Category Archives: North Carolina

FBI probes hanging death of black teen in North Carolina #LennonLacy

Teenager’s mysterious death evokes painful imagery in North Carolina: ‘It’s in the DNA of America’

The swing set where Lennon Lacy was found hanging  in the rural town of Bladenboro, North Carolina

The swing set where Lennon Lacy was found hanging in the rural town of Bladenboro, North Carolina

From The Guardian:

Friday 29 August was a big day for Lennon Lacy. His high school football team, the West Bladen Knights, were taking on the West Columbus Vikings and Lacy, 17, was determined to make his mark. He’d been training all summer for the start of the season, running up and down the bleachers at the school stadium wearing a 65lb exercise jacket. Whenever his mother could afford it, he borrowed $7 and spent the day working out at the Bladenboro gym, building himself up to more than 200lbs. As for the future, he had it all planned out: this year he’d become a starting linebacker on the varsity team, next year he’d earn a scholarship to play football in college, and four years after that he’d achieve the dream he’d harboured since he was a child – to make it in the NFL.

“He was real excited,” said his Knights team-mate Anthony White, also 17, recalling the days leading up to the game. “He said he was looking forward to doing good in the game.”

The night before the game, Lacy did what he always did: he washed and laid out his football clothes in a neat row. He was a meticulous, friendly kid who made a point of always greeting people and asking them how they were doing. Everybody in his neighbourhood appears to have a story about how he would make a beeline to shake their hand, or offer to help them out by moving furniture or anything else that needed doing. “He was in the best sense a good kid,” said his pastor, Barry Galyean.

His brother, Pierre Lacy, said that football was the constant that ran through Lennon’s life since he started out as a Pee Wee: “He was very serious about being a professional, very passionate about it. He never changed his mind or wavered from the course.”

Lennon Lacy

Lennon Lacy

But Lacy never made it to the game that night. At 7.30am on Friday – exactly 12 hours before the game was scheduled to start – he was found hanging from a swing set about a quarter of a mile from his home. The Knights had lost one of the most promising players; his tight-knit family was thrown into despair; and a question echoed around the streets of the tiny town of Bladenboro, North Carolina: what had happened to Lennon Lacy?

The last person known to have seen Lacy alive was his father, Larry Walton. Around midnight on the night before the game, he came out of his bedroom to fetch a glass of water and saw his son preparing his school bag for the following morning. “I told him he needed to get to bed, the game was next day, and he said ‘OK, Daddy’.” A little later Walton heard the front door open and close; Walton assumed Lacy must have stepped out of the house, but thought no more of it and went to sleep.

Next morning there was no sign of Lacy, and Walton and Lacy’s mother, Claudia, thought he’d gone off to school. Later that morning, Claudia noticed he’d left some of his football gear on the line, so she called the school to say she’d bring it to him before the game. She was surprised to be told that her son hadn’t turned up at school. Just as she put the phone down, there was a knock on the door, and the Bladenboro police chief, Chris Hunt, was standing in front of her.

“I need you to come with me,” he said.

Claudia was led to a trailer park a short walk from her home, where an ambulance was parked on the grass next to a wooden swing set. Even before she had got to the ambulance she saw police officers clearing away the crime scene tape that had been placed around the swing.

Then she saw Lennon’s body lying in the ambulance in a black body bag, and on top of the immense shock and grief of seeing her son lifeless in front of her, the bewilderment intensified. “I know my son. The second I saw him I knew he couldn’t have done that to himself – it would have taken at least two men to do that to him.”

She noticed what she describes as scratches and abrasions on his face, and there was a knot on his forehead that hadn’t been there the day before. In a photograph taken of Lacy’s body lying in the casket, a lump is visible on his forehead above his right eye. “From that point on it was just not real, like walking through a dream,” she said.

Five days after Lennon Lacy was found hanging, the investigating team – consisting of local police and detectives from the state bureau of investigation – told the family that it had found no evidence of foul play. There was no mention of suicide, but the implication was clear. In later comments to a local paper, police chief Hunt said: “There are a lot of rumours out there. And 99.9% of them are false.”

The Lacys were left with the impression that, for the district attorney, Jon David, and his investigating team, the question of what had happened to Lennon Lacy was all but settled just five days after the event. But it wasn’t settled for them.

As the Rev William Barber, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in North Carolina, put it at a recent memorial service for Lennon Lacy held at the family’s church, the First Baptist in Bladenboro: “Don’t ask these parents to bury their 17-year-old son and then act as though everything is normal. Don’t chastise them for asking the right questions. All they want is the truth.”

