Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Unsolved Murder of Jodi Parrack

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Death in a Cemetery
by Robert A. Waters

November in Constantine, Michigan is usually bitter cold, but on the 8th, in 2007, it was shirt-sleeve weather. The girl riding the slick silver Mongoose bike wore a black t-shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers. It was 4:45 in the afternoon, and Jodi Christine Parrack was on her way home after visiting a friend.

She had straw-blond hair and brown eyes. She was pretty, in the tom-boyish way of eleven-year-olds. Her friend’s house was less than three blocks from the home Jodi shared with her mother and siblings. But somewhere along the route, she disappeared. When she wasn’t home by 5:30 (her curfew), Valerie Carver and several friends began looking for her.

At about 7:00, Valerie reported her daughter missing and police joined residents in searching for the girl. A few hours later, her bicycle was found leaning against a tombstone in the Constantine Township Cemetery. Jodi’s body was nearby, still clothed. Her mother was one of those who found her. The cemetery is about a mile from Jodi’s home. The ironic thing is that the child hated graveyards and wouldn’t go near them, so it’s highly improbable that she went there on her own.

Constantine is called the Seed Corn Capital of the World. It has all of 2,065 residents and a small police force. Jim Bedell, who retired as a detective after 25 years with the state police, was recently hired by the village as chief of police. He announced that his top priority is solving the girl’s murder. To help him, he asked his old employers, the Michigan State Police, for help. In January, 2011, they sent a team of experienced cold case investigators in to help work on the case.

Unlike many jurisdictions, the local police have released little information about the case. Even the cause of death has not been given out. It is known that a DNA profile was obtained from the scene of the crime, although whether it was discovered on her body, her clothing, or elsewhere is unknown. Numerous people have been tested, but there have been no matches.

It is also known that police interviewed more than two dozen registered sex offenders in the area.

Bedell claims that no one, not even relatives, have been ruled out. The killer is likely someone who lives or works in the area. The police chief thinks the murderer may have known Jodi or her family. With such a small pool of possible suspects, it’s likely that the case will eventually be solved.

It’s unfortunate that Michigan has no death penalty. When he’s caught and convicted, the killer will live the rest of his life eating, sleeping, and doing many of the things that pleasure mankind.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Meghan Brown

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The Lady with the Pink Pistol
by Robert A. Waters

In the early morning of March 12, Meghan Brown, 25, heard a knock on the front door of her Tierra Verde, Florida home. But when the former beauty queen cracked open the door, a stranger barged into the room. He grabbed her by her neck and placed his hand over her mouth and nose, then began dragging her toward the master bedroom.

Hearing the struggle, her fiancĂ©, Robert Planthaber, rushed into the living room and confronted the assailant. “I attacked him,” Planthaber said, “and took a severe beating to the head. But I got him off of her long enough for her to scramble to the room where she keeps her pink .38 Special.”

Planthaber, who came out of the fight with two black eyes, made out better than the home invader. When the dust cleared, Albert Franklin Hill lay on the floor dead.

Brown later described her actions to reporters. “I had my gun drawn,” she said. “[I] focused in on him--as he moved, my gun moved. I waited for my shot and when I saw an opening, I fired.”

Hill was hit four times: in the chest, groin, thigh, and back.

While this is a fairly typical self-defense shooting, the question on the minds of many Floridians is why Hill was out on the streets to begin with. With his criminal background, he should have been locked up for life.

According to a report from Fox News, “Hill had a criminal record stretching back nearly three decades--including arrests for burglary, battery, drug possession and grand theft. He reportedly served a 13-year prison term in 1987 and was released in September [2010]...”

Here’s a list of a few of his charges and convictions: burglary; assault and battery on an officer or firefighter; disorderly conduct; dealing in stolen property; resisting arrest; larceny; theft; disorderly intoxication; possession of burglary tools; criminal mischief and damage to property; sale, manufacture, and delivery of cocaine; possession of cocaine; and grand theft.

If that’s not bad enough, MyFox Tampa Bay reports that Hill was arrested on March 8 on a felony warrant: “Hill is no stranger to law enforcement with an arrest record that goes back nearly three decades. The deceased spent a large majority of his adult life behind bars serving five stints in the state prison system according to a Florida Department of Corrections report. He was arrested by [Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office] on Tuesday on a warrant out of Manatee County on a theft charge.”

He bailed out on March 9, then attempted to invade the Tierra Verde home on March 12.

Meghan Brown had the last word. “The way I see it,” she said, “is the guy was a really bad guy...It's not like he was going to turn his life around.”
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Friday, March 18, 2011

True Stories from Past Seasons

Texas & Pacific Rail Road

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The Man Who was Hanged Twice and Other Strange Tales
Compiled by Robert A Waters

From the Freeport (IL) Journal-Standard

El Paso, Texas, December 16, 1937. A "wild west" holdup of a Texas & Pacific freight train near Van Horn early this year was attempted by 27-year-old Cecil Mann of El Paso, who was finally over-powered by hoboes on the train after Mann Jumped into the train cab, firing wildly at the fireman and engineer, who after dodging bullets, jumped from the train. Mann was brought to El Paso and declared mentally unbalanced by a court.

