Little Judith Eva Barsi’s Abusive Life and Violent Death

Little Judith Eva Barsi was an adorable actress of both television sitcoms and the silver screen. Born in 1978, She began her career in television, making appearances in commercials and television shows such as Cagney and Lacey, (ironically playing a child named Sauna in a show about child abuse who had to be removed from her family), and later appeared in the films Jaws IV, providing the voice of Ducky in The Land Before Time, (also ironically, about a child who has lost her family due to death), and All Dogs go to Heaven, a film which would be released one year after her death. Chillingly, Barsi played a child in the true account entitled Fatal Vision, about a doctor who murdered his wife and children.

barsiFamily History
Judith’s father, József Barsi, fled Communist Hungary after the 1956 Soviet occupation. He eventually relocated to New York in 1964, and then to California, where he met Maria Virovacz, who was also a Hungarian immigrant escaping the Soviet occupation. As a child, Virovacz suffered psychological and physical abuse from her father. In turn she married a mentally and physically abusive man who would eventually abuse little Judith. They were an example of a successful, famous family who managed to hide their demons from the public for years.

Barsi himself was an “illegitimate” child. In Hungary, “that’s just like the plague. When he would go to school kids would make fun of him.” Barsi had no self-esteem and turned to alcohol. Judith was born to these tormented people. Virovacz in particular was consumed with greed.

Barsi_JudithPerhaps seeking the American Dream, she began grooming  the adorable Judith to become an actress. A relative told her that the odds of little Judith becoming a star were “10,000 to 1.” However at the age of five, she was discovered at a skating rink. Barsi’s first role was in Fatal Vision, playing the diaper-clad toddler Kimberly MacDonald, although Barsi was six at the time of the miniseries’ transmission. She went on to appear in more than 70 commercials and guest roles on television. By the time she started fourth grade, Judith was earning an estimated $100,000 a year, which helped her family buy a three-bedroom house in West Hills, Los Angeles.

As she was short for her age (she stood 3 ft 8 in (1.12 m) at age 10), she began receiving hormone injections at UCLA to encourage her growth. Her petite build led casting directors to cast her as children that were younger than her actual age. Her agent was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as saying that when she was ten, “she was still playing 7, 8.”

Domestic Violence
As Judith’s career success increased, Barsi became increasingly abusive, jealous, and paranoid, and would routinely threaten to kill himself, Maria, and Judith. The hatred between the two adults was palpable. Barsi used to state “I hate that whore“, referring to his wife. His alcoholism worsened, and resulted in three separate arrests for drunk driving. In December 1986, Maria reported his threats and physical violence toward her to the police. After they found no physical signs of abuse, she eventually decided not to press charges against him.

Judith-Barsi-judith-barsi-33360042-454-586After the incident, Barsi reportedly stopped drinking, but continued to threaten Virovacz and Judith, which included threats of cutting their throats as well as burning down the house, behaviours Barsi had exhibited during his first marriage in Hungary. He reportedly hid a telegram informing his wife that a relative in Hungary had died, in an attempt to prevent her and Judith from leaving America. Physical violence continued, with Judith telling a friend about him throwing pots and pans at her, resulting in a nosebleed. Judith told friends she was afraid to go home. Due to the abuse, she began putting on weight and exhibited disturbing behavior, which included plucking out all her eyelashes (trichotillomania) and pulling out her cat’s whiskers.

Before Virovacz and Judith left for the location of Jaws in the Bahamas, Barsi entered Judith’s bedroom and held a kitchen knife against her little throat, threatening to kill her if barsishe and her mother didn’t return home after the shooting (pun) of the movie. Once they reached the Bahamas, Virovacz told everyone about her fears for herself and Judith but few people took her seriously. After Barsi contacted Judith by phone in the Bahamas threatening once again to cut her throat, Virovacz took little Judith and returned to him possibly because if they left Bari, Virovacz and Judith would have to go into hiding. That would mean the little girl would have to “give up her career”. Virovacz didn’t work and if she removed Judith from the film industry, she would lose a source of income. Virovacz refused to abandon the dream.

barsiAfter breaking down in front of her agent during a singing audition for All Dogs Go to Heaven, Judith was taken by Virovacz to a child psychologist, who identified severe physical and emotional abuse and reported her findings to Child Protective Services. The investigation was dropped after Virovacz assured the case worker that she intended to begin divorce proceedings against Barsi and that she and Judith were going to move into a Panorama City apartment she had recently rented as a daytime haven from him. Virovacz also told the worker that Barsi was “running around with a woman” and she would soon be seeking a divorce from Barsi. Friends urged Virovacz to follow through with the divorce but she resisted, reportedly because she did not want to lose the family home and belongings. One tactic Virovacz used to “drive Barsi out of the house” was to stop cleaning. The house looked like a house in the reality show Hoarders. “It was a living pig-pen.”

The Murder-Suicide
barsiheadwoundJudith was last seen riding her bike on the morning of July 25, 1988. That evening, Barsi shot her in the head while she was sleeping, and then his wife. He spent the next two days wandering around the house, and said during a phone conversation with Judith’s agent the next night that he intended to move out for good, and just needed time to “say goodbye to my little girl.” He wandered alone around the house for two days. He then poured gasoline on the bodies and set them on fire. After incinerating the bodies, he went to the garage and shot himself in the head with a .32 caliber pistol. On August 9, 1988, Judith and Maria were interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Don Bluth
, the director of The Land Before Time, described her as “absolutely astonishing. She understood verbal direction, even for the most sophisticated situations,” and he intended to feature her extensively in his future productions. Judith was a little child who could have become a major star. Her mother’s greed and father’s mental instability destroyed the child. Little Judith was a child who had been miserably failed by both her parents.


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The Chernobyl Cover-Up

This blog is  a little different in that the killers aren’t individuals but under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities of the Soviet Union. The USSR knew very well the dangers of building a nuclear power plant near a highly populated suburb in Pripyat, Ukraine. Further, the authorities were well aware that there were insufficient safety controls in place that could have prevented the tragedy that occurred on April 26, 1986. The Chernobyl Disaster remains the worst nuclear power plant explosion in history in terms of cost and deaths. To this day, Chernobyl is largely uninhabited and the effects of the nuclear disaster have affected generations of victims and their descendents across Europe.

The Disaster
April 26, 1986 started out as a day like any other for the workers in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant and the inhabitants of Pripyat. People went about their business and at the plant, workers conducted a systems test at reactor number 4, close in proximity to Pripyat.The test was risky as it required the shutting down of a coolant system in the event of a power surge. This was precisely what happened. There was a sudden, unexpected power surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, a much larger spike in power output occurred, which led to a series of steam explosions. The coolant system was insufficient due to a one-minute power gap that management had been trying unsuccessfully to correct. The resulting fire sent a massive plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat. Many of the workers remained in the plant to try and rectify the emergency. The explosion was so powerful that it blew the 2000 ton steel lid off the top of the core.

Chernobyl_burning-aerial_view_of_coreThe Chernobyl power plant had been in operation for two years with failing test results that would allow the plant the capability to ride through the first 60–75 seconds without the cooling system in place during a loss of electric power. The station managers  wished to correct this at the first opportunity, which may explain why they continued the test even when serious problems arose, and why the requisite approval for the test had not been sought from the Soviet nuclear oversight regulator. An initial test carried out in 1982 yielded insufficient results. The system was modified, and the test was repeated in 1984 but again proved unsuccessful. In 1985, the tests were attempted a third time but also yielded negative results.

The nearby city of Pripyat was not immediately evacuated. The Soviet was busy preventing news leakage of the explosion to the world and it postponed evacuation. The townspeople went about their usual business, completely oblivious to what had just happened. However, within a few hours of the explosion, dozens of people fell ill. Later, they reported severe headaches and metallic tastes in their mouths, along with uncontrollable fits of coughing and vomiting. To expedite the evacuation, residents were told to bring only what was necessary, and that it would only last approximately three days. As a result, most personal belongings were left behind and remain there today. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were evacuated from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Many cities became an eerie ghost town.

Paliska, the closest town to Pripyat and directly in the path of the first radioactive clume, was asked to take in evacuees which they did. They were promised that the situation wasn’t very serious and that it was only a matter of days before the people of Pripyat would return home.  The evacuees had no idea that they were relocated to a place that was already heavily contaminated. In the night however one woman who lived across the hall from the head of the District Executive Committee, witnessed him quietly removing himself and his family in the night out of the town. She asked for a travel pass for herself and her children and the reply was “everything is normal here.”

matthias-rhomberg-bw-winter-landscape-ipad-wallpaperFire Containment
Shortly after the accident, firefighters arrived to try to extinguish the fires. The immediate priority was to extinguish fires on the roof of the station and the area around the building containing Reactor No. 4 to protect No. 3 and keep its core cooling systems intact. The fires were extinguished by 5:00, but many firefighters received high doses of radiation and later died.

