Thursday, April 29, 2010

Defending your home

Recent home defense stories
by Robert A. Waters

Back in 1998, when I published my first book, The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves with a Firearm, the Internet was beginning to help change a lot of people's minds about the gun issue. Up until the World Wide Web came into existence, anti-gunners were able to claim that self-defense with a firearm was rare. As soon as newspapers went online, that argument could no longer prevail. (Self-defense stories rarely make national news and are carried in local newspapers only.) In 1997, while preparing to write my book, I researched thousands of cases in which criminals were beaten at their own game. Murderers, rapists, robbers, thieves, burglars, even serial killers have been stopped by armed citizens. The Best Defense is out of print now, but can still be obtained at some online bookstores. The following true stories describe recent home invasions that ended badly for the thugs.

On April 18, 2010, Christopher Hampton was supposed be under house arrest in Indianapolis. A career criminal, he’d been convicted of numerous charges, including burglary and illegal possession of drugs and firearms. But on that day, the battery went dead in the GPS monitoring device that he wore. Hampton used the snafu to attempt a home invasion. He selected an apartment on Pennsylvania Avenue. There he pulled out a gun and tried to rob three people in the home. As he marched the victims into a back room, Brian Blevins, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, pulled out his own pistol and shot Hampton in the chest. The invader was killed instantly. Cops stated that Blevins acted in lawful self-defense and he was not charged with any crime.

“Mr. Lambert is not facing any charges,” West Virginia Senior Trooper L. T. Goldie, Jr. said after Jeffrey Lambert shot a man who was trying to break into his home. According to police reports, Thomas Perry had attempted to illegally enter several houses in the small town of Atenville--in each case, he was chased away by residents. He'd also tried to start a fight with three employees of a local cable company. Once he arrived at the Lambert residence, Perry attempted to kick in the front door. “In that residence,” Goldie said, “[there were] four small children of Mr. Lambert. He said he felt threatened for his safety and his children’s safety, so he fired the shot.” Lambert told police that he’d been involved in a motorcycle accident which crippled him. Because of his physical handicap, he bought a pistol to protect himself and his family. Perry was taken to a local hospital for treatment of a stomach wound. After recovering, troopers said they planned to charge the intruder with assault and trespassing.

Beatrice Turner used a .22-caliber pistol to rout a home invader

On April 20, in Des Moines, Iowa, eighty-nine-year-old Beatrice Turner stopped an intruder in his tracks. A stranger, later identified as Nelson McAlpine, began pounding on her front door. Turner ordered him to leave. Since he wouldn’t stop, and seemed determined to knock the door down, she grabbed her .22-caliber pistol. Finally, the door was kicked open. Turner, now eyeball-to-eyeball with the stranger, warned him again. "As long as you stay on the outside," she said, "I'm not gonna [shoot]. But if you come on the inside, it's going to be me or you." The intruder took a step toward her and the homeowner fired. Startled, McAlpine ran outside where he was quickly arrested. He seemed more upset that his intended victim shot at him than he was at getting busted. Police, who praised Turner, explained to McAlpine that he was lucky the bullet didn’t find its mark.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unknown Colorado killer charged with three murders

Hammer attack kills family of three
by Robert A. Waters

According to a recent article I read, Colorado has at least 1,500 cold cases from the 1950s forward--probably about average for its size and population. Many of the cases have little physical evidence. Some of the case files have even been lost by local police agencies. Unless someone confesses, most will never be solved. Occasionally, however, investigators find a file that contains DNA or one or more fingerprints.

It’s been more than twenty-five years since an Aurora, Colorado family was murdered. Because cops have DNA but no one to match it to, they’ve taken the unusual step of charging an unknown killer.

Sometime between midnight and 6 a.m., on January 16, 1984, Bruce Bennett, 27, his wife Debra, 26, and their daughters Melissa, 7, and Vanessa, 3, were attacked by someone using a hammer and knife. Bruce was murdered. Debra and Melissa were both raped and murdered. Little Vanessa was savagely beaten but survived.

Snow covered the ground outside when the unknown assailant broke into the Bennett home. In a recent article, Denver Post reporter Kirk Mitchell summarized what happened: “Bruce confronted the man on the stairs, investigators said. He had deep gashes on his arms and body. Blood that splattered and was smeared up and down the staircase marked the running battle. Debra’s body was found in her bedroom, and Melissa and Vanessa were both found in their beds.” A bloody knife and purse were found in the yard outside.

