Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weirdest of the Weird

2 of the strangest people ever…
by Robert A. Waters

Marshall Applewhite

A pasty-faced weirdo with bullet eyes, Applewhite spoke incessantly about catching a spacecraft and riding it to heaven. Somehow this bizarre creature, who re-named himself “Do,” actually found 40 followers willing to ascend to what he termed the “Next Level.”

In 1996, as the comet Hale-Bopp came hurtling into the view of astronomers, Applewhite convinced his entourage that he could see a spaceship following behind. Even though it was 92 million miles away, the creepiest guy on earth decided that Heaven’s Gate (official name for the creepiest cult on earth) could catch it and ride it to the next world.

Only one problem--you had to die so your soul could board the alien vessel. Which meant you had to commit suicide.

Seems like that would have sent most of his flock fleeing for the hills. But no, 39 of the 40 actually took the poison and…well, died. Were their souls beamed up to the spacecraft? The one survivor who chickened out from taking the Kool-aid cocktail seems to think so. Everybody else is just glad Applewhite isn’t around to convince other lost souls to join his demented journey into weirdness.

This guy was hard-core New Age nuts and it showed at first glance. How he could have influenced anyone to believe him is beyond me.

John Mark Karr, a.k.a. Alexis Valoran Reich, a.k.a. Delia Alexis Reich

John Mark Karr, or whatever name he calls himself now, made news a few years ago by falsely confessing to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. The former substitute teacher was cleared when his DNA didn’t match blood found on the six-year-old beauty queen’s panties. That's bizarre enough, but after he was released from jail, he became even weirder.

First, Karr allegedly underwent a sex change operation, and changed his name to either Alexis Valoran Reich or Delia Alexis Reich, or both.

Next, according to one of his former students who spoke to Fox News, Karr "has been trying to create a cult of JonBenet Ramsey look-a-likes he is calling 'the Immaculates'—blond girls as young as 4 years old with small feet." His purpose is supposedly to "get close" to the young girls.

He seems to flit from state to state, or country to country, always with his trusty computer, sending out the strangest emails.  He once wrote: "The end of 9 years old is usually the stopping point for me due to the physical height and development of the child. In some parts of the world however I have been highly attracted to girls who were 12 though they were the size of the girls who were 8 in the U.S. I cannot say I was actually attracted to the 12-year-olds but it was a little more tempting. I am attracted to dolls. When they get past the doll stage I am no longer physically attracted."

Where is Karr now?  Rumor has it that he's gone underground, maybe in Thailand.

Wherever he may be, anybody who spends 24/7 obsessing over a murdered 6-year-old girl he never even knew has issues.

Here’s my advice to Karr. Stay far away from little girls.  Also, any time you get the urge to write an email, hit the delete button. And get another hobby to keep you busy: like maybe collecting stamps or comic books or murderabilia.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kimberly McCarthy Scheduled to be Executed

The dead are never victims...
by Robert A. Waters

Kimberly McCarthy would do anything for crack. Anything. On July 22, 1997, the Lancaster, Texas addict called her neighbor, seventy-one-year-old Dr. Dorothy Booth, and asked to borrow a cup of sugar.

On arriving at Booth’s home, McCarthy attacked her with a candelabrum and two butcher knives. As Booth lay dead (or maybe while she was still alive), McCarthy cut off her finger. Removing Booth’s diamond wedding ring, McCarthy then pawned it for $200. Police arrested the killer at a liquor store while she was in the act of using Booth’s credit cards.

