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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Was Jane Doe 'Lori Erica Kennedy' Really Missing Person Jennifer Marie Wictor?

Jane Doe
I was researching a Jane Doe who went by Lori Erica Kennedy (on the left). She committed suicide in 2010 in Texas. This article about the mystery woman has gone viral in the past week or so, and no wonder--she left behind a tantalizing and fascinating trail of clues. It appeared that she began her new life around age 18 or 20, first stealing the identity of a deceased child named Becky Sue Turner. Shortly after adopting the Turner identity she changed her name to Lori Kennedy, and from that point on lived a somewhat normal if cloistered, outwardly strange life.

And she had problems--by the time she killed herself, she was estranged from an apparently clueless, passive husband and her home had fallen into hoarder-like levels of disrepair.

The article I linked above tells the story well, so I'll just get to this--it's probably a coincidence, but when I did a Google reverse image search on the above photograph of Jane Doe/Lori Ruff,  the ONLY result was a photo of Jennifer Marie Wictor.
Jennifer Marie Wictor

Both women appeared to be the same approximate height, weight, age, hair color and possibly even eye color. Their noses are notably different, but according to the original report about Jane Doe, she "might have had a nose job at some point" as well as breast implants.

At the moment--and I admit, I'm resisting digging deeper, because I prefer to sleep now--it seems there is a frustrating lack of information about Jennifer Wictor's disappearance.

That leaves this (in my mind at least) in the realm of remarkable coincidence. For now.

I have no illusions that I'm the only person to happen onto this result--I'm certain sleuths on discussion boards all over the web are all over it. Regardless, I emailed a Tempe, Arizona detective listed as handling Jennifer Wictor's case about it, because why not?

Sometimes the Internet can solve things, because we're all human behind our screens, and sometimes, we just want to know.

Note 1:




I was able to turn up additional photos of a younger Jennifer Wictor, culled from her high school yearbooks. They don't necessarily help in the resemblance to Jane Doe department, but it's interesting to see how much she changed over a relatively short span of time.

Note 2:

In Maureen O'Hagan's article about Lori Kennedy/Jane Doe, she reported that the mystery woman had a post office box in Boulder City, Nevada in the late 1980s. It's a pretty tenuous link, but I did want to point out that on a map, at least, it's a straight 4-plus hour drive northwest from Tempe, where Jennifer Wictor was living when she disappeared, to Boulder City. So that connects both women to the same region around the time one vanished and the other began her new life.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Note

Deleted an earlier post that was begun to cover what initially seemed like a major shooting incident in Texas. Turns out the reports from local media there were confused (as is almost always the case in certain kinds of crime news) and incidents reported were A: unrelated and B: not even fatal, apparently.

And that's how stuff works sometimes, or doesn't. I'm going to do my best with this blog to get delete false alarms when they arise--or better yet, get better at vetting them before I even commit to posting anything.

More on Unfolding Vanderbilt Football Sex Crime Investigation

The Associated Press reported this morning that Vanderbilt University has kicked four football players off the team and off the campus. Metro Nashville PD spokesman Don Aaron made it clear to the AP that the University's action was related to a sex crimes investigation. In fact,
School officials say the players can't return to campus "without explicit permission" from the school's office of student conduct and academic integrity.
Names of players under investigation may have been published on social media, and full disclosure, an old school friend of mine (like, since elementary school) tweeted them. I'm not publishing them, but searching hashtags on Twitter like #Vandy and #VandyScandal (a hashtag so offensive to Commodores fans at least one press outlet had to apologize for using it) will bring them up.

Though I don't want to post the names of the dismissed players here before some large media outlet makes them public, I do believe the source for the names was reliable.

My friend, Lee Crowe, made an interesting observation about how some Nashville media have reported on the alleged sex crime at Vanderbilt so far:
Given that Tennessee State University has a mostly black student body and that Vanderbilt has sometimes been informally referred to as a Southern Ivy League school (along with Duke, Tulane, Rice, etc), Lee's point is clear. (The Tennessean's article on German's arrest is likely archived, you can read about it here. It sure wasn't a sex crimes investigation.)

Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez's alleged connection to possibly as many as three homicides has put high profile athletes of all stripes (professional and likely soon-to-be professional, college athletes) back in a white hot spotlight. The investigation at Vanderbilt may amount to nothing. It may even be a Duke Lacrosse repeat, which would be one of the worst possible scenarios for everyone. I suspect the clampdown on reporting much about it so far is in part due to the media circus that surrounded the Lacrosse case.

If the investigation drags out and the University continues to seem especially wary and reticent, though, that national media spotlight will swing to Nashville and it'll be a hotter, more uncomfortable summer than usual on that big campus on West End Avenue.

[Associated Press]

Friday, June 28, 2013

Four Vanderbilt University Football Players Suspended, Sex Crimes Detectives Investigating

From my hometown, Nashville, an unfolding story that I can tell has Nashville media sniffing the air like hound dogs after foxes: "Metro Sex Crimes Unit investigating matter at Vanderbilt."

WKRN, Nashville's ABC affiliate, reports that "[s]ex Crimes detectives were notified about the situation on Wednesday by Vanderbilt campus police." According to KRN, six additional players are under scrutiny and the alleged victim is a student at the university as well.

Vanderbilt's announcement, posted today, was cryptic:
Vanderbilt University today announced that four members of its football team were suspended earlier this week for violation of team rules. As additional facts become known, Vanderbilt will take further action, if and as warranted.

Because of Vanderbilt’s ongoing investigation, the university will offer further comment when appropriate.
Maybe I've been out of the loop and missed something, but Vandy seems to have escaped problems with this kind of scandal in the past.


Shannon Guess Richardson Indicted for Ricin-laden Letters to Obama, Bloomberg

Shannon Guess Richardson/IMDB
Reports about the newly-indicted Shannon Guess Richardson's alleged poison pen letters to the president, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mark Glaze have often referred to her as if she was a working actress when the alleged crimes occurred. If you're like me, your original response to reading, "actress" and seeing titles like The Walking Dead might have been to wonder why, once you saw her photo, you didn't recognize her at all.

Latching on to Ms. Richardson's efforts to market herself as if she were a full cast member of the many high-profile projects on her IMDB entry was actually a news or blog writer's trick to draw readers into the story. Because if you really look at the IMDB page what you see is likely paid extra work, at best, nearly every role listed as "uncredited."

It's silly to snag this kind of detail about a suspect in a crime and make that the hook for a story--I know, I've done it. Had Ms. Richardson been a credited actress with speaking roles and even a marginal level of recognizability it would have made more sense.

In this case, it doesn't make as much sense because the facts of the case as currently known are pretty damned fascinating. As the Associated Press reports, Ms. Richardson, age 35, was trying "to frame her estranged husband" for the crimes.

If true, this means she went to the effort to actually make the ricin, concoct and send the crazy-sounding letters (they apparently railed against gun control advocates), then carefully frame her husband.

Her husband, who as the AP also reports, had contemplated divorcing Ms. Richardson only to reconsider "when the relationship seemed to improve."

Maybe things improved because his wife settled on a solution to her problems?

Anyway, I've been annoyed by the coverage of this case and kind of wish I'd started in on it at the beginning because I've felt like many outlets reporting on it were missing the fact that the alleged plotting, as well as Ms. Richardson's oddly complicated personal life (three marriages, five children by different fathers, her so-called acting efforts) all added up to a weird crime story that didn't need the additional grabber of calling the suspect an "actress" to somehow "juice" the pageviews or clicks.

Though I must admit, given her husband's apparent cluelessness about the whole thing, she may have been a much more gifted actress than the sizes of the roles on her résumé indicate.

[CNN.com] [Associated Press]

Hacking Collective Says They Breached Istanbul Site, Eliminated Debts

Some might say a major hack like this belongs on my new crime blog, but in this instance, it's hard to see it as a crime. In the midst of continuing unrest in Turkey, where citizens have been protesting the religious, conservative government for weeks now, a group that calls itself the RedHack collective apparently took control of the Istanbul Special Provincial Administration (ioi.gov.tr) and then did something a lot of average citizens in any major city might initially find pretty damned awesome:
The hackers claim that, by penetrating the organization’s systems, they’ve been able to erase people's debts to water, gas, Internet, electricity, and telephone companies.