After being discharged from the Navy where he served as a sonar analyst, Bruce Bennett returned to his hometown of Aurora and worked in the family-owned furniture store. He went to school at night and had recently completed the credentials to become an air traffic controller. “They [the Bennett family] led a quiet life,” his mother, Constance, said. “They worked hard and stayed home at night.”

Marvin Brandt, a former homicide investigator with APD, said, “It was a blitz attack for no reason.” The scene shook even hardened detectives. Blood seemed to be everywhere. While most of it belonged to the family, some of the blood belonged to the assailant. Enough blood and semen was obtained to get the killer’s DNA profile.

This was not the first such attack in the area. Just two weeks before, a couple was attacked in their home by a stranger with a hammer. They survived, although both were seriously injured.

A week later, Patricia Louise Smith, 50, died in her home after being struck several times with a hammer. The murder has never been solved.

Later that day, flight attendant Donna Dixon was attacked in her garage by a hammer-wielding assailant. She barely survived the attack.

District Attorney Jim Peters has obtained a John Doe warrant for the assailant, based on the DNA found at the scene of the Bennett homicides. Police have cleared dozens of people, including all members of the Bennett family.

Vanessa, whose jaw was shattered by hammer blows, was raised by Bruce’s mother, Constance Bennett. “It’s scary what people can do,” she said. “I don’t know why anyone would beat a three-year-old girl.”

Here’s hoping the killer is identified and brought to justice.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Unsolved Murder in Knoxville

Sleepless Jones
by Robert A. Waters

It was Saturday, March 31, 1951 when a call came in to Knox County Sheriff Clarence Walter “Buddy” Jones. A neighbor of Fred and Mary Hankins called to say that Mary was lying in a pool of blood and needed help. The Hankins’ lived in Fountain City, just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Sheriff’s investigators quickly arrived, as did an ambulance. Mrs. Hankins was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital where she was pronounced dead from a single gunshot wound to the back of her head.

As the investigation began, Buddy Jones foolishly told local reporters: “I’m not going to bed until we crack this case.” Since the murder was never solved, the sheriff was forever called “Sleepless Jones” by local residents.

Fred Hankins was vice president of Construction Services, Inc. On the day his wife was killed, he’d arranged with Hensley’s Garage to have his car serviced. He took the car to the garage at about one o’clock that afternoon and was driven back home by an employee. At about three, the same employee picked Fred up and transported him back to the garage to get his car. The employee later told investigators that he saw Mrs. Hankins standing at the window.

Fred informed detectives that after picking up his car he’d stopped at his father’s furniture store and visited for a while.

At about five o’clock, he arrived home and found his wife lying on the floor of the hallway leading to the basement. She was bleeding from a head wound. He ran to his next-door-neighbor’s house and asked C. L. Holt to call for help. Then Fred ran back to the house, followed by the neighbors.

By the time investigators arrived, numerous friends and relatives had been notified. More than a dozen people were in the house when deputies arrived. Detectives later stated that they were unable to find any clues because of the chaos. In fact, they didn’t even bother to dust the scene for fingerprints.

Mrs. Hankins was known as a cautious woman who would not willingly let a stranger into her home. Since there seemed to be no forcible point of entry and no sign of a struggle, investigators assumed that she knew her killer. An autopsy revealed that she’d been shot once in the back of head with a .32-caliber slug. She had not been sexually assaulted.

Detectives determined that robbery was not the motive.

Fred Hankins was interrogated but denied any involvement in the murder. He also denied owning a gun.

A neighbor, Mrs. Jess Schumacher, who lived directly across the street, said that she had seen a stranger drive up in a 1951 black Ford. He was dressed in a blue suit and wore a brown hat. She guessed the time to be around three o’clock. The man walked “casually” up to the door and was let in by Mrs. Hankins. He stayed approximately thirty minutes and left. He seemed to be in no hurry as he got in his car and drove away.

Mrs. Hankins’ personal life was spotless. She and Fred had been high school sweethearts and had married young. They had no children. There were no other men in her life, and she kept a beautiful home. The couple liked to work in their garden. They attended a local church every Sunday. Mrs. Hankins had recently received $6,000 from her deceased father’s estate and had placed it in a savings account.

