Murder, Manslaughter, Vehicular Homicide and Other Criminal Pleasantries

The courts are baffling things aren’t they?  Juries make the most outrageous decisions in thcourt-hammere eyes of the public, however they are privy to information the rest of us aren’t.  Often we wonder why a person is charged with a certain criminal charge and not another. For instance, a nasty s.o.b. who murders his wife during a violent argument and has a history of domestic violence, might seem to be a dead-ringer (pun) for first degree murder, yet somehow the charge becomes that of manslaughter, or second degree murder. Not fair.

Murder in the First Degree

  • The person who causes the death of a human being means to cause his death, or means to cause bodily harm that she knows is likely to cause death
  • A person, for an unlawful objective, does anything she knows is likely

Case Study One
The Black Dahlia
One of the United State’s most horrific and notorious murders, clearly Elizabeth Short’s murder is a Short's-grave200tragic example of deliberate torture and murder.  Elizabeth was tortured to death either by blows to the head or exsanguination in her abdomen. Her body was found severed and positioned in a grotesque pose, suggesting sexual submission. This was news noir at its best as far as LA journalists were concerned. To juice up the story, Examiner reporters resorted to an unethical ploy; they called Elizabeth’s mother, Phoebe Short, and told her that her daughter had won a beauty contest. After prying as much personal information about Elizabeth from Mrs. Short as possible, they informed her that her daughter was actually dead. Although LA police conducted a thorough investigation lasting for over a year, Elizabeth’s killer was never brought to justice.  A number of suspects were investigated and most were cleared including:

Robert Manley
Manly was the last person to see Short alive. He was booked as a suspect, but released after he passed a polygraph test. Beset by a long history of mental health problems, in 1954, his wife committed him to a psychiatric hospital after he told her he was hearing voices. That same year, doctors gave him a shot of sodium pentothal  aka the “truth serum”  in another attempt to glean information about the Black Dahlia murder from him. He was absolved a second time.

Mark Hansen
The 55-year-old Denmark native was the manager of the Florentine Gardens, a sleazy Hollywood nightclub featuring burlesque acts. Many of the young women working for Hansen lived at his home, which was located behind the club. Short was his guest for several months in 1946, and the aging lothario is rumored to have tried to bed her unsuccessfully.

George Hodel
In 2003, a retired LAPD detective named Steve Hodel published a daddy-did-it tract. Hodel Jr. depicts his dad as a tyrant and misogynistic pervert who held orgies at the family home and was put on trial for raping own his 14-year-old daughter (he was acquitted). After his father died in 1999, Hodel acquired his father’s photo album, which contained two snapshots of a dark-haired woman. Hodel claims the woman was Short, but Short’s family refuted his claims.

Jack Anderson Wilson
In “Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder,” writer John Gilmore fingers an alcPG-Jack-Wilson-aka-Arnold-Soholic drifter named Jack Anderson Wilson. Wilson purportedly divulged details about the murder that only the killer would have known, including knowledge of a supposed vaginal defect which would have prevented Short from having sexual intercourse. A few days before his pending arrest, Wilson died in a hotel fire. The book’s validity has been questioned by other Dahlia devotees who failed to track down many of Gilmore’s sources – leading them to question the sources’  existence.

Walter Alonzo Bayley
In 1997, a Los Angeles Times writer named Larry Harnisch suggested another suspect: Dr. Walter Alonzo Bayley, a surgeon whose house was located one block south of the lot where Short’s body was found. Bayley’s daughter was a friend of Short’s sister Virginia. Harnisch theorizes that Bayley suffered from a degenerative brain disease that made him kill Short. While the police believe Short’s killer was affiliated with a cutting profession  a surgeon or butcher, say  Bayley was 67 at the time of the murder and it is known whether he ever met Short.

Manslaughter
Manslaughter may or may not be deliberate, with intent to do harm or kill. There are 2 types:
Voluntary Manslaughter
This is often called a “heat of passion” crime. Voluntary manslaughter arises when a person is provoked and kills aroused by that provocation. The person may kill in the heat of passion intentionally, but the emotional context prevents them from having the ability to fully control their behavior.

Case Study One
Christian Brando, wa
s the son of the late actor Marlon Brando. In Mabrandoy 1990, Brando was arrested for the murder of his mentally disturbed and pregnant sister’s boyfriend. Earlier in the evening Brando and his sister Cheyenne had dinner together and she told Brando that her lover, Dag Drollet, was physically abusive to her. Later that evening Brando confronted Drollet, shot, and killed him. Brando pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter in a plea agreement and received a 10-year prison sentence.