From the Trenton (NJ) Times

Pensacola, Fla., March 10, 1900. Wayman King, a negro, who murdered Victoria Watkins Sept. 16 last because she refused to marry him, was twice hanged within half an hour here yesterday. The drop first fell at 1:05 o'clock p. m., and after the body had hanged from the gallows five minutes County Physician McMillan pronounced him dead. The body was cut down, put into the coffin and carried into the jail. There it was discovered that King was breathing in spasmodic gasps and giving utterance to smothered groans. By order of Sheriff Smith, King was again taken to the gallows, a new rope was rigged, the noose was fitted around his neck, and at 1:29 o'clock the trap was sprung for the second time. In 11 minutes life was extinct, but the body was kept suspended four minutes longer to make sure that he was dead. King was perfectly calm on the gallows, smoked a cigar, took a chew of tobacco, drank a glass of water, delivered an address and did not flinch when the rope was fitted around his neck.

From the Butts County (GA) Argus

April 5, 1877. The legislature of Massachusetts is engaged in investigating charges of cruelty against the Superintendent of the Reform School of that State. It seems that the practice prevails there of stripping the boys naked when they are refractory and lashing them, and of confining them in a sweatbox with closing sides, and keeping them there until exhausted, and other refinements of cruelty which have hitherto been accredited alone to the Spanish Inquisition. Are there no laws for the prevention of cruelty to children on the Massachusetts statute books?

From the Kingsport (TN) Times

Bristol, Tennessee, May 25, 1916. Stricken with paralysis while fishing in Denver Creek, near Pendleton’s Crossing, in north Bristol, Mrs. John Aldred, a widow, nearly 50 years old, fell into the water. Her young daughter, who had been sitting on the bank beside her, began screaming and attracted the attention of a gang of Norfolk & Western section men. Mrs. Aldred is a corpulent woman, and her clothing kept her afloat until the section men could pull her out. Chief of Police, B. D. Kellor and patrolman Worley T. Crosswhite, were summoned and took the woman to her home.

From the Santa Fe New Mexican

July 25, 1928. Murder for revenge and murder for profit have been discussed but mass murder for amusement is a novelty. And this "crime" now is attributed to a mountain lion which has been roaming around Macho canyon, 15 miles east of Santa Fe. The tenderfoot who came out to New Mexico this summer to get thrills, has them in this report. And may have chills if he runs into this mountain lion whose tracks have been found around a sheep camp. The local forestry officials received word today that a native herder reported that in the Macho canyon recently a mountain lion's tracks had been found and also the carcasses of no fewer than 20 fat and healthy sheep. It appears that the lion killed for amusement. He knocked down the sheep much as a bowler would tenpins. One after another of the hapless and harmless little creatures were killed by the terrific slaps of the lion's paws. The lion did not enjoy mutton chops, it seems; after killing 20, he retired to his pinon jungle.

From the Ogden (UT) Standard Examiner

March 19, 1935. Convicts at work in a California county road camp, in Elizabeth canyon, rebelled "because they had no hashed-brown potatoes" for breakfast. It was a substantial breakfast, prunes, cereal, griddle cakes, but no hashed-brown potatoes. Men change. When Parmentier, for whom the excellent potato soup potage Parmentier is named, brought the first potatoes to France, nobody would eat them. An intelligent king ordered the nobles at court to wear potato blossoms in their button holes in the spring. Immediately the people said, "Potatoes must be good.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Will Justice Ever Come for Pamela Cahanes?

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Who Murdered the Sailor?
by Robert A. Waters

Twenty-five years after her murder, the soul of Pamela Cahanes cries for justice. There’s little information on the Internet about the Navy recruit who was killed before she even completed her training. I found a photo of her cold case playing card and some newspaper clippings posted on a true crime forum. But from all indications, this case is as cold as they get.

Pamela, 26, had just completed basic training at the Navy Training Center in Orlando, Florida. An Airman’s Apprentice, she remained at the base while she waited to start a second training session.

On August 25, 1984, passing motorists reported seeing a body in the front yard of a vacant home at 2416 Old State Road 44 in Sanford. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Department responded and found a strange scene.

The badly beaten body of the young woman was posed in an unusual position: crouched on all fours. She wore only her panties. Her Navy uniform lay beside her, and her bra was found about a hundred yards away. The body was soon identified as Pamela Cahanes. Her military-issued purse was missing. According to the sheriff’s department, she had been brutally beaten about the face.

Because she had about $100 in her uniform, investigators didn’t believe robbery was the motive. “More than likely it was a sex assault that led to murder,” said Lt. George Hagood of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department.

On the day of her murder, Pamela was seen at a local K-Mart. Receipts scattered beside her body confirmed the sighting. It was thought that she left the store with a man, possibly another serviceman. An article in the Orlando Sentinel reported that “investigators believe the man [she was seen with] may have been connected to the Naval Training Center...Recruits’ activities are so restricted they have no opportunity to meet outsiders.”

Pamela was from Stillwater, Minnesota. “She was a happy-go-lucky girl who loved life,” her mother, Alice Cahanes, said. “She was outgoing, wanted more for herself, and worked hard to get it.”

Who murdered the sailor? After two-and-a-half decades, could investigators obtain the records of all the men who were at the Orlando Navy Training Center in the summer of 1984 and check to see if any have records of violence toward women? Could the Navy place a billboard near the training center asking for information about the cold case? Although police have hinted that there was no semen left at the scene, could Pamela's clothes be retested for saliva or skin cells that may have been left by the killer?

The murderer of Pamela Cahanes has walked the streets long enough. He needs to meet the cold hands of justice.

If you have any information, contact 1-800-226-8477.