First on the scene was a Chernobyl Power Station firefighter brigade. They were not told how dangerously radioactive the smoke and the debris were: “We didn’t know it was the reactor. No one had told us.” One surviving firefighter commented “we had no idea about radiation. Even those who worked there had no idea….then those boys went up on the roof…and I never saw them again.”

Chernobylreactor_1Only on 28 April, after radiation levels set off alarms off in a nuclear power plant in Sweden, over 1,000 kilometres from the Chernobyl Plant, did the Soviet Union publicly admit that an accident had occurred. At 21:02 that evening a 20-second announcement was read in a TV news program. The extent of the announcement reads as follows:

There has been an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. One of the nuclear reactors was damaged. The effects of the accident are being remedied. Assistance has been provided for any affected people. An investigative commission has been set up.

31 deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers, many  whom weren’t volunteers but were plucked off the streets and forced to participate. An UNSCEAR report places the total confirmed deaths from radiation at 64 as of 2008. The Chernobyl Forum has predicted the eventual death toll could reach 4000 among those exposed to the highest levels of radiation (200,000 emergency workers, 116,000 evacuees and 270,000 residents of the most contaminated areas). This number is a total death toll prediction, combining the deaths of approximately 50 emergency workers who died soon after the accident from acute radiation syndrome, nine children who have died of thyroid cancer and a future predicted total of 3940 deaths from radiation-induced cancer and leukemia.

chernobyl1_gifChild Deformities
Along with many deaths, children were born with serious mental and physical deformities after the disaster.Throughout the European continent, in nations where abortion is legal, many requests for induced abortions, of otherwise normal pregnancies, were obtained out of fears of radiation from Chernobyl, including an excess number of abortions in Denmark in the months following the accident. In Greece, following the accident many doctors were unable to resist requests from worried pregnant mothers over fears of radiation. Although it was determined that the effective dose to Greeks was much lower than that which could induce embryonic abnormalities, there was an observed 2500 excess of otherwise wanted pregnancies being terminated, probably out of fear in the mother of radiation risk.

RadCherMutHxThe after-effects of Chernobyl were expected to be seen for a further 100 years, although the severity of the effects would decline over that period. The United Kingdom was forced to restrict the movement of sheep from upland areas of Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and northern England. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster in 1986, a total of 4,225,000 sheep had their movement restricted across a total of 9,700 farms, in order to prevent contaminated meat entering the human food chain. Farmers lost their living as a result of their soil and fool being contaminated by the Chernobyl fallout.

Although the Soviet offered to replace local food sources for healthier food to its inhabitants, they could not. The Soviet economy was in crisis. A chronic food shortage resulted from the disaster. The government couldn’t afford to feed or evacuate the local populations. Five years after the explosion, farmers were encouraged to grow radioactive-contaminated food on their farms, which in turn, caused their cattle to produce contaminated milk and meat. The contaminated food produced on farms were secretly distributed to markets throughout Kiev. Farmers and their families admitted “we eat everything…all our own produce….the children too. And the grandchildren….how else are we to survive?”


The first official explanation of the accident attempted to deflect blame from the Soviet’s operation of the plant. The explanation, later acknowledged to be erroneous, was published in August 1986. It effectively placed the blame on the power plant operators. A group known as the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG), on the whole also supported this view, based on the data provided by the Soviets and the oral statements of specialists. In this view, the catastrophic accident was caused by gross violations of operating rules and regulations. “During preparation and testing of the turbine generator under run-down conditions using the auxiliary load, personnel disconnected a series of technical protection systems and breached the most important operational safety provisions for conducting a technical exercise.”

babyIn an analysis of the causes of the accident, deficiencies in the reactor design and in the operating regulations that made the accident possible were set aside and mentioned only casually. Eventually, the truth about the lack of safety in the defective system and poorly designed reactors were revealed to the public.

The accident raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry, slowing its expansion for a number of years and forcing the Soviet government to become “less secretive about its procedures”. So serious was the government coverup of the Chernobyl disaster that many believe it “paved the way for reforms leading to the Soviet collapse”. The photograph to the left shows an infant born with hydrocephalus, a condition which results from an excess of spinal fluid in the brain, causing the skull to enlarge as the infant grows. It was once known as water on the brain. It causes convulsion, tunnel vision, and mental disability.

Chernobyl Legacy
The radioactive fallout from the explosion would eventually affect both hemispheres of the world. It settled wherever it rained. Poland, Austria, Romania, Finland, and Sweden.”(2) The day after (30 April), it hit Switzerland and Italy. By 2 May, it reached France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Great Britain, and Greece. The next day, Israel, Kuwait, and Turkey were contaminated. Then, over the next few days, “radioactive substances” were recorded in Japan (3 May), China (4 May), India (5 May), and the US and Canada (6 May). The radioactive spew from this explosion was “200 times greater than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.” Not one person was safe from this catastrophic nuclear explosion; and “65-million people were contaminated. “[i]t will take millennia to recover…[before an area] as large as Italy, will return to normal radioactive levels in about 100,000 years time.”

The world’s media continues to ignore the myriad of social costs to the world, the staggering medical consequences of systemic radiation poisoning, and the enormous tragedy of genetic malformations. The nuclear industry touts the“safety” nuclear power. Given this global economic collapse, there are neither enough financial or technological safeguards available today or long-term to protect humanity from the current levels of radioactive toxicity

Reactor 4
victor-bryukhanovBefore the Chernobyl disaster, the Soviets aimed to create a whole new town of Pripyat. Their methodology was to lure new citizens based on the creation and maintenance of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Viktor Brukhanov, the 35-year-old Director of the plant, was charged with making Pripyat as attractive to Soviet workers as possible, regardless of the nuclear dangers. Citizens were lured to Pripyat with inexpensive housing, regular salaries, and all the perks that were generally not available to the majority of Soviet citizens. Pripyat “was soon considered one of the prime locations for young workers [the average age was 26] in Ukraine and the surrounding area” that had “shopping centers, sports facilities, schools…and an amusement park.” The city provided an abundance of well-stocked food supplies and “goods that were difficult to get in other areas of the country.” This resulted in”the race to complete [the reactor] within the unrealistic deadline resulting in parts that were “hastily built on the grounds of the plantand thatwere not specifically approved by the original designers.” Of course the Soviets were also in a race against the U.S. for the construction of the world’s first successful nuclear power plant. This aim may have been influenced in part due to the U.S.’ successful completion of the world’s first moon landing.

Victor Bryukhanov
In his own words: Me and my co-workers got a pay raise for getting the reactor done so fast. It was time for the second test on April 26 1:22 a.m we started by shutting down the first turbine. They shut it done, and that is where it went wrong. Power in the reactor began to rise rapidly. The reactor reaches 100 times full power, which broke the containment tubes, and caused the top shield of the reactor to blow up… Everyone went on living their lives but more and more cases of cancer, radiation poisoning, etc were popping up everywhere. Hospitals were filling up faster than they handle, people were starting to worry….Everything does not go without punishment and it was time to be punished. I was put on trial along with a few others. The court said that I was guilty and I myself can not say I’m completely innocent. Thousands were either dead or sick because of my poor design. I was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but got out in five. The Chernobyl disaster is truly a nuclear nightmare. I will soon not be here much longer I have been diagnosed with cancer. In my few finally seconds left to live I wish to say that I’m sorry for the disaster I have caused… .

The diary entry emphasizes the supposed role of the designer and the workers involved in Reactor 4. It is a personal account of how the Soviet government blamed everyone but itself for the disaster. Bryukhanov went to his grave tragically believing he was entirely responsible for the Chernobyl disaster when in reality, many factors that were directly the responsibility of the Soviet government were involved.

The level of corruption and criminality that pervades governments and corporate business are off the scale. The history of the nuclear-warfare industry exists to make profits. Nuclear energy is a significant hazard. The public has the right to know and to demand that nuclear corporations become more forthcoming about the dangers of nuclear energy. It has the right to insist on necessary safety controls that should be in place to prevent another disaster from happening. The only answer is to keep asking questions and to insist on financial reparations for damages done to lives and property. Maybe then the laws that regulate the control of nuclear power plants and the necessary safety controls to prevent further disasters will improve our chances of surviving increased radioactive fallout. Of all the killers detailed in this blog, the Soviet government and the Chernobyl disaster has been by far the most evil and the deadliest.


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The Dating Game Killer

Many people have heard about the Dating Game killer. The Dating Game was a silly but often comical game show where a panel of three eligible bachelors competed for  a dream date with an attractive, single woman. None of them saw each other before the game began and the winner was chosen on the basis of the questions the woman asked and the answers the bachelors gave. This particular game proved to be much more than a game show. It was a close brush with death for the gorgeous female contestant since the winning bachelor happened to be a serial killer. Fortunately for her, she had a bad feeling about the winner and refused to accept the date.

rodn2015 – Rodney Alcala is a homely, grey-haired shadow of his former self: a tall, dark and handsome man who was a UCLA student, and who could rival Ted Bundy for being the “poster boy” of serial killers. One police detective called Alcala “a killing machine.” Alcala was a professional photographer and his method was to seek out hundreds of very young girls and young women for his subjects. He plastered their pictures all over the walls of his modest studio apartment for his own personal use. Many of these girls weren’t just the subject of photographs – they were rape and murder victims. I suppose the photographs were trophies.

