Hell’s Kitchen

Bet you thought Gordon Ramsay was in trouble for a minute (no surprise there). Nope, this isn’t the Hell’s Kitchen from the popular television reality show. Instead, this crime was named HK by the producers of Forensic Files (season 14 episode 3). The crime took place in the kitchen and it wasn’t bad cooking. After her supposed fall down a staircase, investigators took a close look at the kitchen  near the top of the stairs and decided things weren’t as they seemed. Speaking of television some pretty bad acting occurred during this investigation. That alone makes it worth viewing on youtube.

Special to the Mercury News. 5/16/2000 The Fitzhugh family picture given to the Mercury News by the husband of the murdered woman. L-R: Kristine Fitzhugh, Justin and John Fitzhugh (sons) and husband Kenneth Fitzhugh. The date of when this picture was taken is unknown.

Special to the Mercury News. 5/16/2000 The Fitzhugh family picture given to the Mercury News by the husband of the murdered woman. L-R: Kristine Fitzhugh, Justin and John Fitzhugh (sons) and husband Kenneth Fitzhugh. The date of when this picture was taken is unknown.

Palo Alto – California – May 5, 2000. A 9-1-1 operator received a phone call from Kenneth Fitzhugh pleading for help when he found his dead wife, Katherine Fitzhugh, at the bottom of a stairwell in their luxurious South Gate home. He claimed his wife was dead when he arrived at the house. 9-1-1 dispatched Sergeant Sandra Brown who arrived at the scene and was stunned by her find: Christine Fitzhugh was unconscious at the bottom of a stairwell leading to the basement, lying on her back with “blood all around her”…”Kenneth was covered in blood as well.”

This was no ordinary fall down a flight of stairs. The woman’s body was sprawled at the bottom of the stairwell, almost as if she’d been pushed or thrown. Two low-heeled, sensible shoes she’d supposedly been wearing were found at odd angles to her body, including one that seemed to be carefully placed on a step. Fitzhugh insisted that his wife fell over the stairs because of the low-heeled, sensible shoes she’d been wearing. Brown smelled a rat but she touched nothing and said nothing to Fitzhugh.

katWithin minutes city workers, such as the coroner, and investigators swarmed the scene. They too found Mrs. Fitzhugh’s body position and the amount of blood around her and on her head to be unusual, to say the least. They also noticed Fitzhugh’s strange affect. He wasn’t at all upset. He held conversations with them without any emotion, as if this sort of thing happened to him every day of the week.

The Fitzhughs were generally well-liked. Katherine was a bubbly, lovely lady and a music teacher at a local elementary school who loved her job. However (there’s always a however) all was not what it seemed with the Fitzhugh’s. For six years Katherine had been having an affair with a man named Robert Brown, early in her marriage to Fitzhugh. Both men knew that Katherine became pregnant with her firstborn son, Justin, probably by Brown. Remarkably, Fitzhugh had agreed to raise the child as his own. You have to give him credit for that.

mp_s1On May 5, 2000, Katherine informed both Fitzhugh and Brown that she was going to tell Justin the truth about his father upon his graduation from college. Why she would reveal that information after so many years to her well-adjusted boy is a mystery. Personally I think it was a bad move and not just because of the murder. According to police and prosecutors, Fitzhugh became infuriated and murdered Kristine. This may have been due to his own pride, or for appearances sake within the community. Who knows? A DNA blood test conducted by police after the murder indeed confirmed Brown as Justin’s biological father. Oopsie. In fact during his interrogation, Fitzhugh made the comment, “Her older son,” rather than “our son.” Clearly there was animosity in the marriage concerning Justin, even though Fitzhugh had adopted the boy.

For his part, Justin had never suspected that Fitzhugh wasn’t his biological father. He did notice that he had a closer relationship with Brown than his younger brother John (who is Kenneth’s biological son), but never made the connection. Neither his mother nor his father gave him “special treatment.”

During police interrogation, Fitzhugh attempted to convince police that it was his wife’s shoes that were the culprits. Watch   Fitzhugh’s over-acting (13:50 – 14:40) about Christine’s black shoes during the interview. It was rather comical and Fitzhugh didn’t convince anyone. He pounded the table furiously and shouted “the goddamned black shoes!” He might have been nominated for a Razz Award.

Luminol_molecule_ballA forensic investigation determined that Kristine had actually been killed in the kitchen and then repositioned at the bottom of the stairs in a staged accident. Investigators used luminol to discover a water-diluted substance on the floor in the kitchen, as if Fitzhugh had cleaned the floor. It was very likely blood although luminol can reveal such materials as semen, metals and proteins. It wasn’t very likely that in this case the police were looking at the latter. The stairs, wall, and floor were spattered with it.

The slight problem with collaring Fitzhugh as a suspect was that he established an alibi by being out with friends running errands during the time of the murder.  However he made an excuse to stop by the house after getting a call on his mobile phone from Palo Alto Unified School District that Kristine had not come in to teach. He went inside and supposedly “discovered” that his wife was dead. He placed a frantic 9-1-1 phone call.

Fitzhugh told the court that he hadn’t known Justin was Brown’s biological son. Fitzhugh said he first found out that Brown was Justin’s biological father after he had been in jail eight months on charges of murdering his wife. He told the jury that he was “devastated” by the news. One reason Fitzhugh stated he never suspected Justin’s paternity was that Brown led a “gay lifestyle.” According to Fitzhugh, Brown disrespected women, and on one occasion, made it clear to Fitzhugh that he was interested in Fitzhugh. Despite the refusal, Fitzhugh said that the two men were extremely close until the family decided to end contact with Brown when he could not handle a drug problem. This much was true since Katherine had been to the rehabilitation clinic to visit Brown and agreed to discontinue the relationship. Fitzhugh, an only child, described Brown as “the brother I never had.” A very close brother, it would seem.

However there was more information that could have added to Fitzhugh’s rage and murderous intent; the family had been in a financial crisis before Fitzhugh killed his wife. At the time of Kristine Fitzhugh’s death, the Fitzhugh family’s finances were dwindling to near-poverty levels despite a Palo Alto-lifestyle facade, leaving them with liquid assets valuing no more than $20,000 despite spending near that much monthly. The money wasn’t there but the spending habits remained. Fitzhugh admitted to a significant fraud; he wrote in his tax forms that he earned $30,000 for the entire year when he actually earned $16,500 monthly. Fitzhugh explained if he reported his true income he would have to return to work and as it turned out, employment was no longer a priority. Naturally, he had other obligations. This man’s reasoning was about as sound as Ted Bundy’s relationships with women.

Fitzhugh was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Fitzhugh was paroled in February 2012 after serving only two years on compassionate grounds due to Parkinsons Disease. He died in Palo Alto on October 27, 2012, at the age of 69. The wonderful irony of his evil was that even if he’d been found not guilty, Fitzhugh’s life was cut drastically short with the disease. A just punishment for a senseless crime.






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Runaway Ran to a Rotten Death

Heather Marie Catterton was pretty, 17-years-old and unfortunately, a very troubled young woman. She had a tumultuous relationship with her father Nick and often ran away for days at a time to escape household tension. This time, however, Catterton would run into a fateful end, one that, in spite of having street smarts, the unhappy young girl could never have predicted or prevented.

York County-  South Carolina – October 29, 2009.. Police attended a “country, gravel and dirt road” to investigate the finding of a young woman’s corpse. She had been dumped on an obscure lonely road where few people would notice her. There was a striped sock on her toe and Heather-Cattertonher naked calf protruded from a brush. The body was white with blue veins visible beneath the skin.  She had a long, deep gash in her side from a claw, perhaps. There were more scratches along her body. Perhaps the body had been dragged. She was naked from the waist down, and except for a hoodie that was pulled up to expose her breasts, and the socks, that was all she wore. Several metres down the road from the body was her diamond-studded blue jeans. Stuffed inside the jeans was a red bra and a pair of black underwear.

After fingerprinting the body, police determined her identity.Catterton had been charged with possess of cocaine and marijuana with intent to distribute. The charges were pending and Catterton didn’t have a criminal record.  Catterton had lived in Gastonia, North Carolina. Catterton wasn’t enrolled in school. frequently stayed with friends for weeks at a time. She had been in and out of the foster system for five years.

