The Grim Sleeper is the name given to a serial killer by the reporter who exposed his existence in 2008. He stalked South Central Los Angeles for 25 years. A new documentary questions the complacency of the police who knew there was a serial killer but didn't warn the community. [more inside]
"Much has been said about the storytelling techniques of 'Serial,' which comes out in weekly installments even as the show’s host, Sarah Koenig, reinvestigates the conviction of a Baltimore-area teenager for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. The serialized approach teases its audience with cliffhangers, prompts its listeners to construct their own theories and invites outsiders to glimpse the tricky winnowing process of reporting. But 'Serial' also testifies to how much the criminal justice system itself is founded on storytelling." (Laura Miller, Salon: The new "In Cold Blood" revisionism: Why it doesn't matter if Capote’s classic wasn't fully true) [more inside]
The Edwards were spooked. Christopher stole £10,000 from his employer and they ran away to Lille, De Gaulle’s birthplace. But they couldn’t access the Wycherleys’ account from abroad, Christopher couldn’t find work, and their money ran out. Instead of selling the memorabilia they’d brought with them, in desperation Christopher rang his elderly stepmother, Elizabeth Edwards, confessed to burying Susan’s parents and asked for money to save him and Susan from prison. If the memorabilia hadn’t mattered so much, no one would know today that the Wycherleys were under the lawn. It could have been the perfect crime. But Elizabeth Edwards called the police. The Murderers Next Door.
Maybe you saw the 2011 movie. And if you're a fan of long form journalism, you shouldn't miss the Skip Hollandsworth piece it was based on. You probably didn't see this twist coming: Bernie was just granted early release on the condition that he move into director Richard Linklater's garage. [more inside]
They were local bodybuilders with a penchant for steroids, strippers, and quick cash. And they became expert in the use of a peculiar motivational tool: Torture."Pain & Gain" [part 1, part 2, part 3] [print version: 1,2,3], a series of articles from 1999-2000, chronicles a true life story of kidnapping, torture, extortion and murder. Just the thing to inspire a "small" "character-driven" action-comedy from noted auteur Michael Bay. [Trailer]
Gene Weingarten: "Since 1979, Brian Murtagh has fought to keep convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald in prison"
Gene Weingarten: Since 1979, Brian Murtagh has fought to keep convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald in prison. (Here is the single-page link.) Warning: graphic details of the murders of Colette MacDonald and her two small children. [more inside]
On June 13, 1994, blond-haired, blue-eyed Nicholas Barclay was reported missing from his home near San Antonio, Texas. He was 13 years old. In October 1997, the family received a call from a man in Spain informing them their son had been found after having escaped from a child prostitution ring. Nicholas' half-sister immediately boarded a flight to Spain, where she was reunited with her brother and brought him back with her to Texas. There were a few things though, that seemed a bit off... [more inside]
An oddly perky video of a real estate agent showing a real estate columnist around an old bank building and semi-attached house for sale (3:51). The building was offered on eBay, had its listing removed, and then reinstated. The reason for the video and the eBay concern? The bank (but not the house) had previously been rented to a group of serial killers. [more inside]
“Before me as I write lies an inch-square bit of brown leather --- not, you would think, an inspiring subject for a tale. But perpend. This fragment of human skin, for such it is, has been since 1829 in the possession of three persons only: The original owner, my grandfather, and myself. Inconsiderable in size and unimpressive of aspect, it was nevertheless potent to influence the direction of my future studies… While yet a small boy, my grandfather would often show me by request this singular relic and I never wearied of hearing how he came by it. As a matter of history, its first proprietor, the late Mr. William Burke of Edinburgh, in the circumstances hereafter to be related, was publicly anatomized, his carcass thereafter flayed, his hide tanned, and his skeleton by order of Court preserved in the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh University, where it remains as a memorial of his infamy even unto this day. Mr. Burke’s integument being cut up into sortable parcels to suit buyer’s tastes and exposed for sale by private bargain, my grandfather, who was then but a young man, invested a modest shilling’s worth. Wealthier purchasers bought larger lots --- I have heard that the late Professor Chiene had a tobacco pouch made of this unique material. Personally, despite my predilection for crime, I prefer India-rubber.” --- "The Wolves of the West Port" [more inside]
The 2010 Best American Crime Reporting anthology is out. (Although not available for Kindle as was last year's.) The smorgasbord includes a poem by Calvin Trillin. [more inside]
Unsung Joe has had a lot of worthwhile updates since previously seen on MetaFilter, including adding a true-crime sister blog called Small Town Noir.
