DNA Forensic Files: 1970s Murder Cases Solved in 2019 #ColdCases #DNA

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Photo courtesy of bernews.com.

Over the past several years, the use of DNA and genetic genealogy to solve decades-old murder cases has grown dramatically. Combining cutting-edge technology with increased access to innumerable genetic databases, investigators are able to arrest killers who have roamed free for way too long.

Although most would agree that the resolution of these cases is a positive development, there is a negative aspect for some families. And that is – the memories of the brutal murder of a loved one are once again brought to light. Despite the resurrection of horrendous feelings of loss, the victims’ families are generally grateful for justice finally being served.

Here are two cold murder cases in which the investigation never ceased, and the killer was eventually identified.

Central Coast Murders

California’s Central Coast is a quaint, picturesque region located between the bustling areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Dotted with peaceful towns set against the backdrop of the state’s exquisite coastal landscape, this area is known for its relaxed vibe. Unfortunately, though, even the most tranquil areas are sometimes rocked by horror.

Although these murders took place over 40 years ago, the cases were only recently solved. The first murder occurred on November 17, 1977 in the sleepy town of Atascadero. The victim was a vibrant 30-old year woman named Jane Antunez. On that day, Jane was headed to her best friend’s house. The problem is, Jane never made it to her friend’s home. And was never seen alive again.

Jane’s dead body was found in the backseat of her car, just down the road from her house. She had been sexually assaulted, and her throat had been slashed.

Sadly, while the community was still grappling with the killing of Jane, the body of 28-year old Patricia Dwyer was found less than two months later. Found in her home with stab wounds to the chest, Patricia was also a victim of sexual assault.

After some careful investigating, the police determined that the murders were linked. And there primary suspect was Arthur Rudy Martinez. The investigation revealed that he was an ex-con who was new to the area. He had done prison time for rape and attempted murder. Police believe that Martinez had discovered the women at a nearby bar, which was a popular local hang out.

Even though the police were confident that Martinez was the killer, there was no direct evidence linking him to the murders. Martinez eventually left the area, and moved to Washington, where he again committed rape and was sentenced to life in prison.

In a shocking turn of events, Martinez escaped prison and lived under an assumed name for over 20 years in Fresno, California. Then, in April 2014, Martinez turned himself in to authorities (for the prison escape). This wasn’t an act of contrition. Rather, Martinez did this because he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was looking for state funded healthcare.

Two months later, Martinez died in prison.

While all of this was happening, local police never gave up hope on solving the murders. Using an outside detective who specialized in cold cases and had significant experience with the nation’s many DNA databases, investigators found a familial match of the DNA secured from the original crime scenes. The match was from a California convicted felon who was related to Martinez.

Eventually, police tracked down an old girlfriend of Martinez, who provided investigators with a razor left behind by Martinez. And that razor resulted in an exact DNA match. Combining evidence gathered from 40 years ago coupled with witness testimony and the DNA match, the investigators found their killer. Although he was already dead, the police and the victims’ families had some closure.

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Photo courtesy of sfgate.com.

The El Dorado Killings

Nestled in California’s immaculately beautiful Sierra-Nevada Mountains, the county of El Dorado is generally known for its hiking, skiing and relaxed atmosphere. But the area is also known for the late 1970s unsolved murders of 16-year old Carol Andersen and 27-year old Brynn Rainey.

Anxious to finally solve these murders, as well as other unresolved cases, the local district attorney’s office set up a forensic task force in 2007. The goal was to solve the 60 cold cases that were haunting the community.

Fortunately, the task force was successful in resolving some of the county’s lingering cold cases. Namely, investigators were able to identify local real estate agent Joseph Holt as the killer who took the lives of Carol and Brynn.

By way of background, the events began in July 1977 when Brynn disappeared after leaving work around 2 a.m. at a casino in Nevada – just over the state line. About a month later, her naked body was found partially buried at a local equestrian center. Due to the decomposed nature of her body, police were unable to determine the exact cause of death.

Then, almost two years later, Carol vanished on her way home from a party at a local ski resort. Several hours later, her battered body was found on the side of the road. Investigators opined that she had been bound and strangled. Both victims had been sexually assaulted.

Holt was not a suspect during the initial investigation. There was no known connection between Holt and the victims. Investigators believe these murders were random and sexually motivated.

