Hearstian Hyperbole and The Redureau Case

Marcel Redureau, via Pays de la Loire.
Marcel Redureau, via Pays de la Loire.

I know a lot of crime history–not just American crime, either–but I’d never heard of Marcel Redureau until today. Redureau, 15, hacked 7 people to death on or about Sept. 30, 1913. His trial commenced in Nantes, France on March 3, 1914. Here’s how it was reported by the New York Times 100 years ago today, March 4:

From the NYT, 3/4/1914
From the NYT, 3/4/1914

The final line–“he was apparently not normal”–must have seemed ironic the day the item was published.

Hearst’s International, in an article about “Terrible Children,” wrote that the Redureau case led French papers to actively discuss what it termed with characteristic Hearstian reserve as a “red wave of child criminality.” Reasons for this horrific juvenile zombie horde apparently laying waste to European principalities before the Great War were thought to include “alcohol, inherited tendencies, non-moral education, the absence of religion and the anarchy of the times.” So killer emo/goth kids are nothing new, I guess.

Marcel Redureau’s crime was the subject of a book by author André Gide, The Ridereau Case (L’Affaire Redureau). Gide analyzed the course of justice in this case, and you can read some of his writing on it in English here.

It appears that Redureau, who reportedly had a normal childhood, was probably clinically and quite possibly legally insane. As noted here, the boy was sentenced to 20 years in prison, only to die after 4 months from tuberculosis.

[Updated] Richard Parker to be arraigned for bombing deaths of in-laws

Richard Parker's childhood home, property records indicate it may still be in his mother's name.
Richard Parker’s childhood home, property records indicate it may still be in his mother’s name. (Google Street View)

[Rather than do a big edit, I added an update at the end of this post.]

Richard Parker, whom police believe killed his in-laws last week with a bomb, will be arraigned this morning. I’ve written about knowing Richard when we were children here and here.

The Tennesseean reports Richard’s case “is part of the 9 a.m. criminal court docket in Wilson County.”

The paper also reports a grand jury indicted Richard on Feb. 13. Charges against him include felony first-degree murder and premeditated first-degree murder. Richard is in the Wilson County jail on a $1 million bond after his Valentine’s Day arrest. Police focused on him after an explosion killed Jon Setzer, 74, and mortally wounded Jon’s wife, Marion, age 72. Richard, who is 49, attended bedside vigils for his dying mother-in-law before his arrest.

Richard Parker (mugshot)
Richard Parker (mugshot)

The Setzers and Parkers lived on Vance Lane in Lebanon, TN. The Setzers, according to some reports, moved there a few years ago to be closer to their grandchildren. Richard’s mother, Sarah Lee Parker, may have been living in Richard and Laura Parker’s home. A friend who lived near Mrs. Parker’s former home in Antioch, TN told me she sometimes checked in on Sarah Lee Parker until a few years ago. My friend believed Mrs. Parker, who would be in her early 80s, was suffering from dementia. In the last couple of years, Google’s camera car captured a For Sale sign in front of Richard’s childhood home (see left), but online records show Sarah Lee and “George W Parker et Ux” still own the property.

So–Richard’s mother may well be in failing health and her property slow to sell [see update]. Also, Tennessee business records show Richard’s Legacy Restorations was inactive.

If Richard Parker killed his in-laws, he did it for money.

It’s tempting to tell old stories I know about Richard, his parents, his aunt and uncle. I will save most for another time. After all, many stories are gossip, worthy of skepticism. However, a relative reminded me of one story over the weekend that was just strange. Hearing it again made me wonder about the real Parker household. What it was like when no one was putting on a good face for visitors.

Richard’s mother kept german shepherds in their fenced back yard. I don’t remember how many they had at any given time. I do remember the house smelling like their dogs–a problem we had in my home as well.

When Sarah Lee Parker was angry at her husband, Bill, the story goes, she would go and sit with her dogs. I’m told she did that because when she was with her dogs, Bill Parker wouldn’t go near her.

I don’t recall thinking Mrs. Parker mean (she was tall, and Richard has her eyes). She seemed distant compared to my warm and funny mother, or her sister-in-law Katherine, who was also friends with my mom and my paternal grandmother.

