Speaking of social media, here’s another murder story involving a disgruntled teenager and her mother. I am a pen pal of Amber Bray, an inmate of 33, who planned and helped her boyfriend to murder her mother in her home when she was sweet sixteen. These are nearly parallel cases, except (spoiler alert) Bray is in prison today. I must say, Amber takes her time in answering my letters. How discourteous. But then again, I am corresponding with a convicted felon. Back to the blog. On the night of November 14, 2004, Lauri Waterman was abducted from her home in the tiny town of Craig, on the idyllic Prince of Wales Island off Alaska’s panhandle coast, and murdered. Her pretty, popular daughter, Rachelle Waterman, was at a state volleyball tournament in Anchorage, four hundred miles away, and her husband, Carl “Doc” Waterman, was away on business. Bummer. FYI, that’s the last we hear of Doc Waterman in this case. Lauri returned home alone after some volunteer work for the Chamber of Commerce and went to bed. Some time later, someone broke into the Waterman house. They left behind an empty bottle of wine and took Lauri Waterman and the family van with them. The burned-out van containing the charred remains of Lauri Waterman were later found in the woods 40 miles away. Alcoholics and smokers. How uncivilized. Police attention quickly turned to two men who had both dated Rachelle Waterman against her parents’ wishes. Jason Arrant, (at first I thought his name was arrogant) then 24, was a school janitor. There’s a winner. Brian Radel, also 24 was his best friend. Arrant, with the red hair and ample girth, led the caper. The loyal, hulking Radel followed his friend and served as the muscle. Questioned, Arrant and Radel identified another conspirator claiming they were acting on behalf of (gasp!) honor student and athlete 16-year old Rachelle Waterman.
Arrant and Radel claimed they killed Lauri Waterman to protect Rachelle, at her request. Rachelle seemed a typical teen, like Megan Meier: caught up in social uncertainty, concern about her weight, doing well in school and extracurriculars but troubled by her parents’ reactions to her increasing desire for independence. Her LiveJournal blog described the difficulties between her and her mother. Two days after the murder, Rachelle posted this emotional entry to her blog, aptly named“My Crappy Life – the Inside Look of an Insane Person”: “Just to let everyone know, my mother was murdered. I won’t have computer access until the weekend or so because the police took my computer to go through the hard drive.” No computer access? How inhumane. Rachelle seemed like a bright, active girl with a loving family led by a sweet, nurturing mother. Then there’s the portrait’s negative in which Rachelle is a dark, troubled girl, fascinated by the occult , wearing a black dog collar and professing to get a pentagram seared into her rear end. How delightful. She claimed to loathe her woodsy island town and battled an abusive mother. At the same time Rachelle Waterman was a go-getter, singing in honour choir, playing on the volleyball team, and competing in Academic Decathlon. If she wasn’t teaching younger kids about the dangers of drugs as a DARE volunteer, she was playing in pep band or working stage crew in community theatre.
Her LiveJournal chronicled the thoughts of a girl unhappy but not inexorably so. Amid complaints about her mother, and angst-ridden posts about people who don’t believe her, about things going wrong there are posts about visiting friends, DVDs she watched, Christmas presents her family gave her. Rachelle told her boyfriends from schoolboy peers to her ex-boyfriend Radel and her on-again-off-again paramour Arrant that her mother beat her. True or not she had bruises to exhibit and she told tales of her mother hitting her with a baseball bat, pushing her down the stairs, and threatening her with a knife. Maybe Rachelle was a difficult kid. In the beginning Rachelle told police she didn’t realize the young men were taking her complaints seriously, much less that they were plotting a crime. She suggested both of her parents were having affairs, that may have provided her father or one of the lovers with a motive. This kid watches a lot of CSI. By the end of the interview she said that she egged Arrant and Radel on and did nothing to dissuade them when they started their plan, even that she suspected her mother would be dead by the time she returned from the volleyball tournament.Those admissions were just what the cops were seeking after their interviews with Radel and Arrant.
The two bumbling killers tried to make the murder look like a drunk driving accident and Rachelle would refer authorities to her mother’s drinking problem. When Radel found that bludgeoning a woman wasn’t as simple as he assumed, things got complicated but they hit on the idea of setting the van on fire to obscure the evidence. Radel later asserted that the loss of the van, not her mother was a big disappointment for Rachelle. Vans are expensive you know. Investigative interviews and the trial revealed that Arrant and Rachelle shared a powerful motive for the killing. They were sleeping together and Lauri Waterman forbade her daughter to see Arrant again. Drag. Curiously, Rachelle alleged that when she was 13 she told her mother she’d been raped. Her mother didn’t believe her, thinking it was just one of Rachelle’s wild excuses for breaking her curfew. The family never reported the incident. As the trial proceeded, it was discovered that state troopers found nine explicit photos of Rachelle on Arrant’s computer. Sending pornography over the Internet is a federal offense, and he admitted another crime. Arrant had sex with Rachelle before she turned 16. They did not turn up written evidence of the murder plot, (darn) but police found letters from Arrant that detailed his graphic sexual fantasies and included the janitor’s pleas to hear the schoolgirl’s own fantasies. She never responded. See? She does have common sense.
Defense attorneys painted Rachelle as the victim of an adult’s sexual machinations, claiming that Arrant was a conniving man desperate to preserve a sexual connection. A confused girl might get swept into a domineering partner’s scheme and lie for him. There are indeed holes in the stories that Rachelle told the investigators but what murder confession is perfect? Had she been helping them to plan the killing especially under the guise of a drunk driving accident, she could have told them how she habitually sneaked in and out of a family room window, or simply told them where the family stowed the spare key they kept outside for emergencies, instead of forcing them to break into the house. It’s quite plausible that the impetus behind Lauri Waterman’s murder was Arrant’s and that he tricked or bullied Radel. Both men testified against Rachelle as part of plea deals. So much for Arrant’s infatuation. How fickle. I should hook him up with Amber Bray. Arrant’s sentence was halved in exchange for his cooperation and media reports indicated Rachelle was charged in Juneau in January, 2006, with seven counts, including first degree murder and conspiracy. This could have meant up to 99 years in prison. Perhaps Rachelle was an unhappy, conflicted teen whose grievances with her mother were the sparks to a lust-fueled crime by a lonely and maladjusted man. Or maybe her manipulative skills fooled Radel and stumped the jury. The jury deadlocked, voting 10-2 to acquit Rachelle and stalling there. The jurors don’t seem to have put high stock in Rachelle’s own credibility but most of them found Arrant’s damning testimony less persuasive. They were unconvinced by Rachelle’s confession, believing it was coerced by state troopers and did not prove she played a part in planning her mother’s murder. Rachelle Waterman is free and evidently still blogging from Her Own Private Idaho athttp://smchyrocky.livejournal.com/. I don’t know if she blogs about her mother. I think she’s still hung up on the charred van.