Thriller Thursday: The Vampire of Sacramento

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Every rational person knows vampires aren't real. There are no undead cursed to walk the earth for eternity searching for their next victim. And delicious-smelling, sparkly vampires who don't feast on humans are certainly the stuff of an overactive imagination.

But individuals with blood cravings do live among us. We just have a scientific term for them: cannibals. Of course there have been cultures that have accepted cannibalism, but we're not talking about those. Eating people is pretty taboo here in the States, but that didn't stop Richard Trenton Chase.

Nicknamed "The Vampire of Sacramento," Richard Chase went on a month-long killing spree in December, 1977 that resulted in six deaths. Chase earned the creepy nicknamed because he drank his victim's blood and cannibalized their remains.

Richard Trenton Chase mugshot, 1978

Like many of history's horrific murderers, Chase claimed he was abused by his mother. His parents fought a lot and were divorced by the time he was twelve. By then, Chase exhibited the core ingredients of the MacDonald Triad (the behavioral characteristics associated with sociopaths) and was an alcoholic and drug abuser by the time he was in his teens.

Chase was a hypochondriac, worrying about his heart ceasing to beat or that someone had "stolen an artery." He held oranges to his head so the Vitamin C would be absorbed via the brain, and he also believed his cranial bones had separated and moved around. He shaved his head in order to watch.

Throughout his life, Chase was terrified he would simply disappear. He believed the Nazi's, FBI, and space aliens were after him. The soap dish was his tormenters weapon of choice. Chase believed it held a secret poison that slowly turned his blood to powder. He knew only fresh blood could save him.

Chase's roommates complained about his drug use and his love of walking around the apartment nude. He refused to move out, so they left and Chase was on his own.

Like many sociopathic serial killers, Chase tortured animals, but he took it a step farther. He disemboweled the animals and ate them raw, often mixing the organs with Coke and making a gruesome milkshake. He believed eating the animals kept his heart from shrinking.

Blenders used by Chase.

In 1975, Chase injected rabbit blood and wound up in the hospital. The mental institution soon followed. He was discovered drinking blood of birds - their corpses were throw out of the window. Witty hospital staff dubbed him Dracula.

Chase had a strong addiction to blood. At the insituation, he stole blood from the therapy dog after stealing syringes from boxes left in the doctor's offices. He was also known to defecate himself and then paint with the feces.

Totally disgusted yet?

For some amazing reason, doctors decided Chase's was no longer a danger to society after a round of psychotropic drugs, and he was released in 1976 under the care of his mother. Evidently his mother thought she knew more than the doctors—she took him off the antipsychotic meds because the drugs made him "a zombie." She also got Chase his own apartment. Smart. In the months that followed, Chase refused to allow his mother to enter his apartment. She did nothing but continue to pay his rent.

Neighborhood pets, including his mother's cat, fell victim to Chase's bloodlust. Still, his animal blood-and-guts cocktails weren't enough to sustain him.

Chase's first human sacrifice was discovered on Jan. 23, 1978. David Wallin returned to his North Sacramento home to discover his pregnant wife, Terry, murdered. Her torso was slit open; parts of her body had been eaten. Chase had used a yogurt container to drink Terry's blood. The only picture of Terry I could find was extremely graphic.

The FBI behavioral science unit was in its infancy, and police worked closely with the group to come up with a profile to catch the unknown killer. Robert Ressler and Russ Vorpagel sketched an eerily close likeness of Chase, dubbing the suspect a scrawny, young loner, unkempt, dirty, and unorganized, subsisting on someone else's money.

Police sketch of Chase (I couldn't verify if this was the one Ressler created).

Chase 1971 Mug shot.

Accurate as the profile was, it didn't prevent further murders by Chase. Four days later, Evelyn Miroth, her friend Daniel Meredith, and Evelyn's son, Jason, were found shot with a .22 and slashed open. David was only six. Miroth's twenty-two-month old nephew David Ferreira had disappeared after being left in Evelyn's care that day. His crib contained a telltale bloodstain, and the baby's decapitated corpse was discovered four months later.

Evelyn Miroth

Jason Miroth

Evelyn lie naked on the bed, her legs open. Her abdomen had been slashed and her intestines pulled out. Two red-stained carving knives were nearby. Evelyne had been sodomized with the knife at least six times. Her neck had been severely slashed, and bloody ringlets on the carpet indicated the killer had again used something to collect blood. Several internal organs had been stabbed as well. The coroner later said this would help blood pool in the abdomen.

Ressler and Vorpagel believed the killer would be disorganized, with clues pointing to psychosis. The crimes weren't planned, and the killer likely did very little to hide the evidence. He left footprints and fingerprints at the scenes and had probably been seen walking in daylight with bloody clothes. Because he'd walked to at least one crime scene, the FBI believed he lived in the vicinity of the crimes. They were also sure he would keep killing until caught.

Crime scene photo.

A chance encounter turned out to be Chase's downfall. A young woman named Nancy Holen was shopping when a strange man approached her. He appeared confused, and Nancy tried to avoid him.

"Were you on the motorcycle when Kurt was killed?" the man asked.

