Poker Face – Season 4, Show 5, 2014

This is a house with a lot of visitors.  People come & go, buying & selling, dealing & drinking–all day, all night.  The proprietor is a colorful character, bragging about his wealth.  So when the proprietor is murdered, there is an extraordinary range of suspects.  Lt. Joe’s metaphor keeps expanding, from a “Yankee stadium full of suspects,” then yet more suspects filling the stands, & then, when he sees the extent of drugs involved, two Yankee stadiums.

But, after all, the murderer turns out to be the girl friend.  Isn’t the significant other always the number one suspect?  Though it’s not clear in the show, in real life, Lt. Joe did zero in on the girl friend sooner rather than later.  Real life doesn’t have the cliff hangers of TV plots.

Most quoted line:  “I see dead people in my dreams.  Not from the movies.  Real dead people.”  In case you missed the source of the original line, “I see dead people,” or its many variations & parodies, it’s from the 1999 movie, Sixth Sense.

Summary:  It’s 1990, with a game of cards going on in a working class neighborhood of Colorado Springs.  The five card players let themselves in, & they go about their game, even though the man who lives there, Jamie Foster, isn’t at the door to welcome them.  This is a house where people cheerfully come & go, at all hours.  To the card-playing visitors, the only sign of a host is a blanket-covered person on the couch.  They assume that’s someone sleeping, most likely Jamie’s girl friend, Leona, known as Oni.

Card playing for money is only one of assorted businesses Jamie conducts in this house.  Another man, Charles Miller, appears looking for Jamie.  He wants to make a deal for car parts.  Since none of the card players knows where Jamie is, Charles goes to wake up Oni.

When he gets no response, he pulls back the blanket.  There, lying dead all this time, is the murdered body of Jamie Foster.

When the news comes in, Lt. Joe is attending the autopsy of a suicide victim.  (It’s rarely just another day at the office for a homicide detective.)

Lt. Joe finds the body shot twice in the stomach & once in the head.  Relaxed positioning makes it look as if Jamie was shot while he was asleep.  There is no sign of a fight.  There is no cover up other than the blanket.  One clue is scrape & drag marking on the porch & driveway, as if someone had recently removed something heavy.

Lt. Joe finds other indications of the various businesses that Jamie ran from his house, such as a large supply of alcohol & cigarettes.  Jamie was the neighborhood entrepreneur & purveyor.  He ran a sort of pawn shop.  He ran a home-based late-night club where he sold alcohol after hours.  He bought & sold cars.

Nevertheless, Lt. Joe notes, “Everything about this is vague, & one thing I don’t like is vague.”  As he interviews, he hears one story repeating, that Jamie bragged about having money.  But that leaves him with “a field of suspects that could fill Yankee stadium.”

He interviews the five card players first.  He finds that, with so many people going in & out of the house at all hours, it’s not unusual to find Jamie absent or sleeping.  Lt. Joe releases four of the card players, but decides to interrogate one of them, John Baker.  John Baker has a key to the house.  He arrived first for the card game & was alone in the house for some period of time before the others arrived.  He says it’s normal not to have a schedule in that house.  He often finds Jamie or Oni asleep, especially since they tended to have worked all night at the after-hours club.

John Baker reveals that Jamie had been fearful & angry lately.  He had complained of weird hang-up phone calls.  He had started carrying a 38 revolver.

This is progress.  A medical examination shows that 38 caliber bullets were what killed Jamie.  Could he have been killed with his own gun?  (No cliff hanger here:  The answer is yes.)

Furthermore, John Baker notices that a safe is missing from the closet.  Marks on the carpet show where the safe dragged across.  Those marks fit in with the scrapes & drag marks on the porch & driveway.  The difficulty of moving such a heavy object provides one more clue:  There may well have been more than one perpetrator.

But everyone knew about the safe.  Rumors abounded that it was full of cash, diamonds, & who knows what other valuables.  As far as the number of suspects, we’re “back in Yankee stadium, & the stands are full.”

Police search for Jamie’s missing car.  When they find it, they approach cautiously.  But instead of a dangerous killer driving it, they find a woman, terrified, unarmed.  Nothing inside the car or trunk is at all suspicious.  The woman says Jamie gave her the car to drive because she was thinking of buying it.  This turns out to be just a prolonged test drive.

At this point, Lt. Joe says, “Everything is complicated & confused.”

Jamie’s girl friend Oni is still missing, & that’s suspicious.  Police find a man who may be her second or would-be boy friend.  He is Fidel, a driver for UPS.  He tells them something that changes the case.  Oni, he says, is a major drug addict, with a habit that could cost more than $500 a day.  Drug involvement means “another stadium full of suspects, including her.”

Why is Oni missing?  Did she–or others in the drug world–have their eyes on Jamie’s money?

Lt. Joe is optimistic about finding Oni.  As he says, “People like this don’t know how to run.”  Police search motels that cater to the down & out.  They search pawn shops.

They find a pawn broker, Bob Smith.  He says a regular at the shop is sudden flush with money, buying back things he had pawned just shortly before.  His name is Michael Parsons, & his address is on an old receipt.

When police arrive, Michael is “all about denial.”  He says he doesn’t know Jamie.  He doesn’t know Oni.  He can’t keep eye contact.  He’s lying.  Finally, under classic Lt. Joe questioning, Michael confesses he had gone to Jamie’s house to help Oni move the safe.  Oni had told Michael that Jamie is not there, & as Lt. Joe points out, “In a way, she’s right.”  The safe was heavy, hard to move, & difficult to pry open.  When they did get it open, they found all too little money.  “That had to be a disappointment,” Lt. Joe says.  After that, Michael says he took Oni to the bus station.  He says he hasn’t heard from her since.

Police charge Michael as an accessory to murder, along with first-degree burglary.

Oni calls & says she wants to surrender.  “We accept surrender,” deadpans Lt. Joe.

Oni has quite a story.  She says she took the bus to Kansas City to escape the four men who barged in, knocked her down, & killed Jamie.  The men dragged the safe as far as the driveway & then found it was too heavy to take further.  The story becomes more & more convoluted.  “If she’s not the worst liar on the planet,” says Lt. Joe, “she’s in the top five.”

Police lock up Oni.  Eventually, she confesses.  She had heard Jamie bragging about the contents of the safe, & she decided on stealing what she thought would be a large amount of money.  She found Jamie asleep on the couch.  She shot him with his own gun.  She is convicted of second-degree murder & sentenced to 24 years in prison.

As Lt. Joe says, she was just looking for another hit–& willing to murder to get it.

Nicknames:  Leona Geraldine Jones went by the nickname Oni.  Often, in the underworld of drugs & crime, people are known only by nicknames–for them, a welcome anonymity.

The Safe:  Although there was someone willing to kill to possess it (not to mention that Yankee stadium full of suspects who probably thought about stealing from it), this was really just a cheap safe, intended as fire protection, not burglary proof.  Witness that a couple of non expert bumblers were able to pry it open.

The Accomplice:  Michael Parsons served twelve years in prison for his role in this crime.  Why is there always someone willing to go along as accessory to crime, no matter how heinous or dangerous?  That’s a question with no answer.

A Business Mentality:  Lt. Joe tells me there’s “always a Jamie,” in certain neighborhoods.  This Jamie served a useful function in his neighborhood.  People admired him.  In addition to his other enterprises, Jamie also sold drugs.  He fenced stolen property.  He had served three years in jail.  Producers for the show don’t mention quite all the illegal enterprises, as they wish to maintain our sympathy for Jamie.  But who doesn’t feel sympathy for a murder victim, no matter who he was?  No one deserves murder.

