Dec 31, 2007

Somewhere, a man with a limp in his left leg is missing

There is a skull in a box in the basement of the Clayton County Police Department headquarters, and it's been there a long time.

Unidentified. The dead man's bones are evidence in a murder that has remained unsolved for almost a decade. The case file, a fat brown folder, is marked "I 675//REMAINS." A note attached to the inside of the front cover shows the file was opened on 5-15-98, marked as having no leads on 10-28-99, and closed, still unsolved, on 11-1-99.

Today, the case file sits in a box of "cold cases," another one of the county's unsolved murder mysteries.

In May 1998, on a clear and comfortably warm day, a surveyor named Wesley Bell was walking through the woods on the back of 6824 Dale Road in Rex. The owner wanted to sell the land and the surveyor was measuring it, walking about 40 yards off the southbound lanes of Interstate 675, between Ga. Highways 42 and 138. Bell was walking along the inside of a Department of Transportation fence, coming up on an old barb wire fence when he saw it: a skull in the leaves.

He thought it was an animal skull, he later told police. It was buried down in the leaves, by some weeds, upside down. He pulled it up, turned it around, and realized he was looking into the face of a human skull.

The back of the head was dirty brown, with a crack on the right side. The front was white, with black gaps for eyes, a nose, a mouth.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Cold case: Dead man's remains unidentified for almost a decade

Dec 28, 2007

Doctors disagreed

Five-week-old Joshua Moore could not have accidentally inhaled the baby wipes found wadded deep in his throat when he died, medical experts told detectives.

The boy's mother, 24-year-old Quantavia Nicole Moore, said it was an accident. She said she was cleaning the baby's mouth while staying at her mother's house in Forest Park, and then Joshua inhaled and started choking and she went "bazooka."

Doctors disagreed.

The baby wipes were folded up into a large, square wad, when recovered from Joshua's throat, and his lungs weren't strong enough to inhale that wet wad, Dr. Joran Greenbaum, at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, wrote to Detective Kelvin Jackson.

"I do not believe the incident [occurred accidentally], as described," the doctor wrote, "but required externally applied forces to lodge the relatively large object in the small, relatively depressed airway."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Mother indicted on charges she murdered newborn

Dec 27, 2007

Christmas morning shoot-out

A Christmas morning shoot-out left a child asking police to put his father in jail “forever.”
When Clayton County Police arrived at 676 Sinclair Way, in Jonesboro, at about 7 a.m., on Dec. 25, they found 27-year-old Marquise Marcel Givens sitting in the front yard, holding a handgun and “bleeding from several gunshot wounds,” Officer Tracy McKay reported. A second 27-year-old man, Zadorsey Undrell Blasingame, was lying on the sidewalk, outside the home, bleeding from a bullet hole in his left leg.
Deanna Venee Pugh, the 27-year-old resident of the Jonesboro home and Given’s former girlfriend, was kneeling on the sidewalk next to Blasingame.
Pugh told police that Givens, the father of her child, came to the home that morning and came inside, but then discovered Blasingame sleeping in the house, McKay wrote in his report. Givens then went back outside, got a gun and returned, Pugh said.
Blasingame, of Riverdale, said he was sleeping, when the armed man came into the living room. He tried to sit up, he said, but Givens pushed him down, pointed the pistol at him, and said, “You need to leave.”
Blasingame had a .45-caliber Glock in his boot on the floor, next to where he was sleeping, and he grabbed it, he told police.
Pugh said she didn’t know who started shooting first, and she “hid behind the sofa when the shots started.”
The two 27-year-olds’ fired at each other across the living room. Blasingame was hit in the leg. Givens was hit twice in the shoulder, with one .45-caliber bullet lodging near his spinal cord. Bullets grazed Given’s buttocks and left calf, and struck his lower abdomen and left hand, McKay wrote in his police report.
The child, who is not being named because of his age, was upstairs during the Christmas morning shoot-out. When police spoke to Given’s and Pugh’s child, the child asked if Blasingame would be OK, and said, “My daddy hurt Dorsey and I want him to go to jail forever.”
Givens and Blasingame were taken to Atlanta Medical Center for treatment. Givens could not give officers a statement, because he was heavily medicated.
He is being charged with aggravated assault, criminal damage to property, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, cruelty to children, and a weapons charge.
Blasingame has not been charged.

COPS BRIEFS, from the Clayton News Daily

Dec 24, 2007

Merry Christmas
jesus, tagger

And when they had seen it,
they made known abroad the saying which was told them
concerning this child.
Emory Sekaquaptewa, who wrote the Hopi dictionary, who integrated the difficult-to-learn language with school curriculum to preserve the once-dying language and the culture, who was the first native American to attent West Point and who settled a Hopi-Navajo land dispute, died on Dec. 14 at the age of 80.

May he rest in peace.

Dec 21, 2007

Justifying justifiable homicide

After 10 months of investigation, an expanded investigation, a re-investigation and a supplemental investigation, the verdict in the shooting death of a 19-year-old is the same as it was when police first walked through the door: justifiable homicide.