Court records describe the evidence against Kimberly Lagayle McCarthy: “We first note that the State offered ample evidence of appellant's guilt...The victim's caller ID records showed that she received two calls from an anonymous number on July 22, 1997, at 6:19 a.m. and 6:29 a.m. [on the day of the murder]. Harry Wilkins, Jr., aka, ‘Smiley,’ testified that appellant was driving the victim's white Mercedes Benz station wagon when she met him on the morning of July 22, 1997, to inquire about buying crack cocaine. The State further showed that appellant pawned the victim's diamond ring on July 22, 1997, and that she used the victim's credit cards at several locations on July 23, 1997. When appellant was arrested on July 24, 1997, she attempted to take with her a tote bag containing the victim's driver's license and several of the victim's credit cards. The State's strongest independent evidence of appellant's guilt was produced when the police executed a search warrant at appellant's home on July 24, 1997. Officers found a large knife stained with Dr. Booth's blood in appellant's kitchen cabinet above the refrigerator. The bloody knife matched other knives found in the kitchen drawers of appellant's house. [DNA tests confirmed that the blood on the knife was consistent with Booth’s blood.]”

In Texas, as in all other states, it’s exceedingly rare for a female to be sentenced to death. The pre-meditated and gruesome nature of this case convinced the judge to sentence McCarthy to the ultimate penalty.

McCarthy’s execution is scheduled for January 29, 2013. Texas is serious about justice, and so, unless there is a surprise ruling by an appellate court, she will receive her reward. As she trudges toward the gurney, will McCarthy remember the frail neighbor who tried to help her by giving her sugar? Will she feel remorse for her savage and lethal attack on Dorothy Booth? Will she think of her victim’s still-grieving family?

I think not. More likely, she’ll see herself as the victim. And the sad thing is that there are those who will agree with her.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Execution Files 3

Too Fat To Die: Killer's Attorneys Complain That Needles Might Hurt
by Robert A. Waters

In an attempt to stop his execution, scheduled for January 16, 2013, Ronald Post’s lawyers filed the following brief: “There is a substantial risk that any attempt to execute him will result in serious physical and psychological pain to him, as well as an execution involving a torturous and lingering death.” Post, who murdered a motel clerk thirty years ago, now weighs 480 pounds--according to his lawyers, it sometimes takes up to three tries with a needle to find a ripe vein.

Of course, the real victim wasn’t Post. It was Helen Grace Vantz, a 53-year-old clerk at an Ohio motel. Post executed her for $100 as she worked to support herself and her family. Two bullets to the back of the head weren’t pleasant, but his lawyers never mention that.

The victim’s son, William Vantz, recently wrote an open letter addressing the issue:

“To the Editor: residents of Lorain County and the State of Ohio: In the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, the residents of the apartment complex of 148 David Dr., Elyria, enjoyed the manger scene my mother would display in the bay window of her apartment. Every year she would show her love of Christmas to that neighborhood. That is, until 1983 when her life and love was taken as if she [was] just a piece of that plaster display.

“Helen Grace Vantz’s life was not fancy. She was not rich. She was just a working mother of three who didn’t miss work. She would volunteer to work holidays so her co-workers could spend time with family and friends. In 1983, she was encouraged to take Christmas off and spend it with my brother, his wife and only grandson. That Christmas never came for them.

“On Dec. 15, 1983, a non-feeling, low-life piece of human scum put two bullets into the back of her head, execution-style, taking her life. Ronald Ray Post, by his own admission, was the person who pulled that trigger and ended the life of a loving, caring woman at 53 years of age. Why? For his efforts, he walked out of the Slumber Inn Motel’s lobby with approximately $100 and a 13-inch black and white television. She would have given him the money and not put up a fight, but he did the cowardly thing, shooting her from behind while she worked on the nightly receipts. She probably didn’t even know he was behind her.

“Now, 28 years later, it seems that justice will finally be served. Post was convicted and sentenced to death by a three-judge panel in 1985. Numerous appeals were filed and all of them denied by the higher courts. His defense attorneys in the original trial gambled on a no contest plea that had never been tried before. This was in an attempt to save him from the electric chair. It seemed to work for 28 years.

