Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pass The Burnt Toast

by Susan Murphy-Milano

A university recently graduated Crystal Mangum, the sexually active prostitute and mentally challenged delusional mother of three. Her degree is in Police Psychology. She was the individual who accused the three lacrosse players of raping her in 2006.

This certified liar and criminal, has written a book due out in the fall. In my opinion, this is no different than O. J. Simpson's If I Did It. Mangum's "
memoir" is being released in an e-book format.

The people promoting this "self-appointed victim" have a unique site, below is an excerpt :

The people in society needing the most protection are the ones most vulnerable to abuse. Left on the outside looking in and their voices silenced for fear that the truth will be revealed, few are brave enough to tell their stories. The producers at fire! Films are willing to take chances and confront tough subjects.

The stories told by fire! Films are the kind you won't see anywhere else. Whether it is a documentary or feature film, exposing wrongdoing, dealing with the tough subjects and supporting cutting edge artists is our mission.

I should also mention that Crystal Mangum is attempting to donate one dollar from the sale of each book to battered women. Kind of like a "cleanse your soul donation"—you buy my book and I do something good for others. In my opinion, not much good will come from anything Crystal Mangum decides to do.

She is fortunate not to be
behind bars herself. The way I see it, this drama queen is begging to be returned to the public spotlight, a sad reminder of lives destroyed by a woman who has no business doing anything other than apologizing to those young men and their families.

Sorry, I cannot bring myself to post the name of this woman's book.

She jumped up and down shouting for more than two years that three Duke lacrosse players violated her orally, vaginally, and anally in a bathroom the size of a broom closet.

Court documents now sealed prove Crystal Mangum had DNA from two unidentified men in her rectum; two more in her pubic region; and another still inside of her.

What this woman should be doing is releasing a taped statement of apology on You Tube to Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, David Evans, and their

Mangum has already had her fifteen minutes of damage in the national spotlight.

Playing the role of a victim is just plain wrong

Cadaver Dogs: Canis Familiaris

by Andrea Campbell

Cadaver dogs are canines, Canis familiaris, which are specially trained to find human decomposition scent and alert their handlers to its location. They are used in a variety of forensic contexts, including search and discovery of human cadavers, body parts, or body fluids. In contrast to bloodhounds or other tracking dogs—which locate a specific scent on the ground or an item—cadaver dogs are trained to detect generic scent in the air.

In particular, these dogs are conditioned to give an alert to the scent of human decomposition. They are sensitive to the odor given off by newly dead bodies, which may lack any obvious signs of decomposition. They will also alert to decomposing bodies, to skeletal remains, or even to soil contaminated with human decomposition fluids. Because of the sensitivity of air scent dog olfaction, even buried bodies or bodies dead for 20 or more years can be detected in certain circumstances!


The first dog trained exclusively for cadaver search by a police department began work in 1974. The NY State Police were investigating a homicide in Oneida County that involved multiple buried victims in a large forested area.

Increasingly, the cadaver dog/handler unit is part of a multi-disciplinary search team including medical examiner, anthropologist, and law enforcement members, among others.

Dog Selection and Noses

If the dog is chosen solely for air scent work, the principle drive is the prey drive. Basically, you should look for a dog that is “ball crazy.” The dog should follow the movement of the ball. . . . A dog that is adaptive to new sites, one that is not startled by loud noises and recovers easily, are good traits.

All animals directly sense chemical molecules. This is true even in animals that lack a nose. Bacteria are known to sense and cluster about certain chemicals. Flies sense molecules through their feet. Human beings have approximately five million olfactory receptor cells. A bloodhound has 100 million such cells.

Scent Cone Theory

Scent is produced when molecules from an object are dispersed into the air and register a sensory reaction in the brain. Molecules shed by the object become more and more dispersed the farther away from it they move. This concentration gradient theoretically forms a scent cone. Mammals are able to detect both the presence and the relative concentration of scent. Interruptions to, and enhancement of, the spread of molecules from the source may distort the scent cone.

Decomposition Process

The decomposition process commences immediately after biological death occurs and proceeds through five stages before the body is completely skeletonized. Certain elements are necessary for the process to occur. These elements affect how rapidly the remains proceed through the stages. The decay process produces a variety of gases, liquids, and acids. It is these by-products that provide the odor that the dog is trained to recognize and indicate. There are two special situations with different scent results: If a body decomposes in a wet environment, the adipocere, a grayish, soapy substance provides a good scent picture to the dog. If the body is left in a hot, dry environment it will mummify, and the odor will be musty, also recognizable by the animal.

Stages of Decomposition and Odor Characteristics

1.) FRESH: Little or no exterior change; however, is decomposing internally due to bacteria present in the body before death. Odor: None detectable by humans; however, animal may show reaction or approach body as if it were still alive. Dog may detect at some distance.

2.) BLOATED: Body swollen by gas produce internally. Insect activity may be apparent. Odor: Decay odor present. Detectable by bot dog and human. Can be detected at a distance.

3.) DECAY: Body collapses as gas escapes. Exposed flesh may be thick. Odor: Strong putrefaction odor detectable by dog and human at some distance.

4.) LIQUEFACTION: Liquids created during the decomposition process seep into the environment. Body drying out. Odor: Reduced odor production. May smell cheesy or musty. Animal may still detect at a distance.

5.) DRY/SKELETAL: Slow rate of decay. Remaining flesh may be mummified. Odor: Musty odor. Detection distance shortened.

*Detection distance varies with wind direction, weather and terrain. If approaching upwind, detection distance will be much greater than if working with wind at the handler’s back.

Elements of Decomposition

Microorganisms: Normally present in the lungs and intestinal tract. Many are necessary in a living person for normal functions. If death is the result of disease, pathological organisms may be present.

Warmth: Decomposition is significant at approx. 50°F and proceeds most rapidly between 70° and 100°F. Between 100° and 212°F, the process slows as the reproduction of bacteria is retarded by the increased temperature and moisture is evaporated.