A Clayton County grand jury returned the findings Wednesday in the shooting death of Marques McGhee.

McGhee was shot to death while apparently breaking into a 16-year-old friend's home on Camp Road. The grand jury returned a "No Bill," meaning the 16-year-old boy, who is not being named because he is a juvenile, will not be charged.

Clayton County Police initially investigated the 6388 Camp Road homicide. Officers at the scene when it happened Feb. 20, said it looked like an open-and-shut case. McGhee was killed inside a broken window and was wearing black clothes and a black mask.

The 16-year-old under scrutiny told police he was alone at home at about 11:30 a.m. the day of shooting because of spring break. He said he was eating cereal and heard glass breaking. The teen said he got his father's handgun, a 9 mm, and walked into the garage, finding a man dressed in black with a black mask covering his face.

He fired, he told police. He fired and fired until the gun was empty.

When officers arrived, they found McGhee had been shot eight times, in the legs, chest, back and head. When they pulled back the man's mask, the teen saw McGhee, a 19-year-old, who once had been his friend.

What looked like a simple investigation became more complicated.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Teen who killed friend will not face charges

Dec 19, 2007

Starved twins

The first time the detective saw the allegedly starved twins, the 13-month-old boys were attached to feeding tubes at a children's hospital, but still looked emaciated.

"The two children looked like little skeletons," said Joanne Southerland, a child abuse and sexual exploitation detective with the Clayton County Police Department.

"Just little skeletons, that's the best way I can describe it," she said. "The doctors told me it was the worst case of child neglect any of the experts had ever seen. [Children's Health Care of Atlanta at] Egleston has never seen a case as severe as this."

The twins' parents, 23-year-olds who lived in a trailer at 31 La Costa Drive in Lovejoy, are charged with child neglect and forging prescriptions for opiate-based drugs. Tessa Noel Zelek and James Alvin McCart III walked into their probable cause hearing in the Clayton County Magistrate Court together, Tuesday evening. Zelek wore a green jump suit, McCart orange, and the couple walked in and slouched into the big black chairs next to their respective attorneys.

Southerland testified that the parents accused each other of failing to feed the baby boys.

"As best you can determine," Joe Roberto, Zelek's attorney, asked, "who was the last person to feed the children?"

"We have no idea," Southerland said.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
'The two children looked like little skeletons'

Dec 18, 2007

Way out of here

"Pseudocide," faking one's own death, has an enduring place in popular culture, regularly revived by stories about our favorite celebrities who may, or may not, have committed pseudocide. We talk about Elvis. We talk about Andy Kaufman. We talk about D.B. Cooper. Rather than being disturbed by the idea they wandered off in a faux-amenesia, a self-imposed exile, of sorts, we hope they made it.

We live a modern society where everyone's tracked, where everyone's classified according to Capitalism, where debt and credit and Google, taxes and utility bills and pay stubs all quantify and, maybe even, qualify our lives.

I understand why we sometimes want to quit everything. I look at my cell phone bill, and I can feel why Darwin would want it all behind him. We have all felt the crush of the system, have all felt trapped by our belongings, tethered by our responsibilities.

I write stories regularly about criminals who've fled and been tracked down by the U.S. Marshals. Every time they're caught because they kept their cell phone, went to their mother's house, or, in some way, couldn't make the break from the life they knew. We're all glad they've been caught, but part of me always wonders when it became so impossible to leave.

Is there no way out?

Checking the exits: The hope of pseudocide

Dec 14, 2007

urban flag

I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
            -- Kurt Vonnegut

Dec 12, 2007

How these things work

After two months on the run from homicide detectives in Philadelphia, a 21-year-old man was arrested in Riverdale while "attempting to urinate" behind a gas station.

Tyree Bohannon was nabbed by Clayton County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Orn behind a Racetrack gas station around 6:30 p.m., at 5905 Highway 85, and arrested him on charges of public indecency, according to affidavits filed in court.

Bohannon's arrest comes about two months after he allegedly shot 24-year-old Daren Dieter in the neck and chest, and Elina Henry in the arm, while the couple sat in a car outside a bar in Philadelphia, according to Detective John Galiabter of Philadelphia.

The shooting has left Dieter paralyzed and communicating through eye-blinks, police said.

Deputy Orn caught Bohannon on Nov. 21, according to court records, and when the man was searched, more than a gram of suspected crack and cocaine were found. Orn then ran the man's name through a national data base of wanted people and found that he was wanted on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and numerous weapons-related violations.

Detective Galiabter said catching Bohannon on a minor infraction was a break in the case, but not entirely surprising.

"That happens a lot of times, where people who are wanted will get picked up for the littlest things," the detective said by phone Thursday. "Traffic violations. You never know. Sometimes, that's how these things work."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Philadelphia assault suspect caught behind Riverdale gas station
Similar transactions

The trial started late, but the prosecution scored an early victory when the judge granted a "motion for similar transaction." That will allow John Turner, executive assistant district attorney, and Bill Dixon, assistant district attorney, to bring up Leon Phillips' previous felony convictions, because of the similarity between the way the 37-year-old allegedly killed Rhonda Rucker in Riverdale last year, and the way he attacked a woman in 1988 in Fulton County.

