On January 18, 1990, DC mayor Marion S. Barry was arrested on narcotics charges. During his third term in office, the FBI and local police caught the former mayor on videotape using crack cocaine. Barry was visiting a former girlfriend, Rasheeda Moore at the Vista International Hotel (now The Westin Washington, D.C. City Center) when he was caught in the act.
Moore had agreed to work with the FBI to set up Barry in exchange for a reduced sentence for another drug conviction. Barry now claims that the FBI had tried to kill him by planting a substance that was not proven to be crack, although emergency services were on the scene during the operation to ensure the mayor’s safety.
Barry had faced allegations of drug use since 1981, but he had vehemently spurned these claims. In this case, the evidence against him was too strong to deny. Barry was convicted for one charge of drug possession and served six months in federal prison, but this scandal surprisingly did not end his political career. After serving his sentence, Barry campaigned for a seat on the Washington City Council using the slogan, “He may not be perfect, but he’s perfect for D.C.” Barry was even elected for a fourth term as mayor in 1994.
In 2004, Barry successfully campaigned to return to the Washington City Council representing Ward 8, and won 95% of the vote. He is currently serving as a council member after being most recently reelected in 2008.
Caylee Anthony, the deceased two-year old and inspiration for ‘Caylee’s Law’
Joining the ranks of AMBER Alert and Code Adam is another missing child system inspired by an infamous case: ‘Caylee’s Law’. Caylee Anthony, the deceased two-year-old whose trial captured the nation’s attention in 2011, inspired the law after her young mother, Casey Anthony, failed to report Caylee as missing for over a month. Although the jury acquitted Casey Anthony on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child-abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child, they declared her guilty on four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. Judge Belvin Perry sentenced her to one year and $1000 for each false information count to be served consecutively. Incorporating her time already served and credit for good behavior, Anthony was released from prison on July 17th, 2011, just a couple days after sentencing. America was outraged.
In response, Michelle Crowder of Oklahoma proposed ‘Caylee’s Law’ on Change.org, a petition-hosting website, suggesting increasing the penalty to a fourth-degree felony for failing to report a missing child within twenty-four hours of their disappearance or one hour of their death. The petition quickly went viral and garnered over 1,300,000 signatures, pressuring lawmakers across the country to design such a law.
Edward Mehnert covers his mouth with duct tape as he protests the verdict against Casey Anthony during her sentencing. Anthony’s trial provoked such a media circus that Time magazine called it the “social media trial of the century.” (AP Photos/Alan Diaz)
The backlash to the proposed law was almost as strong. Critics cited ineffective previous laws inspired by dead children and cautioned against making lasting legislature out of anger and fresh wounds. A Huffington Post article criticized the impracticality of the one hour and twenty four hour cut-offs, demonstrating the difficulty of determining time of death so precisely and offering complicating hypothetical situations. What happens if your child is at a sleepover and doesn’t call home? Under this law, would you have to call your child at summer camp every day? What happens if your infant dies in his or her sleep? You might discover the death several hours later. Do we really want to punish a grieving parent in that situation with a felony? Although common sense should guide judicial rulings in these situations, there are many current examples of gross and insensible violations of justice.
Critics also fear that the law will make cautious parents falsely report absent children as missing, clogging up the police department’s missing persons cases. The excess of false cases would obscure the real missing children cases and prevent them from being investigated in those first few crucial hours. Critics claim that the law will be unenforceable and ineffective in its goal of protecting children, merely entrapping innocent parents.
State Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport speaks out on House Bill 600, Louisiana’s proposed ‘Caylee’s Law,’ on June 25th
Despite these criticisms, several states have moved ahead with legislation. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie passed a ‘Caylee’s Law’ in January, 2012, making the failure to report a missing child age thirteen or younger after twenty-four hours a fourth-degree felony, punishable by up to eighteen months in prison and fines up to $10,000. Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed House Bill 37 into law in April, another variant of ‘Caylee’s Law.’ This law heightened to felony status the act of misleading a law enforcement official in a missing child case. Louisiana’s version of ‘Caylee’s Law’, House Bill 600, passed in early June, and declares that failure to report a missing child is punishable with up to 50 years in prison and $50,000. Overall, thirty-two states filed some form of legislature in the past year to criminalize the failure to report a missing child.
Two recovered Brinks money bags–over a million remains missing.
On January 17th, 1950, in Boston, Massachusetts, 11 men stole more than $2 million dollars from a Brinks Armored Car depot. The men believed to have committed the perfect crime and were not caught until January 1956, just days before the statue of limitations for the theft would have expired. The men planned for 18 months to determine when the most money could be stolen from the car. Anthony “Fats” Pino was given the title of the robbery’s mastermind. He was able to steal the plans to the depot’s alarm system and return them before anyone noticed. Dressed similarly to the Brinks employees, the men entered the depot with copies of the keys and tied up many of the surprised employees. 14 canvas bags were filled with more than $2.7 million dollars, which was the largest robbery in history up until that time.
