#JesseMatthew #HannahGraham : Suspect now linked to 4 attacks on women

Things are not looking good for Jesse Matthew. The Washington Post / Associated Press are now reporting he is  linked  to attacks on 4 women. Up until now, a lot of these connections were speculation on the part of 3rd rate media outlets. Now it’s coming from direct sources /  police and FBI:

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— Hannah Graham, 18. Matthew is being held on a charge of abducting with intent to sexually molest this University of Virginia student, who disappeared early Sept. 13, after witnesses saw them walking off together in downtown Charlottesville.

— Morgan Harrington, 20. Police said Matthew’s arrest in the Graham case provided a “forensic link” that represents a “significant break” in slaying of the Virginia Tech student, whose body was found three months after she disappeared at a Metallica concert on the Charlottesville campus in 2009.

— Unidentified 26-year-old woman. The FBI said in 2012 that DNA evidence matches Harrington’s killer with the rapist of a woman who was grabbed from behind while walking home from a grocery store in northern Virginia in 2005. The man fled when he was startled by a passerby, police said.

— Unidentified university student. Matthew was accused of raping a fellow student at Liberty University, where he played as a defensive lineman on the football team from 2000 to 2002. The prosecutor said the complainant declined to press charges.

 

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#JesseMatthew #HannahGraham : Wait for the facts

harrington-matthew-graham_606

I don’t know who said, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear?”, possibly an artist, probably a social scientist. Anyway, the speculation surrounding #HannahGraham and #JesseMatthew is getting out of hand.

My point in emphasizing the need to wait for facts is this: This case is ripe for confirmation bias. There is now a growing hysteria to throw every unsolved case at the feet of Jesse Matthew, while overlooking  every rational fact that may disprove he is a homicidal maniac.

Up to this point the information connecting Graham and Matthew is not looking good for Matthew. He appears to have been the last person seen with Graham, he fled 1,300 miles to Galveston, 12 years ago he has accused of rape.

But given the number of exonerated criminals in this country over the last ten years I would think the last thing anyone wants is another falsely accused black male.

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#HannahGraham = #MorganHarrington : What the police said:

Morgan_Harrington_courtesy_photo

Morgan Harrington

Here are some thoughts on the investigation into the disappearance of  Hannah Graham:

On Monday, September 29th Virginia State Police released a very provocative statement which seemingly linked the Graham disappearance to the murder of Morgan Harrington, and to the suspect now in custody, Jesse Matthew. Here’s what the Virginia State Police stated:

“For the past five years, the Virginia State Police has been aggressively pursuing the investigation into the disappearance and death of 20-year-old Morgan D. Harrington of Roanoke, Va. Last week, the arrest of Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville, Va., provided a significant break in this case with a new forensic link for state police investigators to pursue. There is a still a great deal of work to be done in regards to this investigation and we appreciate the public’s patience as we move forward.”

People can infer what they want from this statement, but everyone should be careful, at this point, to not read too much into it (the full text may be viewed here).

Hannah Graham

Hannah Graham

What the statement doesn’t say, but what headlines are repeating throughout the media is the following:

1. That there is DNA evidence linking Jesse Matthew to the murder of Morgan Harrington and the disappearance of Hannah Graham.

2. That Jesse Matthew is a suspect in both cases.

At this point neither of these statements are true, and the implication that they are factual risks severely compromising these investigations.

Forensic evidence can be DNA evidence, but it is not exclusively DNA evidence. Forensic evidence can be a fingerprint, it can also be an object like a piece of paper.

As well, although implied, the “forensic link” is not necessarily from Jesse Matthew.

I believe the statement from the Virginia State Police is deliberately confusing because they are purposely using the media and public speculation to achieve some specific, but at this time unknown outcome related to all three individuals.

But there are great dangers in speculation. Media feedback loops lead to bad assumptions, which lead to labels like Jesse Matthew is “a monster”, or that Hannah Graham was “brutally murdered”.  At this point in time, none of that has been confirmed.

Clearly the Virginia State Police has made some missteps in the past with criminal investigations, but we are still only 2 weeks into Hannah Graham’s disappearance. At this point, it would be best to step back and let the police and the FBI do their jobs.

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10 year search for Maura Murray continues

mauraFascinating piece in Boston Magazine about the disappearance of Maura Murray. Some thoughts:

1. The piece’s documentation on the 10 year history of internet sleuthing is really interesting, and I am pretty sure Who Killed Theresa? was one of the first blogs of this nature. I know I started covering the story around 2004.

