Monday, 16 January 2012

Would you know your killer?


The plot of Two Graves revolves around a serial killer preying on strangers but what are the odds that you would know your killer? That is certainly something that nobody really wants to think about. But consider for a moment.

What do you think the odds are that you would know your killer?

What are the chances that the last face you see would not only be your killer but someone you know, or even more frightening, your spouse?

The answer, according to the latest United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) Global Study on Homicide, depends on whether you are a man or a woman. These statistics are a reflection of the serious problem of violence against women which often escalates to murder.

UNODC based much of its gender victim studies on a selection of European countries but this group mirrors most US statistics. In that group, 75% of the female victims were killed by someone they knew. In fact, 35% of the female murder victims were killed by their spouse or ex-spouse. That is compared to 5% of men who were killed by a spouse or ex-spouse.

This disparity also means that the location of the murders differ between men and women. Women are much more likely to be killed in their own home while men are more likely to be killed in the street.

For police, that means a woman found murdered in her home will know her killer three times out of four and one out of three times it will be her husband or ex. Is it any wonder that police concentrate on the husband, ex-husband or boyfriend?

Another effect of the relation with the murderer also affects the age of the victims when compared with gender. Worldwide, the percentage of male victims declines by over 12% between ages 15-29 and 70+. However, for women, the variation is only about 1% and actually increases for the 70+ group. The male’s statistics are explained by the murders related to criminal activities, increasing the odds for the 15-29 year old group being involved. For women, their close relation to their killers exposes them to the dangers throughout their lifetimes.

What does this mean for women?

We spend too much time training women about strangers, dark alleys and psychotic killers. Women should be watching for their killer in the bed beside them or in their ex-spouse or in that violent boyfriend. No amount of violence can be acceptable and should not be tolerated. Do you forgive the first time, the second, the fifth, the tenth? When will that beating become a killing?

Likewise, the police and courts need to deal with the issues of violence against women swifter and harsher. Stalking, threats, normally dealt with ineffective restraining orders, must be taken more seriously. We are finally dealing with drunk driving with some stronger penalties. When will we do the same with violence against women?

Silence or ignoring the problem, whether it is happening to you or someone you know, could be facilitating a murder.

“It won’t happen to me” could be written on your tombstone. Just ask three out of four women who were murdered last year!


Monday, 2 January 2012

FBI’s Top Ten List

With the New Year upon us, and all the best of lists, I thought it was time to mention the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List.

If you have never looked at the list, you can find it here.

The Top Ten list started in 1950 when an International News Service requested a list of the “toughest guys” the FBI wanted to capture. The story took off and J. Edgar Hoover, never one to pass up an opportunity, implemented the program. Thomas J. Holden, wanted for murder, was the first person put on the list.

There have been 494 fugitives on the list and 465 have been captured. Of those 465, 153 Top Tenners were caught because of cooperation from citizens. That is almost a third of the list! So take a look and you might just find that your new neighbor or that guy in the coffee shop is actually a wanted criminal.

But remember, these are dangerous people (all men at the moment) and they are not to be approached. Call the authorities, just narrowing down where they have been seen can often be enough.

Two of the captured fugitives were recognized by visitors to the FBI. Imagine walking past the wall of most wanted and seeing someone you know?

The television show, America’s Most Wanted, is responsible for 17 of the arrests.

How long can someone be on the list? For Billy Austin Bryant it was two hours. And for Victor Manuel Gerena it has been over 27 years -- he is still on the list. Nine fugitives added to the list were even caught before the list was published.

Currently, the list only has eight active fugitives since Osama Bin Laden (deceased) and James J. Bulger (captured) currently remain on the list. As an aside, James J. Bulger was also the oldest person on the list at 69 years old.

How do you get on the list? (OK, there aren't likely many out there actually wanting to get on the list.) According to the FBI’s web site, there are two criteria:

“First, the individual must have a lengthy record of committing serious crimes and/or be considered a particularly dangerous menace to society due to current criminal charges.

Second, it must be believed that the nationwide publicity afforded by the program can be of assistance in apprehending the fugitive, who, in turn, should not already be notorious due to other publicity.”

To date, there have been 8 women on the list.

1968 saw the most fugitives apprehended with 33 and there were two apprehended in 2011. Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota have never had anyone on the Top Ten list. California has had the most with 55 – over 10% of the list.

And in case you are wondering, the idea caught on and many others, including the Marshals Service, the DEA, the Canadian RCMP, Scotland Yard and Interpol to name a few, all have their own list of wanted fugitives.

So, take a look at the list. See if there is anyone you recognize. You just never know when a wanted man is sitting next to you.

Monday, 26 December 2011

$150 million Predator Drone helps arrest $6,000 cow theives


When the Brossart family prepared for the Sheriff to storm their property, due to charges of refusing to return stray livestock, they scanned the surrounding trees and fields.

They should have been looking up.

