Jan 31, 2008

Well-worn badge in his back pocket

To his ex-wife and his closest friend, 42-year-old Douglas Yutaka Rhoades was an undercover FBI agent investigating rogue agents and child pornography.

He had a metal badge with his photo on it, signed by bureau founder J. Edgar Hoover, and marked with a large gold shield.

But, the Jonesboro man was actually a security guard, allegedly impersonating a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, and carrying around DVDs filled with child pornography, according to the FBI and federal prosecutors.

When arrested by Clayton County Police and a trio of FBI agents at about 2:30 p.m., on Thursday, Jan. 24, Rhoades was driving his minivan home, Special Agent Joseph Fonseco testified at a probable cause hearing, Wednesday afternoon. Rhoades had the well-worn badge in his back pocket and he had a handgun in the center console. He had bags and bags of candy, in the car, a number of blankets, a digital camera, a camcorder, and 75 DVDs.

"They had handwritten titles," Fonseco said. " 'Web Teens 1,' 'Web Teens 2,' 'Teen Pics and Vids,' 'Masturbation,' and other pornographic titles ... There was a series of pictures with preteens, I'd say between ages 10 and 12, in various stages of dress and undress."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
FBI: Jonesboro man posed as special agent: Alleged child pornography found

Jan 30, 2008

Desperate for luck

He was looking for one big win, one saving stroke of luck.

Allen L. Southmayd, a 63-year-old Jonesboro man, who worked as a forensics documents expert for the United States Army, stole $68,500 from a documents examiner certifying board in a desperate, 10-month attempt to win one big payoff.

According to documents filed in federal court by Southmayd's attorney, the man is a gambling addict.

He grew up in Portland, Ore., dropping out of high school to work as a day laborer in a warehouse, a plywood mill and as a drawbridge operator until he was drafted in the mid-1970s, and sent to Vietnam.

Southmayd trained in the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, became an expert at handwriting analysis and all the facets of examining questioned documents. He was certified as an expert witness and testified for the Army more than 150 times. He left the Army in 1985, according to his attorney, Collin Garrett. In the late 1990s, living in Texas, his lifelong affection for cards turned into a gambling addiction.

"For a period of time, he was winning a lot," Garrett explained in a memo to the court. "The rush of the action and coming home with pockets full of money added together to create a habit that was hard to break, even when he started losing."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Gambling addict stole $68,500 to cover losses

Jan 29, 2008

Chief Marie Smith Jones, who was the last living speaker of Eyak, who was a tiny woman who smoked like a chimney and was always called "feisty," who fought against clear cutting ancestral lands and oversaw the burial of bones returned from the Smithsonian, died on Jan. 21, at the age of 89.

May she rest in peace.

Jan 28, 2008

The evidence clicked. It added up.

A single .40-caliber shell casing was lying on the floor of the Chevy Impala. Blood covered the inside of the window on the passenger's side and Corey Robbins was in the seat, face-down, dead. He had been shot in the head.

The original 911 call told police the incident was a drive-by shooting. On Dec. 20, when Clayton County police officers and Detective Scott Eskew arrived at the intersection of McFerrin Place and Hayes Drive, they saw the Impala crashed into a chain link fence. They heard Robbins' girlfriend, Shante Buckley asking if her "baby" was OK.

Buckley was in a blue, Pontiac Bonneville, and said she was at a drug store down the street when Robbins called her on her cell phone and said something was wrong. Residents, though, said they saw a blue Bonneville racing down the street after the Impala and saw gunfire exchanged between the two cars, a couple of blocks south of Southern Regional Medical Center.

Police found three bullet holes in the side of the Bonneville. They called them "unexplained." They found the Impala did not belong to Robbins. It was registered to a man named Eric Lindell Bivins. Police found four 9 mm shell casings in the street, at the scene of the shooting. They found a .40-caliber gun on the ground outside the Impala, but the bullets in the gun did not match the brand found on the floor of the car.

Looking at the evidence, Eskew said there were three guns: A .40 for the driver, a .40 for the dead passenger, and a 9 mm out on the street.

Police found seven grams of marijuana on the floor of the Impala, and the evidence clicked. It added up. This was not a drive-by. It was not random. This was a drug deal turned shoot-out.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Police: Car crash shooting may be justified homicide
What drew me in

What drew me to journalism, first, was the mere, sheer physical presence of paper. My dad read two papers a day, when I was growing up, and the remains were always scattered about the breakfast table, the living room, and the recycling bin on the back porch. So I picked up the habit of reading the newspaper and it was natural to think, when the opportunity arose, of pursuing journalism as a career.

