Monday, February 27, 2012

Child Killer in New Hampshire

Debra Lee Horn
After four decades, Debra Lee Horn murder case is unsolved
by Robert A. Waters

On the morning of January 29, 1969, in Allenstown, New Hampshire, eleven-year-old Debra Lee Horn walked up the driveway toward her school bus stop. Before she reached it, however, she slipped on the ice and fell. Helped by her brother, she returned to her house and told her parents she’d hurt her neck. She asked to stay home that day and they reluctantly agreed. Her father later said he thought she wasn’t really hurt but just wanted to skip school.

Debra's brother went back out to catch the bus and both her parents left to go to work. The last time they saw Debra, described as a “frail, brown-eyed girl with a pixie haircut,” she was lying on the couch with a blanket covering her.

Her parents returned home at noon to find the front door wide-open. An Associated Press article reported: “Debra’s coat and boots were in place and the blanket was tossed on the couch. She was gone. Her two pet poodles, who would have trailed along behind her, were in the house.”

New Hampshire State Police investigators had few leads. In the driveway, they did discover a tire track. A police spokesman told reporters they were looking for a car with “studded snow tires.” A report came in that someone had seen a girl who looked like Debra with a man buying gasoline at a nearby service station. It turned out that the customer was a local resident who had his daughter in tow. Searchers found human blood beside a highway two miles from Debra’s house, but since DNA was unknown at the time, detectives couldn't determine its origin.

Debra's mother and father took to the local airways to plead for their daughter's safe return. The sobbing mother said: "Only God in His infinite wisdom knows at this moment where and how Debbie is..."

Police, firefighters, and civilians formed human chains to hunt the frigid area around Allenstown. Plodding over snow-banks and icy creeks, exploring empty homes and vacant cars, the searchers refused to quit. Day after day, they came up empty. Finally, in late February, heavy snows locked in the region and the search ground to a halt.

In late March, a woman reported seeing the body of a blonde-haired girl floating in the Merrimack River at Manchester. Two-man teams of state troopers searched the banks while others used aluminum boats powered by outboard motors to check the river from Manchester to Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. Shooting hazardous rapids and dodging dangerous ice-floes, they found nothing.

Finally, on August 10, three teenage boys exploring an abandoned 1952 Plymouth in Sandown, New Hampshire opened the trunk and discovered a decomposed body. One teen told a reporter: “We thought at first it was a dummy.” The sad remains of Debra Lee Horn had been located. She was completely nude. Her clothes, a light gold jumper, a white turtleneck jersey, and gold knee-length stockings, were missing. Debra's grieving parents identified a gold ring and a silver ear-ring she wore.

Attorney General Norman D’Amours reported that “there was an indication of some trauma to the back of the head. Although the doctor could not state positively that this mark...was a trauma, it appeared very probably that such was the case.” No one could determine whether the trauma to the head was the result of the fall she'd taken or a homicidal blow.

Regardless of the cause of death, someone took the child from her home, removed her clothes, and stuffed her body in the trunk of an old car 25 miles away.

Even though investigators continued to work occasional leads, they never developed a viable suspect. The case eventually went cold.

Decades passed. A few years ago, the New Hampshire Department of Justice created a website to publicize cold cases. Debra Horn's unsolved murder is included.

Who abducted Debra Lee Horn from her home in icy Allenstown, New Hampshire? My guess is that it was a crime of opportunity, a random act by someone who came to the door. Maybe a salesman, or a friend of the family. Finding the child alone, he kidnapped, raped, and murdered her.

Unless some unknown clue surfaces or someone confesses, this random killer got away with cold-blooded murder.

At least two other unsolved murders of young girls occurred in New Hampshire between 1968 and 1971.

On June 11, 1968, Joanne Dunham, 15, disappeared from Charleston as she was walking to school. Her body was found the following day on a dirt road in Unity. The coroner determined that she had been sexually assaulted and died of asphyxiation.

On November 21, 1971, Kathy Lynn Gloddy, 13, vanished from downtown Franklin. The next day, searchers located her body in a wooded area five miles away. She'd been brutally raped. Cause of death was blunt force trauma to the neck, head, and abdomen.

Kathy Lynn Gloddy

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Suggestions to a Thug Doing Time

Frederick G. Gadson

Do the right thing
by Robert A. Waters

Frederick G. Gadson has a few more years to contemplate a decision he made back in 2007. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison for participating in a robbery that killed a man. He’s currently serving his time at Florida State Prison in Raiford. He gets out in 2018 and maybe, just maybe, he’ll make some changes in his life.

