Born to Lose

When I have one of my vomiting cycles, there’s not much I can do but lie in bed and try to be as still as possible. One of the few things I can do, is read, as long as it’s on my phone or a Kindle and not an actual paper book. (Holding the book up and turning pages takes enough movement that it makes the nausea worse.) During the most recent episode of the pukes, I read the Kindle edition of James G. Hollock’s Born to Lose: Stanley B. Hoss & the Crime Spree That Gripped a Nation.

Hoss was pretty much the worst of the worst. Like, I’m against the death penalty and I’ve said that many times, but Hoss is the kind of person the death penalty was made for.

In prison, doing a life sentence in the most secure part of the facility, having already killed a cop and presumably also Linda Mae and Lori Mae Peugeot, Hoss tortured a guard to death for no reason. I know that a malicious guard can make a prisoner’s life a misery, but Hoss and this particular guard didn’t have a problem with each other. Hoss and a few of his friends brutally murdered that poor man just because they could. What else can you do with such a person, besides kill them?

It’s kind of up in the air as to whether Hoss was created by nature, or nurture. I think some people ARE born bad. Hoss’s family were, for the most part, not criminals, and there’s no evidence that he was abused as a child. But there were indications that something was “off”. One of the few people Hoss cared about was his big sister Betty, and the way he and Betty were with each other gave rise to open speculation of incest from many people. We’ll never know the truth because both Hoss and his sister are dead now. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

The book had info about the kidnapping of the Peugeots and what Hoss told the cops about where he put their bodies. But I think it’s very unlikely they’ll ever be found, even if Hoss wasn’t jerking the police around, which he probably was. Crazy to think he traveled with them for days. He claims he took the baby all the way from Delaware to Kansas. Perhaps an Amber Alert, if it had existed in 1969, would have saved her and her mother.

Per the book, Linda’s mother suicided from grief. Hoss destroyed so many people’s lives.

It was a good book. I recommend it.

MP of the week: Cassandra LaLonde

This week’s featured missing person is Cassandra Ann LaLonde, aka Candy. On April 1, 1988, Cassandra ran away from her family’s home in Buras, Louisiana. She was fifteen at the time. In July, after her sixteenth birthday, her family got a call from a man who said he lived with Cassandra at a rural home in Alabama and that she had walked out on him. Her whereabouts after that are a mystery.

If still alive, Cassandra would be 50 today. She was 5’3 and 130 pounds in 1988, but may have grown taller since then, as she was only fifteen. She is white and has brown hair, brown eyes, pierced ears and a large scar on her leg from where she had stitches.

I hope everyone is well. I got sick with the pukes again but I’ve gotten better.

MP of the week: Trenton Duckett

This week’s featured missing person is Trenton John Duckett, who disappeared from Leesburg, Florida on August 26, 2006, just two weeks after his second birthday.

This case is a fairly well-known one. Trenton went missing in the middle of his parents’ contentious divorce, and both parents publicly accused the other one of being behind his disappearance. The investigation quickly focused on his mother, Melinda, as Trenton was in her care when he disappeared. After her son went missing, Melinda apparently threw out his photos and some of his toys, which is odd to say the least.

Unfortunately, things ground to a screeching halt after Melinda’s suicide on September 8, thirteen days after her son’s disappearance. After getting aggressively grilled on national TV by Nancy Grace about her missing boy, Melinda hid inside her grandparents’ closet and shot herself.

Melinda’s family subsequently sued Nancy Grace and her network for wrongful death. The suit was settled out of court. It’s worth noting that Melinda had a history of depression, suicidal ideation and psychiatric hospital stays, so I don’t think her death can be put down to Nancy Grace’s interview, but that certainly didn’t help matters.

Trenton’s mother took whatever she knew to her grave. And since then there hasn’t been much activity in Trenton’s case. The cops seem to think Melinda probably killed him.

If still alive, Trenton would be 18 now. He would probably have no memory of his pre-disappearance life and, perhaps, no idea he’s listed as a missing child.