Air: Oxygen-consuming organism activity is retarded by the absence of air. Restriction of airflow around remains will slow the decomposition process.

Moisture: Microorganisms require moisture to function. A body normally contains enough moisture for the bacteria to multiply.

Principles of Scent Cone Presence and Distortion

1. Decomposition odor will tend to form a scent pool above and around the remains.

2. Air flow will move the scent away from the source in the direction of the wind, forming an air scent cone.

3. Water will move the scent away from the source along scent conduits in response to gravity or currents, along surface of underground waterways; or following erosion or drainage patterns.

4. Wind or water flow can be altered by scent barriers.

5. Water flow along a conduit can interrupt the absorption of scent into the soil near the remains causing a scent void near the remains at the dog-nose level.

6. Variable wind patterns can cause an uneven distribution of scent molecules in the air.

7. Elevation of the body with a horizontal scent cone can produce a scent void near the remains at dog-nose level.


Understanding the natural processes that influence outdoor death scenes is vital to the success of conducting and interpreting searches. The study of what archaeologists and paleontologists calls “death assemblages” is termed taphonomy, which literally means the laws of burial, but can refer also to unburied bodies exposed on the earth’s surface. In other words, taphonomy includes knowledge about the process by which a body is transformed from a living being to dust—or fossils, chemical constituents, or mummified remains. In forensic taphonomy, we are concerned with the earliest part of that postmortem period.

Legal Issues

When conducting a search, a dog/handler team is, in effect, searching for evidence. Most of the legal cases regarding dog searches deal with drug seizures, but the principle under which the issues are raised apply equally to cadaver dog searches. The two primary areas of concern are the acquisition of evidence and the acceptance of that evidence by a court. Unless the search team is operating within the guidelines set down by the Constitution and the court system, any evidence located during the search may not be admissible at a trial.

• The Fourth Amendment of search and seizure is the applicable standard. No warrant will issue without probable cause.

What constitutes a search with a dog? The court decided in United States v. Place, that the activity of a drug-sniffing dog was unique. The dog only alerted if there was evidence of contraband. Therefore, the dog was only disclosing criminal behavior and a warrant was not necessary. No intrusion of an innocent person’s privacy would occur.

Many courts have allowed searches by air-scent dogs without a warrant when the search has been based on other facts that gave the police a reasonable suspicion. Courts, however, will not allow dogs to be used for general exploratory or dragnet-type searches. The decisions in these cases appear to be very fact specific. The court’s decision to allow lesser evidence or exigent circumstances to be substituted for the need to obtain a warrant remains unpredictable.

The issues above rarely occur in the context of cadaver dog searches. These searches are usually the result of prior investigation. Cadaver searches by their very nature will lack exigent circumstances except in the rarest of cases. Those cases will usually involve the suspicion that a vehicle either has a body in it or was used to transport a body.

The principle area of concern for cadaver dog handlers is the possibility of warrantless entry onto property where there is a justified expectation of privacy. Open fields are not protected by the Fourth Amendment. The surrounding area or curtilage—areas adjacent to structures—requires a warrant. With public land there are no privacy issues involved.

There you have it: the working cadaver dog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


by Katherine Scardino

While I am busy with a criminal practice, I still have Family clients as well. And, sometimes, I have a family case that really gets my attention. I got one of those recently. This young woman came to my office and wanted a divorce filed. She had three children, one only a year old. She had a husband who made a lot of money—but this man has a problem. He has a serious problem. He likes to hit and yell. He likes to pin her against a wall and have sexual intercourse with her when she can’t move, cry or hardly breathe. He thinks it is acceptable and does not understand her anger.

"Wife rape" means sexual acts committed without a person’s consent and/or against a person’s will by a woman’s husband. Sexual acts may be committed through physical force against her or threats of force. When a woman submits to sexual acts out of fear or coercion, it is rape. Women raped by their partners are violated by someone with whom they share their lives, homes and usually children. In addition to the violation of their bodies, they are faced with a betrayal of trust and intimacy.

But, sadly, victims of wife rape do not usually see what is being done to them as a violation of their rights. This is not really a surprise, however, since society only recently recognized wife rape as a crime and some people believe that wife rape must be less harmful than stranger rape. As a matter of fact, there used to be an exemption in the law that did not make it a crime if a husband raped his wife.

Living in a household never knowing when your spouse will get angry enough, upset enough, or just lusty enough that he will resort to this violent, abusive conduct made this woman cringe when something out of the ordinary happened. She hated to hear his voice rise above the normal level, when the children had an argument, spilled a drink, broke a glass or just generally acted like kids.

When this lady came to my office, it had been four months since she had been forcefully raped in her own home, with the children in the other room. She had not called the police to make a report. She had not told her father, her mother, her sister, or her best friend. She had shamefully retained this secret information inside. She got up every morning; she helped the children prepare for school; she made her husband breakfast; she smiled as he drove off to work, and probably secretly hoped he would not come home.

The answer to why a woman stays in an abusive relationship is complicated. Many women believe it is part of their "wifely duty" to have sex with their husbands, regardless of how he goes about it. Many women may not have the financial ability to leave their husbands, and then this situation may be complicated by the children. If they are in school, this may entail removing the children from school, packing their belongings, and moving away from their family home.

The alternative is to abandon her children—leave them there with the violent father/husband. Most women will not do this.

Other women believe they deserve this disrespectful treatment, that they are such poor wives/mothers that they do not deserve any better treatment. So, they do not tell; they do not report. For those of us who live a fairly "normal" lifestyle, it is difficult to even imagine what a horrible life this must be. Abusive physical or emotional violence is demeaning and insulting. The recipient of such conduct gets beat down. The idea of self-confidence, incentiveness, happiness, carefree fun is no more.

But the question in everyone’s mind remains: Why stay there—why not leave? That was my first question, but I already knew the answer. I knew that any person, any woman, in this type of abusive relationship becomes too afraid to move, to talk, to report the crime to the police. After all, it really has not been that long ago that women were just property of their husbands, chattel, and the idea was that sexual intercourse can never be rape because the husband is merely making appropriate use of his property.