In addition, RedHack has published a username and a password to allow others to access the Istanbul Special Provincial Administration’s systems.
As noted by Softpedia, the site is now offline--either from traffic or more likely to minimize further damage from the hack.

You can read a good deal about RedHack on Pastebin, a popular programming site that simply allows users to paste and store text as needed. RedHack focuses on Turkish interests and they've been around, according to this post, since the late 1990s.

I've never blogged as much as I really wanted to about various international news stories for a variety of reasons. However anything going on in Turkey should really be of interest to Americans in general--it's a large, previously stable democracy with a Muslim majority. It bridges Europe and Asia.

So, just saying, maybe look up from the Candy Crush and pay attention sometimes, spanky.

(As I mentioned in this post, this entry is a step toward covering more non-crime news in this blog. Crime stuff will be posted to CrimeBlogX.blogspot.com.)

[Softpedia]

Police Say Wendy Wright Made Her Children Drink Bleach

In the WTF zone now. Seabrook, New Hampshire resident Wendy Wright, age 33, allegedly forced her 6 and seven-year-old kids--at least kids of that age in her care--to drink bleach. She's currently in a Boston hospital. Ms. Wright has been charged with attempted first degree assault. WMUR reports she'll be transported back to New Hampshire to face charges once she's released from the hospital.

Bleach. Damn.

(Note: I'm still figuring out the best use of this blog, so it may be a mix of quick hits like this with longer posts as I go along, till I find a rhythm.)

 [WMUR]

The Aaron Hernandez Investigation

Aaron Hernandez (Wikimedia, Jeffrey Beall)
It feels a little futile to begin with a post about a case as big as the investigation into former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, whom police believe may have killed one man and been somehow involved in the murder of two others. Boston media is covering the case non-stop and since moving to New England I've developed a healthy respect for the Boston news machine. Much of the time both TV and print seem provincial and a little fluffed-out here, but when big stories like the Marathon Bombings or the Hernandez case pop, Boston press crank up their game and do an amazing job--if a New England story is big enough to merit cable news coverage I usually ignore the cable nets and staying with local TV and social media updates from reporters for the Herald and Boston Globe.

Still, it's impossible to ignore Aaron Hernandez's shocking fall from the pinnacle of NFL stardom to a jail cell in North Attleborough.

So--Hernandez remains jailed on multiple firearms charges as well as charges he murdered pro-am football player Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near his home on June 17, 2013. Police have also arrested Carlos Ortiz, age 27. Police say Ortiz was a fugitive from justice. Authorities are still looking for a third man, Ernest Wallace, age 41.

Boston police were at Aaron Hernandez's North Attleborough residence overnight on Thursday, apparently seeking evidence tying Hernandez to a drive-by shooting that followed an altercation at a Boston nightclub in July of 2012. WBZ reports:
Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Teixeira Furtado, 28, both of Dorchester, were killed when someone fired at the BMW they were in near the corner of Herald Street and Shawmut Avenue.
Another person was wounded in that incident. The shots were allegedly fired from a gray SUV with Rhode Island license plates.

The kicker? The Boston Globe has reported that "officials" think the true reason Odin Lloyd was killed was he "knew [Hernandez] might have been involved" in the deaths of Abreu and Furtado.

This level of intrigue is what separates the Hernandez case from many other crimes involving pro athletes, even the various crimes and alleged crimes of O.J. Simpson.

What makes Hernandez tick, if he is guilty of any of these crimes? Watching his blank-faced, calm demeanor in the courtroom it's hard to not think he is either a cold-blooded psychopath or--as the many die-hard fans who have flocked to the North Attleborough court to support him surely hope--utterly sure of his innocence.

In the past it would have been easy to conclude he's a stone-cold killer, given the nature of the charges.

