California Serial Killers: 7 Notorious Golden State Psychos


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California has a lot to offer. From the hills of Hollywood to the think tanks of Silicon Valley. From the beaches, up over the mountains and into the deserts. The Golden State provides an endless bounty of opportunities for adventure and natural beauty.

Known for its progressive and free-spirited attitude, the Golden State has enchanted those who are in search of a new life. The problem is – not everyone has sweet dreams of surf and sun. Rather, there are some nefarious characters lurking in the shadows and preying on the innocent.

Here are seven of California’s most horrendous killers.

Lonnie Franklin Jr.  (the ‘Grim Sleeper’)

From 1985 through 1988, the women of South Los Angeles were living a nightmare. And that nightmare was Lonnie Franklin, Jr. Over the course of  three years, nine women were raped and murdered. Then suddenly, the murders stopped.

That is – until 2002 when the body of a teenage girl was discovered in the adjacent city of Inglewood. This killing ‘hiatus’ led to Franklin’s nickname, the Grim Sleeper. Another eight years passed, and justice was finally served. In 2010, Franklin was arrested in his South LA home, and was eventually sentenced to death on 10 counts of murder.

Michael Hughes

Home to Sony Pictures, Culver City is a thriving entertainment industry neighborhood. This area experienced its own horror movie in the 1990s when Michael Hughes was on his killing spree. In 1998, Hughes was convicted of killing four women. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

But, the story does not end there. Ten years after his conviction – through a DNA ‘cold hit’ authorities charged Hughes with four additional murders. He was eventually convicted for three of those deaths. In total – Hughes was convicted for killing seven women.

In 2012, Hughes received a death sentence.

Richard Ramirez (the ‘Night Stalker’)

Throughout the mid-1980s, Southern California residents were terrorized by who the media dubbed – the Night Stalker. The killer, Richard Ramirez, was a rapist and Satanist, who would enter people’s homes in the early morning hours. Ramirez’s murder rampage claimed 13 lives.

The Night Stalker would either strangle, shoot or slash the throat of  his victims. Pentagrams were also spray painted on the walls of some of the homes of the victims. Ramirez was sentenced to death in 1989, and died of natural causes in 2013 while still on death row.


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Charles Manson

One of the most infamous killers of all-time, Charles Manson had curated a cult of loyal followers, who carried out brutal murders on his behalf. Over the course of two nights in August of 1969, he and his followers were responsible for the brutal murder of seven people.

Both sets of murders involved home invasions of affluent and well-known people. The first group of murders included the gruesome killing of Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of famed director Roman Polanski. On the following night, wealthy supermarket executive Leno LaBiance and his wife, Rosemary, were brutally slain.

Manson continues to serve a life sentence, and has been denied parole on a repeated basis.

William G. Bonin

Suspected of 35 murders, the so-called “Freeway Killer” was once described by a prosecutor as the most evil person who had ever existed. In the span of less than two years (1979-1980), William G. Bonin raped, tortured and killed 21 boys and young men. Another 14 murders are attributed to Bonin, but he was never convicted for those additional slayings.

A former Southern California truck driver, Bonin earned the moniker Freeway Killer because many of his victims’ bodies were found alongside various California freeways.

Bonin was executed in 1996, and earned the dubious distinction of being the first person in California to be killed by lethal injection.

Marcus Wesson

In March 2004, nine bodies were discovered in a Fresno, California home – a scene which was described by police as a “House of Horrors.”

In a back room of the home, the killer – Marcus Wesson – stacked the dead bodies from youngest to oldest. If that’s not disturbing enough, all of the victims were his children, and the ages ranged from 1 to 25.

Known as Fresno’s worst mass murderer, Wesson was charged, convicted and sentenced to death for killing nine of his children.

Charles Ng

In 1985 – scattered across the property of a rustic cabin situated in the picturesque Sierra Nevada foothills – police discovered over 40 pounds of charred human remains.

The killers, Charles Ng and Leonard Lake, are suspected of slaying 19 people. Despite evidence of nearly 20 murders, Ng was only charged and convicted with the death of 11 victims – two infants, three women and six men. Ng’s accomplice, Lake, was never convicted, as he committed suicide shortly after his arrest.

In 1999, Ng was sentenced to death, and is currently on death row awaiting his execution.


The existence of these psychotic killers is a cautionary tale which shows us that we must always be vigilant and aware of our surroundings. We never know what monster is hiding in the shadows.