Trenton is half-white, half-Korean, with brown hair and brown eyes. I hope he’s still alive, but I think it’s unlikely.

MP of the week: Laurel Rogers

This week’s featured missing person is Laurel Lea Rogers, a 28-year-old woman who disappeared from Port Orange, Florida on February 1, 2010. She’s described as white, with light brown hair, blue eyes, pierced ears, several moles on her back, scars on her wrists, and scars and bruising on her arms and legs. She’s tall, somewhere bweetn 5’7 and 5’10, and weighed somewhere between 150 and 166 pounds at the time of her disappearance. The Charley Project page has a detailed description of her clothes and a photo of her wearing said clothes.

Unfortunately Laurel had a lot of problems in her life, most notably health problems which caused chronic pain. She had to take ten different prescription medicines each day, and she doesn’t have her medicine with her; without it she will eventually die. She would sometimes buy drugs on the street if her legitimate prescriptions weren’t helping out her pain.

Given her state of health, I think it’s unlikely she’s still alive, unless she’s somehow getting her medicine under another name. Which is possible I suppose. Whenever illicit drugs are a factor in a case you have to consider foul play.

I hope everyone is doing well. I’ve been really tired lately and feeling down on myself. I think I’ve got a bit of seasonal depression; I think things will pick up when the weather gets warmer and sunnier. February is such a terrible month in the midwest.

Patrick the office dog update

I thought I would put up an update on how the Charley Project’s latest employee, the official Office Dog, Patrick, whom I adopted in December.

Last week I happened to stumble across an article about the rescue of the specific group of South Korean meat dogs that Patrick was in. (I believe it was his group based on the fact that the location and dates of his behavioral evaluation papers the shelter gave me match the details in the article.) After I read it I started sobbing–not just out of sadness at what Patrick had endured, but out of happiness that he is so happy now.

Patrick is a beacon of joy and it’s difficult to imagine that he came from a traumatic background. He is ridiculously happy and enthusiastic about everything he does at home with us, and while out on walks with me. I think he must feel like the luckiest dog on earth, to have come from where he came from, and to now be an indoor dog with a family and toys and stuff. We are having private sessions with a trainer and the trainer thinks he’s making a lot of progress.

That said, there have been significant challenges. It is my fault basically: I was unprepared for the reality of having an adolescent dog. Patrick may be a year old but that’s young for a dog his size, and due to the fact that most of that year was spent crammed into a tiny cage, he never got a chance to stretch his legs (literally or figuratively) and start testing boundaries before.

When he gets super excited he’s a tornado and it’s a little bit dangerous because he’s a fifty-pound animal with impressive native athletic abilities in terms of jumping, etc. The other day my husband and I went out for two and a half hours and when we came home he was so happy to see us he ran the length of the house full tilt several times, ricocheting off of furniture and us, sliding across the laminate floor and crashing into walls. Patrick also still doesn’t get along with the cats because he violates their personal space and doesn’t understand that they don’t want to be his friends. Basically, the trainer says he’s immature and I need to guide him and give him the opportunity to make good behavioral choices.

I had not wanted to start crating him because of his background but have changed my mind. Now I am saving up money to buy a large and really sturdy crate, the kind for big dogs who are major chewers. Until then, Patrick wears his harness indoors to make it easier to control him, and he spends most of his time in either the office or the bedroom with me, the door shut, so the cats can have the main areas of the house to themselves without having to worry about being bothered.

MP of the week: Wayne Ausa

This featured week’s featured missing person case is Wayne Jason Ausa, a 16-year-old Filipino-American boy who disappeared from San Francisco, California on April 16, 2016.

We know exactly what happened to Wayne: he and another boy, Grisham Duran, were walking in the San Francisco surf with friends when the current grabbed the boys and carried Wayne and Grisham out to sea. The surf there can be horribly dangerous and this is not the only such case I have on Charley.