Alcala was born Rodrigo Jacques Alcala Buquor in San Antonio, Texas, to Raoul Alcala Buquor and Anna Maria Gutierrez. His father abandoned the family and his mother moved Rodney and his sisters to suburban Los Angeles when he was about 12 years old. Children who are abandoned at an early age often carry “life-long scars“, believing they were abandoned “because of something they did wrong.” Self-esteem plummets and the child feels unwanted. Presumably this happened to the young Alcala.

Alcala joined the U.S. Army in 1960, at age 17, where he served as a clerk. In 1964, after what was described as a “nervous breakdown“, he was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder by a military psychiatrist and discharged on medical grounds. Antisocial personality “needs to have started in childhood or early adolescence, continuing into adulthood.” He probably “recognized that [he had] “something wrong” with [him], but avoided psychiatric treatment… to act out [his] violent, murderous fantasies.”  Other diagnoses later proposed by various psychiatric experts at his trials included narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and (from homicide expert Vernon Geberth) malignant narcissistic personality disorder with psychopathy and sexual sadism co-morbidities. Definitely not someone you’d want to meet on a dark night. Or during the broad daylight for that matter.

Child Victims
tali Alcala’s youngest victim was an 8-year-old girl named Tali Shapiro. 25-year-old Alcala lured into his car then brought her to his Hollywood apartment in 1968. When LAPD police arrived at Alcala’s slovenly home to question him about another rape-murder, they found the child lying face down in a large pool of blood on his kitchen floor. One officer commented about Alcala, “I will always remember that face, the evil in that face.” One police officer commented he couldn’t believe “so much blood could come out of a tiny little girl like that.” Another noticed “white Mary Janes” along with a metal bar used to strangle the child when they found her. The child was so bludgeoned and battered they believed she was dead and commenced a search around the home for Alcala. After several minutes they realized Shapiro was alive and called for an ambulance. The little girl managed to survive. Although Alcala was in the apartment he managed to escape and, to evade the resulting arrest warrant, he left the state and enrolled in the NYU film school, using the name “John Berger”.

The media frenzy surrounding the case and the trauma their child had suffered forced the Shapiro family to leave America and move to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Years later, the prosecution for a second trial tracked down the Shapiro family, asking if they would return to testify but they refused; they felt little Tali had been traumatized enough by Alcala and wouldn’t put her through another ordeal. Thirty years later, Shapiro had the courage to face Alcala in court. Alcala apologized to Shapiro for raping her when she was 8. Shapiro commented “I couldn’t hear what he said….I’m not a victim…I wanted to jump out of the car, but I was 7 or 8 so I stayed.”

The second youngest victim Alcala killed was 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, who disappeared on June 20, 1979, on her way to ballet class. Her decomposing body was found 12 days later in the Los Angeles foothills. Police subsequently found Samsoe’s earrings in a Seattle locker rented by Alcala. The earrings would prove to be a point of contention over the decades in Alcala’s string of unsuccessful appeals for a re-trial. In 1980 Alcala was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for Samsoe’s murder, but the verdict was overturned by the California Supreme Court because jurors had been improperly informed of his prior sex crimes. In 1986, after a second trial virtually identical to the first except for omission of the prior criminal record testimony, he was convicted and sentenced to death, again. Incredibly, a panel nullified the second conviction because a witness was not allowed to support Alcala’s contention that the park ranger who found Samsoe’s body had been “hypnotized by police investigators“. Seriously. Hypnotized.

By the time a search crew found little Samsoe, she “was just bones.” One year later, on July 24, Alcala was arrested for the kidnap and murder of little Samsoe but proving the case was difficult. Still the jury convicted him and sentenced him to death. However the California State Supreme Court overturned the decision stating he “had not received a fair trial.” And they say cats have nine lives. He was re-tried in 1984 and found guilty but once again the verdict was overturned. Alcala made a “career of working the system.” He had twice overturned convictions that resulted in a death sentence. It’s not entirely surprising that the serial killer was able to work the system. He had an I.Q. of 160 and a lot of time on his hands.

Beth Kelleher  – the girlfriend
Kelleher (ironic surname) was 22 when she met Alcala in 1979. Kelleher fell in love with Alcala,  describing him as “intelligent and well-mannered…great individual.”  She saw photographs of girls as young as 12 to women aged 30. “They didn’t bother me.” Kelleher had no reason to suspect that her “well-mannered” boyfriend was a killer. Kelleher stated she enjoyed a good relationship with Alcala. It was several years before she realized he became the Dating Game killer. “That could have been me,” she told the press. Well, no duh.

Rodney_Alcala_CDCRAnother woman who was spared rape and murder at Alcala’s hands was Liane Leedom. When she was 17 Alcala took photographs of her then invited her “to his mother’s home. and so I went in and we talked. He was very preoccupied with the idea that he was a member of Mensa.” Leedom said Alcala never made any sexual advances towards her. Leedom said many of the photos in that collection were of naked women and nude children that Alcala showed her in the presence of his mother. It wasn’t until years later that she understood the look of disgust on his mother’s face. Why it was that Alcala’s mother allowed Alcala to live with her when clearly she disapproved of him remains a mystery. So does she. Gutierrez has never given an interview to the press. She was conspicuously absent during Alcala’s murder trials.

Some photographs Alcala took during his murder spree showed remote settings similar to the region where Samsoe’s body was found. A few of the photos are of men. One photograph was of a young boy about 10 years old, shirtless and smiling broadly for the camera. He was unharmed by Alcala.

The Dating Game
cherylIncredibly, after the murder Alcala committed in 1968 and knowing that the LAPD were looking for him, Alcala had the audacity to appear on the Dating Game. Appearing on television “would have been very tempting for someone like Alcala.” Narcissists enjoy the spotlight. Host Jim Lange introduced him as bachelor number 1, a “successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13, fully developed.” He was charming and funny. The audience laughed at his sexual innuendoes. The two other bachelors, including actor Jed Mills, or bachelor number 2, found him to be extremely arrogant, claiming he had “bizarre opinions.” The third bachelor was quite arrogant himself. He felt he should have been chosen and was miffed about that. Years later he told the press that he wore only one earring on the show and that he was the man who started that trend. Whatever.

Mills remembered Alcala as appearing ‘dark, slimy and obnoxious’. Cheryl Bradshaw was the beautiful bachelorette who chose Alcala as the winner. After the two met, he uttered the chilling words “we’re going to have a good time together, Cheryl.” Bradshaw disagreed and after the show she told producers she refused to go out with him. Bradshaw also remembered his behavior: “He was quiet, but at the same time he would interrupt and impose when he felt like it. He became very unlikable and rude and imposing as though he was trying to intimidate. I wound up not only not liking this guy… He was a standout creepy guy in my life.”​

21st Century
While preparing their third prosecution in 2003, Orange County investigators learned crilleythat Alcala’s DNA, sampled under a new state law over his objections, matched semen left at the rape-murder scenes of two women in Los Angeles. Another pair of earrings found in Alcala’s storage locker matched the DNA of one of the two victims. Additional evidence, including another cold-case DNA match in 2004, led to Alcala’s indictment for the murders of several additional women: 23-year-old New York flight attendant Cornelia C​riley, strangled to death in 1971,  23-year-old Ellen J. Hov​er, Jill Barcomb, 18, a New York runaway found “rolled up like a ball” in a Los Angeles ravine in 1977, and originally thought to have been a victim of the Hillside Strangler; Georgia Wixted, 27, bludgeoned in her Malibu apartment in 1977; Charlotte Lamb, 31, raped and strangled in the laundry room of her El Segundo apartment complex in 1978; and Jill Parenteau, 21, killed in her Burbank apartment in 1979. All of the bodies were found “posed…in carefully chosen positions”. Ick.

A Fool for a Client
the-haunting-photography-of-a-serial-killer-body-image-1416313290For the third trial Alcala elected to act as his own attorney. He took the stand in his own defense, and for five hours played the roles of both interrogator and witness, asking himself questions (addressing himself as “Mr. Alcala” in a deeper voice), and then answering them. Alcala had spent 30 years on death row by then and he knew the facts cold. Still he made foolish statements such as “no one has ever asked if Robin Samsoe had pierced ears.” Samsoe’s mother had to endure his questioning during the trial. She brought a gun with her but did’t shoot Alcala as she’d planned on doing. “Robin’s hand on my arm stopped me,” she claimed.

During this Ringling Brothers side-show self-questioning session he told jurors in a rambling monotone that he was at Knott’s Berry Farm when Samsoe was kidnapped. He showed the jury a portion of his 1978 appearance on The Dating Game in an attempt to prove that the earrings found in his Seattle locker were his, not Samsoe’s, but any earrings he might have worn on the program were obscured by his dark, shoulder-length hair.

the-haunting-photography-of-a-serial-killer-body-image-1416313574He made no significant effort to dispute the four added charges. As part of his closing argument, he played the portion of the Arlo Guthrie song “Alice’s Restaurant” in which the protagonist tells a psychiatrist that he wants to “kill”. Seriously. After less than two days’ deliberation the jury convicted Alcala on all five counts of first-degree murder. A surprise witness during the penalty phase of the trial was Tali Shapiro, Alcala’s first known victim. She said she didn’t remember much because Alcala knocked her out with the metal bar across her neck. Shapiro vaguely recalled being taken to a hospital.