The Perpetrator:  Oni was so seriously addicted to crack cocaine that she would not have been able to function as a drug dealer, except on the outer fringes of that underworld.  Her physical health had begun to decline, too.  Lt. Joe does not know what happened to her, but doubt she survived her time in prison.

The Title: Oh, we could go for less snarky titles.  Show some respect!

Death Grip – Season 4, Show 4, 2014

Lt. Joe begins this episode with the line:  “Love is blind, but it can also be dangerous.”  What I see in this case is not blind love but blind rage.

The attention-getting issue in this show is the question of temporary insanity.  Should a mentally ill killer be incarcerated in a special facility?  Or for the safety of the public, should a killer be locked up despite mental illness?

And then there’s the concept of “temporary”?  Was this jury a bunch of patsies?

Most Quoted Line:   “Sympathy is just a word in the dictionary between ‘s..t’ (bleeped out in the show, but not so you don’t know what it means) & ‘syphilis’.”

Summary:  Scene is an apartment building, Colorado Springs, on an evening in February, 1979.  A mother & infant are sleeping in one of the apartments.  She awakens to loud noises–& the crash of a vehicle through the wall, dangerously close by.  She grabs her baby & runs outside.   What she finds is blood.  The windshield of the truck is covered with blood.  A woman, covered with blood, sits on the ground.  Inside the pick-up truck is a the bloody body of a man.

Lt. Joe is working the night shift.  He arrives at the apartment building to find a crowd of spectators, along with the level of confusion that he has come to expect.  The woman on the ground is too traumatized to respond or speak.  An ambulance takes her away to a hospital.

Lt. Joe soon discovers that this was murder.  “This [death] is not from running into a building. This is from running into a bullet.”

What appears to have happened is that the driver of the truck rolled down the window while the truck was still in gear.  Perhaps he was talking with the shooter.  The bullet hit through the open window & into the man’s head.  A spasm of death locked him into position, with his foot still on the gas pedal & his hands on the steering wheel.  The truck lurched forward, crashed into the building, & then almost bounced backward before it came to rest.

At that point, the traumatized passenger in the truck fell or leapt to the ground.  She is Lori Alice Firth, age 23.   The murdered man is Michael Lyle Faast, a furniture salesman, married, with two small sons.

Lt. Joe looks for witnesses.  One of the spectators is Warren Anderson, who announces he is a witness, but then becomes agitated & attempts to run away.  Of course, Lt. Joe is suspicious.  He takes him in for questioning.  Warren is lying, but what he’s lying about turns out to be personal.  He was on the scene that night to pursue an extra-marital affair that he wants to keep secret.  He pleads for sympathy, thus eliciting the now-much-quoted line about sympathy.  He goes so far as to offer a $500 bribe, a first for Lt. Joe.  Lt. Joe threatens to hold a press conference that will reveal all.  Under this sort of pressure, Warren talks, but as far as the murder goes, “he really doesn’t see a lot.”  Lt. Joe accurately decides, “I have better things to do than talk to you.”

A more useful witness is the owner of the truck.  Lt. Joe tracks him down.  Michael is a friend, who borrowed the truck in order to help his sister move.  His idea is that Michael & Lori are just friends.  But Lori is a close enough friend that she goes along to help with the move.

Clearly, the question now is whether Michael was having an affair with Lori.  Reportedly, he was unhappily married to Claudia.  Is this a love triangle?  Is someone jealous?

Lt. Joe goes to inform Claudia of Michael’s death.  Michael’s mother & father are there, & they react with horror & devastation.  But Claudia, interviewed for this show, displays a cold, calm demeanor.  She goes about her house tidying & cleaning.  She tells the suspicious Lt. Joe that Michael owned a rifle & a gun.  Did she have both motive & means to commit murder?  Of course, Lt. Joe orders a ballistic comparison to see if the fatal bullet could have come from Michael’s gun. (It didn’t.)

Claudia also knows about Lori.  She says that Michael had been working on a book about his father’s experiences in World War II.  Lori had been working for him as a part time stenographer, doing organizing & typing–& apparently, moving work.

What Claudia says in the interview is that she did feel the pain of the loss of her husband but couldn’t show her emotions.  She couldn’t stop moving.  That was agitation & distress, not a steely temper.  She was left as the single mother of two children, Mark, then age six, & Patrick, age one.

The time comes when Lt. Joe can interview the traumatized Lori.  “This is it,” he says.  “This is the moment.”  He finds Lori still an emotional mess, but able to talk.  She identifies the perpetrator as her former boy friend, Ron Ball.  He is an Air Force officer, who once had everything going for him, a “golden boy,” as Lt. Joe describes him.  Lori fell in love with him.  He did not return her affection, although he grudgingly allowed her to follow him as the Air Force posted him to Colorado Springs.  After three years, though, Lori breaks up with him.  Ron does not like rejection.  At once, he wants her back.  He proposes marriage.  He sends disturbing letters.  Lori becomes frightened of him.  To try to get rid of these unwanted attentions, Lori may have told him she had a new boy friend.

That boy friend, however, was not Michael.  She says she was not romantically involved with Michael.

But that’s not what Ron thought.  Ron became ferociously jealous.

Now Lt. Joe knows who the killer is.

Look at the fate in the minute-by-minute timing of all this:  Michael is a furniture salesman, off work when the store closes at 9:00.  He plans to spend the rest of the evening helping his sister move.  It takes him about 45 minutes to leave work, borrow the truck, & go to pick up Lori.  Meanwhile, Ron visits Lori at about 9:35.  Within just minutes, she has brushed him off, & he storms out to his car to retrieve his already loaded pistol.  (Does this look like pre meditation?) When Michael arrives a few minutes later, about 9:45, Ron is in the parking lot, gun in hand.  His emotions are at a boil.  Michael sees Ron.  He rolls down the window to try to speak to him.  Ron fires the shot.  The truck lurches forward in the “death grip.”  The truck breaks a window & comes all too close to hitting the mother & baby asleep in the lower level apartment.  Lori witnesses all this.

Patrol officers find Ron’s car parked outside a bar.  A plainclothesman enters the bar as if he were a customer.  Sure enough, he finds Ron there, dressed in his Air Force uniform.  Plan is that to arrest Ron right then & there, with other police ready to storm in & take him a gunpoint, if necessary.  Suddenly, the bar stool is empty.  Ron is in the men’s room.  The arrest does not quite go according to plan, but it does happen.

Police search Ron’s car.  They do not find a gun.  Lt. Joe needs a confession from Ron.  Under questioning, Ron requests legal counsel.  But, despite that moment of lucidity, he is in general not acting in a sane manner.  He talks to himself, on & on.  He displays, Lt. Joe says, “extremely bizarre behavior.”

In due course, three Air Force officers arrive to demand their colleague’s immediate release.  They act as if Lt. Joe were their not too bright subordinate.  He explains what Ron has done.  Suddenly, their arrogance turns to shock.  What follows, Lt. Joe says, must be the “fastest discharge in military history.”

Ron is acquitted by reason of temporary insanity.  He is sent not to a prison but to a hospital.

Michael’s wife Claudia, speaking over thirty years later, says that she still feels the pain of her great loss.  Lt. Joe comments, “What a waste of a life.”

Unusual Emotional Reaction:  In a portion of the interview not aired, Claudia says that she can see why Lt. Joe might have interpreted her flat reaction as suspicious.  She was candid in the interview that she has difficulty expressing herself.  A reaction like hers is rare, but it does happen.  Lt. Joe has often approached killers to tell them of a death that is not news to them.  Sometimes, they can’t even pretend to be surprised, much less sorry or sad.  A few recognize that it would be in their best interest to put on a pretense of grief or shock.  But generally, people are not good at lying, & an experienced detective like Lt. Joe can tell the difference.  Claudia, it turns out, was not good at displaying the truth of her own deep emotions.