The casefile doesn’t say anything about Grisham’s remains being located and I can’t find any news articles to that effect but they must have been, because Wayne is still listed in the CDOJ missing persons database and Grisham is not.

If you wonder why I would bother to put Wayne on Charley when his fate is known and we know, more or less, what happened to his remains… the ocean might still give up its dead. Wayne may wash up on shore some day and if he does, someone has to be able to know that a boy matching that description is still unaccounted for, so that they can identify his remains. This happened in the case of Percy Carson, a drowned swimmer whose bones washed ashore months later and weren’t identified for over 20 years.

Wayne was a junior at Vallejo High School. If he were still alive today he’d be 23, perhaps a college graduate, perhaps a husband or father by now. The ocean took his future away.

I hope everyone is doing ok. I have been sick (the vomiting cycle again, they won’t quit) but hope to feel better soon and back to work.

MP of the week: Patricia Small

This week’s featured missing person is Patricia Marie Small, who was last seen when she was dropped off at Liberty High School in Liberty, Texas on May 11, 2002. She was eighteen years old at the time, white, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a tattoo of a heart with a ribbon reading “Jennifer Best Friends 4 Ever.”

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much info about her disappearance; it’s like she just vanished into thin air after being dropped off. No apparent evidence of either runaway or kidnapping.

If still alive, Patricia would be 39 today. There is a Facebook page set up to try to find her.

SMH at the ineptitude of the cops in Cory Bigsby interview

So today is (allegedly, we’ll get to that) the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of four-year-old Codi Bigsby from his father’s home in Virginia. No charges have been filed in the case, but the police zeroed in on Codi’s dad, Cory, as a suspect very quickly and he is still a suspect. They have said they think Codi disappeared earlier than his dad claimed, although I haven’t seen anything about when he was last seen by anyone outside the household. (Which consisted of Codi, Cory, and three of Cory’s other children.)

When writing up the case I was kind of appalled to see how Cory was treated during his first police interview after he reported his son missing. I was just facepalming.

Now, in my opinion Cory is not a person easy to sympathize with. He was previously arrested for domestic violence against Codi’s mom, and he admits he left his kids (the oldest of whom was only five) home alone for hours at a time because they were “a handful.” But without a doubt, his Constitutional rights were violated in that police interview and that matters.

The interview lasted between 9:30 p.m. and 4:45 a.m. That’s over seven hours, during which Cory was not, technically, under arrest. (On February 3 he was arrested, but not for anything to do with Codi’s disappearance. He was arrested for child neglect for leaving the kids home alone.) During this time, on more than TWENTY occasions Cory said he was tired and wanted to go home to sleep. The police told him “going home is not an option.”

This was a lie: Cory was in fact legally free to stop the interview and go home. But after the very first time he said he wanted to leave and the cops refused to let him go, he was basically under duress and there’s a good chance anything he said would not be permitted to be used in court.

The law asks: would a reasonable person feel like they were being detained and were not permitted to leave? And in that situation, of repeatedly asking to leave and being told it’s “not an option”, I think a reasonable person would definitely feel that way. (This, incidentally, is why those “how to handle a law enforcement encounter” advice people say you should directly ask the police if you are being detained.) A statement has to be “free and voluntary” to be used in court and by this point Cory wasn’t there voluntarily anymore.

Furthermore, TWICE Cory said he wanted to see an attorney, and TWICE his request was ignored. Big no-no. Once a suspect invokes their right to counsel, the police are supposed to immediately stop the interview and not ask any more questions of the suspect until the requested attorney arrives on scene.

Now, a lot of you may be thinking “I don’t care about this person’s so-called rights, I don’t care how they were treated, they’re a child neglecter/abuser and possible murderer.” But you should care. Not only because what happened to Cory could easily happen to you, but also because this botched interrogation may (assuming his father killed him, which the police seem to think he did) prevent Codi from ever getting justice.

