Public Nut Cases

Some of you know Mary Diwell as the opinionated voice on the Russell Williams’ posts. While others were inclined to play super-sleuths, Mary has been quite critical of the “looky loo” mentality; expressing that we should all wake up and get a life.

I struck up a friendship with Mary because I saw the merit in her argument. While biding my time here at WKT? I often post about other cases, and I often get caught up in them. But like Mary, I really believe that this is a warped obsession. In passing a car crush it is oftentimes hard to avert our eyes, but lest we gaze too long it is always good to heed the words of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche:

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.
And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

I do not wish to be a hypocrite. I have many times watched “Unsolved Mysteries”, CSI. and any number of Discovery Channel forensic dissections that are lurid and fascinating. But I would emphasize that all my car-crash gawking came LONG BEFORE I had an inkling that my sister was a victim of murder. When that horrific reality took hold I abandoned television altogether, and became addicted to facts. To anyone who derives pleasure from unsolved crimes, a word of caution: unless you have been touched with such tragedy, go back to enjoying your lives… you have no business here.

As you might have now guessed, I have invited Mary Diwell to post some comments here about our public obsession with horror, tragedy and violence. Here is her piece. Thank you Mary:

“The recent arrest of Colonel Russell Williams on sexually motivated murder charges brings to mind the notion of those who derive pleasure from the misfortunes of others. In this case, a voracious media and ignorant on-line commentators have had a field day.

Surely this is a human tragedy for all concerned – firstly for the victims and their families but also for the colonel and his family particularly his wife. However, what do we see? A media attributing every rape and murder in Canada to the colonel and a public baying for the blood of both them. Particularly disturbing to me is the fury over the defence of property transfers in order to financially protect Ms. Harriman. Woman who probably call themselves feminists are baying for this woman’s blood – supposedly in support of the women who were the colonel’s victims.

We all should be silent in pity for those who are victims of violent crime. The pain of their families can only be imagined by those of us who have no experience of such horror and special concern should be for the families for whom there is no closure because the killer has never been found. The anguish is there forever.

And then there is the hypocrisy in the case of Colonel Williams. The media was ever so quiet and respectful when the bodies of three teenage girls and an older woman were pulled from the Rideau Canal last summer – murdered by their own family. Political correctness demanded a muted response to such barbarism because it was a “cultural” matter. The colonel and his wife have no such excuse. Its been open season on them.

The sometimes tragedy of the human condition should be considered by all those who pass judgement on others and a humble respect given in its place.”


Rocky Mount Women / GQ: No good deed…

GQ story on alleged serial killings splits opinions
By Brie Handgraaf
Rocky Mount Telegram

The people interviewed for a recent national story on Rocky Mount’s alleged serial killer case are divided on the published product.

Jackie Wiggins, mother of victim Jackie Nikelia ‘Nikki’ Thorpe, spoke with the author of the article in June’s issue of “Gentleman’s Quarterly” last fall and said she has mixed opinions about how it turned out.

“I was pleased with it as far as the publication about the girls and stuff, but his interview with this cabbie person was kind of shocking to me,” she said. “He came out with a whole lot of information that could have been useful earlier (in the investigation).”

She said she is reserving judgment on some of the quotes from officials used in the article.
“I think they said some things that now I hope they regret,” she said. “I guess the reporter reported as he heard it, but I’m waiting to hear their version of it.”

Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs was negatively portrayed in the article. Combs said the author took him out of context.

“Most people assume the mayor knows everything that is going on, but I’m not always aware of what the police department is working on,” he said. “He also made a comment about how I wasn’t at the candlelight vigil, but I really didn’t know about it. Nobody called me so I never knew about it.”

He added the article was skewed to overplay the race issue.

“I’m not sure I realized the direction he was going with it,” he said. “He wanted to paint a picture between Edgecombe and Nash counties, but I think, overall, that as a mayor, I look at it as all one city. I think because he is writing a book on race in the South, the whole article was based on race more than anything.”

Wiggins said she also believes the focus on race was dramatized.