So the reasons range from children, guilt, fear, pride, embarrassment, financial dependence, or a combination thereof. A woman can get locked into a violence cycle.

But today, in our generation, spousal rape is a crime. Any sexual intercourse without the consent of the other person is rape. This crime is a felony. If convicted, this husband could go to prison for twenty years. Still, the wife still has to overcome the discriminatory belief that wife rape is not as bad as stranger rape.

My client went to therapy; she put herself and her children in a safe place. She got a job to support herself and her children. And, she went to the police. Guess what the police told her? This fine, upstanding officer said, "We need evidence"—"proof" that this happened.

Now, mind you, those in the legal field know that a young woman can report a stranger rape and usually that individual, if identified, gets arrested and he has to defend himself in court. Even in situations where a child makes an allegation of sexual abuse against an adult, no officer talks to the accused individual. There is not an extensive investigation as to the credibility issue, or what the accused has to say about the incident. Did the accused have a defense? Was he in Timbuktu at the time of the incident? He could have been and the officer would never know because he will never ask before he arrests this person.

Not so with wife rape. The officer insinuated to this woman that he most likely would not file charges unless the wife had some "proof" that the event actually happened. This proof could be photographs of bruises or other injuries to the body itself. In my client’s case, she spoke with her husband over the telephone while recording the conversation, and he stupidly admitted the rape.

So this case may have a happy ending. This woman is young enough to benefit from serious counseling, her children will grow up without this violence in their home, and she has the chance to regain her sense of self esteem. Her husband, hopefully, will have an opportunity to get counseling in prison.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Confessions of a Fashion DA

by Robin Sax

It’s almost Fall . . . and what is Fall without a little fashion?

Okay, everybody, I am going to admit it. . . . If I could think of my dream job, I’d be a stylist, a personal shopper, a fashion policewoman. I would peruse catalogues, go to France, China, and India, meet designers, and rip people’s outfits apart. I would play with fabrics, sample accessories, and find new designs. I wouldn’t be just any type of stylist though. Oh no. I wouldn’t cater to celebs, A-listers, or the people with money. I would cater to my peeps, my folks—the ordinary, the working ones, the ones who speak to juries, the ones who go to court, the ones who spend their careers serving others.

Every day I go to court and my chin drops when I see some of the outfits people don for the courtroom. I see shirts too short, pants too long, and skirts too long and too short. I see ties too skinny and outfits that belong in the beach or at a night club. I see people wearing stockings with sandals, crumpled ties, and even saw blue jeans that were way too tight and way too low cut on a lawyer who was arguing to the court.

When these fashion no-no’s happen, people whisper, critique, laugh, or worse yet, lose respect for you. Yet, political correctness and sexual harassment has made it such that when one of these fashion atrocities happens, everybody just sits there. Judges don’t tell lawyers to go home and change their clothes and lawyers don’t tell witnesses to go home and change their clothes. Everyone just sits there in amazement, trying to look the other way.

No matter how judgmental or politically correct people think they are, the fact is that we are a judgmental society. If you think I’m kidding, just ask any of your women friends. They will tell you that a woman can hate another woman and pure sight, without the other person saying a word. And why is that? It’s because we draw conclusions and opinions about people from what they are wearing, what their hair looks like, what kind of jewelry they are wearing, and of course, the expression on their face.

And it is for this reason that it is so critically important for people to look professional, clean, and appropriate for court. Whether in front of a jury, in front of a judge, or meeting with a lawyer, how we look makes a statement about who we are and our credibility. In order to be most credible in front of a jury, I offer the following suggestion—dress for court as you would dress for church or for an important job interview. And if that guidance is not clear enough, let me give you some pointers that should assist you through any fashion emergency:

Avoid outlandish looks in hair, clothes, and makeup.

Wear age-appropriate clothes. Don't wear the same thing your teenage daughter wears.

There is no place for super spiky heals of flip-flops in a courtroom.

Never wear anything that reveals your lingerie. That means no matter how trendy low-slung pants are, if you can see the skivvies, skip it!

Don't wear your wealth on your hands, wrists, fingers, ears and neck—especially not all at the same time.

Don't wear pajamas to court.

Navy blue and black suits are always safe. But mono-color (shirts the same color as the suit) went out of style about five years ago.

If you're over 50, do NOT wear sleeveless. As a matter of fact, no one should wear sleeveless in court.

By all means, iron your suit and shirt.

Take a once-over look in the mirror for anything that sticks out when you swing around. If it's there, take it off immediately.

Don't wear anything with a logo across the buttocks.

Never, ever wear a fanny pack!

And in case you were wondering what this crazy prosecutor is doing writing about fashion, know that I have made a hobby out of watching trends, spotting fashion finds and being a cultural connoisseur.

In May 2008, I started SaxFacts Weekly, a weekly newsletter spotlighting what you MUST know about fashion, beauty, baby, food, exercise, and many other websites. What originally began with the desire to feed my own consumerism has become an outlet of learning what’s out there for everyone to enjoy.

With a subscriber list of over 3,000 people in just 12 weeks, I provide my readers with resources, suggestions, and contacts for everything from the mundane to the quirky. Whether you need to know how to scout for a nanny, where to buy the best holiday gifts, when there is a great sale, how to locate an affordable web designer, or who can notarize your trust at 3 a.m., I have the scoop. So, if you want to be in the know, sign up for your FREE newsletter at

Monday, August 25, 2008

Upholding Legal Rights of Mentally Ill Defendants

by Lucy Puryear, M.D.

On June 19, 2008, the
Supreme Court of the U.S. issued a decision in which it held that a higher standard must be used to determine defendants' competence to represent themselves in criminal cases than the test used to determine the accuseds' competence to stand trial. Plainly speaking, this means that while a mentally ill defendant can be found competent to stand trial it does not necessarily follow that they can competently represent themselves as their own counsel.