According to newspaper accounts, Sheriff Jones and his men eventually began to believe that Mrs. Hankins was murdered by a random stranger. They searched diligently for the man in the blue suit but never found him.

They also interviewed relatives of Mrs. Hankins.

In the end, the case was never solved.

Sleepless Jones was sheriff for only two years. He had once been a warden at Brushy Mountain State Prison and before that had served in World War II as an Army Air Corps officer and gunnery instructor. A firearms expert, he was an exhibition shooter who worked for Remington Firearms Company. Even with his many accomplishments, townspeople would sometimes snicker when he walked by.

Neither Jones nor later sheriffs were able to solve the murder of Mary Hankins. After nearly sixty years, it’s obvious that someone got away with murder. Was it a stranger? Or was it someone much closer to her?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Danger lurks for real estate agents

Lindsay Buziak, real estate agent murdered for no apparent reason

Bizarre Cases Highlight Dangers Facing Real Estate Agents
by Robert A. Waters

On December 3, 2007, Marilyn Foss, who works for Sotheby’s International Realty in Santa Fe, New Mexico, met a prospective client in front of the local library. The woman wore a burka and claimed to be Nata Ramein, wife of a wealthy Lebanese oil man who wished to purchase a home in the area.

An article in the Santa Fe New Mexican described what happened next: “After meeting [in front of the library], Foss and the woman drove to Tesuque to see one property, then went to another property on Calle San Martin in Santa Fe. While in the basement of the second residence, Foss saw that the woman was holding a black handgun. Foss tried to fight off the woman, grabbing her hair and pulling out some strands, but the woman pinned her to the floor, put the barrel of the gun to her head, and threatened to kill her.”

Ramien, later identified as Sarah Ochoa, strapped a device that looked like a bomb to Foss and ordered the real estate agent to drive to her bank. Ochoa walked with Foss into the bank and forced her to withdraw $ 8,000 from her checking account. Foss then alerted bank officials to the robbery and Ochoa fled.

Three days later, she was captured.

Marilyn Foss was lucky to be alive. Many real estate agents have suffered a worse fate.

In July, 2006, Sarah Walker, an onsite agent for D. R. Horton, was showing a model home in McKinney, Texas. A man pretending to be a customer walked in and stabbed her 27 times. The assailant ripped the jewelry from her fingers as Walker lay on the floor dying. Kasoul Chanthakoumanne was later convicted and sentenced to death for the brutal murder.

Like many convenience store clerks, cab drivers, and others who work in service-oriented jobs, Walker was alone when she was attacked.

According to an article in Mortgage News Daily, few statistics are available on the number of real estate agents who have been murdered: “One source states that 206 agents were murdered on the job between 1982 and 2000. This does not even touch on the number of agents who were the victims of sexual assault, non-fatal shootings, beatings, and stabbings, robbery, and car-jacking.”

In another case that seems to defy logic, Lindsay Buziak was savagely murdered while showing a home just across the Canadian border in the District of Saanich, Victoria, British Columbia. Police have surmised that a cell phone was purchased and used for one purpose: to lure the realtor to a home so that she could be slaughtered. A man and a woman were part of the plot--each called Lindsay on that cell phone using foreign accents. After she met the male caller at the empty house, he stabbed Lindsay to death. The cell phone that had been used to call her had never been used before and was never used again. Police could not confirm a motive for the attack. Even though the family has offered a reward of $ 100,000, the case is still unsolved.

Her father, Jeff Buziak, described Lindsay as a person who had no enemies. “She was the most beautiful girl you could ever meet," he said. "I miss her so much. I love her so much. Lindsay was vibrant, full of life, loved by everybody. She had oodles of friends. She was so focused on her career. She thought it was the greatest thing. She was a tremendous young woman."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


ESPN reporter Erin Andrews

The crazies out there
by Robert A. Waters

I picture the crazies hanging out in stuffy rooms surrounded by computers, cell-phones, TVs, and enough wiring to fry their brains. Although they don’t braid tin-foil around their skulls and listen for the signals of aliens, they can be dangerous.

