and government that also executes its children, its retarded, its poor. This state is the Lone Star State of Texas!”

According to the killer, the good guys don’t always finish first. He’s right there. Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena are proof of that.

For the definitive account of this case, pick up a copy of Corey Mitchell’s Pure Murder.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Invisible Victims

Whatever you think about death row inmates maintaining an Internet presence, one thing is clear: the claims they make on these sites stink like a Nigerian Internet scam. is a fairly typical gallery of inmate web-pages. Among the inflated educational claims, the lying resumes, and the constant whining about the horrors of Death Row, one thing always seems to be missing from these pages. Rarely is there ever any mention of the victims.

When John Buzia’s [Photo above is of inmate Buzia] web-page pops up on, two images appear. One is a photo of a clean-cut, smiling gentleman in a non-threatening pose. The second portrays a muscular athletic young man lovingly posing with his two dogs. Beneath the photos, the Florida death row inmate has composed the following title: “Let’s Get Connected.”

Here’s a sampling of the text from Buzia’s web-page: “Being separated from the ‘little things’ that truly matter in life is incredibly frustrating...especially from ‘equally stimulating’ adult attention/companionship. I seek a friend who accepts at face value, realizes just how short/precious life is, understands the joys of the ‘little things,’ steers clear of false pretenses!”

After mentioning that he is “college-educated (4 years)” at Florida State University, Buzia assures the reader that he worked “exclusively at Disney/Universal Studios.” Then he claims that he was a skipper on the “Jaws cruise/adventure” boat before graduating to management. As a manager, he “met/mingled with numerous celebrities.” He ends with the following appeal: “If you’re curious/open-minded or just down-to-earth, please take 5 minutes/1 stamp and say ‘howdy.’ I feel I’m worth it, and besides, I don’t bite...but I do nibble, in friendship.”

Nowhere are the names of Charles and Thea Kersch mentioned. That’s a shame because John Michael Buzia sits on Death Row for the ax murder of 71-year-old Charles and has an additional three life sentences for his brutal attack on Thea.

On March 14, 2000, Buzia took a local transit bus to the gated community of Riverwalk in Oveido. For the past few weeks, he’d performed odd jobs around the home for the retired couple. This day, however, he planned to rob and kill them.

When Thea returned home from shopping, Buzia attacked her. While pretending to hand her a dish on the patio, he sucker-punched her, shattering her nose. He beat the defenseless 71-year-old woman until she fell unconscious. Buzia then kicked her a few more times for good measure. Finally, he dragged her to a back bedroom and covered her with a blanket. After stealing eighty dollars and rummaging through the house, Buzia walked to the garage and retrieved an ax. He returned to the bedroom and hit Thea in the head with the flat edge. He left the room thinking she was dead.

According to court documents, “When Thea regained consciousness, she was lying on the floor in the back bedroom...She could feel and hear that her head was cut. The sound was a crunching noise. She blacked out again and regained consciousness. There was a puddle of blood where she was lying. She crawled through the bathroom into the office and called 911.”

A few minutes after the attack on Thea, Charles returned home. Buzia met the elderly man at the door with a barrage of punches. Charles fell, but attempted to rise. Again using the flat end of the ax, he smashed Charles twice in the head, killing him.

Buzia stole one hundred dollars, a checkbook, and credit cards from Charles. Then he fled the scene in the victim’s Toyota just before the police, responding to Thea’s 911 call, arrived.

Between passing out and regaining consciousness several times, Thea explained to investigators that a handyman named John Buzia had attacked her and her husband. She was transported to the hospital while officers put out a BOLO for Buzia. Thea would later recover enough to testify against her assailant at trial. Charles was dead when officers arrived.

The next morning, Buzia, driving Charles’ car, pulled into the drive-through at the National Bank of Commerce in Winter Park. A teller became suspicious when he attempted to cash a check for eight hundred thirty dollars. She called police and John Michael Buzia was arrested.

The evidence against him was overwhelming. DNA from both victims was on various items of clothing the suspect wore; bloody shoe prints on the victims’ tile floor matched Buzia’s sneakers; a palm print on a bloody cabinet in the garage belonged to the suspect. In addition, Buzia had possession of the stolen car and documents belonging to the Hersches. With the positive identification of Thea, there was little doubt that he committed the crimes. After his arrest, he quickly confessed.