Fundamentally this could be viewed as a negative decision for the mentally ill. One of our constitutional rights is self-representation in court. We are allowed to tell our story the way we want it told and to plead our case in a manner that we believe is in our own best interest. Now most of us would do a pretty terrible job of maneuvering ourselves through a court case, but sometimes taking your lawyers advice doesn't turn out as you'd hoped. I have heard defendants ask, "Why didn't my lawyer do this, or why didn't they say that?" Sometimes juries will express, "Why didn't we hear from the defendant, I want to hear his version of the story." Not speaking for yourself is not always the right decision.

It becomes very complicated in a case where the defendant is floridly psychotic (hearing voices, speaking in gibberish). Nothing useful will come from that defendant trying to conduct his own trial. The court process becomes derailed and nothing good is accomplished for either the defense or the prosecution. Often the defendant by his very mental state convicts himself with little effort by the prosecution.

But does it make sense to allow someone to be competent to stand trial and yet too ill to represent themselves? Most courtrooms are all too ready to allow a mentally ill defendant to be tried. Recently the Supreme Court of the United States said yes in the Indiana v. Edwards decision. (Facts of the case excerpted from the NAMI newsletter.)

In July 1999, Ahmad Edwards was discovered trying to steal a pair of shoes from an Indiana department store. After being discovered, he fired a gun at a store security officer and wounded a bystander. He was charged with attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon, criminal recklessness and theft. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and subsequently found incompetent to stand trial and was committed to a state psychiatric hospital for further evaluation and treatment. His competency and mental status fluctuated over the course of five years and he was not found competent to proceed to trial until July 2004.

In June 2005, Edwards stood trial. He asked to represent himself but the trial court rejected this request and the jury found him guilty of criminal recklessness and theft but failed to reach a verdict on the charges of attempted murder and battery. The State decided to retry him on the attempted murder and battery charges and he was retried in December 2005. The trial court again found that he was competent to stand trial but not competent to represent himself.

Despite being represented by counsel at his retrial, the jury convicted him on both counts. Edwards appealed, arguing that he had been wrongfully deprived of his constitutional right to represent himself. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which addressed the legal question of whether the standard for allowing defendants to represent themselves at trial should be higher than the standard for finding defendants competent to stand trial.

The Court decided that there was a higher standard for representing yourself than the standard for competency. To be found competent to stand trial you must be able to consult with your attorney with a "reasonable degree of rational understanding." This means in general that you are able to know what you have been charged with, be able to consult in formulating your own defense, and be able to explain the nature of the pleas involved. (In an interesting aside, Andrea Yates was found competent to stand trial although she initially wanted to plead guilty so that she would be executed by the state which was the only entity who could kill Satan inside of her. She understood the plea but her psychosis was unable to initially allow her to follow her lawyer's advice.)

The Edwards decision states that to be competent to represent yourself you must have the ability for "organization of defense, making motions, arguing points of law . . . questioning witnesses and addressing the court and jury." The court is stating that those that are mentally ill may be well enough be found competent but still not be able to represent themselves. While this may appear to be taking away the rights from persons with a disability it may be ultimately in their best legal defense. The Court also comments on the humaneness of the decision, "A right of self-representation at trial will not affirm the dignity of a defendant who lacks the mental capacity to conduct his defense without the assistance of counsel," Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote. "To the contrary, given that defendant's uncertain mental state, the spectacle that could well result from his self-representation at trial is at least as likely to prove humiliating as ennobling."

The United States has long struggled with the treatment of the mentally ill. From locking them up in sanitariums for years to locking them up in jails. No one knows quite what to do with the mentally ill defendant who, although it may be obvious that they've committed a crime, it's also obvious that they are seriously disturbed. In Houston alone it is estimated that some 50% of the inmates in the juvenile justice system are seriously and chronically mentally ill. Jail is not a great treatment for a psychiatric disorder.

Texas in particular has struggled with the death penalty and the mentally ill criminal. We have had a history of executing those with known, documented, and profound psychotic illness. This is an embarrassment for our state and a terrible example for respecting human rights. This ruling by the United States Supreme Court is a very small step forward in assuring that those who commit crimes and are suffering from mental illness have both their rights protected and receive fair trails. What to do with a mentally ill defendant after conviction is the topic of another blog. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on a very complicated issue.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Forensic Psychology and Dangerous Women

by Larry A. Morris, Ph.D.

When I was approached by my agent, Claire Gerus, to write a book about women who commit violent crimes, I spent a long time considering her proposal. I had concerns. Sure I had been working as a clinical and forensic psychologist for over three decades and had lots of experience with women who murder, maim, and molest. But most people think of men, not women, when they think of violent criminals.

Even though a couple of my previous books,
Males at Risks: The Other Side of Child Sexual Abuse (1989, with co-authors Bolton and MacEachron) and The Heterosexual Male: Lust in His Loins, Sin in His Soul? (1997), explored issues of interpersonal violence from a male’s perspective, the controversial finding that males can be victims of child sexual abuse and other violence perpetrated by females was also examined.

Over the years I received both praise and condemnation for suggesting that girls and women sexually abuse children, especially boys, at a rate much higher than “official” reporting statistics documented. The voices of condemnation were the loudest and most persistent.

Even now, with the media full of stories about attractive female teachers molesting grade-school boys, I am dismayed by the number of voices who try to minimize the rape of male children by female teachers by calling it something else—an affair. Even some of my male friends and colleagues joined the chorus of gender-biased sexual expectations with a refrain straight from the male socialization hymnbook: “Oh Lord! Where in the hell were these women when I was in grade school?”

If I decided to write a book about mothers, sisters, and daughters who assault, commit murder, and sexually abuse children, I knew I would be sticking my neck out again, even further this time, by exposing the darkest of the dark side of femininity. I knew I again would be faced with proponents of the pervasive cultural stereotype that women are victims, not perpetrators, of interpersonal violence. The voices of dissent would be back. In force. And, as my thirty years of experience as a clinical and forensic psychologist taught me, some women can be very dangerous.