In 2007, John Lovell, a 71-year-old ex-Marine, was sitting alone eating a Subway sandwich when Gadson and Donicio Arrindell rushed into the Plantation, Florida restaurant. They each pulled handguns and robbed the cashiers. Then they turned to Lovell.

When the thugs demanded money, he pulled out a wad of cash and dropped it to the floor. “Pick it up,” Gadson demanded. Lovell refused. The robbers, threatening him with their guns, attempted to force him into the rest room.

As they struggled, Lovell, who had a concealed carry permit, reached into a holster behind his back and drew out a handgun. Three loud pops later Arrindell dropped to the floor with two head shots. Stone dead. Gadson staggered through the door. Police found him in some bushes bleeding out from a stomach wound. Quick work by paramedics and doctors saved his life.

In Florida, if somebody dies during the commission of a crime, all the perps can be charged with murder. Gadson was lucky to get second degree and 12 instead of first degree and life.

Okay, Gadson, here are a few suggestions for when you get out.

First, get a job. The money’s steadier and you usually don’t get shot.

Second, stay off drugs. Sure, I know there’s a big push to legalize the crap, but there are too many guys like you who just have to have that high, even if it means busting a Subway for a few bills.

Third, choose your friends carefully. If they do drugs, run. If they don’t work or go to school, run. If they’re ex-cons, run even faster.

Fourth, maybe try something spiritual, like church. Sure, I know there’s a big push to get rid of the Bible-thumpers, but maybe you’ll learn a few things. Like thou shalt not steal; or thou shalt not kill; or thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. Or, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Oh yeah, refer back to number three--you might also meet some good, clean-living dudes to hang with.

Fifth, don’t pick a fight with a 71-year-old ex-Marine.

One more thing. Don’t listen to your relatives. Rosa Jones, your grandma, told reporters: "[Lovell] should not have taken the law in his hands." Well, what would you do with two robbers holding guns to your head and pushing you into a rest room?

When you get out, just do the right thing. Treat people the way you'd like to be treated. Walk the straight and narrow.

Life can be good if you live right.

Barista Samantha Koenig Kidnapped in Anchorage

Help Find Samantha

On February 1, eighteen-year-old Samantha Koenig was abducted from the Common Grounds Expresso in Anchorage, Alaska where she worked. Authorities have not released videos which show the kidnapping, but have said that a frightened-looking Samantha was forcibly taken from the store. A reward of $41,000 is being offered in this case. If you have information, call 907-786-8900.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Who Murdered Dorothy Kelm?

1950 murder goes unsolved
by Robert A. Waters

On the afternoon of November 3, 1950, two miles south of St. Joseph, Michigan, Otto Kelm returned home from work. He found his two-year-old son, Arthur, crying in his crib, but his wife was missing. The day before, Dorothy had celebrated her twenty-first birthday, and part of the cake with white and pink frosting still sat on the kitchen table.

The residence on Cleveland Avenue overlooked Hickory Creek. Otto, a tool maker and army veteran, had built the home for his pretty bride three years before.

The Benton Harbor News-Palladium described the scene Otto discovered: “A fresh mar in the plaster near a television set turned partially on its side in the living room mutely testified to the struggle Mrs. Kelm put up for her life against her assailant.” A lamp had been knocked to the floor and some of Dorothy’s torn clothing lay scattered across the living room and kitchen.

Otto quickly called the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. That evening, searchers found Dorothy’s partially nude body submerged in the creek behind her home. News reports stated that “she was disrobed and her hands had been tied behind her back. Investigation showed a welt on her neck believed [to have been] caused when she was choked with some of the same cord that bound her hands. An autopsy indicated that although she had probably been fatally choked, she was still breathing when pushed into the creek.”

The purpose of the attack seemed to be an attempted sexual assault, but the coroner reported that none had taken place. About $20 had been stolen from the victim's purse, as well as a “Spanish war pistol” owned by ex-soldier Otto Kelm.

Investigators learned that in the early afternoon, Dorothy had spoken with her mother-in-law on the telephone. At about two o’clock, she abruptly hung up, stating that someone was at the door. Her husband returned home at 5:00, so there seemed to be a three-hour window during which time the murder was committed.

