Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where is Isabel?

Home Abductions
by Robert A. Waters

What happened to Isabel Celis, the five-year-old who went missing from her Tucson home? Many suspect that someone in the family harmed the child. That may be so, but numerous children have been kidnapped from their homes by strangers.

A few cases come to mind: Elizabeth Smart; Jennifer Short; Polly Klaas; Jennifer Shuett; and Dylan and Shasta Groene.

A recent kidnapping in Canada had a happier ending than most. Three-year-old Kienan Hebert, who lived in Sparwood, British Columbia, was snatched from his bed in the middle of the night. Held for four days, the kidnapper returned Kienan back to his home unharmed.

Here’s hoping that Isabel will soon be reunited with her loved ones.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Lost Decade

Timothy Masters Case Re-visited
by Robert A. Waters

In many criminal cases, the evidence of guilt is overwhelming. In others, police cobble together a few circumstantial clues to build a case against a defendant. Despite the legal dictum of “innocent until proven guilty,” prosecutors know that juries generally convict, regardless of the evidence.

That was the case with Tim Masters. Not one shred of evidence existed, yet a jury found him guilty of the murder of Peggy Hettrick. Masters spent a decade in prison before being exonerated. A rogue detective, convinced of Masters’ culpability, and a “hired gun” forensic psychiatrist, combined forces with two corrupt prosecutors to convict an obviously innocent man. Detective Jim Broderick, forensic psychiatrist J. Reid Meloy, and Larimer County prosecutors Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair sent a man to prison based on no evidence at all.

On February 11, 1987, a bicyclist found the body of Peggy Hettrick, 37, in a field near the home of fifteen-year-old Timothy Masters. She’d been dragged 110 feet off the road and posed in a sexually suggestive manner. Her attacker had “surgically” removed Hettrick’s nipple and performed an operation called female circumcision. Cause of death was a stab wound to the back.

Masters, a high school sophomore, had walked past the body that morning on the way to his school bus stop. The Denver Magazine reported that he saw the remains but “thought it was a Resusci Anne doll, like the ones used at school to teach CPR. He figured that classmates had planted it there to play a joke on him...”

Hettrick, a sales clerk, lived a quiet life. She’d recently dated several men, but seemed to have no close relationships. The night before she died, she'd spent several hours at the Laughing Dog bar. Patrons reported that she left with an unidentified blonde-haired man.

The day after Hettrick's body was discovered, officers from the Fort Collins Police Department searched the home where Masters lived with his father. (His mother had died four years earlier.) They found a collection of knives and hand-written notebooks filled with Stephen King-type stories and horror movie-style drawings. While lead detective Jim Broderick considered these items to be incriminating, police found no physical evidence linking the 115 pound teenager to the crime.

The list of what they did not find is revealing: no blood; no fibers that matched Hettrick; no shoes matching the shoeprints found near the body; none of the missing body parts; and no bloodstains on the knives. Some investigators expressed skepticism that a skinny teenager could murder a grown woman, drag her body from the curb to where it was found, and, in the middle of the night, commit delicate surgical procedures on the victim’s sexual organs. (In fact, the coroner stated that the organ removal likely was done by someone with the skills of a surgeon.)

Masters was hauled into the police station and bullied for hours by teams of detectives. He adamantly denied killing Peggy Hettrick. Because of the lack of evidence, the teenger wasn't charged.

Masters graduated from high school and joined the Navy. He served eight years, then received an honorable discharge and went to work in California as an aircraft mechanic for LearJet.

Ten years after Hettrick’s death, Broderick arrested Masters at work.

Enter Dr. J. Reid Meloy, Ph.D., a diplomate in forensic psychology. Meloy hires himself out to prosecutors. In this case, although he was paid more than $40,000 by Larimer County, he never interviewed or even saw the suspect. Instead, he studied writings and sketches the teenager had made and concluded that Masters had murdered Hettrick.

In Pat Hartman’s blog, Free Tim Masters Because, she writes: “As many as 2,200 pages of drawings and narratives were scrutinized by Dr. Meloy, and a big chunk of them were presented to the jury...[At trial] Meloy said, ‘I’ve never seen such a large volume of productions before.’ Which only means he’s never known any artists. Plenty of creative people produce thousands of pages of sketches, notes, scribbles, half-finished works, and so on.” And thousands of normal teenagers draw sketches based on horror movies, war games, comic books, and gory novels.