Utilizing evidence from the original crime scenes, investigators were able to match the two unknown DNA samples from both victims’ bodies. But this breakthrough didn’t happen until 2017. At this point, the police finally were able to connect the two murders. Unfortunately, the DNA did not get a match in any criminal databases, but it did find a match on a public genealogy database.

The familial DNA match led police to three deceased brothers, one of whom was Holt. Thereafter, police were able to locate Holt’s son, who then provided investigators with an old toothbrush. After 41 years, police found their killer.

The DNA from the toothbrush was an exact match of the DNA found on both victims’ bodies. Not only did police solve these two murders, but the investigation resulted in another police department solving a 1975 shooting of a delivery man. That’s right, Holt was responsible for that violent crime as well.

Although both of the victims’ mothers passed away before this case was solved, the remaining family members are grateful that they finally have an answer to the painful question which lingered for over 40 years.

 

The bittersweet resolution of these tragic events demonstrates that the pursuit of justice is relentless. Do you know of any recently solved cold cases?

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NEW!  CRIME THRILLER!

LITTLE GIRLS SLEEPING

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RELEASE DATE: MAY 31ST

PreOrder

It’s that time! I’m so excited to announce the cover reveal and PRE-ORDER for LITTLE GIRLS SLEEPING. It’s a crime thriller that will keep you awake at night. I had loads of fun creating this series and a terrifying new serial killer. This is the first book in a new series with a feisty ex-Army K9 handler now Police Detective Katie Scott.

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LITTLE GIRLS SLEEPING Pre-Order Blitz Tour #CrimeFiction #Blitz

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I’m very exited to share the news that Little Girls Sleeping, which is the first in a new detective crime series, is available for Pre-Order on Amazon. Take a look at some of these wonderful book blogs I will be visiting this month to share the news.

Stay tuned. I will have more information about the feisty main character, ex-Army K9 handler, Detective Katie Scott and the first chapter.

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

 

Blog-Tour-Highlights

Monday, May 6

Book Featured at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Book Featured at tfaulc Instagram Page

Tuesday, May 7

Book Featured at The Avid Reader

Wednesday, May 8

Book Featured at Laura’s Interests

Book Featured at The Book Bag

Thursday, May 9

Book Featured at C.A. Milson’s Author Blog

Book Featured at What Is That Book About

Friday, May 10

Book Featured at Nuttin’ But Books

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Monday, May 13

Book Featured at Brooke’s Library Instagram Page

Tuesday, May 14

Book Featured at The Dark Phantom Reviews

Wednesday, May 15

Book Featured at From the TBR Pile

Book Featured at Stacking My Bookshelf

Thursday, May 16

Book Featured at My Book Launch

Friday, May 17

Book Featured at Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

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Monday, May 20

Book Featured at Confessions of an Eccentric Bookaholic

Tuesday, May 21

Book Featured at I’m Shelf-ish

Wednesday, May 22

Book Featured at The Writer’s Life

Thursday, May 23

Book Featured at The Pulp and Mystery Shelf

Friday, May 24

Book Featured at Blogging Authors

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Monday, May 27

Book Featured at That’s What She’s Reading Instagram Page

Tuesday, May 28

Book Featured at I’m Into Books

Wednesday, May 29

Book Featured at My Bookish Pleasures

Thursday, May 30

Book Featured at StoreyBook Reviews

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Thought Control: A Criminal Mastermind’s Greatest Weapon

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Photo courtesy of patternsofmeaning.com.

Overview  

Thought control (aka brainwashing, mind control, and re-education) is a complex process – but a relatively straight-forward concept. Basically, the idea behind brainwashing is that our minds can be controlled or altered through a series of psychological tactics.

These mind-altering techniques are employed by either a single person (or a group) who seeks to reduce another person’s ability to think independently. Not only is the goal to restrict a person’s critical thinking process, but to also introduce unwanted ideas and thoughts into the victim’s mind. The ultimate goal is to modify the subject’s essential values, beliefs and attitudes.

Mind control tactics are used by people throughout the world, ranging from despots to democratically elected politicians. And, of course, criminal enterprises – such as street gangs, terrorist organizations and drug cartels, utilize re-education in order to have complete psychological control over their foot soldiers.

History

The idea of manipulating others through the use of coercion has existed for millennia. But, the actual concept of isolating an individual for re-education was initially coined in the 1950s by a journalist named Edward Hunter.