From that point on it was just not real, like walking through a dream
Barber was careful to stress that that truth was elusive – no one knows what happened to Lennon Lacy, he said, beyond the bald facts of his death. If a full and thorough investigation concluded that the teenager had indeed taken his own life, then the Lacy family would accept that.

But Barber also talked about the chilling thought that lingered, otherwise unmentioned, over the scores of black and white people attending the packed memorial. “The image of a black boy hanging from a rope is in the souls of all of us,” he told them. “It is in the DNA of America. In 2014, our greatest prayer is that this was not a lynching.”

Pierre Lacy with his mother, Claudia Lacy who holds a picture of her late son Lennon Lacy in his younger days. Photograph: Andrew Craft/The Guardian
In Bladenboro, a town of just 1,700 people – 80% white, 18% black – the bitter legacy of the South’s racial history is never far from the surface. The African Americans have a nickname for the place: they call it “Crackertown” in reference to its longstanding domination by the white population.

The events of 29 August have become entangled in that historical narrative, inevitably perhaps in a state in which 86 black people were lynched between 1882 and 1968.

While America debates whether it is moving into a post-racial age, the truth in Bladenboro is that the past is very much here and now, and that the terrible image of “strange fruit” will hover over this town for as long as the truth about Lennon Lacy’s death remains uncertain.

Which is paradoxical, because Lacy had joined a multiracial youth group across town at the Galeed Baptist church where he went for weekly services and basketball ministry, and his friends were black and white, in almost equal measure.

For several months before he died, he was also in a relationship with a white woman, Michelle Brimhall, who lives directly opposite the Lacy family home. The liaison with Brimhall raised eyebrows because, at 31, she was almost twice his age. (The age of consent in North Carolina is 16.)

“Everybody was going on to me because he was 17 and I am 31,” Brimhall told the Guardian. “We told people we weren’t seeing each other so they would stop giving us trouble.”

The Lacy family said that Brimhall had split up with Lacy a couple of weeks before he died and that she had a new boyfriend. But she denied that. “We were still together, I did not break up with him,” she said. “I had never had a man treated me as good as he did, and I probably will never find another.”

Brimhall said she did not notice any hostility towards them as a mixed-race couple. But she is convinced that Lennon did not take his own life. “No, Lennon did not kill himself. He loved his mother so much, he would never put her through that.”

She added: “I want to know who did it. I want them to suffer.”

Lennon Lacy’s first football team, in Virginia. Lennon is No52 on the far left.
Brimhall’s close friend, Teresa Edwards, lives a few doors down from the Lacys. Edwards said that she was desperate to find out the truth, particularly as Lacy was such a good person. “For him to be black – I’m not stereotyping or anything, I’m not racist, I love everybody – but he was a very well-mannered child.”

A white couple, Carla Hudson and Dewey Sykes, live in a trailer home right behind the Lacy house. Soon after Lennon died his family learned that a few years ago Sykes and Hudson had been instructed by police to remove from their front lawn a number of Confederate flags and signs saying “Niggers keep out”.

The Guardian asked the couple why they had put up the signs. Sykes said that it was his idea. “There were some kids who ganged up on our kid and I put some signs up.” Asked whether he now regretted doing so, he replied: “Yeah, I regret it now.”

Carla Hudson said she had begged her husband to take the signs down. “I told him he had to stop that. It wasn’t how I saw things – there’s not a racist bone in my body.”

There is no evidence to suggest that either Hudson or Sykes had anything to do with Lacy’s death. Asked about the teenager, Hudson said: “Lennon was like a son to me, and this was his second home. He was nothing like the people we have trouble with. In my eyes he was just perfect.”

About a week after Lacy died, his family, with the help of the NAACP and their own lawyer, put together a list of questions and concerns that they presented to the district attorney. First, there was the overriding sense that Lennon was simply not the kind of boy to harm himself. He had no history of mental illness or depression, and was so focused on his future it was inconceivable he would intentionally cut it short.

The image of a black boy hanging from a rope is in the souls of all of us
The day before Lacy was found hanging, there had been a funeral service for his great uncle Johnny, who had died a couple of weeks previously. Lacy had been close to his uncle, and was visibly upset, but not to an extreme degree, his family said. He grieved “as a normal person would”, Claudia said.

Then there were those facial marks on his body. Even the undertaker, FW Newton Jr, who has worked as a mortician for 26 years, was taken aback by what he saw.

Newton told the Guardian that when he received Lacy’s body two days after he died, he was struck by the abrasions he saw across both shoulders and down the insides of both arms. He also noted facial indentations over both cheeks, the chin and nose. Though police have told the Lacy family that ants were responsible for causing the marks, to Newton the state of the body reminded him of corpses he had embalmed where the deceased had been killed in a bar-room fight.

