Monday, 31 October 2011

Suspected Gacy Victim Found Alive in Florida

While Sherry Marino awaits the exhumation of the body she was told was her son, a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, another suspected victim has been found alive in Florida.

Harold Wayne Lovell disappeared when he was 19. Looking for work in construction, the tall, skinny teen was exactly Gacy’s ‘type’. Young Harold did cross paths with the “Killer Clown” but he had never gone to his house. Instead, he went to South Florida, escaping a family where he “never felt wanted”.

His family, not knowing what happened, always suspected that Harold (who now goes by Wayne) was a victim of Gacy. With the recent exhumation of the eight unidentified victims, Lovell’s family assumed they would discover the worst and were prepared to submit for DNA testing.

Instead, a family member, Harry Hasselberg, did a search in MugShots.com and found a hit in 2006 for Harold Wayne Lovell for a marijuana charge. A little more sleuthing and a few phone calls and Lovell was on his way on a ten hour drive from Tampa to Alabama.

Suddenly, a family’s fear and uncertainty turned to joy. After three decades, Lovell was reunited with his siblings and is working hard on how this will change his life. Lovell is excited at being reunited with his family but says he needs some rest. Catching up on 33 years in two days can be tiring.

The result might not be as good for eight other families as Cook County Sheriff’s Office begins DNA testing on the unidentified victims recently exhumed.

However, Tim Lovell, who is thrilled to have his big brother back has advice for others searching for missing family members. “Don’t quit looking.”

Monday, 24 October 2011

Are You Sure You Didn't Leave Finterprints?

You didn’t plan to kill her but no denying that is her body on the floor. She just pissed you off, teasing you and then saying no. You grabbed her shoulders and pushed her back, her head hit the counter and end of story.

You back out the way you came, a rag in your hand to wipe down the place. You didn’t touch much so it is easy to erase your fingerprints. One last look and you leave, sure you didn’t leave any fingerprints.

Guess again.

Thanks to the work of forensic experts at the University of Abertay Dundee and the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA), you might just have left enough evidence to put you behind bars.

The group is pioneering a new technic using vacuum metal deposition (VMD) that uses gold and zinc to recover the fingerprint marks left on fabric. The fabric is put in a vacuum chamber. Gold is heated to evaporate it and it spreads in a fine film over the material. They then heat zinc in a similar fashion but zinc only attaches to the gold wear there is no fingerprint.

The success is still spotty (no pun intended) but the process has other forensic uses than just identification. Finding a palm print on the back of a “suicide” victim might indicate they were pushed. And since DNA is deposited along with the fingerprints, it can give forensic specialists a better indication of where to collect DNA.

The experts are making it harder and harder for criminals…and writers who still need the perfect crime.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Think you got away with murder -- think again!

You know you did it – but nobody else does, right?

The perfect murder. It was years ago – 2003, 1978, maybe even as far back as 1969. But you’ve never had that knock on the door. Years ago you dealt with the fear and now you have all but forgotten it. You are relaxed and happy.

The perfect murder.

Or was it?

One person thought they had got away with murder on December 14, 1969 in Houston Texas. A single mother, Diane Jackson, was grabbed as she exited her car on her way to work. Her killer dragged her into a nearby shack where he raped, strangled and stabbed her to death. At the time, despite latent prints left on the car, the Houston PD identified no suspects.

But her perpetrator didn’t reckon on a brother’s determination.

David Maxwell, gave up his thoughts of a law degree and joined the Texas State Highway Patrol and then later the famed Texas Rangers. In 1989, David requested the cold case files and publicity renewed interest in the case. Houston PD began to compare the latent prints to their files and the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (TDPS) Automated Fingerprint Identification System with no success.

In 2003, Jill Kinkade, a TDPS Latent Print Technician, entered the prints into the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). IAFIS is a national fingerprint system that also includes criminal histories of the suspects. The number one hit was James Ray Davis, a repeat offender who had just finished a prison term nine days before the murder.

Davis was quickly located and he received that knock on the door that he likely thought would never happen. Houston PD Sergeant James Ramsey confronted the suspect with the fingerprint evidence and photographs of the crime. Davis admitted to the crimes and on November 24, 2003, 34 years after the crime, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Both James Ramsey and Jill Kinkade were honored by the FBI with the 2011 “Latent Hit of the Year” Award.

So if you are relaxed, confident that your Perfect Murder will never be solved, maybe you should just start looking over your shoulder again and worrying about that next knock on the door.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Self-proclaimed "Beast of British Columbia" succumbs to Cancer

As a Canadian, in a land not as heavily touched by violent crime as our neighbors to the south, Clifford Olson has always been a particularly disgusting blight on our landscape. And for the record, our landscape is not always covered with snow. But some would feel that the country was covered with shame because of the handling of both the investigation of Olson and the aftermath of his arrest.

I can begin by saying that Olson, 71, has succumbed to cancer and died. Not normally a judgmental person, I will say that this is no loss to humanity.

For those who have not heard of Clifford Olson, the British Columbia resident was convicted of killing eight girls and three boys (aged 9 to 18) during a nine-month period in 1980-81. Supposedly, Olson committed five of those eleven murders while under surveillance by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s Federal law enforcement agency.

Allegations of a botched investigation would haunt the RCMP but Olson had more shame to heap upon the country. Olson, a habitual offender and frequent police informant had knowledge of police investigations as well as the multiple jurisdictions shared by municipal police and RCMP in British Columbia. By murdering his victims in various jurisdictions, Olson relied on the poor communications between police departments to help remain undetected. Likewise, his knowledge also helped him negotiate $100,000 in return for revealing the locations of the bodies. Though subject of a court battle by the families of the victims, the payment was allowed and it went to Olson’s wife and son.

Olson kept himself in the news by his repeated parole attempts, frivolous law suits and letters and phone calls to his victim’s families. He even gave himself the moniker of the "Beast of British Columbia".

Luckily, some good can come out of even so much evil.

Canada enacted several laws as a direct result of Olson’s crimes and his actions while in jail. After abolishing the death penalty, Canada put the “faint hope” clause into effect allowing murderers to apply for parole after 15 years served of the minimum 25-year sentence. Victim’s Rights groups are responsible for excluding serial killers from that right. In 2011, the faint hope clause was abolished completely. The government also disallowed federal prisoners from receiving old age security payments. At the time the law was enacted, Olson had been receiving payments for five years.

One can only hope that with Olson’s death, families of his victims can have some closure and peace.

***UPDATE***

For those that have read my blog on the Michael Marino exhumation case, Michael's mother has won the court case. The hope is the body will be exhumed within a month so DNA testing can be completed. Originally the suit requested that the county pay the $10,000 cost but that was later removed. Lawyers for Sherry Marino are confident that the cost can be raised from the public. The court order was signed almost 35 years to the day that Michael disappeared.

I will keep you informed as developments continue.