How I got into crime reporting is a little harder to say. It was my somewhat dark disposition combined with an accident. During my first internship at a small daily paper, the crime reporter was quitting to go get a masters degree and she refused to call the grandmother of a teen who'd been shot during a marijuana deal. I didn't know what I was doing, but I had been reporting on parades and local, senior home events and I wanted something more. I was dreaming stories that were about life and death, about what it meant to be human. The veteran crime reporter was saying quite colorfully that crime reporting was "horrible." I was saying, "I'll do it. I'll do it. I'll do it." I ended up spending the afternoon in a very dark apartment, talking to the grandmother of a murdered teenager.

Read the rest of the intervew @ Comment

Jan 25, 2008

Psychosis of cops and crime writers

We say it like it's a religious thing—"sense of place." Like a "sense of place" comes with a sense of God, a reeling divine revelation and a harkening to the holy. "Sense of place" is the goal of agrarianism's farmer poets, new urbanism's city planners, environmentalism's dreamers and of tactile mystics everywhere. And everywhere it's supposed to be the solution to the malaise, the feeling of ennui and the lostness of the lost children of the modern world. We've lost and need to recapture, the idea goes, the way of living in a sense of "here." Here: not just buoyed along the concrete arteries, one way in the morning and the other in the evening, not just smothered over the top like a piece of tape stuck on skin, not just living there, but being in a place like a stain. We're supposed to soak in, so that the only form to be found is the form of the place. We're supposed to seep down.

But maybe that sense isn't always cause for a chorus of angels. Maybe it is, but that sense could also be the call of corpses, the psychosis of cops and crime writers.

Read the entire essay @ catapult magazine

Jan 23, 2008

beyond here
Behold the Hack, the veteran newsman, wise beyond his years, a man who’s seen it all, twice.
        -- Mark Bowden

I have written this story twice. "Pizza delivery driver robbed at gunpoint, not for money but for pizza" It's bad enough I can't remember the names of the 74 murders I've written about, but then there's this: Individual tragedies aren't unique.

I don't, emotionally, know what to do with that except to sort of curse and chuckle at the same time. Which is awful.

-- --- --
-- --- --
Teen lives through suicide jump
He fell 47 floors. He lived.

Continental philosophy misunderstands total depravity
Jim Wallis' new book
The Amish, the gunman, & a culture of forgiveness
Zizek: Spare a thought for all those who cannot rejoice with us

Bill Grimm is a sinner, but what made him a sinner?
Writers' attraction to hacks
Chess is psychic murder
Sweeny Todd's spiral of blood
Creeley's voice
People who need movies go in the afternoon
There will be Blood: "a kind of social realist peyote vision."
The revolutionary who filmed his own murder
History of Katie Couric
Borges invented the Internet
Heidegger & the metaphysical sense of poetry
Rambo graffito
The story is true
"I don't want to see any movie based on anything true"
The cutting of Raymond Carver

Hillary & Barak & the presidency
Obama's Ebenezer sermon
Democrats could blow it again
'Above all attack, attack, attack -- never defend'

Feminists reflect on Roe vs. Wade
U.S. executions at 13-year-low
Does the news matter anymore?
The need for a Race Beat
Wendell Berry urges logging moratorium in Ky.
'America's first real serial killer'
Hunt for D.B. Cooper resumes

Modern science is increasingly detached from the empirical actuality of everyday life
Black hole blasting nearby galaxy
Google vs. Wikipedia
Is Google gonna buy the New York Times?

The consequences of creating desire
Friendship as spectatorship, identity as marketing
The story of a rabid kitten, softball & four state's health dept.s

Jan 22, 2008

Garage-sale junk

Fischer, talking about how he hates Jews, goes repeatedly to his stolen stuff. He vomits hate and he mentions the theft and in his mind the theft grows and grows until it's an international conspiracy and the prime example of supposed Jewish evil. Someone finally asks him, "Bobby, what all did they take?" and he gives a list.

The list broke my heart.

He says they took a statue of three horses, that he was given as a trophy. They took a bust of his head. They took an autographed book by Richard Nixon. They took his racy Mexican comics.

In the end, this was Bobby Fischer's treasure. A stack of left-over garage-sale junk. This is the chess genius, this is the idol of geeky, gawky kids learning to open with the king's pawn.

Bobby Fischer was a heartbreaking tragedy

Jan 21, 2008

Use your speed

His boxing coach was saying, "Use your speed to your advantage. Use your speed to your advantage," and he was standing in the corner, on his toes, getting ready for the fight, when he saw the man in the other corner.

