Archive for November, 2009

already 99.alr.002002 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

November 23, 2009

Farmhand Joe Maxson’s first thought when he awoke that morning of April 28, 1908, was that Belle Gunness was cooking breakfast. That hickory smell that sometimes blended with the cedar wood in the house to give the air a strange, almost pungent aroma. But, the more he lay there, slowly, steadily awakening to his own senses, the quicker he realized that his initial perception had been wrong. What he smelled was charred wood, the sickening breath-consuming, smoky odor of savage fire. He leaped out of bed.

 

Joe Maxon

Joe Maxon

Something caught his attention outside his window — something drifting by. While his feet maneuvered into a pair of slippers at his bedside, his eyes followed to where a gray cloud of smoke bellowed up from below his windowsill and, caught in a morning breeze, pirouetted like an amoebic ballerina, to dance like the devil before it whooshed out of site. Only to be followed by another signal of smoke; this time blacker and, carrying with it, a stench of hellfire.

 

Throwing up the window, he popped his head out. From below, from what was the kitchen window of the house, smoke issued in puffing rhythm, accompanied by an intermittent snap of a flame that seemed to be teasing what was left of the white lace curtains. My God, he thought, the house is afire and the inhabitants are asleep!  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

Grabbing a robe from the bedpost to cover his woolen drawers, he simultaneously reached with his free hand for the bedroom doorknob. It was already hot. One hand couldn’t budge it, so he tried both hands — to yank the door inward — but it wouldn’t yield. The wooden frame had blistered to wedge the door. He banged with his fists upon the thickness of the door — not because he himself was trapped, for he knew he could escape easily enough through the window if need be — but to rouse the sleeping landlady and her children.

 

Phillip Gunness, victim

Phillip Gunness, victim

“Mrs. Gunness!” he cried, “wake up, fire! Mrs. Gunness! The house is burning! Myrtle! Lucy! Phillip! Fire!” He listened Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire  a moment, hoping to hear through the keyhole the family scampering through the hall, alerted to reality. “Mrs. Gunness!” he tried again. “Children!” But, no sound answered him, not even a whimper. His own room was filing with hacking fumes — and he was afraid that, at any moment, the tin of kerosene he had bought yesterday for Widow Gunness, and which she had him put in the kitchen, might explode. He dashed through the smoke, raced down the servants’ stairs that led to the kitchen and, groping, somehow found the screen door to the yard beyond.

 

 

Myrtle (left) and Lucy Gunness, victims

Myrtle (left) and Lucy Gunness, victims

A golden morning sun was tipping the eastern horizon of Indiana cornfields, unaffected by the unfolding tragedy.

 

Flailing arms, yelling in panic at the top of his lungs, he circled the house, but found every window lapped by flame, impenetrable. Somewhere inside, he knew, was the senseless Gunness family — trapped by the carnage: Belle, 48, and her three children, Myrtle (11 years old), Lucy (nine) and Philip (five). Were they already dead, licked by flame? Or were they yet untouched by the fire, but slowly, methodically, lapsing into a coma under asphyxiation of smoke?

forgotten 77.for.003003 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

November 20, 2009

Fresh Meat Pies

// “Seems an awful waste
I mean
With the price of meat what it is”

“A Little Priest” by Stephen Sondheim from “Sweeney Todd.”

Sweeney Todd’s accomplice is even more shrouded in mystery than the murderous barber himself. Her surname was undoubtedly Lovett, but whether her first name was Margery or Sarah remains a mystery. Haining argues in favor of Margery, as most of the articles written about her use that name. She was less than beautiful, according to articles written at the time of her arrest, and her smile came not from her heart, but was as false as the veal filling in her pies.

 

Engraving of Mrs Lovett

Engraving of Mrs Lovett

 

Mrs. Lovett was a widow, whose first husband had died under mysterious circumstances and no one was ever able to place her in Sweeney Todd’s presence in public. The pair were lovers, though, and apparently their passions were fulfilled after a successful murder and butchering job. She liked the finer things in life, considered herself better than her working class background, and used her portion of the profits to furnish silk sheets and fine furniture in her apartment above her Bell Yard bakery.

How she met Sweeney Todd is a mystery, but apparently he set her up in her shop in Bell Yard. He had been busy “polishing off” — Sweeney’s own play on words – his customers for some time before he brought Mrs. Lovett into the act. Until she started using his victims in her meat pies, Todd had been using the abandoned crypts beneath St. Dunstan’s church to hide his handiwork. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire  There, he managed to store the bodies amid the dozens of family crypts that time had all but forgotten. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire  But he was running out of room and needed a new way to dispose of his murder victims.