2. If theorists really do believe Maura went to Canada, specifically Sherbrooke, I wonder if they are aware there is a monastery there, Abbaye St. Benoit Du Lac, that might have provided refuge. In fact, my father knocked on their door 35 years ago when my sister went missing.

3. Maura’s father, Fred Murray and I have corresponded over the years. He may now feel she was abducted by “a local dirtbag”, but for a time he took the notion of her fleeing to Canada very seriously. I know because I put him in contact with some police investigators with the Quebec police.

4. I have also corresponded with James Renner. I respect James’ tenacity, but his comment that Fred Murray must be hiding something because, “In the history of missing women, what father has ever not wanted more publicity about their missing daughter?” is unfair, irresponsible, and simply not accurate. When my sister disappeared, authorities accused her of being everything from mentally disturbed, to a runaway, to a “lesbian” (heaven forbid). At that point, the very LAST thing my parents wanted was more publicity. They felt betrayed by the people they supposed were there to help them, and so they shut up. This is exactly what Fred has done, and I don’t blame him one bit.

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Toronto-area victim identified as Guang Hua Liu

The victim in the Toronto-area human remains case has been identified  as 41-year-old Guang Hua Liu of Scarborough Liu was last seen alive on Aug. 10 and was reported missing by friends the following day.

 

Bizarre and disturbing. The first set of remains were found near Hewick Meadows Park in Mississauga, not far from the Square One shopping mall. The second set of what appear to be human remains were found in a bag near Kennedy Road and BonisAvenue in Scarborough. That’s about a 30 minute drive using the 401 and 403.

Here’s the latest:

Peel Regional Police say they have identified Guang Hua Liu, 41, of Scarborough, as the victim.
Peel Regional Police say they have identified Guang Hua Liu, 41, of Scarborough, as the victim. (Toronto Police Service)

Peel Regional Police say the remains found in Mississauga and Toronto in recent days belong to a single mother who went missing earlier this month.

Insp. George Koekkoek named the victim as 41-year-old Guang Hua Liu of Scarborough during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Koekkoek said Liu was last seen alive on Aug. 10 and was reported missing by friends the following day.

Liu, a Canadian citizen of Chinese descent, was a single mother of three.

Until recently, Liu was employed as “the owner of a now-defunct spa” on Eglinton Avenue in Scarborough, Koekkoek said.

Koekkoek said police have executed search warrants in their investigation.

“We are working on suspect information,” he said.

The investigation that led to Liu’s identification began when a human foot was found in the Credit River in Mississauga’s Hewick Meadows Park last Wednesday. Further remains were found nearby.

On the weekend, Toronto police were alerted to the discovery of remains on back-to-back days in the West Highland Creek.

While police had previously said there were “obvious similarities” between the finds in both cities, Koekkoek said Tuesday that police had “forensically linked” the recovered remains.

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A severed head, a foot and two hands discovered in Mississauga, Ont., last week and human remains found in Toronto on the weekend, are likely from the same victim, police said Monday.

Police say they can’t be 100 per cent certain, but there are “obvious similarities.”

Forensic scientists will make the final determination but Peel Regional Police said Monday morning their investigators believe the gruesome discoveries in the nearby cities over the past week are from the same victim.

“It is fair to say that … somehow parts of a person’s body have been discovered in two different locations,” said Const. Peter Brandwood.

On Saturday and Sunday remains were found in a creek in Toronto’s east end.

On Monday Brandwood confirmed those remains are human.

“Those remains that were discovered in Toronto have now been confirmed to be identified as human remains. Investigators are convinced that there are obvious similarities between the body parts in our investigation here and the human body parts and the recovery of those human body parts in the Toronto jurisdiction,” he said.

 

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The Serial Killer Ate My Homework

Watching some of these investigative reporters attempt to solve crimes gets as boring as watching American league baseball. No-one wants to single and bunt their way to victory, it’s all about the DH bases loaded home run, let’s hang it all to a serial killer and solve five crimes at once.

Israel Keyes

Take the case of Nancy West writing in a recent New Hampshire Sunday News article about murder suspect Israel Keyes. Keyes is being held in Alaska for the alleged kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig from an Anchorage coffee shop. Keyes is also apparently  a person of interest in the slaying of Essex, Vermont couple, Bill and Lorraine Currier, who were randomly abducted and murdered in June 2011 (apparently Keyes has told investigators the bodies could be found in a Vermont landfill).  The article (and apparently an impatient public, and capitulating law enforcement agencies) then attempts to tie Keyes to the disappearance and murder of Celina Cass, whose body was retrieved from a local river over a year ago, less than a quarter of a mile from her home. The evidence? Cass disappeared the month after the Currier murders.