“I am now 54 years old, a year older than my mother at the time of her murder. We, my family and friends have waited too long for the day that he is executed for this heinous crime. Some did not live long enough to see the day that justice is served. The passing of her sister Clara Duffield Payler is the most regretful. My aunt suffered a stroke not long after the murder due in part by the strain and anguish she felt in the loss of her younger sister. The day that he was sentenced Clara turned to my wife and I and said, ‘I just hope I live long enough to see it.’ She did not, and neither did my mother-in-law and other friends and relatives. They might have if the Lorain County Prosecutor’s office hadn’t lost a file for eight years!

“My children, Jessica Grace and Robert John, never got to know either of my parents. My father had passed away three years prior to my mother’s murder. He took that from them when he pulled that trigger. They have middle names in respectful memory of my parents.

“Some have said that since it’s been so long just let him stay in prison for the remainder of his natural life. No! I am as committed to this as the day he took her life. I will never forgive or forget what he took from us. We all have recourse to the law and it’s time he paid his debt to society. It’s way overdue!”

I have no sympathy whatsoever for Post.  He's sat in prison gorging his body with food, growing fat and waiting for this moment to attempt to sabotage justice.  Here's hoping the senseless murder of Helen Grace Vantz will be not be forgotten, and that neither the state nor the courts will shirk their duty.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Two Girls in an Ice Box

Did a child-killer go free?
by Robert A. Waters

On April 25, 1962, an Associated Press headline read: “Police Press Hunt for Sex Slayer of 2.”

Two days earlier, Stephanie Hanna and Paula Cram, both 6, went out to play after dinner. The peaceful San Fernando, California neighborhood in which they lived was a backdrop for middle-class America. When they didn’t return home, the girls were reported missing.  The San Fernando Police Department soon  arrived and launched a massive search.

Five hours later, a neighbor contacted police and reported that the door of an old refrigerator she’d left open in her garage was closed.

Officers rushed to the scene and Chief W. E. Slaughter opened the refrigerator door. He was met by something out of a horror movie. The girls were dead. Chief Slaughter told reporters that “the children were there, clutching one another.” A sad-eyed officer said: “They looked just like little dolls huddled together.”

As shocked parents and neighbors gathered at the scene, police began searching for answers. The coroner spent several hours conducting an autopsy. He emerged from his lab and reported that both girls had been raped. Death had come by suffocation, he said. Newspapers across the country informed readers that the hunt for a sex killer had begun.

Police found fingerprints on the refrigerator that didn't match anyone in the house. (Those prints were never identified.) Detectives combed the city, interrogating known sex offenders. Several suspects were eliminated when they passed polygraphs.

Frustrated cops ratcheted up the search. A police spokesman said: “We're doing everything we can. We're hoping for a break. This is one we feel we have to solve.” During interrogations of neighbors, a 72-year-old man admitted that he’d fondled Paula. He was arrested and charged with child molestation, but the neighbor had an alibi for the time Stephanie and Paula went missing.

Then, a week later, another headline rocked the San Fernando Valley. This is an excerpt from the Associated Press story:

Murder ruled out in girls’ ice box deaths

SAN FERNANDO – "Authorities say it was apparently an accident--not a double murder--which claimed the lives of two six-year-old girls who died in a refrigerator.

Stephanie Hanna and Paula Cram--foster sisters--disappeared from their San Fernando home on April 23. They were found late that night, suffocated, in an empty refrigerator in a neighbor’s garage.

Blood stains and injuries led coroner’s aides to believe the children had been murdered. An extensive investigation resulted in one of the neighbors being accused of molesting one of the girls earlier--but police couldn’t find clues indicating he or any other adult had been in the vicinity when the children died.

Then, belatedly, a 4-year-old girl told her parents of seeing Stephanie and Paula climb into the refrigerator by themselves.

Authorities had the child re-enact the event Friday. Then Coroner Theodore J. Curphey met with Sheriff’s Captain Floyd Rosenberg and San Fernando Police Chief W. E. Slaughter. Their decision: the deaths were apparently accidental.