“When he talked about the train tracks diving the blacks and whites, I think it could have been worded better,” she said. “I guess that was just his way of getting the point across, but our schools are integrated. I feel like some things were stretched.”

Rocky Mount councilman and local NAACP president Andre Knight said race does play into how much media attention, or lack thereof, the case has gotten.

“I think (the author) used race as a backdrop,” he said. “I think when it comes to African-American women and children (as victims of crime), they don’t get near the coverage other nationalities get in the media.”

Knight and Wiggins commended the author for his portrayal of the girls — not just how they died, but how they lived as well.

“He gave the women a real face. He talked about not just their addictions, but how these women were actually engaged in society. They were good people,” Knight said. “He was trying to actually put a face other than a mugshot on these women. I think he gave them some dignity as well.”

Wiggins actually was pleased with the relatively graphic portrayal of the victims’ deaths in the article.

“He was printing that to make people see just how tragic and demeaning the bodies were left,” she said. “He described what it was like. He put it like it was. I think the readers can see what we saw and how we felt.”

Knight said he hopes the national media attention will help the investigation.
“This case hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as it needs,” he said. “We don’t need this to go by the wayside. It is still very important to the families and the community.”
Combs said the attention will likely taper off.

“Other communities have had similar things happen and I hate to say this, but soon the national media moves on to something new,” he said. “Hopefully, someone will see this in the media and come forward with new information.

“I just hope people take it for what it is. It is a magazine article by someone trying to write a book.

“He took a lot of liberty along the way. It is what it is.”


The Lost Girls of Rocky Mount

GQ’s a day late and a dollar short on this one. (well, 9 months at least to be precise)

What you will: They certainly know how to package a story:

The elderly black woman sits on her couch and rummages through a cardboard box until she finds the newspaper article—raggedy and faded like the town of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where her daughter Melody spent her final years. The headline reads, POLICE SEEK MORE CLUES IN MURDER.

“That’s what Melody’s son used to ask me all the time,” says the woman. Her weary voice assumes the pitch of a little boy: ” ‘Grandma, have they found out who did it to my mama?'”

And then she mimics a grandmother’s loving cadence: “I’d say, ‘Not yet. But the Lord knows who did it.'”

She falls silent. Then the woman points to a large photograph propped against the wall of her modest home. Below her grandson’s name and grinning face are the dates “October 15, 1997-November 15, 2008.” A tornado had engulfed their house that November night while she and her husband and her murdered daughter Melody’s son were all asleep. She remembers how the astonishing white light made her gasp, “Jesus…” Then she remembers her grandson flying away from her, as her daughter had three years earlier.

“Now he’s up there with her,” the grandmother murmurs as she looks down at the newspaper clipping on her lap. “Now he knows, too.”

The farmer who discovered the second body found off Seven Bridges Road, a few miles north of Rocky Mount, had been taking down his electric fence, and what drew him to the tree stump was a foreign odor. He initially mistook the carcass in the woods for that of a rotting deer. But then he saw the hands raised above the small round skull, as if waving for help. The skeletonized woman lay facedown, naked. Maggots and beetles dug into what was left of her leathery flesh.

When Corneta Battle saw the news that day in March 2008, she knew that her prayers—Lord, you’ve got to show me where my sister is. Let me dream it. Let me see it—had finally been answered. Corneta called the authorities. They asked her to swab her mother’s mouth for DNA. After the tests came back indicating a 99.9 percent probability of kinship, the police showed Corneta the photographs taken out at Seven Bridges Road. Corneta Battle looked at them and nodded silently. Though there was almost nothing left of her sister, she still recognized Ernestine.

For almost six weeks, Ernestine Battle had been missing. It was well known that she walked the streets of Rocky Mount all night, selling her body to support her crack habit, that she had stopped taking care of her two young children, that she had been in and out of jail for the past nine years on drug- and prostitution-related charges, that when her family gave her food, she would trade it on the streets for a rock of cocaine. Her disappearance was nonetheless alarming for two reasons. The first was that Ernestine, no matter how strung out, always managed to stay in touch with her family. The second was that in the past five years, several other African-American women who wandered the streets of Rocky Mount at night had never been seen alive again.