Yet Meloy built a conspiracy theory around normal teenage artwork. He told the jury that Masters seethed with repressed anger toward his mother because she left him (she died) when he was 11. That rage, Meloy said, caused the violent attack. Masters was actually killing his mother when he stabbed Hettrick to death.

Even more fantastical was the notion that Masters lived in a fantasy world in which he was obsessed with violence against women. (Never before or after had he committed any crime against women.) Meloy wrote: “A retreat into such a compensatory narcissistic fantasy world, replete with sexuality and violence, works for a while, but at a great cost. The unexpressed rage continues, depression may ensue, and anger toward women as sources of both pain (abandonment) and erotic stimulation builds.”

Meloy continued: “Sexual homicide represents the solution, particularly in the form it took in this case: If I kill a woman, she cannot abandon me; if I desexualize her (genital mutilation), she cannot stimulate me.”

On and on it went--wacky theories clothed in oblique rhetoric. And somehow the jury overlooked the fact that there was not one iota of evidence. Jurors convicted Masters and a judge sentenced him to life in prison. As the winning prosecutors walked out the door, it’s said that Jolene Blair pumped her fist in the air as a victory sign.

Masters would spend nearly eleven years in prison before his attorneys persuaded the courts to send Hettrick’s clothing out for DNA testing. When the results came back, it sent shockwaves through Colorado’s legal system. Masters’ DNA was nowhere to be found on any of the clothing--but that of a former boyfriend was swabbed from her underwear.

Masters was freed, and offically exonerated. The state quickly conducted an investigation into the whole affair. Broderick was indicted on eight counts of perjury, but the charges were later dropped. Prosecutors Gilmore and Blair were censured for withholding evidence. Even so, both became judges and remained on the bench for ten years until 2011, when they were voted out by the enraged citizens of the state. Meloy, unpunished, continues to teach, publish books, and hire himself out to prosecutors.

None of the four who sent Tim Masters to prison for ten years has expressed a scintilla of remorse for railroading an innocent man. Asked to apologize for their crimes, all have refused.

What is the price of ten years of a man’s life? Masters received ten million dollars in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment. Is that enough? Or should those who orchestrated this blatant miscarriage of justice be sentenced to prison themselves?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Folk Songs About the Titanic

“Pride goes before destruction”
by Robert A. Waters

“Even God couldn’t sink her,” said Captain Edward Smith, speaking of the great ship Titanic. Just days later, the White Star Line vessel scraped an iceberg, filled with water, and plunged into the icy Atlantic. 1,523 people, more than the inhabitants of some small towns, died.

To the average citizen, the disaster was pregnant with meaning. It quickly became a symbol of the frailty of human existence in the face of nature. The ship also came to represent man's over-confidence in the increasing use of technology.

Religious people considered Captain Smith's pronouncement that God couldn't sink the ship to be little short of blasphemy. So when the Titanic plunged into the sea, it was taken by many to mean that God had taught humankind a lesson.

The disparity of the passengers didn't go unnoticed. Songs and poems railed against the rich, arrogant capitalists who were seen to have oppressed the poor.

All in all, the figurative meaning of the debacle wasn't lost on the masses.

Poets and folk singers were quick to memorialize the disaster. Less than a week after the catastrophe, a blind preacher in New York is said to have sold broadsides entitled, “Didn’t That Ship Go Down?”

Blues singers, gospel singers, folk artists, and hillbilly musicians all performed their own songs about the tragedy. Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, and Woody Guthrie created versions of the events that took place that night in 1912. Two black gospel singers, William and Versey Smith, recorded a song called, “When That Great Ship Went Down,” in 1927. Versey played a washboard while her husband William strummed a guitar and sang.

Roy Acuff first recorded his version of “Titanic” in 1956. Acuff, a native of Tennessee, influenced generations of country music artists with his spare, traditional sound. From the 1930s to the 1950s, he dominated the hillbilly charts with songs such as, “The Great Speckled Bird,” “Wabash Cannonball,” and “Wreck on the Highway.” Many of his songs had a moral theme, so “Titanic” fit into his repertoire perfectly.

Here are the lyrics to Acuff's song as sung by Graveyard Johnny Fast.


It was on one Monday morning about one o'clock
When that great Titanic began to reel and rock,
People began to scream and cry
Saying, "Oh! Lord, we’re bound to die."
It was sad when that great ship went down.