Curphey said that the girls probably injured one another in their attempts to get out of the refrigerator and the heat developed in the small place caused excessive bleeding."

So, did the police get it right? Or did someone get away with a monstrous crime? How can two children be “raped” one day, and not raped the next day?

Rgardless of what really happened, the horror suffered by girls is unimaginable.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Self-Defense Files 6

Two violent robbers gunned down by store owner
by Robert A. Waters

“Give me your money or I’ll kill you.”

Those were the last words Eddie Felton, 20, spoke before being shot to death on May 22, 2012. He and his brother, Quinten Felton, 17, [pictured] had entered the Joppa Road Store in rural Gates County, North Carolina wearing bandanas over their faces. Eddie brandished a rifle.

The owner of the store, Duanne Ammann, was filling a cooler with drinks when the robbers burst in. They marched him at gunpoint to the cash register. As he opened it, Quinten slugged Ammann from behind, knocking him to the floor.

Gates County Sheriff Ed Webb told reporters that the robbers “beat [Ammann] down to the floor, kicking and stomping him in the back of the head and in his ribs. It was at that point where the store owner reached under the counter, while lying on the floor, for a weapon he kept there. He blindly fired a shot at one of the assailants, striking him in the abdomen.”

Quinten grabbed $250 from the register, and both robbers bolted for the door.

“At that point,” Webb said, “the second suspect [Eddie] was at or near the door and pointed his weapon at the store owner. The store owner then fired three shots at that suspect.”

Deputies responded to the scene and found two bodies. Quinten, hit in the stomach, had run into a wooded area 150 feet from the store. Eddie lay dead beside the store.

Sheriff Webb stated that Ammann had been beaten until he “was black and blue all over.” Paramedics transported him to a local hospital where he was treated and released.

He was not charged with any crime.

As so often happens, reporters seemed fascinated by the robbers. Eddie, a recent graduate from Perquimans County High School, had been a football and basketball star. His former principal told reporters that “[Eddie] was an all-around good student, very liked by his peers and teachers here in the community.”

The principal stated that Quinten was an honor roll student. He was “in line to graduate with our graduating class on June 8.”

The armed robbers came from a model family, reporters said.

But buried beneath the accolades was the fact that police in several jurisdictions believed the brothers had committed at least two similar robberies. Quinten’s MySpace pages showed him holding a rifle in a menacing manner. Was it the rifle Eddie used in his last robbery?

So we have two teenagers from a good home, with a loving family. They had every opportunity to succeed. But they decided to make a career robbing jiffy stores.

One thing they didn’t figure on was that, according to Sheriff Webb, almost every business owner in Gates County is armed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Florida Killer to be Executed

Murdered at least 8 victims
by Robert A. Waters

On October 16, John Errol Ferguson is scheduled to take a cocktail of drugs and fall into a peaceful, endless sleep. In the late 1970s, he and two accomplices murdered six people in a Carol City, Florida home invasion.  A few months later, Ferguson struck again, gunning down two teenagers near Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah.

Florida Supreme Court documents describe the killings:

The Carol City Murders

“On the evening of 27 July 1977, Ferguson, posing as a Florida Power and Light employee, received permission from Margaret Wooden to enter her home. After checking several rooms, he drew a gun, tied and blindfolded her, and let into the house two men who joined him in looking for drugs and money. About two hours later, six of Wooden’s friends, including the homeowner, Livingston Stocker, came to the house and were searched, tied, and blindfolded by Ferguson and his accomplices. Shortly thereafter, Wooden’s boyfriend, Michael Miller, entered the house and also was bound and searched. Miller and Wooden eventually were placed in the bedroom, and the six other bound friends were in the living room.