The Guardian asked the local Bladenboro police department, the district attorney and the state bureau of investigation to respond to the allegation that they had conducted an inadequate investigation. They all declined to comment on the grounds that the investigation was ongoing.

In a statement posted on the Bladenboro town website, the district attorney, Jon David, said that the “victims [sic] family, and the community, can rest assured that a comprehensive investigation is well underway. All death investigations, particularly those involving children, are given top priority by my office. Investigations are a search for the truth, and I am confident that we have a dedicated team of professionals, and the right process, to achieve justice in this matter.”

David said that his team was keeping the Lacy family and its representatives closely apprised of the investigation, and had met community leaders to explain to them the current state of affairs. But he added that “to date we have not received any evidence of criminal wrongdoing surrounding the death”.

The family have many other questions that they still want answered. Who desecrated Lennon Lacy’s grave a few days after the burial, dumping the flowers 40 feet away beside the road and digging a hole in one corner of the plot? Why didn’t forensic investigators take swabs from under Lacy’s fingernails and DNA test them to see if he had been in physical contact with anybody else before he died? Have the police probed deeply enough into Lacy’s wider group of friends and acquaintances; the family were disturbed to find, for instance, that one white associate of Lennon’s had a Confederate flag as the backdrop to his Facebook page.

Lennon Lacy’s grave was desecrated and a small hole dug in the plot.
They also want to know why it is it taking so long for the autopsy report to come through, with still no date set for its public release five weeks after the event. So far only the toxicology report has come back, showing that Lacy had no drugs, alcohol or other chemicals in his bloodstream.

The location where Lacy was found, the mobile home park at the Cotton Mill, has also caused the family great difficulty. The swing set from which he was hanging is one of eight such sets standing in a line in the middle of a rectangle of 13 mobile homes. The spot is desolate and vulnerable, overlooked as it is by so many trailer homes, like a sports field surrounded by grandstands.

“If my brother wanted to take his own life, I can’t understand why he would do it in such an exposed place. This feels more like he was put here as a public display – a taunting almost,” Pierre Lacy said.

This feels more like he was put here as a public display – a taunting almost
Lacy was found wearing a pair of size 10.5 white sneakers, with the laces removed, which no one in his family recognised. A few days before he died, he had bought himself a new pair of Jordans for the start of school year. They were grey with neon green soles, size 12, and have been missing ever since.

The family also wonders why the former husband of Michelle Bramhill and the father of her children, whom she left in February before relocating to Bladenboro, has yet to be interviewed by detectives. There is no evidence to implicate him in the circumstances surrounding Lacy’s death, but the family would still like to know why detectives have yet to speak to him.

Allen Rogers, a Fayetteville lawyer with 20 years’ experience in criminal cases who is representing the Lacy family, said there were too many questions still unanswered. “I don’t believe that a thorough investigation has been done, and within that investigation, the evidence the police has compiled is not sufficient to rule out foul play. The concern is that there’s been a rush to judgment – a desire quickly to settle any issue over the cause of death,” he said.

Rogers conceded that it was hard for any family to accept a suicide in its midst, and that it would be natural in those circumstances to search for alternative explanations, to clutch at straws. But he said that in this case the clutching at straws appeared to have been on the part of “elected officials who can’t deal with the realities of race. Given the sensitivity of the issues here, it’s much easier to put this in a box marked ‘suicide’ than ask the tough questions. I’m afraid that politics have held back the investigation.”

A few hours after Lacy’s body was discovered, the coach of the West Bladen Knights called the team together to break to them the tragic news. He asked them what they wanted to do. They voted unanimously to play on, dedicating the game to their lost brother, Lennon Lacy. They won, 57-22.

UNC Chapel Hill: Physician, Heal Thyself!


This week two local issues concerning criminal justice hit home for me in a very personal way.

On Tuesday, my ex-wife called me with a warning about our weekly child drop-off: “They’re on their way over, but be careful… we just got in an argument and the topic was rape.”

The subject was the recent allegations by students – current and former – at UNC Chapel Hill that the school administration has done little to protect victims of sexual assault, and indeed have gone to great lengths to cover up incidents of rape and sexual assault on campus.   My ex-wife argued that one student in question, who took it on face value that the school would comprehensively handle the investigation into her assault, was under some personal obligation to go to local law enforcement to report the incident. My daughters’ point was that the school was obliged to fully protect the student, victims of sexual assault are vulnerable, and the student was depending on the school to act in her best interest. I argued that I have been sitting on the fence about this issue because I really didn’t feel I had enough information to make a rational conclusion. My back-of-the-napkin take on it is that, by my count from what I read in the newspapers, there has been a problem with sexual violence on the UNC campus spanning at least a decade, but that the problem more than likely reached back much further than that; from my experience in these matters if UNC /Chapel Hill have a campus sexual violence problem,  the issue is systemic, and it is a very good thing that Federal authorities from the U.S. Department of Education are now being called in to review the matter.