Since investigators found no signs of a break-in, they concluded that Dorothy had likely known her assailant. Deputies arrested a neighbor and her brother-in-law, but quickly released them. In addition, several known “sexual deviates” were rounded up and interrogated.

For more than a decade, the sheriff’s department actively pursued leads. Investigators questioned, polygraphed, and released dozens of suspects. In 1951, Willie Asbury, a migrant worker, was arrested. In 1953, Arthur Robertoy, an escapee from a nearby mental institution, was questioned. Both were released when detectives found insufficient evidence to hold them.

In 1957, Eugene Yetzke was indicted in the slaying. At the time of his arrest, he worked at a mill in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, in 1950, when Dorothy had been murdered, the suspect had lived in St. Joseph. Yetzke was eventually released without going to trial.

After that, the case went cold.

Who murdered Dorothy Kelm? Was it someone she knew, or a complete stranger?

Sixty-two years later, the murder of the beautiful wife and mother is still unsolved. Unless he died or was incarcerated for another crime, a murderer may have walked the streets of America, free as a bird, a time-bomb waiting to explode once more.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

After 18 Years, Missing Woman Calls Cops

Wanna get away?
by Robert A. Waters

The headline read: "Detectives don’t believe mother’s disappearance in ’94 was voluntary."

Judith Bello-Medina disappeared from Stanwood, Washington on December 13, 1993 (the 1994 date on the cold case playing card and the headline is incorrect). Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.

Judith was married and had a three-year-old son. She dropped him off at day-care early that morning, then drove to her job at National Food Corporation in Sylvana. At 9:30, she abruptly left her place of employment and vanished. Her car was located in front of the Stanwood Post Office, but Bello was nowhere to be seen.

On the tenth anniversary of her disappearance, Daniel Bello, her brother, said: "She never called. She never wrote. It's been a long time." Friends and relatives, who said she would never walk off and leave her son, suspected foul play.

Bello's son moved away with his father, and the family lost contact with him until he called an uncle several years later.

In 2011, detective Kelly Willoth, hoping to warm up the cold case, told reporters she planned to track down Bello’s husband and question him again. Three years earlier, the missing woman had been featured as the eight of hearts on the Snohomish County Cold Case Playing Cards. These cards were distributed to inmates in local jails and state prisons offering a reward for productive leads on unsolved cases. The cards were also published on the sheriff’s department’s webpage.

On December 1, 2011, a new headline rocked the community: "Woman featured on cold case cards calls detectives, ends 18-year search for her."

Bello called Willoth to report that she is alive and well. She left her old life behind because of marital problems, she said. She now lives in California and has three children. Bello informed detectives that she didn’t even know she was listed as a “missing person” until she looked up her name online.

Snohomish County Chief Kevin Prentiss told reporters that “there are a lot of reasons why people go missing, and not all of them are bad. Sometimes people just don't want to be found.”

Reminds me of the old Southwest Airline commercial. "Wanna get away?"

Sunday, February 5, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Delivered from Evil by Ron Franscell

Delivered from Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived
Ron Franscell
Fair Winds Press: Beverly, Massachusetts; 2011.

Review by Robert A. Waters

“The past is gone on River Road, as if maybe it never happened.” So begins the first of ten remarkable stories. These headline-grabbing mass murders left an indelible print on the nation--and the surviving victims. Charles Whitman sniped dozens of people from the University of Texas observation tower, killing sixteen. Psycho James Huberty spent seventy-seven minutes gunning down patrons and employees at a San Ysidro, California McDonald's Restaurant. George Hennard crashed his truck into Luby's Cafeteria in Killen, Texas and methodically shot 47 customers.

The killers in Delivered from Evil became forever infamous. But their victims were relegated to obscurity to fight the demons that haunted them. Ron Franscell has pieced together the inspiring lives of ten of these survivors.

Suzanne Gratia escaped the Luby's shooting. Her mother and father, who were dining with her, did not. Frustration and guilt dogged the Texas chiropractor because she’d left a loaded pistol in her car. (At the time, it was against the law in Texas to carry a gun into an eating establishment.) During the massacre, Gratia had a clean shot that could have ended the rampage. She later became a legislator and helped streamline Texas’ concealed carry laws so permit holders can protect themselves in restaurants.