Nancy was shocked. Ten years earlier, her boyfriend Kurt had been been killed on a motorcycle. Suddenly she noticed something familiar about the strange man. When he told her he was Rick Chase, she was shocked. She remembered Rick as a clean-cut, studious high school kid. The man before her was dirty, his clothes were stained, and he was agitated. She managed to get out of the store while Chase was distracted, but he followed her into the parking lot and asked for a ride. Nancy jumped into her car, rolled up the windows, locked the doors, and booked it out of the parking lot before he could stop her. When she saw the police sketch, she was positive Chase was the man police sought.

When Chase showed up on the police's radar, everything added up: the history of mental illness, the physical decline, his reliance on his mother. When Chase was apprehended, he wore an orange parka with blood stains on it. A .22 semiautomatic with bloodstains was taken from him, as well as Dan Meredith's wallet. Chase had been carrying a box when police grabbed him, and it contained bloodstained paper and rags. At the station, Chase admitted to killing dogs but refused to discuss the murders.

The search of Chase's apartment was horrifying. Nearly all of his possessions were stained with blood—including food and glasses. Small pieces of bone were found in the kitchen; the refrigerator held dishes with body parts. One container had human brain tissue. A blender was stained and reeked. Three pet collars were found but there were no animals to match. Pictures of human organs lay on a table along with newspaper ads selling dogs. The ads were circled.

A calendar had the inscription "today" on the dates of the Wallin and Miroth murders, and the same word was written on forty-four future dates.

Chase on his way to court.

Chase was eventually linked to another murder, the Dec. 29, 1977 drive-by of Ambrose Griffin. Chase confessed Griffin's was his first human victim. He said he chose his victims simply because their doors had been unlocked.

Prosecutors wanted the death penalty, and the defense argued not guilty by reason of insanity. This is one time that defense might have an ounce of merit. I don't know how much Chase plotted in advance, but there's no doubt he neither understood or cared about the consequences of his actions. The jury agreed with the prosecution and found Chase guilty of six counts of murder. He was given the death sentence.

Chase hid the anti-depressants offered to calm him, and on December 26, 1980, he committed suicide like a true coward.

In all my research of serial killers, Richard Trenton Chase is one of the very worst. I do believe he was in a different frame of mind than someone like Dahmer, who was much calculating and controlling. Had Chase been on meds and under careful care, his victims might have stood a chance.

What do you think? Was Chase destined to be a killer? Would meds have helped? Is there really such a thing as not guilty by reason of insanity?


Tempting Tuesday: Going Without and Giving Back

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I found this pic by Googling random acts of kindness. It's too cute not to share.

Last Friday, the wonderful Amber West posted a challenge on her blog, A Day Without Sushi. What can you give up for the next few weeks in effort to donate to charity? The idea is giving up a daily pleasure in order to help those in need without breaking our budgets. Post about what you're giving up and which charity you're donating to.

Amber took the time to put together the following list of charities that take text donations, but if you'd rather donate to a different group, no problem.


Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital:
Text KIDS to 27722 to give $10

Susan G. Komen – Breast Cancer:
Text KOMEN to 90999 to give $10

Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation:

Text HIVFREE to 90999 to donate $5

The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children:
Text NYSPCC to 50555 to donate $10

Make sure you link your blog here as well. And if you don't have a blog but still want to donate, post a picture of whatever you're giving up on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #gowithout.

This week, I'm giving up something vital to my existence: my afternoon enormous Diet Mt. Dew and Special K protein bar. I need to cut back on the pop, and I'm spending about $3 a day on the two. By cutting them out, I can easily donate $10 or more to the American Diabetes Association.

What can you give up? I chose the ADA because my mother suffers from the disease. What charities are near and dear to your heart?


Manic Monday: I Can't Make This Sh#T Up.

Monday, September 26, 2011

There's a sex toy for dogs. No, I'm not kidding. I was browsing the Huffington Post's "Stupid Products" section when I came across it.

This has to be a joke, I thought. I turned to my trusty Google, and sure enough, it exist.

Behold, the Hotdoll:

The Huffington Post has an illustrated version:

The Hotdoll site has a lovely video naming the apparatus's attributes: curves, fluidity, contemporary, stability, and audacity. Why audacity? For it's back opening, of course. Like I said, I can't make this up. The Hotdoll is the first of its kind (imagine that!), created by the French for the maximum comfort of your pet.

The Hotdoll is only 149 Euros, or 200 American dollars. What a steal! Best of all? You can get the spare silicon part for only $20 bucks. Cause you know your boy will wear it out after a while ...

The spare part.

I would LOVE to know how many of these have been sold. The website has a community link with 20 customers listing their dogs and "companions," all with names, of course.

What do you think? Too over the top? Are you laughing yet?


Thriller Thursday: America's Most Haunted Prison

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eastern State Penitentiary circa 1920.

In the late eighteenth century, a group of powerful and determined Philadelphians met in Benjamin Franklin's home. Calling themselves "The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons," the group set out to improve the miserable conditions of prisons in the United States and Europe. Dr. Benjamin Rush had the idea to build a true penitentiary, a building designed to create regret and penitence.