This issue extends – at the very least – as far back to the rape and murder of Jeanne Clery in 1986 in a campus residence hall at Lehigh University. The case lead to the establishment of the Clery Act which requires colleges and universities to annually disclose campus security policies and campus crime statistics. The Act is monitored by the U.S. Department of Education, and those institutions that fail to comply risk losing Federal student financial aid programs (yes, a VERY big deal).

It is no secret that in the Cleary era many schools have attempted to game the system by under-reporting campus crime stats (Jerry Sandusky / Penn State), and that is exactly the issue at UNC Chapel Hill, and why the stakes are so high in this matter. Do colleges fudge numbers? Of course they do. In my own personal experience, I don’t have to be a statistician to notice that a simple Google scan of newspaper archives for the words “Lennoxville” “sexual assault” “Campus” “Champlain college” will come up with exactly two hits; my sister’s case, and a case at  Bishop’s college that police later claimed didn’t take place. 40 years, and exactly two incidents of sexual assault? That’s quite a record.

The second thing that happened this week was that an article appear in the UNC campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel that was ostensibly a “where are we now?” piece on the 5th anniversary of the Eve Carson murder, but really was about blaming the City of Durham for all of Chapel Hill’s problems.  That the piece by student writer Chelsey Dulaney is incendiary and mis-informed is just me being polite.  And I strongly disagree with UNC senior associate dean, Chris Roush’s brush-off assessment that, because the paper is student-run, it is merely a “learning lab”: all the more reason for responsible editorial oversight, isn’t oversight at the crux of all of UNC Chapel Hill’s current problems?

As a resident of Chapel Hill and 15-year proud employee with the City of Durham my first reaction was to weigh into the fray, even though that action might have caused me some personal trauma (I rarely discuss where I work on this blog). Fortunately I didn’t have to. In this morning’s Herald Sun the Durham Police Chief and Mayor did such a fine job of defending the Bull City that my actions and words are not neccessary.   My observation – and this is supported with the hard data presented in the police chief’s crime report delivered to City Council on Monday, March 4th (a meeting at which I was present) – is that Part I Crime in Durham has been drastically reduced in the last 10-years while the population has doubled. This is thanks to a police force and a community that understands that a better quality of life is everybody’s business, and we all contribute to the solution. As Mayor Bell says, “are we satisfied? No I don’t think we will every be satisfied.”. But we are hopeful.


Eve Carson killer, Laurence Lovette Jr. to be resentenced

I would call myself a  liberal on social issues, a fiscal conservative and – given my past experience – probably a conservative regarding criminal justice: and I say, everybody relax. Laurence Lovette Jr. will receive an appropriate sentence for the crimes he committed:

Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Laurence Lovette Jr., one of two men convicted in the death of former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson, will be resentenced because his sentence of life without parole was too harsh for someone under 18 at the time of the crime.

Lovette, 22, was sentenced Dec. 20, 2011, to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree armed robbery in the 2008 shooting death of Carson.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision after Lovette’s conviction in which the court held that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a minor at the time of a crime violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The resulting change of law in North Carolina applies retroactively to Lovette’s case, the Court of Appeals said Tuesday.

A date for Lovette’s resentencing has not been set, but Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall it could happen within the next three months.

Woodall said the Appeals Court’s decision was not unexpected and that he was pleased with its findings that Lovette received a fair trial.

Lovette could still face a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, Woodall said. He could also face life with the possibility of parole.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour also sentenced Lovette to 100-129 months in prison on the kidnapping charge and 77-102 months on the robbery charge – sentences which were to run consecutive to the life prison term.

During closing arguments of Lovette’s trial, prosecutors said Carson endured a nearly two-hour ordeal in which Lovette, who was 17 at the time, and Demario Atwater kidnapped her from her home and drove her in her SUV to two ATMs, where Lovette withdrew $700 from her bank account.

The pair then drove Carson to a neighborhood near UNC’s campus, shot her five times and left her body in the street.

Surveillance video from a sorority house put Lovette and Atwater about a block away from Carson’s home minutes before she was abducted. Security images from an ATM showed Lovette withdrawing money while Atwater held Carson hostage in the back seat, and Lovette made statements to friends that implicated him in the crime.

“This was so senseless,” Woodall told reporters after the verdict. “I’ve heard and read about crimes that were brutal and meaningless, and there’s never been one more brutal and meaningless than this crime.”