Family Response
It’s interesting that most families of murdered people claim that their family member was untroubled and led a wonderful life. Nick Catterton said he was encouraging Catterton to study for a GED. Catterton had several drug arrests in Gaston County to which Nick Catterton attributed heaththe company his daughter kept.  “She’s always been a good girl. She just got those teenage genes in her. Teenagers nowadays think they can do anything and they’re all grown up.” I’ve never heard of teenage genes in my life but apparently that explanation made sense to Nick. Catterton often lived on the run, staying at home sometimes, with friends sometimes and at other times no one knew where she was.
She wouldn’t even tell me who she was with because she knew I would come right then and get her,” Nick Catterton said. “A father and mother can tell about their kids more than anyone in the world. Parents know the signs. A lot of time they don’t believe the signs, but the signs are there.”He insisted that his daughter was self-aware and strong, and she would have tried to fight off her attacker and escape. “She was a very smart girl — she was street smart. That’s what made me think that couldn’t be her, because at the first sign of trouble, as soon as the opportunity hit, she would have run like a rabbit. She would have done something.” Nick may have been right about seeing the signs in his daughter’s behaviour but this didn’t help him to get his child under control. He was an inadequate parent in need of counselling to establish realistic guidelines for Catterton.

hemNick Catterton stated he would have sacrificed his own life to protect her, something I highly doubt. “I would definitely trade places with her. Anybody would for their kid that they love. It just breaks our hearts….“Whoever (did) this couldn’t have been in their right state of mind. They had to be some kind of monster, maniac.” He made a strange appeal to the public: Please come forward and give peace of mind who everyone who loves her. Whoever it is, they’re going to catch you anyway.”

The Department of Social Services took over custody of Catterton when she was fifteen. “They would say activity has gone on,” Nick Catterton explained. One night at their previous home in Grover a shot was fired and Catterton was placed in DSS care over child endangerment concerns. Social services finally released her from its custody when she was sixteen because, “They couldn’t control her from running away from these homes,” Nick Catterton said. He called his daughter a “daddy’s girl. She got into trouble because of her “free-spirited” nature.” Apparently Nick’s definition of free=spirited included drug possession and sales and being in the custody of Social Services.

Her brother, Barry Holland, stated “she was a joyful person, high-spirited… got along with everyone, and everyone liked her. She always had a smile on her face.” If Catterton’s father and brother were speaking truthfully about her then her history of running away and dealing drugs was extremely contradictory. Clearly the family was unaware of the significant contradiction in what they told the media and what actually happened in Catterton’s life.

National Runaway Switchboard
According to the National Runaway Switchboard, between 1.6 million and 2.8 million youths run away from home each year. Maureen Blaha, a national children’s expert of the Switchboard, stated, “It’s alarming. It’s a silent crisis in this country. The public needs to realize we have a serious problem in this country that needs their attention.” The hotline received more than 100,000 calls each year with fifty percent of the calls from youth who had left their homes, and the other half from parents looking for support. Not surprisingly, family dynamic issues were the No. 1 reason youth called the switchboard. Those problems ranged from:

  1. inability to cope with current family struggles
  2. wanting to flee the situation making them feel upset
  3. inability to fit into a new family structure

hem“They don’t know how to cope and may flee,” Blaha said. Catterton was reported missing at least five times in one year. Oftentimes, officials found her in Gaston County not too far from her biological family’s home. She wanted to be accepted and to adjust to her family’s circumstances but Catterton was unable and she paid with her life.

Blaha is correct in stating that runaways lead difficult lives and are ill-equipped to cope with their personal problems. However her statement that “the public needs to realize we have a serious problem in this country that needs their attention” doesn’t carry any merit. What will the public do with this information? What does the public do when it discovers that yet another child who has been placed in Child Protective Services and died at the hands of perverse foster parents? Nothing. We’re outraged and talk about the headlines for a while and then the stories slip to the back page of a newspaper until they disappear and we forget about them. It isn’t right but it’s a fact.

The Killer
Police didn’t take long to determine the killer’s identity – In a bizarre twist of fate, a man named Danny Robbie Hembree Jr., 47,  who was dating Catterton’s sister, Nicole Catterton at the time of the murder. There was no explanation offered as to why Hembree killed Heather Catterton. They had a mutual sexual encounter, possibly fueled by drugs. Perhaps Catterton threatened to tell her sister for some reason, so Hembree killed her. However Hembree also raped and brutally killed Catterton so this motive isn’t entirely rational.

Danny Hembree,is seen in an undated photo provided by the N.C. Department of Public Safety. Hembree, a death row inmate accused of killing three North Carolina women, has written a taunting letter to his hometown newspaper, saying he’ll spend many years as a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV and enjoying frequent naps. “Kill me if you can, suckers,” Danny Robbie Hembree Jr. wrote in a letter to The Gaston Gazette. A story about the letter and its contents was published on the front page of the Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 edition. Hembree is on North Carolina’s death row for suffocating Heather Catterton, 17, in 2009. He's also accused of killing two other women. (AP Photo/N.C. Department of Public Safety)

Danny Hembree,is seen in an undated photo provided by the N.C. Department of Public Safety. Hembree, a death row inmate accused of killing three North Carolina women, has written a taunting letter to his hometown newspaper, saying he’ll spend many years as a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV and enjoying frequent naps. “Kill me if you can, suckers,” Danny Robbie Hembree Jr. wrote in a letter to The Gaston Gazette. A story about the letter and its contents was published on the front page of the Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 edition. Hembree is on North Carolina’s death row for suffocating Heather Catterton, 17, in 2009. He’s also accused of killing two other women. (AP Photo/N.C. Department of Public Safety)

At any rate, Hembree was eventually charged with three counts of  first-degree murder around the time that he murdered Catterton. After the Catterton murder, Hembree was also charged in the 1992 murder of Deborah Ratchford, 30, whose body was found in the woods near Oakland Street Cemetery, according to police. He was also accused in the Nov. 11 death of Randi Dean Saldana, 29, one of Heather’s friends. Police linked him to Saldana’s rape and murder since she and Catterton had been good friends. Why he killed Saldana, only Hembree knows.

Krystal Wylie, a decade-long friend of Catterton’s said she first met the man accused of killing Heather at the teen’s funeral. “I went to the funeral. He was there.”  Wylie said she was in shock when she found out Hembree was arrested and couldn’t believe someone now accused of killing her could attend Catterton’s funeral. “Nicole left the gravesite with Danny. It’s shocking. Everybody walked up [to the closed casket]. I don’t recall him walking up there.” He should have been locked up and held without bail.

The Trial
According to an affidavit in Hembree’s court file, police said that on Dec. 5, 2009, Hembree confessed to killing Catterton and Saldana in his mother’s house at 2304 Oakstone Drive, Gastonia. The affidavit says the two bodies were stored in a closet in the house’s basement and later dumped in York County. Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell took less than 10 minutes to tell the jury about the day Catterton was killed. Hembree admitted to smoking crack and having sex with Catterton before she died but denied that he killed her.

The state argued that Hembree came up from behind the teen, placed his hand over her nose and mouth, and suffocated her. Suffocation can take up to 90 seconds to kill someone. It’s a torturous death. Hembree on the other hand, stated he used a cord to strangle the teen. “and then I released the cord because I didn’t want to bruise her up or hurt her, I just wanted he to go quick.” Such a humanitarian. He also showed detectives Saldana’s boots that he’d kept in his mother’s basement. “I left her in here. Randi stayed 2 or 3 days here.”

Much of this information was stated in front of the jury in court. Hembree stated he hadn’t meant to kill Saldana but had choked her in a moment of passion. He told the jury, “I was pissed off at Randi for dying.” Intelligent comment to make during a murder trial. Of course, he also hadn’t meant to kill Catterton. He insisted he found her dead in his bed the morning after they had consensual sex and smoked crack together. The jury didn’t buy it. Hembree was found guilty of first degree murder in Catterton’s death and sentenced to death row. He pled guilty to Saldana’s murder.

lettLest you think that’s the end of the story, Hembree, who clearly had little self-control, wrote a letter to his hometown newspaper, stating “kill me if you can, suckers.” By the age of 53, North Carolina’s highest court ordered Hembree a new trial. The court agreed that he was denied a fair trial because of several errors, including the presentation of evidence from Saldana’s killing. He received the death sentence for this killing but if he is lucky enough, he may be able to extend his life on death row with continued appeals and trials, a la Rodney Alacala, The Dating Game Killer, who has been convicted of several rape-murders but 29 years later, is still alive due to appeals and new trials.