Motives for Murder:  Wouldn’t you think Ron might have done a bit of research before he selected a murder target who was not, in fact, competition for Lori’s affections?  Again, as so often in Lt. Joe’s cases, there’s no logical motive.  There is not literary–no Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, or P. D. James for us.  This is life & death, real & messy.

But if the motive is missing, replaced by anger & rage, does that mean the killer is insane?

Temporary Insanity:  Ron’s parents hired the best defense attorneys.  They reportedly spent a full $500,000.

During a jury trial, expert psychiatric experts argued that Ron was insane at the time of the murder.  Ron claimed not even to remember his actions that night.  Lt. Joe believes Ron spent about ten years in a state psychiatric facility.  He does not know what happened to him after that.  His personal belief is that Ron was sane.

Murder trails often revolve around issues of mental illness. Ordinarily, juries are reluctant to say the word “acquit” when a defendant is clearly guilty, even if mentally ill by all medical definition.  Some jurisdictions allow a verdict of “guilty but mentally ill.”

But a jury can be manipulated.  Jurors can react with emotion rather than logic.

Does that mean the defendant gets off easy?  Sometimes, at least, it does not.  Certainly, ten years in a state psychiatric prison would be unpleasant, not to say punitive.  But most of us will think that Ron got off easy, considering his violence left behind a man horribly dead, two small children fatherless, a devastated wife & parents, & a severely traumatized young woman.  Add that his actions nearly killed a young mother & infant.

Justice for Dollars:  Contrast Ron’s fate to the outcome for murderer Rickie Dillon, in “Blood Innocence,” the sixth show of this fourth season.  Rickie is one of four men bent on stealing whatever valuables they can from an unsecured truck.  Unknown to him, there are no valuables, & a man is sleeping in the back of the truck–Carl Taylor, a veteran & war hero.  Within seconds of breaking into the truck, Rickie decides–abruptly & for no discernible reason–to beat this poor man to death.  Like Ron, Rickie may (or may not) have suffered from temporary (or permanent) insanity.  But the two killers, Rickie & Ron, differ in race, socio-economic status, criminal history, & financial resources.  Rickie had a public defender–no half million dollar defense for him.  Rickie’s sentence was life in prison, no chance of parole.

Does money make all the difference?  Does this case give us blind love, blind rage–but not blind justice?

Jury versus Judge:  Here is Lt. Joe’s maxim.  If you’re guilty, ask for a jury to decide your fate.  If you’re innocent, request a judge.

Bad Things Come in Threes – Season 4, Show 3, 2014

If there’s one truth a homicide detective learns quickly, it’s to pay attention to seeming coincidence.  In this case, three women are killed within one general geographic area & within a short period of time.

Lt. Joe tells me he used to be squeamish.  But he overcame it by the time he finished his first year as a homicide detective.  I may never overcome the vision of the peanut butter in this story.

Most Quoted Line:  “I always think there’s no such thing as coincidence.  Coincidences are always suspicious.  If they happen more than once, they become evidence.”

Summary:  It’s January 8, 1995 at the Lair Lounge in Colorado Springs.  A bartender passing by the back door hears a disturbing sound, human moaning.  Two women lie in the front seat of a car.  One is dead.  The other dies later in the hospital.

When his pager goes off, Lt. Joe is practicing with his highly accurate .45 automatic.  As he approaches the death scene, he sees a red mist.  That’s high velocity blood splatter.  That’s only from bullets.  So he already knows this is murder.  Even though it is a winter night, the car windows are rolled down.  That indicates the victims knew the killer.  He finds 9 mm. casings.

The victims are two women.  Shirley Harper Swalley, age 30, was an unemployed teacher, divorced, with two daughters.  Her former husband & a daughter, now grown, appear in interviews.  Michelle Vigil, known as Mickey, age 29, was an elementary school teacher, married, with two sons, ages two & four.  Her stepmother appears in interviews.

A man of interest appears on the scene.  He is Valentino, very distraught.  He says he was a would-be boy friend of Shirley’s.  But, he says, Shirley worried about taking on a new boy friend.  Her old boy friend, Gino, was jealous, controlling, & dangerous.  “I like that,” Lt. Joe comments drily.  “Pay attention to this guy.”

Sure enough, Gino shows up in a van.  “He had The Look,” Lt. Joe notes.  Everything about him adds up to “suspect.”  Gino knows that.  “Good,” Lt. Joe says.  “You have frightening grasp of the obvious.”  Gino says he had been at a party.  He came over to the Lair Lounge because he was supposed to meet Shirley that evening, then heard rumors of the murder.  Unfortunately for the investigation, Gino’s alibi checks out.

Next Lt. Joe goes to tell Michelle’s family.  They are devastated.  Michelle’s husband says that she was with Shirley just to cheer her up–& also to give her a ride since Shirley’s car had been stolen recently.  He reveals that Shirley was addicted to cocaine.  That news puts the investigation into new territory.  “Murder cases become enormously complicated when drugs are involved.”

Lt. Joe looks into a similar drug-related murder that happened four days earlier, in Elbert County, Colorado, not his jurisdiction.  A UPS driver had come upon the body of Sherry Holmes, age 24.  Sherry, like Shirley, was a drug addict.  Could this be the same killer?  That crime had what to Lt. Joe is the distinguishing mark of a Mexican drug cartel.  The body, killed with six gunshot wounds, is heavily covered with peanut butter.  The pounds of peanut butter are to make the body attractive to predators, wolves or coyotes, who might, Lt. Joe says, be counted on to dispose of the body or at least to drag it off “into the sunset.”

Lt. Joe interviews Gino again.  Gino says that Shirley & Sherry were acquaintances.  He brings in the name of James Palecek, a former boy friend & drug dealer.  Shirley supposedly owed James $2,500 in drug debt.  James is the one who stole her car.  Was he settling the score?

Shawn, Shirley’s former husband, says that Shirley had once been a good woman & a devoted mother.  But drugs had overtaken her life.  Her children saw her less & less.  “Everything you’ve ever been,” Lt. Joe says about drug addiction, “fades into the past.”

Witnesses at the Lair Lounge that night remember Shirley quarreling with two men over money.  One is James’ brother Paul Palecek.  The other is Filippi.  A bartender remembers seeing Paul go out back to the men’s room.  Meanwhile, Filippi goes out the front door.  The top part door is covered with signs & posters, but she remembers seeing his legs through the unobstructed bottom part of the door.

Now police pick up Jason, a drug addict who claims to have information.  He says he saw a hit list of drug buyers who owned debts to the “Mexican mafia.”  He thinks he read the names of all three of these women on the hit list.  Jason rambles on in a drug-induced paranoia.  This is a dead end.

Lt. Joe looks at the evidence so far.  In addition to the 9 mm casings, police discover 25 mm casings.  Conclusion is that two shooters used two guns in a simultaneous shooting.  Police also find blood-stained paper towels in the trash can of the men’s room.  The door of the men’s room is directly next to the back door.  Neither are visible from the bar.  So Paul could have gone out the back door, shot the victims, then returned to clean up.  As far as Filippi is concerned, Lt. Joe is no longer convinced that the bartender observed his legs through the front door.  As the second shooter, he could have gone out the front door, around to the back, shot the victims, then returned again through the front door.

Who is Filippi?  He’s a middle-level drug dealer connected with James & Paul.