Eastern State's front gate.

Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829. Guided by the Quaker-inspired idea of isolation from other prisoners, the system was strict. Prisoners had a toilet, table, bunk, and Bible in their cells where they were locked in all but one hour a day. When they did leave, a black hood was shoved over their head to prevent distraction and interaction as well as knowledge of the massive building.

Many notorious criminals spent time behind Eastern State's walls, including Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton. Capone's time at ESP came shortly after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and he claimed the ghost of victim Jimmy Clark visited him on his cell.

Naturally, Capone's cell differed from the other prisoner's.
"The whole room was suffused in the glow of a desk lamp which stood on a polished desk. On the once-grim walls of the penal chamber hung tasteful paintings, and the strains of a waltz were being emitted by a powerful cabinet radio receive of handsome design and fine finish." -- Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 20, 1929.
Capone's restored cell at ESP today.

Despite the supposed goal of better treatment and prison conditions, harsh punishments were often doled out at ESP.

The Water Bath: An inmate was dunked in ice-cold water and then hung from a wall for the night. This punishment was most popular during the winter months, and the water would freeze into a layer of ice on the inmate's skin before morning.

The Mad Chair: Given its name because a prisoner was likely to go mad before the punishment ended. Inmates were strapped to the chair so tightly with leather strips they couldn't make even the smallest movements. They were left for days, without food, until the circulation in their body nearly stopped.

Some argue this is simply a barber's chair; others insist it's Eastern's Mad Chair.

Iron Gag: Designed for inmates who refused to obey the no communications policy. An iron collar was clamped onto the tongue of the inmate and then chained to his wrists, which were strapped high behind the back. Movement caused the tongue to tear and severe bleeding. Many died from loss of blood.

Drawing of Eastern's Iron Gag

The Hole: Resting beneath Cell Block 14, the hole was a dark pit where inmates would remain for weeks with no light and very little air. Inmates tossed in received water and a slice of bread, which they'd have to fight the roaches for.

Eastern State closed its doors in 1971 after people began to question the effectiveness of solitary confinement, but many believe some sort of life still exists behind its now crumbling walls. As early as the 1940s, prisoners and guards alike reported visions and creepy experiences throughout the building. Between the violent criminals Eastern housed and the harsh punishments doled out, it's no wonder the place is alive with paranormal energy.

One of the most commonly seen ghosts is an inmate who killed twenty-seven men during an attempted escape. Besides the random specters, strange sounds are heard on a regular basis.

Cell Block 4

A major paranormal episode happened to a locksmith doing restoration work in Cell Block 4. He was struggling to remove a 140-year-old lock from the cell door when a powerful force overcame him, rooting the locksmith to the spot. According to the man, he was drawn to the negative energy that burst through the cell. Anguished faces appeared on the wall and distorted forms rushed through the cell block.

Now a major tourist attraction, paranormal experiences at ESP are frequent occurrences. Voices, weeping, and tormented screams are heard while numerous shadows are seen darting in and out cells.

"When my mother, my sister, and I visited in 2004, we caught not one, but two EVPS (electronic voice phenomenon—a disembodied voice that isn't audible to the naked ear, but can be heard via digital recording) in the exact same spot. We were up by ourselves on the stairs that lead to the catwalk, snapping a few photos when a voice came through sternly instructing us, "you don't have to take a damn picture." Just moments later, the same voice manifested again, this time forlornly stating, "I'm lonely..." - Blue Moon Ghost Hunters

Cell Block 12, reported to have the most paranormal activity.

Active areas include Cellblock 12, where voices and raucous laughter can be heard, Cellblock 6, where shadowy figures are seen against the walls, and Cellblock 4. Footsteps have been heard in the corridors, and wailing is often emitted from the secluded cells.

Cell Block 6

Eastern State is a favorite spot for paranormal investigators. Ghost Hunters garnered some pretty creepy evidence a few years ago. If you want to see the guys exploring the prison, watch the whole video, but the good stuff starts at about 5:45.

Eastern State takes full advantage of its frightening reputation by hosting Terror Behind The Walls - the ultimate Halloween haunted house.

Eastern State is definitely on my list of possible haunted places to visit. What do you think? Is the evidence compelling? Would you be brave enough to embark on Terror Behind the Walls? Have you had any awesome paranormal experiences?

Thanks to Catie Rhodes for the idea of featuring Eastern State!

Other ESP Links:


Tempting Tuesday: Themes Songs To Love

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm going to thoroughly date myself with this post, but that's okay. Remember the awesome 80s TV theme songs? Dramas weren't introduced by gritty, guitar based chordes (True Blood and Sopranos). They were as bold as their groundbreaking shows and commanded attention. My attention, anyway. Here are the ones that shaped my childhood and that I'll never forget.