How about where you live – have there been any killers who belong on a similar, infamous list?


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DEAD COLD, An Emily Stone Thriller



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DEAD COLD Excerpt: The Search for an Abducted Girl



An Emily Stone Thriller

Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Chase


Life is not worth living if you cannot make a difference—right a wrong, save an innocent life, or catch a serial killer. ~ Emily Stone



ESCAPE WAS IMPOSSIBLE. TEARS STREAMED down her face as she sat in the darkness and waited for the man to return. There was no other choice—but to wait.

She hadn’t eaten anything in three days and had only a limited amount of water—her strength continued to fade with every hour. With her wrists and ankles secured with duct tape, her skin stung with pain every time she struggled to move. At least the man had peeled the tape from her eyes and mouth so that she could see something besides pitch-blackness.

Even if she could escape, the only way to safety was jumping into the frigid water, but she could not swim and would drown before ever reaching the shore.

The only thing thirteen-year-old Kayla Swanson thought about was home. Fond memories flashed through her mind of her parents, her little brother, and her dog Charlie. She was never going to see them again. Their smiling faces were forever etched in Kayla’s mind, and she constantly held them close to her heart.

The boat rocked, and seemed to sway more violently as the tide flooded in and out of the harbor. Kayla could hear a consistent clanking noise above her as the boat rolled back and forth. The sound had a hypnotic quality, and kept her mind on something else besides when the man would return and what he would do next.

Her lips were dry and cracked as she bordered on dehydration. Even her tears dried on her cheeks, leaving her skin stiff and drawn. Her body began to shake, not only from fear, but also because of the extreme exhaustion and the constant dampness all around her.

The boat rocked more, but this time it shifted from the opposite sides. Kayla heard soft footsteps above, which she knew wasn’t her captor’s heavy walk. She strained her eyes in the darkness and thought she saw a thin shadow stealthily move along the upper deck.

Was it a ghost?

Kayla remembered a television series where a team of people hunted ghosts and they had said that ghosts could occupy any type of space, house, property, and even a boat.

She blinked her eyes several times and hoped that she could catch a glimpse of the ghost again. With every ounce of declining strength, Kayla scooted her body closer to the narrow stairs leading to the upper deck.

Painfully craning her neck, she strained to see something up in the darkness.

The dark shadowed areas played tricks on her eyes—it was there, then it wasn’t.

She waited for several minutes.

Nothing appeared.

The only sounds she heard were the usual boat noises she had grown accustomed to hearing. Whatever she thought she heard was gone now. It was most likely her imagination trying to give her some hope and a few moments break from her dire circumstances.

As she relaxed her shoulders and leaned back against the wall, the reality of her world pressing down hard. Tears streamed down her face. She tasted the saltiness that settled around her mouth. Her last moments were approaching, and there was nothing she could do.

Kayla felt her pulse relax and a strange peacefulness overcame her—even if it was for only a moment. It was an overwhelming calm that gave her strength for what was next.

He was coming back.

She closed her eyes, but the only thing that came to mind was the man who had grabbed her.

His dark eyes.

His hefty strength groping at her body.

His horrible sour breath.

He fixated on everything about Kayla. She had the feeling that he had watched her for some time. There was a familiarity in his words as he secured her. The violent struggle that ensued ultimately led to the helplessness she now felt waiting in the darkness.

A light swishing noise made Kayla quickly open her eyes and look up.

There it was again, something darting around the boat. It was the ghost she saw earlier of what appeared to be a small, slim body moving swiftly around the upper deck.

It was not her captor, because he was heavyset and moved differently. He would not care if Kayla heard him or not. This apparition seemed to move with caution and ease.

Guardian angel came to Kayla’s mind. She had always seen pretty paintings and movies with angels as beautiful feminine creatures.

Was that her guardian angel?

Kayla would soon get her answer.

“Kayla,” whispered a woman’s voice. There was almost a musical quality to it.

The girl sat stunned, not moving, and unable to respond at first.

Again, “Kayla?” the voice asked softly.

She opened her mouth and tried to speak, but nothing came out. Kayla hadn’t realized that she hadn’t spoken for two days, and it was difficult to make a sound.

“Yes—” she barely replied.

A concerned woman’s face appeared at the top of the steps. She was beautiful with wet, shoulder-length blonde hair and dark eyes. Dressed in a dark wetsuit, she moved like a Ninja with grace and purpose. She wore some type of earpiece like the Secret Service who protect the president.