As far as I can tell, Buzia’s web-page originally appeared on “The Pampered Prisoner” website. That site eventually closed down. The page now appears on the Jail Mail site.

Here are a few observations about the web-page. According to court documents, Buzia attended Florida State University but never graduated as he implies. Despite his claims, although he did work at Universal, he didn’t work there “exclusively.” For much of his adult life, Buzia was a job-jumper. By his own admission, he would work for a brief period at any job, putting in just enough time to earn money to buy beer for a drinking binge, then he would quit. He lived on the streets in the months leading up to the murder, and before that he lived in a tent behind his brother’s home.

The lies and half-truths and omissions might be comical if they weren’t so serious. Inmate web-pages are designed to gain sympathy and money from gullible people on the outside. So on John Buzia’s web-page, Charles and Thea Hersch must forever remain invisible.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Castle Rock Murders

The cliff had a sheer drop of 175 feet. Eight-year-old Donald Mattas stared in terror as his friend, Milo Flindt, 11, struggled on the lip of the cliff with an older boy, a stranger with devil-eyes. The gravelly rocks were wet from a thunderstorm that had blown through minutes before and Donald was afraid Milo would slip and fall from the ledge. But that didn’t happen – something far worse did. The older boy suddenly gave Milo a mighty shove and he disappeared. Donald heard him screaming as he fell.

Then the stranger with fiendish eyes turned toward Donald.

The young boy was paralyzed with fear. He couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t think. The stranger moved toward him. He grabbed Donald by the arms and twisted him toward the ledge. Then he gave a savage thrust and Donald hurtled into space. He was so frightened he never made a sound as he fell.

Castle Rock, as it came to be known by white settlers, was once a stopping-off place for the Arapahoe and Cheyenne. For centuries, these tribes wandered the plains and foothills beneath the Rocky Mountains, hunting buffalo and antelope and deer. Later, on the buttes beneath Castle Rock, a strange ore called rhyolite was discovered by the settlers. They established a quarry to mine the precious stone and it was soon in demand for the exterior of expensive homes and businesses. Because of the precious ore, the Denver & Rio Grande Railway ran tracks through the now-incorporated town. All the while, that magnificent, huge, dangerous mountain called Castle Rock stood brooding in the background.

On Sunday, April 12, 1943, headlines of western newspapers read: “Rommel Continuing Retreats. Axis Force Compressed into Coffin Corner of Tunisia for Knockout.” Americans, some only slightly older than the teen who pushed the two boys off the cliff, were dying by the thousands in Europe and the Pacific and other parts of the globe. Because of the war, the hellish murders of Donald Mattas and Milo Flindt didn’t get the media coverage it might have in a more peaceful era.

Earlier in the day, Milo and Donald, using tokens they called slugs, boarded the Denver to Golden Interurban tramway to attend a motion picture film in Golden. When they got to the theater, the movie they wanted to see wasn’t playing so the boys decided to explore nearby Castle Rock. Even though local parents continually warned their children about going up on the mountain, hiking to the top was a rite of passage for local kids.

As Donald and Milo neared the summit, three older boys suddenly appeared, blocking the trail. They were William “Lucky” Wymer, 16, his brother Arthur Wymer, 14, and Robert Lavasseur, 14. To use the terminology of the day, the three were “juvenile delinquents.” After their latest scrape with the law, a Denver court had ordered them to remain in that city. On Saturday, they ignored the court order and hitched a ride to Golden. There they stole enough money to pay for a hotel room where they spent the night before heading for Castle Rock.

“I’ll take your watch,” Lucky said to Donald as Arthur and Robert crowded menacingly around. The eight-year-old pulled off the watch and handed it to the bully. Then Lucky turned to Milo. His dark eyes glowed with power as he demanded that the boy give his shoes to Arthur. Milo hesitated, then dutifully took them off.

By now Donald and Milo were thoroughly intimidated by the three older toughs. But Donald mustered the courage to ask, “Can Milo wear my galoshes?” When William nodded, the younger boy gave his friend his overshoes and Milo pulled them over his bare feet. Then Lucky took two dimes and some tram slugs from Milo.

Donald and Milo turned to flee back down the trail, but William blocked their path. “Go on up to the top,” he said. “We’ll be following you.” Reluctantly, the younger boys started back up the mountain.