Atwater, 26, who is serving two life prison terms, avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to state and federal charges in the case.

Unlike Atwater, Lovette was ineligible for the death penalty under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the execution of individuals under 18 years old at the time of a capital crime.

Lovette is also charged in the Jan. 18, 2008, shooting death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato, a mechanical engineering student from India, who was found dead inside his Durham apartment,

According to an arrest warrant, Mahato’s cell phone helped Durham police link Lovette to the crime when he was arrested on March 13, 2008, in Carson’s death.

Lovette has not gone to trial in Mahato’s death. A status hearing is set for Feb. 18 in Durham County Superior Court.


Day 1: Charbonneau Commission ( CEIC ) Reconvenes

Not much today in the way of action. Chairman France Charbonneau set the table by stating the inquiry (#ceic) would look into connections to organized crime and biker gangs, but so far very little on specifics in the nature of “who did what”.  A lot of detailed information on the history of the construction industry by Louis Delagrave; a $5 billion industry, one in every $5 dollars in Quebec goes towards construction. That’s a lot of pie; if checks and balances aren’t in place that’s a lot of opportunity. We will see in the days ahead of us where this leads.

As a side note, I am amazed at the amount of transparency and access to information in this inquiry. I am sitting here in North Carolina, and I can watch live televised feeds of the sessions. The streaming is fantastic. The Quebec government is making every document produced by witnesses available on line with same-day uploads (see here). 

The last public inquiry in Quebec that I can recall of this magnitude was the Poitras Commission’s Public Inquiry into the Surete du Quebec in 1996 (The Matticks Affair). I wasn’t around for that, but it was nothing like this, you basically had to rely on media, or  wait for the published report to get any information. As an average citizen, I say, Well Done! We are tax payers, we should not be at anyone’s mercy when it comes to accessing information about the things that we pay for.


The Colorado Massacre: Mental Health or Gun Debate?

I’m surprised there isn’t more discussion over David Brooks’ piece in the New York Times calling for more treatment programs for the mentally disturbed.  Or is that what he’s advocating? The headline seems to suggest it (“More Treatment Programs”). Ah, but columnists don’t write their own headlines, editors do.

Not that you couldn’t see this one coming. Mental health budgets have been taking a beating ever since this recession began. According to a study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, North Carolina’s state mental health budget decreased 1.2 percent to $608 million between fiscal 2009 and FY 2012. The pain continues as the state mental health budget took another beating with the FY13 adopted budget. Rose Hobin over at North Carolina Heath News has a nice interactive graphic to help you visualize the winners and losers (spoiler alert: mental health is the biggest loser).

So all anyone needed was clearly defined outcome to test the theory that cuts in mental treatment is the culprit. The killing of 12 moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., last week has touched off the gun debate, but I think Brooks is right in questioning whether we have the right smoking gun:

These days, people are trying to use the Aurora killings as a pretext to criticize America’s gun culture or to call for stricter gun control laws. (This doesn’t happen after European or Asian spree killings.) Personally, I’ve supported tighter gun control laws. But it’s not clear that those laws improve public safety. Researchers reviewing the gun control literature for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, were unable to show the laws are effective.

Interesting that Brooks never comes right out and says, “more dollars for mental health programs”, but that’s certainly how readers have interpreted it. A reader from Waynesville, NC comments,

A teacher might identify a troubled kid, and direct that kid to some kind of mental health treatment. But in much of red state America, there are fewer teachers, fewer social workers, and fewer mental health services. Access to the kind of treatment Mr. Brooks suggests is difficult, and the cost is prohibitive for most Americans.

They that sow the wind with cuts to education and social programs, and easier access to firearms and ammunition, are beginning to reap the whirlwind.

I think what Brooks is suggesting is something more basic. Rather than throwing money at a problem (because treatment for the mentally disturbed in the hands of the State has been soooo successful) Brooks’ prescription is as simple as “love thy neighbor”:

The best way to prevent killing sprees is with relationships — when one person notices that a relative or neighbor is going off the rails and gets that person treatment before the barbarism takes control. But there also has to be a more aggressive system of treatment options, especially for men in their 20s. The truly disturbed have always been with us, but their outbursts are now taking more malevolent forms.

Real basic medicine: If you see someone in metal anguish, help them.

Post Script: Over at Huffington Post, Duke Professor, Allen Frances weighs in on Colorado / The David Brooks piece: I can’t say I disagree (though some facts / data would have been appreciated)


Suppressed confession enhances Dalzell’s sentence

… and that’s the end of that sad chapter. I have blog pretty extensively about Andrew Dalzell, and where our lives intersect. I’m not going to tell the whole disturbing story again. You can read it here.

