Sunday, April 15, 2018

Can You Help Solve these Cold Cases?

Julie Fuller

Two decades-long mysteries  
by Robert A. Waters 

A Sad End for Baby X 
Rupert, Idaho has a population of nearly 6,000 souls.  This quiet town near the Snake River seems an unlikely place for a gruesome mystery to unfold.  But on November 17, 1989, Robert Boseiger located a burned-out 50-gallon drum near the Minidoka Landfill.  Peering inside, he saw what he thought was a dead monkey.  When sheriff's deputies arrived, they determined the remains were those of a child.  Lawmen reported that the three-week-old female victim "had been disemboweled, was missing both hands, missing her right arm, had her abdominal organs cut out, was possibly skinned, and then burned."  After nearly 30 years, no one has identified the child that became known as "Baby X." 

During that time, lots of theories surfaced.  Was the baby sacrificed by a devil-worshipping cult?  Worse yet, was the child bred and born specifically to be tortured and murderedOr was the case as simple as Minidoka County Sheriff Ray Jarvis's theory that a "migrant worker" gave birth to a child who died of pneumonia or some such natural disease.  Not being fluent in English, and from a culture that fears authority-figures, maybe the mother and her family placed the body in the barrel and burnt it so they wouldn't have to report it to cops.  And maybe, he continued, animals ate the hands and arms and its internal organs.   

Who knows?  One thing is certain: this case is as cold as it gets, and, unless some guilty soul confesses, the true answer will likely never be known. 

Who Murdered Julie Fuller? 
On July 27, 1983, in Arlington, Texas, eleven-year-old Julie Fuller stepped outside of her room at the Kensington Motel to take trash to the dumpster.  Less than a minute later, she was gone.  Vanished.  Julie's family, which had recently immigrated to the U. S. from England, launched a frantic search of the area, then called police.  The next day, her nude body was found in Fort Worth, raped, strangled and discarded in a ditch.  Thirty-five years later, the case is still unsolved. 

Recent advances in DNA technology have allowed investigators to create an image of what the killer might have looked like.  It's called phenotyping, and can predict physical appearance, including eye color.  Ft. Worth police recently released pictures of what the suspect may have looked like at various ages.  A detective stated that since there were no eyewitnesses to Julie's abduction, they hope these images can spark someone's memory.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

"The constant drip, drip, drip of innuendo"

Remembering Richard Jewell and Steven Hatfill
by Robert A. Waters

In 2007, Richard Jewell died of complications from diabetes.  Only 47, this mild-mannered "mama’s boy" became entrapped in a storm of intrigue orchestrated by the FBI.

An obituary in the New York Times described the affable, Lynyrd Skynyrd-loving security guard: “The heavy-set Mr. Jewell, with a country drawl and a deferential manner, became an instant celebrity after a bomb exploded in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park on the evening of July 27, 1996, at the midpoint of the Summer Games. The explosion, which propelled hundreds of nails through the darkness, killed one woman, injured 111 people and changed the mood of the Olympiad.”  Jewell had discovered the package containing the bomb, alerted his superiors, and moved hundreds of spectators away from danger.

Not content to let a hero be a hero, the FBI quickly set its sights on Jewell.  Through leaks to the press, agents surreptitiously assassinated his character, leading a lynch mob of journalists to accuse Jewell of murder.  Hounding him unmercifully, the Feds hoped to break the mild-mannered security guard.  It soon became evident that he had nothing to do with the bombing, and he was dropped as a suspect.  But by then, millions of Americans still suspected he was the murderous bomber.  In a series of lawsuits, Jewell won millions of dollars from various newspapers and television networks that had libeled him.  Eric Rudolph later pleaded guilty to planting four bombs in Atlanta (including the Olympic nail-bomb) that killed two people.  He is currently serving life in a Federal prison.

The crucifixion of Dr. Steven Hatfill was even worse.  In a profile of the virologist and bio-weapons expert, The Atlantic wrote: “His story provides a cautionary tale about how federal authorities, fueled by the general panic over terrorism, embraced conjecture and coincidence as evidence, and blindly pursued one suspect while the real anthrax killer roamed free for more than six years. Hatfill’s experience is also the wrenching saga of how an American citizen who saw himself as a patriot came to be vilified and presumed guilty, as his country turned against him.”

In 2002, with television cameras rolling and news helicopters swooping low, the FBI searched Hatfill’s apartment twice.  Attorney General John Ashcroft took to the White House podium and named Hatfill a “person of interest.”  For two years, the Feds trailed Hatfill like a pack of feral dogs.  His phone was bugged, surveillance cameras set up around his apartment, and the scientist was hounded everywhere he went.  Hatfill felt backed into a corner.  Again, the FBI purposely set out to break an innocent man.  Hatfill lost his job at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), and when he was accepted for a new job at Louisiana State University, the FBI pressured the institution to rescind its decision.  After one day of employment, the university withdrew its offer.

Hatfill told The Atlantic that “it’s like death by a thousand cuts. There’s a sheer feeling of hopelessness. You can’t fight back. You have to just sit there and take it, day after day, the constant drip-drip-drip of innuendo, a punching bag for the government and the press.  And the thing was, I couldn’t understand why it was happening to me.  I mean, I was one of the good guys.”