But that's the thing about crime and certainly about big cases like this: nothing is ever remotely that simple.

*Edited to add a link regarding further investigation at Hernandez's home on Thursday night.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hi.

I started blogging about crime in late 2004 because I've always been fascinated by the subject and because the Internet was changing the way stories unfolded. Kept at it through late 2009. It became my job, led to something resembling a career in journalism. I was on TV, was widely published online, and sometimes it was fascinating and fun and sometimes it was stressful and weird and eventually, around the time I made one of my bigger TV appearances (for CBS's 48 Hours Mystery), it was too damned much. I didn't exactly quit writing, but I'd had enough of true crime.

That hasn't really changed. I have had enough of true crime, as a distinct genre of nonfiction. That's different, in my mind, from crime news. True crime requires a certain (sometimes hyperbolic) style and attitude. With a few exceptions, I don't like much true crime anymore. When I read true crime books, they're almost always about historic cases, not anything from the last 20 years or so.

But I still follow a lot of major crime stories as closely as I ever did. I still think about this stuff. People still have me talk about it on podcasts and radio shows.

So recently I realized maybe I had something to say again. Perhaps just plain old news aggregation blogging (links and quotes with commentary), sometimes reporting, as long as I can vet it like the professional I've supposedly become. After all,  I'm a different person from when I was one of the originators of "true crime" blogging. I've had on-the-job training in journalism, for one thing. Some of it even took. I've run blogs as a job, covering whatever my supervising editors thought would bring the pageviews. I've covered a wide variety of other news, including tech blogging. As a tech blogger for the New York Observer's Betabeat I naturally gravitated toward cybercrime coverage--so you'll find a good deal of that here, because it's a fascinating new frontier, one that's often more the purview of tech blogs than crime blotters.

Truth: I find nuts and bolts reporting tough, sometimes. I'm not a natural at picking up the phone and asking strangers tough questions. I'd do better in person, but my life is arranged in such a way that just jaunting off to story location x or y isn't a practical option. If I do have a gift, it's probably spotting a big story before it really pops. I hope to bring that to this blog.

Some aspects of my past crime blogging may be gone--I have no intention of doing any of this by request, for instance. One thing that really undercut my interest in keeping a 'personal' (that is, I'm not doing it as a job) crime blog in the past was sometimes feeling I was pandering, or taking what amounted to story assignments from people. Tips are great, but requests to cover your pet missing persons or unsolved case are not. I can't do that sort of thing and keep this up.

I also have no plans to task myself to update this thing every day. I may end up doing just that; but I'd rather err on the side of quality than quantity. Too many bloggers, especially those of us who've done it for a check sometimes, work too fast and put out too much and a lot of errors enter the record.

And I'm serious about being a different person. I've lost 100 pounds and am in the best shape of my life. I live in New England now, having moved here from the South for my wife's job a year ago. Social media has gone bonkers since I was deep in crime coverage in the past, and I participate in a pretty non-serious way and enjoy the hell out of it.  All this will surely affect the way I dive into stories--or not.

So even though I'm supposedly one of the oldest old hands at this, apparently I'm still figuring it out as I go along.

****

By the way, I have other sites that I update as I feel like it:

  • Huff's Blog--I've written a bit about my fitness and weight loss here. It's basically a personal blog but I did recently decide that I'd do more newsy blogging instead. If I write about something in the news that's not crime-related, it'll be at that address.
  • My Tumblr--Probably the closest thing to a personal blog now. I kind of use it when Twitter's character limit is a problem for whatever I have to say.
  • Occultica--Just a Tumblr I keep to record weird stuff.

Blog things

Beginning Thursday, June 27, 2013, I'll be posting newsy stuff here, unless it's crime. That will go elsewhere.

I'll add that later.

There you go.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

OK, Here Goes

Welcome to Crime Blog X, my new crime blog.

Everything old is new again, but not. I've learned some things since I first did this in late 2004. Hopefully that will show.

Bear with me as I get the look and feel of the site just so.