1. Dallas 1978-1991

I was only a year old when this show first aired. My parents watched it from the pilot, and the song is one of my earliest memories. My mom loves to tell the story of a four-year-old me running into the living room when the song came on the radio and telling her it was "Dallas, Mommy, Dallas!" I still love it, and it will always bring a smile to my face. Seriously, who doesn't remember wondering "Who Shot J.R.?" It was all my parents talked about that summer. T-shirts were printed with the slogans "Who Shot J.R.," and "I Shot J.R.," and the stunt helped popularize the idea of a television cliffhanger.

2. Hill Street Blues 1981-1987

One of the first serial police dramas, Hill Street Blues has been ranked as one of T.V. Guide's Greatest T.V. Shows of All Time. To be honest, I don't remember the show that clearly, although I do remember the faces I see during the credits. I didn't watch this as faithfully as I did Dallas; all I cared about was the music in the opening credits. My parents would call me in from whatever I was doing to make sure I didn't miss it. It's still one of my favorites today.

I dearly loved this show. Laura was my hero, and the books triggered my love of reading and history. By the time I started watching, the show was nearly through its run, so I saw a lot of syndicated reruns. I remember driving my brother crazy because I had to watch it every time it was on. It's one of those themes you recognize on the first note, and it brings back a lot of great memories for me.

4. Dukes of Hazzard 1979-1985

Okay, so this show certainly wasn't great television history, but who didn't love Bo and Luke constantly outsmarting evil, old Boss Hogg? I remember watching this show along with HeeHaw (remember that one?), and I can still hear Dad's funny laugh every time Boss got his.

5. North and South 1985, 1986 (I don't count the third one).

I saved the best for last. The North and South miniseries based on the John Jake novels is considered one of the best miniseries of all-time, and as much as I loved Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, he was born to play southern gentleman Orry Main. Composed by Bill Conti, the emotion of this theme song never fails to make me feel near the edge of tears. For me, it represents a time in American history that was full of change and heartache, and it was this miniseries that cemented my love of history and interest in the Civil War. No theme will surpass it in my mind.

What about you? Do you remember watching these shows? What were some of your favorite them songs?

Manic Monday - Finding the Perfect Jeans

Monday, September 19, 2011

First off, I would like to say my figure doesn't quite look like any of the women above. Picture a flatter butt and a belly with some extra sag thanks to the kid and being overweight for so long and you've got it.

That said, why is it IMPOSSIBLE to find a perfect fitting pair of jeans? I thought once I got down to a size 10, my problem would choosing which awesomely-fitting pair to buy, not spending an hour in the dressing room trying to find one.

My gut is my worst enemy. Despite the weight loss, I've got the belly flab. I'm working on it, but it's not going away overnight. Or in a few months, apparently. Since brands CANNOT unify their sizes, every pair is different. I've got a pair of Old Navy 10s that fit amazing in the legs, my butt looks great (for me), but the waist is too loose. A rare problem for me. Next are Levi's. They run small, so I wear a size larger. I've got a couple pair of their "perfect fit," with the new waistband, and they are comfortable, but far from perfect.

Not me. But every woman has been through this.

I also run into the whole leg issue; half the time the ones that fit great in the waist are too long. I do have a pair of Gap Long and Leans that I found at Goodwill ( a great place to shop for jeans) that look pretty good. But they're still a bit loose.

And what is it with these low cut waists? It seems 90% of the jeans out there are like that. Doesn't the fashion industry realize the vast majority of us don't look like their models? That we have hips and have had kids, and those low cut THINGS make us spend all day hiking up our pants. And belts don't work, because getting them tight enough to keep the creepers up causes the dreaded muffin top syndrome.

Muffin top, and not the yummy kind.

Of course, there are designer jeans like PZI that claim to have the perfect jeans for women with curves. Translate: REAL WOMEN. Problem is, they're not available in every state and they're expensive. Who has $90 to spend on a pair of jeans? And if we do, you know it's that ONE special pair that you're terrified to wear because you might stain them.

Why can't anyone come up with a jean that fits comfortably without charging an entire week's worth (or more) of groceries? More importantly, it is impossible to come up with jeans that show your shape without cutting off your circulation and disappearing into your nether regions?

Is there no hope for the perfect pair of women's jeans? Are we too picky, too self-conscious? Have you found the elusive pair?


Row 80 Check-In and Blogger Ball

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!

She Writes Blogger Ball

First off, welcome everyone from the She Writes Blogger Ball! I'm Stacy, a writing mom who blogs about anything that interests me. My speciality is "Thriller Thursday," which features posts ranging from true crime to paranormal. As for the writing gig, I've completed my romantic suspense novel Light and Dark and I'm preparing to query while working on a new book, The Prophet. Hope you enjoy the blog!


As we wind down this round of Row80, I have to thank all the participants who did such a great job of cheering each other on. There were days when I didn't want to write or felt completely behind, and it was wonderful to have the support of writing friends.

These were my Row80 Goals:

1) Edit/Rewrite at least one chapter a day of Light and Dark.
***First round edit to be completed by September 19.
2) Get outline and first 5000 words of The Prophet done.
3) Blog at least 3x a week and keep building my author platform.
4) Read, RT and comment on at least 5 blogs a day.