Police find Paul’s car at a motel.  They approach cautiously.  It’s all too obvious Paul could kill again.  “Once you kill,” Lt. Joe remarks, “it’s just numbers after that.”

Police succeed in arresting Paul.

Paul is convicted of first-degree murder with two consecutive life sentences, without possibility of parole.  Filippi escapes to Mexico, where as far as we know, he lives a free man, without consequences for murder.  James is convicted on other drug-related charges.

It turned out Lt. Joe was right about Gino having The Look that goes along with the “willingness to kill.”  Gino was eventually convicted of killing Sherry Holmes.  He is serving life in prison.

What is especially poignant about this case is that Shirley had plans to go to a drug rehab center.  She was scheduled to depart the very next day.

The Back Story:  Shirley & Michelle met as teachers at an elementary school in Colorado Springs.  Shirley became addicted to drugs, divorced, & dropped out of teaching.  She was in a bad way.  Michelle went out with her that night to console & comfort a friend in trouble.  Michelle had nothing to do with the drugs or drug dealers.  She was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people.  Four small children were left without their mothers.

Coincidences:  The seeming coincidences of this case are not really coincidence but inter-connection.  The criminals in the world of drugs have a survival reason to stay well acquainted with one another–& with the addicts who buy from them.  Lt. Joe says the peanut butter is not unique.  At least two of the killers received sentences of first degree murder.  But one walked free, & the Mexican drug cartels continue in the news.

Sick Joke:  An unfortunate UPS driver, driving around lost, came upon the body of Sherry Holmes, just hours after (human) predators took her life & before the peanut butter drew in (animal) predators.  Lt. Joe reminds me of the advertising slogan, “What Can Brown Do For You?”

Death Comes Knocking – Season 4, Show 2, 2014

Would you believe this investigation took place within only three hours?  Yet Lt. Joe was already too late, even as he began.  The murderer was already on his way to commit another murder.  “We were on chapter one,” Lt. Joe says, “and didn’t realize chapter two was unfolding.”

Favorite lines:  “What makes humans so dangerous is their emotions.”  “Don’t monkey with someone else’s monkey.”

Summary:  The year is 1991.  On a late afternoon in an apartment complex in Colorado Springs, Cathy Hickey lies napping on her couch.  She awakes to screaming from an upstairs apartment, then footsteps pounding down the stairs.  She runs outside & finds her teenage neighbor lying, bleeding to death.  This is Robert Addison Jr., known as Bobby, age 16.  Upstairs in the apartment is another body.  This is Bobby’s mother, Ernestine Addison, age 40.

Bobby was a nice kid, a good student at the local public school.  Ernestine worked as a nursing assistant.  They were churchgoers.

Lt. Joe is teaching a class at Pikes Peak Community College when he gets the page, “DB” for “dead body.”

He arrives to find a crowd, media in full force, a “Tower of Babel,” with “an enormous amount of emotion.”  Neighbors assume this is a murder-suicide.  Indeed, multiple victims in a private home often indicate that.  But multiple gunshot wounds on the woman have “powder halos” around them.  The gun was fired over & over, from close up.  It’s obvious the woman was trying to get away.  The complicated wound entering the boy’s back under his rib cage also could not have been a suicide.  The sad story the evidence shows is that Bobby heroically died in an effort to save his mother.  Even after he was shot, he ran outside attempting to get help.  Lt. Joe forces himself to appear cold & matter-of-fact, but internally he is hit by the sorrow of these deaths.

The victims knew the killer.  There is no sign of struggle or forced entry.  Ernestine had been preparing dinner, with food already in pots & pans.  This killing was done in an “emotional rage.”  Lt. Joe sees him as Mr. X, a “mysterious demon.”

There’s a witness.  A neighbor, a seventh-grade girl named Darlene, heard a heated argument inside.  Then she saw a man in a suit run to his “truck car” & speed off.  There were only two models of “truck cars” available in that era, so that narrows the vehicle search.

Sharyl, Ernestine’s daughter & Bobby’s sister, talks about Robert Addison Sr., Ernestine’s ex-husband & Bobby’s father.  Here’s the first suspect.

Lt. Joe finds him in his office 15 miles away, surrounded by co-workers who can vouch for his presence throughout the day.  He claims to have had a civil relationship with his ex-wife, & he weeps when he heard the dreadful news.  He is not Mr. X.

Lt. Joe hurries on to find Mattie Wilson. Ernestine’s mother & Bobby’s grandmother.  She is at home with her son Lincoln, who is interviewed for this show.  They have already seen the news on TV.  They are devastated.  Lincoln mentions that Ernestine was involved with an older man, whose name he can’t remember.  Now Lt. Joe is no longer looking for Mr. X.  Now he’s looking for Mr. Boyfriend.

He rushes to the hospital where Ernestine worked & tracks down her co-worker & friend, Linda.  Linda is distraught to hear the tragic news.  She knows a lot about the boyfriend.  He is 15 to 20 years older than Ernestine.  He wears a suit.  He is possessive & controlling.  Ernestine had said she was going to end the relationship.  She has a plane ticket to go to Florida.  This man’s name is Bryant.  There is confusion about whether that’s his first or last name.  But there is no confusion about who is now the number one suspect.

Lt. Joe goes on to Bryant’s place of employment as a salesman in the furniture department of J. C. Penney at a local mall.   The manager there confirms an employee by the name of Herman Coleman Bryant.  He is in his 60’s.  He has a wife Emma, age 69, & has been married more than thirty years.  He had left work that day without permission.  He seemed upset about something.

Lt. Joe calls the sheriff in El Paso county where the Bryants live.  He almost drops the phone when he hears law enforcement officials are already at the scene.  There’s been another murder.  Emma is lying dead in the yard.  According to neighbors, a “mysterious madman” has barricaded himself inside the house.

“We didn’t get it done fast enough.”  El Paso County is not Lt. Joe’s jurisdiction, not his crime scene. But Lt. Joe notices evidence in the driveway, a Chevrolet El Camino “car truck,” just as Darlene had described.  Lt. Joe knows the man barricaded in that house is Herman.

Force is the only option.  A SWAT team has already arrived.  The entry team charges inside, only to find a closed bedroom door.  Now they must make a second entry.  Lt. Joe worries, “What if he isn’t done making people dead yet?”  Inside the bedroom, a shot rings out.  The entry team enters to find Herman kneeling by the bed & dead, with a gunshot to his head.  There is no arrest to be made.

This turns out to be murder/suicide event after all.

The Trajectory of the Bullet:  One bullet killed Bobby.  In an effort to protect his mother, he flung himself over her body on the bed.  He was almost horizontal & still moving when the bullet entered his lower back, traversed through his chest, tore into his throat, cut his tongue, & stopped inside his mouth.  He lived long enough to run outside.  Of course, the meticulous Lt. Joe had the gun & the 38-caliber slugs analyzed to make sure that the weapon in all four deaths was the one & the same.

Domestic Violence:  The most dangerous time in a domestic violence relationship is during a breakup.  The victim attempts to get away.  The bully objects.  He wants control–or else.  Herman Bryant was a control freak.  When Ernestine decided to go to Florida, perhaps to take up again with an old flame, it was clear he had lost control.  He took control again, death’s total control.  Was his wife Emma also trying to get away?  Was he losing control of her, too?  We don’t know.  Lt. Joe could find no friends, no acquaintances, no contacts to tell him about her.  She seems to have been unusually isolated from the world, & that of itself tells us something.

Eyes Wide Shut -Season 4, Show 1, 2014

Dear family & friends,

Here we go on the fourth season of Homicide Hunter.