Hembree further taunted the public in his letter by stating, Is the public aware that I am a gentleman of lesiure, watching color TV in the A.C., reading, takeing naps at will, eating three well balanced hot meals a day. I’m housed in a building that connects to the new 55 million dollar hospital with round the clock free medical care 24/7.

I’m sure he is also corresponding with women who, for their own twisted reasons, become infatuated with prison inmates. It wouldn’t surprise me if he received a marriage proposal soon. A true crime account about Catterton’s killing, written by M. William Phelphs, entitled The Killing Kind, details the life and death of Catterton.


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Mayhem and Morals from Morbid Movies

Why do urban legends and horror stories intrigue us? Probably because they have warnings for us that speak to morality and stupidity. They are timeless. Each new generation wonders if the story has any potential truth in it. Many of these legends are told in different variations, however, so aside from the stories being ridiculous, they can’t possibly be true.

This blog is different in that there aren’t any actual murders. What I focused on for this one were the messages that are meant to warn people about something…anything. Many ghost stories, urban legends and horror films that were  produced from the 1950s onward fixated on the consequences of premarital sex, and especially about “easy” girls with a (gasp) reputation. Others just seemed to victimize young people because they are gullible and scream a lot at movies. Of course these stories are all real. I swear they happened to a friend of a friend of mine.

The Man with the Hook (and possibly a bad leg)
Did you grow up hearing this story at sleepovers? This one has been around for decades. Like all urban legends, there are different variations on the story, but the theme is always the same. Two young lovers are parked in a car on (of course) Lover’s Lane, passionately the-hook-01engaged in a sweaty embrace. Inevitably they hear a creepy thump-drag, thump-drag and when the young man investigates by stepping outside of the car, he is killed by an old man with a hook who must also have had a wooden leg or a clubbed foot to walk along like that.

Sometimes the man leaves his hook dangling off one of the car’s handles as a calling card. I wonder what he did for a hand after that. I guess he went back to WalMart and found a spare body parts section. Anyhoo. The implication of this story was that teenage sex wasn’t just a bad idea in case of accidental pregnancy but look at that – you might get butchered by a man with a hook for a hand. The story was meant to dissuade young lovers from parking in daddy’s car. Something tells me it didn’t.

Moral: Don’t go parking to have sex. Instead rent a hotel room.

The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs
At the beginning of Scream, a pretty blonde is on the phone with an anonymous man who is calling her from God-knows-where. It gets a little flirty, lightly sexy if you will, when the psycho on the other end of the line suddenly flicks on the lights and we see her terrified boyfriend held captive outside of the house as the man is talking to her on his cell. Of course this scene has a vaguely sexual message. It’s always about the pretty teenager and the creepy man. This movie scene is based on the 1974 film Black Christmas, about a man living undetected inside a sorority.

scream-drew-barrymoreIn 1979 a movie entitled “When a Stranger Calls?” about a pretty teenager (Jill) who is (naturally) babysitting two children in a neighbour’s house when a man calls and asks if she has checked the children, more than once. Man, is he annoying. At first, Jill dismisses the telephone calls as a practical joke, however, as the calls become more threatening, Jill calls the police, who promise to trace the caller if Jill keeps him on the telephone line long enough. Those were the days of archaic technology. Of course Jill finally learns the calls are coming from inside the house and checking the children was pointless; they’d been dead for several hours. Nasty. The opening scene of the film has been deemed as one of the “scariest openings in horror movie history.”

A silly 1993 television sequel entitled When a Stranger Calls Back and, in 2006, a totally pointless remake of the latter. The film Urban Legend also refers to a young woman and the caller upstairs. The defunct television series, Urban Legends, also features the babysitter story as an episode.

Moral: Don’t answer the phone when you’re babysitting, idiot.

Urban Legend – Roommate Having Sex
This film channeled several urban legends, many of them quite amusing, which you’d think would do quite well but actually wasn’t well-received at the box office.  This is one of the legends involving communication but not on the phone. In reality a murderer kills her roomie while she ignores her muffled cries. Being a 21st century production, the killer and victim communicate via computer instead of on the phone. You know, modern gore today’s youngsters can appreciate.

Moral: Don’t have sex if you have a roommate. Unless you are having sex with your roommate, then have all the sex you want.

The Hitchhiker
ghost-girl-hitchhikerFinally, an urban legend that doesn’t target sex. This one is meant to scare stupid people who pick up hitchhikers. The legend is as follows: A man is driving home on a dark, usually rainy night when he sees a young woman hitchhiking. He picks her up, she tells him her address and as he drives her home he lectures her on the dangers of hitchhiking. When he gets to her house, he discovers she isn’t in the car anymore. Still, he proceeds to knock on the door and the girl’s father opens it. He informs the man that his daughter is dead (usually she was killed in an accident while hitchhiking) and has been trying to hike her way home for years. The irony of course is in the friendly, well-meant driver lecturing the girl about the dangers of hitchhiking. Didn’t he have egg on his face.

A variation of that story was presented on The Ghost Hitchhiker – Mostly (not) True Stories. Of course the dangers of hitchhiking for a young woman has been common knowledge since the invention of cars. There’s a double entendre in this one, especially since the video clip I included stars Dominique Dunne, one of the female actresses in the movie Poltergeist, about a family plagued by evil spirits. Dunne was killed by her boyfriend some years after appearing in the movie.

Moral: Don’t pick up hitchhikers unless they’re alive. In which case, you’re the one who will probably end up dead.

Kentucky Fried Rat
Ever heard this one when you were eating KFC? There used to be a silly little story about how a rat fell into a bin of grease at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and the cook, not noticing, went ahead and cooked it. Odd she didn’t notice it didn’t have any batter on it. The unfortunate animal was then sold to an unsuspecting customer who bit into it and must have found a tail or teeth or something unpleasant. I think that one is hilarious. It speaks to finding something nasty in your food that just has no business being there such as a hair or a hairpin or a human hand (don’t you hate it when that happens)? Okay, the last one was a joke. KFC didn’t suffer from low sales after that one went around. Dog_MeatInterestingly, in some parts of Asia rat meat is available for human consumption. Several years ago, the Chinese government declared that rats should be eaten due to a rat infestation. No one died. Except the rats, of course. I guess there was also a shortage of cats.

A variation on that story is that of a couple who travels to Japan bringing their dog into a restaurant with them. Of course they ask the waiter if he will take care of it for them while they dine. Instead, due to the language barrier the waiter misunderstands and has the cook make a meal for the couple using the dog. The cultural bias in this one is threefold: the language barrier is one; it is illegal in Japan to eat dog (it’s okay in Korea, so keep an eye on your terrier); and no one in their right mind is going to cook someone’s pet. Even in Korea that’s not okay. The dogs are bred for human consumption and are different from breeds raised as domestic pets. Koreans have been eating dog meat for thousands of years. PETA can just butt out and mind its business. You can’t argue with ancient history.

Moral: Eat healthy and stay out of KFC.

Hair Turning White Overnight
Is that possible? That myth has been going around for about 100 years. The idea that we can scare our hair has been ongoing longer than Clairol. The short answer is don’t be stupid. Stories suggest that when a person has been terribly frightened she or he wakes up to a full head of grey or white hair. Of course that’s nonsense. We don’t lose colour in our hair. Once it leaves the scalp it is dead and can’t change in colour.  However a person with alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that attacks hair follicles can go grey in just days. That’s bizarre but still not as fast as overnight.

Moral: Invest in good hair colour and stop your whining. At least you have hair.

Rod Stewart and the Stomach Pump
This rumour started in the 1970s and was still making the rounds in the 1980s. Many rock stars have been victimized by this one. For whatever reason, Stewart was the singer of choice when the rumour circulated that he had to visit the ER to get his stomach pumped. Why? Supposedly it was full of semen and apparently enough to fill a whole glass. Ick. Other celebs who have been targeted with this story include David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Elton John and Lil Kim. Okay maybe it was true in Kim’s case. The origin of the story dates back to the early ’70s, when many high school and college campuses could claim a “Promiscuous Cheerleader” (wow – does such a person exist?) was rushed to the emergency room to have her stomach pumped after servicing the entire football team at a party. That’s one busy cheerleader. I can imagine her cheer on the field the next day would be something like “give me a d…”

Moral: I’m sure you can figure that one out yourself.

