Monday, November 30, 2009

Two Gold Coast Robbers Shot by Intended Victims

Willie Byrd wounded an armed suspect who attempted to rob him
Store owners recently took a bite out of crime in Brevard County, Florida. In separate incidents, would-be robbers were shot by their intended victims. Neither store owner was charged and, in fact, were praised by police officials.

At 6:30 p.m., on November 18, two men entered the Gloco Grocery and Soul Food Restaurant in Melbourne, Florida. At first, Willie Byrd, 70, who has owned the restaurant for 22 years, wasn’t suspicious.

One of the men, still not identified by police, ordered a sandwich. Then, according to a recent newspaper article, Byrd “made the sandwich and rang the transaction up on the cash register, but instead of paying for the food the men held a gun to Byrd’s head and demanded cash.”

Byrd handed money to one of the robbers. But when the man became distracted, the store owner grabbed a .357 Magnum he kept beneath the counter. Byrd fired two or three shots at the robbers. One robber raced from the store while the second man staggered outside.

When the Melbourne Police Department arrived, they found a suspect lying in front of the business, still holding a “wad of cash.” The man was transported to Holmes Regional Medical Center where he remains in serious but stable condition. His partner has yet to be identified.

“I’m not trying to send a message,” Byrd said. “I was just protecting myself.”

Commander Ron Bell, spokesman for the police department, said, “[Byrd] was well within his rights.”

A week later, Sowann Suy shot a robber inside the Tower Chevron store and gas station in Cocoa.

“He opened my door, walked through it, and I asked him, ‘Can I help you, sir?’” Suy said. Stephen Hunt pulled a gun and demanded money. The store owner backed up to the cash register, then grabbed his own weapon from a shelf underneath. Suy fired one shot from a .45-caliber pistol, hitting the robber in the stomach. Hunt stumbled outside where he collapsed onto the pavement.

Cocoa Police Department spokesperson Barbara Matthews informed the media that Suy will not be charged. “This man [Hunt] came in and threatened his life with a gun,” she said. “[Suy] had the right to protect himself. We, as citizens, always have the right to protect our lives.”

Suy told the media that he had prepared for this day, knowing that small stores are often targeted by robbers. “I got no choice,” he said. “He threatened me and pulled a gun on me. I gotta fight back. If I don’t do it, they kill me.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and this won't be a crime blog--instead, it'll be about a few of the many, many things that I'm thankful for. I thank God for having been born in America during the 1940s. I thank God for my family, my wife and two children. I thank God for the church that I attend, for my fellow-Christians who make it a little easier to walk those final steps. I'm thankful for having published my fourth book earlier this year--the odds of getting published are huge, and I got lucky when Sun Struck: 16 Infamous Murders in the Sunshine State hit the bookstores a few weeks ago.

During this holiday season, for some reason I've been thinking of the great music that has sustained me over the years. Many readers of this blog know of my love for country music. I plan to list a Baker's dozen songs that I love. There are many more, but these are some of my all-time favorites.

1 - "Kawliga," by Hank Williams. Hank is my favorite singer/song-writer. "Kawliga" is one of the most creative country songs ever written. The antique wooden Indian standing by the door waiting for his lost love is an image my mind has never forgotten.

2 - "The Homecoming," by Tom T. Hall. This is one of most poignant songs I've ever heard. It touches on the estrangement of family and the reuniting, in a superficial way, of father and son. Tom T. Hall had many great songs and is one of my favorite writers.

3 - "She's Never Coming Back," by Mark Collie. This is a whimsical, yet sad story of lost love. I love the refrain, "Like the king of Rock 'n' Roll, she's never coming back."

4 - "Hillbilly Highway," by Steve Earle. Great, great song about the hillbillies who moved from the South to Detroit and yet retained their "country" ways.

5 - "Folsom Prison Blues," by Johnny Cash. What else can you say? This is a country classic. In fact, most anything Cash did during the 1960s could have been included in this list.

6 - "Two More Bottles of Wine," by Emmy Lou Harris. This is a rockin' song with that poignant feel of the isolated woman, alone on the west coast and longing for home.

7 - "Be Careful of Stones That You Throw," by Luke the Drifter. Okay, it was really Hank Williams. I'm a sucker for tear-jerkers and this one is the mother of all tear-jerkers. Luke the Drifter recorded 13 talking songs, many from old poems, that will breach the defenses of your soul.

8 - "City Lights," by Bill Anderson. Another "country boy goes to the city and loses himself in the bright lights" song. Many people have recorded this song, but I like Anderson's best. He wrote many great songs before descending into his "Whispering Bill" mode.