As an armed standoff escalated, Sheriff Janke borrowed a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Predator Drone for surveillance of the 3,000 acre property. The unarmed plane was used to track suspects and confirm they had laid down their arms before SWAT teams moved in to make the arrest. The incident, which occurred in the summer, was the first known case of a drone being used to assist in the arrest American citizens on American soil. However, the department has borrowed the Predator Drones several times since.

Congress approved the purchase of the Predators in 2005 for the Customs and Border Protection to look for smugglers and illegal immigrants. Although charges have been made that there has been no public debate and Congress has not approved the use of the drones for civilian police forces, officials in the Customs and Border Protection point to tacit approval given by Congress during budget requests. In those requests, "interior law enforcement support" was cited as part of their mission.

The Supreme Court has long ago given approval of aerial surveillance, stating that anything that could be viewed from the air was legal without a warrant. However, whether the lawmakers had in mind a silent plane that could stay in the air for 20 hours is a question being asked by many privacy advocates.

However, drones are becoming more popular with local law enforcement due to budgetary constraints. Although a Predator Drone can cost $150 million dollars, smaller cheaper aircraft can be had for as little as $5,000 to several hundred thousand. And with an hourly operating cost at $30 an hour, it certainly looks attractive compared to a helicopter’s $500 an hour operating cost.

Of course, with the lower price tags come less capabilities. These are not high tech stealth planes capable of sneaking up on someone. As a Miami-Dade Police Department spokesman said, the planes sound like flying lawn mowers.

Meanwhile, privacy advocates are not the only interested parties in this debate. Pilots are concerned as more drones fill the airspace with no clear regulations. Pilots and safety organizations want to see the drones fall under the same regulations as all other planes.

Regardless of the pending debates, the reality is that drones are here and their prices and capabilities mean they will continue to be used.

So next time you see that scene in the movie where the bad guy parts the curtain to check the parking lot for cops, maybe he should be looking up too.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Trivia

Continuing my departure from my usual topics of blood, gore, murder and mayhem, I offer some Christmas trivia. And no, it doesn't have anything to do with serial killers.

OK, well, maybe question 30 and the bonus question.

Good luck and I promise to be back with more kills, thrills and chills on Boxing Day.

 1) How many times does Santa check his list?

2) The Grinch is as cuddly as a ______?

3) It would of been a laugh to see Mommy doing what last night?

4) One foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say what?

5) Good tidings to you, and all of your what?

6) Who was seated next to me a day or two ago in the song Jingle Bells?

7) Why do I want my two front teeth for Christmas?

8) What did Frosty The Snowman do when they placed the magic hat on his head?

9) What does Alvin want for Christmas in The Chipmunk Song?

10) On the eleventh day of Christmas, what did my true love send to me?

11) I'm dreaming of a White Christmas with what?

12) What do Janice and Jen want for Christmas in the song It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas?

13) In The Polar Express movie, what is "The First Gift of Christmas?"

14) In The Polar Express movie, what word does the conductor punch into the ticket of "the young man with all the questions"?

15) In The Polar Express movie, what sort of "liquid refreshment" is dispensed to the children during their trip?

16) What is the name of the rabbit in the magic hat in Frosty the Snowman?

17) What was the little girl in Frosty the Snowman's name?

18) In Frosty the Snowman, what was the name of the magician with the "Magic Hat"?

19) How much did Lucy charge for a psyciatric session in the classic Christmas TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas?

20) What was "the most likely" reason that The Grinch hated Christmas?

21) Who narrated the original 1966 TV show How The Grinch Stole Christmas?

22) What was Dr. Seuss' real name?

23) In the Christmas Classic, It's A Wonderful Life, what happened every time a bell rang?

24) The name of Scrooge's deceased business partner in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was?

25) What is the name of Tiny Tim's father in the story, "A Christmas Carol"?

26) What did Frosty The Snowman have for a nose?

27) How many gifts would you receive if you received all of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas"?

28) In the song "Winter Wonderland", who do we pretend the snowman is?

29) "Miracle on 34th Street"-a man on trial claiming to be Santa Claus. What convinces the judge he is Santa Claus?

30) What early slasher film was John Carpenter's Halloween originally to be a sequel to, according to lore?

Bonus)
What Serial Killer was featured on a German Advent calendar for children?







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Answers



1) Twice!
2) Cactus!
3)  Kissing Santa Claus!
4)
Rudolf With Your Nose So Bright,
Won't You Guide My Sleigh Tonight?
5) Kin!
6) Miss Fanny Bright!
7) So I could wish you Merry Christmas!
8) He began to dance around!
9) A Hula Hoop!
10) Eleven Pipers Piping!
11) Every Christmas card I write!
12) Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk!
13) A bell from Santa's sleigh!
14) BELIEVE
15) Hot Chocolate!
16) Hocus Pocus!
17) Karen!
18) Professor Hinkle!
19) Five cents please!
20) His heart was two sizes too small!
21) Boris Karloff!
22) Theodor Geisel!
23) An Angel Got His Wings!
24) Jacob Marley!
25) Bob Cratchit!
26) A button!
27) 364 presents!
28) Parson Brown!
29) The US Postal Service delivers mail to him.
30) The Canadian movie Black Christmas.
Bonus) Fritz Haarmann, who murdered 24 young men and boys in the 1920s.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

RABMAD

Given my usual topics, you likely think this is some short form for Rabidly Mad Killer.
OK, geez, maybe that would be a cool thing.