Richard Gere and the Gerbil
This one coincides nicely with Kentucky Fried Rat. It was rumoured in the 1980s that Gere was admitted to the ER of a hospital with a gerbil stuck in his lower orifice (the one at the back). The reality is that there isn’t a shred of evidence (or anything else probably) to verify the story. In fact National Inquirer reporter Mike Walker stated “I’ve never worked harder on a story in my life,” meaning there is no merit to it at all. Nothing to back it up. The animal’s moniker of course is Tibet, giving Free Tibet a whole new meaning.

Moral: If you sex, don’t gerbil.

This legend is a variation on the true-life story of Typhoid Mary. Typhoid fever is a serious, very contagious disease that originates from salmonella poisoning, contracted through Mary_Mallon_in_hospitalfood. A typhoid vaccine can reduce anywhere from 30 to 70% of cases (weird odds). Mary Mallon, who became known as Typhoid Mary, showed signs of the infection beginning around 1900 when she worked as a cook in different people’s homes. This was during an era when sewage sanitation was a relatively new concept in the States. Within two weeks of Mary’s employment, people in these households became very sick. One servant and one family’s daughter died. It was difficult to locate Mary because she left her employment every time family members became ill. Mary was outraged by the suggestion she might be carrying the typhoid bacteria and she refused to give urine and stool samples when requested by a physician, even though he insisted her gallbladder was infected. The idea that a person could “carry” a disease yet not have it was revolutionary. She herself finally became infected with typhoid fever.  In 1908 the Journal of the American Medical Association dubbed her Typhoid Mary.

Mary admitted she didn’t wash her hands when she cooked (or used the washroom) because she didn’t understand the importance of good personal hygiene. That was quite normal for that era. Mary was held in isolation for three years at a clinic on North Brother Island. She was freed when she promised not to cook to make a living. Naturally Mary went right back to cooking. It was her only sustenance. For five years she continued to infect people. She started a major outbreak 1915 at Sicane Hospital for Women in New York City. Two people died. As a result, Mary spent the rest of her life quarantined on North Bay Island. Had she allowed the state to remove her gallbladder as requested, she might never have become Typhoid Mary.

AIDS Mary is a take on this weird story. In this legend a woman (not necessarily named Mary) becomes infected with HIV and in revenge, she has sex with as many men as she can without protection.  Naturally the story has a sexual warning about not having unprotected sex with strangers. Unlike Typhoid Mary, there is no truth to this story although there is such a story that really occurred in Toronto, Canada. An African man was charged with infecting several women with HIV in the early 1980s, when HIV was newly discovered in North America. By the time he was due in court, he was dead of AIDS as was one of his victims. You hear about this type of behaviour quite often now, (hello Charlie Sheen – perhaps that’s what he meant by Tiger Blood), but in the 1980s, the terrible scare brought on by HIV and AIDS made this account particularly heinous.

Moral: Don’t be gross. Wash your hands. I don’t care what you’ve been doing.

Now that you’re completely paranoid about everything, do come back for another visit and read my next blog. I’ll be sure the next blog is much more decent, involving true-life gore and guts.













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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

You may have seen the ridiculous film by the same name although it is entirely fictional and bears no similarity to the true chainsaw massacre. Leather face however was based on a real-life psychotic named Ed Gein. He wore a human scalp and face but not because he had a disease. He was just nuts. Gein was the inspiration for Buffalo Bill, the transgender wannabe, in Thomas Harris’ novel The Silence of the Lambs (which, by the way, is a much better read than it is a film). This blog reveals the factual and somewhat banal account (compared to the film) of the real Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Travis County – Texas – October 28, 1974. Two young Mormons, 19-year-old Mark Fischer and 20-year-old Gary Darley, were on a typical Mormon mission. They were out to save souls and spread the good word about the Lord Jesus Christ. There are people in this world who will gladly die for their religion. These two young men didn’t know they were about to make good on their promise.

The_Texas_Chainsaw_Massacre-006Once they landed in Travis County, Fischer and Darley didn’t take long to befriend an unusual man named Robert Elmer Kleasen. Born in 1934, Kleasen was a loner with no friends. When he met the Mormons he was happy to allow them to “witness” for him (no, not for a crime, but for religious reasons). The three men discussed Mormon beliefs that included (1) Jesus (2) the Gospel and (3) Scriptures. It was all very touching and very civilized. The Mormon missionaries had no idea that preaching about the afterlife would prove to be quite an irony.

During the missionary meetings, Kleasen served the young men venison for dinner (or something like it). The young men were appreciative and believed Kleasen was truly inspired by their beliefs. Alas, it was not to be. Suspicious in Travis County grew about Kleasen’s intentions because of his strange behavior and because of a conviction for illegal poaching. The local church asked the missionaries to stop witnessing for Kleasen. The young men agreed. However Fischer and Darley already had a meeting scheduled with Kleasen. They told the church elders they would inform Kleasen at that time that they couldn’t minister for him any more. That was the last time Fischer and Darley were ever seen alive.

There was talk about the Mormon boys and what had happened to him. However time went by and nothing came of it. Police eventually arrested Texas chainsaw massacre true storyKleasen on a shooting case from New York and obtained a search warrant for his property. I cringe thinking of what they found inside that hovel, which was once used as a taxidermy shop. Isn’t that perfect? The two young men were dead, but not via chainsaw. It was believed they had both been shot with a pistol. And their bodies weren’t cut to pieces with a chainsaw but instead a bandsaw, which is rather like a chainsaw but it is built into the floor. Ick. Had the tool been adequately identified the film might have been named The Texas Bandsaw Murder. Weird.

Police discovered Fischer’s bloody watch and bullet-punctured name tag in Kleasen’s trailer but bodies never were found.  Investigators also discovered blood and tissue on the bandsaw. Prosecutors at Kleasen’s 1975 murder trial alleged he dismembered the victims and buried the remains. He must have done a very good job since they never found hide nor hair (if you’ll excuse the expression) of either man again.

Weirder still, in 1976 Kleasen was convicted of the murders and put on Texas death row, but incredibly the verdict was reversed two years later when the search warrant used to access Kleasen’s property was found to be deficient. They probably used the word chainsaw, like the movie.

killerKleasen served time in New York for the previous shooting. While in prison he began a pen-pal relationship with Marie Longley from Barton-Upon-Humber, Humber, England. He told Longley that he was a warden at the prison and that was why his letters were postmarked from a New York prison. She actually fell for it. It just shows you that people were conning victims across the world long before there was an internet. When he got out of jail in 1990, he moved to England and married the very patient Longley. It was probably the worst mistake she ever made. Eventually Kleasen would control Longley’s every move and make her into a house slave. She was terrified of her husband.

When he was first released Kleasen after serving 13 years he went to the Buffalo, New York mission. So Fischer and Darley had made their mark on Kleasen after all. Police had to be stationed outside the mission for Kleasen’s protection. Can you believe that?  He was  only permitted to congregate with the other people living in the mission during church services prior to eating. The local Buffalo TV channels updated the story every night on their news broadcasts. There couldn’t have been much to update; maybe the New York mission menu.

When local authorities became aware of the massive gun collection and legal problems Kleasen developed in England, they prosecuted. He was given a three-year prison term in 2000 for possession of illegal firearms and munitions and began to serve time in an English prison. His wife found out about his criminal background and at one point, Kleasen threatened his wife if she ever tried to leave he would kill her. Being to scared to leave she stayed only to come up with an escape plan with a close friend. However she would never need to use it.

In 2001 Kleasen faced extradition to the US after DNA analysis and other forensic tools were used to obtain new evidence. Kleasen fought extradition, due to England’s objection to the death penalty. Texas promised not to seek the death penalty, but England was unsure that they would honor their assurances. Before he could be extradited, Kleasen preempted Texas’ attempts to (probably) kill him. He died on April 21, 2003 of heart failure. He was 68 years old.

Ken Driggs wrote a book about the murders, Evil Among Us: The Texas Mormon Missionary Murders. The Hollywood film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre bears no resemblance to the actual story whatsoever. But after a ban was lifted in several states,  it did pack theatres.

It’s a freezing cold winter’s day in Toronto, Canada. I think I’ll go saw down a tree with a chainsaw and throw another log on the fire. Cheers!

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Naïve Neese Never Knew Her Enemies

We hear a lot about teenagers slaughtering their friends and family in the news. These occurrences are almost impossible to believe yet they happen, sometimes for apparently no reason. This blog details the stabbing death of 16-year-old Skylar Neese from her  home in West Virginia and the astounding confession elicited from Rachel Shoaf and Sheila Eddy, Neese’s supposed two best friends who in reality became her most evil enemies. Neese never saw it coming.