Having previously put together a post with links to stories from the 2009 edition of Best of American Crime Reporting, I decided to go to earlier editions to gather together what is available on the web. Starting in 2007 with The Tainted Kidney: Charles Graeber, New York. A serial killer who chooses to donate his kidney has his motives questioned. [more inside]
The 2009 anthology of The Best American Crime Reporting is out. Each year this series collects examples of exceptional and diverse true crime journalism. Many of the entries are available in their online magazines. Starting with "Dan P. Lee, Body Snatchers - Philadelphia magazine" (part of the story previously discussed here), a ghoulish tale of stolen corpses and the market behind him. [more inside]
Then, in November 2007, exactly three years after the disappearance of Simjanoska, another woman from Kičevo went missing. Fifty-six-year-old Lubica Ličoska was, like Simjanoska, a custodian, and she also lived in the same section of town. When the similarities were noted, locals suddenly remembered Gorica Pavelska. She was seventy-three, a retired custodian who went missing in May 2003. No one had thought much of it at the time. She might have suffered a stroke in some remote place, they had speculated, or gone to work in Skopje. No trace of her was ever found and the whole business had been forgotten. But now it appeared that little Kičevo was home to a serial killer, and Vlado Taneski’s editors smelled a big story.- The Mask of Sanity: On the Trail of a Serial Killer in Macedonia by Dimiter Kenarov. An account of the Kičevo Monster and the killer's surprising identity. [Warning: Descriptions of the murders include graphic details]
The Hope Chest: Bad News from the Past is a new blog of old newspaper clippings, mostly from Detroit and Chicago in the 1930s, with true crime and other bizarre stories. Examples include Tries To Shoot A Cat And Hits Automobilist, Driver Loses His Arm Giving Traffic Signal, and Pastor Writes Spicy Book. Other highlights are a phony cop attacking a pornographer with acid and the teenage girl who became a tattooed atheist bandit.
"The best man was Kirk "Spanky" Smyth, who had recently been caught passing through the metal detectors with Buck knives in his rectum. Today he was loaded on smack and rubbing his face red." A Los Angeles Times series examines a woman's quarter-century of marrige to a man behind bars. Part Two. Part Three.
Real L.A. Noir. (Video/audio auto-plays). Los Angeles Times reporter Paul Lieberman has been chronicling the era of the LAPD Gangster Squad, a secret division of the department that tried to combat the mobs of Jack Dragna and Mickey Cohen in the 1940s and '50s. (Keep the cast of characters straight with this handy chart.)
The North Hollywood Bank Job. part two part three part four . Inspired by this famous (and NSFW) scene from Heat, on Feb. 28, 1997, Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr. and Emil Matasareanu attempted to rob a Bank of America in North Hollywood, CA using body armor, automatic weapons and barbiturates. This documentary uses news footage, recreations, interviews, computer animation and a cheesy narrator to explain the chaotic hour that followed. There are some violent images. [more inside]
The music of the People's Temple. Five years before Jim Jones coerced 900 of his church members to commit suicide in Guyana, the People's Temple cut an album. [more inside]
It's a cause célèbre jamboree, starting with Mumia Abu-Jamal: Guilty! Innocent! Guilty! Innocent! [more inside]
Dying Speeches & Bloody Murders digitizes over five hundred broadsides owned by the Harvard Law Library, all of them devoted to "last dying speeches"--that is, sensational accounts of crime, punishment, and (fictional) confession, intended to be sold at public executions. The New York State Historical Association has an online exhibition devoted to nineteenth-century American murder pamphlets. You can find a couple of seventeenth-century examples at the Early Modern Web and the Folger Library. Old Bailey Online briefly puts this literature into context. (Main link via C18-L.)