Case Study Two
North Ridgeville, OH – Judge James Burge found Daniel Kovarbasich guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The teen admitted to the stabbing death of Duane Hurley. The older man invited Daniel, then 12 or 13 to visit. Hurley paid him to watch his dog and perform chores. Kovarbasich stated the sex started when Hurley persuaded him to show his penis, allowing Hurley to fondle him, and eventually into sex. “I didn’t like. I told him I didn’t like…. I told him I don’t want to do it anymore.” Hurley extracted the sexual favors when Daniel said he wanted something like money or a favor. Kovarbasich said he tried to sever the relationship but shame and fear would force him to return to Hurley’s company. Not wanting to have sex with the older man, Daniel he picked up a gallon-size pickle jar and hit him. The teen stabbed him and when the knife he was using broke, he went into the kitchen to retrieve another knife and stabbed him more than 50 times. “The court finds that the defendant was in a fit of rage which was reasonably sufficient to incite him to use deadly force.” Kovarbasich faces a maximum of ten years in prison

Involuntary Manslaughter
A killing can be involuntary manslaughter when a person’s reckless disregard of a substantial risk results in another’s death. Because involuntary manslaughter involves carelessness and not purposeful killing, it is a less serious crime than murder or voluntary manslaughter. Suppose that Person A is driving a car and runs over and kills Person B. Person A might be:

  • not guilty of a crime at all.
  • convicted of involuntary manslaughter. If A recklessly disregarded a risk by driving under the influence of alcohol, she could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. I knew a dude like that.  He only got 4 years, probably because he had no priors and was remorseful.  Sucks.

tCase Study One
James Peters, 61, pleaded in the May 1 stabbing death of 24-year-old Thomas Minton, who was killed after the two inebriated men scuffled in Peters’ apartment. The plea, known as an Alford plea, is similar to a guilty plea in respect to sentencing but allows defendants to assert their innocence while admitting the prosecution could convince a judge or jury to find them guilty. Peters was protecting himself and his wife from the younger and stronger Minton. Angela Peters, who suffers from mental disorders, often brought homeless people to her apartment to shower and eat because she felt sympathy for them. The group was drinking at the Peters’ apartment when the two men began to argue.

Case Study Two A Topeka man pleaded no contest Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter in what had been dubbed a unique cold case from 2007 in Shawnee County. Ryan Michael Thompson, 27 was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Zachary Scholl Armold, 18 of Topeka. Thompson was arrested May 3 for being a drug dealer who provided illegal substances to a person, which resulted in that person’s death. He was arrested eight days before the fifth anniversary of the victim’s death. Armold died May 11, 2007. In return for Thompson’s plea, prosecutors dropped charges of possession of narcotics with intent to sell, aggravated endangering of a child and furnishing alcohol to a minor.

2nd Degree Murder
Second-degree murder is defined as all murders that are not first-degree but where the killing was still intentional. It applies to those murders that take place in the “heat of the moment” and weren’t planned in advance. For example, a husband who had no plans to kills his wife but once they start fighting means to kill her, is guilty of second-degree murder. Those convicted of second-degree receive an automatic life sentence. However, the judge can set their parole eligibility at anywhere between 10 and 25 years.

Case Study One
22-year-old Mahamed Ali Abdulle was guilty of second-degree murder in the Septembalier 2010 beating death of Emmanuel Amoah. Abdulle was also found guilty of offering an indignity to a body for helping to move and hide Amoah’s body under a pile of grass and leaves on the south edge of Edmonton, where a passerby found it 13 days later. Abdulle helped hold down Amoah’s legs as he struggled to get away during the attack, then helped move the body.The prosecution used recorded telephone conversations to argue the murder was in retaliation for a previous robbery against Abdulle.

Case Study Two
Steven Andrew Zinda, 31, hacked David Valdez to death on the mistaken belief that the 20-ySteve Zinda accused axe murdererear-old victim broke into his home. Zinda grabbed an ax and ran down the block, and over a fence into a field. Zinda killed Valdez with four chops to the face and head. However the DA felt Zinda should be charged with first degree murder based on the videotaped statement the killer gave, where he claimed he saw Valdez try to get up, “I walked back there and finished him off,” he stated.The defence lawyer suggested Zinda was provoked into the killing and Valdez had something to do with the break-in. Zindo walked out of court into prison an official ax murderer.