One of my colleagues, a victim of a female stalker, suggested I should pack “heat” like she does, if I decided to write the book and make public appearances. “Don’t leave home without it,” she quipped. “And wear your body armor,” she added.

As a forensic psychologist, I have evaluated hundreds of violent criminals and testified in court numerous times. The most frequent cases involve questions about the defendant’s competency to stand trial and/or issues of insanity. Competency generally refers to an accused’s ability to understand legal proceedings and to assist legal counsel in his or her own defense. While most people think insanity is a mental-health term, it is a legal term in the courtroom and, in most states, is defined by an individual’s ability to know the difference between right and wrong at the time he or she committed the crime.

For example, a murderous mother could suffer from a serious mental illness, but if she knew what she was doing when she killed her children was wrong, she is not insane according to the law.

Because the interface between law and psychology in insanity defense cases is often like a bad marriage, forensic mental health experts often squabble about their differing opinions.

It is also common for forensic mental-health experts to evaluate defendants in order to assess their risk for committing additional violent crimes and the defendant’s chances of responding favorably to psychotherapeutic intervention.

As a clinical and forensic psychologist I have been able to draw from both areas of expertise to address these very important questions.

In spite of society’s tendency to view most female and male criminal behavior differently, I attempt to handle all forensic cases with the same level of objectivity and dedication as any criminal case, regardless of gender. I ask the referral source the same questions about the purpose of the evaluation, review countless documents related to the case, conduct incisive interviews with the defendant, and consult to the referral source about my evaluation findings and opinion about the case. I also interview others related to the case, if appropriate; administer psychological tests, if helpful; write a report, if requested; and testify in court, if summoned.

Some forensic cases require a fairly quick evaluation and a brief interaction with the court. Many require countless hours of work and lengthy adversarial encounters. Case files can fill a warehouse. Interviewing defendants and others associated with a case can go on for hours. Court testimony can stretch into days. Even though forensic work can be grueling, I always look forward to the next interesting and challenging cases.

As a clinical psychologist, I specialized in treating victims and perpetrators of interpersonal violence, especially child sexual abuse. My clinical work helps me understand both sides of the tragedy of trauma. Seeing the terrible damage done by childhood abuse, I am not surprised when I find a history of trauma in my forensic cases. And, yes, more women are victims than men.

As I continued to consider my agent’s book proposal, I thought about presenting cases of girls and women who murdered and/or committed sexual crimes with an eye toward understanding and prevention. I opened my forensic files of dangerous women to see what I could find. Their stories were compelling. I decided to write the book. We settled on a title: Dangerous Women: Why Mothers, Daughters, and Sisters Become Stalkers, Molesters, and Murderers. It has been released to the public. Should I strap on a new set of body armor? . . .

Larry A. Morris, Ph.D. is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has been in private practice for more than thirty years. He is the author of four books including The Male Heterosexual, plus book chapters in A New Psychology of Men and Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse. Dr. Morris lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Mystery Man Coming Friday

We hope you read our last Mystery Man column, a collaboration from a dynamic duo in cracking cold cases in Texas. Our next guest contributor comes from the desert and is an expert in cracking the criminal psyche. Tomorrow, look for our 11th Mystery Man, a clinical and forensic psychologist. He spent part of his summer in the hills of old Colonial Mexico conducting personal research on the pleasures of tequila.

For more than thirty years, he has evaluated and treated victims and perpetrators of interpersonal violence. In doing this work, he has performed hundreds of forensic evaluations and testified as an expert witness in state and federal court in cases of murder, rape, assault, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse.

He is the author or co-author of four books. The cover of his most recent publication inspired him to consider developing a line of autographed cutlery—oh, yes, he does have a great sense of humor.

Read what this man has to say on the subject of women in crime this Friday, right here at Women in Crime Ink.

Honor Killings

by Connie Park

According to the United Nations Population Fund, approximately 5,000 women worldwide are murdered annually in what is known as honor killing. In addition, uncounted others are brutally attacked, including being burned with acid and left disfigured for life (left photo from Bangladesh).

The numbers could be much higher, as cases often go unreported. In a recent case in Saudi Arabia, for instance, a woman was sexually assaulted, yet no charges were ever filed against the suspect. Why? The woman was out past curfew.

Making these crimes even more horrific, if that's possible, is that they're most often committed by a woman's father, brother, or uncle. In such cases, a male family member decides a woman has brought "dishonor" upon the family. Some of the infractions include: refusing an arranged wedding, seeking a divorce, committing adultery, or being a victim of sexual assault.

While there are reports of honor killings occurring in many Muslim countries, several parts of Europe and Canada, increasingly they're occurring much closer to home, right here in the United States. In her article "Honor Killing: When the Ancient and Modern Collide," Cinnamon Stillwell reports that these acts transcend domestic violence and are fostered by extreme Muslim beliefs and culture.

The first time I heard of an honor killing was in January 2007, when a colleague on the Houston Police Department investigated the murder of a 21-year-old Afghani woman. The victim was killed with a sledge hammer by a family member. Investigators believed the motive was the woman's liberal Western beliefs.

Then, in Georgia, eighteen months later, on July 5th, 2008, Chaudhry Sadid killed his 19-year-old daughter, Sandeed Kawal, strangling her with a bungee chord. What had Sandeed done to deserve such a horrible fate at the hands of her own father? The young woman wanted to divorce her husband.

Just this past January in Lewisville, Texas, two teenage girls, 17-year-old Sarah Yaser and 19-year-old Amina Yaser Said (left) were shot and killed by their father, Yaser Abdel Said. Their death-penalty worthy offenses? The girls wore Western clothes and dated. Sarah's and Amina's bodies were found in their father's taxi cab. After being charged with capital murder, Yaser Abdel Said disappeared. It's believe he fled the country.

There are those who argue that these incidences are not honor killings but individual family circumstances. Mainstream Muslims state the Qur'an does not condone honor killings, however perpetrators of such violence often quote the following verse from that Muslim Holy Book (4:34) in their defense:

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and [as to] those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Once Upon A Crime . . .

by Vanessa Leggett

This month is the 39th anniversary of the Manson slayings. When Helter Skelter was published in 1974, I was one of countless children entering grade school—as the child of Roman Polanski would have been, had his pregnant wife Sharon Tate not been murdered.