The Grisly Discovery
Wayne County – Green County – Pennsylvania – July 6, 2012. A teenager named Rachel Shoaf led three detectives, including a retired FBI criminal profiler, to the wooded area where she claimed the remains of her former best friend lay. It was winter, snow was piled up knee-deep and no remains were to be found. Weeks later, one of the investigators returned on his own, taking a closer look at the supposed gravesite. And he found it. The decomposing remains of a 16-year-old girl wearing only a t-shirt and jeans, lay beneath the snow and ice. The body was bloodier than any corpse he’d ever seen. And the only thing the little girl had done to bring her to this fate was to fight with one of her supposed best friends.

Shoaf, Eddy and Neese
3 girlsOnce there were three little girls living in Morgantown, West Virginia. The 16-year-olds were pretty and sociable, taking selfies and spending time together. They were inseparable ‘bffs’ (best friends forever). For the most part, they got along very well until 2012, when Neese and Shoaf began to antagonize one another. Now they constantly fought. In the spring of 2012, Eddy and Shoaf were in science class and they joked about Neese when one of them said, ‘We should kill her.’ They gave each other a look of agreement and over the next month devised a plan they’d carry out before Shoaf left for summer camp. Shoaf took a shovel from her father’s house. Eddy got two knives from her mother’s kitchen. They put the shovel, cleaning supplies, and a change of clothes in the trunk of Shoaf’s car and drove to Neese’s apartment building. It was that simple.

Neese thought they were taking a joyride, maybe driving out to Brave, just across the Pennsylvania state line, where they’d gone before and gotten high. She brought her bong and Shoaf had her own pipe. There at the edge of the woods, they found a place to sit. When Neese got up to retrieve a lighter, Shoaf said, “On three“—that was the agreed-upon signal, a count of one, two, three—and they began stabbing her from behind. At one point she got away, but Shoaf tackled her. In the struggle, Neese managed to get the knife from Shoaf and cut her below the knee. But then Neese was overpowered. Neese was stabbed to death 52 times.

The Diary
A plethora of information about the girls’ relationships were available to detectives,  including Neese’s diary. Before Neese began to use Twitter, she wrote in the diary frequently. “Skylar wrote about Shelia’s sexcapades [in her diary]—she didn’t have any of her own,” Colebank, a detective who was assigned to the case stated. “I think she lived vicariously through Shelia, because Shelia would tell Skylar who she did it with; how they did it; if it was good, if it was bad; if he was big, if he was small. I think that’s one reason [Skylar] wasn’t sexually active. She didn’t need to be because she could live off the stories that Shelia was telling.”

shelia-eddy-11One entry in particular stood out and revealed a lesbian attraction between Shoaf and Eddy. On August 21, 2011, Skylar detailed a night at Shoaf’s house when the three girls raided Shoaf’s mother’s liquor cabinet. “They got drunk and Shelia and Rachel proceeded to make out in every way you possibly can outside of actually effing—and Skylar said the word….She was locked in the bedroom with them and afraid to leave, because Patricia [Rachel’s mother] would find out they’d gotten into the liquor. So Skylar is having to sit there, watching them make out, because she didn’t want them to get caught!”

 Kelly Kerns
“There was never any sign. Not a mean kid, not a bully, didn’t torture animals, and it’s been a long two years trying to come to grips,” Kerns, a close family friend, appeared on the popular television program, ABC News’ “20/20.” “With all of the potential and morals, I don’t even get where this came from.  Since first holding her moments after she was born, Kerns said she was very close to Shoaf. I’m not kidding, she was the only baby I was ever going to have. She loved life and there was no reason for her not to. People around her loved her.”  I dare say few of them love Shoaf now.

Like all twists in a true-life horror story however, Kern noticed disturbing behaviours in Shoaf, including sneaking out, smoking marijuana and skipping class. Kerns thought they were typical teenage antics. Shoaf kept her grades up, stayed involved in the school theater program and continued to take singing, piano and acting lessons. By the summer of 2012, however, Kerns and Shoaf spent less “quality time” together. But on the morning of July 6, 2012, Kerns said Shoaf made a last-minute decision to spend the day on her boat with her and with Shoaf’s mother, Patricia.

A substitute teacher, Kerns started hearing countless rumors at Shoaf’s school about what happened to Neese.  “The story starts unraveling, and we find out they were together. It just keeps evolving from searches of the house, of the schools. The girls ended up having to be homeschooled because of all the talk. And the FBI, you know, searched their lockers and took computers. …We knew the girls knew something….“I still love this child. You can’t stop loving a child.”

There were rumors that Skylar, Rachel, and Shelia were doing drugs and Skylar overdosed and they were scared so they ditched her body somewhere,” Hovatter, a classmate talked about school rumours. “You had people who wanted to get attention pretending to know what was happening, but no one knew,” added Morgan Lawrence, another UHS classmate and friend of Neese, “except the two people who wouldn’t say anything.”

One of the behavioral traits attributed to Shoaf and Eddy by professionals was the technological aspect of the girls’ relationship. “There is 100 percent a lack of empathy on the Internet. You don’t have to deal with the natural consequences of your behavior,” says Jamie Howard, PhD, a clinical psychologist at New York’s Child Mind Institute.You say things you wouldn’t say, and your conduct is harsher.” Psychologists believe that technology obstructs empathy’s development and fosters detachment. That is often the case among young people who have disagreements. However, FBI profiler Jim Clemente, commented, “It’s a complex mix of bio, psycho, and social. I describe it as this: When somebody kills, genetics loads the gun, personality and psychology aim it, and what you’ve experienced pulls the trigger.”

skylarThe three high school sophomores had been inseparable, but in the days leading up to her death, Neese’s Twitter account showed that something had gone awry. On July 4, 2012, two days before she was murdered, Neese tweeted “it really doesn’t take much to p*** me off” and “sick of being at f****** home. Thanks “friends,” love hanging out with you all too.” The day before she was killed, Neese tweeted, “you doing s*** like that is why I can NEVER completely trust you.” Neese’s last tweet, sent out hours before she snuck out of her bedroom window after midnight on July 6, 2012, was a retweet from a friend who had posted, “All I do is hope.” 


Before the murder, Neese, Shoaf and Eddy tweeted together frequently. The lion’s share of inmatesthe tweets—4,374—came from Eddy, who enough time to write almost as many as Shoaf and Neese combined: i wish it was acceptable to be naked all the time… kardashian marathon, love my life…it’s okay if you hate me as long as i hated you first… i miss my bestfwend … love having the upper hand…stepdad, stop walking around the house without a shirt, it’s gross. not to mention your boobs are bigger than mine. …i wonder what it’s like to be good at math… shit i love my hair long, im never gonna cut it…there’s a reason why “sober” and “so bored” sound almost exactly the same.

 Eddy’s Tweets – 2013 In the months that followed the vicious murder, Eddy regularly tweeted about watching TV, school, hating homework and other typical teenage things. She even tweeted about her and Shoaf’s close friendship. In the months following her incarceration Eddy’s Tweets became more bizarre.

Among the last of Neese’s heartbreaking Tweets were these comments:

  • May 31, 2012: youre a twofaced bitch and obviously fucking stupid if you thought I wouldnt find out.
  • June 9, a retweet: won’t miss anyone from school over summer cause if we’re really friends, we’ll hangout. If we aren’t we won’t. Just know I know.
  • June 10: hope you dont expect me to give a fuck anymore #bye.
  • July 5: you doing shit like that is why I will NEVER completely trust you.  All I do is hope.

The Confession
Shoaf found the pressure from the police and the shelia-eddy-2kids at school unendurable. Around winter break the girls began to be homeschooled rather than return to UHS. As the investigation progressed during the fall, the consensus among all the branches of law enforcement, local police, state troopers, and the FBI, was that Shoaf and Eddy knew more than they were telling. During one of several investigations, Shoaf was uncomfortable and deliberately evasive. Eddy, on the other hand, “had great posture, her hands folded on the table, she’d look you in the eye and speak matter-of-factly. She wanted to know what we were thinking, what we thought. And she would apologize for changing her story so many times. She would use excuses, like, ‘It was late,’ or, ‘I wasn’t keeping track of the time.’ She would try to layer her perception of events that happened with a cloud of doubt over some of the facts that we could stick to her. We sometimes don’t even see that with the career criminals.”

