DNA May Solve Boston Strangler Case Once and For All

Mysteries without closure bug me, so I’m glad to see this: Mass. DA: DNA links DeSalvo to Strangler victim.

Lead and Crime

Mother JonesAmerica’s Real Criminal Element: Lead

So Nevin dove in further, digging up detailed data on lead emissions and crime rates to see if the similarity of the curves was as good as it seemed. It turned out to be even better: In a 2000 paper (PDF) he concluded that if you add a lag time of 23 years, lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

Meanwhile, Nevin had kept busy as well, and in 2007 he published a new paper looking at crime trends around the world (PDF). This way, he could make sure the close match he’d found between the lead curve and the crime curve wasn’t just a coincidence. Sure, maybe the real culprit in the United States was something else happening at the exact same time, but what are the odds of that same something happening at several different times in several different countries?

Nevin collected lead data and crime data for Australia and found a close match. Ditto for Canada. And Great Britain and Finland and France and Italy and New Zealand and West Germany. Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well. When I spoke to Nevin about this, I asked him if he had ever found a country that didn’t fit the theory. “No,” he replied. “Not one.”

There may be something to this. The link between lead and lowered IQ in children seems well established.

In college I took a class called Science, Technology and Public Policy. We looked at a study of perceived vs. actual dangers of various technologies/environmental factors. People’s concern for radiation was way out of proportion to the expected health effects, for instance. When it came to lead, it was the opposite. Most people had no idea how dangerous lead is in the environment. We were taught that removing lead from paint and gasoline was one of the great triumphs of 20th century public health policy.

Henry Hill Dead, Whitey Bulger Alive

I just found out that Henry Hill died in June. Henry Hill was the real-life gangster portrayed by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.

Meanwhile I just found out that Frank James “Whitey” Bulger is still alive: Lawyer: Whitey Bulger to testify in own defense.

Whitey Bulger was an organized crime figure who for two decades was simultaneously an FBI informant who was immune from arrest and prosecution, murdering dozens of people during that time and raising questions about the FBI’s ethics in using informants. He then fled, staying on the lam for sixteen years and becoming a mythical figure until his arrest in June, 2011.

Bulger was supposedly the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in the film The Departed.

Matt Taibbi on the Wall Street Bond Scam No One Heard About

Rolling StoneThe Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia How America’s biggest banks took part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy – until they were caught on tape

Given the complexities of bond investments, it’s impossible to know exactly how much the total take was. But consider this: Four banks that took part in the scam (UBS, Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo) paid $673 million in restitution after agreeing to cooperate in the government’s case. (Bank of America even entered the SEC’s leniency program, which is tantamount to admitting that it committed felonies.) Since that settlement involves only four of the firms implicated in the scam (a list that includes Goldman, Transamerica and AIG, as well as banks in Scotland, France, Germany and the Netherlands), and since settlements in Wall Street cases tend to represent only a tiny fraction of the actual damages (Chase paid just $75 million for its role in the bribe-and-payola scandal that saddled Jefferson County, Alabama, with more than $3 billion in sewer debt), it’s safe to assume that Wall Street skimmed untold billions in the bid-rigging scam. The UBS settlement alone, for instance, involved 100 different bond deals, worth a total of $16 billion, over four years.

There’s one goofy bit at the end:

“One of the biggest lies in capitalism,” says Eliot Spitzer, “is that companies like competition. They don’t. Nobody likes competition.”

Silly Spitzer. Nobody likes competition for what they sell. Everybody loves competition for what they buy. See the difference?

Zimmerman Passed Lie Detecter Day After Shooting

Why didn’t we hear about this earlier? This whole public lynching could have been avoided if the police had released this information.

The Smoking GunGeorge Zimmerman Passed Police Lie Detector Test Day After Trayvon Martin Killing

The Drug Addict Judge and the Pedophile Coach

The Christian-Newsom case was Knoxville’s most notorious crime, a double kidnapping, rape and murder. The families went through nightmarish months of grief during the trial, which resulted in four guilty verdicts, including one death sentence.

All of those convictions were thrown out last week because the judge in the case was addicted to and taking drugs during the trial. Katie Allison-Granju has some questions for Judge Richard Baumgartner, who has now been disbarred. She’s also poring over the TBI file that was released this weekend. Baumgartner was pulled over for driving erratically and told officers he had too much wine.