I’ve hated Richard Parker for 36 years. I wasn’t surprised to see him on every major newscast and all across my Twitter feeds, arrested for murder. I should have been, many who knew him were, but I wasn’t.

That said, the story of his mother surrounded by her dogs so his father would stay away kindled a moment of sympathy. Not for Richard, for his family. Then, and now.

At my 2006 high school reunion, I spoke with friends I’d known since elementary school. They told stories about their lives when we weren’t at school that opened my eyes to how little we see when we’re kids. We may get a sense of this or that–I often did–but unless we’re next door neighbors, we don’t know.

I knew by age 10 I wanted nothing more to do with the boy who became the alleged killer, Richard Parker.

I don’t know what was at work in Richard’s boyhood home that could explain the explosion that killed Jon and Marion Setzer. I do wonder if it began there, a mile away from me, in another house on Hamilton Church Road.

UPDATE

The person who used to check up on Sarah Lee Parker sent me a Facebook message regarding the status of Mrs. Parker’s home on Hamilton Church Road. This statement is interesting in how it may relate to Richard Parker’s finances before his in-laws were killed. My friend wrote:

Mrs. Parker’s house sold last year and now a Mexican family live there and they have remodeled. The proceeds from the sale and a subsequent ‘moving’ sale were used to build two rooms onto Richard’s house. Mrs. Parker has lived with Richard since then.

My friend watched Richard’s arraignment and said he has been appointed a public defender and cannot pay bail. He’ll remain in jail till his next court appearance in April.

(Based on advice from a wise friend and editor, this may be the last  in-depth post I’ll do about this for a while. I will definitely still write about it. Some things take much more time, work, and deliberation, though.)

Richard Parker: “We want the people to know what he’s really like”

Richard Parker as a senior at McGavock H.S., early 1980s
Richard Parker as a senior at McGavock H.S., early 1980s

Since his arrest Thursday for the homicide of his in-laws, Jon and Marion Setzer, I’ve seen Richard Parker’s mugshot on CNN and on local news out of Boston. I have read the BBC’s account of his alleged crime.

My first post, written yesterday, may make it clear why I find this surreal.

Tennessee outlets have reported as much as they could about Richard, some emphasizing that he taught Sunday school at First Nazarene in Nashville, with his wife, Laura. Recently, Laura and Richard* had even had kids from their church over for a campout.

So Nashville news organizations have covered the usual “he was quiet, well-liked” angles often trotted out to stir up unneeded drama in a crime story pretty well. (No real criticism intended; I’ve damn sure done that myself.)

Today the Los Angeles Times published a report that helped me clarify why I was compelled to write about this crime, even though I’ve avoided covering crime stories since 2010.

The Times tracked down Danny and Rosemary Martin. They engaged Richard Parker to restore their historic home in 1990. Danny Martin told the paper that Richard

…first offered to fix up the house for nearly $150,000. He said Parker returned two weeks later and offered to do the work for $60,000 because he wanted to start doing business on his own and this could serve as a model to show potential customers. Parker and Martin signed a contract written by the now-dead father-in-law, Martin said.

Richard fell behind on the job. Sometimes he would work all night. Mr. Martin said he wouldn’t pay Richard if he couldn’t do the work. His house burned down.

The Times reports that investigators found traces of gasoline at the site, suggesting arson. Richard was arrested and ultimately sentenced to 4 years probation and ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution.

Danny Martin told the Times, “We want the people to know what he’s really like.”

That’s my point.

Richard Parker has seemed like a churchgoing family man with a stable marriage and four kids since the arson that saw him on probation from 1993 to 1997. Those unaware of certain church traditions of forgiveness and forbearance may be surprised at this, but I’m sure Richard’s church family will stand foursquare behind him, perhaps even if he’s convicted.

People with Richard’s qualities, rudimentary as they may have been when we were kids, probably don’t have real faith save in themselves. They can become close to a partner and their own kids, but it’s often out of recognizing the need for a stable home base as much as anything.