Never mind that where the Curriers live in Essex, Vermont is a good five-hour drive on rough roads to where Cass disappeared in New Hampshire. Never mind that the psychological profile of someone who robs and kills a couple in their 50s is vastly different from someone who murders an 11-year-old. Investigators also note that Keyes owned a cabin near the Canadian border in Constable, New York. Let me put that in perspective for you; that’s three states, and over 300 miles. It’s like saying a person from Cornwall, Ontario is a suspect in a Sherbrooke, Quebec murder simply because there once was a penitentiary in Cornwall.

It gets better. The article also notes that the cases of Maura Murray and Louise Chaput remain unsolved in New Hampshire. 

Celia Cass

I’ll make this really easy for everyone. There is no evidence that Israel Keyes murdered Celina Cass (or Murray or Chaput). Cass was found a quarter of a mile from her house and was most likely murdered by a family member.

As I wrote about in my last post, through a long process of trial and error I have become a disciple of the least effort principle of Occam’s Razor. By all means keep your mind open for the unexpected, but also keep it simple, let the facts speak for themselves. The pressure and temptation to throw everything into some great unifying theory in criminal investigation is strong. I remember back in the Summer of 2005 I was working with NBC television to do a story for Dateline NBC on my sister’s murder. The producers were interested in exploring an angle between her case, and the then two new investigations into the twin disappearances of Briana Maitland and Maura Murray. The producers wanted myself and Geographic Profiler, Kim Rossmo to go on record and suggest that all the cases might be related, that their was a possibility that a serial killer had been operating across the American-Canadian border over a period of three decades. There was absolutely no evidence to support this theory. Rossmo explained that when establishing locus and territoriality in geographic profiling, the span of a serial predator quickly diminishes at a point of say, 30 miles. For someone to be operating in a playing field of several hundred miles is very rare, if not impossible. Some might cite Ted Bundy, but that was never really the case: Bundy travelled. In the case of the Green River Killings one of the major inhibitors to resolving that investigation was the temptation to tie too much together (to essentially make Gary Ridgeway and Robert Pickton one person). When we told the producers at NBC that there no evidence to support such a sensational theory they didn’t care. They wanted us to say it anyway.

Eventually we backed away from the Dateline story, and the producers were not interested in doing a show that stuck with the facts. I will admit that the temptation to give them what they wanted was there. Regardless if it was true, a Dateline story would have given my sister’s case International exposure. It could have led to information that could have solved the case. But the premise wasn’t true, it could have done more damage than good. And anyway, an American audience would do little to shed light on events of 3o-years-ago; what ultimately was needed was a program in the French language, produced for locals, by locals (which is ultimately was what we got).

In November 1999, 16-year-old Julie Surprenant disappeared from a Montreal bus-stop. Less than two years later, 14-year-old Julie Bureau went missing

Julie Surprenant’s father, Michel

from her home near Sherbrooke, Quebec. Then ten months later the body of 27-year-old Julie Boisvenu was found in a ditch near Sherbrooke. She had been raped, beaten and strangled to death. The press quickly tried to suggest that the cases were somehow linked. Their evidence? The girls were all named Julie. I’m not joking. I remember the La Presse headline, Les Trois Julies, and I myself got caught up in this hysteria. So what happened? Julie Surprenant was abducted and killed by serial offender Richard Bouillon who, on his prison death bed, confessed to a nurse that he killed her. Her body has never been found. Julie Bureau was a runaway who resurfaced three years later, apparently living under everyone’s noses in Sherbrooke.  Julie Boisvenu was murdered by Hugo Bernier, who is currently serving a life sentence. Bernier was a repeat offender, but not a hardened criminal like Bouillon.

This brings me full circle to the cases on Briana Maitland and Maura Murray. Both disappeared

Maura Murray

within a month of each other eight years ago. Both disappearances involved abandoned automobiles on lonely forested highways. Both were young, attractive women with their whole lives ahead of them. For years investigators, the media and the public have tried to link the cases. It took the first year and a half before investigators officially dismissed any connection, wasting valuable resources and time.

The cases are vastly different.

Murray appears to have been under numerous stressors that could have given her a reason to runaway. She may be living somewhere else, or she may have been in despair and perhaps died in the woods. Maitland’s disappearance seems to be linked to foul play. Friends and associates to this day are not talking. She may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Where Maitland’s investigation appears to have stalled, the Murray case has received fresh interest with the creation of a blog by investigative journalist James Renner  ( apparently to the dismay of the family unfortunately). Nevertheless, Renner appears clear-headed and dedicated to sticking to the facts of the case. I hope both cases soon find their resolutions.