That happened during the weeks of the Christian-Newsom trial and it’s one of dozens of stories that are coming out about the judge’s behavior. His addiction seems to have been a poorly-kept secret. During the trial my father-in-law spotted Baumgartner whom he recognized from television in a parking lot with a woman who was obviously not his wife. My father-in-law thought it was suspicious and suspected it was drug- or prostitution-related.

Baumgartner got some of his drugs from doctors. He got other drugs from criminals who came through his very own court. Drug addicts and criminals aren’t exactly known for their discretion.

He was eventually brought down by of all things a divorce trial. The wife called the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. She thought they’d be interested in knowing that her husband was supplying drugs to a judge. She wanted to get her husband in trouble so she could get custody of the kids. To her Baumgartner was just collateral damage.

The Baumgartner story reminds me of the Jerry Sandusky story. A powerful figure breaks the law. Many people know what’s happening, yet no one’s willing to come forward. They don’t want to risk their careers by antagonizing a powerful person or upsetting the machinery of a powerful institution.

Leslie Janous – Knoxville’s Least Wanted Now Most Wanted

Knoxville News-SentinelParty mom Leslie Janous vanishes:

Weeks after Leslie Janous gained access to retirement money amassed while working for the company from which she confessed bilking $4.5 million, this high-flying West Knoxville party mom is on the lam, authorities said Wednesday.

The FBI announced Wednesday that a warrant had been issued against Janous, 36, after an alarm on an ankle bracelet monitoring device she was ordered to wear upon her February guilty plea showed she failed to return home Monday night.

Here’s the weirdest part of this. She was convicted of embezzling from the company. She hadn’t reimbursed them for what she embezzled. Yet she was able to get them to turn over her retirement account, possibly enabling her to flee prior to her conviction hearing and surrender to prison. Odd.

PreviouslyLeslie Janous nee Gibbs, The Worst Person in Knoxville

Katie Granju Speaks Out About Her Son’s Death

Katie releases the details she previously had to hold back.

John Schneeberger cheated DNA tests by injecting himself with someone else’s blood

Crazy bastard.

John Schneeberger (born 1961) is a South African former physician who lived and practiced in Canada, who drugged and raped one of his female patients and his stepdaughter. For years, he was able to evade arrest by planting a fake DNA sample inside his own body, thus successfully foiling DNA tests.

Via the Real Life examples of Crazy Prepared at TVtropes.

Jury Convicts Man in Chandra Levy Murder

Guilty verdict in Chandra Levy murder case.

A jury on Monday found an El Salvadoran immigrant guilty of murdering Washington intern Chandra Levy. Jurors deliberated four days before finding Ingmar Guandique, 29, guilty in the 2001 disappearance and killing of Levy.

Levy├é’s story made national headlines when she was romantically linked with Gary Condit, then a Democrat representing parts of California in Congress. Condit was initially the main suspect but police no longer believe he was involved.

There never seemed to be any credible evidence against Condit.

Jon Pepper, a company spokesman, said Josephine Ford, who lived in suburban Grosse Pointe Farms, had been ill several weeks and died of natural causes at Henry Ford Hospital.

“Throughout her life, my aunt embodied the spirit of giving and family loyalty,” Bill Ford said. “She was an inspiration to all who knew her. Her love for Ford Motor Company was unsurpassed, and all of us will mourn her passing.”

At the time of her death, Ford owned more than 13 million shares of Ford Motor stock _ about 18 percent of the stock held exclusively by Ford family members. In 2001, Time magazine estimated her fortune at $416 million (euro340 million). site ford motor stock

The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Josephine Ford Cancer Center and the College for Creative Studies, an art and design college in Detroit, were among recipients of millions from “Dody” Ford and the foundation she established with her late husband.

“What else is there for a girl who wasn’t competitive to do but try to escape all that Ford stuff?” she once said.

Graham W.J. Beal, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, said Ford was “extraordinarily generous. She would certainly count as one of the greatest contributors to this institution.”

Ford amassed a renowned art collection, including paintings by van Gogh, Renoir and Picasso. Beal said he did not know how Ford had bequeathed her remaining artworks. website ford motor stock

She was born in 1923, the third of Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s four children. Edsel was Henry Ford’s only son.

Her oldest brother, Henry Ford II, was chairman and CEO of Ford Motor from 1945 until his retirement in 1979; her other brothers, Benson Ford and William Clay Ford, also inherited millions but did not hold key management roles with the automaker.

Coincidentally, in 1943 she married a man named Ford _ Walter Buhl Ford II, a noted interior and industrial designer who began his career with rival General Motors Corp. He later was chairman and chief executive officer of Ford & Earl Design Associates, a commercial and interior design company. He died in 1991.