CHORUS: It was sad when that great ship went down,
It was sad when that great ship went down.
Husbands and their wives,
Little children lost their lives,
It was sad when that great ship went down.

When building that great ship, they said what they would do.
They said that they could build a ship that water could not go through,
God with power in his hand, showed the world it could not stand,
It was sad when that great ship went down.


When that great ship left England, she was making for the shore
When the rich declared they would not ride with the poor.
So they put the poor below and they were the first to go,
It was sad when that great ship went down.


Monday, April 9, 2012

The Forgotten Victim

Bobby Lee Hines

A date with the executioner
by Robert A. Waters

“No one deserves to be strapped down to that gurney to die!” Bobby Lee Hines.

On June 6, 2012, unless something changes, Bobby Lee Hines will drift off to sleep and never wake up.

Hines’ known criminal history started in 1984 when he was twelve. He stole a car and received one year of juvenile probation. His probation was later revoked and Hines spent three months in confinement. For the next six years, the young thief was arrested numerous times and convicted of burglary, assault, and revocation of probation.

In 1991, while still on probation for burglary and assaulting an elderly woman, Hines was arrested for a particularly heinous murder.

The Attorney General of Texas released the following statement concerning Hines’ crimes.

“On October 19, 1991, Mary Ann Linch went to the apartment of her friend Michelle Wendy Haupt in Carrollton, Texas, to spend the weekend. Linch brought with her a Marlboro cigarette carton in which only four packs remained. She had purchased the cigarettes at Brookshires’ in Corsicana and the carton contained a stamp showing ‘Brookshires’ Store’ on the side. Linch left the carton at Haupt's apartment when they left that evening to go to a nightclub. Linch had intended to return to Haupt's, but instead spent the night with another friend.

“Linch testified that when they went to the club, Haupt was wearing a gold sand-dollar charm necklace which she always wore. During the evening, Haupt became ill and another friend drove her back to her apartment. When he left, he testified that Haupt locked the door behind him.

“Meanwhile, at Haupt's apartment complex, Hines appeared uninvited at a party. When the hostess asked him who he was, he identified himself as the brother of the apartment manager. He told another guest that he was part of the maintenance crew at the complex. He pulled out a ring of keys and stated that he could get into any apartment that he wanted to at any time.

“At about 6 a.m. on October 20, 1991, Haupt's next-door neighbor heard a woman screaming. He could not determine the source of the screams, but his wife called the police. Two police officers were dispatched to the scene, but the screaming had ended before they arrived. After inspecting the premises, the officers could not determine where the screams had come from and they eventually left.

“Two other residents in the apartment directly below Haupt's also heard screaming loud enough to awaken them. One of the residents testified that he also heard other loud noises that sounded ‘like a bowling ball being dropped on Haupt's floor.’ He heard this noise at least 20 times. The screaming lasted for approximately 15 minutes.

“The resident of an adjacent downstairs apartment also heard the screaming. Just before noon that morning, she and the other residents discussed what they had heard and became concerned for Haupt. Eventually, the apartment leasing manager was persuaded to check Haupt's apartment. After knocking and receiving no answer, the manager opened the door and saw Haupt lying on the floor just inside the door. A stereo cord was tightly wrapped around her neck, her face was black, and she appeared to be dead.

“Haupt was found dressed in only a robe and lying face up on the floor. There were puncture wounds to her chest area. The robe was stained with blood, but it had no holes to correspond with the puncture wounds to Haupt's body, indicating the robe was placed on her body after the wounds were inflicted. Further, the belt to the robe was tied tighter than a person would normally tie it against her own body.

“An object appearing to be an ice pick was found on the nearby couch. Hines' palm-print was found inside Haupt's apartment in what appeared to be blood, and his thumbprint was found on the inside of the front door.

“Later that same day, Hines was found to be in possession of Haupt's gold sand-dollar charm. He had blood on some of his clothing and some other objects from Haupt's apartment, including the Brookshires’ cigarette carton, were found under the couch where he had been sleeping. When Hines was arrested, he had a scratch under his right eye, scratches to the left side of his neck, and a scratch on his cheek. DNA testing conducted on a bloodstain found on Hines’ underwear indicated that the blood was consistent with Haupt's blood.