Erin Andrews is a sports reporter for ESPN. Blond, with a girl-next-door look, she seems to be a magnet for weirdos. Maybe it’s because she gets to cozy up to sports celebrities, or maybe it’s just that look. A couple years ago, an obsessed drone began following her from hotel to hotel. Michael David Barrett, 49, somehow managed to rent rooms next to those occupied by Andrews. He drilled peepholes through the walls and doors, and video-taped her. Several videos of Andrews walking around in the nude were placed on the Internet. Barrett recently pled guilty to stalking and received two-and-a-half years in prison.

Now Andrews is receiving death threats. Meanwhile, she continues to try to pursue her career. She’s currently a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” and still appears on the sidelines to interview players. Even though the crazies keep coming at her like death-infected zombies, here’s hoping the girl next door will prevail.

In America, there’s a long history of celebrity stalkers.

Rebecca Schaeffer was murdered by a certified crazy. Robert Bardo had been stalking her for years. Had the Puritans been around, he might have had an “L” for “Loser” carved on his forehead. Bardo couldn’t hold down a job and, according to one of his teachers, was a “timebomb waiting to explode.” Schaeffer had starred in the sit-com, “My Sister Sam,” and Bardo fancied that she was in love with him. He later wrote, “She came into my life in the right moment. She was brilliant, pretty, outrageous, her innocence impressed me. She turned into a goddess for me, an idol. Since then, I turned an atheist, I only adored her.”

He received an autographed photo of her through the mail, and it strengthened his obsession. Bardo built a shrine to her in his bedroom and continually fantasized about her. After her television series was canceled, Schaeffer appeared in a movie entitled, “Class Warfare in Beverly Hills.” In the film, she had a brief bedroom scene. Such infidelity enraged Bardo. He traveled by bus from Tucson to Los Angeles and tracked her down. When Schaeffer answered the door to her apartment, Bardo shot her. He later told police that the last word she said was, “Why?”

When a certified crazy strikes, there’s rarely a reason that normal people can understand.

John Hinckley called his attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan “the greatest love offering in the history of the world.” Another certified wacko who couldn’t hold a job and whose fantasies guided his life, Hinckley was obsessed with actress Jodie Foster. A nobody, he decided that he would have to become a “celebrity” in order to impress her. So he shot Reagan, press secretary Jim Brady, and two secret service agents. To the dismay of most Americans, Hinckley got off light. He ended up in an insane asylum and is now back on the streets.

Although no one knows for sure, it’s likely that Cedar Rapids, Iowa news reporter Jodi Huisentruit was stalked and kidnapped by a crazed fan. As the popular reporter left her apartment early in the morning of June 27, 1995, she was snatched. Her car keys, a pair of shoes, a blow dryer, a bottle of hair spray, and earrings were found near her Mazda Miata, signaling the aftermath of a violent attack. She has never been found, and the case remains unsolved.

They’re out there. Crazies. Thousands, tens of thousands, maybe more, waiting to strike. They’ll do anything for their moment in the spotlight. Even kill.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cop's quick thinking leads to arrest

Somer Thompson
Fast response leads to arrest of Jarred Mitchell Harrell
by Robert A. Waters

On October 19, 2009, seven-year-old Somer Thompson was kidnapped as she walked home from school. The first-grader wore a cranberry-colored jumpsuit and was just a few blocks from home when she disappeared. The crime tore the soul out of her Clay County, Florida community.

Without a detective named Bruce Owens, this stranger abduction may never have been solved. Almost as soon as Somer’s disappearance was reported, Owens recommended to Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler that investigators begin following garbage trucks from the area. Once the trucks reached their destination, Owens suggested that their contents be searched. The sheriff, open to innovative ideas, assigned a team of detectives to the task.

The strategy worked. Two days after the abduction, investigators saw the legs of a child protruding from a clump of garbage at the Chesser Island Road Landfill dump in nearby Folkston, Georgia. The remains were quickly identified as Somer’s. DNA was found on her clothing, and sheriff’s officials said it matched Jarred Mitchell Harrell.

On March 26, 2010, Harrell, 24, was charged with premeditated murder, sexual battery of a child, and lewd and lascivious battery. In addition, Harrell, who was living with his mother along the route Somer walked when she disappeared, was charged with more than fifty counts of sexual molestation of another young girl. According to Sheriff Beseler, Harrell had filmed the assault.

If the charges are true, Harrell should receive the death penalty.

Detective Bruce Owens should be given accolades, awards, and a promotion. His quick thinking no doubt saved other young children from the clutches of a sadistic monster.