Among the disappeared, Ernestine had known Nikki Thorpe best. Nikki lived down the street from her. And on her way to the park to score some drugs, Ernestine would wave to Nikki’s mother sitting on the porch drinking a Pepsi and call out, “Hey, Miss Jackie! Nikki there?” Or “C’mon, Miss Jackie, I know you’ve got another cold Pepsi.” As with Ernestine—who once had a respectable job with the cable company and took pains to do herself up, almost like a fashion model—there had been something to Nikki before all this. Nikki grew up playing football with the boys in the projects on Stokes Street. She’d been a cheerleader in high school. She wrote poetry and spent entire evenings at the O 64 Bingo Parlor. Nikki’s talent for braiding hair was highly regarded by the crack dealers, who sometimes gave her a rock in exchange for a hair job instead of a blow job.

Then, in the summer of 2007, Nikki’s became the first body left to rot away alongside Seven Bridges Road. So little remained of her, or of Ernestine the following year, that the pathologists who examined the corpses could not determine a cause of death. All that could be said with certainty was that the Rocky Mount women had died far from home—like Denise Williams, whose bloated body was discovered floating in a swamp southeast of town in 2003; like Melody Wiggins, found in the woods in May 2005; and perhaps like Christine Boone and Joyce Renee Durham, who in 2006 and 2007, respectively, simply vanished from the streets.

Someone was apparently taking drug-addicted black women from the drab streets of Rocky Mount—women who were not well connected or captivating to the media—and ending their sad lives and gambling that it would not matter.

Six years running, someone’s bet was paying off.

The cabbie believed that the someone was like him. Someone who knew the girls. Someone they would feel comfortable with. Let their guard down with. Jump in a car with, no problem.

He’d been driving these girls—Nikki, Ernestine, Denise, pretty much all of them—for years. Sometimes the cabbie (who asked not to be named) would drop them off at one of the grubby motels on Highway 301, where a john had bought them a room and where they’d turn tricks and smoke crack till checkout time. Then the cabbie would get a call on his cell and pick them up. In their state of dubious afterglow, he would see them strung out beyond comprehension, bruised and cut up, their clothes reeking from having been worn days in a row. Oftentimes they had no money despite their long evening of work, and the cabbie would give them a few bucks or drop them off at a church where they could get a hot meal.


Remains of Tiffany Morrison ID’d

Lack of media coverage indeed; I’d never heard of this case:

Human remains found in an aboriginal community south of Montreal on Tuesday have been identified as those of a woman missing since 2006.

The bones have been identified as those of Tiffany Morrison, 25, from the Kahnawake reserve, officials with the local police force confirmed on Friday.

The remains were found by a construction worker in a wooded area near the Mercier Bridge, which links Montreal to the South Shore region, said Warren White, an investigator with the Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeepers.

The bones had been covered with some branches, White said.

Morrison was reportedly last seen in a taxi with a man on the Kahnawake reserve, southwest of Montreal, on June 18, 2006.

Morrison’s family had been critical of what it said was a lack of media coverage of her disappearance.


Harper crime agenda is not a crime victim agenda

Steve Sullivan’s recent piece on the Harper crime agenda for The Hill Times:

Harper crime agenda is not a crime victim agenda

The Prime Minister recently summed up his approach to crime victims during his address to a crowd of victims and advocates. He described how the criminal justice system has traditionally focused all of its attention on offenders and not enough on victims, which is true. So you can imagine the audience’s confusion when he spent 95 per cent of his speech talking about offenders.

It should not be surprising. He believes the get-tough-on-crime agenda is synonymous with the crime victim agenda. The common belief that all victims favour harsher penalties is simply not true. The real needs of victims—information, financial, support, etc.—are not addressed by how much we punish the offender.

To be fair, sentencing is an issue for many victims. They expect offenders to be held accountable for their actions. But the truth is a tougher sentence will not help the majority of crime victims.