I was not old enough to read Helter Skelter during its first print run. In fact, I have no actual recollection of that crime or of any others detailed in true-crime books that inspired me. What I can recall are three of my favorite opening paragraphs from classics in the genre:

"During the night, an early spring rain washed the city and now, at dawn, the air was sweet and heavy. Remnants of fog still held to the pavements of Houston, rolling across the streets like cobweb tumbleweeds, and the windshields of early commuters were misted and dangerous. The morning seemed sad, of little promise." (Thomas Thompson, Blood and Money)

"The Village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call 'out there.' Some seventy miles east of the Colorado border, the countryside, with its hard blue skies and desert-clear air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness, and the men, many of them, wear narrow frontier trousers, Stetsons, and high-heeled boots with pointed toes. The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them." (Truman Capote, In Cold Blood)

And, finally, the night that hatred painted the “love house” at 10050 Cielo Drive:

"It was so quiet, one of the killers would later say, you could almost hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon." (Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry, Helter Skelter)

Each of these haunting openings taught me something about setting. The first two could have come from any novel. Okay, not any novel. The point is that the first paragraphs of Blood and Money and In Cold Blood were written in the style of fiction. What made the opening of Helter Skelter most chilling was its skillful blend of fact and imagination.

A maniac bent on murder would not likely remember—much less describe—the sound of "ice rattling in cocktail shakers." The magic of this opening lies in the promise of the pages to follow: "one of the killers would later say . . ." And so we turn the page.

Since I read that book, whenever I hear the music of a martini mixer on a summer evening, I don't think of the drink. I remember Helter Skelter and that unquiet night on August 8, 1969.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Pedophiles' Playground

by Susan Murphy-Milano

Computer telecommunications have become one of the most prevalent techniques used by pedophiles to share illegal photographic images of minors and to lure children into illicit sexual relationships.

The Internet has dramatically increased access sex offenders have to the population they seek to victimize.

By using chat rooms, children can chat for hours with unknown individuals, often without the knowledge or approval of their parents. A recent FBI investigation revealed that
computer sex offenders used chat rooms to contact children. Chat rooms offer the advantage of immediate communication around the world and provide the pedophile with an anonymous means of identifying and recruiting children into sexually illicit relationships.

These individuals attempt to
sexually exploit your kids through the use of online services and the Internet. These "candy cane" luring computer wizards are skilled in the art of seduction. They spend large amounts of time, money, and energy on the latest trends, music, and hobbies of children. Their words are often inviting, soothing to the child on the other end of the computer screen.

According to Los Angeles prosecutor
Robin Sax, a predator, over time, knows how to lower a child's inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their online conversations. (Ms. Sax's upcoming book, Everything Parents want to know about Predators and Molesters: A Sex Crimes DA Answers Your 100 Most-Asked Questions, will be released in March of 2009.)

The two main tools a
predator uses on their young victims are online chat rooms and personal instant messages.

Once they gain the
trust of the child, a predator will arrange a meeting at a nearby park, fast-food restaurant, or mall.

Two excellent resources for parents are the
sexual predator database and an online Web information and investigation service.

To report child pornography and/or sexual exploitation of children, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children's Cyber Tip-line.

The Cyber Tip-line allows parents and children to file a report by submitting an online form. This form is then reviewed by analysts and forwarded to law enforcement including the FBI, the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and state and local police agencies. For additional information on Internet safety, check out the FBI brochure titled "
A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety."

Monday, August 18, 2008

When is a Con Man more than a Con Man?

by Pat Brown

Super-con man Clark Rockefeller was a good father and would never hurt his daughter, so his ex-wife
Sandra Boss claimed as she tearfully begged for her child's kidnapper to bring the little girl home.

"We both love her dearly and have only her best interests and well-being in our hearts. I ask you now, please, please bring Snooks back," said the child's mother (pictured above), using the child's nickname. "There has to be a better way for us to solve our differences than this way."

I received a number of terse e-mails after I did a few news commentaries making the point that since Rockefeller was clearly a psychopath (as he surely displayed all the traits of one), it should not be assumed that his daughter was safe with him just because he claimed to love her and had not been violent with her in the past.

Was it it unfair of me to conclude that because the man was a psychopath, a pathological liar, a con artist, and a kidnapper, he might also employ violence against his own child should she begin to annoy him or get in his way? Is the kind of psychopath who uses fast talk to charm people into giving him what he wants, the type who would commit violent acts as well?

"He's not a violent person,"
his lawyer said, standing outside of a Boston jail after conferring with Rockefeller. "There's no evidence of violence in his life, absolutely no record."

Clark Rockefeller AKA Christopher Chitchester AKA Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter (his real name) is now being investigated for the 1985 double murder of the landlords of the guesthouse he rented behind their San Marino home in Southern California.

It seems the newlywed landlords, Johnathan and Linda Sohus, went off on a honeymoon to Europe and were never seen again. Their bones, however, were discovered buried on their property nine years later by a company digging a swimming pool for the new owners. A postcard, supposedly penned by the honeymooners, was sent from France at coincidentally the same time Rockefeller was visiting the country.

In 1985, there is no question that folks thought Rockefeller was quirky, maybe even crooked, but it is likely they never considered him dangerous or violent. Because he was gregarious and charming, those who met him probably thought he would use his wits, not weapons, to achieve his lofty goals.

Sandra Boss probably now realizes how lucky she was to get Snooks home in one piece. A psychopath is not always serial killer and is not always a violent criminal, but by the time you figure out what kind of creep he is, it may be way too late.