Finally Shoaf agreed to a polygraph test but at the last minute, changed her mind. Police discovered this when Tara, her mother, arrived at the Star City police station to pick up her daughter’s electronics, which investigators had confiscated. When one detective, Colebank asked Tara if she knew where Rachel was, she replied, ” ‘Well, Rachel’s down in my car.” Colebank admitted,  “That just pissed me off that she was helping them keep up their lives. Then she said, ‘I wish you’d quit picking on my daughter. You’re making her life hell.’ And I was like, ‘Good. I’m glad we’re making her miserable because she is lying.’ She got mad at me, and I called her a fucking tool.” Colebank was kicked off the case.

So distraught was Shoaf that before Christmas, she suffered a mental breakdown and was briefly hospitalized. Then on December 28, Monongalia County received a 911 call. “I have an issue with a 16-year-old daughter of mine. I can’t control her anymore. She’s hitting us, she’s screaming, she’s running through the neighborhood,” Patricia Shoaf pants. In the background Rachel wails unintelligibly. “Give me the phone. No! No! This is over. This is over!” And then to the dispatcher: “My husband’s trying to contain her. Please hurry.” Shoaf”s conscience was pressed to the breaking point. surfaced.shoaf She readily confessed to police “The first three words out of her mouth were: ‘We stabbed her.’ The agent and I were speechless for a little bit. Then we were like, ‘Let’s start over. Tell us exactly what happened. What do you mean you stabbed her?’ “

Rachel pulled over a wastepaper basket in case she vomited and proceeded to recount the events in detail, unburdening herself of her sins. She confessed that she and Eddy were responsible for Neese’s disappearance, and that they had brutally stabbed Neese to death and left her body in the woods in Pennsylvania.

She led authorities to the murder scene, located across state lines in Brave, (irony)Pennsylvania and recounted how she and Eddy meticulously planned to kill their best friend. Fittingly, both were charged as adults.

The Arrest
The next morning, investigators Spurlock and Gaskins pulled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot in Granville, West Virginia, as Eddy and her mother were about to get into their car. “She was more shocked than caught.” For 10 months Edd had so often repeated and impressed upon others her version of events to the authorities, to family, to friends, to Twitter followers, she’d probably convinced herself she’d gotten away with murder. Finally Eddy was scared. “She said, ‘Don’t put me in with any mean people.” Ever the narcissist, she asked him if he had anything she could use to put her hair up. “Those are unusual requests, given the totality of the circumstances,” he said. “She also didn’t want to be seen in the back of the squad car: ‘People can see me back here!’ I said, ‘Yes, Shelia, they can—you’ve been charged with first-degree murder.’ “

shelia-eddy-1While the authorities built their case against Eddy—and worked to move the girls from juvenile to adult status—they struck a deal with Shoaf. In exchange for her cooperation and testimony against Eddy, she would agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder. Still shoring up their case, they allowed her to go on a vacation in April with her mother.

The Trial
The courtroom of Judge Russell Clawges on January 24, 2014, was filled with spectators wearing purple—Neese’s favorite color. Mary Neese, resembling Elizabeth Taylor, with her black hair and azure eyes, was sitting in the gallery, a box of tissues at her feet. Dave sat next to her, holding her hand, his face as tight as a fist. Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years on Feb. 26, 2014, with the possibility of parole in 10 years. Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for her role in Neese’s death and was sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 24, 2014, with the possibility of parole in 15 years. Fifteen years. We hope not.

skylar-neese-parentsA month later Shoaf entered the same courtroom, virtually unrecognizable: She’d gained weight, her skin was doughy, and her beautiful long red hair cut shorter. Everyone expected the actress to speak, and she did. “I am so sorry. I don’t know if there’s a proper way to make this apology because there are not even words to describe the guilt and remorse that I feel each day for what I’ve done. The person that did that was not the real me, not the person I am, not what I’m made of, and not what I believe in. I don’t think I ever thought this would ever happen. I became scared and caught up in something that I did not want to do. I never realized the gravity of my actions, and how many people I have hurt. I hurt the Neese family and those who loved Skylar. I hurt my parents and shamed my family…. I hurt my teachers and those who believed in me.… And I hurt my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. May God bring eternal peace to Skylar and the entire Neese family.… And I pray each day for forgiveness.”

Quite an actress, Shoaf had been able to cry in front of the court. Crocodile tears.





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Swartz Slaughtered his Strange, Adoptive Family

Larry Swartz, a criminal who, at the age of 17, stabbed his father to death and bludgeoned his mother with a wood maul. However after serving nine years of his 12 year sentence, another dysfunctional family, offered to adopt Swartz, who by now was 29. He agreed. The problem with this heroic move was that these parents already had two little girls and didn’t seem too concerned about protecting them. Not only that, those little girls were already living in a nightmare of their own.

swartz1984 – Cape St Clair – Maryland. Robert “Bob” Swartz and Kathryn Anne “Kay” Sullivan met at the University of Maryland and found that they had a lot in common. They both came from structured, disciplined backgrounds. Neither had spent much time dating ; they were devout Catholics, pro-life activists and highly committed to their careers.


The Swartz’s were unable to have children and at the age of 6, Larry was their first adopted son, When they adopted Larry, he had been shunted from foster home to foster home. Kay was his sixth mother. His natural mother had abandoned him. She had been a waitress in New Orleans and his father was alleged to have been an East Indian pimp. Larry spent his life in foster homes. Not a very auspicious beginning.

Eight-year-old Michael was the second child that joined the family. He moved from one foster home to another and developed into a rebellious child. He spent two years on a probationary period in the Swartz’s’ home before being legally adopted. That can’t have been a good feeling. Larry and Michael were only six months apart in age, with Michael being the oldest. A bond between the two brothers developed quickly and they became best friends.

When the boys were around 13, the Swartz’s adopted their third child, four-year-old Anne. She was born in South Korea and had been abandoned by her parents. Annie was cute and sweet and the family adored her. She became the new favorite child of Bob and Kay, bumping Larry to second place. Weird.

Seeing that the boys received a good education was a priority to Bob and Kay, but it was also a constant source of disappointment and family tension. Michael was a smart child and a quick learner. He excelled in school so the Swartz parents decided he was under-challenged and they had him jump from the second to the fourth grade, a highly unusual move to say the least. Frankly I’m surprised the school allowed the Swartz’s to move their son two grades. Of course, the change did not work out. Michael was smart, but emotionally immature. Not surprisingly, his grades dropped and his disciplinary problems increased. He was impulsive, had fits of anger, disobedient and he did not seem to understand right from wrong.

Larry was a quiet, mild-mannered child who followed the rules at school and at home. He rarely caused any disciplinary problems and had a close relationship with his mother. He was clearly the favorite son. Unlike Michael, Larry was a poor student. His parents became concerned about his academic struggles and had him tested. It was determined that he suffered with learning disabilities. He was placed in special education classes which had a positive effect on his performance.

The Swartz’s rigid expectations led them to constantly criticize and threaten their three children and beat Michael quite frequently. As the boys entered into adolescence, the mood within the household became volatile. Bob and Kay were strict disciplinarians with rigid house rules. To say they lacked good parenting skills was an understatement and the challenges of raising the boys was overwhelming.

Both boys were subjected to constant criticism and harsh scoldings. Bob and Kay often punished the boys, especially Michael, over minor rules that had been broken. When Michael wouldn’t conform, the Swartz’s took it personally and vowed that Larry would turn out differently. When it came time to deal with more serious problems, like Michael being disruptive at school, the punishments at home became more severe.

swartz murderDuring family fights Larry acted as a mediator and tried to calm his parents. Michal did the opposite. He talked back and agitated the fighting. Bob had a fierce temper and zero tolerance for Michael’s behavior. It did not take long for the verbal insults to turn into physical abuse. Larry managed to escape the beatings, but the verbal and psychological abuse intensified. The Swartz’s were determined not to let Larry end up like Michael and they kept close ties on his activities. Being around the constant fighting and the physical abuse took a toll on Larry and he tried to think of ways to keep his parents happy.

Michael’s Abandonment
Michael seemed to always stay in trouble with his parents, mainly because he would not follow their stringent rules. One night he asked them if he could go and see a few of his friends. The answer was no, so Michael sneaked out of the house. When he returned home around 10 p.m., he was locked out. After knocking failed to get his parents to unlock the door, he began to yell. Finally, Kay opened the window and informed Michael that he could no longer come home.The next day Kay reported Michael as a runaway to his social worker. He was given the choice to move into a foster home or go to juvenile court which would have likely meant going to a juvenile detention home. Michael elected to move into a foster home. As far as the Swartz’s were concerned, Michael was no longer their son.