The Richard I knew as a boy was of a piece with the man described by Danny Martin. Quiet, apparently innocuous, but cold and calculating. Looking for an angle, an advantage, an out.

***

This story is more personal than anything else I’ve covered, so I want to step back and take a more classic “crime blogger” tack regarding the bomb police allege Richard used to kill his in-laws.

I discussed the case with a friend who is an expert in military ordinance and disposal. He’s my age and has been doing Hurt Locker-style work for I don’t know how long. He knows his stuff.

Regarding the parcel bomb that authorities say Richard left for his in-laws, he said he found it interesting that the bomb appeared to explode without causing “…significant structural damage to the home. Most people who do not know what they are doing tend to go overboard.”

My friend (I’m not naming him because he’s active duty and I don’t know if talking to me about this might be against some obscure regulation) also said he thought the killer “definitely knew what he was doing.”

[latimes.com]

*I made a conscious decision to abandon a news writer tendency to refer to a suspect by his last name with Richard Parker. He’s always Richard in my head.

Richard Parker Arrested for Mail bomb murders of his In-laws

Richard Parker (mugshot)
Richard Parker (mugshot)

Richard Parker, age 49, was arrested Thursday in Tennessee and charged with the mail bomb homicide of his father and mother-in-law, Jon and Marion Setzer.

On Monday a package exploded at the Setzers’ Wilson County, TN home. Jon died at the scene and Marion Setzer passed away Wednesday night. The Tennesseean (linked above) said Richard was “charged with two counts of felony first degree murder and two counts of premeditated murder on Thursday[…].”

I found the first news reports about the murder intriguing. Mail bombings are rare and could happen for any reason, from personal cause to domestic terrorism. I kept track of the story from Monday on, tweeting links that caught my interest.

Imagine how much more interesting the story became when I saw Richard Parker’s mugshot and realized I knew him.

My mom was good friends with Richard’s mother, Sarah Lee Parker. News reports might call her “Sarah” or “Mrs. Parker” but she was Sarah Lee in our home. They lived a mile down the road. Richard’s father was a non-entity to me but he and his sister Fay had come to my sister Rhonda’s birthday parties. I knew he had an older brother named George who had dark hair and was tall. The Parkers were welcome in our home and vice versa.

I never liked going to their house. Sarah Lee made ceramic figures and (I think, my memory’s fuzzy here) cups and dishes and displayed them around the house. Richard, 3 years older than me, had a cluttered room at the end of an interior hall. He had strange things like large ball bearings and boomerangs. He wasn’t a bullying playmate, though he was older, taller and stronger. He was a sly, calculating, manipulative playmate. As soon as I was old enough to assert myself to my mom, I said I didn’t want to play with Richard or go to their house anymore.

In her email confirming to me that this was the Richard Parker I’d known as a kid, my mom wrote:

This is definitely [that] Richard Parker. I remember him well. Rhonda said, “I remember him being strange…”

My sister also recalled that Richard played with dolls and “He gave her one, one time and told her to give it to you.”

The part about the doll isn’t strange to me. It even seems to contradict Richard’s arrest for a double homicide. Unless, that is, one views Richard Parker the way I have since I was 10 or so. He was the first person I ever met whom I realized was more messed up than I could explain to myself.

Since I established myself writing about crime, an old and personal connection to a murder suspect may present an ideal opportunity to write about the case.

There’s a little more to the story, but it’d only be distant background as it relates to the murders of Richard’s in-laws. I think I’ll sleep on it before I decide about pitching it to someone as a piece.

The Evil Clown of Melbourne

PENNYWISE (Via Comicvine.com)
PENNYWISE (Via Comicvine.com)

Melbourne has a problem. An armed man in a clown mask has reportedly been threatening various suburban residents. In every case noted by Sky News, “the masked man is in the passenger seat of a car while his driver gets them in close to a pedestrian.” In one case the clown exited the vehicle and menaced a woman walking down the street, only to leave when another car came along. The clown and his driver are driving either a Toyota Camry or some Mitsubishi model I’ve never heard of. Left unsaid in the Sky News report: whether he floats. Whether they all float, down there.