Hatfill did muster the resolve to fight back, holding press conferences in which he refuted the lies about him.  After two years, it became obvious that he could not have been the anthrax killer.  Hatfill eventually won more than ten million dollars in lawsuits against the Department of Justice and television networks.

Having been KOed by Hatfill, the Bureau next turned its sinister spotlight on Bruce Ivins.  An eccentric, mentally-fragile scientist who worked in the bio-lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland, he allegedly fit the profile of the anthrax killer.  FBI agents orchestrated a program of harassment designed to break Ivins’ will.  With the media bearing down on him and the Feds threatening to charge him with murder, Ivins could no longer take it.  On July 29, 2008, he downed a whole bottle of Tylenol, killing himself.  That’s all the FBI needed—they pinned the blame for the anthrax letters on him.  Had he been mentally tough enough to withstand the FBI’s constant persecution, Ivins, like Hatfill, would probably be a millionaire today. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Murders Unsolved

Louise Lawson
 Ghosts of the Unquiet Dead 
by Robert A. Waters 

Almost every town, village, and city in America has unsolved murder cases.  Some date as far back as the founding of this country, while others are recent.  This is a sampling of murders unsolved, and of souls that still cry out for justice. 

Louise Lawson.  The New York media called her a gold-digger, a "moth," a hustler, and other harsh names.  But to the folks in her hometown of Alvarado, Texas, the beautiful Louise Lawson was a rose cut down in her prime.  She came to the big city to study piano and voice, but her singing career never got off the ground.  Although Lou (as she was called) landed bit parts in a few movies and worked as a chorus girl in Flo Ziegfield's follies, she eventually gravitated to procuring "sugar daddies."  For certain favors, the famous and not-so-famous plied Lou with a stylish apartment, cash, stocks, and expensive jewelry.  It may have been the jewelry that got her killed.  On the morning of February 8, 1924, the 26-year-old Texan opened her door to two men who allegedly were bringing her a case of bootleg whiskey.  But during the few minutes they were in the apartment, the men strangled Lou to death.  When cops arrived, her apartment had been ransacked and $20,000 worth of jewelry was missing.  Lou's loyal Texas family brought her home and buried her—a crowd of 2,000 filled the local Baptist Church.  In New York, the search for her killers quickly stalled.  While several other vulnerable women in the city were also murdered for their jewelry, the killers were never caught. 

Patricia Rebholz.  On the steamy night of August 6, 1963, 15-year-old Patricia left a teenage dance party at the American Legion Hall in Greenhills, Ohio.  The pretty, popular cheerleader began walking toward her boyfriend's home.  She never made it.  After a brief search, her bludgeoned body was found in a yard across the street from Michael Wehrung's home.  Michael, her boyfriend, also 15, immediately became the chief and only suspect in the brutal slaying.  Day after day, police interrogated the teen.  Investigators leaked information and misinformation to the press, soon turning most of the town against him.  In truth, there was no hard evidence to connect Wehrung to his girlfriend's death, and he was not charged.  Fast-forward to December 6, 2001, 38 years after the murder.  A new prosecutor, convinced of Wehrung's guilt, indicted him on one count of second-degree murder.  After a week-long trial, the jury found the defendant not guilty.  It's unlikely that Patricia's still-grieving family will ever learn who killed her. 

Georgia Jane Crews. "Hello… yeah… you know that girl that you looking for… yeah, the twelve-year-old… yeah… she's dead."  The call came in to the Lake County, Florida Sheriff's Department on April 10, 1980, two days after 12- year-old Georgia Crews vanished.  Lake County was sparsely populated, and Montverde, where Georgia and her family lived, had a population of only about 200 souls.  On the evening of April 8, Georgia left her home to go to a nearby market.  Or maybe it was to visit a friend.  No one really knew.  What is known is that she never returned.  A week later, after a massive search, the child's remains were found 30 miles away, in Casselberry.  She'd been stabbed once in the back.  Investigators never determined whether she had been sexually assaulted, though her pants were unbuttoned.  Thirty-eight years later, there are no real leads.  Even the recorded message left by the killer has been lost, like the little girl who walked down the street and vanished. 

Paul Burch.  The brutal torture and murder of Paul Burch, a gas station attendant in Santa Fe, New Mexico, generated local headlines, but no national publicity.  According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, on November 13, 1957, two customers looking to pay for gas found Burch's body "sprawled facedown between the runners of the station's grease rack."  He'd been stabbed 14 times with a blunt-bladed knife about five inches long after being knocked out with a blow to the back of the head. Fifty-seven-year-old Burch was married, with five children.  He was planning to purchase the service station and had been to see a lawyer that very day to work out details.  More than $200 in cash and a $250 check were stolen, presumably by his killers.  The Santa Fe Police Department worked diligently to solve the case but came up empty.  Not only has no one been charged, but there have never been any real suspects. 

Tens of thousands of murderers walk our streets every day.  And every day, millions of long-forgotten victims cry out for vengeance.  Unfortunately, their voices can no longer be heard.