The couple had two sons and two daughters. Their younger son, Alfred Brush Ford, was active in Ford corporate charities but otherwise shunned the family business and joined the Hare Krishna religious sect, renaming himself Ambarish Das.

JIM IRWIN, Associated Press Writer

Black Bart, of “Fine-haired sons of bitches” fame

From Wikipedia:

Charles Earl Bowles (1829-1888?), alias Black Bart, was an American Old West outlaw noted for his poetic messages left after two of his robberies (the fourth and fifth). He was also known as Charles E. Boles, Charles Bolton, C.E. Bolton, Charles E. Bowles, and “Black Bart the Po8.” A gentleman bandit, Black Bart was one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers to operate in and around Northern California and southern Oregon during the 1870s and 1880s. The fame he received for his numerous daring thefts is rivaled only by his reputation for style and sophistication.[1]

Charles Boles left only two authenticated verses. The first verse was left at the scene of the August 3, 1877, holdup on a stage traveling from Point Arena to Duncan’s Mills:

I’ve labored long and hard for bread,
For honor, and for riches,
But on my corns too long you’ve tread,
You fine-haired sons of bitches.[5]

– Black Bart, 1877

The second verse was left at the site of his July 25, 1878, holdup of a stage traveling from Quincy to Oroville. It read:

Here I lay me down to sleep
To wait the coming morrow,
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat,
And everlasting sorrow.
Let come what will, I’ll try it on,
My condition can’t be worse;
And if there’s money in that box
‘Tis munny in my purse.”[6]

Black Bart
PO8

Leslie Janous nee Gibbs, The Worst Person in Knoxville.

Knoxville News-SentinelMom who threw pricey ‘Super Sweet 15’ party indicted in fraud:

If Leslie Anne Janous wanted to throw a birthday party for her teenage daughter, the cost of which could feed a third-world country, who cares? It’s her money to waste, right?

Or was it?

The over-the-top birthday party Janous put on for her then-15-year-old daughter in 2006 may serve as Exhibit A for federal prosecutors as they mount a $4.5 million embezzlement case against the former bookkeeper for a West Knoxville brokerage firm.

In 2006 Leslie Gibbs (now married and going by Leslie Janous) threw a tacky, over-the-top extravaganza for her daughter’s 15th birthday. The plan was to star on the MTV show “My Super Sweet 16.” The finale of the six figure party was a $45,000 BMW for a teenager who was just getting her learner’s permit. Janous also used the occasion to model some bad behavior for the teens, providing non-alcoholic shooters and hiring high school boys to give the girls clothed lap dances.

I’m thinking she isn’t going to win Mother of the Year is where I’m going with this.

Since then Janous has been in the papers for helping little darling organize a student protest at Farragut High School. You know what she was protesting? A competition between the freshman and senior classes to see who could collect the most canned goods for the poor. The winning class would have gotten the right to park in the senior parking lot. Janous’s daughter was a senior, and Janous didn’t want poor little punkin to have to walk very far from her Beemer Weemer.

“Screw you, poor people! Nobody puts baby’s BMW in the corner. If you want some food do what I did and get a job. Then steal from your employer.”

Humanitarian of the Year is also right out.

Commenters at Knoxnews dug up this bit from 2002 that somehow didn’t surface before:

King testified he fired Gibbs in June of 2002 and brought criminal charges against her for embezzling $38,800 in funds from Elite. King discovered this alleged embezzlement at Elite approximately one year after the Company closed. King testified that he had no direct knowledge of Gibbs’ embezzling from the Company. The Special Master noted that King did not state whether any charges had been brought against Gibbs relative to the missing funds belonging to the Company.

So, no, she won’t be getting Employee of the Year, either.

LATER: Here’s a 2006 Knoxviews post about the birthday party – Worst. Mother. Ever. It’s interesting to revisit local reaction in the comments. And it turns out that people were already noticing the 2002 embezzlement story.

William F. Buckley Helped Free a Child’s Murderer

I knew about Norman Mailer’s involvement in freeing murderer Jack Abbott, who went on to kill again six weeks after being released from prison. I had no idea William F. Buckley was involved in similarly misguided nonsense during the same era.

The 6 Most Misguided Causes Ever Made Famous by Celebrities:

It’s not just bleeding heart types who take up the “Free _______” cause. Back in 1957, a guy named Edgar Smith was convicted of murdering a 15-year-old girl. It only took a jury under three hours to declare him guilty, and he was sentenced to death. Somehow, he wound up in correspondence with conservative commentator William F. Buckley (the founder of the National Review). Buckley worked for years to get Smith released until, in 1971, he was.