During the post-World War II period, the rise of global communism was in full force. And to make sense of the growing control of the Chinese Communist Party, many were convinced that Chinese officials were brainwashing their subjects into absolute loyalty to the “cause.”

Hunter believed that – in addition to brainwashing their own citizens – the Chinese Communists were using mind control over American POWs during the Korean War. Hunter posited that the Chinese were attempting to convert the American soldiers into communists, with the ultimate goal of conquering the United States.

Once the idea of thought control entered the consciousness of mainstream society, it became apparent that so-called mind control was being utilized throughout the political, religious and criminal worlds.

Essentially, it was discovered by sociologists and criminologists that many leaders gained power and undying loyalty through indoctrination, and the remolding of their followers’ ideologies.

Outlaw enterprises, such as crime rings and gangs, were exploiting vulnerable members of society to carry out the grunt work. They sought people who could be easily swayed through a series of psychological control tactics, such as isolation, absolute obedience, social pressures, punishments and deprivation of life essentials.

Criticism

Although mind control is a generally accepted concept, there are many who believe that brainwashing is not grounded in science. They opine that the idea of thought control fails on several levels.

Namely, the critics believe that thought control is a pseudoscience that ignores research-based explanations of human behavior. And, because it denies people their free will, the idea of mind control essentially dehumanizes individuals.

The inconsistency in the application of the brainwashing label is another critique. For example, the term brainwashing seems only apply to behavior of which we disapprove. For example, we would say members of a cult are brainwashed into subjugation, but we generally do not believe soldiers are brainwashed to kill people – no, that’s basic training.

Regardless of the critique, there is no doubt that certain individuals are manipulated through psychological control tactics. And whether we use the term mind control or “coercive persuasion,” the outcome remains the same.

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Photo courtesy of bbc.com.

Victims of Criminal Mind Control

Norrmalmstorg Bank Robbery Hostages

The term “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined as a result of this bank robbery. The notion refers to the mind control tactics that result in hostages becoming empathetic (and often, sympathetic) to their captors.

Here, a Swedish bank was robbed by an escaped convict. The thief kept four hostages with him in the bank vault during the whole ordeal. Within only two days, the brainwashed victims were on a first name basis with the robber, and when communicating with the police, the hostages had a very hostile attitude towards the people trying to free them from captivity.

As the police raided the bank, the hostages hugged the captor in order to protect him. Months later, they even collected money in order to pay for the criminal’s legal defense fees.

Patty Hearst 

In 1974, one of the most famous cases of criminal mind control occurred. It involved Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of newspaper titan William Randolph Hearst. Here, Hearst was kidnapped by a group of political radicals known as the Symbionese Liberation Army and held captive for over a year.

During her time in captivity, Hearst was put in isolation and tortured. And the longer she remained in captivity, Hearst grew sympathetic to the SLA’s “cause.”

Less than two years after being kidnapped, Hearst was a full member of the group, and joined them in a slew of propaganda and illegal activities, such as armed robbery.

When she was caught by the FBI, the Bureau’s psychologists had determined that she had become a “low IQ, low affect zombie,” whose IQ had dropped 18 points from the time of her kidnapping.

Hearst was deemed to be a classic case of mind control.

She was sentenced to 35 years in prison but was famously pardoned four years later by President Carter.

Criminal Defense

Despite the widespread critique of mind control by those in the criminal justice field, criminals do use the defense of thought control went the prospect of heavy jail time looms over their lives.

The defense is simply this – “I was forced to commit this crime through brainwashing.”

The defense is a viable one, but very difficult to prove. In a nutshell, to be convicted of a crime, the prosecution must prove that the perp committed the crime (actus reus) and that he had a guilty state of mind (mens rea).

Basically, you have to do a bad thing with bad intentions. There are some crimes that are considered ‘strict liability’ in which no mens rea is required, i.e. speeding, but for the most part – the criminal needs to have the requisite “intent” in order to be found guilty.

So, if the criminal can prove that their actions were not of their own free will, and they did not possess the required psychological intent, then there is a chance that the they will not be found guilty.

This is tenuous defense, but it is workable if the legal team can gather enough scientific support to convince a jury.

This is truly a fascinating topic. What are your thoughts on mind control – is it a bogus concept or does it truly exist?

 *

NEW!  CRIME THRILLER!

LITTLE GIRLS SLEEPING

PRE-ORDER NOW!