Most victims of violent crime do not even report the crime to the police. Less than 10 per cent of sexual assault victims report the crime. Most child victims will never tell anyone what happened. Tougher sentencing, and all the resources that go with it, will not help these people.

For those victims who report and charges are actually laid and there is a prosecution, the process is often more important than the outcome. If they are engaged throughout the investigation, if they understand why the Crown makes decisions and are given a voice, victims may be less concerned with the sentence. In our current system, we largely ignore victims, make complex decisions without explanation and rarely ask for their input. It is no wonder they look to the sentence (the outcome) for satisfaction because the system (the process) failed them.

To its credit, the government has taken some positive steps. In 2007, they created the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, developed an emergency fund to help Canadians victimized abroad and put more resources into northern communities for victim services because the rates of victimization are so high.

The government initiated special temporary residence permits for victims of trafficking that provide legal immigration status to victims, allowing them access to healthcare benefits and trauma counselling and the ability to apply for a work permit.

Last summer, the government reversed its position and introduced legislation to require internet service providers to give basic subscriber information to law enforcement without a warrant. This long-awaited legislation will address a problem identified as a barrier to finding child victims by child exploitation cops (unfortunately, this bill died when the Prime Minister prorogued and it has not been reintroduced, despite the fact that cops have been begging for it for years to help them to catch child sexual predators and rescue victims)

Instead of building on these positive initiatives and doing more for victims, the government contends its crime agenda is for victims. They contend their initiatives will prevent more victims by keeping offenders off the street longer, but 95 per cent of offenders are coming out of prison one day. Will we really be safer if they stay in prison and extra year or two or three? If the answer is yes, then the government should release the evidence to support these measures. This evidence, or the lack of it, should be front and centre in a debate that is going to cost lots of money during a fiscal crisis.

Which begs the question, why is the government unwilling to be upfront the costs of the crime agenda? According to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, one piece of legislation is going to cost $2-billion over five years (others suggest it will be higher). As for the rest of the bills, he would simply rather not share that information. However popular these proposals may be, we need to know what they will cost to determine if it is the best way to spend scarce resources.

Whatever is spent on these measures can’t be spent on initiatives that actually might make a difference in the lives of victims. For example, the government can’t put the resources necessary to help fund Child Advocacy Centres in every major city in this country (which the U.S. government does). The government can’t fund innovative programs and shelters to help trafficked youth escape a life selling themselves for food and shelter and survival to different men every night. The government can’t provide much-needed support to male victims of crime, a truly under-served group of victims who are in desperate need of support. The government can’t fund crime prevention research to address the fact that two per cent of Canadians experience 60 per cent of all violent crimes. And the list goes on.

Victims and victim groups are often called upon to support these measures, but if they were given a choice between spending limited resources on offenders or on supporting and protecting vulnerable victims, their answer might not be the one the government wants to hear.

The Prime Minister should reflect back on his speech because his government is focusing all its attention on offenders and not enough on victims.

Steve Sullivan has been an advocate for victims of crime for almost two decades and has testified before numerous Parliamentary and Senate committees. Most recently, he was Canada’s first ever federal ombudsman for Victims of Crime.


La Presse et M. Boisvenu

Hier, La Presse (Cyberpresse) a poursuivi son assaut sur la réputation du sénateur Boisvenu avec le missive d’Élisabeth Fleury , “Le paradoxe Boisvenu”

Alors, voici (encore) est mon français cassé:

A partir du moment Boisvenu a annoncé son intention de devenir sénateur de La Presse a vu ses actions en tant que “vendre”, et a fait tout ce qu’elle pouvait faire pour lui prouver qu’il avait pour ainsi faire progresser leur programme de gauche. Soyons clairs: il n’ya pas de paradoxe. M. Boisvenu – dès les premiers jours où je l’ai rencontré en 2003, quand il était frais de l’assassiner de sa fille Julie – a toujours eu des valeurs plus prudentes quand il s’agit il des questions de justice. La plupart d’entre nous ne victimes. C’est le vrai paradoxe seulement: nous avons généralement tendance à être conservateurs avec des idées de justice sociale, mais dans l’ensemble nous sommes assez libérale appuyée.