Thomas Peckett Prest was the first author to write the tale of Sweeney Todd and Margery Lovett shortly after their arrest and trial. He had worked on Fleet Street and was familiar with Lovett’s two-story pie shop. In the basement of the shop was the bakery, and a false wall could be opened to reveal the catacombs behind. It was through this false wall that Todd would apparently deliver his ghastly pie fillings. Prest described the shop this way: “On the left side of Bell Yard, going down from Carey Street, was, at the time we write of, one of the most celebrated shops for the sale of veal and pork pies that London had ever produced. High and low, rich and poor, resorted to it; its fame had spread far and wide; and at twelve o’clock every day when the first batch of pies was sold there was a tremendous rush to obtain them.

 

plaintive 2.pla.000200 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

November 12, 2009

In 1864 the Civil War was raging through parts of the South, but actual fighting hadn’t reached remote Andersonville, Georgia, where the prison camp, Fort Sumter, had been built. On one particularly hot July evening that year, a Confederate guard from the 26th Alabama regiment stood watch on Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire
the parapet of the stockade prison, which was more commonly referred to as Andersonville Prison by the locals, and as “hell” by the Union soldiers and sailors incarcerated there.

The prison was nothing more than acres of open ground surrounded by a stockade fence and earthworks barricades. The destitute prisoners sheltered themselves as best they could, some with makeshift tents, others in shallow holes dug in the dirt, lined with pine needles, and covered with whatever scrap of fabric the men had—a tarp, a blanket, maybe a tattered coat. The prison was so crowded that each man had just enough room to lie down.

As dusk gave way to night, the guard looked out on thousands of prone, wretched bodies—some of them nearly skeletons from dysentery and malnourishment—and he thought of Andersonville as a massive graveyard where the corpses were still breathing and graves were yet to be covered.

 

Inmates inside Andersonville Prison (Library of Congress)

Inmates inside Andersonville Prison
(Library of Congress)

It was a damn pity, the guard thought, but this was war, and from what he’d heard, the Yankees had their own prison camps, some no better than Andersonville, Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire
or so he told authorities later.

 

He leaned on his rifle and surveyed the dead line, a simple waist-high fence inside the prison that ran parallel to the stockade walls. The fence, made up of posts set in the ground connected by a single line of horizontal planks, had been constructed to keep prisoners away from the walls. The area between the dead line and the stockade walls was kept vacant to prevent prisoners from trying to tear down the walls or tunnel underneath them. Crossing the dead line without permission was strictly forbidden. Captain Henry Wirz, who was in command of the stockade, ordered his guards to shoot any man caught on the wrong side of it.

 

Overhead sketch of Andersonville Prison

Overhead sketch of Andersonville
Prison

The guard from Alabama could hear the prisoners below him. They groaned and moaned and chattered among themselves until the mass of them sounded like a single, restless behemoth. But tonight the guard thought he heard something else. He thought he might be going crazy, but he’d heard the same sound that morning and the night before as well. It sounded like the cries of a newborn.

 

He scanned the terrain of bodies and squinted through the gloom. A baby in this hell hole? he thought. The Lord could never be so cruel.

But then he spotted a figure crawling out of a ragtag tent. When the figure stood up, the guard noticed that the person was wearing skirts. The silhouette swayed back and forth in place, like a forlorn dancer without a partner, and she seemed to be holding something in her arms, holding it close. The guard strained to pick out landmarks on the prison grounds, the larger tents of the bullies and raiders, trying to gauge the exact location of the silhouette. It was hard to be certain in this light, but he thought she was standing in the area where the newlyweds had pitched their tent about a year ago, Captain and Mrs. Harry Hunt. And she wasn’t the only woman inside the prison walls. There was another somewhere on the field, a faithful wife who would not leave her husband’s side.

But a baby? he thought. It just couldn’t be. Andersonville was where people died.   Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

He heard a series of high-pitched, plaintive wails that carried over the din, and now there was no doubt in his mind that there was a child down there. The silhouette in skirts swayed faster, bouncing the bundle on her shoulder. The guard didn’t like this development at all. He feared for their safety. A horrible thought passed through his mind—the emaciated prisoners falling upon this child for food. His heart was thumping hard. He had to tell someone about this immediately.

 

 

leather 4.lea.000200 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

November 11, 2009

It is conceivable that the leather gloves were the Rosetta stone of the Simpson murder trial. One was discovered at each of the two crime scenes. Of all the physical evidence that had been gathered and catalogued that day, the gloves were, perhaps, the most tangible. There was also a terrible irony in the fact that they may have been purchased by a woman as a gift for her husband, who then used them in the commission of her murder.