RELEASE DATE: MAY 31ST

PreOrder

It’s that time! I’m so excited to announce the cover reveal and PRE-ORDER for LITTLE GIRLS SLEEPING. It’s a crime thriller that will keep you awake at night. I had loads of fun creating this series and a terrifying new serial killer. This is the first book in a new series with a feisty ex-Army K9 handler now Police Detective Katie Scott.

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NEW BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Cover Reveal For My New Crime Thriller LITTLE GIRLS SLEEPING #Bookouture #PreOrder

PreOrder

It’s that time! I’m so excited to announce the cover reveal and pre-order for LITTLE GIRLS SLEEPING. It’s a crime thriller that will keep you awake at night. I had loads of fun creating this series and a terrifying new serial killer. This is the first book in a new series with a feisty ex-Army K9 handler now Police Detective Katie Scott.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

From the publisher Bookouture:

He looked down at the little girl, sleeping peacefully, her arms wrapped around a teddy bear. He knew he was the only one who could save her. He could let her sleep forever.

An eight-year-old girl, Chelsea Compton, is missing in Pine Valley, California and for Detective Katie Scott it’s a cruel reminder of the friend who disappeared from summer camp twenty years ago. Unable to shake the memories, Katie vows she won’t rest until she discovers what happened to Chelsea.

But as Katie starts to investigate, the case reveals itself to be much bigger and more shocking than she feared. Hidden deep in the forest she unearths a makeshift cemetery: a row of graves, each with a brightly coloured teddy bear.

Katie links the graves to a stack of missing-persons cases involving young girls—finding a pattern no one else has managed to see. Someone in Pine Valley has been taking the town’s daughters for years, and Katie is the only one who can stop them.

And then another little girl goes missing, snatched from the park near her home.

Katie’s still haunted by the friend she failed to protect, and she’ll do anything to stop the killer striking again—but can she find the little girl before it’s too late?

Compulsive and gripping crime fiction for fans of Lisa Regan, Rachel Caine and Melinda Leigh. Katie Scott’s first case will have you on the edge of your seat and gasping with shock.

CoverReveal

Grab your pre-order copy today at Amazon for 99cents!

 

 

 

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The Lockdown Generation: Active Shooter Training in America’s Schools

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Photo courtesy of stkt.hwcdsb.ca.

There’s a sad reality now existing in the United States. And that’s because the new normal in an average American school involves mandatory active shooter lockdown drills. That’s right. Our society has become so violent that these so-called active shooter exercises are as a common (and necessary) as good old-fashioned fire drills.

Teachers and students alike are on constant high-alert. And at the whiff of a threat, school officials are trained to quickly turn off the lights, lock the doors and huddle their students into closets. The reality is both frightening and encouraging, in that students are now more prepared – than ever before – to fend off deadly intrusions.

Current estimates indicate that nearly 95% of American schools conduct some form of active shooter training for students and staff. Everything from high concept, movie-like school invasions to more low-key lockdown drills are administered at academic institutions across the nation. And, according to experts, these drills are vitally important in keeping our children safe.

History

A troubling legacy of the April 1999 massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School, active shooter drills have now entered their twentieth year of existence at schools. Prior to the Columbine tragedy, the only drills carried out at schools involved earthquakes, tornadoes and fire. But, after the deadly attack at Columbine, which killed 13 students, schools immediately began to assess their security.

The Columbine horror was the deadliest school shooting in the history of the United States up until that point. But, since that shooting, there have been much more deadly attacks, including the horrific, evil killing of 20 small children and 6 staff members in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

As a result of these tragic incidents, some schools have turned themselves into fortresses. And, in conjunction with local school districts, the US Department of Education began rolling out recommendations on both safety and fortification measures. In short, school officials were instructed to teach the kids to – run, hide, fight.

What’s the deal with lockdowns?

There are many different lockdown techniques used throughout the country. These so-called active shooter drills vary from state to state, district to district, and school to school. But the common denominator is to maintain the safety of the children. So, regardless of the mechanics of the drill, each lockdown is initiated with the sole purpose of containing the threat and saving people’s lives.

The most commonly used training is known as ALICE, which is an acronym for – alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. This approach is an alternative to the another commonly used technique, known as “shelter-in-place” which essentially advocates for securing yourself in a locked classroom or closet until the intruder has been apprehended.