I'm happy to say I've achieved all of them. Light and Dark is in the second round of editing, and I'm still hoping to begin querying by November. I've worked really hard on The Prophet, and it's coming along nicely. I'm pretty excited about the things I have planned, and I've exceeded my writing goal for The Prophet by about 1500 words. As for blogging, I've stuck to three times a week and done pretty well on commenting/RTing. Overall, Row80 was a success for me, and I'm looking forward to round four.

For anyone who doesn't know what Row80 is, check it out here. The next round is starting up soon!

My favorite blog posts this week:

How's your last Row80 week been? Do you have any great links to share?

Thriller Thursday: The Sweet Face of Pure Evil

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mary Bell in 1968, aged 10.

Look at that face. So sweet, almost cherubic. An innocent child, right? Wrong. Mary Bell murdered two toddlers when she was just ten years old, making her one of the youngest (if not the youngest) serial killers in history and a true psychopath.

Mary Bell lived about 275 miles north of London in the small town of Scotswood. Her mother was a prostitute and her father unnamed, although he was thought to be Billy Bell, a known criminal. Family members would later claim Mary attempted to murder her mother several times as a child. Mary would also say she was a victim of sexual abuse and that her mother forced to her to have sex with men as a young child.

On May 25, 1968, just a day before her eleventh birthday, Mary strangled four-year-old Martin Brown and left his body in a condemned house. He small hands couldn't squeeze hard enough to leave marks, and the murder went unsolved.

Martin Brown

Then, in July, Mary decided she wanted to kill again. She chose three-year old Brian Howe as her victim and enlisted the help of her troubled friend, Norma. The little boy was found in an industrial area, covered with grass and weeds. A pair of scissors lay nearby. There were puncture marks on his thighs, his genitals partially skinned. Clumps of hair were missing. An "M" had been etched onto the boy's tummy with a razor blade.

There was a terrible playfulness about it, a terrible gentleness if you like, and somehow the playfulness made it more, rather than less, terrifying. - Inspector James Dobson.

Brian Howe

Before Brian's body was discovered by police, Mary and Norma had offered to help the toddler's older sister Pat search for him, going so far as to take her into the industrial area where his body lay. Mary wanted the sister to find the boy's body, "because she wanted Pat Howe to have a shock," Norma later said. Pat insisted he wouldn't go that far from home and left.

Although she was barely eleven, Mary Bell immediately stood out to investigators, along with her friend Norma. Mary acted aloof while Norma was animated and excited, one authority said, "smiling as if it were a huge joke."

With investigators honing in on her, Mary's memory conveniently returned. She told investigator she saw a boy with Brian on the day he died. She claimed he hit the toddler for no reason, and that she had also seen the same boy playing with broken scissors. Even a calculating psychopath makes mistakes: the boy in question had been at the airport the day Brian died, and the scissors had been kept confidential. Mary described the scissors in detail, right down to their silver coloring and broken leg.

The scissors Mary Bell used to mutilate Brian Howe.

On August 7th, Brian Howe was laid to rest.

"Mary Bell was standing in front of the Howe's house when the coffin was brought out. I was, of course, watching her. And it was when I saw her there that I knew I dare not risk another day. She stood there, laughing. Laughing and rubbing her hands. I thought, My God, I've got to bring her in, she'll do another one." - Inspector Dobson.

Dobson questioned Norma before Brian's funeral. The girl now said Mary told her she had killed Brian and showed her his body. Mary allegedly told Norma "I squeezed his neck and pushed up his lungs, that's how you kill them." Norma claimed that when Mary showed her the body, Mary stroked the dead boy's lips and said she had enjoyed killing him.

Police picked Mary up, and Dobson said that while the child was weary, she kept her wits. Dobson tried a variety of tactics with Mary, hoping to entice the truth out of her.

"I have reason to believe that when you were near the blocks with Norma, a man shouted at some children and you both ran away from where Brian was laying in the grass. This man will probably know you," Dobson said.

"He would have to have good eyesight."

"Why would he need good eyesight?" Dobson asked.

"Because he was...clever to see me when I wasn't there." Mary then said she was being brainwashed and that she was going home. Dobson refused and forged on. Mary held fast.

"I am making no statements. I have made lots of statements. It's always me you come for. Norma's a liar, she always tries to get me into trouble."

Note written by Mary Bell after the murders, found at a nursery she and Norma broke into.

Ignoring the nagging voice in the back of his head, Dobson allowed Mary to leave. He later brought her back to the station after getting more information from Norma.

Still cool under pressure, Mary finally admitted to being present when Brian died but implicated Norma as the actual murderer. Mary claimed she tried to pull Norma off the little boy, but that Norma screamed at her and kept strangling him. You can read Mary's full statement here.

When Dobson told Mary she was being charged with the murder of Brian Howe, she reportedly said, "That's all right with me."

Once she was incarcerated, stories of Mary's bizzarre behavior and abuse began to surface. Other children said she was a show off, and they didn't believe her when she went around claiming she was a murderer.

According to friends and family, Mary had pushed her cousin several feet off a ledge behind some sheds, leaving him bleeding from the head. She also attacked three girls at a daycare, with Norma in tow. One of the girls claimed Mary had squeezed her throat, asking "what happens if you choke someone, do they die?"