You’ve probably noticed improvements.  The production company is working with a bigger budget, more experience, & an investment in new cameras.  Image quality is way up.  There’s a cinematic look that wasn’t there before.  The new cameras give a feel of film rather than video. We’re getting dramatic shots of sky & mountains as never before.

Some improvements are less visible, such as actual Colorado Springs police uniforms & accurate police car markings.

Maybe best of all: No more voice-over narration.  Now Lt. Joe does all the narration.  No more annoying recaps after every commercial.

Eyes Wide Shut

Do you believe that murder will out?  Even after five years?  Lt. Joe believes so.  As he says in this first show:  “Dark secrets are extremely destructive.”

Summary:   It’s 1989 in North Cheyenne Canyon park, Colorado.  A park ranger is picking up trash.  But the trash he spots is clothes.  Nearby, in a creek bed, he sees a bloody body, dressed only in underpants.

Lt. Joe had just finished testifying in court, when his pager goes off.  It’s the code for murder.

The body in the park is a young black man, in good physical condition.  The body has been bludgeoned & stabbed repeatedly in what appears to have been a high speed attack.  Despite a few defense wounds, the body lies with one eye open & one eye shut, sign of a quick death.  Nevertheless, there are no blood splatters around & no blood on the nearby clothes.  Lt. Joe concludes that the park is not the crime scene.  He believes that, for whatever reason, the man voluntarily took his clothes off before the attack.

How does he identify the victim?  In the clothes, he finds a paper cut in strips, each hand-written with the same phone number.  (You’ve seen strips like this on public bulletin boards.  They invite you to take a strip & call for something like babysitting or lawn work–or for a more nefarious service.) The phone number leads Lt. Joe to a pager company, & the pager company leads him to the owner of the pager.

The victim is Corey Edge, age 20, a Golden Gloves boxer.  At Corey’s house, Lt. Joe finds his mother & Lamar Edge, Corey’s brother, then just 14 years old.  Interviewed for this show, the adult Lamar emphasizes how devastated his mother was & how much Corey had to live for.  Corey had the potential for a professional boxing career.  Corey also had a reputation as a ladies’ man.  His mother says there were so many phone calls to the house, supposedly from Corey’s female admirers, that she had the phone taken out.  You don’t have to have Lt. Joe’s experience to think that sounds suspicious.

Lamar mentions that Corey spent the night with friends. So Lt. Joe visits the Sanchez home where two brothers, Jason & Daryl, ages 16 & 19, live with their parents.  Jason & Daryl say that Corey planned to stay overnight with them, in their basement retreat. Then, about midnight, Corey went out to a convenience store.  He didn’t return, & they were allegedly concerned about him.  Later, they decide to mention that Corey was selling crack cocaine at the store’s parking lot.  Corey was a novice at selling drugs, very early into the game.  But already, there were 152 calls on his pager.  To Lt. Joe, that translates to 152 suspects.

The story the Sanchez brothers tell is consistent & believable.  They claim Corey was not there when they woke up the next morning. Indeed, his gym bag is still in the house, with the pager & clothes inside.  (A drug dealer is apparently always on call.  Pager had gone off at 2:30 AM.  But it went unanswered.  Corey was already gone by then.) Perhaps a disgruntled customer is responsible, or perhaps the murder was part of a “drug rip,” a robbery of drugs.

Lt. Joe interviews clerks at the convenience store.  They do not remember either Corey or the Sanchez brothers.  They see nothing, know nothing.  He interviews others of Corey’s associates.  One Jimmy Van gives him a glimmer of hope.  Jimmy has an extensive criminal history, especially considering that he’s still in his teens.  He’s had confrontations with Corey, who once beat him up in front of other would-be alpha males.  Did that incident embarrass Jimmy enough to lead to murder?  But Jimmy has an alibi that checks out.  Besides, Corey was good with his fists.  Police think that Jimmy, even with a knife, could not have taken on Corey & done all this damage on his own.

Lt. Joe is looking for what he calls multiple offenders.  That makes sense.

The case draws media attention.  Anonymous tips pour in.  One tip leads Lt. Joe to two men with long criminal records, Barney & Rat.  Rat is such a weirdo that in his living room, he keeps a live rat in a cage.  The carpet is full of suspicious coppery brown stains.  Are Barney & Rat lying?  “If you’re going to lie to me, you’d better be exceptionally good at it,” Lt. Joe intones, “because I’m exceptionally good at finding out.”  But lab tests find no blood in the nasty carpet stains.

Lt. Joe says he’s “getting madder by the minute.”

Next comes Jimmy Stevenson.  Police have charged him with breaking & entering.  Jimmy wants to negotiate a deal.  He offers up information.  He tells a tale that involves a mastermind, Big Daddy, hit men & guns. Lt. Joe recognizes a fantasy story when he hears one.  “Been reading a lot of comic books?”

Then Lt. Joe has an epiphany that will eventually solve the case.  Perhaps Corey never went to the convenience store that night.  Perhaps Corey was in his underwear because he had been sleeping–in the basement, near the Sanchez brothers. Lt. Joe canvassed the apartment complex.  A neighbor saw something suspicious–men carrying away a large tarp about 3 AM that night, a tarp large enough to contain the body of a boxer.  As Lt. Joe puts it, “I’m starting to like this.”  He’s sure he now knows the crime scene, the Sanchez place, & the perpetrators, the Sanchez brothers.

Lt. Joe shows up at the Sanchez apartment, once again, this time with a search warrant.  Technicians spray to find hidden blood.  But to Lt. Joe’s shock & surprise, they find nothing.  The place is clean.

The father of the two brothers, Daryl Sanchez Sr., laughs in triumph.  Lt. Joe dramatically confronts him: “Maybe you should write this down. There will be a judgment day. I don’t forget, & I don’t forgive.”

Nevertheless, the case goes cold for five years.

Then the “magic moment I’ve been waiting for” arrives.  Ralph Sanchez, the brother of Daryl Sanchez Sr., in this unpleasant family, is under arrest for assaulting his brother.  Agitated & angry, he decides to cooperate.  He talks about how the murder happened.

The family is difficult to track.  They moved to California right after the murder.  (Why would that be?)  But of course, Lt. Joe locates all four of them.

Facing judgment day at last, they confess.  As Corey slept in their basement that night, Daryl Jr. decided to steal drugs from his pants pockets.  Corey awoke & threatened them with a gun.  He shot at them, but the gun jammed.  Jason rushes to Daryl’s “rescue,” with a knife. They beat Corey with a pipe.  They stab him repeatedly.  Corey tries to get away, but collapses on the staircase.  The Sanchez parents arrive just in time to see him draw his last breath.

Naturally, they are eager to cooperate.  All four go to work to get rid of the body & clean the apartment.  They clean with bleach.  They repaint.  They replace tiles.  Lt. Joe points out how rare it is to see a family of criminals work together so well.

Daryl Jr. & Jason strike a plea deal.  They are found guilty of second degree murder & sentenced to 22 years each.  Father & mother go away for six & four years.

The (Non) Motive:  Note that the Sanchez brothers confess in such a way as to make the murder seem like self-defense.  There was zero evidence that Corey had a gun. Corey was asleep & without defense other than his fists.  His supposed friends didn’t just quietly steal from him.  They set upon him like a pack of wolves.  As with other murders in this series, there appears to be no understandable or logical motive.

Cleaning Up Blood:  This clean up wasn’t easy.  But all four of the remarkably cooperative Sanchez family had jobs as custodians.  They had the materials, experience, & expertise to do a superlative job.

Family Dispute:  On “judgment day,” Daryl Sanchez Sr. was in the ICU, attacked in a brotherly dispute over $200.  When Lt. Joe arrived to arrest him, he cried.