They were unique articles of apparel and the prosecution had linked together an imposing evidence chain connecting them to the defendant.

The gloves were dark brown leather, cashmere lined, size extra large. Manufactured by Aris Gloves, a subsidiary of Consolidated Food Corporation, the Isotoner Lights brand, style number 70263, were part of a small batch of only 300 pairs that had been sold exclusively by Bloomingdale’s Department Store on 3rd Avenue in New York between 1989 and 1992. The store sold 240 pairs and returned the rest to the manufacturer. On December 20th, 1990, Nicole Brown Simpson had purchased two pairs of these gloves for $110. The gloves had a distinctive stitching and V pattern in the palm and were very identifiable. The prosecution assembled press photographs and videotapes of O.J.Simpson wearing this type of leather gloves during football game telecasts in 1993 and 1994.

On April 3rd, the prosecution produced evidence that the glove found behind the bungalow on Simpson’s Rockingham estate had a mixture of blood from Nicole, Goldman and Simpson.

On June 15th, Christopher Darden called Richard Rubin to the stand. The former vice-president and general manager of Aris Gloves testified that the gloves were part of a batch sold to Bloomingdale’s, New York. He measured Simpson’s hand and estimated it to be size large to extra large. The police had already established this and had found three pairs of gloves in this size in Simpson’s belongings.

The prosecution team had arranged a trial run earlier in the day using Detective Phil Vannatter to try on a pair of identical gloves. His hands and fingers were as long and thick as Simpson’s, and the gloves slid on easily. Rather than wait for the defense to beat him to it, Darden made the decision to have a demonstration with Simpson trying on the gloves.

Simpson trying on the glove

Simpson trying on the glove

Cochran, however, insisted that his client wear latex gloves and he would attempt to slip the brown leather gloves on over these. Caught in full by the television cameras in the courtroom, Simpson Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire  was seen struggling to get the gloves on, saying, “They’re too tight.”

When asked later why the gloves failed to fit his client, Johnnie Cochran said, ” I don’t think he could “act” the size of his hands. He would be a great actor if he could “act” his hands larger.”

Rubin subsequently testified that moisture had caused the extra large gloves to shrink a full size and later in the trial, Simpson again tried on a brand new pair of the Isotoner extra large gloves, which fitted perfectly. But it seemed that the damage was irretrievable.

Cochran would make much of the glove trial that went wrong. In his final summation to the jury, he said that the prosecution’s case was slipping away as soon as they had his client try on the gloves.

“You will always remember those gloves,” he said “when Darden asked him to try them on and they didn’t fitNo matter what they do, they can’t make them fit. The prosecution would do anything to contort and distort the fact, he reminded the jury as he repeated his theme, ” If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Interestingly enough, at least two of the jury who acquitted Simpson, were not that impressed with his performance that day.

Juror #98, Carrie Bess, a postal worker, later stated, “Those gloves fit. He wasn’t putting them on right… I do believe the gloves fit. I have no doubt about that. The glove demo didn’t impress me at all. Not one iota.”

Marsh Rubin-Jackson, #984, also a postal worker, agreed. “Sure, you know they fitthey would have fit anybody,” she said.

On July 6th, the prosecution rested its case.

There had been other evidence tying Simpson to the murders. The bloody footprints that led away to the back of the condominium were identified as being from a particular brand of shoes.

William Bodziack, an FBI agent and one of the country’s most foremost experts on shoe print impressions, testified that the prints were left by Bruno Magli shoes, style Lorenzo, incorporating a Silga sole with a waffle-type print. The footwear, manufactured in Italy, retailed for $160 per pair and was sold by only 40 retailers across America. In all, only 300 pairs of size 12 (Simpson’s size) were ever sold. Only 9% of the population wore size 12. Simpson had denied ever owing a pair, calling them, “ugly-ass shoes.”

However, on September 26th, 1993, AP photographer Harry Scull Jr. had taken pictures of Simpson wearing these exact shoes at the Rich Stadium in New York. It didn’t seem to impress the jury.

Doug Deedrick, another FBI agent and a hair and fiber forensic expert, testified on the hairs found on Goldman’s shirt and inside the knit cap discovered at the crime scene. He testified that the hairs on the cap and 12 hairs recovered from the shirt were consistent with the characteristics of Simpson’s hair. He identified hair found on the Rockingham glove as compatible to Nicole’s and Goldman’s.