Hicks, 23, remembering the man in the blue trunks, calls him, "this Russian dude."

"I had to fight this Russian dude," he says, on the phone from training camp, "and he was just ... he was in there to kill."

Hicks tried to use his speed. He tried to use his combinations. He and the Russian touched gloves and the fight began and he danced into the first round, moving his feet, and he threw a couple of jabbing combos "to see what he'd do."

Then the big man in the blue trunks clobbered the 23-year-old Jonesboro native.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Jonesboro man finds strength, God in boxing

Jan 18, 2008

Bobby Fisher, America's first and only world chess champion, who rose to fame as a chess genius at the age of 14 and 15 and dominated the game, becoming an icon, who disappeared and then reemerged, in the next century, as an angry anti-semite, died on Thursday of kidney failure at the age of 64.

May he rest in peace.

Jan 14, 2008

Owens Marcellus Adams, III, would like to see Shaquille O'Neil.

Adams is 11, and autistic, and the seven-foot-one basketball player is his idol. Since he rode in an ambulance to Atlanta and flew in a plane to Ohio, it seems like anything could happen, and the thing he would like to happen most is to see Shaquille O'Neil.

When his mother asked the 11-year-old Jonesboro boy what he wanted, as he lay in a bed at the burn trauma center in a Cincinnati children's' hospital, he asked for Shaq.

When Owens Marcellus Adams, III, isn't watching, his mother weeps. She doesn't want to cry in front of him, she says. She wants to be strong. But when he isn't watching, she screams and cries, and she says this is, "something like you just never felt that you would go through."

This is Lashaunda Ridley's nightmare.

On the phone from the Cincinnati Shriner's Hospital for Children, a tall beige building built in the Art Deco style, Ridley says this twice. "This is like my worst nightmare," she says. "His flesh was hanging off of him. His body was just scalded. It was like, red all over. This is my worst nightmare."

It began when Ridley, a single mother, was on her way to church on Dec. 30. Her son, nicknamed O.J., was spending the weekend with his father, Owens Marcellus Adams, II, like he does twice a month. It was about 9:45 a.m., or maybe she was late and it was 10, she says, and the older Adams called.

She remembers the phone call like this:

"Hello?" she said.

"Something happened," he said.

"Is everything OK?"

"No," he said.

"Is O.J. OK?" she asked, and when he started to explain what had happened, she thought to herself, "O.J. is dead."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Badly burned boy recovering in Ohio hospital

Jan 11, 2008

Things I've been trying to keep in my mind, as I write this week

I am trying to break your heart.
        - Jeff Tweedy

The press got all the facts (more or less), it got too many of them. But it never found a way to report meaningfully about death, which of course was really what it was all about.
        - Michael Herr

Bangs manes bouffants beehives Beatle caps butter faces brush-on lashes decal eyes puffy sweaters French thrust bras flailing leather blue jeans stretch pants stretch jeans honeydew bottomw eclair shanks elf boots bllerinas Knights slippers, hundreds of them, these flamming little buds, bobbing and screaming, rocketing around insid the Academy of Music Theater underneath that vast old mouldering cherub dome up there -- aren't they super marvelous!
        - Tom Wolfe

these angels lately to be heard speculating in us as if they were learning to hope
        - Josephy McElroy

Jan 9, 2008

Circumstantial and significantly more shaky

As Murphy, a small woman, sat in the courtroom shaking her head at the testimony, her attorney led the fire marshal through each witness' statement.

Two witnesses said they saw Murphy behind the building a few minutes before the fire, according to Ernest's testimony. One said she saw Murphy walking in that direction. A man and a woman, in a car in front of the motel that morning, said they had an argument with Murphy.

The sixth and seventh witnesses were dropping children off at a nearby daycare facility, according to Ernest, and said they saw Murphy near the motel. They remembered seeing her because they say they saw her again, half a mile from the fire, pointing at the smoke and yelling.

The fire department's eighth witness, the one who alleges that Murphy talked about burning the building down, Ernest said, only came forward when a $10,000 reward was offered for information.

In the warrant application filed at the courthouse, Murphy is alleged to have said, "I'm going to burn this [expletive] down." During the probable cause hearing, however, Ernest said the full statement wasn't so clearly directed at the building. According to the witness, he said, Murphy was heard saying, "Who do those drug boys think they're dealing with? I'm going to burn this [expletive] down."

Frey questioned the witnesses' creditability, and said the witnesses' statements didn't actually connect Murphy to the fire.

"What evidence do you have that she deliberately set the fire?" Frey asked.

"I have no evidence she deliberately set the fire," Ernest said. "It's all circumstantial."