A guide to prison slang. Texas prison guards' guide to prison slang. Jim Goad's guide to prison slang.(He should know). More prison slang. [more inside]
Stop Snitchin' may be the hidden link between hip hop and the 1980s alternative rock group, House of Freaks. According to the New York Post, journalist Ethan Brown has accomplished "making the Stop Snitching movement seem reasonable" in his new book Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice. Brown argues that harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses have created a "cottage industry of cooperators" and informants who fabricate evidence, because Provision 5K1.1 of federal sentencing guidelines gives leniency in exchange for "substantial assistance to authorities." According to Brown, two of these criminal cooperators included Ray Dandridge and Ricky Gray, the perpetrators of the Richmond spree murders that ended the life of Brian Harvey of House of Freaks, his wife, and his two children. On the other hand, Mark Kleiman argues that the Stop Snitchin' movement has driven homicide clearance rates so low that, in some cities, "you have a better than even chance of literally getting away with murder." [more inside]
"The ‘Ndrangheta cannot be beheaded.” Organized crime is Italy's biggest industry. Most people are more familiar with the Sicilian Mafia or maybe even the Neopolitan Camorra, but it's the Calabrian 'Ndranghta (very in-depth article) that has police around the world worried now, especially after they were blamed for a six-person murder in Germany this summer. [more inside]
On October 26, 1965, a sixteen-year-old girl named Sylvia Marie Likens was reported dead to Indianapolis police. It was soon discovered that her death was the culmination of weeks of torture at the hands of an adult caretaker and several neighborhood children; when the case went to trial, the prosecutor declared it "the most terrible crime ever committed in the state of Indiana." In 2007, not one but two films inspired by the case make their debut: The Girl Next Door (trailer), based on a fictionalized version of the events, and the docudrama An American Crime (trailer). One person, at least, will probably be skipping both -- the victim's sister, who says of the latter film, "No one ever even asked us about it. It's their gain, our pain."
Crimeboss: Crime Comic Books of the 1940s and 1950s - Galleries: Crime Does Not Pay 1, 2; Crime Reporter; Crimes by Women; Famous Crimes; Teen-Age Dope Slaves; Reform School Girl! (via)
Diagnosis or job description? UK tabloids sometimes lead people to believe that all journalists are the scum of the earth. That's obviously not true, but one journalist who actually fits the bill seems to be ex-Woman's Wear Daily staffer, Peter Braunstein. On halloween, he dressed up as a fireman, called around at the apartment of a friend of his ex-wife and repeatedly drugged and raped her. Normally, this would just be another tawdry true crime, but like most writers, he's ended up leaving his mark all over the net.
Homosexuality in 18th Century England :: an amazing compilation of primary source material from newspaper reports and other sources.
Nineteen Faces :: Nik adds some thoughtful commentary to photos found on US Sex Offender Registry websites. I find Number Six to be most interesting.
On July 6th, 1988 Dennis Dechaine of Bowdinham, Maine came home from work (transporting frozen chickens from a slaughterhouse) and planned to work on constructing a greenhouse. However, that project hit a glitch and sometime that afternoon he decided instead to take some amphetamines and go exploring in the woods near his home. When he emerged from the woods, lost and looking for his truck, about 8:30 pm that night he was questioned by the police who were looking for a missing 12 year old girl named Sarah Cherry. Two days later, Sarah's body was found and Dennis Dechainewas charged with the girl's murder. He was convicted in March of 1989 to life in prison without parole and an entire generation of Maine girls were told to 'remember Sarah Cherry' as a caution to not talk to strangers.
The question before us now, is, of course, did he do it?
The question before us now, is, of course, did he do it?
'We want them to let us know about it so we can do everything within our power to stop it' - State Auditor Beth Chapman
Meet Vernon Blake. Vernon Blake was a Systems Admin for the Alabama Department of Transportation, and it was 'well known' in his office that a certain supervisor spent far more time playing solitare on his computer than he did doing anything else. Inspired by a campaign to stop waste in Alabama government, Vernon installed a screen capture utility which took 717 screenshots (.pdf) over 7 months, documenting a clear pattern of non-work related use of the computer. The results? The supervisor was given a written repremand. Vernon Blake was fired.