Larry could not believe that his parents had disowned Michael. It not only angered him that a parent could just throw out their child, but it also caused him to feel severely insecure. He was scared that one day he would also be cast out of his home, especially since now that Michael was gone, he became the family scapegoat. His relationship with his mother, which at one point had been good, was rapidly disintegrating. The more she screamed at him, the harder he would try to figure a way back into her good graces, but nothing seemed to work. It seemed to Larry that the only people who did not like him were his parents. He was popular at school and had a reputation among his peers and his teachers as being nice-looking, easy-going and polite.

However, his mild manner and friendly nature with other people made little impression on the Swartz’s. Just like they had with Michael, Bob and Kay began to find fault in most things that Larry did and who he had as friends. Michael and Larry remained in touch with one another and talked for hours together on the telephone. They would share the frustrations and anger that they felt about their parents.

In a desperate attempt to regain his position as his parent’s “favorite” Larry told them that he wanted to be a priest. It worked. The Swartz’s were thrilled and Larry was sent to a seminary to begin his first year in high school. Unfortunately, that plan backfired after Larry failed to make the grades. The school recommended that Larry not return after failing to maintain the necessary grade average during his first two semesters. The clashes with his parents intensified after he returned home. No matter what he did, Larry was never good enough.

Driver’s License
Arguments between Larry and his parents became a regular occurrence. They fought with him over his sport’s activities, including his being the co-captain of the junior varsity soccer team. They felt it took away from his studies. He was often grounded and only permitted to go to school, church and attend his wrestling matches and soccer events. Socializing with friends was restricted and when he did manage to go on a date, they were always critical of the girls he asked out. The result was that Larry’s performance in school deteriorated. At 17, his C average was now a D and his hope for getting his driver’s license was completely dashed. Larry also began hiding liquor in his bedroom and often got drunk after fleeing to his room after a fight with his parents.

Most teens start annoying their parents about allowing them to get their driver’s license as soon as they reach the legal age to drive. Larry was no exception. For the Swartz’s, the discussion of getting a driver’s license centered on Larry’s grades in school. They agreed to allow him to go to driver’s education if he had all C’s on his report card. Had Larry made any C’s would have been an accomplishment given his academic history, but by the following semester, he managed to get all C’s except for one D. Bob stood his ground and refused to give in because of the one D grade. Seriously. Larry continued to try and the following semester he received two D’s and the rest C’s. Again, it was not good enough for Bob and Kay.

The Murders
tombThe night of January 16, 1984, seemed typical of many other nights in the Swartz’s’ home. First, Kay and Larry had a disagreement about a girl Larry had taken out a date. Kay, of course, did not approve of her and did not want Larry dating her again. Shortly after that argument ended, Bob blasted Larry for messing with his computer which destroying some work he had completed. Bob was furious with Larry and the fight escalated to ferocious levels. When that argument was over, Larry went up to his bedroom and a mickey of drank rum. If he was hoping to squelch his anger, it did not work. Instead, the alcohol seemed to fuel the resentments and rage he felt towards his parents.

The following morning, at around 7 a.m., Larry contacted 9-1-1 for help. When the Cape St. Claire emergency people arrived they found Larry and Annie holding hands by the door. Larry was very composed as he calmly led the emergency people into the house. First they found Bob’s body, which was lying inside a small basement office. He was covered in blood and had several gash marks on his chest and arms. Next, they found Kay’s body in the backyard. She was nude except for one foot with a sock on it. It appeared that she was partially scalped and her neck had several deep lacerations. Against police protocol, one of the paramedics covered Kay’s body with a blanket.

Larry told the paramedics that Annie woke him up because she could not find their parents. He said he saw Kay laying in the yard, and called for help. Three days after his parents’ funeral, Larry confessed to his lawyers that he was the killer. Larry told them about the argument with his mother about the girl he took on the date and about his father getting angry with him over the computer. He said he went to his bedroom and drank rum, then he went downstairs and spoke to his mother who was watching television. She asked him about the tests he had taken at school that day and Larry told her he thought he flunked one, but did okay on his other tests.

According to Larry, Kay’s response was sarcastic and belittling. Larry’s response to Kay was to pick up a nearby wood-splitting maul and smash it over her head. He then stabbed her multiple times around the neck with a kitchen knife. Bob came to see what was going on and Larry plunged the knife into his chest. He continued stabbing Bob around his chest and heart multiple times, a fine example of overkill.

Once Bob and Kay were dead, Larry busied himself trying to make it look like a crime that was committed by someone who had broken into the house. Someone like Michael. Larry explained that he dragged his mother out through the patio door, across the snow in the backyard and laid her out near the swimming pool. He removed her clothes and then in a final act to humiliate her, he moved her body into an obscene position and assaulted her with his finger. Ick. He got rid of the murder weapons and his bloody clothing by throwing it into the wet, wooded area behind his house. When he returned to the house he went to Anne’s room. She woke up during the commotion, but Larry assured her it was a nightmare and told her to go back to sleep.

Trial and Conviction
kidJudge Williams
referred to the murders as one of the most tragic events in the history of the county. He showed compassion when speaking of the troubles that went on in the Swartz’s’ home and that although Larry appeared normal, the court-ordered psychological testing proved that he was in great need of treatment. Acting compassionately, Williams sentenced Larry to two concurrent 20-year sentences and suspended 12 years from each.

New Adoptive Family
In a family who were completely unknown to Larry lived two little girls, ages 13 and 8 The 13-year-old eventually wrote her memoir about this experience. The very nature of both the bizarre adoption and the abuse she, her sister and her mother suffered were echoes of Swartz’ life. An entry in the older child’s diary read:

My mother, a rapacious reader, picked up the “Sudden Fury” book (authored by Leslie Walker) and read it my father ended up reading it as well. The book detailed the case and tried to illuminate Larry’s formative years — abandoned by his mother as a baby, Larry spent his life shuttling through the foster care system and suffering physical and verbal abuse. The next thing we knew, my father, for reasons that are still not entirely clear, started writing to Larry in prison — a prison roughly two hours away from our home on the Eastern Shore. The letters progressed, they struck up a friendship, and eventually we started going to visit with Larry. The murderer. In prison.

This, all of this, is clearly, unequivocally, bat shit crazy. WHO DOES THIS? I know that somewhere, somehow, there has to be someone with a similar experience, right? But I’ve never met anyone that has, or heard of anything like this happening…. Larry was actually very nice to us. I mean, really nice. Most of the time, it was like we forgot what he had even done.

Larry was released in 1993 after serving nine years in prison. This is where the story takes another bizarre twist. After he was released from prison, at the age of 29, he moved to Florida, and was adopted by this bizarre family. Why a 29-year-old man wants to be adopted is anyone’s guess. Maybe it was the sense of security he got from having a new family. However this family would prove to operate exactly like the Swartz’s.

Years after Larry’s adoption, the two unhappy young women disowned and “divorced” their abusive father: Let’s look at the true pics: my father drunk and vicious, smashing up a bedroom suite, or beating the dog, or whipping my sister and me with a belt, or getting blind drunk and forcing us into the car, where he’d drive and scream at us for hours, or, in a series of nightmarish images, like some flipbook from hell, let’s see my father wrap his hands round my mother’s throat and strangle her. See me and my sister punching and kicking at his legs, trying to stop him? See our little teeth biting ineffectually at his pant cuffs?

kid2He and my sister grew to be really close. He wasn’t this terrifying killer dude — to be completely honest, I found my own father a million, billion times scarier. And actually, my dad toned down his behavior a lot, once Larry came to live with us. With Larry, my father tried to act loving and sane; in order to perpetuate that lie, he couldn’t treat us as horribly as he normally would have. So that was kind of an unexpected side benefit to the whole thing.

As time went on, shit got weirder and weirder. The more Larry tried to rejoin the world, to work and hang out with people and date, the more controlling and obsessive my father became. There was at least one fistfight, a lot of yelling, just bad times all around. The final blow came when Larry and his girlfriend had a clandestine wedding and informed my parents they were moving to Florida. That was it for my parents. They cut Larry out of the will and disowned him.