Did you know?
$2.7 million dollars in 1950 is the equivalent of $25.7 million today!
Since barely any clues were discovered at the scene and no one was hurt during the time of the robbery, the men created the perfect getaway. They promised to stay out of trouble and not touch the money for 6 years in order to have the statue of limitations run out. However, one man changed their fate. Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe was sentenced to prison for another burglary. While in prison, he threatened to expose his accomplices if they didn’t provide him with his share of the money. To silence O’Keefe, the group sent a hit man to kill him in prison. However, the hit man was caught before he was able to complete the task and a wounded O’Keefe then made a deal with the FBI to testify against the other robbers. 8 of the 11 men were caught, convicted and given life sentences; however, two died before they could go to trial. Only a small portion of the money was recovered, and it is believed to be hidden in the hills north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
William Heirens, the alleged killer of Suzanne Degnan, being interrogated by the police
On January 7th, 1946, six year old Suzanne Degnan was kidnapped from her Chicago home and found dead, leading to a frantic investigation that culminated in the arrest and conviction of William Heirens. Known as the Lipstick Killer from two other murders, Heirens is believed to be the nation’s longest serving prisoner.
In many minds, however, the question remains: was Heirens truly guilty? He was convicted, he even confessed, but accusations of coercion and faulty evidence muddy the waters. The forensic evidence included a bloody fingerprint at the home of another murder, believed to be a burglary gone wrong, and handwriting analyses of a message written in lipstick and a ransom note found at the Degnan home. For both types of evidence, however, different experts–and even different statements by each expert–seemed to disagree about whether they led to Heirens.
The courts and the newspapers of the time all found Heirens guilty without question. The media condemned him from the beginning, and investigators seemed determined to prove them right, apparently drugging the teenaged Heirens with sodium pentathol without his consent. Whether he actually confessed during his drugged interrogation is still in question, as the transcript cannot be found.
Heirens in 2004
Heirens was a student at University of Chicago at the time with a record of burglary–one of the few aspects of the case not in question is his history of sneaking into homes and stealing money and personal items. His arrest occurred during one such outing.
Looking into the case now is difficult at best–the reliability of newspaper accounts at the time is extremely questionable, and accounts of the investigation itself appear to be inconsistent. Recent accounts of the case tend to come from authors who feel strongly about the case, leading to conflicting accounts convinced of either his guilt or innocence. Heirens himself still claimed innocence until his death in March, 2012, saying he confessed out of fear of capital punishment, and hoped to one day go free.That hope was never realized.
For a more detailed account of the case and the evidence, go here.
Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the arrest of Richard Kuklinski, a New Jersey contract killer known as the Ice Man. If you believe the extensive interviews he gave after his arrest, Kuklinski was responsible for hundreds of deaths before he was caught in 1986, all while keeping his wife and three children oblivious to his other life.
The name “Ice Man” came from his method of concealing the actual time of death of his victims from law enforcement by freezing the bodies long-term in an industrial freezer, then thawing and dumping them so they looked like they’d been killed recently. His deceit of law enforcement didn’t stop there—Kuklinski escaped the notice of law enforcement for many years by varying his techniques. His use of different weapons, of different MOs, made his victims hard to connect to each other, and made it hard for a pattern to emerge.
“He killed with huns, poison, bats, knives, strangulation, his fists, ice picks, screwdrivers, hand grenades, and even fire. We’ve never seen anything like him. Truth is, we’ve never even heard of anything like him.”
- Bob Carroll, New Jersey deputy attorney general.
Eventually it was Kuklinski’s pride in his own methods that ensured his conviction, when he bragged to an undercover ATF agent about using cyanide to carry out some of his contracts. Those conversations were recorded.
Once investigators decided they had enough evidence to make an arrest, they set up a police road block near Kuklinski’s home, and arrested him on numerous charges, including five murders. That was 25 years ago today. In 2006, twenty years after his arrest, Kuklinski died of natural causes.
An interview with Kuklinski
Kuklinski was interviewed extensively after being caught, and openly discussed not only his crimes, but his feelings (or rather, his lack thereof) about killing and his upbringing. He was severely abused as a child, and has said he regrets never killing his own father for that abuse. Many of the killings he confessed to were unverified, so his claims should be taken with a grain of salt, but watching the interviews shows a lack of emotion during detailed discussions of murder that simply can’t be faked.
Hours of these interviews can be viewed online, and multiple documentaries were made from them. Some of those interviews are available here and here.
Read about the trial of Anders Breivik, the man responsible for the shootings in Norway in 2011