Friday, August 15, 2008

When Cheating Becomes A Crime

by Jenna Jackson

Everyone is talking about Sen. John Edwards this week—but not because he got the VP nomination. He admitted (after several months of denying it) that he had an affair with a woman who did some video work for his campaign, Reille Hunter. He admitted it to his wife a couple of years ago, but had hoped to keep it a private matter. That, of course, is impossible if you’re running for public office. And the newest question is whether Hunter’s child was fathered by Edwards. He is denying—but, of course, his denials don’t carry much weight since he denied the affair for months and then admitted it in installments.

Our blog is about crime, and I know this isn’t a crime—except against his wife and children. Unfortunately, it’s not even that surprising in this day and age. We have come to expect people to cheat—especially men in high-profile positions, it seems. Edwards said he just got to the point of being very narcissistic, so I guess he thought the rules didn’t apply to him.

In a Texas case near the Plano area, a man’s narcissism and tendency to cheat DID rise to the level of a crime—at least according to Collin County prosecutors. Last July, Philippe Padieu, 51, (left) was arrested at an Addison nightclub and charged with four counts of aggravated assault.

His crimes? He was dating several women at the same time—each of the women thinking they were in exclusive relationships. Some of these “relationships” had been going on for years. But as much as most of us women would consider that a crime, legally, it isn’t.

His crime, which his girlfriends/victims discovered over time, was knowingly spreading the HIV virus to each and every one of them, according to his charges.

Padieu tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, in fall 2005, a police sergeant told the local paper. Police said they believe he "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused serious bodily injury by creating a substantial risk of death by the exchange of bodily fluids."

He not only betrayed these women’s confidence and trust—he gave them what amounts to a death sentence. As a 48 Hours producer, I often speak to family members of victims who have been killed. But I’ve never spoken to the victim of a murder (even though it’s not called that legally) before he or she died.

When I first heard about this story, I was very sad for these women—all beautiful, independent professional women. They truly thought they were dating a nice man . . . and were shocked to find out he was cheating. Then imagine when they, one by one, discovered that they each had HIV.

This man has not yet been tried. And he, like everyone else in the country, deserves a fair trial. But I would not want to be him when each of those women likely takes to stand. She’ll describe their relationship, their discovery—and their sentence.

He is facing five to 99 years in prison for each count. My guess is the jury will lean toward the high side of those sentences.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Does Being Gay Make A Murderer?

by Stacy Dittrich

Rarely, you will come across a post where I question the guilt of someone; specifically, one who commits murder. On that note, I have been hacking away at my true-crime book that debuts next year, tentatively titled Murder Behind the Badge: True Stories of Cops Who Kill. While researching the fifteen or so cases of police officers who have committed murder, I came across one in particular that made me sit back and say, "huh?" It's the case of convicted murderer, and former Columbia, Missouri police officer, Steven Rios.

On May 23, 2005, Rios was convicted in the murder of 23-year-old college student, Jesse Valencia (pictured left). Valencia was Rios' secret gay lover. Rios, married, with a six-month old baby, was an upstanding and well-liked police officer at the Columbia Police Department. In the early days of the case, the bizarre turn of events continued to bewilder the residents of Columbia, along with the friends and family of Steven Rios.

Jesse Valencia's body was found in a yard less than a block from his campus apartment, on June 5, 2004. With his throat slashed to the brink of decapitation, and his body severely beaten, rumors began to run rampant throughout Columbia's gay community that Jesse was secretly involved in an intimate relationship with a local police officer. Steven Rios, on his scheduled days off, drives to a police substation where he logs on to the dispatcher's computer, before arriving at the crime scene. There, he offers his assistance in identifying the body.

Rios had previously arrested Jesse the prior April for interfering with police officers at a bust-up of a college party. This was Rios' excuse for knowing Jesse and, of course, failed to add that the arrest led to an immediate sexual relationship between the two. Several days later, when the rumors of the cop relationship hit the 144 manned department, Rios went to detectives to tell them that "I'm not the gay cop." He also proceeded to provide two other officer's names as suspects. By then, it was too late. Investigators already had several witness statements providing detailed and intimate, information regarding the relationship between Rios and Jesse.

After being confronted by investigators and admitting to the relationship, Rios took a leave of absence from the department. It was only two days later that Rios' name was exposed by the media, labeling him as the gay lover of the murder victim. Humiliated over being exposed to his family, friends, and the community he worked in, Rios drove to nearby Kansas City with a shotgun in his car, threatening suicide. After detectives coerced him back to Columbia, Rios was placed in protective custody at a local mental health facility. All the while, the Columbia Police Department continued to deny that he was a suspect in the murder.

The day after the first suicide incident, Rios escaped the mental health facility and threatened to jump off a fifth floor parking garage, which resulted in a two-hour stand-off between him and the police. Taken into custody again, Rios was placed in a more secure mental health facility.

Now, the question poses itself: Are the actions of Steven Rios a silent confession to murder, or are they merely the fallout of being exposed as a homosexual male? Most importantly, is it enough to convict him of murder?

Of course, there's more-the DNA. On July 1, 2004, formal murder charges were filed against Steven Rios after DNA confirmed that 3 hairs found on the victim's chest, and DNA under the fingernails belonged to Steven. However, Steven's DNA was not the only one found. There was massive DNA all over Jesse, and inside his apartment, that matched a male named Edward McDevitt.

Jesse had met McDevitt two days prior to the murder at a local gay nightclub. The two had engaged in sexual relations and McDevitt was the last person to see Jesse alive. A DNA expert who was put on the witness stand by the prosecution during Rios' trial, acknowledged that Rios' DNA could have easily come from Jesse's bedsheets. Rios had been intimate with Jesse five days before the murder. So, what exactly was the motive presented by the prosecution? A conversation between Jesse and his best friend, Joan Sheridan. Joan testified that Jesse told her that if Rios didn't throw out the criminal charge filed when he arrested him, Jesse was going to tell the police chief that Rios was gay.

Here are the facts:

1. After his shift ended at 3am on June 5th, Rios went to the roof of the police department and drank beer with other officers--a common practice. Rios contends he left the party at approximately 4:45am, and arrived home between 5:15-5:30am where his wife, Libby, was awake feeding the baby. This timetable was not disputed.