Beginning June 27, 2013, here we go.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Phoenix Serial Killer Dale Hausner Dead at 40

From KPHO TV:
Hausner, 40, died of unknown causes at the Eyman state prison in Florence, officials said. Staff and medical personnel tried unsuccessfully to give him CPR.
Blogging this just to express how sad I'm not that this evil bastard is dead. Dale Hausner wasn't one of those serial killers who will go down in history with single name recognition and that is a great thing. He was a psychopathic meth head who killed and hurt for fun, though. I wrote about him at the time of his arrest in 2006 and interviewed people close to him. Occasionally that humanizes an otherwise horrible human being but not with Hausner. He was as evil as his convictions for first-degree murder, attempted murder and related charges indicated.

It's rare that I bother with such sentiments anymore, but I do hope hell burns hot for the bastard.

More about this murderous slimeball's crimes here.

[KPHO]

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"Feeding Hannibal"

From http://janicepoonart.blogspot.com/
If you're a fan of NBC's Hannibal--and even though I can see some flaws in the show, I most assuredly am a huge fan--Feeding Hannibal is awesome. It is the blog of the show's food stylist, Janice Poon. Her sketches and glimpses of how the show is scripted over time are fascinating, but her wry narrative style is fun and the overall look at how major TV drama sausage (heh) gets made had me reading post after post. I often love getting lost in the intricate details of such things.

After reading Ms. Poon's blog I no longer feel quite so weird about how watching a show about a cannibalistic foodie psychiatrist often makes me more interested in cooking. The show creators clearly put a great deal of work and thought into making the food scenes detailed and aesthetically interesting.

This is actually one of the things that marks Hannibal out as a particularly brilliant TV drama (sometimes nearing Twin Peaks levels of ironic, dark genius); the show's creators are so shamelessly attentive to making the audience see how Dr. Lecter could plausibly feed his intelligent and immensely discerning guests the remains of the good doctor's various human prey. It's as if they're saying, 'if you were at Dr. Lecter's table unawares, you'd happily tuck right in yourself.' God help us all, I think we would.

["Feeding Hannibal"-- Janice Poon Art & Food Styling]

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ok, it's still my personal blog...

That's why I'm making a fitness-related note, since I've blogged about that here off and on in the last several months.

I took a month off from running and added high intensity (HIIT) sets of various exercises to my other workout routines. Partly just to see how that would work as far as keeping up my aerobic ability. Turns out it worked great. Like insanely well. Last week, for instance, I broke the running vacation and did 3 miles, mostly slow-paced.

Then today, a full week later, I ran 4 miles--as if I'd been steadily running every day, with perhaps more ease.

There's apparently a whole debate between people with time to debate this stuff online about whether HIIT workouts (plyometric exercises, kettlebells, old-fashioned calisthenics) are superior to "steady-state" cardio like biking or running. I don't really care, as I like running and HIIT workouts and have proven to myself that one can easily contribute to my ability to do the other.

No real revelation to a fitness instructor or someone who's done this steadily all their life, I'm sure, but to someone like me, who more or less avoided exercise between age 28 or so and 43, it felt pretty good to make a plan and then a discovery entirely on my own.

That's the main thing about exercise, for me--as long as I work with the fact I'm easily bored and change things up on a regular basis, I continue enjoying what I do.

We now return you to other more interesting stuff.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A derecho threatens the midwest like Godzilla looming above Tokyo

Derechos and the wrath of God both look like this (Wikimedia)
Weather forecasters say a potentially dangerous derecho is cooking in the skies above the Midwest and several major metropolitan areas are "in the threat zone" on both Wednesday and Thursday.  A little more from the forecast o' doom:
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said 12 million people were at high risk of severe weather, including Chicago, Fort Wayne, Ind., and the Illinois cities of Aurora, Rockford and Joliet. An additional 60 million were under moderate or slight risk, from Milwaukee to Washington.
Derechos are severe storm complexes known to meteorologists for many years, but it's only been in the last year or so that the public has become aware of them. With good reason--a huge derecho swept from Indiana to Virginia on June 29/30, 2012, killing 22 without ever even dropping a tornado. Derechos don't need to. According to Wikipedia (honestly, often a good basic source for some information), derechos are "widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm(s) that are associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms." On radar, derechos form a distinctive bow and tend to plow like a slow-moving arrow of destruction across the land, looking biblical along the way (see above).