Arthur and Robert declined to go further, telling Lucky that they were tired. But the older boy followed Donald and Milo to the ledge. Suddenly Lucky grabbed Milo. After a brief struggle, William shoved his victim out into space. Then he grabbed Donald and threw him off the ledge. In a later confession to police, William said, “Sure I pushed them. I planned to push them off when I got to the top because dead men tell no tales.”

After the murders, the three boys walked back down the trail. They were exhilarated. They sorted out their loot and laughed about the fear they saw on the faces of their victims. Along the way, they ran into seven more young boys coming up Castle Rock. Lucky extorted money from the boys by pretending that his father owned the mountain. He charged them ten cents a head to go to the top.

Later in the day, Lucky, Arthur, and Robert took in a movie in Golden. Afterwards, they went back to the same hotel they’d stayed in the night before. This time they had no money, so they stole food and liquor and broke into a room. They were arrested after the hotel manager discovered them. While they were in jail, Lucky confessed to the murders.

In a poignant twist, Milo somehow lived for up to twelve hours after his fall. Two local boys saw him lying injured on the rocks beneath the mountain and even spoke with him. Milo told the boys he was dying and asked them to get help. They didn’t. They later told police that they thought they would be blamed for killing him if they told anyone.

Arthur Wymer and Robert Lavasseur were placed back in juvenile detention in Denver. William “Lucky” Wymer was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He was tried as an adult, but because of his age he didn’t face capital punishment. His attorneys produced several psychiatrists who swore that he was insane and unaware of his actions when he murdered the boys. The jury didn’t buy it and on July 3, 1943, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison at hard labor.

Three years later, Lucky and two other convicted murderers attempted to escape from prison by digging into the sewer system and crawling to freedom. They were caught and placed in solitary confinement.

From there, William Wymer is lost to history. If anyone has information about his later life or what happened to Arthur Wymer and Robert Lavasseur, I’d like to hear from you.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

More Perfect Crimes by Robert A. Waters

As long as I keep hearing that there are no perfect murders, I’ll keep posting evidence to the contrary. A few nights ago, the narrator of the television series “Crime Scene Science” stated unequivocally, “There are no perfect crimes.” Even though forensic science has improved dramatically, there are still as many unsolved cases in America today as there were before the advent of computers and databases and DNA. According to FBI statistics, at least one-third of murders each year are never closed. And that doesn’t even count murders camouflaged to look like suicides or accidents. Or murders put down as death by natural causes. It doesn’t count the many murders in which the body of the victim is never found. Or murders for which the wrong person is convicted. Notwithstanding the comments of some, there are indeed perfect murders committed every day.

Loren E. Bollinger was a brilliant rocket scientist whose expertise was propellants, combustion, rockets, and nuclear devices. In 1966, he was in his Columbus, Ohio office when he was shot five times with a .25-caliber handgun. Police linked the bullets from Bollinger’s murder to two other slayings. Investigators never identified any real suspects. The killer, if alive, would be at least in his mid-sixties. While there is always hope that these murders might be solved, each day that passes diminishes that hope.

On October 11, 1944, Georgette Bauerdorf, an oil heiress, was found dead in her North Hollywood apartment. There were signs of a violent struggle and the cause of death was a towel stuffed down her throat that restricted her ability to breathe. Sheriff’s deputies questioned Bauerdorf’s friends and acquaintances, but no one ever emerged as a convincing suspect. Was it a perfect murder or a bungled investigation? Whatever the case, the killer was never caught.

Vivian Newton was found strangled near San Diego in 1947. A Canadian, she had visited the city for only one day when she met an army sergeant. They hopped the border to Tijuana, Mexico where they partied and where Vivian purchased clothing. Returning to San Diego, she hit the nightclubs and danced with several men until about midnight. Then she vanished. On June 17, her body was found fifteen miles north of the city. Her army companion was cleared, as was one other suspect. Vivian Newton’s killer was never found—-unfortunately, he got away with the perfect murder.

On the weekend of November 14, 1948, Leno and Louise Lazzari were gunned down in their secluded bungalow near Boca Raton, Florida. At the time, the town had barely 200 residents. The Lazzaris had just returned home from shopping – a spilled grocery bag was found next to Louise’s body. Leno had grabbed a shotgun to defend his home and actually got off an errant shot before he was killed. Leno was a well-regarded sculptor whose clients included the Duke of Windsor. Local police called in Miami detectives and the FBI but no one was ever convicted of the murders. A drifter was suspected, but passed a polygraph and his fingerprints did not match those found at the scene.