He testified that blue/black cotton fibers found on Goldman’s shirt matched the fibers in the socks found in Simpson’s bedroom. He affirmed that cashmere fibers which were removed from the knit hat, matched with fibers from the glove lining.  He had also examined fibers removed from the Ford Bronco and found that they matched fibers found on the glove discovered at Simpson’s house and on the knit cap found at the crime scene. It didn’t seem to impress the jury.

One of the areas that did impress the jury revolved around evidence about EDTA.

Fredric Reiders, a forensic toxicologist called by the defense, testified that EDTA was found on the sock in Simpson’s bedroom and on a blood spot on the back gate of Nicole’s condominium. According to Simpson’s lawyers, this indicated that the blood had come from the vial of blood taken from their client at the Parker Center. Although EDTA is used to preserve blood in laboratory testing, it is also found naturally in human blood, as well as in chemicals such as laundry detergent and paint. The prosecution pointed out that this easily explained its presence on a painted gate and an article of apparel.

Dr. Cotton from Cellmark had also testified regarding EDTA used to stop the degradation of blood. When she had checked the autopsy blood taken from Nicole, she had found that it was more degraded than her matching blood found on the sock in the bedroom. Once blood has degraded, it is impossible to raise its DNA count. Under the defense’s conspiracy theory, the blood on the sock had to have come from Nicole’s autopsy vial, but this blood had a lower DNA count than her blood on the sock. In other words, it was fresher when it splashed onto Simpson’s sock as he was killing her, than it was two days later when the coroner collected it. It is impossible for degraded blood to become fresh again, proving that Nicole’s blood on the sock could not have been planted.

The jury, however, could not get around how EDTA appeared on the sock and the gate, but not in the trail of blood spots that, according to the prosecution, had dripped from Simpson’s injured finger as he left the crime scene. It also wondered how the DNA fingerprinting on the gate blood spot was higher than the other samples, especially when this blood had not been collected until 20 days after the murders. The jury could not figure out why this blood had not degraded after being exposed all those days under sun and rain.  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

So much of the “mountain of evidence” seemed to loose its credibility, either because the prosecution did a less than stellar job in preparing and presenting it, or because Simpson’s lawyers were smooth enough to re-interpret it in such a way that they kept introducing reasonable doubt into the minds of the panel of jurists.

It would have been interesting to see how the jury would have responded to the evidence the prosecution chose, for various reasons, not to offer, in addition to the evidence which was presented.

 

months 5.mon.9993 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

November 6, 2009

Lisa Manderach was three weeks short of her thirtieth birthday when she went for a quick errand to Your Kidz & Mine, a new children’s clothing store in Collegeville, Pennsylvania on September 10, 1995.  She took her daughter, Devon, only nineteen months old, and that was the last time anyone saw either of them alive.   The details of this case are from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Since Lisa’s husband knew where she had gone, he sent the police to the store, where they found her car parked outside.  They searched the premises and found a stash of pornography, stains that looked like blood, long black hairs consistent with the missing woman (including a few in the vacuum cleaner bag), and peepholes drilled into the dressing rooms.  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire
Caleb Fairley, 21, had been minding the store for his mother.  When located, he presented an even better suspect: His face was covered with fresh scratches.  He said he’d gotten them in the scramble of a “mosh pit” at a local club called the Asylum, but a doctor’s examination indicated they were from fingernails.  He was arrested.

By that time, Devon’s body had already been found by hikers, strangled and dumped on a hill at the Valley Forge National Park, but Lisa was not with her.  Fairley’s defense attorney cut a smart deal: take the death penalty off the table and my client will tell you where he dumped the murdered woman.  The DA accepted it, because the sooner they found her, he knew, Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire
the more likely it was that they could get evidence to ensure that Fairley never walked out of prison.  Even so, the decision haunted him and drew quick criticism.  Some people believed that Lisa would have been found quickly without the deal.

Fairley showed them where he had placed the body behind an abandoned industrial building in a wooded area of King of Prussia.  From the exposed position, it was assumed that Lisa had been sexually assaulted.  She was taken for an autopsy.

The media was quick to learn about Fairley’s dark background.  He’d played Dungeons & Dragons, had groped or propositioned women, was known to read pornography avidly, and collected vampire paraphernalia.  He’d also joined the Asylum, a members-only nightclub that resembled a padded cell and catered to people who dressed in Goth-style clothing and sported dramatic make-up as part of the vampire subculture. The place regularly hosted vampire live action role-playing games, such as Vampire: The Masquerade (and club members interviewed by the media pointed out that they were being unfairly stigmatized because of one person’s sickness).  Overweight, Fairley had often been a target of ridicule, especially from girls at school, and tended to keep to himself.  He’d once been close to his younger brother, who had accidentally shot himself when he was four, and Fairley had told some people that he felt empty and lost.