2. Between 3:00-3:30am on June 5th, Jesse Valencia's neighbor reported hearing a loud commotion in Jesse's apartment. He heard someone yelling, "stop!"

3. Five officers testified that Steven Rios owned a 4-inch serrated knife. Steven denies this, saying that any knife he was seen with was another officers or a knife he had confiscated from a suspect. Libby Rios testified that Steven asked for a knife the prior Christmas, but she didn't get him one because they couldn't afford it. The murder weapon was never found, but the coroner determined the wound was caused by a serrated-edged knife.

4. Prosecutors affirmed that Steven could have driven to Jesse's apartment within half an hour to forty-five minutes, killed Jesse, and made it home. However, the defense asked if they took into account stop lights, stop signs, and a shorter/longer route-the prosecution said no.

5. Steven Rios had no bruising/injuries to his hands or body. Rios, a wiry, gawky, man would have surely had some considering the beating Jesse took, which included a large hemorrage to his chest.

6. Jesse's new lover, Edward McDevitt lived with a man named Eric Thurmont--a known criminal. Thurmont testified he left his apartment at 3:30am with a male friend, and stayed at the friend's apartment until 10:30am. The friend concurred this story. McDevitt claimed to be at home alone.

7. Rios testified that his bizarre actions following the murder were a direct result of the fear of being exposed as a homosexual. He stated he was going to immediately inform investigators of the relationship until he heard "horribly brutal" gay jokes by other officers at the murder scene.

The jury ignored the fact that the DNA could have come from the bedsheets, they never questioned testimony from a known criminal or the man that gave him an alibi, and they never questioned the whereabouts of Ed McDevitt at the time of the murder-a man whose DNA was all over the victim and his apartment. They also ignored the descrepancy between the testimony of the neighbor who heard the commotion between 3-3:30am, while Steven Rios didn't leave the party until 4:45am. While deliberating, some jurors claimed to have doubts. The alleged ringleader of the jury, Jared Buchan, admittedly told them, "He's a cop, he can get away with anything," until they were ultimately convinced. They also didn't like Rios' own testimony and deemed him "unbelievable."Additionally, Joan Sheridan gave them the perfect motive.

Rios was handed a life sentence with no parole.

Astonishingly, on April 27, 2008, the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned and threw out Rios' conviction, based on the fact that Joan Sheridan's testimony was hearsay. There was no proof that Jesse ever confronted Rios about exposing him, and Sheridan's testimony should have never been admitted.

Steven Rios' retrial begins August 18, 2008. Is this a case of a man being persecuted based on the humiliation he felt after being exposed as a homosexual, or is he truly a heartless murderer?At this point, I'm not convinced of either. There are still a lot of unanswered questions that weren't asked of Rios, and further investigating to be done.
I do know one thing. If Rios is found not guilty . . . I'm out of a chapter.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mary-Kate: What Was She Hiding?

by Tina Dirmann

Who does Michael C. Miller think he's kidding? Really. Don't know who Michael C. Miller is? Well, I'm sure you know his high-profile client, Mary-Kate Olsen. Miller is the high-dollar attorney Olsen hired to block federal investigators from getting anywhere near her. Drug Enforcement Agency officers just wanted to chat with her a bit in connection to the accidental drug overdose of her dear friend, Heath Ledger.

Miller said no way.

"Despite tabloid speculation," Miller said in a prepared statement, "Mary-Kate Olsen had nothing whatsoever to do with the drugs found in Heath Ledger's home or his body, and she does not know where he obtained them."

Okay, so, then I think we're all a little confused as to why she repeatedly refused to cooperate with investigators—unless they promised her immunity.

Immunity from what, Mr. Miller? Ms. Olsen, care to weigh in?

Well, I'm sure she and her attorney are both breathing a sigh of relief since they will never have to answer that question. The Ledger death investigation was officially closed last week, with the U.S. Attoney's Office deciding not to enforce a subpeona against Olsen, issued in April. The key question for investigators looking into the accidental death was how Ledger was able to obtain the lethal cocktail of prescription drugs that he ingested before falling asleep in his Soho apartment on Jan. 22. An autopsy revealed that Ledger had, among other medications, the powerful pain killers Oxycontin and Vicodin in his system.

Ledger did not have a prescription for either medication and investigators wanted to know how he got the drugs.

It's unknown, obviously, whether Mary-Kate can answer that question. Something tells me—and this is just my opinion, mind you—but I'm guessing she had a pretty good idea. Why?

The two were not only good friends. They were party pals. Mary-Kate had become a constant in Heath's life, frequently hanging out with him late into the night. And so, it's no wonder when Heath's masseuse found his body unresponsive, she picked up the cell phone and called, not 911 . . . but Mary-Kate Olsen (who, in response, generously—cowardly—sent over her bodyguards). Thankfully, the massage therapist had also called paramedics by the time Olsen's tough guys arrived.

Is anyone else furious at Olsen? I don't blame her for Heath's mistake. He was an adult. He knew that he was abusing prescription medications. But Olsen, I'm saying she can't walk away by casually saying, "Oh, I don't know, I simply have no idea what happened. . . ."

Uh-huh. I don't think anyone is buying that. So, I'm sad to see this investigation come to an end without testimony from Mary-Kate.

I also want to note that every other person in this investigation made themselves open and available: Heath's housekeeper and masseuse (pictured left, respectively), his doctors, the bodyguards, staff, and Michelle Williams, the mother of Heath's 2-year-old daughter (both below).

As one investigator told the New York Times, "Everyone has been very eager to help, saying what a great guy Heath Ledger was—except Mary-Kate, who refused to speak."

Why? If there was nothing to hide, why stand behind a lawyer to say that. Why not sit next to an investigator and proclaim it?

Hmmmm . . . I don't know. But Ms. Olsen sounds to me about as innocent as a North Carlonia senator on the run from a pack of National Enquirer reporters. Hey, didn't he also discount accusations by calling them "tabloid"?

Nice try, guys. From now on, you'll have to do better than that.