Headline during Mary Bell's trial.

Mary was soon connected to Martin Brown's murder that had occurred months earlier. The three boys who had found the boys body remembered Mary and Norma squeezing through a broken section of boards to get into the house. Mary had brought Norma to show her the boy's body.

Because police could find no signs of violence, the cause of death had been left open. But ice-cold Mary and Norma revelled in tormenting the boy's aunt, asking her if she missed Martin and if she cried for him.

The girls didn't stop there. June Richardson, Martin's grieving mother, was also a target.

"Mary smiled and asked to see Martin. I said, 'no pet, Martin is dead.' She turned round and said, 'Oh I know he's dead. I wanted to see him in his coffin.' She was still grinning. I was just speechless that such a young child should want to see a dead baby, and I just slammed the door on her."
June Richardson with a picture of Martin.

At trial, the psychiatrist who had interviewed Mary said she exhibited the classic signs of psychopathy: she showed no remorse and was completely unemotional. Mary Bell was convicted of manslaughter while Norma was found not guilty and placed under psychiatric evaluation.

I have no idea how she only received manslaughter, but I can only assume it was because of her age.

The authorities had no idea what to do with an eleven-year-old murderer, so Mary spent the rest of her juvenile years floating from one institution to another. After the conviction, she continued to make headlines as her heartless and greedy mother sold stories about her to the press. In 1977, Mary escaped from Moore Open Court Prison, where she'd been since her transfer from a young offenders institution.

Mary Bell at 16.

Mary was released from prison in 1980 at the age of twenty-three, serving only twelve years for the murders of two helpless little boys. Even worse, she was granted anonymity, including a new name, to start a new life with her daughter (born in May, 1984). Their location was eventually discovered and the two had to escape the house under the cover of bed sheets. Yet another innocent child had been affected by Mary's hideous actions, but this time it was her own flesh and blood.

Mary Bell in 1980 after her release.

Mary and her daughter were supposed to lose their anonymity when the child turned 18. But to the heartbreak of the victim's families, Mary Bell succeeded in having her own anonymity and her daughter's extended for life.

The Brown and Howe families were devastated. Mary had not only served very little time for the double homicides, but she also made money with an autobiography and would now be able to hide behind her daughter for the rest of her life, effectively negating any accountability.

Bell recently had a grandchild, and the order has been extended to include him.

"A child is a blessing. She took my blessing and left me with grief for the rest of my life. I hope when she looks at this child she remembers the two she murdered. I will never see a grandchild from my son. I hope when she looks at this baby she realized what my family are missing out on because of what she has done."
-- June Richardson, mother of Martin Brown.

You can find much more of Mary's story here.

In all my research of violent crimes, this has to be the worst. The chilling way Mary spoke of her victims and her utter lack of remorse is astounding. What do you think? Should she have served more time, and should she be allowed anonymity?

Tempting Tuesday: Billy the Exterminator

Billy Bretherton

Today's topic is about one of my favorite shows, Billy the Exterminator on A&E. He doesn't look like your average exterminator, does he? That's because he isn't. Billy is an animal lover, roach and wasp killer, family man, genius (yes, literally), and family man.

He got his start on an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe (another household favorite) and was eventually offered his own show featuring his pest control business, Vexcon. Located near Shreveport, Louisiana, the business is a family affair. Although Billy and his brother Ricky are listed as the owners, their mom and dad run the office, and there's no doubt who's the boss: Donnie Bretherton, matriarch and somewhat control freak. She loves to get involved in younger son Ricky's love life and is constantly thwarting her husband's attempts to sneak out of the office to a job. He's had some health problems, including a heart attack, and she won't let him do much.

L-R: Ricky, Bill Sr., Donnie, and Billy.

Back to Billy. He's not just some backwoods rube running around with spiked hair and scary leather. He's educated, and according to his brother Ricky, his I.Q. is at genius level (as well as Ricky and Bill, Sr's.) Billy entered the Air Force in 1987 with dreams of law enforcement, but he tested so high in biology, science, and chemistry he was put into the field of entomology.

When I found out [about being placed in entomology] I actually started bawling my head off when I called home to my Mom and Dad because I just joined the United States Air Force to be the Orkin Man and squish bugs. --Billy Bretherton

Although he was disappointed, Billy credits the Air Force with giving him stellar training in the field. After an honorable discharge, he spent five years working with the industry's leading entomologist. He furthered his expertise by studying at Purdue University, and then earning a masters certification for termite control at LSU. Billy is an expert in using organic, non-chemical procedures to rid his customers of unwanted pests. Vexcon is one of the only companies to use eugenol oil - an organic element that zaps the pests but doesn't hurt humans or animals.

Billy and Ricky going after a big alligator.

He started Vexcon with his father in 1996 and the business quickly grew. What I love about Billy is that you see how intelligent and compassionate he is on every job. He always relocates animals if at all possible, including alligators (although the state of Louisiana states that an alligator over five foot must be disposed off), bees, raccoons, foxes, possums, snakes...the list goes on.