I DO like that when you Google his name, this blog is the first thing that gets tossed up. Otherwise he and his transgressions would die in obscurity. Thanks to Beth Velliquette of the Herald-Sun for keeping this story alive.

CARRBORO – A murder confession made by a Carrboro murder suspect came back to bite him during a sentencing hearing for a completely different case in federal court.

The man who made the confession, which was later suppressed in state court, was Andrew Douglas Dalzell, who grew up in and around the Carrboro area. He is serving about 26 years in a federal prison in South Carolina for attempting to lure an 11-year-old girl into a sexual relationship in Asheville.

But Dalzell was once in the news in Orange County when he was arrested in the killing of Deborah Leigh Key in Carrboro.

Key, 35, disappeared after leaving a Main Street bar in 1997, and witnesses told police they saw Dalzell talking with Key at the bar that night. One witness told police that when he left the bar after it closed, he saw Key and Dalzell in the nearby Bank of America parking lot.

Key was never seen again, and her remains have never been discovered. For seven years, police suspected Dalzell killed her, but investigators couldn’t get enough evidence to charge him.

Then in 2004, using a series of tricks, that included showing Dalzell a warrant and a letter indicating he was being charged with first-degree murder and could be sentenced to death, when in fact he was being arrested for stealing some figurines from a store where he previously worked, Dalzell confessed to Carrboro officers that he had killed Key and driven her body to Wilmington, where he dumped her body in a large trash receptacle.

According to documents filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Dalzell told Carrboro police that he and Key were talking in the parking lot. When he tried to hug her, she spun around and slapped him. Dalzell said he grabbed her neck and couldn’t let go. She collapsed and he scooped her into the back seat of the car and drove east to Wilmington where he put her body in a Dumpster behind a strip mall.

When the case came to court, Dalzell’s attorneys argued his confession should be thrown out because the officers did not read him his Miranda rights before questioning him. Superior Court Judge Wade Barber agreed and wrote a long order, citing multiple violations of standard police procedures and law that Carrboro officers violated, and he suppressed the confession. Without the confession, police didn’t have enough evidence to hold Dalzell on the murder charge and he was released

Seven years later, that murder confession was used against Dalzell in federal court after Dalzell pleaded guilty to the federal charge of coercion and enticement for attempting to entice an 11-year-old girl to pose for child pornography.

According to law enforcement officials, Dalzell began communicating over the Internet with someone who he believed to be an 11-year-old girl named Megan. He initiated sexually explicit chats and solicited Megan to meet him for the purpose of taking sexually explicit photographs of her performing oral sex on a man.

Dalzell also sent “Megan” a modeling contract that would make her the property of the agency. If she stayed with him as his “pretty little slavegirl model,” he would pay her $300. He sent her a pornographic photo of a girl performing oral sex so she would get the idea of what kind of photographs he wanted to take, according to the federal documents.

“Megan,” however, was actually a detective with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office in Asheville posing as an 11-year-old girl, and when Dalzell showed up in the mobile home park where she supposedly lived, he was arrested.

That led him to federal court in the Western District last year where he pleaded guilty to the charge, which carried a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison.

Based on his criminal history, Dalzell was categorized as a Level II offender, and federal sentencing guidelines called for him to be sentenced to 253 to 293 months or about 21 years to 24½ years in prison.

However, during the sentencing hearing, federal prosecutors asked that he be sentenced at a higher level because of his “extreme conduct,” in which he stated during his Internet chats with “Megan” that he wished to turn her into his slave.

During the chats, he spoke of his willingness to torture and bind his slaves and described in graphic sexual detail the way he would murder a slave who was noncompliant, according to the prosecutor’s response to Dalzell’s appeal.

The judge denied that request.

Prosecutors also wanted the murder confession, which had been thrown out in state court, to be considered as part of his criminal history in federal court. They argued that Dalzell made the statement voluntarily and that the police tactics were not enough to overcome his will.

The court ruled that despite Judge Barber’s order suppressing his confession, it was still admissible for purposes of sentencing, and he granted the addition of three points to his criminal history, moving him from a Level II offender to a Level III offender, which calls for a longer prison sentence.

In the end, the judge sentenced Dalzell to about 26 1/2 years in prison.

Although when he pleaded guilty to the charge, Dalzell assured the judge that he knew he could not appeal his sentence, he appealed anyway.

He appealed the ruling that the murder confession could be used to increase the number of points in his criminal history.

The Court of Appeals considered first whether Dalzell had the right to appeal and found that his right to appeal was foreclosed by his appeal waiver that he made when he pleaded guilty to the charge in federal court.

It also ruled that there was no evidence that his defense counsel was ineffective and it declined to address the merits of that claim.