I sincerely regret and apologize for my despicable actions that day,” Alcala said during his trial.

Shapiro said it was the first time Alcala had apologized to her. When asked if the apology moved her in any way, Shapiro said, “Hell no….My brother told me years later they didn’t know whether I’d be an idiot or not….I have trust and commitment issues to this day.” She said Alcala’s apology meant little because it appeared to be self- serving. “He apologized because he got caught,” Shapiro said after testifying. Shapiro said she hoped Alcala would be sentenced to die. “The fact that this guy is still alive is amazing,” she said. One could argue the same about Shapiro.

Alcala has been incarcerated since his 1979 arrest for Samsoe’s murder. During the period between his second and third trial he wrote and self-published You, the Jury, in which he claimed innocence in the Samsoe case and suggested a different suspect. A reader commented, “it made absolutely no sense. It was just a lot of rambling. He’s not insane, it was just pure sexual deviancy and pleasure that drove him.” Alcala filed two lawsuits against the California penal system, for a slip-and-fall incident and for refusing to provide him a low-fat diet.

the-haunting-photography-of-a-serial-killer-body-image-1416314224In 2013 he received an additional sentence of 25 years to life after pleading guilty to two homicides in New York in 1971 and 1977. Judge Bonnie Wittner burst into tears as he as he handed down a sentence of 25 years to life. “This kind of case is something I’ve never experienced, hope to never again. I just want to say I hope these families find some peace and solace for these inexplicably brutal and horrific acts.” His true victim count remains unknown. A homicide investigator familiar with the evidence speculates that he could have murdered as many as 50 women, while, based on photographs and the occurrence of murders in his vicinity, other estimates have run as high as 130.

Another woman suspected to have become Alcala’s victim include 19-year-old Pamela Jean Lamb​son, from San Francisco. She disappeared in 1977 after telling friends she was meeting with a photographer. Police say they have no DNA evidence to go on, but witness descriptions convincingly match Alcala’s profile. Likewise police in Seattle are convinced he was behind the deaths of two te​enage girls in 1977 and 1978, but again without sufficient evidence for a conviction.

Alcala has lived on death row for 30 years. Until the California Supreme Court finally comes to its senses and allows the state to carry out the death sentence against Alcala, he  may very well live there for 30 more, no doubt enjoying his low-fat diet.



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Joanna Yeates and the Christmas Murder

 Tis’ the season for my readers to be morbidly jolly. Although Christmas is a time of giving and family, for some people it’s a time to die and horribly. Apparently evil doesn’t take a holiday. This tale won’t warm the hearth whilst you sip eggnog, but it’s an interesting read all the same. Enjoy.

The Disappearance
Joanna Yeates’ was an attractive, young blonde and a landscape architect. She was well-liked and successful. She was also doomed to die a grisly death during December 2010. yeatesYeates went missing from Bristol, England on December 17 after being out with friends and her body was found on December 25, 2010. The finding of Yeates’ body had been accomplished after weeks of pleads to the public for help, and rewards amounting  to £60,000 (about $120,000 American) for information that led to the arrest of a suspect. The murder inquiry, codenamed Operation Braid, was one of the largest police investigations ever undertaken in the Bristol area. The case dominated news coverage in the United Kingdom around the Christmas period. The Yeates’ family appealed to the public through social networking services and press conferences. Yeates’ father David commented on her disappearance: “I think she was abducted after getting home to her flat … I have no idea of the circumstances of the abduction because of what was left behind … I feel sure she would not have gone out by herself leaving all these things behind and she was taken away somewhere”. Her keys, phone, purse and coat were left behind at her flat.

On 25 December 2010, a fully clothed body was found in the snow by a couple walking their dogs along Longwood Lane near a golf course and next to the entrance of a quarry in Failand, approximately 3 miles from her home. The entire time the search was conducted, Yeates had been a stone’s throw from her apartment.The body was identified by police as that of Yeates. Reardon and the Yeates family visited the site of the discovery on 27 December 2010. David Yeates said that the family “had been told to prepare for the worst” and expressed relief that his daughter’s body had been recovered.

tabak_2039983cA post-mortem examination began on 26 December 2010, though results were delayed due to the frozen condition of the body. Police initially thought it possible that Yeates froze to death because her body showed no visible signs of injury. Investigators announced on 28 December 2010 that the case had become a murder inquiry as the pathologist who performed her autopsy determined that Yeates had died as a result of strangulation. The post-mortem indicated that she had died “… several days before being discovered” on 25 December 2010. The examination also confirmed that Yeates did not eat the pizza she had purchased. Detective Chief Inspector Jones stated that the investigation found “… no evidence to suggest that Joanna was sexually assaulted”.

Joanna_YeatesAfter killing Yeates, the kiler attempted to cast suspicion for the murder onto Jefferies after watching a news broadcast about the case while spending the New Year with relatives in the Netherlands. He contacted Avon and Somerset Police to tell them that Jefferies had been using his car on the night of 17 December, and a CID officer, DC Karen Thomas, was sent to Amsterdam to talk to him. They met at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on 31 December, where the killer elaborated on his story, but Thomas grew suspicious of his interest in the forensic work being carried out by the police and because what he said did not concur with a previous statement.

Nonetheless, the police initially suspected and arrested Christopher Jefferies, Yeates’ landlord, who lived in an apartment in the same building. He was arrested, held for 96 hours for questioning and eventually released without charge. He won an undisclosed sum in libel damages for defamatory news articles published following his arrest and received an apology from Avon and Somerset Police for any distress caused to him during the investigation. Well, I should say so. Although Jefferies himself wasn’t the killer he unknowingly rented an apartment to Yeates’ killer in his house. In fact the apartment was next door to Yeates.

The Culprit
Vincent Tabak, a 32-year-old Dutch engineer lived with his girlfriend. He was highly intelligent, a computer whiz and enrolled in a PhD program at a local university. Leaving university in 2007, he moved to the United Kingdom after taking a job with an engineering consultancy firm and settled in an apartment in the town. He worked as a “people flow analyst“, a role which required him to examine how people move around public spaces such as schools, airports and sports stadia. Wonderful research for a man who meticulously planned the abduction and murder of his victim.

However, his intellect was overshadowed by a sinister side. In the months leading up to Yeates’ death, Tabak used his computer to research escort agencies during business trips jo-yeates-image-1-634348167in the United Kingdom and United States, and contacted several prostitutes by phone. He also viewed violent internet pornography that depicted women being controlled by men, showing images of them being bound and gagged, held by the neck and choked. After the trial it was disclosed that images of child pornography had been found on Tabak’s laptop. In December 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that he would be prosecuted for possessing the material.

The Arrest
He was arrested on 20 January 2011. Lindsey Lennen, a body fluids and DNA specialist member of the team that analysed DNA samples from Yeates’ body, said that although DNA swabs matched Tabak, they were not of sufficient quality to be evaluated. The team deployed a method known as DNA SenCE, which enhances unusable DNA samples through purification and concentration: “We couldn’t say whether the DNA was from saliva, or semen, or even touch. But we could say that the probability of it not being a match with Tabak was less than one in a billion.”

Tabak initially maintained he was not responsible for Yeates’ death, claiming that DNA evidence linking him to the crime had been fabricated by corrupt officials. On 5 May 2011, Vincent Tabak pled guilty to the manslaughter of Yeates, but denied murdering her. His plea of guilty to manslaughter was rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service. However, on 8 February, he told Peter Brotherton, a prison chaplain, that he had killed her and intended to plead guilty. Later he recanted.

The Trial

©London News Pictures. 10/10/2011. Collect picture of Dutchman Vincent Tabak whose trial is underway at The Old Bailey. Tabak is charged with the murder of landscape architect Jo Yeates, who was found dead on Christmas Day, eight days after going missing from her home in the Clifton area of Bristol. Pictured here taking part in a 10km race in June 2010. Photo credit should read: London News Pictures

©London News Pictures. 10/10/2011. Collect picture of Dutchman Vincent Tabak whose trial is underway at The Old Bailey. Tabak is charged with the murder of landscape architect Jo Yeates, who was found dead on Christmas Day, eight days after going missing from her home in the Clifton area of Bristol. Pictured here taking part in a 10km race in June 2010. Photo credit should read: London News Pictures

The prosecutors stated that Tabak – around a foot (30 cm) taller than Yeates – had used his height and build to overpower her, pinning her to the floor by the wrists, and that she had suffered 43 separate injuries to her head, neck, torso and arms during the struggle. The injuries included cuts, bruises, and a fractured nose. The court learned that hher death would have been slow and painful. However, there was no  explanation for the reasoning behind Tabak’s initial attack on Yeates.