“The Dallas County Chief Medical Examiner testified that the cause of Haupt's death was strangulation and puncture wounds. Haupt had abrasions to her neck and jaw, contusions on her neck, and a fractured hyoid bone. She had about 18 puncture wounds. She had rectal tears with hemorrhaging. Barnard testified that the puncture wounds could have been made by the object found on the couch in Haupt's apartment.”

Bobby Lee Hines wrote a response of sorts. The website “Death Row USA” published this back in 2003.

“No one deserves to die!

“My name is Bobby Lee Hines, I am on Texas death row, I have been here for almost 12 years now and I first came here at the age of 19 years old. I am now into the last stage of my appeals.

“I would like to take the time to say a few words, if you are willing to listen.

“I often wonder if the people in the free world really understand that there's two types of society? You have the free world society and the prison society.

“When I was sentenced to death, it was because a jury was randomly picked out from the free world society and then given the power to make such a life and death decision! These people on the jury had no degree's in psychology. None that I remember were even a doctor of any kind!

“The jury deciding I was or could be a threat to society is why I was sentenced to death, NOT because I was found guilty of a crime. There are two special issue questions the jury had to answer in the punishment phase that clearly show that! Here they are just as they were when given to the jury in my trail (sic).

“Special issue 1: Do you find from the evidence that there is a ‘probability’ beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant Bobby Lee Hines would commit criminal acts of violence that constitute a continuing threat to society? jury answered YES

“Special issue 2: Taking into consideration all of the evidence, including the circumstances of the offense, the defendant's character and background, and the personal moral culpability of the defendant, is there a sufficient mitigating circumstance or circumstances to warrant that a sentence of life imprisonment rather than a death sentence be imposed? jury answered NO

“Would you for a moment reread this again and notice that the state is asking the jury to take a ‘guess’ at the answers, because again they have ‘no’ type of degrees and just thought (guessed) that I might be a threat to society. Now in special issue 2, last sentence asking, if life imprisonment should be imposed, nowhere do they explain that there are two types of society. They weren't given a way to make a clear decision but only a way to make only a guess!”

The death row inmate's response continues for several more paragraphs without mentioning his victim.

Wendy Haupt doesn’t have a response. She's dead and long gone. In fact, I couldn’t even find a photograph of her.

Yet another forgotten victim.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Alaska's Ice Cold Killer

Samantha Koenig

The kidnapping and murder of Samantha Koenig
by Robert A. Waters

Common Grounds Expresso is located at 630 East Tudor Road in Anchorage, Alaska. The rainbow-blue building features a drive-through window, and serves coffee, bagels, smoothies, and other staples to the rush-hour crowd. A pretty barista, also a staple of the business, always mans the booth, usually dressed in colorful costumes and smiles.

Samantha Koenig, 18, brought her personality to the job. Bubbly, full of life, the teenager had been working at Common Grounds for about a month.

James Koenig, her father, said: "She's a sweetheart. She's got the biggest heart and she has genuine love and care for people. She befriends people so easily. Everyone that meets her, they call her their best friend. That's just her personality. She's funny and she loves life."

On Wednesday evening, February 1, 2012, huge banks of snow blocked the stand from the road. At about eight o’clock, Samantha disappeared. When investigators viewed the store's surveillance video, they saw an armed man wearing a hoodie and cap leading the frightened girl away. The two faded from the camera, headed toward Old Seward Highway.

Anchorage police and FBI agents working the case refused to reveal the type of weapon used in the abduction.

Searches in the sub-freezing weather yielded no clues. A reward climbed to $41,000 as Samantha’s father went on television to plead for her safe return.

These kinds of cases rarely have a good ending, and this was no exception.

On April 3, an Anchorage Police Department forensics unit found Samantha’s body under the ice in Matanuska Lake. Again, police remained tight-lipped, giving little information about how they located the body, or how the teenager died.

At the request of Alaskan authorities, Texas Rangers arrested Israel Keyes, an Anchorage businessman, on charges related to the disappearance of Samantha. A police spokesman told reporters that Keyes had fled Anchorage and driven south, using stolen credit cards. Because of a lack of public information, many questions about Keyes remain unanswered.

This much we know: an ice-cold killer boldly abducted Samantha. She was likely dead within hours of the kidnapping. The teen didn't know her attacker--he was a stranger to her. He stole money from the till.

Like so many others, this crime makes little sense.

Some crimes leave you scratching your head.