“At some point, a mask on one of Ferguson’s friends fell and revealed his face. At the time, Wooden and Miller were kneeling on the floor with their upper bodies sprawled across the bed. Wooden heard shots [coming] from the living room, saw a pillow coming toward her head, and then was shot. She witnessed Miller being fatally shot as well. Wooden did not see the shooter, though she did hear Ferguson run out of the room. She managed to escape and ran to a neighbor’s house to call the police. When the police arrived, they found six dead bodies, all of whom had their hands tied behind their backs and had been shot in the back of the head. Only two of the victims, Wooden and Johnnie Hall, survived. Hall testified at Ferguson’s trial about the methodical execution of the other victims.”

The names of the murdered victims were Henry Clayton, Randolph Holmes, Michael Miller, Charles Stinson, Livingston Stocker, and Gilbert Williams.

Ferguson’s accomplices, Marvin Francois and Beaufort White, were executed in the 1980s.

The Hialeah Murders

“The facts reveal that the two victims were seated in an automobile and while seated therein a gunshot was fired through the window striking Brian Glenfeld in the arm and chest area. A significant amount of bleeding followed and this victim's blood was found throughout many areas of the front of the automobile as well as on the clothing of Belinda Worley. Following the shooting, the female victim ran many hundreds of feet from the car in an attempt to [elude] the defendant and was finally overtaken in some rather dense overgrowth and trees. She was subjected to many physical abuses by this defendant, including but not limited to, sexual penetration of her vagina and anus. The discovery of embedded dirt in her fingers, on her torso both front and back and in many areas within her mouth and the findings of hemorrhaging around her vagina and anal cavity would indicate that she put up a significant struggle and suffered substantially during the perpetration of these indignities upon her body. Expert testimony indicates that she was a virgin at the time of...this crime. The position of her body and the location of the wounds on her head would indicate that she was in a kneeling position at the time she was shot through the top of the head. She was left in a partially nude condition in the area where the crime was committed to be thereafter fed upon by insects and other predators. Physical evidence would substantiate that following the attack upon Belinda Worley the defendant went back to the car and shot Brian Glenfeld through the head.”

The victims were students at Hialeah High School.

Ferguson was convicted of the Carol City murders as well as the Hialeah murders, and received eight death sentences.  He had previously been convicted of four felonies, including resisting a police officer with violence, armed robbery, and assault with intent to commit rape. His convictions date back to 1965. 

Investigators also linked him to the murder an elderly couple in St. Petersburg, but he was never prosecuted for the crime.

After thirty years of appeals, Ferguson has reached the end of the line.

Hell is waiting.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where is Ivy Dawn Merck?

NOTE: Ivy Dawn Merck  has been found safe.  Her parents, who were handing out missing person fliers, saw her sitting on the steps of the Miami Police Department.  In a joyful reunuion, her family learned that Ivy had gone missing of her own volition.  She'd driven to south Florida, and lived out of her car for nearly two weeks.  She is home now, and here's wishing my fellow-University of Georgia alum well.

Here’s another poster of another missing girl, this one from Athens, Georgia. Ivy Dawn Merck, 24, caught my attention because I got my master’s degree from the University of Georgia. She also graduated from the university.

Merck left Athens on August 21. She informed her employer at Good Hands Vet Clinic that she planned to go home to Camden, Georgia, and would return on August 30. Merck boarded her dog at the clinic.

She never made it home, and her father called authorities.

On August 23, the clinic received a text from Merck’s phone requesting copies of her dog’s medical records.

Her car, a 2008 dark green Honda CRV, was found hundreds of miles away in front of Marshalls store at 3850 W. Hillsboro Boulevard in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Police say her cell phone pinged off a tower in nearby Boca Raton before it was turned off.

Police are baffled. Did she run away? Did she meet foul play?

Camden County Sheriff’s Deputy William Terrell told reporters that “it's really [hard] trying to understand, trying to get at where she was in that time of her life. This is a very conscientious young lady, a very bright, beautiful person and to disappear like this is very atypical for her as far as we can tell -- this is not her typical behavior to just disappear. That's one of the things that is very worrisome; she's just gone. Since the 23rd nobody we know of has had any contact with her. It's very strange.”