I can see it now, the killer signs all his letters in blood, frothing at the mouth….

But wait, it’s Yule today, a time of celebration in our household when the candle burns all night to mark the suns return toward the cold north. Happy Times. So, this time around, I’m going to talk about something uplifting.

Sorry, no murder and mayhem but that will be back next week.

Instead, let’s talk about giving back.

I was brought up to believe it is more important to give than to receive, That charity should be part of your life. To be thankful for what you have and to share that bounty with others less fortunate. This is something my wife and I have tried to instill in our children as well and I am proud to say we have succeeded in this generation of me first and you whenever.

In that spirit, I have celebrated this Yule by signing up with RABMAD, author R.S. Guthrie’s brainchild.

RABMAD stands for “Read A Book, Make A Difference”.

It is a group of excellent authors who want to give something back. Most of them are Indie authors such as myself who care about their world and want to donate a percentage of the proceeds from their books to worthy causes.

I chose the Terry Fox Run, an incredible charity that supports Cancer research in Canada. The Foundation is named after Terry Fox, a Canadian hero and amazing human being.

So please check out the authors in RABMAD. Not only will you read some incredible books, you have the pleasure knowing that you are giving something back just by reading their books.

I want to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season -- a safe and joyous time for all my readers.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Long Island Serial Killer - 10 victims, 1 Killer say police

As with many writers, I am often asked where I get my inspiration.

In the case of the two sequels I have planned for Two Graves, my inspiration came from the Long Island Serial Killer.

I was in New York, attending a writing conference, not long after they found the first bodies. Naturally, it was in all the news. The first bodies had been found while police searched for a missing woman, Shannan Gilbert, along Ocean Parkway in Long Island. She has still not been found. Instead, police have found 10 bodies – eight women, a young Asian male and a toddler.

Initially the Suffolk County Police department had considered the possibility that there was more than one killer. It was even speculation that one could be a former police officer. The consensus now seems to be a single killer and he has likely been killing for as long as 15 years. However, they do not suspect Shannan Gilbert’s disappearance is related to the Long Island Killer.
Police have only been able to identify five women: Melissa Barthelemy, 24, Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Megan Waterman, 22, Maureen Brainer-Barnes, 25 and Jessica Taylor, 20. All of these women worked as escorts, advertising on Craigslist.
Jessica’s head and forearm were found the Gilgo Beach area while her torso had previously been discovered in 2003, in Manorville, over 40 miles away. This seems to be a common MO with this killer, in order to hinder the identification of the victims, police suspect. The killer has even gone as far as surgically removing a tattoo of one victim.
The fact that he has dumped the remains around Long Island suggests he is familiar with the area. Not likely he would be driving around asking for directions with a torso in the trunk.

The addition of Asian male, who died five to ten years ago, is not totally inconsistent with the other victims. A man of small build, he was dressed in women’s clothing, suggesting he might have been involved in the sex trade.

Likewise, the toddler has been linked through DNA to one of the other victims although they were buried four miles apart.

So for a writer of deviant serial killers, what isn’t to be inspired by?

Will you recognize the Long Island Serial Killer when you read Too Many Graves? Not likely but you will know that he inspired me and set the gears in motion.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Population of Sacramento was Murdered Last Year!

The United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) has released the 2011 Global Study on Homicide.

It is 127 pages long and full of frightening statistics.

Worldwide the UNODC estimates 468,000 homicides in 2010. Tough number to wrap your head around.

Think of it this way…

That is about the population of Sacramento, California – the entire population gone in one year.

That means, worldwide, the global average is 6.9 murders per 100,000 people.

And where are they occurring? Africa alone accounts for over one third (36%), the Americas another 31% and Asia grabs 27%. Europe only claims 5% and 1% in Oceania.

But one must adjust for population. Africa still tops out at 17 per 100,000 and the Americas 16 per 100,000. That is over double the world average. Asia, for their large 27% of the murders are actually below average at 3 murders per 100,000.

The good news…

The rates have actually declined in Asia, Europe and North America.

The bad news…

Rates are skyrocketing in other places like Central America and the Caribbean.

And the loser is…

Honduras currently holds the infamous distinction of being the most violent country in the world with 82.1 murders per 100,000. For our Asian, European and Oceania friends, that means a visit to Honduras would mean increasing the likelihood of being murdered by twenty-seven times.

I guess we won’t be seeing that on the tourism posters any time soon.

Stay tuned for more interesting facts about the state of crime in the world and your back yard.