“Kayla, are you okay?” she asked with concern.

“I—I think so.”

“Let’s get you out of here,” the woman said and then spoke quietly into her small microphone, “I’ve got her, and she’s okay.”

She easily jumped down into the cabin and began to free Kayla from her restraints. It took some manipulation to tear away layers of duct tape.

“Who are you?” Kayla asked.

“I’m here to rescue you,” she said. “Don’t worry everything is going to be okay now.”

Kayla didn’t hear any other voices or cops moving around above. It was just this woman. She was confused, but curious by her unknown rescuer.

“Who are you?” Kayla asked again.

“It’s not important.”

“Yes, yes, it is to me,” she insisted.

The woman finally freed Kayla’s hands and ankles, and then looked directly at her.

Kayla saw more depth in her eyes than anyone she had ever met. There was a determination and fierceness reflected in a strong presence of the woman. It was something that Kayla had never experienced before with any of the adults that she knew.

“I’m Emily,” the woman reluctantly answered. “Can you walk?”

Kayla nodded.

Emily helped the girl up and guided her to move up the ladder, then quickly followed.

Kayla stood on the deck as the boat bobbed and weaved. She could see that it was docked at the very end of the outer harbor and close to the shore. The thought of being in the water made her shiver as the wind picked up speed, battering her face and body.

Emily turned to Kayla. “We’re going to get you to the dock area and the police will meet you there and take you home.”

Kayla fiercely shook her head.

“It’s okay, honey. I’ll be with you, and it’s only a short distance away.”

“No, no, I can’t swim,” Kayla pleaded, but her words seemed to disappear in the wind.

The tide picked up the intensity of the wind blowing harder against the boat. The fog encroached over the dim lighting of the harbor, which made any nighttime visibility disappear and reappear in strange increments.

The boat rocked and Kayla had a difficult time keeping her footing. Both Emily and Kayla fought to keep their balance and not catapult head first into the water.

Kayla turned her head and saw the heavyset man climb aboard from a dingy at the other side of the boat.

“Emily!” Kayla screamed.

It gave Emily just enough time to push the girl to safety and ready herself for the assault. Kayla landed hard on her backside but managed to push herself into a small crevice to keep from sliding back and forth.

Kayla could do nothing except watch as Emily received a powerful blow from her captor. She went down and slid several feet but wasn’t deterred as she readied herself for the next attack. Amazingly, Emily stood her ground, hands ready, and pushed the man backward. The instant that the kidnapper was off balance, Emily went in for the attack, punching and kicking him in the stomach and groin areas. The heavy man went down hard. He lay moaning on the deck. She couldn’t hear what he said because of the gusts of wind, but his expression was extreme anger and his mouth made ugly shapes as he spoke.

Kayla had never seen anything like it before. Everything going on around her felt more like a nightmare than real life—except for the blonde-haired woman who had come to her rescue. She watched as Emily quickly wrapped some type of plastic ties around the man’s ankles and feet.  After making sure that he was secured, Emily turned to Kayla.

Emily gestured for Kayla to join her. She said something, but Kayla couldn’t hear her. Emily grabbed a life preserver from a wooden compartment along the deck.

“C’mon,” she said.

The boat seemed to buck and fight against the tide, water splashing onto the deck.

Emily moved carefully making her way to Kayla. “C’mon, we have to go.” She slipped the girl’s arms through life preserver and fastened it across her chest. Turning away, Emily said into her microphone, “We’re on our way. ETA five minutes.”

Kayla watched the water slosh and churn all around the boat. It made her legs even weaker and her mouth dryer. She glanced at the bad man still lying on his side struggling to release himself from the ties and spitting out seawater. He still frightened her even though he couldn’t get to her.

Kayla stood on the deck paralyzed with fear, hypnotized by the unpredictable water.

Emily took her hand. “I won’t let go. I promise.”

A large splash of water slapped Kayla’s face. It brought her into a more terrified state and a mental paralysis gripped her body. Her knees locked and her feet glued themselves to the deck. Kayla couldn’t jump into the water. She would rather wait for a boat to rescue her, but she knew that it wasn’t possible. Something about Emily’s face told her that it was the only way—and she didn’t want to ask questions to why.

Emily kneeled, took Kayla’s shoulders and said, “You can do this. I’m with you every step of the way.”

Kayla knew that Emily told her the truth, but her body didn’t want to cooperate. “I can’t!” she yelled.

“You can do it!” Emily insisted.