Billy loves working with his younger brother Ricky, and many of the shows episodes feature the two of them going up against all sorts of creatures. Vexcon is known for its compassionate treatment of wild animals, but Billy always makes sure to explain to customers - especially kids, how dangerous and unpredictable wild animals can be.

Billy and Ricky relocating a skunk.

One of my favorite episodes is from Season 3. Last year, Billy and Ricky went down to the Gulf to see the oil spill for themselves. They were sickened by what they saw. A guide took them through some of the marsh areas where the oil was beginning to encroach, and a raccoon was in serious danger, with oil already on its fur. The guide told Billy he couldn't legally rescue it - the state was only focusing on birds and taking mammals was strictly prohibited. Billy couldn't leave the stranded animal, so without much equipment, he and Ricky caught the coon, and Billy took him to shore and the heat that went with saving the animal.

Billy and Ricky looking at the destruction of the oil spill.

I'm not the only one in the house who loves Billy. Grace has declared her love for him. He and Justin Bieber are her boyfriends, and she's determined to be Billy for Halloween. I love the guy, but I'm not sure I want my five-year-old daughter running around the neighborhood looking like this:

I couldn't get this link to convert, but take two minutes and watch Billy explain how to capture a coyote without harming it. He's got no interest in the traps that clamp down and seriously injure the animal's leg. He wants to relocate it, not hurt it.

Billy the Exterminator is on A&E, Tuesday at 10/9 central.


Manic Monday: Randomness and Awards

Monday, September 12, 2011

I know the artist used the wrong form of "you're" in the pic. But it was too funny not to use.

I've been tagged! Rachel Harrie is hosting the Writer's Platform Building Campaign, and the wonderful Tiffany White has tagged me.

Rules: You must be tagged by someone; list 10 random facts about yourself; tag four more people.

I don't know if I can come up with 10 random facts that are actually interesting, but here goes!

1) The first TV shows I remember watching were Dallas and Hill Street Blues. I knew both the theme songs at the age of four. Guess that's where I get my love of dramatics and crime, lol.

2) I didn't watch Sesame Street until I was an adult and had my own child.

3) My earliest childhood memory is going under anesthesia to get tubes in my ears. I remember seeing myself cowering in a corner through a long tunnel. I was two.

4) I loved Little House on the Praire and used to pretend to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. I had old dresses my grandma gave me, and my aunt Donna even made me a calico skirt.

5) The first story I ever wrote was about New Kids on the Block. Don't laugh. I didn't know it was called fan fiction way back then. I still have the notebook, and the writing I thought was gold is pretty crappy. But hey, I was 12.

6) In 1986, my dad and I watched Michael Jordan score 63 points against the Celtics. I've been a diehard fan ever since. Bulls games were an event in our house, especially during the playoffs. Some of my best memories with my dad are watching those games. I was lucky enough to see Michael play twice, once in old Chicago Stadium (I actually have a piece of the old floor, a red section), and in Indianapolis.

7) My first Hollywood crush was Kirk Cameron. It was this poster that did it.

8) My current celebrity crush is Chris Hemsworth. Seriously. Look at the man.

9) I absolutely believe ghosts, spirits, etc. because of personal experience.

10) The summer of my sophomore year of high school, our band and chorus traveled to Washington, D.C. I was chosen to participate in the daily wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Standing at the tomb hearing Taps played was one of the most moving moments of my life. The link is from this year and not my experience, but the ritual is the same. Our group walked the new wreath out to be exchanged with the old one.

Now, I get to tag four new bloggers and friends. This is tough because there are so many! Catie Rhodes, Annie Boreson, Kelly Hashway, and Angela Wallace, you're up!

Row80 Update and Remembrance

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I debated about posting today. It seems insensitive to be blabbing about my mundane week and problems on a day like today. As I watched the memorial service this morning, I felt the same inability to grasp what had happened as I did ten years ago.

I've never been to New York City. The tallest building I've seen is the Sears Tower, and I've never been in it. I simply can't fathom how big the Towers were or the power it took to bring them down. Despite watching the horrible videos several times, I still can't fathom what it was like to be near Ground Zero on that day. I can't imagine the sound, the smell, or the sheer terror everyone involved must have felt. I can't grasp the bravery of the firefighters, police, and port authority as they struggled to save lives without worrying about their own. Most of all, I cannot picture what it must have been like to be trapped in one of those buildings, racing down crowded stairwells full of smoke and wondering if you would make it out alive. And I certainly can't understand what it was like for the passengers on the plane as the hijackers took over and made their final descents.

All I can do is empathize with the grieving families and pray for their continued recovery. I felt so sorry for those family members today as they ready off the names of the victims, especially the kids who never really got to know their parents. And yet I felt pride, too. Pride that these people had the strength to pick themselves up and move forward with their lives. I'm not sure I could have done it. God Bless each of them, and God Bless America.

If you do nothing else today, take a moment to reflect on your life and be thankful for all the positives. Remember that it can all be taken away in an instant. No matter how easy it is, don't sweat the small stuff. Embrace life and move forward as those left behind on 9/11/01 have done.