Si vous ne le savais pas si M. Boisvenu, si elle vient maintenant en quelque sorte comme une révélation pour vous, alors, par Dieu, vous ne faisaient pas attention.

Alors arrêtons de faire de la politique (je sais, vous pourriez aussi bien demander aux Québécois de cesser de respirer). Que l’homme faire son travail. Vous ne pouvez pas d’accord avec tout ce qu’il fait, mais ne l’accuse pas de l’abandon de ses commettants. Il est l’homme même, il a été à partir de Juin 23, 2002; A et équitable homme réfléchi qui fera le meilleur pour les questions de justice au Canada:


La Presse continues assault on Pierre Hugues Boisvenu

Yesterday La Presse (Cyberpresse) continued its assault on the reputation on Senator Boisvenu with Élisabeth Fleury’s missive, “Le paradoxe Boisvenu”

Rather than my broken French, here’s my plain English:

From the moment Boisvenu announced his intention of becoming Senator La Presse has viewed his actions as a “sell out”, and has done everything it could do to prove him so to advance their leftist agenda. Let’s be clear: there is no paradox here. M. Boisvenu – from the earliest days when I met him in 2003, when he was fresh from the murder of his daughter Julie – has always held conservative values when it came it issues of justice. Most of us victims do. That is the only true paradox: we generally tend to be conservative with ideas of social justice, but overall we are pretty liberal leaning.

If you did not know this if M. Boisvenu, if it somehow now comes as a revelation to you, then, by God, you were not paying attention.

So let’s stop playing politics here (I know, you might as well ask the Quebecois to stop breathing). Let the man do his job. You may not agree with everything he does, but do not accuse him of abandoning his principals. He is the same man he has been starting from June 23, 2002; a reflective and fair man who will do the very best for Canadian justice issues:

Élisabeth Fleury
Le Soleil

(Québec) Lorsqu’il a été nommé sénateur par les conservateurs, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu jouissait d’une solide réputation. Récipiendaire en 2005 du Prix de la justice du Québec, M. Boisvenu, dont la fille aînée, Julie, a été assassinée par un récidiviste, en imposait par son courage et sa détermination à défendre les victimes d’actes criminels et leurs familles. Aujourd’hui, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu porte bien haut les idées de la droite conservatrice au Québec, à la grande satisfaction, on s’en doute, des stratèges du parti de Stephen Harper.

Mais l’arrivée au Sénat de M. Boisvenu ne lui permet pas de dire tout et n’importe quoi. Son empressement à prendre le micro pour pourfendre les criminels et la frénésie avec laquelle il défend les projets de loi des conservateurs commencent à émousser sérieusement sa crédibilité. Or la crédibilité, ça ne se rachète pas.

Invité en fin de semaine dernière par La Presse Canadienne à commenter la position du gouvernement sur le projet de loi conservateur C-391, qui vise à abolir l’enregistrement des armes d’épaule, M. Boisvenu y est allé d’une étonnante déclaration.

Selon lui, la diminution du nombre de chasseurs au Québec est «dramatique» et serait attribuable à l’urbanisation et au plus grand nombre de mères monoparentales.

Suivant son raisonnement, parce que «la chasse n’est plus une tradition transmise de père en fils» et que les jeunes «n’ont plus le réflexe d’acheter une arme à feu», le nombre de chasseurs a diminué, ce qui a un impact sur le nombre d’accidents de la route causés par les chevreuils.

La position des conservateurs, qui estiment que le registre des armes à feu cible indûment les chasseurs et les agriculteurs parce qu’il criminalise ceux qui n’enregistrent pas leurs fusils ou oublient de le faire, est-elle à ce point difficile à défendre qu’il faille recourir à des explications aussi laborieuses que loufoques?

Et par quelle gymnastique de l’esprit le fondateur de l’Association des familles de personnes assassinées ou disparues du Québec en arrive-t-il à concilier son souci fondamental pour les victimes d’actes criminels et son adhésion à l’idée de cesser d’enregistrer les armes d’épaule? Comment peut-il parler des deux côtés de la bouche?