9 - "Tulsa Time," by Don Williams. Another song about a country boy trying to make it in the big city, this time Hollywood. Great tune, great lyrics.

10 - "Smoke Along the Tracks," by Stonewall Jackson. The singers back in the 1960s had some great songs and this is typical. Modern pseudo-country music tries to forget these great singers and song-writers, but I predict the old music will be played long after the modern songs are forgotten.

11 - "Living on Love," by Alan Jackson. This song reminds me of my upbringing. My grandparents had a nice front porch with a swing and we spent hours sitting out there talking politics and life and playing music. This is country music at its best.

12 - "Cold Hard Facts of Life," by Porter Wagoner. This is another song written by Bill Anderson. I love revenge songs and stories, and this one is a classic about the husband who finds his wife partying while he's supposed to be away.

13 - "The Titanic," by Graveyard Johnny Fast. Okay, this version of the song was recorded only on YouTube, as far as I can tell. Canadian Graveyard Johnny makes this Roy Acuff song his own. He does it a little slower and without all the steel guitars and fiddles and such. It's a great simple version of a great song.

Okay, that's it. I could go on and on. Old-Time country music. It's timeless and priceless. I'm thankful for the country music of the past.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Couple filmed entering murdered man's apartment

“I wouldn’t knock old fellows in the dust,” from John Crowe Ransom’s Captain Carpenter.

Charles Pickell [pictured] was a 74-year-old military veteran who lived alone in his Beauvoir Manor apartment in Biloxi, Mississippi. Although he had health problems, neighbors said he was friendly and always spoke. According to Bernard Brown, who lived across the hall, people in the apartment complex kept an eye on each other.

At about 7:45 a.m., on September 19, 2009, Brown heard two people banging on Pickell’s window. “It was strange,” Brown said. “He’s sickly and doesn’t have company that early. I didn’t recognize [the visitors].”

The couple, a man and woman, left Pickell’s apartment, loitered in the parking lot for a few minutes, then returned. By this time, Brown was thoroughly suspicious and grabbed his video recorder. “I saw them coming back to his apartment and I just...started filming,” he said. The strangers entered the invalid’s apartment and stayed for several minutes.

A few hours later, Pickell was found dead inside his apartment.
“We found a scene that led us to believe it was probably a homicide,” said Biloxi Police Department Captain Darrin Peterson. “[Pickell] appeared to have been struck with some type of object.”

When Brown learned of the murder of his friend, he contacted police and gave investigators the videotape he’d made.

Cops contacted local media and soon pictures of the unknown suspects were filling the local airways. They were quickly identified as Jeremy William Radau and Megan Kinberger. The two were arrested a few hours later. In addition to being charged with murder, the couple also admitted to the burglary of the Cabana Bar and Grill in Gulfport.

In Mississippi, the murder of an elderly person can result in a charge of capital murder, meaning the defendants could face the death penalty.

Bernard Brown said suspicious activity at the apartment had convinced him to set up his camera. “There’s been some other stuff happening,” he said. “So I just left [my video camera] set up by my window there.”

Captain Peterson said, “From what we’ve found out, [Pickell] was just a very nice guy. [He] would help anybody.”

Robbery may have been the motive for the murder.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Tragic Murder of Coralrose Fullwood

Coralrose Fullwood was reported missing on September 17, 2006. A few hours later, the body of the six-year-old was found in a wooded area near her North Port, Florida home. She had been raped and murdered. During the investigation, her father, Dale Fullwood, was arrested for having child pornography on his computer. He was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.

On August 12, 2008, Patrick D. Murphy was charged with the murder of Coralrose after police say DNA linked him to the crime-scene. Murphy had a record of arrests for possession of drugs, burglary, and theft and spent two years in prison on a burglary charge. Murphy’s trial for the murder of Coralrose has been set for 2010. Prosecutors say he is eligible for the death penalty.

North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis said the investigation is not over. “We believe that other people are involved,” he said.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sun Struck: 16 Infamous Murders in the Sunshine State

Sun Struck: 16 Infamous Murders in the Sunshine State by Robert A. Waters and John T. Waters, Jr. has arrived in bookstores across the country. If you enjoy reading the stories in this blog, you'll love this book. It describes similar stories, but much more in-depth. If you'll indulge me a bit of balatant self-promotion, this book would make a great Christmas gift for that true-crimer in your family.

One more thing: before you move to Florida or come down for vacation, read this book. It tells the real story of the Sunshine State. (Okay, that's kind of a weak joke--Florida is good, it just has a few bad characters.)