One of the nation's first mass shootings occurred in Camden, New Jersey. In 1949, war veteran Howard Unruh walked down 32nd Street blasting anyone who moved. When the bloodbath ended, thirteen bodies lay in businesses, on sidewalks, and in cars. Twelve-year-old Charles Cohen hid in a closet as his father, mother, and grandmother were gunned down. Unruh was sentenced to life in a psychiatric institution. Years later, when the killer asked to be transferred to a minimum security mental health facility, Cohen spoke out for the first time.

Within hours after Julian Harvey learned that eleven-year-old Terri Jo Duperrault had been found alive and floating on a cork life raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, he drove to his motel room and cut his jugular vein. Three days before, the skipper of the chartered ketch Bluebell had murdered five people: his wife and almost the entire Dupperrault family. Only Terri Jo lived. After floating in open shark-infested waters for three days, a Greek ship rescued her. The motive for Harvey’s mad crime was to collect an insurance policy on his wife.

Ron Franscell is one of my favorite authors. He brings life to the sad dramas that take place in the recesses of crime. Delivered from Evil is his fourth true crime book and one of his best. I urge my readers to grab your Nook or your Kindle or rush to your favorite book store and buy it.

You won't be disappointed.

Book trailer narrated by author Ron Franscell

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band

American folk song inspired by convict ships
by Robert A. Waters

Before 1776, Great Britain used the colonies in America to dump convicted pick-pockets, thieves, robbers, and murderers. Starting about 1620, thousands of prisoners came to this country on convict ships. After the states won independence, the British looked elsewhere to get rid of their unwanted riff-raff.

Van Diemen’s Land, now Australia, offered a faraway place to send English and Irish prisoners considered incorrigible. In 1786, the first convict ships landed there. From then until 1868, when the practice ended, more than 165,000 prisoners were transported to Van Diemen's Land.

Conditions on the ships defied imagination. Convicts, housed below decks in locked airless cages, wore balls and chains at all times. Branding, lashing, and beatings were common. Not surprisingly, many died of disease and brutal treatment.

Any major event is likely to be documented in folk songs of the day. The convict ships were no exception. In the 1790s, one such song called “The Black Velvet Band” became popular in Ireland. Several different broadsides containing the lyrics are on display in the Bodleian library at Oxford University.

The song soon immigrated to the United States. American musicians quickly adapted the words of the Irish folk song to the new world.

The first known version of the song to be recorded was by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Titled “The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band,” the record was made in 1949. The song quickly became a staple of bluegrass and country singers. As with all good folk songs, the words change slightly from singer to singer, but the tragic story remains the same.

Song by Hylo Brown

The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band

One night while out for a ramble,
The hour was just about nine,
I met a young maiden in Frisco
On the corner of Cherry and Pine.

On her face there was beauty of nature
And her eyes just seemed to expand.
Her hair was so rich and so brilliant
Entwined in a blue velvet band.

We strolled down the street together,
In my pocket she placed her small hand.
She planted the evidence on me,
The girl in the blue velvet band.

I heard the scream of the siren
And the girl in the blue velvet band,
She left me to face all the trouble
With a diamond that was worth ten grand.

They sent me to San Quentin for stealing,
God knows I'm an innocent man.
The guilty one now she lies dying,
The girl in the blue velvet band.

Last night when bed-time was ringing,
Standing there close to the bars,
I fancied I heard a voice calling
Far out in the ocean of stars.

I'll be out in a year and I'm leaving,
But I'll carry the name of a man
That served ten years in prison
For the girl in the blue velvet band.

And when I get out I'll endeavor
To live in some other land,
And I'll bid farewell to old Frisco
And the girl in the blue velvet band.

The original Irish song is not so different from the American version. Here's the first verse:

One day, being out on a ramble,
Alone by myself I did stray,
I met with a young gay deceiver,
While cruising in Ratcliffe Highway.
Her eyes were as black as a raven,
I thought her the pride of the land.
Her hair that did hang o'er her shoulders
Was tied with a black velvet band.

In this version, the "gay deceiver" places a stolen watch in the unfortunate tradesman's pocket. Presumably, she wishes to retrieve it later. But her patsy is convicted of theft and sentenced to seven years at hard labor in the penal colonies of Australia.

The last verse reads:

So come all ye jolly young fellows,
I'll have ye take warning from me.
Whenever you're out on the liquor,
Beware of them pretty colleens.
They'll treat you to whiskey and porter,
Till you are not able to stand;
And the very next thing that you know, my lads,
You'll end up in Van Dieman's land.

Many of our great folk songs began their journey in other countries. "The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band" is no exception.