After his release, Smith appeared on Buckley’s talk show and collected $1,000 speaking fees touring college campuses around the nation. All was well until five years later, when he abducted seamstress Leftiriya Ozbun while she was going home from work. The girl survived, but Smith is back in prison, serving a life sentence.

Sure enough, from Wikipedia:

Edgar Smith (born 1934) is an American convicted murderer, who was once on Death Row for the 1957 murder of fifteen-year-old honor student and cheer leader Victoria Ann Zielinski. Vigorously contesting his conviction through the courts and in the media, Smith became a celebrity, and his case was argued in public most notably by William F. Buckley, Jr. He eventually succeeded in winning a retrial and negotiating a reduced sentence. Smith was released only to be incarcerated for a second time for the kidnapping and attempted murder of Lefteriya Ozbun in 1976.

I’d like to think the era of stretching credulity to believe a murdering huckster would be over. Mumia Abu-Jamal proves that it isn’t.

You Know Those LifeLock Ads with the CEO’s Social Security Number?

WiredLifeLock CEO’s Identity Stolen 13 Times:

LifeLock CEO Todd Davis, whose [Social Security] number is displayed in the company’s ubiquitous advertisements, has by now learned that lesson. He’s been a victim of identity theft at least 13 times, according to the Phoenix New Times. That’s 12 more times than has previously been known.

The company was fined $12 million in March by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising.

Yabbut the guy who stole the CEO’s identity the first time was a criminal supergenius, right? Nope. He was mentally retarded.

Via Kyle.

Henry Granju and Johnia Berry

I haven’t said anything about the death of Henry Granju because I don’t know what to say, but the parallels with Johnia Berry’s murder have crossed my mind. They both died tragically young in violent deaths where the attackers were on drugs or motivated by drugs.

The parallels crossed Michael’s mind, too: “Katie should hook up with Les Jones, who knows a thing or two about advocating for a murder investigation.”

The main way I helped in that case was to create a blog for organizing information and getting news out. Katie Granju is an ace blogger who works in media relations for a living, so she doesn’t need my help there.

One goal of the blog was to keep attention on the case in hopes that someone with information about the murder would step forward. Unlike the Johnia Berry case, I’m not sure there’s a mystery about what happened to Henry. From the news reports it seems they know which friends he was with that day and even the names of the suspected assailants. This doesn’t look like a whodunit.

Here’s the problem as the case stands today. The police have had those names for over a month. As of May 26th the police still hadn’t questioned some of the people known to have been present. At that time the investigator said that if he couldn’t talk to Henry then “there is no victim.”

Even now that Henry’s dead, the sheriff’s office hasn’t committed themselves, saying “The preliminary investigation shows no evidence that his death was the result of a homicide or from the injuries he may have received from an assault.”

Granted, there’s a very legitimate question about how much of Henry’s condition was due to the assault, how much was due to the methadone his friends gave him later that night (his condition was one known to be caused by drug overdoses), and how much was due to his friends failing to seek medical attention until the next day when they discovered he was unresponsive.

It’s also true that any police department has limited resources and if they don’t call it a murder they don’t have to investigate it as a murder. I’d expect the police’s first reaction would be to view this as a drug deal gone bad, not as an assault on someone’s son that eventually led to his death. (It’s both.) It will take time and persistence to shift their opinions. Even if the DA doesn’t pursue murder charges there’s no doubt the assailants could be charged with felony assault and should be caught and prosecuted.

There’s one thing I would suggest for the Granju family. Talk to Johnia Berry’s mother, Joan. She’s a great lady, and she knows what it’s like to lose a young child to violence. She also knows the frustration of working with law enforcement, which never seems to move quickly enough.

Joan learned how to navigate the media, the Knoxville sheriff’s office, and the political establishment. So much so that the investigation stayed on track for years despite the death of the original investigator, the killer was caught and his DNA positively matched, and there is now a DNA collection law in Tennessee named after Johnia Berry.

You need political pressure to keep attention and resources on a murder investigation, particularly after some time has passed. It would be nice to think this could be resolved quickly, but it’s best to be prepared to spend years with the investigation and trial.

UPDATE: Katie has a post on her frustration with the investigation.


There will be a service this Saturday at 10:00. The family is putting together a memorial fund in Henry’s name to help other families pay for drug and alcohol treatment for their children. Details of the service and memorial fund at Katie’s blog.