True Crime Wire will be modeled after Michelle’s work in many ways. Especially in taking a deliberate and measured approach to cases, not chasing clicks by covering high profile crimes or breaking crime news just because. I fell into that trap in the distant past as a crime blogger and don’t want to again.
I’ll try and update this blog more often now, with non-crime posts, but many posts will be directing readers to True Crime Wire.
I burned out on true crime six years ago. But re-reading my friend’s work, I realized I felt a compulsion to dive back in. I’d probably been feeling it for a while, but found it easy to set aside.
Not setting it aside anymore.
I am, gladly, a working writer, so I won’t update any personal project blogs daily — but I will update, and I’ll take time with what I write.
If you follow this blog and are interested in true crime, please follow True Crime Wire.
Back in the day, when I was blogging about crime all the time, I would’ve been tempted to really dive into the nuttiness that has recently come to light regarding the kidnapping of Denise Huskins, but honestly, I’m not feeling it today.*
A 59-page criminal complaint was released on Monday with the news of Matthew Muller’s arrest. It details him as a Harvard-educated former attorney who once taught at the prestigious school, but was disbarred earlier this year.
The 38-year-old is from Orangevale, and is a former Marine who suffers from Gulf War Syndrome and is bi-polar [sic].
Now just go read the rest yourself. Because I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve been covering crime on a regular basis since 2004 and reading true crime tales since I was 11 or 12.
If you’re curious about the guy who allegedly conceived of this insanity, a friend tweeted some links she found last night:
(Edit: I want to note that the facts known about Matthew Muller seem to make the two links above line up, but the guy’s appearance seems to have changed in a marked way; enough to make me wonder if the first really is him. Error? Identity theft? Who knows? Anything possible in this bizarre situation.)
That’s a start, I guess.
*I certainly don’t rule out writing about this later, but last night I was just too locked in a state of “WHAT THE FUCK” to wrap my head around it.
It’s not big and dramatic, and that’s good, but this alleged ‘hoax’ kidnapping of a physical therapist named Denise Huskins is evolving into one of the weirdest news stories you’ll read. And it was already weird.
Especially after this, from the San Francisco Chronicle, published yesterday:
Over the past several days, a person claiming to be one of Huskins’ kidnappers sent The Chronicle a series of e-mails saying the incident was real, and that if police did not publicly apologize to Huskins and Quinn by noon Tuesday, the abductor would be a “direct agent of harm.”
Then the “kidnapper” (I know sarcastic quotes are a tired blogging trope but it’s early and I can’t think of what else to do with that) decided to back off the threats. In emails sent to attorneys for Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, the sender said they would “not attempt any further damage or harm.” The Chronicle reports the writer went on to say they were rescinding their threats because doing “otherwise would disregard and dishonor the one positive thing we learned from this, that it is not some game and real humans are involved.”
If I wasn’t a middle-aged man who feels stupid using emojis or emoticons, I’d insert some kind of side-eye symbol here.
To go much further would lead to quoting the Chronicle more than I want, but a few things are worth noting: the paper reports one email was 9,000 words long. This is significant because if police really want to unravel this strangeness and have suspects in mind, the person who wrote the correspondence gave them a lot to work with, from a psychological point of view. I’d be surprised if some kind of forensic analysis isn’t being done on several levels with the emails alone. Then there’s this–the Chronicle quotes the “kidnappers” as saying “For what it’s worth, what could have ended up as a prolific and dangerous criminal group has disbanded […] and you have Denise Huskins to thank for that.”
Today in “Holy Hell, What?” crimes, this horror movie-level mystery.
Dateline Putnam County, Georgia, where county coroner Gary McElhenny tells the media that Russell Dermond, 88, was beheaded in his million-dollar lakefront home sometime between Saturday, May 3, and Monday, May 5. Dermond’s wife, Shirley, is missing.
Shirley Dermond is not a suspect. She is 87, and Putnam Sheriff Howard Sills told reporters that Mr. Dermond’s “body was moved,” and he didn’t “think an 87-year-old lady” could do such a thing.
The Dermonds lived in the gated and presumably secure Great Waters community at Reynolds Plantation. Investigators believe the person or persons responsible approached the Dermond residence from Lake Oconee, a central Georgia reservoir that ranges across Morgan, Greene and Putnam counties.
The Macon Telegraph reported that Sheriff Sills described the murder and disappearance as “baffling” and there aren’t that many clues as to what happened, so far:
There is no sign of forced entry to Russell and Shirley Dermond’s home where friends found his body about 10 a.m. Tuesday.
She was gone.
The cars are still there.
There is no sign of a struggle, either, inside the house…
To compound the mystery, security cameras inside the Great Waters community may have been for show, or perhaps poorly maintained, as they weren’t working at the time of the crime. The home was described as immaculate and nothing was stolen.