[Sky News Australia]

Who Stole the Lipinski Stradivarius?

I frequently think I don’t want to write about crime anymore at all, then a story like this comes along. It taps into both my interest in unusual crime news and my background in music.

Frank Almond plays violin for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He plays the Lipinski Stradivarius, a historic and exceptionally valuable instrument. On Monday, January 27, Almond was leaving a performing venue at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee when he was tased and the violin stolen by two guys in a minivan.

Frank Almond’s 2012 Kickstarter page for a project named “A Violin’s Life: The ‘Lipinski’ Stradivarius” tells more about the instrument (as does the video from that page, which you can watch above):

The violin is named for the Polish virtuoso Karol Lipinski, who played on this instrument from approximately 1818 until his death in 1861. Lipinski was given the violin by a student of the legendary Giuseppe Tartini, the instrument’s first known owner. Known in his lifetime as a violinist, composer, concertmaster, and pedagogue, Lipinski associated with some of the most famous cultural figures of the time, including Franz Liszt, Nicolò Paganini (with whom he had a certain “rivalry”), and Robert Schumann, who so admired Lipinski that he dedicated his famous piano work “Carnaval” to him.

After Lipinski’s death the instrument eventually came into the Röentgen family, which included several violinists and the celebrated composer Julius Röntgen In the 20th century the violin changed hands several times, in 1962 arriving in the possession of the Estonian violinist Evi Liivak, who passed away in 1996.

Almond goes on to write that he had been playing the Lipinski since 2008. The Kickstarter was for a recording project (if you’ve watched the video above, it explains this) consisting of music that played a role in “the extraordinary history of this violin and its associations.” The project was successfully funded by July, 2012, and was featured on Kickstarter’s blog noting projects in the news.

Almond has kept the names of the violin’s owners anonymous. In this April, 2013 interview regarding the release of “A Violin’s Life,” Almond said the owners had “strong ties to Milwaukee.”

It’s hard to not wonder who the hell might steal a Stradivarius. What happened to Almond doesn’t sound like simple street robbery, either, though details are admittedly sparse. My immediate guess is the thieves knew exactly what they were after.

But as David Krajicek wrote in a 2004 New York Daily News article about another stolen–but later recovered–Stradivarius, the instrument’s unique properties along with its relative rarity (there are perhaps 500+ true Stradivariuses still in existence) make them “fetish theft objects, like the stolen Rembrandt painting that can never be openly sold.”

If someone were dumb enough to try and sell the Lipinski, how much could they get? Some sources say as little as a $1.5 million, as much as $3 million dollars.

Chances are the robbers who attacked Frank Almond haven’t put the Lipinski on Craigslist, then.

[WISN]

The Secrets of Allenstown

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 1.15.27 PM
Screengrab from Google Street View

Edgewood Drive is a narrow road that cuts a short path through Bear Brook Gardens Mobile Home Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire. Timestamps on the images indicate Google’s Street View car drove down Edgewood in September 2011. The car’s camera turret captured the beautiful slanting light of a dying Fall day in New England, a mellow glow that for a few moments turns everything dreamlike. Even moments in an old trailer park in a small New England town seem beautiful then.

Allenstown is about 90 miles north of where I live, but I haven’t been yet. I’ve been thinking about the place a lot off and on since I moved here. There’s a mystery there.

Screengrab of composites of the mystery victims, from New Hampshire DOJ
Screengrab of composites of the mystery victims, from New Hampshire DOJ

The mystery began in 1985. A hunter in Bear Brook State Park found a 55-gallon barrel off a snowmobile trail. The barrel was on privately-owned property within Bear Brook Gardens. Inside the barrel, wrapped in plastic, were the bodies of a woman and a little girl. The woman was white and between 23 and 33 years old. The girl was between 8 and 10 years old. Fifteen years later, in 2000, someone discovered another barrel. It contained the bodies of two girls. One was between 4 and 8 years of age, the other between 1 and 3. According to a page about the bodies on the State of New Hampshire’s DOJ website, “These two children are biologically related to the adult female and it is possible all four victims are related.”