It's probably just me but I find derechos rather eerie. Tornadoes are apocalyptic, truly terrifying, but there's something about a great black cloud front rushing in with sustained winds, hail and driving rain that seems almost malevolent.

If there is a silver lining, Weather.com forecasters don't seem 100% certain the worst form of the storm will manifest, writing, "It's possible, though by no means certain, that thunderstorms Wednesday night could congeal into a long-lived squall line called a 'derecho' with a more widespread damaging wind threat in this region."

Anyone who's followed me on Twitter shouldn't be surprised I'm a weather weirdo.

Perhaps inevitably, I find it's getting worse as I age.

Anyway, maybe wear body armor with your gumboots if you have to get out in this one.

[NBC]

NSA leaker Edward Snowden is still in China and talking to Chinese press

What the hell are you people up to?
I don't have time and don't really need to recap who Edward Snowden is at this point, do I? Whatever the case, that'd take more writing than I want to do right now. If you need to bone up, just click this.

The 29-year-old NSA contractor who dropped numerous bombs about what a joke the concept of privacy is in the United States these days via Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian was known to be in China, then he 'went to ground,' as press writers who kind of wish they were Tom Clancy like to say.

Now the South China Morning Post has an "exclusive" (nice to see that particular b.s. term is not confined to American media use) on Snowden, "from a secret location in Hong Kong." SCMP's Sarah Graham acknowledges "Snowden's actions have been both praised and condemned" around the world then goes on to give a list of what Snowden may have up his sleeve:
  • more explosive details on US surveillance targets
  • his plans for the immediate future
  • the steps he claims the US has taken since he broke cover in Hong Kong
  • his fears for his family
The article also quotes Snowden addressing the thing that's bothered me about his actions since the story broke:
"People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality," Snowden told the Post earlier today.
So... he addresses skepticism about his going to Hong Kong, but doesn't really answer the deeper question as to why there. At least in that brief quote.

There are other countries more friendly to what Snowden is doing; no less than Julian Assange said Snowden should seek asylum in South America.

There are many uncomfortable holes in the slowly unfolding story of Edward Snowden and his treasure trove of NSA secrets. I am paranoid enough and mistrustful enough of government in general, regardless of the party in charge, to stop short of judging Snowden's actions at this point. But the questions, "why China? Why a Chinese territory?" dig at me. It's as if the whole thing is a big espionage/whistleblowing centipede and we've only had two shoes dropped.

Wait and see, I guess. Wait and see.

[South China Morning Post]

Don't call it a crime blog

Last night I decided to do more news/crime blogging to stay sharp. A Twitter friend with sterling opinions on this kind of thing, Anthony De Rosa, recommended I simply use my name, not create a new space.

I like Blogger as a writing space; the casual feel of Tumblr has never seemed quite right to me for anything longer than 500 words. I also decided some time ago that most of what someone might call 'personal' blogging kind of bores me. Which is not to say I won't write about health and fitness issues anymore, or even say something personal--I consider this space ripe for whatever I want to put here. I'm just more interested as a writer in news stories, right now (and good fiction--but that's a separate thing).

Years ago I established myself mostly covering crime and recently it hit me that even though I'd backed away from intense coverage of various crime stories in the news, I think about them as much as I ever did. Also, I don't have any kind of regular blogging 'gig' right now, as I had covering a variety of subjects for the New York Observer for the last year or so. So I need to stay frosty, I guess.

A mistake I've made before is giving in to what I think readers want or what might give me a big traffic bump. With a new direction in what I post here I am going to avoid that as much as possible and only write about what interests me, when I want to write it.

So here goes.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Yeah...

Going back to using this as my primary blog. Gonna keep my Tumblrs for whatever but I like Blogger better as a writing space.

I suspect this means a certain amount of Old and a bit of Stodgy have crept into my make-up.