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Did Brianna Maitland go to Montreal?

Brianna Maitland

In a 2011 television interview for, I believe, The Discovery Network, Brianna Maitland’s mother said that Brianna was a restless girl, eager to find her independence, and had indicated that she wanted get away from the rural confines of upstate Vermont and live in a big city like New York or Montreal.

So, did Brianna Maitland – missing since 2004 – run away to Montreal? Certainly it would be easy to slip away over the Quebec border unnoticed. A recent Montreal Gazette article marks the closing of the Stanstead – Derby Line border crossing, the last unstaffed crossing, where criminals have been going back-and-forth for decades. Note that Stanstead is less than an hour from where Brianna was last seen in Montgomery, Vermont. When I was a kid, I attended hockey camp in Stanstead and I well remember walking back and forth across the border to get American candy bars; no-one every stopped you.

Still, although the Quebec police at one time were investigating the possibility that Brianna was in Montreal (I know because I asked them, and they confirmed it… and then later Brianna’s father, Bruce told me  he was working with Quebec Police) I think it is highly doubtful that Montreal was her destination the night of March 19, 2004. I think what’s been the biggest problem since the beginning of this case is too many silly leads that have distracted the investigation. Investigators lost valuable time trying to establish or discredit a link to the Maura Murray disappearance. In 2006, an affidavit surfaced from a young woman claiming that Brianna’s body was dismembered, and the remains scattered at a Vermont pig farm (note that in 2006, the Robert Pickton trail was in full swing in British Columbia: pig mania was everywhere). I have even heard the stories about Brianna being sacrificed by local teens in a devil worshipping ceremony. Then there was the runaway angle (she’s in Montreal, no she’s in New York, no she’s in Atlantic City).

This kind of fear-culture hysteria is not uncommon, My family experienced it ourselves in the 5 months in which Theresa was missing. Here’s the litany of time-wasters we had to endure:

– She was in Montreal, or Florida, or “out West”.

– She committed suicide.

– She had a baby and was living in a convent.

– She was a lesbian and was so ashamed that she ran away to… a convent.

– The Hells Angels got her.

– Her friends killed her. No wait… her friends did drugs with her, THEN killed her. 

– She was strapped to a bed for five months before finally being allowed to die.

Sound familiar? 

Brianna’s mother describes her daughter as being fearless, trustful of others, she saw the good in everyone. she wanted to be independent, to try new things, she experimented with life, used drugs recreationally, extremely beautiful and attractive, wanted attention, wanted to be loved. Could give as good as she could get (took martial arts), if confronted she would put up a fight.

When I hear that description I hear my mother describing Theresa. They are the same women. And women like that court danger, and sometimes danger stalks them.

When Theresa was eventually found – she wasn’t where any of the “experts” said she was. Her body was less than a mile from where she lived.  Eight years later, I believe investigators need to go back to square one with Brianna. I believe in Occam’s Razor. I believe in the compelling principle of simplicity, especially when it comes to criminals and their behavior. Can people keep a secret after eight years? If they can after thirty-four, they definitely can keep their mouths’ shut for eight. Especially if you refuse to apply any pressure. I would DEFINITELY take a trip to Jamaica / Queens and speak again to Ramon Ryans and Low Jackson (I have every confidence Bruce Maitland has tried to, the police need to). Don’t wait for the forensic results from that skull found in Danby last winter. Trust me, it’s not her. Your answers lie right in Montgomery, and with the people who were in Montgomery, March 19, 2004.

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Marilyn Bergeron – still missing

Je ne peux pas y croire. Marilyn Bergeron a disparu depuis 2008. J’ai toujours pensé que ce cas serait résolu, que Marilyn allait revenir à son domicile. Ici, il mensonges exposés, comme une plaie ouverte.

La famille a mis en place un site web vraiment super. Check it out here: Trouvez Marilyn Bergeron.

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Laval police searching for a missing 28-year-old woman, Émilie Bélanger

Wow, This stuff just never ends:

MONTREAL – Laval police are currently searching for a missing 28-year-old woman.

Émilie Bélanger was last seen on July 13. She occasionally lived with her grandfather and has left him a voicemail two weeks ago.

Since then, she has not given anyone information on her whereabouts. She is described as white, 5-foot-3 and weighs 100 pounds. She has brown hair and brown eyes and speaks French.

Laval police believe that she could be on the island of Montreal or in Laval.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Laval Police department at 450-662-INFO, referencing case number 2012-295.

 

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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.”

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