In 1959, Cliff and Christine Walker and their two children, Jimmie, 3, and Debbie, 2, lived in a “cracker shack” in rural Sarasota County, Florida. A few days before Christmas, the entire family was murdered in their home. While Cliff and the children were visiting friends, someone entered the home and raped and shot Christine. A short time later, Cliff and the children pulled up. Cliff was shot in the face as he entered the house. Then Jimmie was shot. Finally, two-year-old Debbie took a bullet to the head, but didn’t die. The killer then took her to the bathtub, turned on the water, and drowned her. Multiple murders were so unheard of in the county that officers vowed to bring the killer to justice. Despite their best efforts, he was never caught.

There are serial killers, mass murderers, sex predators, domestic slayers, and psychopaths of all stripes who’ll never be identified or caught. There are also average people who snap and commit a murder, then cover it up successfully. While we can debate whether the killer left behind some remnant of himself or herself at a crime scene, it is unarguable that people commit perfect murders every day. Otherwise, cops would have a one-hundred percent clearance rate.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

At least one observer stated that Mark Dean Schwab was blinking back tears just before his execution. Junny and Vicki Rios-Martinez watched the scene from a window six feet away. The execution began at 6:03 p.m. About one minute later, Schwab closed his eyes and never moved again. He was pronounced dead at 6:15. I’ve listed a few of the statements that Junny’s parents, Junny and Vicki, made to the media after the execution.

Junny: “I’m sure the victim did not die as peaceful as [Schwab] did today. The torture, the last few minutes were nothing like this.”

Vicki: “[Schwab’s] realm of evil has come to an end. The universe has brought about balance, justice, and the law of consequence. I have closure.”

Junny: “You have no idea how hard it was for me not to get up and pound on that glass just to make sure [Schwab] knew we were there.”

Vicki: “We should all be so lucky to go this way.”

Vicki: “This was the most peaceful parting that I’ve ever been to, and I only wish my son had passed that peacefully. Before Junny’s death, I didn’t believe in the death penalty. But then evil came to live in my heaven.”

Vicki: “If there is any question that what I just witnessed was cruel and unusual, there should never be a doubt on anyone’s mind. We should all be so lucky when it’s our turn.”

Vicki: “Seventeen years is way too long to wait for justice. And without justice there is no closure.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Death Row Pedo is Dead by Robert A. Waters

Despite the howls of a few anti-death penalty folks (most were smart enough to sit this one out), the execution of Mark Dean Schwab for the torture/murder of 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez took place as scheduled. One thing the antis might consider is giving the victim equal time when they make their pronouncements about the evils of capital punishment. Seems that for some irrational reason Americans tend to sympathize with the victim rather than the killer. The antis might gain more credibility if people thought they actually cared a bit for the person who was murdered.

Mark Dean Schwab, who lived sixteen years too long, died today at 6:15 p.m. His death was much easier than that of his victim, Junny Rios-Martinez. But that didn’t keep the murderous pedophile and his lawyers from playing the “cruel and unusual punishment” card with the courts in the weeks and days before his execution. Whining about the fact that he might feel a prick of pain before dying didn’t win them many converts. The courts and most of the public just didn’t seem to care.

The Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty even had trouble with this one. “Because of the nature of the crime and the tender age of the victim,” they wrote, “even death-penalty opponents can find it difficult to muster compassion for Schwab.”

Two days before the execution, Junny’s mother, Vicki Rios-Martinez, spoke to a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel. “I probably was closer to a right-to-lifer before this happened,” she said. “So it was a real hard decision for me to ask for the death penalty. But I had to take everything into consideration. He’d already molested several children. He’d already been in prison, but they put him back on the streets.” Indeed, Schwab was released from Florida State Prison after serving only three years of an eight-year sentence for raping a thirteen-year-old boy. [See my earlier blogs: “Death Row Pedo” and “Death Row Pedo’s Early Crimes.”]

As far as we can tell, Schwab never showed any remorse for his crimes. In fact, according to detectives, after he led them to the body, his first request was for “a couple of [Burger King] Whoppers and a pack of smokes.” He filed endless legal appeals for 16 years, and at the very end tried to end-run the system by firing his attorney.

May Junny’s family rest easier now.