Kayla looked back at the bad man and remembered everything he had done to her—the terror, the threats, and the disgusting abuse.

She looked down at the water and hesitated.

Emily took a couple of steps down the ladder into the water. “C’mon, Kayla,” she urged.

Kayla moved slowly and felt the boat rock sharply. She caught herself before falling and held her breath. Looking at the boat docks through the fog, she knew that she had to jump into the frigid water to make it to shore.

Emily took another step down toward the water, then another and submerged herself. She held to the last rung of the ladder waiting for Kayla.

“I’m right here. You can do this, Kayla,” she urged. “C’mon.”

Kayla knew that she didn’t want to be on the boat anymore and wanted to put the entire terrifying experience behind her. She trusted Emily even though she wasn’t completely sure why.

She moved closer to the ladder and slowly put her foot onto the next rung. Water continued to splash into her face. She shivered from the cold, but knew that it was only a little bit farther to freedom.

“That’s it—keep going,” Emily coaxed.

Kayla took a deep breath, let it out, and eased herself into the water.

The temperature was shocking to her body. She thrashed for a moment with the anxiety of drowning, but the life vest held her head above the water.

“It’s okay, you’re fine,” Emily insisted. “Put your arms around my neck.”

Kayla clung to Emily as they slowly swam away from the boat. Kayla glanced back expecting to see the heavyset man coming after them, but no one appeared. She thought it looked like a ghost ship in the fog.

Turning her focus back to Emily, she concentrated on the dock as they eased closer. The numbness in her legs and back outweighed her fear of drowning. She knew that she was finally safe.

Several consecutive waves smacked their faces, but Emily kept a strong steady pace.

Kayla coughed and choked on the water that flooded into her mouth. Her face stung like tiny needles piercing her cheeks. She kept her arms tightly around Emily’s neck and could feel Emily’s heavy breathing as she pulled them closer to safety.

The thick fog continued to float across the harbor. It blanketed most of the boats and made the masts invisible.

A tall figure stood on the dock about six feet from the entrance. He had something in his arms. Kayla shook with fear, her imagination reeling her back to her captor.

The man moved quickly forward and helped them out of the water. He then wrapped Kayla in a warm thick blanket. His eyes were kind, his face stern, and he reminded Kayla of a police officer she once met in her neighborhood.

Breathless, Emily said, “Kayla, wait right here. The police are coming and they will take you home. Okay?”

“But—” her teeth chattered. “But—what about you?”

Emily smiled. “Don’t worry about me. You were very brave. I told you that you could do it.”

Police sirens wailed in the distance.

Both Emily and the man looked in the distance where red lights flashed—cars approaching fast.

“Why can’t you take me home?” Kayla asked.

Emily let out a sigh. “The police will be here in minutes. It’s their job to make sure that you’re okay, and they will take you home.”

The couple turned to leave. Kayla knew that they were like secret agents or undercover superheroes, and they had to leave because they didn’t want anyone to know their identities.

“Wait,” Kayla said.

Emily turned and looked at her.

“Thank you, Emily. I’ll never forget you,” she said, wanting to remember the details of Emily’s face.

She smiled and then hurried away.

Kayla stood on the dock and watched the couple disappear into the fog until she couldn’t see them anymore.

The sirens approached at high speed.

Three police cars turned down the street leading through the harbor entrance. Their headlights focused on Kayla shivering, wet, and waiting for them.

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NEW THRILLER RELEASE: What happens when one California community has a disturbing spike in homicides?


It’s finally here!! Emily Stone is back and she’s hunting her toughest serial killer yet.

You can stay updated for all things DEAD COLD when you sign up for alert emails on this blog. There will be giveaways, articles, interviews, excerpts, blog tours, and more fun things coming up soon.


An Emily Stone Thriller

From the multi-award winning series:

What happens when one California community has a disturbing spike in homicides? It catapults cops into a deadly game of murder. Frozen human body parts hideously displayed at the crime scenes offers a horrifying interpretation that only a sadistic serial killer could design—and execute.

On the hunt for a complex serial killer, vigilante detective Emily Stone must face her most daring case yet. Stone’s proven top-notch profiling skills and forensic expertise may not be enough this time.

Young and ambitious, Detective Danny Starr, catches the homicide cases and discovers that it will test everything he knows about police work and the criminal mind. Can he handle these escalating cases or will the police department have to call in reinforcements—the FBI.