Vehicular Manslaughter/Homicide
Manslaughter is a less serious version of murder, the difference being the intent to kill. Most cases that involve someone being killed by a person operating a motorized vehicle are considered manslaughter because there is generally not intent to kill. Vehicular manslaughter is also known as murder by vehicle or vehicular homicide. It falls under the category of involuntary manslaughter when there is no statute for vehicular manslaughter.H ow long is the sentence for involuntary manslaughter? It ranges from a fine to probation to a year in prison. If it is upgraded to a felony charge it can then carry a sentence of 15 to 20-years in prison.

Case Number One
One of the most famous cases of vehicular manslaughter involved NHL hockey player Dany Heatley. In 2003 Heatley’s Ferrari 360 Modena struck a wall and was split in half, killing his passenger and teammate Dan Snyder. Heatley admitted he was driving fast and weaving in and out of lanes. He had also been drinking before the accident. Heatley plead guilty to 2nd degree vehicular homicide and was sentenced to three years probation.

Case Study Twoemar
A charge of involuntary manslaughter was forwarded against Marina Snyder, 17, to a grand jury on June 4. Snyder was driving a 2000 Mercury Cougar northbound on Booker T. Washington Highway near Beechdale Road on Jan. 23 when the driver lost control. The car went across the center line and struck an oncoming 2008 Toyota Scion and a 2004 Dodge Dakota pickup truck. The 17-year-old killed in the crash, Zach Parsons, was in the front seat. While awaiting trial, Snyder must be directly supervised by her parents at all times, must wear a home electronic monitoring device, cannot drive and is not allowed to leave the state without special permission of the court. According to court documents, she has been home schooled since February.

Case Study Threeo
Celebrity Vehicular Manslaughter
Broderick drove his rented BMW 316 head-on into another car carrying 63-year-old Margaret Doherty and her 30-year-old daughter Anna Gallagher; both women were killed. Broderick had no memory of the event. The lack of witnesses, skid marks or other evidence led Broderick to plead guilty in absentia on February 15, 1988 to the lesser charge of careless driving. He was fined $100. I’m sure he never got over it.  I mean, how does a multi-millionaire actor afford $100 for another person’s life?  He must be living on food stamps.

Case Study Four
Michael Bryant 
Bryant, former Attorney General of Ontario, Canada, dragged 31-year-old bicyclmichael bryant 111609ist Dary Allan Sheppard to his death on with his Saab.  Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death. He was released the next morning. The DA decided there was a lack of evidence to bring Broderick before a Grand Jury, in spite of videotape evidence and two witnesses.  Bryant skipped away and is now writing a book called 28 seconds about the event.  He did even better than Broderick: he got to profit from his manslaughter.

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One Response to Murder, Manslaughter, Vehicular Homicide and Other Criminal Pleasantries

  1. Ramson says:

    The data on the Wendy Gardner case is inaccurate. Your post says that Wendy and James were found hiding in a truck in a school parking lot and arrested. That is NOT true. Wendy and James were at the Gardner residence when police arrived and arrested them right there at the house. Also, the crime was premeditated. James Evans had been suggesting to Wendy days before the murder different ways he could murder Mrs. Gardner. Wendy had said she wished her grandmother was dead and James had offered to kill her, as he viewed Mrs. Gardner as an obstacle who wanted James out of Wendy’s life. She had threatened to place Wendy into foster care if Wendy did not shape up and dump James, who was no good for her. James hated Mrs. Gardner for abusing Wendy and for trying to break up his relationship with Wendy. No one every forced, pressured, manipulated or demanded James Evans to commit murder, but he saw no other way. He didn’t do it for sex, since he had already gotten that. He wanted some twisted guarantee of owning Wendy. The murder was NOT a spur-of-the-moment killing. James went there to the Gardner home that December night with kite string and gardening gloves, and provoked an altercation with Mrs. Gardner. When she went to phone police, he made his move. Later he told police he snapped when he saw her put her hands on Wendy, but that is not what happened. He knew that very night he was going there to kill that woman. Wendy could not believe it had really happened afterwards, and James concluded that Wendy must not have known him well at all. James pressured Wendy into helping him place the body into the trunk of the car and also pressured her into having sex with him afterwards, saying he did it all for her and now she owed him, even though she never asked him to do what he did. For months he told Wendy that HE was the ONLY one who loved her and could count on, and her grandmother hated her. He was very manipulative, conniving and insecure. Too bad Wendy gave her initial confession taking most of the blame for him, when it wasn’t really her.

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