The ALICE method teaches students and staff to alert the school of the violent intruder, then to lockdown the premises, followed by informing law enforcement. The final two steps involve countering the attack with an organized approach, and then evacuating as quickly as possible.

Regardless of the technique, all schools adhere to a common mantra when they are confronted with the reality that active shooter drills are the new norm. And that mantra is – save lives. And in order to fulfill the sacred duty of protecting our children, the school’s administration follows this procedure.

First, they must develop an active shooter risk assessment and management team. Then, the school must establish clear roles and responsibilities of each team member, focusing on the strengths of each member. Once the team members understand their roles, the group must implement policies and procedures. These policies are necessary so that everyone has clear guidelines as to what constitutes a threat, the degree of such threat and how that danger must be handled.

After the roles and procedures are clearly established, each member must be trained by experienced law enforcement, emergency management and security experts. And then finally, the leadership team must implement the active shooter protocol and educate the kids and staff concerning the procedures. Another important aspect is for the team to keep constantly apprised of developments in the field, which includes assessments of security techniques and any emerging tactics used by violent intruders.

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Photo courtesy of shooterdetectionsystems.com.

Incidental effects of lockdowns

Over the past ten years, lockdown drills have been mandated by several states, including Iowa, Florida and South Carolina. Many believe that within a few years, almost every state in the nation will have some sort of law on the books requiring schools to administer active shooter training for its staff and students.

In addition to the public sector dealing with the aftermath of the modern school shooting epidemic, private enterprise is reaping the benefits. For example, the company that conducts ALICE Training has recently opened a new headquarters in Ohio and for around $600, this company puts individuals through two days of training. Then, these trained individuals head back to their respective school districts and train the school officials and students. ALICE Training currently has over 5,000 schools as customers, and that number continues to climb.

The warranted concern of students’ safety and the incidental mass hysteria has created a flourishing cottage industry of tactical gear. Some items include stand-alone safe rooms built within classrooms, bullet proof whiteboards, laptops that serve as shields, gun detection systems and survival gear that allows students to remain locked inside classrooms for days at a time. Meanwhile, the US Department of Education is mulling over the idea of potentially arming teachers.

Final Thoughts

While it is necessary to keep our children safe, many experts continue to ask themselves – do these active shooter drills and increased security measures work? To that end, the killer from the recent Stoneman Douglas shooting used his knowledge of the school’s lockdown procedure to murder more people.

Also, experts believe that these drills are extremely traumatizing for kids, who are constantly reminded that their life could end at any moment. That’s a lot to handle for a 7-year old.

But, on the flip side, we must live in reality, and prepare for the worst – especially when these shootings seem to happen more frequently in recent years.

Regardless of these drills, a more holistic approach is necessary, which includes realistic security measures coupled with addressing the mental health of an increasingly agitated generation of kids.

I would love to hear what your thoughts are on this topic?

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SceneoftheCrime

Read the latest in the Forensic Mystery Award-winning Series.

2018 Bronze Medal for Mystery from Readers’ Favorite

2018 Finalist from BookViral Millennium Book Award

SCENE OF THE CRIME, A Chip Palmer Forensic Mystery

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From Love to Murder: 2 High-Profile Valentine’s Day Killings

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Photo courtesy of themanual.com.

For most of us, Valentine’s Day is a time of romantic gestures, flowers and those heart-shaped candies that taste like chalk. Unfortunately, though, this lovey-dovey atmosphere has the opposite effect on some. So, instead of a romantic candlelight dinner, psychopathic disgruntled lovers release their inner demon and take things to the extreme level. And by that, I mean – murder.

Here are two high-profile killings that occurred on a day dedicated to love.

Dr. John Hamilton – Wife Killer

Susan Hamilton had a seemingly perfect life in her beautiful Oklahoma City home. Married to John Hamilton, a well-respected surgeon, Susan was showered with expensive gifts and whisked away on vacations to exotic locales.

Starting with a brand-new Porsche on their wedding day, Dr. Hamilton never relented in showing his adoration for his wife of 14 years. And everyone who knew the couple described them as a loving, affectionate and well-adjusted pair.

But, that façade of a fairytale marriage, all came crashing down in 2001 on Valentine’s Day.  Dr. Hamilton arranged for an expensive bouquet of orchids to be delivered to Susan. Unfortunately, though, Susan never had the opportunity to enjoy her new flowers. And that’s because, she was violently murdered.