Judgment Day:  Lt. Joe’s dramatic prediction about judgment day took place in court & in the presence of an attorney.  Claiming police harassment, Daryl Sanchez Sr. had hired a lawyer.  He requested & received a restraining order.  That held the police at bay–for a while.

Lesson Learned: Don’t bring a fist to a knife fight.  That’s what Lt. Joe says, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

The Sentences:  Even murder cases are plea bargained.  That avoids trial & saves the tax payers money.  It keeps up the win statistics for prosecutors.  But the result is that murderers can receive a lower charge & a lesser sentence than they deserve.  You’ll agree with Lt. Joe that there are those who should not be walking free amongst us.  (Read on for a purely emotional statement:  If the Boston bomber, that creep & coward, gets a plea bargain, you’ll hear me scream all the way to Texas.  He comes to trail in November.)

The Aftermath:  All four members of the Sanchez family are out of prison at this point.  Lt. Joe doesn’t know where they are now, but they’re among us some where.  Lamar Edge, Corey’s brother, interviewed for this show, lives in Detroit & works as an auto mechanic.

The Link:  How popular is this series, now in its fourth season?

The ID channel has put in two copycat shows–No Where to Hide and Cry Wolf.  (Of course, neither matches up to Lt. Joe. Need I say that?)  Lt. Joe is off to San Francisco this weekend to film a Toyota commercial.  He’s negotiating a book deal.  The ID store is selling Lt. Joe merchandise.  (Ask if I want a life-sized cardboard Lt. Joe figure glaring at me day & night?)  And see link below to a video of the all-time cool accessory, a Lego Lt. Joe.  (But, no, this boy who created this figure should not be watching shows like this.  They’re too gory for me, much less for a child.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgzhWJlZ9cA

Murder Bites – Season 3, Show 1, 2013

I hope you’ve had a chance to see one of the new shows & agree that this new season of Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda is starting out well.  Bill & I are just back from attending the premiere party in Colorado, a spectacular event in which we got to talk with Patrick Bryant, the original creator & idea man for the show.  (You’ll see his name in the credits for producer. Yes!  He has new ideas for new shows!)

We got to view three of this season’s 13 new shows.  We toured two of the real-life, really creepy crime scenes.

Viewership is up, way above the ratings for the first show last year.  We hear gossip that it’s now the most popular show on the ID channel…ever.  Production values are up.  No more excess hair spray leading to speculation that Joe is wearing a “bad rug.”  No more absurdly charming Hollywood house sitting in for the variety of actual Colorado dumps in which Lt. Joe tended to find his homicides.  Now we open with “It’s a Bad Moon Rising,” a spooky moon, & a 50’s noir style.

I’m hoping for more moon, more tune as the season goes on.

Summary:

The murder of “Murder Bites” took place on July 31, 1992.

Frank Buford walks through a Colorado Springs park every day on his way to work.  But this is no routine day.  He finds the body of a woman, nude, strangled, & with a distinctive human bite mark on one breast.

At first, Lt. Joe finds no purse, no identification.  Then he discovers a shoe in the area, & in the shoe is an envelope addressed to a local landlord.  There’s a note apologizing about the rent money & saying that her purse had been stolen.  The shoe turns out to belong to Shirley Shook, a nurse’s aide, who lives in a apartment near the park.  Her boyfriend, Kevin, is Lt. Joe’s first suspect.  Kevin reports he & Shirley were at the ill-named Paradise Lounge until the wee hours of the morning.  Kevin says they quarreled, & Shirley went off with a stranger driving a silver Toyota.

That unknown man is now a second suspect.  Lt. Joe likes finding a “new guy to play with.”  In this case, he finds no fewer than three other suspects:  (1) a sinister man named “Sinbad,” (3) a loudmouth named “Chicago” who was heard threatening to kill Shirley, & (4) a neighbor named Mark Manning who was at the Paradise Lounge that night.  Lt. Joe never does find “Sinbad,” and he never succeeds in tracing that one silver Toyota among the many.  “Chicago” has an alibi, & besides Lt. Joe comes to believe he’s just a blowhard mouthing off to impress others (in this case, the victim of a burglary, who thought perhaps Shirley was somehow involved).

The coroner finds no evidence of sexual assault.  Frustrated & angry, Lt. Joe feels at this point that he is “chasing ghosts.”

So he returns to the Paradise Lounge.  The bouncer points out a friend of Shirley’s, Cynthia.  Cynthia is a regular, who was there on the night of the murder.  She remembers that when the boy friend Kevin went off at one point, Shirley & Mark Manning were kissing.

Now Lt. Joe zeroes in on Mark.  No longer frustrated, he says, “Now I feel terrific.”  He brings Mark in to the station.  Mark is reeking of alcohol.  He denies everything, even the kissing.  Lt. Joe accuses Mark of lying.  But he does not have evidence to arrest him just yet.

Then Lt. Joe goes to the landlord, who tells him a very strange story.  The day after the murder, Mark asked to move into Shirley’s apartment, so he could be “near her spirit.”  Even more suspicious is that right after the Lt. Joe interview & release, Mark decides to move.  He doesn’t even pick up his security deposit.  He flees.

But he’s still drinking.  When Lt. Joe goes looking, police in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, have Mark in custody for DUI.  Lt. Joe has another shot at an interview.  Unsurprisingly, Mark is once again drunk–and once again attempts to lie his way out of trouble.  But, as Lt. Joe puts it, “If you’re going to be a liar, you should have the decency to be good at it.”  Lt. Joe goes after Mark in an attempt to put him “in the weakest possible position emotionally.”  First, he has medics take blood samples, hair samples, &–of course–an impression of his dental bite.  Then he puts Mark through a polygraph test.  At this point, Mark is “maxed emotionally.”  He confesses.

The bite mark matches, too.

Mark pleads guilty.  He receives 36 years in prison.

Lt. Joe’s Theory:   His idea is that Mark was obsessed with Shirley.  She agreed to sex in the park, but according to Lt. Joe’s theory, “She doesn’t understand that the last thing it is for Mark is casual.”  Possibly Mark was too drunk to perform.  Possibly Shirley teased him.  His euphoria turned to rage.  Mark says he remembers nothing.

My Favorite Moment:  Mark confesses & says, “I’m so sorry.”  Joe replies, “I bet you are.”  Look for the skeptical, ironic expression on Joe’s face.

My Favorite Small Touch:  A cross on a chain dangles from the neck of the murderer as he commits the crime.  Joe says that wasn’t there in real life, so it’s a costume designer’s macabre addition.

The Scene of the Crime:  This is a small, nondescript park on Platte Avenue in Colorado Springs, not much to it.  But this location is personal.  Bill & Joe’s mother grew up in a house on Platte Avenue.  Later, she & their father remodeled the house & lived there during their retirement years.  The park is just about half a block away.  On the other side of the park, the old house where the victim, the murderer, & a couple of suspects lived, still stands.  Now as then, it appears to be run-down apartments carved out of a once grand Victorian.

No One Deserves This:  The general policy of TV producers is to make the victim more sympathetic than she may have been in real life.  They do not tarnish the character of the victim.  But Lt Joe tells me that some murder victims lead high-risk lifestyles and are to some extent participants in their own deaths.  Shirley was a transient person, who had just moved from Ohio.  She worked in a nursing home.  She supplemented her income with prostitution.  She had a sort of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality, & sometimes lashed out at people, especially when she’d been drinking.  No matter what sort of person she was, she should have our sympathy.  Odd fact: At the time of her death, she was 38, although she looked much younger.