This is one.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Nightmare at Elmira

U. S. Army Col. William Hoffman

Union Prisoner of War camp rivaled Andersonville in cruelty
by Robert A. Waters

At exactly 10:32 a.m., on November 10, 1865, the thud of a rope ended the life of Dr. Henry Wirz. The much-hated commander of Andersonville prison became the first person in America to die for alleged war crimes.

Had the Confederacy won the war, however, retribution may have taken place for atrocities that occurred in Elmira Prison Camp, in New York. U.S. commissary-general of prisoners Col. William Hoffman and Major Eugene F. Sanger, chief surgeon, certainly would have been candidates for the short end of a long rope.

Constructed in June, 1864, the 40-acre prisoner of war camp soon held 10,000 Rebel soldiers, even though it had been built for only half that number. The original barracks quickly filled up, but new prisoners continued to arrive. These men were forced to sleep in the open or in tents.

Unlike the Confederacy, the North had more than enough supplies for all its citizens, including prisoners of war. The nearly 25% death rate in Elmira was due to vengeful acts rather than a lack of necessities.

Historian Michael Horigan, author of Elmira: Death Camp of the North, writes that the “contrast between Andersonville and Elmira should be apparent even to the most casual observer. Elmira, a city with excellent railroad connections, was located in a region where food, medicine, clothing, building materials, and fuel were in abundant supply. None of this could be said of Andersonville. Hence, Elmira became a symbol of death for different reasons.”

Almost as soon as the prison opened, Col. Hoffman ordered that Rebel prisoners in Elmira be given only bread and water because of alleged brutal conditions in Southern prison camps. Since Union General Ulysses S. Grant had ordered no more prisoner exchanges, this meant that the ever-swelling numbers of Rebel prisoners could only be thinned out by death. The severely overcrowded conditions and lack of meat and vegetables brought inevitable malnourishment, scurvy, starvation, and death. An outbreak of smallpox took more lives.

A Union staff member described the conditions at the camp: "This pond [Foster's Pond] received the contents of the sinks and garbage of the camp until it became so offensive that vaults were dug on the banks of the pond for sinks and the whole left a festering mass of corruption, impregnating the entire atmosphere of the camp with its pestilential odors, night and day... The pond remains green with putrescence, filling the air with its messengers of disease and death, the vaults give out their sickly odors, and the hospitals are crowded with victims for the grave."

Meat sent to supply prisoners was routinely judged to be “spoiled,” then sold to merchants in town. It was said that Hoffman and his cohorts made $24,000 on the scheme while Rebel prisoners died in droves.

Most prisoners were clad only in rags. In spite of this, Hoffman would not allow captives to receive the clothing sent to them by relatives back home. Instead, the garments that could have kept prisoners warm were burnt. The brutal winter of 1864 brought even more ways to die--many of those who hadn’t succumbed to disease froze to death.

Entrepreneurial Elmira citizens erected an observation tower just outside the compound and charged spectators ten cents each to view the daily activities of the POWs.

The physician in charge at Elmira was Major Eugene F. Sanger. One Southern prisoner described him as "a club-footed little gentleman, with an abnormal head and snaky look in his eyes." Another, Anthony Keiley said, "Sanger was simply a brute." Unable to get along with anyone in his own family (he wrote most family members out of his will), he encountered the same problems at Elmira.

His tenure was filled with conflict and rumors of cruelty toward prisoners. While Sanger did report the presence of scurvy in the camp and asked for more nutritional food for prisoners, his continued clashes with administrators made a bad situation worse.

In one of the most bizarre episodes of the war, Sanger was accused of using arsenic to poison hundreds of Rebel prisoners. A letter he wrote to Brigadier General John L. Hodson seemed to confirm this allegation: “I now have charge of 10,000 Rebels a very worthy occupation for a patriot, particularly adapted to elevate himself in his own estimation, but I think I have done my duty have relieved 386 of them of all earthy sorrow in one month.”

Was this an admission of murder? Sanger is said to have bragged about killing more Rebels than any soldier in the United States army.

The final tally of death in Elmira was nearly 25%, only two percentage points less than the notorious Andersonville. Of 12,123 Confederate prisoners, 2,963 died.

Had the Confederacy won the war, it’s likely Hoffman and Sanger would have paid for their crimes. But while Wirz died on the gallows, these murderers lived long lives...

U. S. Army Major Eugene F. Sanger