According to Dr. Hamilton, he had forgotten his appointment book at their house that day. So, he came home in between scheduled surgeries to retrieve his agenda. Upon his arrival, Dr. Hamilton discovered his wife lying dead in a pool of blood on their bathroom floor. Strangled with two of Dr. Hamilton’s neckties, and bleeding from the head from a massive wound that exposed part of her brain, Susan’s death was a brutal display of evil.

During the murder investigation, detectives had discovered a few enemies of the Hamilton’s, most notably a militant anti-abortion group known as the Army of God. They had received threats from that group in the past. Even though the Hamiltons had received credible, menacing threats from this group, investigators quickly came to realize that Dr. Hamilton was the primary suspect.

Even though their marriage was seemingly perfect, it was revealed that a few weeks prior to Valentine’s Day, Susan had discovered her husband was having an affair with a stripper. And that she threatened to divorce Dr. Hamilton. So, in a fit of rage on the morning of Valentine’s Day, Susan’s husband beat her to death.

At trial, the defense argued that – yes, Susan’s blood was all over her husband, but that’s because, he tried to save her life by using CPR. And, despite no hard evidence definitively pointing to Dr. Hamilton to the murder, the prosecution knew he was the killer. Surprisingly, Dr. Hamilton’s guilt was confirmed by the crime scene expert hired by the defense. That’s right – Dr. Hamilton’s own expert put the nail in the coffin.

During his forensic blood spatter analysis of the crime, the defense expert discovered blood spatter on Dr. Hamilton’s shirt that was not reflective of a person administering CPR, but rather, of a person who attacked another.

So, while on the stand, the defense’s expert – under oath – was forced to reveal this finding. Within two hours, the jury convicted Dr. Hamilton of first-degree murder. He is currently serving a life sentence.

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Photo courtesy of mirror.co.uk.

Stacy Schoeck – Husband Killer

Some true-life stories are sometimes too despicable to believe. Yet, the facts and circumstances are all too true. And all too disturbing. One such instance is the story behind the murder of Atlanta resident Richard Shoeck.

Friends and colleagues describe Richard as a kind man, who loved his wife Stacy and her three children (whom he legally adopted). Yet, despite this man’s virtuous nature, his sinister wife had him murdered by an amateur hitman – on Valentine’s Day in 2010.

Richard was Stacy’s fifth husband. Yeah, that’s right. This 38-year old woman had already been married four times prior to meeting Richard. She came into the marriage with three children from prior relationships. Knowing all of this, Richard fell in love and married Stacy. Then, in an act of true love, he adopted her three children so that they would know what it was like to have a stable family life.

With no regard for Richard’s well-being, Stacy quickly had an affair and decided that Richard needed to go. But, not a divorce this time. No. Stacy wanted Richard dead.

Stacy discussed her macabre plans with a co-worker, Lynitra Ross, who referred Stacy to Reginald Coleman, a personal trainer. The referral did involve squats and push-ups, but rather, it involved hiring amateur hitman Reginald to kill Richard.

Stacy lured Richard to a romantic wooded area on Valentine’s Day under the guise of exchanging gifts. Lying in wait, the killer ambushed the couple while they were giving one another sweet Valentine’s cards.  Reginald immediately opened fire and shot Richard dead.

The investigation didn’t take long. Stacy was an immediate suspect, and one of her claims was that Richard was sexually molesting her children. An assertion later to be found completely untrue. The real motive? Richard’s $500,000 life insurance policy.

All three were arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Stacy avoided Georgia’s death penalty by testifying against her murderous co-conspirators.

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Valentine’s Day can certainly ignite passion, but as you can see, this desire is not always the virtuous kind. Do you know of any creepy high-profile Valentine’s Day murders that belong on the same page as these killings?

***

SceneoftheCrime

Read the latest in the Forensic Mystery Award-winning Series.

2018 Bronze Medal for Mystery from Readers’ Favorite

2018 Finalist from BookViral Millennium Book Award

SCENE OF THE CRIME, A Chip Palmer Forensic Mystery

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Murder by Poison: Two High-Profile Forensic Toxicology Cases

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Photo courtesy of ozy.com.

Forensic toxicology is one of the many fields of science that populates the intriguing world of investigative forensics. The main purpose of forensic toxicology is to aid law enforcement in understanding the extent to which ingested substances contributed to a person’s impairment or death.