Emily Stone’s covert team pushes with extreme urgency to unravel the grisly clues, while keeping their identities hidden from the police. With one last-ditch effort, Stone dangles someone she loves as bait to draw out the killer. She then forces the killer out of their comfort zone with her partner Rick Lopez, and with help from a longtime friend Jordan Smith. A revelation of the serial killer’s identity leaves the team with volatile emotions that could destroy them.

The killer continues to taunt and expertly manipulate the police, as well as Stone’s team, and as they run out of time—they leave behind everyone and everything—in Dead Cold.

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7 Pivotal Events in the History of American Criminal Justice


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The American Criminal Justice system has a long and storied history. It has undergone a vast array of reforms, and has experienced significant milestones. Here are seven key moments that have helped shape the system we know today.

Advent of America’s “Most Wanted”

In 1949, the Washington Daily News published an article entitled – FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives Named. The FBI’s goal of producing this information to the press was simple. They hoped the publicity would lead to more arrests of notoriously dangerous criminals.

The article generated a huge amount of publicity. And, as a result, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover implemented the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives Program” in 1950.  Although the list of America’s most infamous fugitives is no longer plastered on the walls of post offices, the FBI’s website provides the world with a consistently updated “Ten Most Wanted.”

The result? Both domestic and international attention is given to hunting down dangerous fugitives, who have committed crimes on American soil.

Right to Counsel

In 1963, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling which had a significant impact on criminal trials. The decision was based on the story of Clarence Earl Gideon – a Florida defendant who was charged with breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor. Gideon was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Before the trial began, Gideon implored the court for government appointed counsel, as he was poor and could not afford to retain his own attorney. The court denied his application. The reason? Florida law only permitted appointed counsel for capital offenses – namely, crimes which could lead to the death penalty.

After his conviction, Gideon petitioned the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that the 6th Amendment guarantees all defendants – both in federal and state courts – the right to counsel, appointed or not. The caveat? The crime charged must be a felony.

Lindbergh Kidnapping and Forensics

Forensic science gained significant public attention and praise due to its role in the arrest of Bruno Hauptmann. When the toddler son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was kidnapped and eventually murdered, forensic scientists made a huge impact in two areas of the investigation.

First, the investigators were able to track the circulation of the ransom money. This led law enforcement to Hauptmann’s garage, where a significant amount of the ransom was discovered. Second, forensic investigators successfully matched wood in Hauptmann’s attic to the timber used in making the ladder created to kidnap the child through his bedroom window.

Hauptmann was executed in 1936.

The Establishment of Juvenile Court

In the 19th Century, America’s population exploded. And, as America’s population grew, so did the crime rate. In desperate need for a system to deal with troubled urban youth, Chicago was the first city to implement a juvenile court for kids under the age of 16.

Chicago’s juvenile court was created to provide youth with rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. By the mid-1920s, the majority of the nation’s states had implemented juvenile courts under the Chicago model. 


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Justice for All

In late 2004, the Justice for All Act was signed into law by President Bush. The Act increased funding for DNA technology and clearer guidelines for its use in criminal proceedings. Another significant impact created by the Act was the bolstering of the rights of convicted felons to utilize post-conviction DNA testing in order to reverse their convictions.

Birth of the ACLU

In 1920, author and pacifist Roger Nash Baldwin, feminist lawyer Crystal Eastman and law professor Walter Nelles founded the American Civil Liberties Union. As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, the ACLU’s mission is to defend the liberties and Constitutional rights of American citizens.

The formation of the ACLU was in response to the so-called “Palmer Raids.” These raids were initiated by J. Edgar Hoover and US Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, and their goal was straightforward – to conduct a mass arrest of suspected anarchists, radicals and anti-war protestors. The Palmer Raids led to the FBI detaining and interrogating citizens without legal representation. And most disturbing, the FBI started to deport unruly US citizens simply because they had foreign ties.

Today, the ACLU has more than 50,000 members and handles over 6,000 cases annually.

Miranda Warning

The arrest of Ernesto Miranda in 1963 by the Phoenix Police Department led to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona. Prior to the Miranda decision, there was no mandatory rule in place that safeguarded a defendant’s 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

After Miranda was arrested for kidnapping and rape, he was subjected to two hours of interrogation, which resulted in his full confession. In addition to confessing to the crimes, Miranda stated that he had been fully informed of his legal rights.