The Murderer:  Mark was another transient, a house painter.  He had lived with his boss at one point, but his boss threw him out for drunkenness.  As far as Lt. Joe knows, Mark was drunk 24/7.  There’s a sharper than usual contrast between the good-looking professional actor who plays Mark & the real-life Mark.  In real life, Mark reeked of alcohol, & was not devoted to personal hygiene.

Everyone Else:  Shirley’s boyfriend Kevin, the one with the “15-watt light bulb” of a brain that Joe mentions, had a criminal record, including criminal involvement with alcohol & drunks.  He was living with Shirley rent-free & depending on her income.  Records for “Chicago” showed a “progression effect,” in which a person, over time, goes from minor to major crimes. The burglary victim, interviewed about the threats “Chicago” made against Shirley, insisted that he was unable to talk due to a stroke & that he would have to answer questions by writing notes.  He could talk just fine.  He just wanted an excuse not to talk to police.  Even Frank, who found the body, had outstanding warrants.  Lt. Joe ended up arresting half of these people for some offense or other–although for criminal offenses well short of murder.

The Polygraph Test:  Polygraph tests are not admissible in court.  They are not reliable.  But they have their uses to exert psychological pressure, as in this case.  “I am not a fan of polygraphs,” says Lt. Joe, “but I am a fan of statements.”

Drive Thru Murder – Season 2, Show 6, 2012

This show is “Drive Thru Murder.”  Here’s the story, along with a few disgusting extra details.

An unfortunate pedestrian comes across Missy Berry dead at the wheel of her car, engine still running, gear still in drive.  Missy is an assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant.  Her boss Ruthie describes her as a close friend & kind-hearted person.  (I know…there have been more than a few off-the-point remarks about Ruthie’s hair dye.)  But others found Missy abrasive & domineering.

Plus, there’s the matter of missing money.  Missy is supposed to deposit the day’s receipts at the bank, as she does every night.  But bank security film shows no sign of her that night, & the deposit bag is missing.

Lt. Joe assumes the motive may have been revenge, as well as money.  Several people hate Missy.  One former police officer, in particular, has been harassing her.  He views it that he lost his job because of her complaints against him.  But he has an alibi.  Joe interviews several other momentary suspects–including a couple not mentioned in the show–before he finds the man he calls his “new star.”

The “star” is Cliff, who works with Missy at the restaurant–& has suffered from her taunts & bullying.  When Joe discovers this prime suspect, he says in true Kenda fashion, “I am beginning to feel wonderful.”

Cliff is a marginal person.  His parents are marginal.  His father, whom Joe describes as a milquetoast, was once in the military (Fort Carson, ever present in these shows), is now unable to find a job in civilian life.  His British mother, also unemployed, is abrasive & domineering.  (So was Missy. Anyone want to psychoanalyze that?)  Cliff lives with them & attempts to support them with his meager earnings.

Here’s yet another disgusting detail:  On the night he murdered her, Cliff caught a ride home with Missy after work.  He didn’t murder her until he was just about a block from home.  He wouldn’t want to have to walk too far.  This is, of course, one way the police caught him.  Missy is known as an inexpert driver, gets confused & lost easily, not likely to drive out of her usual route home.  But she’s found about fifteen miles in the wrong direction.  And by the way the body is positioned, Joe is able to deduce that she was not afraid, was not facing an intruder into the car, must have been driving a passenger with whom she was acquainted–& as it turned out, lived quite nearby.

Cliff is also a fantast.  In his mid 20’s, he hangs around with teenagers.  He constantly attempts to impress these younger guys.  He brags about plans to rob the restaurant.  At some point, he brags about plans to murder Missy.  He requests a gun, & one of these kids actually comes up with a stolen gun.  Apparently, he has no problem with handing the gun over to Cliff, no questions asked, nor even any money changing hands.

When the time comes for escape & evasion, as the military call it, Cliff does just what Joe says fugitives tend to do.  He flees to a familiar place, a place where he feels comfortable.  Then he hunkers down…no matter that this all makes him look guilty, guilty, guilty.

With his mother’s help, Cliff buys a one (!)-way ticket to London.  He requests the bereavement fare on account of the death of an aunt, who is very much alive & easily traceable.  The first place the British police look is the aunt’s house, & there is Cliff.   All that remains is the difficulty of extraditing a fugitive from another country…& the “impressive piece of paper” that will need to be drawn up to make that happen.

Is Cliff’s decidedly non-military version of escape & evasion mean that he is another one of these perpetrators who believe that the police are stupid & will never catch on?  Cliff gives the impression of being too stupid himself to think that far ahead.

And then there’s the aunt, the mother, & the teenager who gave Cliff the gun.  They all had criminal records (mostly non-violent property crimes).  They all aided & abetted Cliff in his crime.  Joe decided not to arrest the mother as an accessory.  She claimed she arranged for the airline ticket merely because her son was homesick for his native Britain.  The bereavement fare was just a lie to save money…& indeed, that was so common a problem that the airlines have long since abandoned the concept.  Joe decided not to prosecute.  He quotes a baseball regulation, “Tie goes to the runner.”

The boy who provided the gun also got off, since the casual transfer was impossible to prove.  Joe knew only because the boy volunteered the information.  And the boy didn’t come forward when he first heard of the murder & remembered Cliff’s bragging about his plan to kill Missy. Haven’t we heard this before in various previous cases?  People sit tight.  They remain silent.  Even in the face of murder.

But the aunt is another story.  She certainly didn’t get off.  When the English police arrived, she physically attacked the officers.  They got her under control.  She emerged bloody.  And of course, the British legal system does not look kindly on assaulting police.  She served a long sentence.  Is stupidity hereditary?

Joe says motives for murder are sex, revenge, or money.  Cliff got both revenge & money.  But Joe admits that many crimes do not fit cleanly into those three categories.  This one certainly doesn’t.

Lt. Joe is being quite the tough guy in this show.  When he learns of the murder, he says it’s time to “grab your toys” & head for the crime scene.  He maintains “a heart of railroad steel.”  I want you to know he’s actually very sensitive.  But you already knew that, didn’t you?

One final secret:  The fast food restaurant is Arby’s.

Last Call for Murder – Season 2, Show 3, 2012

This is # 3 out of 10, “Last Call for Murder,” a case from 1986.  I remember (unforgettably sad) Joe telling us at the time about having to tell the mother about the death of two of her daughters in the convenience store.

The father who speaks of his sorrow in this program says that his wife died not long after the deaths of their two daughters.  He says she died of a broken heart.

Once again, this appears to be murder without motive.  Did you see the figures?  Gilbert scored a total of $233, or $46 for each of the five lives he took.

Gilbert was at one point a successful man–an Eagle Scout, success with a career as a plumber, a beautiful girl friend.  But he took cocaine.  Cocaine engenders paranoia and rage.  He took on extra plumbing work, often with night calls, to get drug money, so he was exhausted, too.  The girl friend left him.  Feeling the need for more & more money, he had robbed that same Grandview Lounge the year before, also a few minutes before closing time.  That time he was wearing a mask.  And he got away with $1,500.

Being a wise business woman, the owner of the lounge Sonya, whom you see interviewed on the program, changed her policy.  Before she went home every night after that first robbery, she deposited the day’s proceeds.  She left behind only about $100 for the staff as they closed up.

When Gilbert got so little money, he ran to the convenience store near by to see what he could get there.

The two young women there had already locked the door at that time after someone had shouted warnings about the shots & fire at the lounge.