Row80 update:
Initial goals met.
Working on some edits for Light and Dark
Query Letter revised

I hope you all have a wonderful week and are doing well with your goals.


Thriller Thursday: Kitty Genovese and the Bystander Effect

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On a dark spring morning in 1964, Catherine Susan Genovese arrived home from her job as a bar manager at Ev's Eleventh Hour Sports Bar in Queens. She parked about one hundred feet from her apartment door, located in an alley way at the back of the building. As she walked, she was approached by an unfamiliar African-American male. Genovese ran across the parking lot toward the front of her building, but the man quickly overtook her, stabbing Genovese twice in the back.

Stunned and in pain, Genovese's scream cut through the quiet night. "Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me!" Several neighbors heard the cry but with the windows closed, only a few recognized it as a cry for help. A neighbor shouted at the attacker to leave the girl alone, and the man took off.

The apartment on Austin Street, Queens.

Irene Front heard Catherine's screams. "There was another shriek," she testified in court. "And she was lying down crying out."

The night was once again quiet, the only sound Catherine's sobbing as she struggled to her feet. Blood streaming from her wounds, Catherine staggered to the side of her building and fought for consciousness. Within five minutes, her attacker had returned and stabbed her again.

"I'm dying, I'm dying," Catherine cried out. Lights again flashed on, windows opened as tenants peered into the night. The attacker was spotted racing to a white Chevy Corvair and driving away.

From the sixth floor of the apartment building, Marjorie and Samual Kroshkin witnessed the attack from their window.

"I saw a man hurry to a car under my window," he said later. "He left and came back five minutes later and was looking around the area. "Mr. Koshkin wanted to call the police, but Mrs. Koshkin thought otherwise. "I didn't let him," she later said to the press. "I told him there must have been thirty calls already."

Another witness later said at trial that she heard a scream for help three different times. "I saw a girl lying down on the pavement with a man bending down over her, beating her."

Determined to live, Catherine made her way to the rear of her building and tried to enter through a back door. It was locked. She slid along the wall until she reached a hallway leading to the second floor, but lost her footing and fell. The man returned.

The alley where Catherine was stabbed.

"I came back because I knew I'd not finished what I set out to do," the man later told cops. He searched for Catherine until he found her slumped in her own blood and semiconscious. He cut off her bra and panties and sexually assaulted her, then took $49 from her wallet.

"Why would I throw money away?" He asked the court at trial.

He finished the job, stabbing Catherine to death, and then left the scene. The entire event lasted 32 minutes.

Karl Ross, a neighbor on the second floor, finally called the police at about 3:50 a.m., but only after calling a friend and asking his opinion about what he should do. A squad car arrived within minutes and discovered Catherine's body. She'd been stabbed 17 times. A neighborhood canvas churned up 38 people who had heard or seensome part of the assault on Catherine.

38 people. 32 minutes. Anyone could have saved her.

A myriad of excuses followed: one tenant thought it was a lover's quarrel, others were afraid, some women didn't want their husbands involved. Some claimed they couldn't see what was happening. One witness said he was too tired.

The murder of Catherine "Kitty" Genovese was just one of many in NYC in 1964. It wasn't until the New York Times published "38 Who Saw Murder Didn't Call The Police" by Martin Gansberg that the killing became real news. Press flocked to the KewGardens in Queens, the residential neighborhood where the murder had taken place. The witnesses were chewed up in the press, but many now claim the article was misleading. No neighbor witnessed the entire attack, as it was spread out over three different areas. But the fact remains that an early call to the police could have changed everything.

Kitty's murder jumpstarted a new line of psychological research into the phenomenon known as the Bystander Effect. Experts found the probability of help is related to the number of bystanders; the more people watching, the less likely they are to intervene. In a world full of apathy and self-preservation, most people assume someone else will make the call or step in to help.

Television was also blamed for the inaction.

"We underestimate the damage that these accumulated images do to the brain. The immediate effect can be delusional, equivalent to a sort of post-hypnotic suggestion. The witnesses became confused and paralyzed by the violence they witnessed outside their window. They were fascinated by the drama, by the action, and yet not entirely sure that what was taking place was actually happening."
--Psychiatrist Ralph S. Banay

Winston Mosely

The attacker was identified as Winston Moseley. He was later arrested in connection with burglary charges and confessed to the murder of Kitty Genovese and two others. His confession details the attack, and he stated his motivation was to kill a woman. He chose Kitty at random.

Moseley showed no remorse and was given the death sentence. But in 1967, the New York Court of Appeals found that Moseley should have been able to argue he was medically insane at the sentencing hearing, and the sentence was reduce to life.

During a 1968 trip to the hospital for surgery, Moseley attacked a guard and beat him, then took a bat and started swinging at those around him. He took five hostages, raping one in front of her husband. He was recaptured after a two-day manhunt. Moseley has been denied bail thirteen times. His next hearing is in November.

Kitty's murder is a sad representation of some of our worst traits: apathy and selfishness. What would you have done? Do you know of any other murders affected by the Bystander Effect.