Miranda was eventually convicted and sentenced to a long prison sentence. His attorney, however, appealed the conviction. Miranda’s appeal led him to the halls of the United States Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the nation’s highest court ruled that all arrested suspects must be fully and unequivocally informed of their legal rights before the commencement of any custodial interrogation by law enforcement.

Three key takeaways from the decision – all questioning must stop when the defendant requests an attorney, statements obtained in violation of the Miranda Warning are deemed inadmissible at trial and the defendant must acknowledge their understanding of their rights.

Currently, there is no standard script and jurisdictions vary in how they present their warnings. As long as the major points are explained to the defendant, and the perp acknowledges their understanding, the police have complied with their obligation.

There are so many other historical and pivotal moments in the history of America’s criminal justice system. Are there any milestones that you believe should also be included on this list?


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9 Historical Innovators and Leaders in Forensic Science


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Forensic science is in a continuous state of evolution. Here are nine individuals who have had a significant role in shaping the past, present and future of this fascinating science. 

Bernard Spilsbury (1877 – 1947)

Famed for bringing forensic science from the lab to the public sphere, Sir Bernard Spilsbury is considered the father of modern forensic pathology. In the early 20th Century, Spilsbury gained notoriety through a series of high-profile forensic investigations, such as the Crippen case. In that matter, he impressed the court and the public when he helped convict a murder suspect using a detailed microscopic study of a scar.

Working with Scotland Yard, Spilsbury developed the so-called “murder bag” – a  crime scene investigation kit (still used today) that contains evidence bags, tweezers, plastic gloves, etc.

Joseph Bell (1837- 1911)

One of the inspirations for the fictional character Sherlock Holmes, Joseph Bell was a well-respected Scottish forensic pathologist. His contribution? Bell believed that in order to solve a crime, investigators must use ‘close observation.’

Sounds logical, right? But, the problem was – his contemporaries were not using that approach. That is, until he started to demonstrate how observing the smallest details led to big results. Many of his investigative techniques are still used today.

Sara Bisel (1932 – 1996)

Forensic anthropologist Sara Bisel gained notoriety when she used chemical and physical analysis to study skeletons discovered at one of the cities destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Bisel’s methods and insight led scientists to a greater understanding of the health of ancient populations. Her chemical analysis approach is still used today to study human remains.



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 Clea Koff (1972 – Present)

Known as the “bone woman,” Clea Koff is a well-respected forensic anthropologist who has worked on some very high-profile international cases, such as the Rwandan Criminal Tribunal. Koff’s excellent work in assisting the United Nations during this tribunal helped international law enforcement bring some justice to the victims of the Rwandan genocide.

Also, Koff founded the Missing Persons Identification Resource Center, which helps families connect with the U.S. Coroner’s Office, in an effort to secure the identities of bodies that are sadly unidentified.

Henry Lee (1938 – Present)

As one of the most high-profile forensic scientists alive today, Henry Lee has worked the JonBenét Ramsey, Laci Peterson and O.J. Simpson cases. Lee is a Chinese born, Taiwanese raised scientist who immigrated to the United States to specifically study forensics.

Lee has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and is currently the director of  the Forensic Research and Training Center at the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science. Lee also served as the Chief Emeritus for the Connecticut State Police for over ten years. He is one of the nation’s preeminent consultants in the field of forensic science.

Michael Baden (1934 – Present)

Michael Baden is a well-respected forensic pathologist, who provides consulting and legal expert witness services. He was the host of the HBO show Autopsy, and contributes as an expert to media outlets, such as Fox News. Baden is also an MD, who has provided insight into many past cases, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the untimely death of actor John Belushi.  Baden was New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner for about a year.



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Mathieu Orfila  (1787 – 1853) 

Known as the Father of Toxicology, French toxicologist and chemist Mathieu Orfila was a pioneer in the field of poisons. As the founder of the science of toxicology, Orfila’s first book –  “Treatise on Poisons” – was a groundbreaking exploration into the world of toxicology, which combines medicine, chemistry and physiology. One of Orfila’s big breakthroughs was his newly discovered method of detecting the poison arsenic.

John A Larson (1892 – 1965)

A Berkley, California police officer and Ph.D., John Larson invented the modern polygraph machine. Although not admissible in criminal trials, Larson’s modern version of the polygraph machine has been an invaluable asset for criminal investigators for close to a century. Larson’s invention improved upon the existing machine by measuring various body responses simultaneously, so that investigators could determine the veracity of a person’s statements.