Que l’homme d’une seule cause se soit si rapidement métamorphosé en porte-étendard des politiques conservatrices, quelles qu’elles soient, suscite un certain malaise.

Il est d’autant plus dérangeant que depuis son entrée au Sénat, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu a multiplié les sorties publiques pour défendre des projets de loi qui visent davantage à punir les criminels qu’à venir en aide à leurs victimes…


Former suspect in Natalee Holloway case wanted in Peruvian murder case

CNN) — Joran van der Sloot, the Dutch man once considered a suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, is the suspect in the killing of a woman in Peru, Peruvian police officials said Wednesday.

There is “incriminating evidence” linking van der Sloot to the killing of 21-year-old Stephany Flores Ramirez, who was found dead in a Lima hotel room Wednesday, Cesar Guardia Vasquez, of the criminal investigations unit said at a news conference.
The hotel room where Flores was found was registered in van der Sloot’s name, he said.

A hotel guest and an employee witnessed the pair entering the hotel room together at 5 a.m. on Sunday, Guardia said.
Police have video of the previous night, May 29, of van der Sloot and Flores together at the Atlantic City Casino in Lima, he said.

According to immigration officials, van der Sloot fled to Chile over land on Monday, Guardia said.

“We have all the evidence to show that the killer is this man,” the victim’s father, businessman and race-car driver Ricardo Flores told CNN en Español.

But van der Sloot’s attorney, Joseph Tacopino, told CNN it was too early to make any conclusions.

“If history teaches us any lesson from van der Sloot/Holloway case, it’s that there have been way too many false facts that have been leaked and rumors that have been proven untrue,” Tacopino said. “We need to take a step back. I have not been contacted and the family has not been contacted. Joran has not been asked by anyone to surrender.”

Ricardo Flores said that police found his daughter’s car about 50 blocks from the hotel, and that inside, they found pills like those used in date rape cases.

Similar to the Holloway case, van der Sloot allegedly met at a night spot, in this case, a casino. Ricardo Flores said he did not believe that his daughter knew the Dutch citizen from before.

Both of them speak English, and at the casino they struck up conversation, he said.


Human remains found near Mercier bridge (thanks Anon)

Kahnawake Peacekeepers are investigating human remains discovered Monday afternoon near the Mercier Bridge.

A construction worker found bones and a skull on the south shore, between routes 138 and 132.

The remains were hidden underneath saplings and branches, leading police to declare the area a crime scene.

A forensics investigator is examining the remains, and trying to determine whether they belong to a man or a woman, and the approximate age of the person.

Police hope that preliminary results will be available as of Thursday.


Steve Sullivan: Canada’s voice for justice issues

Let’s be clear. Right now Mr. Sullivan – the former Victims Ombudsman for the Harper government – has the floor and should not yield. If you are missing his posts, more fool you. In his latest (below) Steve demonstrates that while the Liberals did little to advance the cause of victims, that does not mean they did nothing. The party’s mistake was to hand the game over entirely to the Conservatives so that they now control the justice agenda.

In response to his opening remarks; Steve, you were never a stooge. The title of the quote came to me from the Wes Anderson movie, Life Aquatic where Bill Murray says of Bud Cort’s character, “I’ve never seen a bond company stooge stick his neck out”.

So it was actually homage and praise I was giving you, not ridicule.

It also was a tip to Hamlet where Hamlet speaks of  his friends Rosencrantz and Guiltenstern :

“But such officers do the King best service in the end.

He keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his jaw;

first mouth’d, to be last swallowed.

When he needs what you have glean’d,

it is but squeezing you and, sponge, you shall be dry again.”

So in this case, the king is Harper, and you suffer callous abuse. It was a far to obscure reference I was attempting. (with me there are always meaning in meanings… can’t help it, I get it from my sister). I rarely show my hand, but in this case I will point it out; I would never want to unintentionally hurt someone through misunderstanding.