The law says if a suspect invokes their right to counsel and isn’t given counsel, everything they say after that cannot be used in court. The suspect could confess to the most vile criminal offenses, to being a serial killer even, and their words would not be allowed to be used against them. I have no idea what Cory told the police during his interview, but if he admitted to anything incriminating after he was refused an attorney, those admissions cannot be used against him.

These are not obscure procedural rules. This is Police Interrogation 101. I can’t even with the incompetence here.

The police have since admitted they Did A Bad, and the detective who botched the interview was “punished”… by being pulled off the case and placed on paid administrative leave. So they were punished for their terrible policing by being given a paid vacation from work.

It’s been a year and no one knows where Codi is. I hope this interrogation did not reduce our chances of finding out what happened to him.

This article talks about what went wrong in the interview; it’s a good one.

MP of the week: Jacob Loomis

This week’s featured missing person is Jacob Ryan Loomis, a 24-year-old young man with brown hair, brown eyes and a slender build (5’8, 120 pounds) who was last seen in Kalispell, Montana on October 19, 2019. He had recently moved there from Oregon. He has a distinctive tattoo on his upper arm of a triquetra in black ink; a have a photo of it.

Jacob disappeared after saying he was going hunting with his girlfriend and another man. The two people he said he was hunting with have refused to cooperate with the investigation. Hmm.

I hope everyone is doing well. I love all of you and am so grateful for everyone’s support.

2022 in reading

Everything sucks, the world’s a nightmare, my productivity is in the toilet etc. But I decided I’d better get around to writing about what I read last year, seeing as how it’s almost February already.

I read 213 books in 2022. A lot of them were true crime books. I really like Ryan Green’s “creative nonfiction” true crime stories about serial killers and the like. They’re all available on Kindle for cheap, and they’re all pretty short, usually under 200 pages. I like Robert Keller’s true crime books for the same reason. I read 16 Ryan Green books this year (if you count his Twelve From Hell anthology as twelve books, which I did, since it’s an anthology of twelve of his books). I read nine books by Robert Keller.

As far as true crime books that were not by Robert Keller or Ryan Green, I read several really good ones. I’m still gradually working my way through the Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths series; I read twelve of them this year. Some notable other true crime books:

  • The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro. This is about the deaths of two teenage girls in northern India, and the investigation and the fallout. It tells the story basically in real time, so the reader finds out stuff at the same time everyone else does. If you’re not familiar with the way things are in India, fear not: the book explains. Let me warn you, though: as intriguing as this story was, it was really hard to get through. It starts with the discovery of the dead girls, with the assumption that it was a double rape-homicide, but the actual truth of the matter is even worse than a double rape-homicide if you ask me.
  • Love as Always, Mum xxx by Mae West. The author isn’t the famous actress from the 1950s, but rather the oldest daughter of serial killer couple Fred and Rose West, who had murdered several young women as well as two of their own children. Mae writes about her bleak childhood and her obviously troubled relationship with her mother. (Fred suicided after his arrest. Rose is still alive in prison.) It’s only 99 cents on Kindle right now and it was very good, very enlightening.
  • Burke and Hare: The Year of the Ghouls by Brian Bailey. I have read several books about the Burke and Hare murders but thought this one to be the best. There are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding the story and Bailey makes short work of them.
  • Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of John Wayne Gacy by Tim Cahill. I’ve read a couple of books about Gacy and this, I think, showed the most accurate picture of how he actually thought, how twisted his mind was.
  • Boys Enter the House: The Victims of John Wayne Gacy and the Lives They Left Behind by David Nelson (which actually will be on the 2023 list cause I was still reading it when 2022 came to an end). As the title indicates, the book wasn’t so much about the murders of Gacy’s victims so much as the lives they led, and what ultimately caused them to stray into Gacy’s path. I really like reading stories about the victims of crime, since they are so often ignored. Also, I used this book as a source of info for two cases I added to the Charley Project recently, and two days later the author emailed me. He’s a fan of mine apparently. Well, I’m a fan of his.
  • Violette Noziere: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris by Sara Maza. Violette was a sixteen-year-old Parisian girl who poisoned her father. At first it appeared she’d done it because she was rebellious and her dad wasn’t letting her go out and do all the things she wanted to do, like visit boys and stay out late. But then Violette claimed the murder had actually been to stop her father’s sexual abuse, which she said had been ongoing since she was twelve. Unfortunately, this was the 1930s and society was not ready to believe that a seemingly respectable man could be a sexual abuser. Even after she told the police where to find some physical evidence, she still was not believed. The book is as much about life in 1930s Paris as it was about the murder case, and I found myself skipping over some parts that seemed irrelevant and uninteresting, but the story itself was interesting.
  • Death at Wolf’s Nick: The Killing of Evelyn Foster by Diane Janes, about the mysterious 1931 unsolved death by fire of taxi driver Evelyn Foster, an unmarried woman in her twenties. It was kind of a laborious read. The issue was that the police, due to misogyny and incompetence, decided this wasn’t really a murder, so the author had to prove that it was. And there was lots of talk about what cars were at which specific spots on the road at what specific time. It was quite intriguing though and I admire the author’s diligence, and also the fact that unlike many authors of books on unsolved murders, she didn’t claim to have solved the case.