But the owner of the convenience store was not so wise a business man.  He had removed the telephone from the premises.  He didn’t want the employees wasting time calling their boy friends.  And it was fine with him to leave a young, inexperienced woman alone there at night.  Remember one sister was just there, unpaid, because the other sister felt unsafe & uncomfortable.  So he saved a few pennies.

Think of Gilbert’s girl friend.  She had left him because of the cocaine, but had returned to Denver to visit her mother.  She visited Gilbert, too, & since she was used to his taking emergency plumbing jobs in the middle of the night, she wasn’t fazed when the call came in.  She had no idea that the call was about murder.

Just as Gilbert shot himself, the Eagle Scout part of his personality appeared just in the last second of his life.  He said, “I love you” to her.

At the very end of the program, catch a glimpse of Joe as a brown-haired, young man, smoking a cigarette as the body is removed.

Favorite line of the show:  Joe says of the suicide, “You just saved the taxpayers a lot of money.”  He tells me a trial costs upwards of a million dollars, & keeping someone in prison is at least $80K a year.

Strange coincidences about this program:

Strange: The man who installed the surveillance cameras had visited that day.  The camera had gone off accidentally.  He re-set it.  And he asked the daytime staff to tell the night staff to be careful not to trigger it again.  Apparently, that message got through.  The camera worked & was critical to catching the murderer.

Even stranger:  Kathy was working as a nurse at the local hospital.  An orderly whom she hardly knew charged in & shouted, “Your husband just killed my brother!”  Kathy was able to calm him down by saying that didn’t have to have anything to do with their working together.  Gilbert’s brother agreed finally & walked away without harming her.

Strangest of all:  A few hours after the show aired, in Denver, three men walked into a bar about ten minutes before closing time.  They shot five people.  They started a concealment fire just as Gilbert did.  Police describe it as a “robbery gone bad.”  The suspects been arrested, but again five people have lost their lives.

A Gathering of Evil – Season 2, Show 2, 2012

Among all the sad murder victims in these shows, Maggie may be the saddest.  She was only 15, an abandoned child, homeless, parentless….& prey to predators, murderers who murder apparently without motive, “in a fog of alcohol & drugs,” as Lt. Joe puts it.

Joe says this case was immensely complicated.  A number of people were lying, then lying again, in ever-changing stories.  One of the soon-to-be convicted murderers even claimed to have multiple personalities.  Another was an army sargent at Fort Carson, a “leader among men,” according to Joe…& a leader in murder conspiracy, too.  But Joe is very good at figuring out lies, & this man’s slip of the tongue led to Silas.  Silas was a soldier, “not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” who heard the beginnings of the plot.

Why didn’t Silas tell the police what he witnessed right in the beginning?  Silas was afraid.  He was scared that the murderers would go after him next.  Silas was due to get out of the army soon.  He planned to return to his home in Alabama.  Meanwhile, he was hiding out at Fort Carson…until Joe found him & convinced him–as Joe so easily does–to talk.  It is not against the law to fail to come forward with knowledge that might assist a crime investigation.

All these years later, producers for the show tracked Silas down in Alabama.  He did not wish to talk for the show.

Another evil character in this gathering of evil was Maggie’s mother.  She abandoned Maggie to state care, so that she could live her own life of alcohol, drugs, & bad men.  When police got in touch with her about Maggie’s death, she had no photo to give them, not even a baby photo.  Joe says he wishes he could have arrested her, too.

Is Joe right when he says at the beginning of the show that anyone could commit murder?  Could I?  I say no.  Could you?  (I distinguish between murder & killing in self-defense or in time of war.)

Joe mentions during the show that young Maggie reminded him of his own daughter.  He & his staff went together to provide a proper burial & headstone for Maggie.  Did I detect a tear in his eye at the end there?

Several of you inquired about the welfare of the children in the last show, “I Now Pronounce You Dead”:  When Jennifer was convicted of murder, she left behind two very young daughters, ages 3 & 18 months.  (Did she, or did she not, have a babysitter that fatal night?)  Her estranged husband took over care of them.  He remarried a very nice woman who took good care of them.  Having conspired to murder his wife, Brian went to prison & left behind three children.  Brian’s parents took in those children.  Then after the grandparents died, other family members took them in.  Joe says some children of murder victims & murderers go into state care & foster homes, as Maggie did.  But at least these children, horrible & destructive as the murder was for them, had something like good & loving care.

I Now Pronounce You Dead – Season 2, Show 1, 2012

Title is “I Now Pronounce You Dead.”  They really should let Joe write these titles.

Production values:  As you may have noticed, production values are higher than last year.  This year it’s all Colorado, no more ersatz California.  And I very much like the aerial views of Colorado Springs, both day & night shots.  No bloopers that I’ve spotted…

The media:  Joe describes a courtroom crowded with reporters for both trials.  Peoplemagazine covered the story in detail.  There was at least one instant true-crime book about it in the 90’s, titled Sweet Evil.  (Oh, I don’t like these titles.) Why did this case entrance  the media? Was it because the murderers were white, middle-class, college-educated, attractive-looking people?  Was it the element of Hollywood-style “fatal attraction”?

Real life:  Joe arrested both murderers within 48 hours.  Show depicts him interviewing the florist in a flower shop, gym employees at the gym, bartender at the bar.  But in real life, he woke them up to interview them in the middle of the night.  In real life, Jennifer Hood was dressed “like a nun” (Joe’s phrase) for her testimony in court.  And in this show, she wears pearls, looks like a lovely mom type.  Not so in real life.

Interrogation:  Brian appeared at the police station with his uncle, a wealthy man who was acting as a sort of attorney for him.  He objected to Joe reading Brian his rights or asking him any questions at all…until Joe pointed out that he might wish to cooperate in finding his wife’s murderer.  He asked several questions & then the zinger…”Do you know Jennifer Hood?”  Brian said no.  When Joe replied that there were no more questions.  He had got what he was after:  a lie.  At that point, even the uncle seemed to catch on.

After Joe arrested Jennifer on a charge of first-degree murder, he asked the local news anchor to run the story.  It was the lead story on that evening’s news.  Brian’s uncle objected to Joe’s not having told Brian ahead of time.  Joe assured the uncle that he would be “in touch as the evening wears on.”  He arrived at Brian’s house past 1 AM to find awaiting him not only Brian’s uncle but also the state’s most prominent & expensive defense attorney….Quite a backdrop to an arrest.

Religion:  The snap-in’s (for showing the program in those fortunate countries that run fewer commercials than we do) detail Brian’s use of fake religion to convince Jennifer to commit the murder.  He tried to convince her that his diety wanted this death.

Motive:  Did Brian really think he spoke for the almighty?  Or did he get his wife killed so that he could collect $200,000 in life insurance?  Or did he harbor some twisted reason that the rest of us wouldn’t understand?

Children:  Five children lost parents in this tragedy. Their lives were forever & seriously damaged.  Insofar as I can tell, neither Brian nor Jennifer thought about that.  Perhaps neither was capable of bonding with a child.  From the plot, the two of them certainly seem to have employed a lot of child care.  On the night she committed the murder, Jennifer’s husband had already left the family so he presumably wasn’t available for child care–& might have asked where she was going.  Did Jennifer call the girl next door to babysit?  Did she drop the children over at Nana’s, with the caution that she might be out late?  Did Brian cheerfully offer to care for their three children while his wife went out to the meeting from which he knew she would never come home?

Joe & Kathy watched the premiere last night at a Colorado Springs bar where the sports were off & Homicide Hunter was on.  A patron kept eyeing Joe & commenting that “You look just like that guy,”  “You could be twins.”  Want to bet this man votes?

Word today is that the show is playing in India.  It will be in Canada soon.  And there are plans for Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.  Very cool brother-in-law…