According to Turner, the granted motion is usually the "kiss of death," in a case that is built substantially out of circumstantial evidence. Dixon said that while prosecutors are not allowed to raise the issue of a defendant's previous convictions in order to question and challenge character, they will, in this case, be allowed to bring up a previous guilty plea as relevant to motive, mode of operation and "bent of mind."

In 1988, Phillips attacked a woman with a knife in her hotel room, Turner said. He attempted to rob and rape her, later pleading guilty to aggravated assault with intent to rape.

Last year, on Sept. 15, Phillips allegedly entered Rucker's Riverdale home with a .45-caliber gun, pulled off her pants, put a plastic bag over her head, bound her with telephone cords and fatally shot her in the head, according to police and prosecutors. He allegedly took a motorcycle, sports utility vehicle, DVDs and other items from the home, after killing the 34-year-old mother of three.

Prosecutors are expected to try to convict Phillips on 25 counts, ranging from malice murder to driving without a license. They intend to show he was in the Rucker's home before the murder to repair a washing machine and was arrested -- a few miles away from the home, a few hours after the murder -- carrying the murder weapon, riding a stolen motorcycle and carrying a number of items stolen from the home.

Turner has admitted the evidence is circumstantial, but said it is strong evidence and he expects jurors to be able to "connect the dots."

Read the rest of the story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Delayed by bomb threat, murder trial begins

Dec 6, 2007

Positively matched evidence

A 41-year-old man has been arrested on charges of murder and arson, after his DNA was positively matched to evidence found on a dead woman's body at a burning Jonesboro home.

Timothy Alan Booth, a Hampton felon, who has been in and out of prison since 1985, was not a suspect in the murder of 68-year-old Geneva Strickland until a DNA test, last weekend, connected him to the scene, GBI agents said Wednesday.

GBI investigators and Jonesboro Police detectives were attempting to identify two men seen leaving the scene shortly before the Oct. 31 fire was discovered, but an analyst working overtime ran the DNA through the state's Combined Index DNA System (CODIS) and the sample matched the sample taken from Booth when he was incarcerated in 2002.

"Mr. Booth was not known as a suspect to the GBI or the Jonesboro Police until there was a positive match," said Vernon Keenan, GBI lab supervisor. "We still don't know the full story about what happened in the victim's residence."

Strickland was found in an upstairs bedroom in her home, at 614 Fayetteville Road, early on Nov. 1, when firefighters responded to the blaze. It was immediately determined that the fire was intentionally set and the 68-year-old woman, who lived alone, had come into contact with her killer before the fire began.

"Her body was found bound in the house," said GBI Special Agent Sherry Lang. "There was no way she could get out of the house."

Investigators believe the murder was motivated by robbery.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
DNA found at murder scene, tied to eight-time felon

Dec 4, 2007

'Evaluate that real strongly'

Almost two weeks after allegedly starved twins were taken to the hospital, the 13-month-old boys are beginning to gain weight, Clayton County Police said.

According to doctors, however, the infants still face serious medical challenges. Weighing about nine pounds -- 18 to 30 pounds less than normal -- when admitted to Egleston's Children's Health Care of Atlanta, the boys have suffered rickets, "significant loss of brain function," brain atrophy, and are only mentally developed to the level of 2- or 3-month-old children, doctors told police.

Describing the condition of the boys to reporters, Police Chief Jeff Turner said, "They were starving, skin and bones," and looked like "something you would see in the Third World."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Twins face serious medical problems
Between a beatific vision & a crystal meth rush

I don't know why I'm doing this, but I'm watching and I'm weirdly fascinated. There's something amazing about this: These men are trying to turn the country and conservatism toward their own ends, by force of rhetoric and political machinery.

It's like watching a little boy try to hoist up a piano with a jump rope run over a curtain rod pulley. It's like watching a teenager try to turn a broken-down car by grabbing the wheels and pulling. It's like watching someone try to build a space ship without a diagram. There's something vaguely mechanical and scientific, about the effort, and something overwhelmingly, ridiculously, hubristic.

The mechanics of politics are odd. They're dirty and idealistic at the same time, somehow operating under both the highest and lowest opinions of human nature. While the presidential contender is divided between egomania and real concern, and splits time between folksy-looking stunts and rhetorical punches, the team scurries around behind the candidate in another set of weird self-divisions.

The team is always divided between paid hacks, who love the process and think of the candidate as a product, and the newbies, high schoolers and college kids, who love the candidate and dream about making better days happen. They work -- jangling through phone lists, stuffing mailers, pounding doors -- in an emotional state that combines a beatific vision with a crystal meth rush.

I swore all that off, a long time ago.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Unofficially, I'm still jacked up on politics