In his defence, Tabak claimed that the killing had not been sexually motivated, and told the court that he had killed Yeates while trying to silence her after she screamed when he tried to kiss her. He claimed that Yeates had made a “flirty comment” and invited him to drink with her. He said that after she screamed he held his hands over her mouth and around her neck to silence her He denied suggestions of a struggle, claiming to have held Yeates by the neck with only minimal force, and “… for about 20 seconds“. He told the court that after dumping the body he was “… in a state of panic.”

The Verdict
The jury was sent out to deliberate on 26 October, and returned with a verdict two days later. On 28 October 2011, Tabak was found guilty of Joanna Yeates’ murder by a 10 to 2 majority verdict. He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 20 years. Mr Justice Field referred to a “sexual element” to the killing. Other that than there was no comprehensive reason why Tabak brutally killed the innocent, young woman. For the Yeates family Christmas will never be the same.


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An American Tragedy Inspired by An American Murder

Grace Mae Brown’s 1906 murder was memorialized in Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, which provided the basis for the 1951 film A Place in the Sun Grace_brown_photostarring Elizabeth Taylor.  Two non-fiction works were penned about Brown’s murder  Adirondack Tragedy: The Gillette Murder Case of 1906 by Joseph Brownell and Murder in the Adirondacks: An American Tragedy Revisited, by Craig Brandon. Her killer, Chester Gillette, was the nephew of the man who owned the factory where Brown worked. He was also her boyfriend, and the father of her unborn child, though he wasn’t planning on staying in either of those roles any longer than necessary. Brown, of course, had no idea of his sinister plans.

Grace Brown
Brown lived during the late Victorian Era, her life extending from 1886 – 1906.  Brown was a skirt factory worker and the daughter of a farmer. She had the nickname of Billy because she loved the song Won’t You Come Here Billy Bailey.  In 1904, she moved to nearby Cortland to live with a married sister, and went to work at the Gillette Skirt Company. In two years, she would meet the man of her dreams and have her life cut short in a brutal murder that shocked the nation for years to come.

Brown was considered to be a respectable, innocent person. However some stated that Brown had gone to Cortland with the idea of finding a suitable husband and that after she met Gillette she vowed to get him “one way or another.” So it is not beyond possibility that she viewed her pregnancy as a way to trap Chester into marrying her, but certainly no one at the time came right out and said that. And it was by no means a reason to kill the woman.

Chester Gillette
The thing most people find so startling about Gillette was that he came from an extremely religious family. He was born in the Montana wilderness in 1883 and moved to Spokane, Washington as a child with his father, grandfather and uncles. The family owned a hotel, a restaurant and a carting company. Gillette’s parents gave up all their worldly goods when they joined the Salvation Army and the family traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest setting up missions. In a fitting irony, Gillette went with his mother to prisons to speak with convicted murderers.

From an early age, Gillette resisted this life and was sent off to boarding schools. He become a printer’s apprentice in San Francisco, but never broke contact with the family, eventually joining them at their mission in Hilo, Hawaii in the early years of the century. The man who arrived in Cortland in 1905, therefore, had a very strange background. He had come from a rich family, then became poor in the Salvation Army. He had a strange concept of right and wrong and seemed to think that anything was okay as long as he did not get caught. He was very connected to his strong mother and less so to his sickly father. In spite of his religious upbringing, Gillette seemed devoid of a conscience.

Gillette and Brown
After Brown began working in the skirt factory, she and Gillette met, and Gillette became somewhat smitten with Brown. Somewhat, They only dated a few times but eventually the two began a romantic relationship. However, they did most of their courting in secret. By and by, they become lovers which, considering the rigid moral standards of the Victorian Age, was remarkably courageous of Brown. However Gillette was very persuasive and convinced her that if she loved him and wished their relationship to move forward, she would give him sex, which she did.

In the spring of 1906, Brown realized she was pregnant. Frightened, she returned to her parents in South Otselic. Brown wrote to Gillette several times after she returned to her family, pleading with him to do the right thing and marry her. Poor Brown lived with the shameful angst of a single, unwed mother during a time when strict morality was the order of the day. Young, unwed mothers were often sent away to have their children and were forced to give them up for adoption. Others weren’t permitted to return home for shaming the family name. In one letter Brown even threatened suicide if he didn’t marry her. In response, Gillette promised to make an honest woman of Brown and he asked her hand in marriage before her parents discovered the pregnancy. Naturally, Brown accepted.

Chester1In her final letter, written July 5, Brown mentioned her impending Adirondack trip with Gillette, and she said farewell to her childhood home of South Otselic, wishing she could confess her pregnancy to her mother. Her comments were a creepy foreshadowing of her fate: “I know I shall never see any of them again. And mamma! Great heavens, how I do love Mamma! I don’t know what I shall do without her (…) Sometimes I think if I could tell mamma, but I can’t. She has trouble enough as it is, and I couldn’t break her heart like that. If I come back dead, perhaps if she does not know, she won’t be angry with me.”

Lonely and uncertain, Brown packed her entire wardrobe for the trip. When Gillette arrived to pick her up she was surprised to discover he had packed just a small suitcase. Little did Brown know Gillette planned to bring her to a home for unwed mothers and not to a secluded wedding chapel. Gillette met Brown in DeRuyter, New York on July 9, 1906 and they began a trip together. They spent the first night in Utica and then took the train to Tupper Lake, where they stayed at the Alta Cliff Cottages. On the morning of July 11, Gillette and Brown took the train back south and got off at Big Moose Lake, where they rented a boat together and spent the entire afternoon out on the water. Brown left her trunk in the train station and her hat in the hotel, but Gillette took everything he had with him in the boat.

RacketSometime around 6 p.m. Grace ended up at the bottom of the lake. She told Gillette in one of her letters that she could not swim. Gillette, taking his suitcase, camera and tripod, ran off into the woods and found a trail to the south. Later that night he arrived at the Arrowhead Hotel in Inlet and stayed there until his arrest three days later. Gillette’s argument was that Brown committed suicide by jumping out of the boat. He stated that she simply “jumped out of the boat.” The prosecution argued that Gillette killed her first by knocking her unconscious with a racket he brought on the boat with him, then by throwing Brown overboard to drown.

Forensic medicine was still in its infancy in 1906, but there is no doubt that a professional autopsy would have answered questions about the case. Unfortunately the autopsy was botched. Isaac Coffin, the inexperienced Herkimer County coroner, released Brown’s body to the undertakers before an autopsy was conducted. By the time the autopsy was conducted the body had already been embalmed, destroying all the evidence. While District Attorney George Ward attempted to use the autopsy results to show that Brown had been struck a fatal blow, the doctors admitted on cross-examination that she could have drowned and that the blow they found on her head could have been made when the body was recovered from the lake. It was determined that Brown was indeed pregnant with a 4 month old fetus, possibly a girl.

The Arrest
Brown%20FarmIt was plausible that Gillette could have gone on the lam and never been caught, however his  motives were often difficult to understand. It appeared Gillette thought no one would tie him to Brown’s death and that the police would be looking for “Carl Grahm of Albany,” the name he used in the register of the Glenmore Hotel just before Brown went on her last boat trip. However, he made a number of mistakes along the way.

When District Attorney George Ward called Cortland to inquire about Grace Brown, he asked about Carl Grahm, the last alias Gillette used. While he was told there was no one there by that name, he was also told that Brown’s boyfriend had the same initials and that he had gone on vacation in the Adirondacks.  When Ward was on his way up to Big Moose Lake, he was met in Remsen by a railroad clerk, who had read the name Gillette in the newspaper and found a package of laundry addressed for Gillette at Old Forge. When Ward got to Old Forge he found a message from Gillette asking that his laundry be sent to the Arrowhead Hotel in Inlet, where he was staying. Ward had an easy trail to follow. Gillette was surprised when Ward found him and he was arrested.

Gillette Defense
an-american-tragedyBesides, Noah H. Gillette, Gillette’s uncle and the owner of the factory in which he and Brown worked, Gillette had an even richer relative: Lucien C. Warner, the millionaire owner of the Warner Brothers Corset Co. Warner was married to Gillette’s grandmother’s sister. None of them came to Gillette’s assistance. They didn’t provide him with a high-priced lawyer to argue his case. Neither of them explained why they abandoned Gillette however the public believed Gillette’s relatives abandoned him because they were convinced of his guilt. This helped to sway the jury’s decision further against the defendant.

Gillette’s Women
The idea that Gillette killed Brown so he would be free to marry another woman was an invention of the press. Gillette had many girlfriends in Cortland, as was made clear at the trial. One of them, Harriet Benedict, was singled out by the press because of a number of circumstances. She had been out with Gillette at Little York Lake, a resort north of Cortland, a week before the murder. When Gillette was arrested, photos of her and photos of Gillette taken by her were in his camera. This led to all of the speculation. As was made clear at the trial, however, the two were no more than casual acquaintances. She did not visit Gillette in his cell, nor did she send him any letters. That made no difference. Due to the negative publicity, the damage to her reputation was already done.

Journal2The newspapers made up the idea that Gillette had killed “Miss Poor” so he could marry “Miss Rich,” the lawyer’s daughter from Cortland. Benedict testified briefly at the trial. The idea that Benedict was the “other woman” in the Gillette case hounded her for the rest of her life. Eventually she escaped public scrutiny when she married Gillette’s lawyer Levi Chase.

The Trial
Prosecutor George Ward was a candidate for county judge at the time. All the publicity about the case caused the public to see him as a champion of justice. Many of the facts about the case were leaked to the press for this reason. He also told friends and reporters that he was deeply moved by reading Grace Brown’s letters. However Ward did an excellent job of gathering the circumstantial evidence that convicted Chester Gillette. His work was cited in law books for many years after the case was completed.

One of the oddities about the murder was Gillette’ motive for killing his girlfriend and unborn child. 3b290cd7e8eb3eb547f4ebe428788d40Perhaps he feared his uncle would fire him when he discovered Gillette had gotten a single lady pregnant, and his chances of becoming promoted and earning an affluent salary would come to an end. Perhaps he simply didn’t love Brown and didn’t want to be a married man. We’ll never know for certain why Gillette threw his pregnant girlfriend overboard then  went on about his business as though nothing untoward had happened.

Ultimately the jury found Chester Gillette guilty of the murder of Grace Mae Brown, a decision I believe was entirely correct. Gillette’s insistence that Brown simply jumped out of the boat to a watery grave made no sense. He was with her and he told the court he’d promised to marry her so her alleged suicide was totally irrational. On March 30, 1908, two years after Brown’s murder, Gillette was put to death in the electric chair. A fitting end for a strange, conscienceless killer.




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Mental Illness and Religious Fanaticism were a Lethal Combination

Murder-suicide has an element of ownership to it. Sometimes, as in this sad case, a murderer believes she is saving her family from the “evils of the world” by killing her 1412169678368_Image_galleryImage_Relatives_of_five_Utah_fachildren and spouse. Others murder-suicides result after years of anger and domestic violence, usually by the father who, after falling victim to suicidal impulses, is determined to take his family with him. Abusive parents don’t see their children as individuals. Rather, their offspring are mere extensions of themselves. In this case, it was the mother of the household who developed both a religious fanaticism and an obsession with a murderer, and it led to a terrible end.

Springville Utah – 2014. Kristi and Benjamin Strack  were church-going Mormons who took the bible and its prophecies of an apocalyptic nature very literally.  When Kristi was 6 years old, violence entered her life for the first time. Thirty years earlier, Dan Lafferty and his brother Ronald Watson Lafferty, two men in her community, grew their hair long, called themselves prophets and claimed God told them to kill their sister-in-law, Brenda Lafferty and her baby Erica, after she resisted her husband Allen‘s entry into a radical polygamous group.

Even at that age, police said Kristy developed an obsession with the case that turned into a close years-long friendship with the man, who saw himself as the prophet Elijah and the world as hell. He is serving a life sentence in prison for a double murder he believes was directed by God. Unfortunately, Kristi found the right man for her in Benjamin Strack. Benjamin was as gullible as his mentally disturbed wife. Benjamin grew increasingly bizarre, culminating with a belief that the apocalypse was near and, along with his wife, he believed a murder-suicide was necessary to save his family from the Lord’s wrath on earth.

Dan Lafferty
The man who served as Kristi’s idol was born into a large family, to parents Wayne and Claudine Lafferty. Wayne was a strict, religious man who was admired for his

FILE - In this June 30, 2003, file photo, Dan Lafferty poses for a photograph, at Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. A Utah couple who overdosed on drugs along with their three children was obsessed with Lafferty, a murderer who sees himself as a prophet. Kristi and Benjamin Strack visited Lafferty for years before their visiting privileges were cut off, developing a close friendship as part of an increasingly bizarre mindset that culminated with a belief that the apocalypse was near. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File)

FILE – In this June 30, 2003, file photo, Dan Lafferty poses for a photograph, at Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. A Utah couple who overdosed on drugs along with their three children was obsessed with Lafferty, a murderer who sees himself as a prophet. Kristi and Benjamin Strack visited Lafferty for years before their visiting privileges were cut off, developing a close friendship as part of an increasingly bizarre mindset that culminated with a belief that the apocalypse was near. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File)

industriousness. By the time Ronald murdered the little family, he had been excommunicated from his church. No surprise there. Allen Lafferty had nothing to do with the murder of his wife and baby girl. Ronald and Dan orchestrated and executed the entire plan against his knowledge. Ronald’s own marriage had collapsed the year before the marriage and his wife Diana took the couple’s six children with her out of the state. Probably just as well. After his arrest Ron managed to hang himself in his cell, although doctors were able to resuscitate him. For a man who believed he was a messenger of God, he certainly was weak after his arrest. Dan claimed Ron’s miraculous recovery was due to divine intervention.

After being found guilty of all charges, Dan valiantly assured jurors that if they felt it appropriate to give him the death sentence because “I didn’t want them to worry or feel guilty about giving me the death sentence, if that’s what they thought I deserved. I was willing to take a life for God so it seemed to me that I should also be willing to give my life for God.” Dan’s bizarre rationalization seemed civilized in court but the murders must have been bloody and brutal. Had the jury been able to witness Dan the night he helped kill Brenda and her baby Erica, I’m certain they wouldn’t have needed to hear his self-indulgent soliloquy.

Dan’s life was spared when a woman who refused to send him to death row appeared to be manipulated by his flirtatious glances and “psycho-sexual seduction.” So much for his pure intent. Dan however was disappointed when he wasn’t given the death sentence. The judge offered no pretense for his dislike for the Lafferty brothers. Addressing Dan he stated, “I have never presided over a trial of such a cruel, heinous, pointless and senseless a crime as the murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty. Nor have I ever seen an accused who had so little remorse or feeling.”

Kristi’s Obsession
Only Kristi Strack herself could possibly have known why she developed an obsession with the psychopathological Dan. Kristi reached out to Lafferty’s daughter after she had a dream about him. Eventually Lafferty, Kristi and Benjamin became close friends. About Lafferty it was claimed, “He’s very fond of them. He wanted his remains to go to them.”

Lafferty communicated with Kristi Strack like she was one of his children. When she suffered a bout with ovarian cancer, she believed Lafferty could cure it. Lafferty said they fell in love and he cut off his waist-length hair and beard and sent them to Kristi. But we can’t trust anything Lafferty says can we? He claimed he didn’t know anything about their plans or their mind-set. By the time Kristi and Benjamin committed the murder-suicide Lafferty stated  he hadn’t talked to the couple in years, and he didn’t generally talk about the end of the world with the Stracks.

251440dClose, frequent communication with prisoners doesn’t generally raise the concerns of Utah prison officials but that changed after Kristi Strack tried to pass her brother off as her husband so he could come on a prison visit. Authorities revoked her visiting privileges, and Lafferty’s contact with the couple ended. Over time Benjamin and Kristi began homeschooling their children. Strangely, in spite of their religious devotion, the couple had a dysfunctional history with the law: they had pled guilty to misdemeanor forgery charges in 2008 and disorderly conduct in 2009, part of a minor criminal history that spanned about 12 years.

The couple also had gone through court-ordered drug treatment, but Elizabeth Sollis, a spokeswoman for Utah child welfare services, claimed this wasn’t necessarily a reason for state workers to intervene in a family. Kristi was being prescribed methadone for opiate addiction at the time of her death. It was methadone that she used to overdose her children, herself and her husband. Children’s Services weren’t involved with the Strack family.

1411964193696_wps_5_Springville_Police_investThe Murder-Suicide
The children, Benson, 14, Emery, 12, and Zion, 11, were sheltered. There was no evidence the family attended any churches, and when some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reached out to them, they politely refused. In the weeks approaching the murder-suicide they often talked with family and friends about wanting to escape what they saw as a growing evil in the world. However this was interpreted to mean they might move to a remote area.

dynamic_resizeMany in the community believed that Kristi and Benjamin Strack suffered from mental illness, as evidenced in their drug addictions. Kristi had overdosed her children by having them drink a cup of red liquid laced with her methadone. The entire family was found lying side by side in Kristi and Benjamin’s King-size bed. The children entered the world as a family, and left it the same way.

Jon Krakauer penned the murders of Brenda and Erica Lafferty in a biography entitled Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith.



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Faint-hearted Farice King Triumphed as Queen of the Lovelorn

The roaring twenties must have been a great time for people who could afford it. Women wore the “flapper” look – flat-chested, bone-rack thin wearing shapeless dresses and all flapperssorts of bling. The idea of course was to be as unbound as the Victorian Era had been a corset-cinching prison. And, gasp, of all things, women now smoked cigarettes – in public.  Moonshine, Prohibition, dance-craze, newspapers seeking sensational headlines, King Kong’s first appearance in a silent film in 1922, love nests with cocaine-snorting jazz musicians, and the new era of the Italian Mafia were incredible happenings in America, including in Denver, Colorado, a city that was on the rise in terms of socioeconomic status. In 1928 Denver also became a media circus for a famous love scam involving a duped nurse and a rotten-heeled lothario, who took a perverse delight in leading on the young lady simply for the reason that it fanned the narcissistic flames of his ego. Read on for a good tale and, incredibly, a true one.