"Do you have any evidence that she accidentally set the fire?" Frey asked.

"No," the fire marshal said.

"Do you have any evidence that she doused the mattresses with lighter fluid, or some flammable liquid?" the attorney continued.

"No," Ernest said.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
No evidence direstly links arson suspect to fire

Jan 8, 2008

An accounting

crime scene

Homicide detectives can't undo the crimes they investigate.

A burglary detective can return property to its rightful owner, a narcotics agent can seize illegal drugs, but even when homicide detectives do their best work, the murdered are still dead, the victim's family still mourns and the tragedy remains.

The Clayton County Police Department's homicide detectives cite the mantra, "Closure -- Every victim's family deserves closure."

Sometimes, though, despite best efforts, cases aren't closed. They go cold. Of the 43 homicides in 2007, 13 are still unsolved. Here are a few of those cases: Still seeking closure, 13 homicides unsolved

Read the companion stories @ the Clayton News Daily:
43 murdered in 2007
Seven that seized attention, stirred emotions

Jan 7, 2008

Legal history record

The front of the little records office is occupied by two microfilm readers -- dinosaurs in the digital age. The back of the office is lined with file cabinets housing more than 2,700 rolls of microfilm. Each roll, Cawthon said, contains photographs of about 2,300 pages, meaning the one wall of a small room holds more than six million pages.

On an average day, Cawthon said, about a half dozen people will come into the office and ask to see one of the old documents. The rest of the time, the microfilm files sit there, preserving the county's long legal history.

The two clerks in the office work, one page at a time, running 1998's documents through the scanner, adding to the record.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Court clerk's office maintains microfilm records

Jan 5, 2008

"As far as I'm concerned, we're living in an age of great nonfiction writing, in the same way that the 1920s and '30s were a golden age for American popular song. Giants walk among us. Cole Porters and George Gershwins and Duke Ellingtons of nonfiction storytelling. They're trying new things and doing pirouettes with the form. But nobody talks about it that way."
                -- Ira Glass

Things I'm trying to figure out with newspaper nonfiction:
        1. How to abandon 'nut graf' orientation and replace it with a stroy arc.
        2. How to have a theme.
        3. How to build scenes which move quickly enough.
        4. How to take the reporting time required.
        5. How to get people to read for 'stories,' rather than 'info.'

Jan 2, 2008

A Year in Reading
The 2007 edition
The crime novel phase

1. The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett
2. Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked, by Catherine Orenstein
3. Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
4. American Tabloid, by James Ellroy
5. Sex Drugs and Coco Puffs, by Chuck Closterman
6. The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy
7. A Man Without a Country, by Kurt Vonnegut
8. Love in the Ruins, by Walker Percy
9. The Cold Six Thousand, by James Ellroy
10. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
11. The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
12. My Dark Places, by James Ellroy
13. Chatter, by Patrick Radden Keefe
14. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
15. Destination: Morgue, by James Ellroy
16. Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer
17. The Hitchcock Murders, by Peter Conrad
18. Dispatches, by Michael Herr
19. Erasure, by Percival Everett
20. Because the Night, by James Ellroy
21. The Puppet and the Dwarf, by Slovoj Zizek
22. The Lady in the Car with the Glasses and a Gun, by Sebastien Japrisot
23. Pulp Culture, by Woody Haut
24. L.A. Confidential, by James Ellroy
25. Bad Boy Brawly Brown, by Walter Mosely
26. Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama
27. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
28. Deadeye Dick, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. Dope, by Sara Gran
30. Darkly Dream Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay
31. Hollywood Nocturns, by James Ellroy
32. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
33. Angels, by Denis Johnson
34. The Last Casualty, by Chet Fuller
35. No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy
36. Jarhead, by Anthony Swafford
37. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, by Hunter S. Thompson
38. A Minister's Ghost, by Phillip DePoy
39. Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson
40. Kill Kill Faster Faster, by Joel Green
The groom knew I didn't dance and he didn't care. I was standing at the bar, New Year's Eve, at his wedding reception. I was drinking a beer and wearing a tuxedo, but with my regular shoes, and he was demanding that I dance.

A friend was trying to convince bridesmaids to take tequila shots with him. Another friend was trying to explain what was wrong with women, but just kept shouting, "I'm not saying all women are vain, you know, I'm just saying I started going bald at 12 and I'm still single."

I was drinking beer and it was getting near midnight. The D.J. was playing the worst of '80s pop and the groom, my good friend, said, "I demand you dance. Silliman. Silliman, I demand you dance." Then he laughed his Louisville, Ky., laugh -- loud and crazy.

Just hope: This could be the year