Larry moved to Florida and had a child, though he and his wife got divorced. As the years passed, my dad eased up, and would occasionally talk to Larry on the phone. Larry eventually ended up happily remarrying. The last few years of his life were good ones. He died, of a heart attack, in 2005. He was 38 years old.

Michael didn’t do so well. At the age of 25 he began serving a life sentence in Jessup for the murder of 52-year-old Robert Austin Bell over a jar of quarters. Deputy State’s Attorney William D. Bell stated Michael stabbed Bell to death 45 times.

A book and a movie based on the Swartz murders were produced including:
(1) Sudden Fury – a book by Leslie Walker
(2) A Family Torn Apart – a T.V. movie based on the Swartz murders

They say no one deserves to die a brutal death, especially at the hands of their own kin. In this case, I believe the Swartz family raised their own killer. It was just a matter of time.




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Wuornos and her Warped, Wicked Beginnings

Most of us are familiar with the story of Aileen Wuornos, the woman erroneously dubbed thefirst female serial killer” in America. However many people don’t know the origins of Wuornos’ rage towards her victims. I’m of a mind that killers are’t born but rather they are made. Wuoronos’ early beginnings were so heinous that they seem to bear this out. Of course many people are terribly abused and do not become killers. This blog leaves the reader to decide whether or not Wuornos was made into a killer or simply made the choice to become a notorious murderess.

Aileen Wuornos
Aileen Wuornos was born Aileen Carol Pittman in
Rochester, Michigan on February 29, 1956, to an absent father named Leo Dale Pittman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and later convicted aileenof sex crimes against children. Pittman hanged himself in prison on January 30, 1969. In an attempt to escape her father’s incestuous advances, Wuornos’ mother, Diane Wuornos, married Wuronos’ father at the age of 15. Diane Wuornos abandoned both Wuornos and her brother, Keith, and left them to be raised by her grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos, who legally adopted Keith, and Wuornos on March 18, 1960. However, it wasn’t until Wuornos was 12 that she discovered the couple weren’t here parents, but instead were her grandparents. This confused and further traumatized the young girl.

Wuornos’s childhood was a nightmare of rejection and abandonment. cf-4-imageThroughout her years with her grandparents she was both physically and sexually abused, which led her to an early life of promiscuity that included having sexual intercourse with her brother. In spite of their bizarre relationship, Keith stood by her and was loyal to her. Her grandfather sexually abused Wuornos and shared her with his pedophile friends. Before beating the little girl, he forced her to strip out of her clothes.

Wuornos’ grandparents were not good providers. By the age of 11, Wuornos began engaging in sexual activities in school in exchange for cigarettes, drugs, and food. So traumatic was the household for Wuornos that during the frigid Michigan winter when she was 13, she moved out of her house and attempted to live in a small nearby wooded area, inside of a cardboard box. The child could have frozen to death.

Wuornos’ Baby
Wuornos and her brother frequently ran away to escape their abusive grandfather but eventually authorities would find the two and place them in reform school before returning them to their grandparents’ home. Neighbours knew of her plight but no one reported her abuse and no one took her in. At the age of 14 she was kicked out of the home when she became pregnant with her after she was raped by an older man in the neighbourhood.

mom~3After giving birth to the baby boy in March 1971 in a maternity home and putting him up for adoption, Wuornos was left to live alone on the streets before ending up in a home for unwed mothers. Wuornos did poorly at school and any of the boys knew they could either pay her or swap her cigarettes and the like for money. After her grandmother died Wuornos dropped out of school and became a full-time prostitute.

When her grandmother died of liver failure, a result of heavy drinking Wuornos’ biological mother claimed that Wuornos had killed her. Her grandmother may have been murdered by her grandfather. Murder and assault did tend to run in the family. The grandfather’s threats to kill both Aileen and her brother were on record and the children became wards of the court in 1971.

Wuornos became a prostitute since she had no other way to support herself and her early experiences had taught her that her only value was her sexuality. Wuornos never stood a chance at achieving a normal life. In spite of media coverage that later described her as a serial killer, Wuornos certainly had a personal background that explained her criminal behaviour.

Wuornos was first jailed in 1974, under the alias Sandra Kretsch, when she was arrested in Colorado for drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and firing a .22-caliber pistol from a moving vehicle. Clearly her behaviour was on a downward spiral. Afterwards she headed back to Michigan where she was once again arrested. This time it was for assault and disturbing the peace, after she had an altercation where she threw a cue ball at a bartender’s head.

The unfortunate woman then hitchhiked her way to Florida and along the way was picked up by a rich 69-year-old man named Lewis Gratz Fell, who fell in love with her and they got married. Around that time she learned that her grandfather was dead; he’d committed suicide in his garage. It was no coincidence that Wuornos married a senior citizen. Likely he reminded her of her abusive grandfather. Although that sounds odd, this was the only guardian Wuornos had ever had in her early life. 

Wuornos continually involved herself in confrontations at their local bar and eventually went to jail for assault. Perhaps re-living the anger shet felt against her grandfather, she abused Fell, including hitting him with his own cane, leading him to get a restraining order against her. He had the marriage annulled less than two months into the union.

Suicide Attempt
aileen-wuornos-105In 1978, the traumatized young woman couldn’t tolerate her life any longer. Determined to die, she used a .22 calibre pistol and shot herself in the abdomen. It was not the first time the unhappy woman had attempted suicide. Somehow she miraculously recovered from the gunshot wound but received minimal psychological counselling.

Richard Mallory
The early 1980’s was a series of arrests and jail time served for firearm possession, forgery, and robbery charges. When she wasn’t in jail she supplemented what little income she had through prostitution. In 1989 a store owner called Richard Mallory made the mistake of taking a ride with Wuornos and became the first of her seven murder victims.

aileen-wuornos-103All of her victims were men who solicited her services as a prostitute. Wuornos claimed that Mallory violently raped her and that she killed him in self-defence. After her conviction reporters discovered that Mallory had indeed served 10 years for a violent rape in a different state but Wuornos didn’t get a re-trial despite this finding. It would appear that fate conspired against the unhappy woman.

Keith’s Death
On July 17, her brother Keith died of esophageal (throat) cancer and Wuornos received $10,000 from his life insurance. Perhaps it was his way of offering retribution for the sexual assaults he had committed against his young sister. It was the second time that Wuornos received significant money in her life. However her investment interests were limited. She spent her inheritance money within two months by using it to buy luxuries including a new car, which she wrecked shortly afterward. In the same manner as her dysfunctional family, Wuornos had no idea how to provide for herself.

WuornosTyria Moore
n 1986 Wuornos met Tyria Moore, a hotel maid, at a Daytona gay bar. Wuornos’ relationship with Moore was her second relationship with a woman. As a prostitute, her clients were mainly middle-aged, low-to-middle-class white men.They moved in together, at which time Moore quit her job. Wuornos supported them with her prostitution earnings. On July 4, 1987, Daytona Beach police detained Wuornos and Moore at a bar for questioning regarding an incident in which they were accused of assault and battery with a beer bottle.

By 1990 Tyria Moore had become suspicious of Wuornos’ activities.  Moore moved in with her family in Pennsylvania. When Wuornos was arrested on an outstanding warrant at a biker bar in Harbor Oaks, Florida, police tracked Moore down and used her to elicit a confession from Wuornos regarding the murders of seven men, six of whom she would be convicted for killing. Moore had little choice. Either she cooperated with police or she too went to jail for being an accomplice to murder.

Wuornos was convicted of the murder of six men and sentenced to death. During her stay in prison she was adopted by her new friend, Arlene Pralle, after Pralle had a dream in which she was told to “take care of” Wuornos. According to Pralle, Jesus told her to write to Wuornos, and she did. What Wuornos did not know was that Pralle was receiving money for giving interviews, including one with Nick Broomfield, who paid her $10,000. It seemed that no one ever stopped taking advantage of Wuornos.. She became a born-again Christian. However neither of these developments helped to save Wuornos’ life and received a lethal injection on in her arm on Wednesday October 10, 2000, at 9:30 a.m. She was pronounced dead at 9:47 a.m .

Final Words
I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the Rock and I’ll be back like Independence Day with Jesus, June 6, like the movie, big mothership and all. I’ll be back,” Wuornos said. The Rock is a Biblical reference to Jesus.

Was this a fair ending to a brutal life? Certainly a jury of Wuornos’ peers believed so. Was she simply an angry woman exacting revenge on unsuspecting men or a profoundly damaged person who had no concept of childhood, security and love? That’s up to the reader to decide.




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