His attorney gave notice that the decision might be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Theresa Allore Scholarship to be awarded June 10th, 2011

Yes, I guess this is cause for celebration. I find the whole thing bitter-sweet. So we are awarding a scholarship on June 10th to a deserving student in the amount of $200 (hey, it’ll pay for some books!). It will be awarded at their graduating awards ceremony. I have been invited to attend (to have a seat at the “head- table”)… I am debating attendance.

On the one hand, I feel it is a landmark and I should be there; on the other, this maybe should be treated as no-big-deal… I’m a little tired of turning these affairs into press events that call attention to the case, that invite further intrusion into my life, that ultimately traumatize me to a point I am now long past.

And the third hand… Pierre Boisvenu has stated he will be there to support the whole affair: that is an honor I don’t quickly turn down. Pierre is one of my closest soul-mates… any opportunity to reconnect with him is time well spent.

So I sit and consider.

And a forth hand… here’s what’s also in the balance. I had a wonderful day with my daughters. We walked the dog (twice), discovered a box turtle. Swung on the rope over the creek, trampolined, and are set for grilling burgers and dogs for dinner. I have three lovely daughters, I don’t want to upset the wonder of our relationship.

Thus is my dilemma. (btw: happy mother’s day to all)

Baby let’s move cause you know that the light here really hurts my eyes

If you will indulge me further, I will offer a few more comments on April Wine, and the death of bassist Jim Clench.  Not too much, I don’t mean to be exploitative. But it’s on my mind… I’ll offer up some further thoughts, then I really must be going. This is a brief return, but I am not blogging again. I really have nothing to say, and I’d rather live my life than write about it.


I grew up in Pierrefonds in the 70s, the West Island of Montreal. At that time two types of celebrities lived in the West Island; Montreal Canadiens and Myles Goodwyn. If I recall Marc Tardiff, Savard and Dicky Duff all lived somewhere in that area. But I remember specifically where Myles lived. It was just off Fredmir… I think the street was Clearview. On Saturday mornings I used to take my bike out and ride by to watch Myles wash his red or orange Corvette.

I remember the first records we all bought as kids; Theresa’s first was Dark Side of the Moon, mine was Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies, Andre’s was April Wine, On Record.

April Wine made an early appearance in the Montreal pop music show, Like Young. I believe they performed Dark Side of the Moon and Could Have Been A Lady. We loved that.

Electric Jewels is the only April Wine Album where the majority of songs are co-written and co-sung  by Goodwyn and Clench.  In some ways I wished they would have continued in this way, I would have liked to have seen where they would have taken it.

After Oowatanite was released fire alarm bells began to disappear from school hallways all across the West Island; every drummer had to have one. I stole mine from Riverdale High off Sources blvd.

I was always under the impression that Jimmy sang Slow Poke; it was Myles. I loved the Clench tune, Baby Done Got Some Soul. When I asked Jim about it he said it was a “knock off”. It was an instrumental he and Gary Moffet worked out in the studio while Myles was busy with something else. Jim added the lyrics later.

For many years Lady and Drop Your Guns were staples in the many bands my brother played guitar in in and around the West Island. When First Glance came out my brother and I devoured it; by this time we were very good musicians – we jammed together in our garage on Roller, Ready for Love, Hot on The Wheels of Love, Right Down to it, etc…

I believe that is Myles Goodwyn’s son on the Attitude album cover

This is good: April Wine made a comeback in 1993. There first video was That’s Love. The video was directed and produced by two friends of mine. Unwittingly I was the costumer on the video. I was working at the Costume House in Toronto. I let my friends in after hours, and they essentially stole all the costumes for that video.

On playing with Jim:

It was hard anticipating what he would want to hear. For the most part I learned live versions from their 2003 Super-Ex concert in Ottawa. It was logical that this would be the sound that would be most familiar to him. But Jim could fool you; for Drop Your Guns and Lady he specifically wanted the versions from On Record (it was good that those versions were pretty much ingrained in my psyche.)

Skill: let’s be honest, I am a very good drummer, but I was essentially acting (playing the part of a drummer). My brother was and IS the real deal. He knew those solos from Oowatanite and Weeping Widow cold.

Unknown to anyone, I had also learned the rhythm guitar to all the songs. I figured I’d squeeze in that way if they found a better drummer; that’s how much I wanted this to happen.

The sound of Jim’s bass was so incredible thick… Mr. thunder-picker. He wasn’t up to speed but you knew when he got there you’d better be on your shit.

The set also included Bad Side of the Moon, I’d forgotten that.  I would have wanted to include Lady Run Lady Hide, but it would have been difficult to pull off.