 

Game: Vampire: The Masquerade

Game: Vampire: The Masquerade

 

After his arrest, a stain on his shirt was tested and found via DNA analysis to be a match for Lisa Manderach.  Stains at the store on different carpets matched mother and daughter, and tissue found underneath Manderach’s fingernails matched Fairley’s DNA.  Prosecutors surmised that Fairley had tried to rape Lisa after she entered the store, she had struggled and scratched him, so he had strangled her.  (He had so much as admitted that her resistance had made him blindingly angry.)  He then killed Devon and took both bodies to remote areas to dump.

Fairley was tried in April 1996 and convicted on two counts of first-degree murder.  He received two life terms.  Those acquainted with him could hardly believe that he could have harbored such violence, but his indulgence in pornography and vampire fantasies, coupled with his frustration over his helplessness around women, is all too often a formula for such violence of opportunity.

chikatilo 4.chi.0003 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

November 4, 2009

Throughout the ages, attacks on people have been attributed to supernatural creatures like werewolves and vampires, but in 1886, a German neurologist named Richard von Krafft-Ebing noted the compulsive and sexual presentation of the attacks.  He wrote about them in Psychopathia Sexualis, and many of his 238 case histories concerned a violent eroticism triggered by blood.

What seems to inspire the psychopathic or psychotic mind is the aspect of dominance mixed with blood. Many sexually compulsive murderers have described their excitement over seeing a victim’s blood.

One man described was a 24-year-old vine-dresser who murdered a 12-year-old girl, drank her blood, mutilated her genitals, and ate part of her heart.  When caught, he confessed with indifference.

Another man would cut his arm for his wife to suck on because it aroused her so strongly.  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

“A great number of so-called lust murders,” says Krafft-Ebing, “depend upon combined sexual hyperesthesia and parasthesia.  As a result of this perverse coloring of the feelings, further acts of bestiality with the corpse may result.”  He also points out that it’s generally accepted among experts on serial sex crimes that white males commit most of the truly perverse acts.

While there are several dozen so-called vampire killers, a brief list would include:

  • Martin Dumollard, who killed several girls in France in 1861 and drank their blood
Joseph Vacher

Joseph Vacher
  • Also in France, in 1897, Joseph Vacher drank blood from the necks of a dozen murder victims
  • Vincenzo Verzenia murdered two people in Italy to drink their blood
  • In 1878 in Milan, Eusebius Pieydagnelle killed six women when the smell of blood in a butcher’s shop obsessed him.  He became so excited by it that he’d go prowling for victims at night.
  • Fifteen women identified Argentinean Florencio Roque Fernandez as the man who broke into their bedrooms and drank their blood.
  • In Poland, Stanislav Modzieliewski was also identified by a woman he attacked, and he admitted that blood was delicious to him.
  • Also in Poland in 1982, Juan Koltrun was dubbed “the Podlaski Vampire” after killing two of his seven rape victims and drinking their blood.
  • In 1992 in Santa Cruz, California, Deborah Finch murdered Brandon McMichaels in what she called a suicide pact. She stabbed him 27 times and allegedly drank his blood.
  • Forty-year-old Rantao Antonio Cirillo of Milan attacked more than 40 women, one every two months over a seven year period from the late 1970’s. He’d tie them up, rape them, and bite them on the neck.
John Crutchley

John Crutchley
  • In 1985, John Crutchley held a woman prisoner to take blood from her and drink it.  After his arrest, it turned out that he’d been drinking blood from others for years.
Andrei Chikatilo

Andrei Chikatilo
  • Andrei Chikatilo, the “Forest Strip Vampire,” called himself a “mistake of nature” and “a mad beast” after being arrested for the murders of over fifty people in the former Soviet Union from 1978 to 1990.  He admitted to eating their body parts and drinking their blood.
  • Marcello de Andrade, 25, killed fourteen young boys in Rio de Janiero in 1991, sodomizing them and drinking their blood as a means of becoming as beautiful as they were.  His youngest victim was six.
  • Magdalena Solis participated in a blood-drinking sex cult in Mexico. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire
    She helped to convince villagers in Yerba Buena that she was a goddess and orchestrated blood rituals that involved numerous murders.  When the human sacrifices were discovered outside the village, police came in and rounded up the cult.

escape 6.esc.0003 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

November 2, 2009
April 23, 2009: In Florida, Jose Antonio Torres, 23, attempted a daring nude escape on a bicycle after the father of his 14-year-old paramour allegedly caught the pair en flagrant. The police quickly caught up with Torres, who was bleeding from the injuries inflicted by the protective dad.  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire