Darling Danny Died a Disastrous Death

This one had a surprise ending for me so I figured it might for you.

1990 – USACharlotte Campeller dropped off 18-month old Danny to his usual babysitter, Hillary Turner, then she headed to work, unaware she would never see her son alive again. A few hours later, police and paramedics arrived at the babysitter’s residence. Turner claimed she found the infant unconscious and not breathing in his playpen. She simply found the infant unconscious and had no idea how he died. Now that doesn’t sound at all right does it? The ER doctor didn’t think so. He found trauma marks, including bruises, on the child’s head and neck. The ER doc believed he was looking at a strangulation. Most definitely the marks suggest asphyxiation, including petechial of the skin on the infant’s face, meaning tiny broken capilleries were clearly visible. These are also tiny hemorrhages. Nasty. Turner was picked up on suspicion of murder but no formal Dead_Baby_Dollie_picture_2_by_triciakittycharges could be made. The pathologist first had to officially declare the death to be a murder. While strangling a person, blood continues to pump from the heart into the face and head, but the strangulation prevents it from being pumped out again, rather like overfilling a balloon, hence the petechial marks. Is it possible to accidentally strangle oneself to death? Yes it is, but this situation didn’t reflect it. Three examples of this odd phenomenon:

  1. Infants and toddlers have been strangled by a necklace when placed in a bassinet or a crib.
  2. Older children have been known to accidentally strangle while wearing a garment such as a hoodie, with a string that emerges from the neck.
  3. Children old enough to play outdoors in the winter have accidentally hanged themselves by their scarves from fences.

Pleasant thoughts, aren’t they? Anyway. Campeller hadn’t been wearing a necklace or a hoodie. He had nothing around his neck that would suggest viable, accidental strangulation. Turner was the only adult with access to the little boy. Simply finding a dead, strangled infant in his playpen made no sense. In fact, strangulation isn’t necessary to kill infants. Most killers smother them. Wonderful.

800px-Sad_WomanArmed with this grim knowledge, police asked Turner to re-enact the scene. I have no idea how she went about it. Personally I would have been an emotional mess and might not have been able to finish the bizarre role-play. However, a doll was substituted for little Campeller, and it was placed inside the playpen. Turner insisted Campeller often managed to climb out of his playpen. In order to prevent Campeller from escaping, Turner placed a metal frame rather like a gate, over the top of the playpen to keep the baby inside.

She stated that mid-morning, she placed a tub filled with toys slightly above the playpen, on a table. For whatever reason, there were only a few toys in the child’s playpen. Odd. Turner claimed she left the room then returned to find Campeller’s head caught between the metal frame and the playpen, as if he had been reaching for the toy basket. The basket was overturned and lying on top of the metal gate that was crushing little Campeller’s head. That was how he died.

Did the coroner buy that one? As a matter of fact, she did. The marks on the baby’s corpse were an exact match with the story Turner told police. They were situated on the front and back of the baby’s neck, as well as the back of his head, when the gate slammed down on it. The weight of the tub of toys increased the weight of the metal frame, crushing the baby even harder. Unable to cry out, he wouldn’t have been able to alert Turner that something was wrong. When you think about it, it would have been difficult to concoct that tale in order to cover up a murder. Who would have thought about placing a gate over a playpen and a child’s head getting caught between the two? Police released Turner, who was no longer a suspect. Sadly, in spite of the excellent police interrogation and coroner’s examination, little Danny Campeller is still deceased.

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Jealous Jerry Jousted with Justice and Lost

What interested me in this case was that the murderer had been very close to his victim for most of their lives. And he was not a criminal, a deviant, or known to be in any way a problem in his community. There are people who still insist he isn’t a monster but a man “who just snapped.” I’m not sure I agree with this summation. I leave that decision to you.

Cedar Falls – Iowa – 1960 – This agricultural county produces a large part of the world’s corn. Impressive. (I love corn). The Mark family was one of the most prominent and wealthiest in Cedar Falls. Wayne and Dorothy Mark, Methodist and active people in the community, were the proud parents of three boys: Richard, Jerry, Tom and Lesley, the youngest. Good-looking Jerry, the second oldest,  was the “heir-apparent” to the farm. Richard wanted to become a Minister and Tom was a loner with obvious mental health problems. Tom was often heard in his room, pacing and talking out loud to himself. Rather than getting help for poor Tom, The Marks tried to hide him from the community as best they could. The Marks were a tight-knit group and didn’t want anyone tormenting Tom or thinking poorly of them. That’s a good background for a murder, don’t you think?

brotherThe Marks owned a 700-acre farm of corn and soy beans. Jerry enjoyed learning about farming then teaching it to Les. At the same time, Les continually heard that his brother was favored by his parents and was destined to own the farm. Les felt he had some big shoes to fill. Jerry was also academically gifted and very popular at his high school. Jerry was the school’s baseball team star. He had loads of girlfriends. He worked hard on the farm with Wayne and managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA.  When he graduated high school, Jerry joined the Peace Corps. After 12 months of working with the Corps in Brazil, Jerry became disillusioned about the poverty and injustice around him. No matter how much he tried to right some of the world’s wrongs, his efforts made no difference in the world.

Jerry returned to Iowa a very different young man. He shunned his old friends but he met an Iowa woman named Rebecca, the woman of his dreams. The Marks approved. Jerry enrolled in law school and little Les, who was now a grown man, took over the farm. Although Jerry joined Les on the farm, it was obvious he was no longer the son in charge. Wayne and Jerry clashed over many issues and he clearly viewed Les as his favorite son. Worse, Jerry discovered that Wayne’s lawyers misrepresented what other farms were worth and offered to buy land for far less than what the seller was owed. Finally, unhappy with his father’s business and wanting to make the world a better place, Jerry took his wife and two girls, and left Iowa for Berkeley, California.

It was the mid-60s and Jerry and Rebecca quickly became part of the hippie rebellion. The Marks were ashamed of their former golden boy. Happily, Les carried on the Mark tradition of successful farming. He became the farm manager. Les met a girl named Jorjean and they married in 1969, with Jerry as Best Man. Despite the family’s differences, they were successful and still quite tight.

Rebecca, however, wearied of Jerry’s habit of starting and stopping projects and lifestyles. She divorced Jerry, returning to California without the children. No matter. Some months later, Jerry met a woman named Mimi who was also separated, but not divorced, from her spouse. The two hit it off and shacked up together. The Marks didn’t approve especially since their hippie son used Mimi’s salary to pay the rent. He didn’t have a job.

Tom also continued to struggle in life. He was an alcoholic by now and he was a homeless man in Waterloo. He couldn’t seem to keep a job. He smoked marijuana, used LSD and was a loner. Tom was the family’s “bad seed“. Les had to manage Tom’s money for him and help him out financially by paying his food and rent. Tom often drove around in his old Chevy and when it ran out of gas, he’d leave the keys in it and walk away to sit somewhere on the side of a road. When police found the car, they’d call Les to come and get the car and Tom. Jerry wanted Wayne to fork over a good amount of money and put Tom into a mental clinic. Nothing doing. Les and Wayne both felt there was nothing that could be done for poor Tom. They were farm boys, after all. They couldn’t be blamed for misunderstanding the nature of mental illness.

In 1975, Wayne revealed to his family he was dying of cancer. Jerry, the girls and Mimi flew out to see him. Mimi wasn’t welcome in the house but they allowed her in anyway. When Jerry returned to Iowa he told Wayne he intended to take over the farm after all. He expected Wayne to be thrilled and was aghast when his father rejected him completely. He told Jerry he “[didn’t] know what [he] wanted. [He was] floating around out there, you’re not doing law. What are you doing?” Jerry had spent all of the money Wayne had set aside for him. Wayne made it clear to Jerry that Les would be taking over the farm. For the first time in the family history, Jerry wasn’t getting what he wanted. Jerry threatened his father that when Wayne was dead he “will return and piss on” his father’s grave. Wayne threw out his son and his two grandchildren, telling Jerry “you are not welcome here.” Jerry believed Les had “screwed [him] out of the farm.”

After Jerry returned to California, Les, the good-hearted son that he was, wrote to Jerry, asking for forgiveness. Jerry responded in kind. He tried to return to Rebecca but she refused to take him back. Jerry cut his hair, and promised Wayne that he would find steady work. Although it seemed as though Jerry was getting his life together, in reality, he believed the changes he was making would bring his father to his senses, and he would return the farm to Jerry.

One morning in October, a neighbor went to Les’ house and jerry-mark-1discovered it was pitch dark. This made no sense during the harvest season. He managed to enter the house and found a horrid sight: Les and Jorjean were both dead and covered in blood. 5-year-old Julie was dead in her bed. 21-month-old Jeff was dead in his crib. Both children were victims of an execution-style shooting. They had been shot twice at close range. Initially the police thought the whole awful scene was a murder-suicide, with Les being the culprit. Friends told the police that Les and Jorjean had been fighting the night before the murders. There was one problem with this theory: no gun. Tom was locked up the following day while police continued their investigation. They were right about a Mark brother being the killer. They were wrong about it being Tom.

Richard was a pastor in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He had no idea who would want Les and Jorjean dead. He most certainly didn’t and he had no interest in the Mark farm. Jerry had been in southern California, so far as anyone knew. Or had he? A few weeks before the murders, Jerry had stolen a .38 Colt from his girlfriend’s father in California. A few days before he left for a trip to Iowa, Jerry purchased ammunition for the gun.  Police tracked his motorcycle route during the days before he reached Iowa to various motels and states. Witnesses confirmed Jerry’s stops on his way to California. He was now picked up by police and charged for the first degree murders of the entire family. No one believed it. The police were mistaken and Jerry swore he was innocent. over time however, sympathy for Jerry Mark curdled into something darker. People went to Dorothy Mark’s door with ugly messages, stating that vigilantes would shoot Jerry if he showed himself in public.

jerry-mark-bookThe DA were convinced they had the right man. Their theory was that Jerry was driven by rage against Les and Wayne. He fell from grace as the family’s golden boy to that of the prodigal son, and he hadn’t landed on his feet. Prosecutors attested that the murders were akin to a  Cain and Abel situation, with Jerry being the murderous Cain and Les the innocent Abel. The prosecution claimed that the night of the murders, Jerry entered Les’ home and confronted Les, shooting him first. Jorjean, who stood at the top of the stairs, was next, then finally the children. In 1976, after only 5 hours of hearing final testimony, the jury convicted Jerry Mark.

Before sentencing, Jerry proclaimed, “I am innocent. I did not shoot my brother, Les, and his family, and I come before the court claiming actual innocence.”  Unmoved by Jerry’s plea, the judge sentenced him to four consecutive life terms in prison for four counts of murder.  After years of appeals and 3 decades in prison, 69-year-old Jerry’s fight for release from prison received a strong boost when the state crime lab reported DNA test results that excluded him from saliva found on cigarette butts at the crime scene (they belonged to the Deputy Sheriff). And the FBI disclosed that bullet-lead analysis, a major piece of circumstantial evidence in the murders, was so flawed that it has stopped using it in other cases. Further, prosecution failed to disclose a report that cast doubt about a shoeprint found at the crime scene that had supposedly been left by Jerry. The case against Mark rested on forensic evidence that has since been overturned or otherwise cast in significant doubt. So if the case is ever retried, prosecutors have less forensic evidence.

However, there is also evidence that maintains Jerry’s guilt. In the days before the murders, Jerry left his apartment for a road trip on his Honda motorcycle. He and prosecution witnesses disagreed on how close to Cedar Falls he ventured, but the timing of his long-distance trip east remains suspicious. When a police officer questioned him after the murders, he lied about his route.

Scott Cawelti, a former high school friend of Jerry Mark, believes firmly in Jerry’s guilt. After the murders, Cawelti immediately began research into the case. He read all 3,000 pages of the trial transcripts, interviewed a family, Jerry’s mother Dorothy, the lawyers for both sides, and Jerry himself, in Fort Madison. Cawelti was more convinced than ever that Jerry was guilty, and he stated in his book, Brother’s Blood, that the state made a compelling case even without physical evidence. These are his words:

Though no weapon was found, a .38 caliber revolver  was stolen from Jerry’s girlfriend’s father some weeks before the crime.  It was never recovered.  Then Jerry bought a box of bullets from a sporting goods store that fired the same .38 caliber Long Colt bullets as the stolen pistol.  These are the same caliber bullets that were used to kill Les Mark and his family.  And get this:  Investigators found that Jerry signed his name for those bullets, so there’s no doubt he purchased them.

Why did he buy those bullets? He says he bought them to “ingratiate himself with a man who was associated with the Weather underground.”  Unfortunate coincidence, he says.Jerry Mark lied before, during, and after the trial, and he’s still lying.  He lied to his fiancé about where he was going on his motorcycle the week before the murders, he lied to prosecutors about what he was doing on that trip, he lied about the location of the phone calls he made to his fiancé while on that trip, and when I interviewed him in Fort Madison, he lied to me.

I asked why he didn’t take the witness stand in his own defense. That stood out as a real problem when I read the transcripts.  He insisted that he begged his lawyer to let him testify, but his lawyer didn’t think it was a good idea, and didn’t let him take the stand.  I was shocked. So I interviewed his lawyer in Des Moines shortly thereafter. He just sighed and said “I told Jerry that if he didn’t take the stand, he would be convicted, and he still refused.”  When I asked flat out if he thought Jerry was guilty, he said, “Let’s just say there were a lot of questions he couldn’t answer.” 

There are people in Cedar Falls who refuse to believe Jerry committed the crimes. That wasn’t the Jerry Mark they remembered from his years in high school and college. However, Jerry’s believers hadn’t witnessed the many complex changes he had gone through during his adult life, and the terrible argument that had emotionally shattered the family on his second last trip to Iowa. The final trip shattered the family into their graves.

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Horrific Harvey’s Hellish History of Murder

I found this case to be exceptionally chilling because of the killer’s modus operandi and his temperament. While he was interviewed, the killer was emotionless, yet pleasant and matter-of-fact as he detailed his numerous, sordid crimes. He looked and acted like a calm, ordinary man yet he told a tale of horrific murders. 

John Powell
Cincinnati – 6′ foot tall, 43-year-old John Powell was a good-looking man who worked as a plumber. One day, he kissed Patricia, his wife and three kids good-bye, and set off for work on his motorcycle. It was a rather rainy day and roads were slippery. A car nearby went out of control, causing a severe accident. He hit the brakes to avoid hitting a pick-up truck and lost control of the bike. Severe head trauma put Powell in Drake Memorial Hospital where he remained on a respirator for 8 months. John’s loyal wife never left his side. Alas, during that time, Powell suffered continual bouts of pneumonia. No matter what doctors did, they couldn’t seem to beat it and finally Powell succumbed to the illness. Under Ohio law, a motorcycle accidental always merits an autopsy. Good thing.

serialkillerharvey1-300x300Dr. Lehman
Rookie pathologist Dr. Lehman conducted a Saturday morning autopsy. There must be more pleasant ways to spend a Saturday.  After reading the accident report, Lehman figured this autopsy would be pretty standard. Of course, that’s always a warning sign. After cutting into Powell’s chest cavity, Lehman saw tremendous scarring on Powell’s lungs. Yep. That was pneumonia alright. However, thorough young fellow that he was, Lehman continued with the autopsy, opening the stomach. After the first incision, the smell of bitter almonds filled the room and nearly knocked Lehman out. Bitter almonds? Uh-oh. That’s cyanide, most definitely not a symptom of pneumonia. The odor is almost painful to the nose.  Actually, it was lucky Lehman smelled bitter almonds. Some people can’t. It’s a genetic thing. We’ll say no more about that family tree.

Hmm. Now what? Lehman already had a cause of death, pneumonia. However, now the case had turned into a possible cyanide poisoning. Could the almond smell come from medication? Almond-flavored food? Lehman took fluid samples and sent them to toxicology. Lehman’s first speculation had been right. Powell died of cyanide poisoning. 1 mg was all it took. It doesn’t take much to kill someone with cyanide, especially a person with a comprised immune system. At least it’s a merciful way to go.

Now Lehman didn’t file an accidental death report. This was murder. Cincinnati Homicide launched a full-scale investigation. The first question they had to ask: who stood to benefit from Powell’s murder? Hm. Patricia Powell came to the forefront. Had she been draining money from the family’s life savings and needed to replace it? She could have taken out an insurance policy on her husband. Naturally, she denied it but detectives persuaded her to take a lie detector test. Guess what? She passed.

Donald_HarveyDonald Harvey
Now what? Detectives investigated plumbing clients, motorcycle friends, and anyone else they could find. All were cleared. Creepy thought, but those with the closest contact to Powell during his sick months were the medical staff. Police began to take polygraphs from all the nurses and medical assistants in the ward. One male nursing technician phoned in “sick”: Donald Harvey. As it would happen, Harvey was a regular for Powell’s care. Police picked him up for questioning.

The Confession
On Saturday March 7, 1987,  in a calm manner just before they strapped him up to the polygraph machine, Harvey admitted right away,I killed John Powell.” (25:48) It was easy, he said. He injected cyanide “into the G-tube.” He told police the cyanide was “crystal“, like a “coarse sugar.” Harvey was completely relaxed. He spoke as pleasantly with detectives as if they were discussing the weather instead of cyanide 101. “I remember fixing it with water that morning and shaking it up and dissolving it. It turns brown after it’s dissolved. Had it in a little vial and I only had about maybe 45 seconds. So I went in and I just poured it into the gastrointestinal tube and I went back out.” Police could almost see his chest swell with pride. A job well done, he seemed to be saying.

Harvey was detained at the Hamilton County Justice Centre. Harvey explained sensibly to his court-appointed attorney, William Whalen, that he was “just a mercy killer…because [Powell] was in pain, he would break out in a cold sweat. I was jut thinking about, he won’t get any better. I just thought what I was doing was right.” Perhaps Harvey did believe he was an Angel of Death? While working at Drake, Harvey had indeed acquired the nickname The Angel of Death’,  but it was because he always seemed to be nearby when a patient died”. Homicide investigators went to Harvey’s house and discovered yet another bizarre twist to his story. He had lied about where the cyanide had come from. He had arsenic and cyanide stashed in his cupboard at home. “About 30 pounds of it,” Harvey later admitted quite cheerfully.

Whalen hopped back over to the Justice Centre for another chat with his bizarre client. Whalen asked his client if he had killed A199449anyone else. Oh, yes. Whalen figured maybe 2 or 3. Whalen figured mighty low. Harvey didn’t blink an eye when he told him. “70.” Harvey was discovered as the first – and most prolific – medical serial killer in America.  It wasn’t only hospital patients he killed.

Other Murders and Attempt Murders
When Harvey suspected his lover Carl Hoeweler of infidelity, he poisoned Hoeweler’s food with arsenic so he would be too ill to leave their apartment. In January 1984, Hoeweler broke off the relationship with Harvey. Harvey was angry at the rejection and spent the next two years trying to kill Hoeweler with his poisonous concoctions. Two years? Clearly, Harvey enjoyed watching his former lover suffer from the poisoning. Harvey also tried to kill a female friend of Hoeweler as a way to get his revenge. He poisoned two of his neighbors after a fight with them, sickening one named Howeler, and killing one, named Helen Metzger. He also killed Hoeweler’s father Henry, with arsenic after they too fought.

5bBefore he obtained work at Drake Memorial Hospital, Harvey worked for several years at Drake V.A. Hospital. While leaving work on July 18, 1985, security guards noticed Harvey acting suspiciously. They searched a gym bag he was carrying and discovered a .38-caliber pistol, hypodermic needles, surgical scissors and gloves, a cocaine spoon, various medical texts, two occult books, and a biography of serial killer Charles Sobhraj.   Harvey was permitted to quietly resign from his job rather than being fired. Darn. That might have thrown a cog in Harvey’s poisonous wheel.

Harvey’s History
The DA ordered the county to exhume 10 bodies buried in various cemeteries in the city for medical examination. Harvey wasn’t exaggerating. He really had gone on a successful killing spree. Harvey’s father Ken Rischetelli, insisted that his son was brought up in a loving family environment. David Andrews, principal of the elementary school Harvey attended, reiterated McKinney’s comments: “Donnie was a very special child to me. He was always clean and well dressed with his hair trimmed, arriving to school on the most beautiful golf cart I’ve ever seen in my life. I remember he used to call me Principal Biggun’. He was a happy child, very sociable and well-liked by the other children.”

But former classmates described him as a loner and a teacher’s pet. He rarely participated in extracurricular activities. Harvey wasn’t the most popular boy in class but he wasn’t hated. either. No one seemed to know him very well.

serialkillerharvey-300x198The Plea Bargain With a lump in his throat, Whalen returned to the DA’s office and managed to secure a plea bargain: Harvey would escape the death sentence and instead serve 3 life sentences, plus three terms of seven to 25 years, for the 24 murders he would detail for the prosecution. Two years later, the investigation into the remaining deaths was closed after investigators determined that there was not enough evidence to pursue them. It took 12 hours for Harvey to meticulously relate his 17-year killing history to the prosecution. Names, dates and even patient numbers were solid in his memory. The grocery list was sinister: strychnine (a really nasty one), adhesive cleaner, cyanide, insulin, turning off ventilators, injecting people with HIV, morphine, arsenic, plastic bags (suffocation), pillows (they left marks). It turned out his motive wasn’t to function as a mercy killer. No one kills that many people “out of mercy.” He wanted to be featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. Seriously. After a number of years in prison, Harvey admitted that many of the murders were due to anger at the victims.

In a 1991 interview with a reporter from the Columbus Dispatch, Harvey gave what he believed to be a satisfactory explanation for the killings.
“Why did you kill?”
“Well, people controlled me for 18 years, and then I controlled my own destiny.  I controlled other people’s lives, whether they lived or died.  I had that power to control.”
What right did you have to decide that?”
“After I didn’t get caught for the first 15, I thought it was my right.  I appointed myself judge, prosecutor and jury.  So I played God.”

defending-donald-harvey-bruce-martin-paperback-cover-artKilling was easy for Harvey. He worked in a place where people died on a daily basis. He used poisons that acted very quickly and he kept a low profile. His advice for aspiring serial killers? “Just be nice and polite, I guess.” Harvey actually believes he will be released from prison one day. “I’m only doing 3 twenties…[untrue – he is forgetting the additional 3 terms of 7 to 25 years]…Let’s say I’m 85 when I get out of prison. I can’t say yes or no if I would continue to kill patients or not, because I don’t know. Who knows?”  In 1993 The Associated Press listed the five most prolific American serial killers. Donald Harvey was rated number one, followed by John Wayne Gacy, Patrick Kearney, Bruce Davis and Dean Corll. Personally I would have had Ted Bundy at the top of the list. Had it not been for a new pathologist who refused to perform a perfunctory autopsy on a murder victim, Donald Harvey would still be killing today. Harvey’s first scheduled parole hearing is set for 2047.  He will be 95.   









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Wicked Webb Wove a Wily Web of Lies

Originally posted on Deathly Dames Inc.:

Sussex –  New Hampton – Britain – Dana Lynn Webb (née Holmes)  (also spelled Dena Webb) was an attractive blonde who was twice divorced. No matter. She was determined to find love again. Webb looked for love by advertising in personal ads, claiming she was a “Bubbly Blonde“. There was truth to that but her cutsie ad and pretty smile masked a sociopath driven by greed. Businessmen, teachers, a prison officer and a convicted rapist fell for her charms before she dumped them or  vanished. Detectives believed Thompson successfully conned her victims out of a total of £500,000.

B_feat_widow2-460x242Richard Thompson
was a telecommunications manager. In 2000, he discovered Webb’s ad and soon the two met and began dating. Thompson was quite affluent. He owned a nice home and a yacht. He was a fan of deep-sea fishing.  Webb falsely claimed she shared the same passion. Webb believed wholly in…

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Disastrous Dance of Death Between a Distressed Duo

This tale of woe is rather odd since the youtube video about the case, Happily Never After, and newspapers differ in the identifies of the people involved. Oscar Cruz, Ewing’s husband, is also identified as Alexander Vargas. I’ve chosen to use the identities from the video.

Victoria Lee was born in Carty, Nebraska. She was a golden-haired little tomboy with loving parents. Eventually the family moved to Iowa. An ambitious teenager, she majored in political science at Omaha College. She ran for city council in her hometown and won. Lee also took up ballroom and Latin dancing.

Oscar Cruz, a man 7 years older than Lee, was born into a Mexican family. He loved animals and was very nurturing. Cruz’s parents worried about his well-being since they lived in a rough neighborhood. They sent Cruz to Omaha, Nebraska to live. It was difficult to leave his family but he knew it was the best .Cruz and Lee became friends during college but they didn’t date. Cruz was a farmer by trade. His aim was to own his own farm. He also loved dancing.

At the age of 25, Lee ran into Cruz again at a dance hall. They 50c66b91d49d6_imagewere instantly enamored with each other although Cruz had a girlfriend and Lee had a boyfriend. The two couldn’t date. Eventually these relationships ended and Lee and Cruz became involved with each other. At the dances they attended, they did several sexy dances together. It was obvious to everyone that there was a strong connection between Lee and Cruz. Cruz, however was the jealous type. He didn’t like it when Lee danced with other men. Never mind. Lee was in love and she became engaged to the handsome man. The two seemed to have the world at their dancing feet. Giddy with love, Lee was thrilled when her family welcome Cruz into the fold. They had been friends for several years before they became lovers, a good recipe for a successful marriage.

Once Lee and Cruz were married, it seemed their joy knew no bounds. They considered to be the perfect match. However six weeks after their wedding the unthinkable happened. Lee called police to report that a stranger had intruded on their property and he appeared to be armed with a gun. “Hurry! Please!” she screamed. During a second call gunshots were fired in the background. She screamed, “no! Please don’t! Stop it!” Then a distinctive thud, followed by a falling phone, was heard.

arsonThe deputy and other officers raced to the residence, located near Ewing County. When they finally arrived, they discovered the house was engulfed in flames. Felix Ruez (also identified as Francisco Romez in newspapers)lingered outside the home, seemingly panicked because his two married roommates were trapped inside the residence. Firefighters doused the fire but the house was utterly decimated. Police entered the residence and found two bodies burnt beyond recognition. They were later identified as Cruz and Lee. Ruez on the other hand, had escaped unscathed. Minutes after Lee’s 9-1-1 phone call, another house fire with two dead bodies inside occurred. Strange. Was there a connection the wondered?

Police questioned Ruez. He seemed quite distraught but rather than leave the scene as he had every right to do, he hung around to talk to police. That’s one of those things that make you go hmmmm…  Investigators don’t believe this was a natural fire. Clever bunch. They treated the scene as a homicide. Ruez wanted to give police the impression that he was a good person who wanted to help. He claimed he was awoken earlier in the night when he heard footsteps around the house but he went back to sleep, ignoring the noise. Later he heard a “crackling sound” and opening his door, he discovered the house was ablaze. Naturally the Cruz and the Lee families were devastated. “It doesn’t really seem like she’s gone…I keep waiting for her to walk in the door,” Lee’s mother commented sadly.

Ruez owned the home. Investigators couldn’t find the murder weapon so they ruled out murder-suicide. They surmised that Rauz had shot the couple then set the house on fire to hide the evidence. The coroner quickly reached the conclusion that both people had been shot to death. However police were wrong about Ruez. Months earlier, the couple had moved into Cruz’ residence on the other side of town, which was close to Lee’s former 33-mattyear-old boyfriend, Matt Hinrichsen. Hinrichsen had an anxious detachment disorder. He was furious when he found out about the wedding. He often made threatening phone calls to his ex-girlfriend. “I’m done with you. You’re worthless! You’re a piece of trash!” he yelled into the phone. Lee hoped Hendrickson truly was “done with her” but he kept calling and threatening her. Finally she got a restraining order. She and Cruz even put their house up for sale and moved to Missouri Valley with Lee’s family. Hinrichsen found out where they were and began calling the Lee residence.

Lee finally changed her surname on her social media profile. This made the couple’s mattmarriage highly public. She took Cruz’ name. She was proud to identify herself as Cruz’ wife. Of course this enraged Hinrichsen even more when he discovered the name change. Lee refused to let Hinrichsen upset her but hours after his last phone call, the Cruz’ moved out of the Lee residence and moved in with Raez. It didn’t help. Hinrichsen found the couple and planned their murder. Police learned of Hendrickson’s intrusion into the couple’s life and made an arrest. Hinrichsen was charged with first degree murder in both Cruz and Lee’s deaths. Hinrichsen confessed to his father that he had killed the couple.Police recovered the clothing Hinrichsen had worn the night of the murders and ran DNA tests on Hinrichsen’s clothing and discovered blood and brain grey matter that belonged to Lee and Cruz. Ick.

Hinrichsen used an AK-47 to murder the young couple. He shot Cruz three times. He beat Lee with the gun until she was dead. He then lit the house on fire. At the end of Hinrichsen’s trial in Antelope County, the jury found Hinrichsen guilty on both counts of first degree murder. Hinrichsen felt no remorse. His only regret was that he was caught and imprisoned for the crimes. Hinrichsen received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. He is incarcerated in the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.  His next parole date is set for April in 2024.




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Deathly Dames Inc….

…an introduction….. my new blog that I’ve added to wordpress – it features only female murderers and deadly duos that include a female partner…..do have a visit and feel free to add comments to the blogs….


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Lovely, Lascivious Lynn Loved Making Law Enforcers Languish

Originally posted on Deathly Dames Inc.:

Cobb County – Georgia – 1993 Pretty, 32-year-old brunette JuliaLynn  Womack had what some people call a uniform fetish. She loved cops. If they had a badge and a gun she was a fan. These things represent power and authority and that was a heady combination for our Lynn. Oh, and a wallet didn’t hurt either. Naturally she worked at a police station but it was after hours where Womack got to strut her stuff. One night Womack crossed paths at a bar in Atlanta with Glen Turner. Glen was the opposite of Lynn. Where she was wily and manipulative, he was gullible. Glen wasn’t a handsome man by any means and he  considered himself very fortunate to have Lynn in his life. Other cops avoided her. She seemed sneaky and she was a rough type of woman. Within only 2 months however, the love-struck Glenn became engaged to his girlfriend…

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