Merck is 5-foot-1 and weighs 115 pounds. She has brown eyes and light brown hair.

Anyone with information about this case is asked call Broward County Sheriff's Detective Chris Blankenship at (954) 321-4268, or you can anonymously report information to Crime Stoppers of Broward County at (954) 493-9477.
Ivy Dawn Merck

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Ernstein

Body in the orange grove
by Robert A. Waters

On March 18, 1968, as fourteen-year-old Elizabeth “Liz” Ernstein walked home from school, she vanished. Only recently, 44 years later, were her remains identified.

Orange groves lined the two mile walk from Moore Junior High School to her home in Mentone, California. Liz wore a blue dress with white flowers, tennis shoes, and an olive-colored corduroy coat. A businessman driving in the area told police he saw Liz walking less than a block from her home.

Police seemed reluctant to even classify the case as a possible crime. An Associated Press report stated that “police ruled out kidnapping because there was no ransom try and said the girl is probably a runaway.”

A year later, when the body of a young girl was found in a shallow grave in Wrightwood (45 miles away), “Jane Doe” was buried and forgotten.

Norman and Ruth Ernstein had already seen tragedy in their lives. One child had died of polio, but Elizabeth’s disappearance devastated the parents. Her mother told reporters that missing a daughter was “the deepest anguish a person can go through. It is a shock so deep you become wooden.”

In the search for their missing child, the Ernstein family became creative. Norman and Ruth decided that publicity was the key to finding Liz, so they sent out flyers to every newspaper in the United States. Friends, co-workers, and fellow-church members helped to finance the massive project. In addition, a reward totaling $5,000 was offered.

Decades passed.

Then the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department released the following “Coroner’s Press Release.” [NOTE: I’ve sectioned it into paragraphs for better readability.]

“San Bernardino County Sheriff’s detectives recently revived a 44-year-old cold case after Coroner investigators determined that human remains found in 1969 near Wrightwood were those of a teenage girl who disappeared near her Mentone home the previous year. Elizabeth Ernstein, 14, was last seen March 19, 1968 one block from her home while returning from school in Mentone. For months afterward, Sheriff’s Department personnel and volunteers searched for clues of Elizabeth’s disappearance, but to no avail. The case took on national attention with news media covering the story from across the nation. Her disappearance went unsolved and 44 years passed.

“In May 2012, investigators with the San Bernardino County Sheriff, Coroner’s Division received additional information that lead to the possibility that Elizabeth’s remains had been previously recovered but not yet identified. Investigators located and obtained DNA samples from Elizabeth’s sister and brother. Those samples were sent to the California Department of Justice for entry into a database which routinely searches possible matches between family members and unidentified individuals.

“In 2011, some of the remains of an unidentified person, found in 1969 in a shallow grave near Wrightwood, were exhumed from the county cemetery and submitted for DNA testing. Investigators with the Coroner’s Division learned the remains were those of a young adult. Working on the additional leads developed in May, investigators asked the Department of Justice to compare the DNA samples from Elizabeth’s sister and brother to the DNA from the unidentified remains found in the Wrightwood grave.

“On August 16, 2012, Sheriff’s Coroner Investigator/Unidentified Persons Coordinator Bob Hunter received confirmation from the Department of Justice that the samples obtained from Elizabeth Ernstein’s brother and sister were a match to the remains found in 1969. The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department Homicide Cold Case unit is continuing the investigation in an effort to determine the circumstances surrounding Elizabeth’s disappearance and suspected murder...”

Who abducted Elizabeth Ernstein, drove her 45 miles north to Wrightwood, and murdered her? Is the killer still alive? Has he committed similar offenses?

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call Cold Case Detectives Ryan Ford or Scott Cannon of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Detail at (909) 387-3589 or the We-Tip Hotline (where you can remain anonymous) at 1-800-782-7463.