All the victims died from blunt-force trauma and they were nude, with no personal effects.

On the blog Mystery in Allenstown NH, siblings Scott Maxwell and Ronda Randall have collected a good deal of the publicly available information in the case. They have posted images and a wealth of links and archived articles going back to the 1980s. Below are bits from some of the coverage linked from or copied into the blog.

An article published on CNN’s website in June, 2013:

Evidence indicates the victims were white, but investigators do not know skin tone or eye color. The bones were not in the best condition, given they were exposed to the elements and years of deterioration, says Williamson. They may have died as early as 1977 or 1978.

On Mystery in Allenstown, from a microfilm record of an article published in the New Hampshire Union Leader in November, 1985. The article was titled, “Area Where Bodies Found Not Isolated”:

About 150 yards from the junkyard, the trail curves right and the junkyard is lost from sight. Only trees ahead, only trees behind. The path continues to curve and drop off slightly. A 15-foot tree has blocked the path at the 230-yard mark. No more than 20 feet off to the left was the spot where the hunter discovered the plastic covered remains of a young woman aged 23 to 33 and a young girl aged 8-10. Forensic reports indicate the pair had been killed by severe blows to the head. The bark of the junkyard dog chained up barely 200 yards away echoes loudly through the woods. The bark has been incessant, no pause lasting more than a few seconds.

A little more than 100 yards further down the trail from the spot where the bodies were discovered, the first mobile home of Bear Brook Gardens can be seen through the trees. The trail ends in a sandpit at the top of a small hill overlooking the mobile home park. From Bear Brook Gardens to the junkyard on Deerfield Road, the entire path is approximately 600 yards long and only for a couple hundred yards of that would a traveler be completely hidden by the woods.

Throughout the length of the path, car doors can be heard shutting in Bear Brook Gardens and cars can be heard shuttling down Deerfield Road. The junkyard dog continues to bark as though it had something to bark at.

Also from the Union Leader, February, 2013:

The little girl aged 5 to 11 found in 1985 offers [Kim Fallon, chief forensic investigator at the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner] the most hope that someone will remember her because she may have attended school up to the fifth grade. She had double piercings in both ears, which would have been considered unusual at the time. […] The girl had fine light brown or dirty blond hair and would have stood about 4 feet 3 inches tall, Fallon said. There was some evidence of pneumonia in her left lung.

Later in that same article, Kim Fallon said, “If I had a good friend in elementary school who suddenly left, I would remember.”

That’s true. I still remember a family that briefly lived in a trailer next to our house in the southeast Nashville suburb of Antioch when I was a kid. The son was a blonde kid my age named Bobby. I recall a lot of odd details about him and his mom. She had cats-eye glasses frames, which were by then enough out-of-style to be odd, and Bobby wore heavy, square black frames that are tagged as “hipster-like” today but at that point in the 1970s, they were just old-fashioned.  I can still remember him eating dry white toast for breakfast as he waited for the bus and looking unkempt, even compared to me. I also recall that my parents seemed uncomfortable with me playing with him. It was the first and perhaps only time I perceived a kind of class bias from them–the discomfort of a poor family seeing their kid hang out with a child from even more straitened circumstances.

One day, Bobby and his mom were gone. No warning. He was at school the day before, seeming fine, then he wasn’t.

I didn’t even like the kid much–he seemed kind of humorless–but it’s been over 35 years and at least partly because of the way he seemed to vanish, I remember him as clearly as other kids I knew for much longer periods.

Whether in Canada (it was easier to travel between the US and Canada in the late 70s and 80s) or somewhere here in New England, someone still remembers the woman or one of the kids from the barrels. Someone knew them. Remembers odd facts about them. Yet they remain ciphers, gray computer recreations based on bones.

That’s the upshot of all the information collected on Mystery in Allenstown. The mystery still seems as impenetrable as when the first bodies were found in 1985.

I may contact the folks who run Mystery in Allenstown. May take a trip up the road to see what there is to see, eventually. And write more about it. When cases like this are solved, they’re almost always solved by investigators and scientists. Talk about it here, or in more depth in another publication in the future? That seems like the least I could do.