Jim told some funny story about being detained at the American border for hours. It was only the fact that Jerry Mercer had been in the current month’s issue of Modern Drummer and had a copy of the magazine with him that saved them from extended immigration limbo.

Our parents were not pleased with this sudden turn of events. At the time my brother was between jobs in one of the worst economies in 80 years, we both had children and families. That two forty-somethings would throw it all down the tubes for a rock-n-roll has-been was poor judgement in their minds. Hey! We were mad geniuses! Strangely my ex-wife was suspiciously supportive; either she saw it as typical bad behavior or she was building a sole custody case.

I have wanted to write about all of this for some time, but my brother swore me to secrecy. That’s his way, and he certainly didn’t want to give Jim any unwanted exposure. But now? What does it matter.

That’s all I got. If you check out the comments from my previous entry, you will see a nice post from Brian Greenway.

“Life don’t wait if you hesitate, come on quit wasting time”


Jim Clench – You Should Feel Like Celebrating

Received the following message from my brother a half-hour ago:

“I just heard that Jim Clench died this morning. He had cancer. Can’t believe it.”

On today of all days. I hate how life laughs at me.

I know what you’re thinking: “Yes, Jim Clench, original bassist for April Wine… sure growing up in Montreal he held some meaning to you, but no sense in going all to pieces over it.”

It’s a little more personal than that.

Some of you may recall about a year ago I started getting heavy into music again. I became the drummer in two local bands. I only did that because at the time I was preparing to join my brother and Jim Clench in an April Wine spin-off band.

Weird huh? It’s true. It goes like this…

In the Spring of 2009 Clench heard my brother playing in some local Montreal clubs and liked him. Jim was trying to get an act together, so he invited Andre to jam with him. They clicked. The plan was to play across Canada that summer, mainly in the Ontario / Quebec region. They needed a drummer. I had just finished the budget process at work and was looking forward to a long summer of using up my vacation and accrued leave time doing nothing. Andre asked me to come jam with Jim, if it worked out, maybe I could work part-time for the summer and commute back and forth between Canada and North Carolina. It sounds absurd, but I pitched the idea at work and they actually gave me permission; I was all set to pursue the rock n roll dream with my brother and one of my first music idols, Jim Clench.

I drove up to Montreal in June of 2009. I met Jim, who was over-weight and smoked too much, but seemed to be in the frame of mind to pull his act together. He had a real caustic wit, especially when it came to his former band mates. We jammed together over 2 days in the basement of a friend’s house in the West Island. I cannot tell you what a thrill it was to be playing with this guy and my brother on songs like Oowatanite, Weepy Widow, Could Have Been a Lady, etc…

I bought a fire bell on Ebay and a new 6″ cowbell.

Jim could still belt this songs out. He hit all those high notes in Weepy Widow perfectly. We were using a vintage PA and mixing board that April Wine used in the 70s. Orgasmic.

Including the above, the set list was  like this:

Better Slow Down

Bad Side of the Moon

Drop Your Guns

Sign of the Gypsy Queen

21st Century Schizoid Man

I had worked on Schizoid the most and was glad we never rehearsed it; it gave me some problems. We also included a BTO song Jim wrote when he was with the group, Jamaica, and 125 and Mona by The Haunted, a band Jim liked from the 60s in Montreal that never got its due. Jim took pleasure in including Gypsy Queen; there was a part of him that really wanted to stick it to Myles Goodwyn, I guess that’s natural given the circumstances, but I have no doubt that he loved Myles too. We were trying to work on Jim to include Just Like That; we thought he’d think it was corny, but it was always one of our favorites from Electric Jewels.

The whole thing was surreal. He we were BACK on the West Island, the place Andre and I grew up. When we were there we were punks. Now we were jamming with our rock idol. It was also a chance for Andre and I to get a little payback from all the time we had spent on Theresa’s case: we had given almost 10 years reviving that mystery; it was time for some shared pleasure, a chance to return to one of the things that we truly loved… maybe have a little fun. And Theresa was entrenched in the rock scene in Montreal in the 70s; she would have approved.

After I returned to the States the whole thing seemed to fall apart rapidly. Jim wouldn’t commit to rehearsals. I was trying to make arrangements to come up on extended weekends, but Jim never seemed motivated beyond how far his next cigarette would take him (now I know why). Eventually I think my brother gave him an ultimatum and the thing just sort of died.

I’m sitting here, on the 32nd anniversary of my sister’s murder, but I’m not gonna dwell on that. And I’m not going to feel sorry for Jim Clench. I’m listening to Electric Jewels and remembering what a great influence he was. Great memories. Everything will be alright.

I know damn well we’re goin’ to hell,  can’t pay the price in heaven

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.”