Cupid’s Arrow
Once upon a time, way back before 21st century technology, the typical way people met was through family, friends, chaperones, dates, dance halls, ad sometimes love ads in newspapers. Many love scams were run there, often as a ploy for money or whatever weird reason the author of such ads might fancy. The same is true now except we have the internet and things like dating sites to ruin our lives in our ongoing quest for love.

In 1916 Farice King had a twin sister named Clarice. Clarice was a sensible young woman who had been lucky in love, married a good man and raised children. Farice on the other hand must have been a born loser where Cupid’s arrow was concerned. She married briefly to a doctor and after getting pregnant, was abandoned – about 12 days into the marriage. Her baby girl only lived or 5 months then she suddenly died. Depressed over her little girl’s death, Farice returned home, vulnerable and lonely, a perfect target for a lothario.

King talked about her first meeting with Bob Evans, the cad in this true tale, in 1916. He was a blind date, an unfortunate last-minute replacement for someone else. He walked into the room tall, broad-shouldered with keen, dark eyes, and  just like that, she was  in love. King described meeting Evans;  “He looked at me and I looked at him and all the rest of the world just melted away for us.” Oh. One of those types of forlorn love stories.

©_The_Burns_Archive_Deadly_Inent_1Evans was still married to Cecily Lewis at the time. King didn’t know anything about that, and by the time she found out, it didn’t seem to matter. They went out a few times, and then Evans told her he loved her and wanted to marry her. She told him about her previous marriage and the dead baby. He greatly sympathized, told her they would have a child of their own and he would put his name on the dead girl’s tombstone so that the child would have a “father” at last. First, though, there was this little matter of the war in Europe and his plans to enlist in the Navy, but as soon as the war ended, he’d be back to make an honest woman of her.

She didn’t worry. Not even when, shortly before he left for his naval training, Evans demanded sex from her.  It wasn’t something she liked to admit. She once insisted that she and Evans had shared a “chaste love.” But in reality she gave herself to Evans in the spring of 1917. Because he asked. Because they belonged to each other. In the months that followed, letters from Evans bearing a San Francisco postmark arrived frequently. King didn’t seem to notice where the letters came from.

“Whenever I see a little baby I always think of you,” he wrote. “How I wish for your sake that your (our) little girl was alive. It would be such company for you while daddy is away…. You, dear, I love above anything on this earth, and if I can’t get you, I don’t want anybody.” He called her Darling Farice and My Dear, Dear Sweetheart. He signed himself Your Big Boy Bob. “I want you all the time, morning, noon and night, but the evenings when I am not working is when I miss my baby…. How I long for you, day after day. I don’t believe, come what may, I could ever stop loving you.”

King’s dead daughter was a favorite topic. In a morbid manner, Evans couldn’t stay away from the subject, referring to the baby as if it had been his own, binding his lover’s loss closely to him: “Listen, dear, do not forget to go to our little one’s grave before winter sets in. Will you, dear, and let me know how it looks? We will have it fixed up nice next summer, won’t we, dear? I can’t imagine how you felt the night that you left me at the depot…. I never want to leave you again that way. I will never leave you for a single day and night…. I want to make you so happy for the rest of your days. I send you my life’s love.”

The Con Begins
_45441499_thelink466Eventually, King learned that he hadn’t enlisted in the Navy at all. He came back to Denver to do that, giving her some story about having been rejected the first time around. But he pledged his undying love before heading off to the naval station at San Diego. The next day, King received an anonymous letter telling her that she was a fool, that Evans was married and that his wife had taken the train with him to California. King couldn’t believe it. She wrote to Evans, who assured her that the letter was a vicious lie. He begged her to come to San Diego. She went but he didn’t meet her at the station. She called him at the training station then he had the nerve to go to her hotel the next day and take her to the beach. Incredibly, King allowed herself to be wooed, wanting to believe that everything he told her was true even when he caught him in lie after lie. The day after that, she waited in her hotel again, but he didn’t show.

prohibitionUndaunted, King sought him out on the docks. She caught him unawares, clutching a letter he was about to mail, addressed to another woman in Denver. He took her back to her hotel and offered various excuses why she couldn’t walk him back to his ship. He said he was going to stop by the YMCA. She said farewell, then had enough sense this time to follow him at a distance. He walked past the YMCA and into another hotel. She discovered that Evans was registered at the hotel. So was a Mrs. Evans. Devastated, King went home and tried to bury herself in work. She was fortunate to have a nursing job. King was independent and sorrier, but wiser. However the cad Evans wouldn’t leave her alone. He showed up at her house one day to pick up a trunk he’d left there, acting as if nothing had happened. He told her he was getting a divorce.

“He took me in his arms and said he loved me more than ever,” she recalled, “and we began all over again. He said when we married, we’d have a real home with a little one in it to make us happy.” Evans became a frequent visitor at the King house, especially at the dinner hour. Farice’s family didn’t like him much, but she hotly defended him against even the mildest criticism. She did his laundry. She turned one of his old shirts into an apron. She kept his picture under her pillow, clipped his name out of the phone book and plastered it in a scrapbook. She even saved a toothpick he used. Ick.

The wedding was repeatedly postponed and Evans always had reasons. First it was waiting out the divorce from Cecily. Then it was the need to save money. The reasons kept coming, and the months turned into years. Still, King played the woebegone unrequited lover and kept waiting, turning down other suitors in the process. She usually stayed home instead of enjoying raucous nightclubs and glittering parties. In 1922, Evans belatedly tried to extricate himself from the situation, penning a Dear Jane letter:

There is no use for this to continue longer. Not that I think any less of you, Farice…. The fact is, I have made up my mind that I am better off as I am and will never marry again…. I would like to call just as a friend of the family, if I can be considered such. But I do not wish to cause you to have any false hopes.” For a few weeks, Evans continued to call, and King continued to hold out hope. From her diary of August 10, 1922: “Your visit was wonderful, dear, and I’m happy tonight. I think the door opened just a little. You seemed your old self again.” Really when would this no longer roaring flapper get a clue?

Page500_231_4August 1923: “It has been one long year since that wonderful night you came back to me. You held me in your arms again. Now you are away.”

One day King attempted to phone him and found out that he’d moved to north Denver. She checked the city directory and discovered that there was a woman living at that address, too: Mrs. Lillian Evans. The man who’d told her he would never marry again had changed his mind, settling on a bride he’d been courting for five years. She finally realized was worse than a fool, she was something to be used and thrown away. Frantic for an explanation, she went to see Evans at the garage where he worked. He pleaded with her not to be angry and told her that he was forced to marry Lillian, that there was a baby on the way. But after it was born, he would leave her and marry Farice after all.

Of course there was no baby. But the letters and clandestine meetings started up again, and for a little while it was possible to pretend that there might be a future for them. Evans told her how miserable he was in his marriage and that Lillian felt the same way, judging from her 1924 divorce complaint. King giddily reported the admission in her diary: “My dearest, I did today. I went to you and asked you. You told me it was true, and said you were very unhappy. I am so glad you are.” Now if that isn’t a weird entry, what is?

The Diary
Then the letters and the meetings stopped, and King had to struggle to maintain some faint hope of deliverance against an overwhelming wave of despair. She began writing in earnest in her diary.

June 1, 1924: “I will always love you. The man you used to be. But if it’s true I am your bitterest enemy — the man you are.”
June 13: “You have always been honest, fair and square with men and in business. Why haven’t you been with me?”
June 14: “Dear you, I hope some day you will be hurt just as you have hurt me…. I want you to be deeply, deeply hurt.”
July 1: “Dear, I love you anyway, tho you haven’t been fair. I will always love you. You can’t keep me from it. You belong to me and I can never give you up.”
On July 13 she sent him a birthday card and wondered if it would wind up in the wastebasket: “Every year on this day I wish the same wish, that the door will open before this day the next year.”

farice_king_150x100More months, then years passed, and it began to sink in that Evans was never, ever going to marry her. Who knew why this man led her on then let her down? Most of her youth had passed her by. Her prettiness had faded and in its place was a dour-faced, aging woman. The 1920s were roaring by without her. In spite of this, in 1927 she went to Texas with a private patient and returned engaged to a Dallas man, James Daniels. But her fiancé didn’t seem to mean anything to her. She threw Daniels’s letters in the trash and wept over the old letters from Evans. She wrote poems about death and discarded flowers: “Love to the heart is like dewdrops to violets/Left on the dust-ridden roadside to die.”