Based on the Telegraph’s reporting and some online searches, it’s hard to figure out why anyone would target an elderly couple like the Dermonds–and investigators have told the media they do think the Dermonds were targeted.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported today that the Putnam County Sheriff has asked the FBI to assist their investigation.
Edited to add: Missed while finding links earlier, this, from WSB, Atlanta’s ABC affiliate: “A law enforcement source told Channel 2 Action News that Dermond was beheaded and the head was not found at the crime scene.”
It’s been a while since I wrote a crime blog post.* In fact, I’m not sure I’ve published one about a contemporary crime in this blog. Until now.
This came into my inbox via a Google Alert I set up years ago, when I was writing about crime every day. It was too chilling to not mention.
A cyclist was riding under a bridge in Florence, Italy on Monday, when he or she discovered
…the kneeling body of a naked woman taped to a horizontal bar.
The witness described the woman as having “her arms outstretched as if she had been crucified.”
The victim, an adult white woman, was under a bridge near the A1 motorway in the Ugnano district, close to Scandicci. An Italian language newspaper reported that the victim was a Romanian woman in her 20s named Andrea Cristina Zamfir.
There have been as many as 3 similar cases in the region in the last few years, but all the victims survived.
The killer, if it is one person following a certain method of operation, has apparently learned to not leave any eyewitnesses behind.
Richard Parker, the man whom I knew when we were boys and who allegedly murdered his in-laws with a package bomb in February, goes on trial in October. Richard made a court appearance in Lebanon, TN this morning. In that preliminary hearing, his trial date was set for October 28, 2014. The Lebanon Democrat reports that Richard has been “charged with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of felony first-degree murder and one count of unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon.” The Tennessean notes that Richard is being defended by public defenders and is currently being held at the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison. The Tennessean’s Andy Humbles also reports that Richard’s case is no longer sealed.
Last month police in Tennessee arrested Richard Parker, age 49, for allegedly killing his in-laws, Jon and Marion Setzer. As I wrote then, this was a shocking twist in the case from my perspective because I knew Richard when we were kids. My family had already been friends with the Parkers for years when I was born. We knew them through church and other social ties. I thought they were relatives until I was 7 or 8.
Today, another mystery. This report in the Tennessean states that the Parker case has been completely sealed. That’s unusual:
It’s the first time Wilson County Circuit Court Clerk Linda Neal remembers a case completely sealed in her 16 years in the position and 32 years in the office.
“Sometimes some of the pleadings, but not an entire file,” the clerk said.
While the basic facts available in the case are strange–death by bombing is still pretty rare in personal cause homicide–they don’t on the surface hint at why police would lock the case against Richard Parker completely from public view.
* Sealed birth records (usually for so-called closed adoption, in which the birthparents’ identity is usually anonymous)
* Juvenile criminal records may be sealed * Other types of cases involving juveniles may be sealed, anonymized, or pseudonymized (“impounded”); e.g., child sex offense or custody cases * Cases using witness protection information may be partly sealed
* Cases involving trade secrets
* Cases involving state secrets
The first bullet point doesn’t apply in the Parker case. It is unlikely the second applies, as far as I can tell. The final pair of points don’t make much sense based on what’s known about the crime for which Richard stands accused. That leaves two possibilities to which I added emphasis above: juveniles are somehow involved (Richard has four children), or there may be some need for witness protection.
In the Tennessean’s report, attorney David Raybin told reporter Andy Humbles that he’d want the files sealed to ensure protection of witnesses or informants. Raybin said sealing cases is “becoming more and more common because courts and prosecutors are becoming increasingly sensitive to the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
“Discovery material,” Raybin said, “is not intended to be public record.”
Last Sunday morning at the 11:00am service, Marion Setzer sat in a pew over to my right.
After worship we talked briefly about getting together for a conversation she wanted to have with me.
Ripski mentioned that Mrs. Setzer wanted to have that conversation an interview after Richard’s arrest (I was unable to find it online this morning) and also noted that Marion Setzer seemed concerned about something, but he didn’t seem to know what it was. I’m not sure why this feels like it may be relevant to the case against Richard Parker being sealed, but intuition says it could be.
Ripski wrote something else in his sermon that applies here, too:
I have learned that there are questions that don’t have answers, there are human experiences that can’t be explained or understood. We will ask the question Why? We will try to answer it. But none of our answers will ever satisfy our soul. Not really.
I’m not the most spiritual person, sometimes, too much of a doubter, but Reverend Ripski has a good point. Sometimes we have to accept unanswered questions. Where this case–and a lot of other things–is/are concerned, I hope I can do that, one day.