I also read some Holocaust books, of course. Some notables:

  • Escapees: The History of Jews Who Fled Nazi Deportation Trains in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands by Tanja von Fransecky. About the Jews who somehow found the chance, and the courage, to jump from the death trains that were en route to Auschwitz, Sobibor etc. It had some absolutely thrilling stories in there.
  • A Drastic Turn of Destiny by Fred Mann, a memoir of his surviving the Holocaust in France and Belgium as a teenager. I was impressed by how mature Fred was, though in large part the war conditions forced him to grow up fast. At one point, he was wearing his Boy Scout uniform and I guess he was the only person present in a uniform, because they put him in charge of a small refugee camp of 50 people. He was only like fifteen years old, but he got the camp up and running smoothly. Most books in the Azrieli series of Holocaust survivors’ memoirs are good.
  • “If we had wings we would fly to you”: A Soviet Jewish Family Faces Destruction, 1941–42 by Kiril Feferman. The book is about one extended family of Russian Jews and how they survived, or didn’t survive, the Holocaust. So much of it came down to luck. And so many families endured the same things; we only know in the details of that one’s suffering because their correspondence survives.

Some other notable books I read this year:

  • Urological Oddities by Wirt Bradley Dakin. Just a collection of incredibly weird things various urologists have discovered throughout their career. It was written in the 1940s and besides the stories being grossly fascinating, it’s also an interesting relic of that era. Some parts, for example, were breathtakingly racist. I read it cause I got really into medical stories this past year and saw this book mentioned as a good example of great medical stories. One, I recall, was of a woman who would go to the hospital with kidney stones every time there was a family fight. At one point, after a fight with her husband, she spent five days in the hospital waiting for the stones to pass, then he finally came to visit her and I guess they made up because the woman claimed to have passed some stones. They were, in fact, chunks of brick.
  • The Call the Midwife trilogy by Jennifer Worth. I actually liked the TV show better, but the trilogy was pretty good. I’m really glad we don’t have workhouses anymore.
  • Abandoned Women: Scottish Convicts Exiled Beyond the Seas by Lucy Frost. In England it used to be that if you were caught shoplifting (or any of a large number of what seem like minor offenses to my 21st-century eyes) you could be transported to Australia (which might as well have been the moon; it took months to get there). This book studies the lives of some specific women from Scotland who were sent to Australia. Some of them actually came out the better for it and became prosperous. Some of them, on the other hand, did not.
  • Nightmares of an East Prussian Childhood: A Memoir of the Russian Occupation by Ilse Stritzke. This was the last book I finished in 2022. The author was eleven years old when the Red Army “liberated” Germany. Although her family tried to protect her, she saw and went through a lot of stuff. But she tells her story matter-of-factly, without self-pity.