Combining biology with pharmacology, forensic toxicologists play vital roles in murder investigations in which the suspected cause of death is poison. To that end, here are two high-profile murder cases that were solved using the expertise of skilled forensic toxicologists.

Angel of Death

We hand over a lot of trust to those who work in the medical field. Vulnerable and sick, hospital patients assume that while under the care of nurses, they are in good hands.  But, unfortunately for the people of a small Indiana community in the mid-1990s, their trust was misplaced.

Between 1993 and 1995, a nurse named Orville Lynn Majors was linked to 130 of the 147 deaths at the Intensive Care Unit of Vermillion County Hospital in rural Indiana. Of course, while acting as a nurse in an I.C.U. will certainly expose one to death, this nurse was no ordinary health care provider.

Dubbed the “Angel of Death,” Nurse Majors was convicted in 1999 for injecting six patients with heart-stopping, lethal doses of epinephrine and potassium chloride. Although he is not officially blamed for 130 deaths, there is a great deal of suspicion surrounding these deaths due to Majors’ exposure to these patients.

His serial killing spree lasted for a couple of years in the mid-1990s, and the only reason his actions were brought to light was due to a routine study conducted by the hospital. The results of the study revealed that by 1994, the intensive care unit had a death rate of 120, despite the number being only 31 during years’ prior.

Law enforcement was notified by the hospital of this spike in deaths. An investigation was opened, and 15 bodies were immediately exhumed for autopsies. Forensic toxicologists conducted tests, which revealed the lethal doses of the substances injected by Majors.

Prosecutors were able to definitively tie Majors to six deaths, even though the killer had been alone with many more of the patients who passed away. Experts believe Majors was responsible for the death of more people, but his skill in mixing poison cocktails allowed him to use the defense of ‘death by natural causes.’

Majors was sentenced to a staggering 360-year prison sentence but passed away in 2017 due to – ironically – heart issues.

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Photo courtesy of fanphobia.net. (Janie Lou Gibbs)

Killer Mom

In one of the most disturbing poison cases of the last century, Janie Lou Gibbs was responsible for the deaths of her husband, three sons and grandson. That’s right, she killed her own children and grandchild. And how did she do it?  Rat poison and arsenic.

Born on Christmas in 1932, Gibbs was an active member of her local church, and a dedicated home daycare operator. Then, one day, something changed. After 18 years of marriage to her husband, Marvin, she decided one evening to kill him by putting rat poison in his dinner.

Gibbs’ plan did not immediately work. Marvin didn’t die, but instead was admitted to the local hospital after falling ill from what the doctors believed to be – naturally occurring liver issues. As the sweet wife she was, Gibbs decided to bring homemade soup to the hospital so that Marvin could enjoy a home cooked meal. The problem was, the soup was laced with arsenic. He soon died of “liver disease.”

In a surprising twist, Gibbs donated a significant amount of Marvin’s life insurance proceeds to her church. Less than a year later, this wife and mother from hell poisoned her youngest son, Marvin, Jr. Authorities chalked up his death to his unfortunate inheritance of his father’s liver disease. Gibbs escaped without any suspicion. And, she donated some of her son’s life insurance proceeds to her church – again.

Like a macabre broken record, Gibbs once again killed a year later. This time, she poisoned another one of her sons. His death, like the others before, was attributed to a natural cause. With only one living child remaining, the sadistic killer struck yet again. But, this time, Gibbs skipped a generation and killed her newborn grandson, Raymond.

Less than a month later, Gibbs poisoned her son, Robert, who was the father of the murdered baby. Finally, Gibbs’ “luck” had run out. A family physician grew suspicious after the back-to-back deaths of a healthy newborn and his equally healthy father. An autopsy was immediately conducted on Robert, who was found to have ingested a lethal amount of arsenic.

Forensic toxicologists worked with investigators in exhuming and testing the bodies of Gibbs’ other deceased family members. All five victims had their causes of death changed from natural to homicide by poison.

Gibbs was initially found mentally unfit to stand trial and was confined to a mental institution. Years later, she was successfully prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to five life terms. In her elder years, Gibbs was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and released to the custody of her sister. In 1999, the killer died of natural causes.

 

There’s something so disturbing about poison cases. Maybe it’s the deliberate premeditation. Or the slow painful death. Most likely it’s a combo of both. Are you aware of any poison cases as troubling as those above?

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SceneoftheCrime

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