Edmond Locard (1877 – 1966)

Here’s another inspiration for crime fiction. Edmond Locard, a Frenchman known as the Sherlock Holmes of France, was a pioneer in the art of fingerprinting. It is not surprising, then, that one of Locard’s key ideas centered on the fact that everyone “leaves a trace.” His fingerprinting approach focused on a 12-point method which allowed investigators to determine whose fingerprints were left behind at a crime scene or on evidence.

Although modern forensic science has advanced beyond his 12-point method, his theories and methods were the basis for many groundbreaking discoveries in the field of forensics. He has also left his mark in other manners, as he and some of his assistants were the first investigators to create a police lab.


These men and women are true pioneers in forensic science. Do you know of other innovators that should have been included on this list?


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The Fascinating World of Forensic Science: 5 Surprising Facts


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Forensic science is a world filled with mystery, intellect and instinct. During a forensic investigation, every morsel of evidence discovered could be crucial, and no detail is too small. It truly is a fascinating science, and here are five captivating facts that will ignite your imagination

Forensic Science Has a Long History

There is evidence that forensic analysis was used around 44 B.C when Julius Caesar’s private physician conducted an autopsy of Caesar’s body after his assassination. The physician was named Antistius, and he was able to determine which wounds to Caesar caused his ultimate demise. The forensic discovery of which wounds led to his death, allowed the investigators to determine who used the fatal weapons.

In 1235 A.D, a book was written in China called “The Washing Away of Wrongs.” The author details the account of a murder being solved due to flies gathering on a sickle. Supposedly, the investigator was able to determine there was dried (practically invisible) blood on the sickle, and that the flies gathered on the sickle to feed off the blood. The investigator’s revelation of this fact led to the confession of the murderer.

Forensic Methods are Not Foolproof

If you watch enough television, you would think that a criminal’s days are numbered if there is any forensic evidence linking them to the crime. The reality is, however, that forensic data is wrong sometimes. Not a lot. But sometimes. Two common methods of forensic evidence used to convict a person are fingerprinting and bullet ballistics.


Prior to the advent of the modern automated fingerprinting system, well-trained experts would manually match the fingerprints lifted at a crime scene with those of the accused. This would often entail endless hours of looking through hard copies of fingerprints. Modern methods have made this process much more efficient and accurate. The fingerprint search and match can be completed within minutes (sometimes seconds.) Although the days of sifting through thousands of records to find a match are gone, even the most experienced forensic analyzer will admit that there still is no statistical guarantee that the  matching of fingerprints is 100% accurate.

Bullet Ballistics

With respect to bullet ballistics, the process goes like this. Each gun has a unique surface within its barrel. When the gun is fired, the bullet flies through the barrel and is imprinted by its unique grooves. The bullet then impacts an object, and is therefore damaged. So, when the ballistics investigator conducts the  investigation, they must use a meticulously, precise technique to match the damaged bullet with the correct gun. But, before that can occur, the investigators first have to find the bullet and the alleged gun. There is a lot of work, which requires extreme attention to detail. Thus, it is evident that even the smallest miscalculation can lead to an inaccurate match.


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Head of Information

A highly efficient method used by forensic scientists in identifying a person’s remains is a process called cranial morphology. People that hail from different regions of the world oftentimes have different shaped skulls. The different features are generally found in the face and palate areas of the cranium.

Forensic anthropologists will examine a skull and be able to determine if the person’s ancestry is of European, African, Native American or Asian descent. The scientific method is generally 85% accurate in determining the racial ancestry of the remains.

Crime Solving Bugs

Well, maybe bugs do not really solve a crime, but investigators do study the little critters to determine certain elements of a mystery. The science behind this is known as forensic entomology, which is essentially the study of insects at crime scenes.

For example, the materials found inside a maggot’s stomach can lead investigators down the right path to figuring out how long a body has been decomposing. Moreover, a particular insect’s “activity time” at a crime scene can aid scientists in determining the time in which the crime occurred. Also, as certain bugs are only indigenous to certain locations, investigators can narrow the place of the crime based on the insects present on the possibly relocated corpse.

Your Mouth Hides the Clues

When it comes to precise identification, your teeth are usually the most reliable method used by forensic investigators. In fact, teeth are used to accurately identify the remains of a body in over 93% of these type of cases.

Teeth are made from the same material as bones, and each person’s dental imprint is unique. So, you combine the durability of bones with the unique character of each person’s teeth, and the end result is precision.