A Shooting
One night, shortly before midnight, a car pulled up outside a boardinghouse on Curtis Street, a well-known “party house” in the heart of the city’s black district. The white driver headed into the house with a gallon of moonshine whiskey. Two police officers named Ohle and Bob Evans crashed the party. They nabbed the jug of booze and the delivery man, John Morrissey, and ordered a dozen black men and women to line up against a wall. Ohle found another man sitting by himself in a dark bedroom and sent him to join the others. Something about the scene didn’t seem right. Ohle knelt down to shine a flashlight under the bed. “Think I’m a damn fool?” he snapped. “Come out!”

The man under the bed opened fire. Ohle dropped dead to the floor, shot in the head and shoulder. Louvenia Reese, the owner of the house, was hit in the chest as she stood in the doorway. The slug went through her and caught Evans in the right arm, spinning him around. He jumped out of the way of a fourth shot and retreated. Evans had trouble unlocking the front door with his left hand. Sweating like a hodman, he ran into the crisp November night, found a phone and called for backup. Carloads of cops roared into Curtis Park and Five Points, but the gunman had fled the area. Police chief R.F. Reed and Bert Clark, the captain of detectives, were prowling Lawrence Street in search of a snitch when they were flagged down by a black man named Henry Hill.

End of a Saga
Evans’s wound wasn’t that serious; he was expected to be back on the job in a few days. He’d been a patrolman for almost three years, and now he was a sure bet to make detective when his four-year stint was up. The next day’s papers hailed him as a hero. He was taken to Denver General Hospital, where he was delivered into the loving care of a special night nurse. She was a woman he knew well but hadn’t seen for more than a year. Her name was Farice King, and she was a much better shot than Eddie Ives.  He greeted her with open arms. “Farice,” he said. “Where have you been? I’ve been thinking of you.”

4323492It was all too much for the long-suffering King. The following night King returned to Evans’ ward and shot him twice at close range while he slept. Then she shot herself in the breast and collapsed on the bed next to his. Evans died instantly. Although badly wounded, King was still alive. The bullet glanced off a rib and missed her heart. DG staffers rushed her into surgery. The strange saga of the nurse and the beat cop was over.

Bob Evans
The police were mortified. Two officers gunned down within a week, first by this Ives character, and now a deranged nurse. It didn’t help that the crazy woman had left behind a note that seemed to promise further scandal to come. “Dearest Bob, you belong to me and I cannot go on any longer — living without you. And you shall not go on. I have waited over 5 years for this chance, and it came. I hope no one else will ever know the real cause for this. Only you and I. Farice.”

A second note was addressed to King’s brother Floy, a mortician. In it, she asked to be buried near Evans and apologized “for the grief and sorrow this brings to all of you.”

The notes were only the beginning. At the house on Garfield Street that King shared with her twin sister’s family, detectives found a tidy collection of newspaper clippings, mementos of every arrest by Patrolman Evans that had ever made the papers. They also found more than 200 letters from Evans to King, many of them dating back to the Great War, as well as King’s diary, which presented a record of betrayal and obsession playing out over more than a decade. The press began prowling around. One platoon of reporters descended on Evans’s distraught widow, Lillian, who’d been married to the man for five years. King was obviously insane, she said. She’d come across this madwoman on the street, mumbling strangely to herself. Once, King sat across from her on a streetcar and glared at her. Her husband had told her that the woman wasn’t right in the head. A second horde cornered King’s twin, Clarice Hanson. She told them that if her sister was crazy, then it was Bob Evans who’d made her that way. He’d used Farice abominably, she said. Promised marriage, loved her and discarded her. What woman wouldn’t go mad if she loved a man like Evans?

figure4-5The press soon found Cecily Lewis and discovered that Evans had married Lewis in 1914, which made him a bigamist, since he’d never bothered to divorce Emma. The second marriage fell apart sometime in 1917, after Evans told his wife that he “loved someone else and was going to have a good time.”  (This someone else may have been Farice). On another occasion, he told her he was going to a “house of ill repute” and she could go with him or do as she pleased, he didn’t give a damn. The divorce became final in 1920.

The third wife, Lillian Evans, had sought a divorce, too, less than a year after her 1923 wedding, claiming to be the victim of “extreme and repeated acts of cruelty.” But she’d withdrawn the complaint.

The press was also struck by how much older King looked than her twin sister or even her own photographs. She looked much older than a woman in her late thirties should look. The ordeal of her near-suicide and imprisonment, during which she’d frequently been overheard calling out for her own death, had left her gaunt and hollow-cheeked. Her physical appearance became a constant theme of some stories and King was once described as having been “battered to a mere skeleton of a woman by regret and despair…everything carnal seems to have been burned away in the fire of suffering.”

The Trial
The flappers lined up early in the morning for seats in the west-side courthouse. There was no standing room permitted, and many were turned away. But battles over evidence and the defendant’s own hysterics frequently interrupted the week-long trial, clearing the courtroom and giving latecomers a shot (pun) at the action. People expected to see the vengeful gaze of the Woman Scorned and were disappointed. King sat slumped in a heap of fur at the defense table. The heap moaned and sobbed whenever her baby or Bob Evans was mentioned, and even, on occasion, swooned.

King’s lawyer, Mowry, had a dramatic flair in the courtroom. He insisted that King was clearly not guilty by reason of insanity; she was suffering from a form of madness known as melancholia or “love mania.” Her “balance wheel was knocked out of gear by shock after shock,” he explained, starting with the collapse of her marriage and the death of her baby. Evans had seduced her and deceived her until she snapped. Mowry took days to make the case for love mania and the balance wheel. King’s brothers, her sister and her mother testified about Farice’s brooding depression, her pathetic faith that Evans would return to her, her obsession with “souvenirs” of her lover ranging from used toothpicks to dirty laundry. Dirty laundry and then some. One family friend talked of finding her in bed with the body of her recently deceased brother Ray, raging at a God that would take Ray instead of her. (The incident occurred in 1915, which suggests that King’s balance wheel was already wobbly before she met Evans.)

Called to the witness stand, King leaned on Mowry’s arm, moved sobbing and shaking toward the chair, then abruptly threw herself on a pile of bloodstained clothing on the floor. The clothes were the pajamas Evans was wearing when she shot him, forgotten after Mowry had removed them from a laundry bag in order for an earlier witness to identify them. King hugged the clothes, shrieking, “Oh, Bob, my Bob!” She refused to give them up, even as Mowry and then two patrolmen struggled to haul her to her feet.

heroThe Verdict
Mowry called for a recess and hustled her out of the courtroom. She raved incoherently. Mowry told the judge his client wouldn’t be testifying after all. Without any instructions the jury retired and took just a few hours to make up their minds. They were back in court Sunday afternoon to return a verdict of guilty, a verdict that carried a sentence of life in prison. The press asked King if she thought a jury of women would have freed her. King readily agreed. “Men juries free pretty, pathetic-looking girls, with plump cheeks and red lips. What they have given me is worse than death. Death is what I wanted.”

Farice King was the first woman in Colorado to receive a life sentence for killing her lover. Some people thought that was a sign of progress, of growing equality for women: “If they can vote, they can hang,” the reasoning went. That’s a helluva way to demonstrate equality. But popular sentiment was on King’s side. Her crime was seen as a female response to an impossible heel of a man, and women’s clubs rallied to her defense. One hundred thousand people signed a petition circulated by a nurse seeking a new trial for her, a record-breaking figure for the state. The male judges turned her down. However after some years the new District Attorney Wettengel joined the cause. he figured that King had already served enough time for what should have been a manslaughter conviction in the first place. In 1933, Johnson commuted King’s sentence to twenty years. The following year, he granted her a furlough to visit her dying, 81-year-old mother. She was still out when Johnson announced her parole. King had served five years for the murder of Bob Evans.

black_tuesday_journal28And with that, King buried her mother and disappeared. She never talked to a reporter again and she vanished like yesterday’s news, which was precisely what she became. It was the end of an era in America: the 1920s gave way to the stock market crash and Great Depression of the 1930s. Attorney Mowry became a dairy farmer, working a bucolic pasture that later became a congested strip mall; he died in 1965. Clarice Hanson, Farice’s twin sister, died in 1975. Evans’s widow, Lillian, outlived him by more than fifty years before finally expiring in Texas in 1981. Think of the changing historical American eras they lived to see. It must have been both wonderful and bewildering although it’s doubtful any societal occurrence affected most of them as much as the love affair of Farice King and Bob Evans.

No obituary for Farice King ever appeared in any Denver daily. Her closest local relative, a 76-year-old nephew living in Lakewood, said he had only the barest childhood memories of his aunt. He lost touch with her long ago and didn’t know what became of her. What little was known about her fate can be found in seven sentences in the September 4, 1969, edition of the Bates County Democrat, published in Butler, Missouri. The item dealt with the passing of Mrs. Earl C. McBurney, 79, a former nurse. It would seem Farice found a man who was able to see past her “unbalanced wheel” and marry her. Mrs. McBurney was “a former resident of the Amsterdam community” before moving to Butler. Her husband died four years later. There were no children, nobody to correct the cemetery records, which identified her as Francie, not Farice. There was no one to tell the good folks of Butler about the multiple tragedies in her life before she married Earl and returned to Missouri. Probably just as well.



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