We have all seen movies in which the charred remains of a person are identifiable simply because of their teeth. But, dental imprints can be used in more subtle methods as well. For example, the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy was excellent at alluding law enforcement. His intelligence and cunning made him a worthy adversary. His downfall however was the bite marks he left on the butt of one of his victims. The forensic investigators were able to match his teeth to the bite marks on the murder victim. This crucial piece of evidence led to his eventual conviction.


Forensic science is such an interesting field, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to share all of this information with you. Continue to check out my blog for more updates on forensic science, criminology, and the world of criminal justice.



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The Great Heists: 6 of History’s Most Astonishing Robberies


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Bank heists and other large scale robberies have been occurring pretty much since the advent of money. History has documented innumerable big-money heists, where brazen thieves have selfishly disregarded the personal safety of innocent workers and bystanders for the chance at a big score.

Here are some of history’s most grand heists.

Securitas Depot Robbery (Great Britain)

As the largest cash robbery in the history of the United Kingdom, this 2006 heist occurred at a high-security cash storage depot in Kent, England. In order to minimize the chance of apprehension and getting themselves hurt, many thieves carry out their large scale cash heists in a non-violent manner during non-business hours. But not this heist.

During this robbery, the heavily armed perpetrators forcibly kidnapped the cash depot’s branch manager and his family, and bound 14 employees. Once inside the facility, they forced the manager to open up the secured cages where the cash was stored.

The amount of cash stolen was a whopping £53.1 million ($68 million). Most of the gang has been apprehended and sent to prison, but at least one of the crew remains at large spending his loot.

The Robbery of Banco Central (Brazil)

This mammoth heist began when the robbers rented a home in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil. Posing as a small company making artificial turf, the crew spent three months digging an enormous subterranean tunnel, which was the length of approximately two city blocks (656 feet).

The tunnel’s terminus? Underneath the bank’s vault.

Over a hot summer weekend in 2005, the bandits broke through the reinforced concrete into the vault, where they removed the equivalent of $65 million. Law enforcement believes that this heist was the biggest in the history of Brazil.


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Dunbar Armored Robbery (Los Angeles)

This $18.9 million armored truck heist was the largest robbery to have ever occurred in the United States. The robbery occurred in 1997, and was an inside job orchestrated by a former Dunbar employee. The perpetrator recruited five of his friends to pull off the robbery, which involved a Friday night raid of a Dunbar cash depot. In order to establish alibis, the men gathered at a house party prior to heading off for the heist.

Once they were at the cash storage facility, the men subdued the guards, and managed their way inside to where the cash was stored. The thieves busted into the vault area and broke the locks of the cages containing the cash.

The thieves loaded the cash into a U-Haul and easily escaped the scene of the crime. Although the bandits got away with the crime for a while, the men involved were eventually all arrested after investigators got a lead on the U-Haul rental. The renter was one of the perps, and he eventually cracked and confessed.

British Bank of The Middle East (Lebanon)

During Lebanon’s civil war, a group of bandits claiming ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization stole over £25 million in gold bars, cash and jewels from the bank.  This 1976 heist occurred when the thieves stood inside a church and blasted through the wall of the adjoining British Bank of the Middle East.

Once inside the bank, a group of skilled locksmiths handled opening up the vault. The amount stolen would be a modern day equivalent of $32 million.

Iraq’s Central Bank (Iraq)

In 2003, the largest bank heist in history occurred in Baghdad, Iraq. Allegedly ordered by Saddam Hussein just prior to the invasion by the United States, the thieves walked away with $920 million.

Many in law enforcement believe that Hussein instructed his son, Qusay, and a close personal adviser to steal the approximately $1 billion in cash from Iraq’s Central Bank. Much of the cash is still missing, but around $650 million was recovered from Hussein’s palace during an international raid.

Knightsbridge Vault (England)

In 1987, over £60 million was stolen at the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre by notorious bank robber, and international playboy, Valerico Viccei. Implicated in over 50 other bank robberies, Viccei pulled this monumental heist off with ease.

Essentially, Viccei and his accomplices accomplished the large scale robbery during business hours, and were able to walk out unscathed with close to what would be now around $80 million. After fleeing to South America and enjoying years of freedom, Viccei was arrested on a trip back to England.

Why did he come back to England? He needed to retrieve and arrange the shipment of his Ferrari.

Many of these larger than life heists have inspired movies and books. Can you think of any of films or novels that were inspired by some of history’s greatest heists?


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