DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Who Killed Theresa?: 06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate

There is nothing remotely amusing about a child killer. So when Gleason Williams was found dead in his cell at Dorchester prison I can understand the family of murdered 5-year-old Shannon Dawn Morrissette feeling a sense of relief, even elation. The relationship between victim and predator is very complex, and no one should pass judgement on either side.

What I don't understand is the level of vitriol demonstrated by the public. The blood-lust expressed on comments sections of any  number of stories about Williams' death is disturbing and unwarranted (but not surprising). 

"Good Riddance", "Rot in Hell", "I hope MJ is doing to you what you did to that little girl..."

I won't defend Williams. But the justice system passed sentence. He was serving time. He died. Leave it at that and go about your ways. You really have no business here.

If the day should come when I meet my sister's murderer I will not celebrate any misfortune that may come to the offender. And I won't dance on their grave. The world's screwed up enough without an extra douse of bombast and rhetoric. God willing, have them be caught and let justice do what it will do. Victim-Predator-The Justice System. Society? Just be thankful you're not involved.

Mom says she’ll 'celebrate' death of daughter’s killer 

Inmate was serving life sentence in Dorchester for murdering 5-year-old

CALGARY — The apparent suicide of an inmate at a New Brunswick prison earlier this week is cause for a bittersweet celebration, according to the mother of the young girl he killed.

The Correctional Service of Canada said Gleason Bennett Williams died Thursday in Dorchester Penitentiary, where he was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.

Williams, a native of Prince Edward Island, strangled and slit the throat of Shannon Dawn Morrissette, 5, in his basement suite in southeast Calgary in 1992.

The girl was hearing-impaired and couldn’t speak.

The circumstances of the inmate’s death are still being investigated.

"I know it sounds bad but I’ll celebrate with my family," said the girl’s mother, Janet Morrissette, in an interview from her home in Regina.

"It’s lifted, it really, really has ... the horror’s over."

Two weeks ago, Morrissette faced Williams at the penitentiary during a hearing that ultimately denied the 54-year-old killer escorted day passes.

Morrissette said she’s grateful she had the chance to speak to the man who dumped her daughter’s lifeless body into a dumpster before he met his own end.

"I’m so glad the suicide didn’t happen before I got to read a victim impact statement. He heard what Shannon might have been and could have been," she said.

Even though Williams’s request for escorted day passes had been denied, Morrissette’s family dreaded future hearings and ultimate freedom for the man deemed this month by parole board officials a risk to reoffend.

Williams would have been eligible to apply for full parole in 2012.

When she saw the call display on her phone Friday morning, indicating corrections officials were calling, Morrissette said she braced herself for more agony.

"I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s appealing,’ " said Morrissette. "Now I won’t have to worry about him causing the same pain to another family like ours."

The family’s annual pilgrimage to Shannon’s grave just outside Calgary in August will take on a different tone, added the mom.

"It’s going to be different, not so heavy," Morrissette said.

Shannon was playing behind her home on Aug. 15, 1992. Williams strangled the girl and slashed her throat with a knife. Her body was found in a duffle bag the next morning in a nearby trash bin.


Hare Raising

Now comes the utterly predictable development that a Quebec television show is doing a "Ghost Hunters" show on the former Champlain College student residence at Compton, Quebec (known as Kings Hall), and that according to their "readings" the lead ghost (apparently there are over 40 of them) is a spirit called "Theresa".

King's Hall haunted?  No surprise to me. Here's what I wrote about the place back in 2003:

"King’s Hall - the one-time girls’ school, one time student residence for Champlain College - is today a “resort” hotel. In advertisements (check out the website) it refers to itself as a “Four Seasons Resort”. Careful. Not a “Four Seasons Hotel”, as in the world leader in luxury hotels and resorts. Four seasons; as in, this hotel is open in all four seasons of the year. The place reeked of desperation. A gothic anomaly in the middle of dairy country. It looked like the setting for one too many cheap horror movies. Trying to say these were luxury accommodations was like trying to pass off Dollywood as a major theme park. After the lease was up in 1979, the owners tried to unload the school on the Canadian government for 1.1 million, but even the Canadian government wasn’t that stupid. I pulled into the parking lot. There was one car in the drive. One car, and over one hundred rooms. This place wouldn’t last the summer.

I entered the lobby. Not surprising, there was a suit of armor propped up in the corner. If the red tennis shoe monster from Bugs Bunny suddenly ran out of the dining room I wouldn’t have batted an eye. What was this place? In any other situation, I suppose I would have called it beautiful – Mahogany paneling, a tea service, a harpsichord. Under the circumstances it just seemed weird. A bed and breakfast maybe. Something country quaint to go along with the cows and the gristmills - but this place: Windsor castle? Meet Children of the Corn."

Hey, no one loves a good scare more than me, but my belief in such things is limited. To the point, no matter what they came up with would never be admissible in a court of law. That ultimately is the point: to solve the crime of Theresa Allore's murder.

So hunt away good people. Bring attention to the case. Find tantalizing patterns of meaning  in utter randomness. You will have no complaints from me.


Friday, June 26, 2009

The King is Dead. Long Live The King

My ticket stub from the August 4th, 1984 Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 Victory Tour concert at The Montreal Forum. Thank you Peter for dragging me there.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Suspense Is Killing Me

Court to rule on Robert Pickton appeal today

The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER -- The B.C. Appeal Court will hand down a decision today over the conviction of serial killer Robert Pickton.

Some family members are hoping the former pig farmer actually wins his appeal.

If the court upholds the six second-degree murder convictions, the Crown has already indicated it won't go ahead with the remaining 20 murder charges again Pickton.

But many family members of those 20 women want a trial, including Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law Cara is on that list.

Ellis says it's unfortunate that she has to hope the convictions will be overturned so they can have their day in court.

The Crown has launched a cross appeal over the trial judge's decision to split the original 26 murder charges into two trials.

Police moved into Pickton's Lower Mainland farm in 2002, setting off a massive murder investigation that uncovered body parts, blood samples, bone fragments and victims' belongings.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Love to prove that, wouldn't ya? Get your name into the National Geographic.

Great White Sharks Are Like Serial Killers


Great white sharks have some things in common with human serial killers, a new study says: They don't attack at random, but stalk specific victims, lurking out of sight.

The sharks hang back and observe from a not-too-close, not-too-far base, hunt strategically, and learn from previous attempts, according to a study being published online Monday in the Journal of Zoology. Researchers used a serial killer profiling method to figure out just how the fearsome ocean predator hunts, something that's been hard to observe beneath the surface.

A new study compares great white sharks to serial killers, saying the creatures hunt down specific victims, staying focused and learning from previous attacks. "There's some strategy going on," said Neil Hammerschlag, a co-author of the study and a shark researcher at the University of Miami.

"There's some strategy going on," said study co-author Neil Hammerschlag, a shark researcher at the University of Miami who observed 340 great white shark attacks on seals off an island in South Africa. "It's more than sharks lurking at the water waiting to go after them."

The sharks feeding at Seal Island could have just hovered right where the seals congregated if they were random killers-of-opportunity, Hammerschlag said. But they weren't.

They were focused. They stalked from a usual base of operations, 100 yards from their victims. It was close enough to see their prey, but not close enough to be seen and scare off their victims. They attacked when the lights were low. They liked their victims young and alone. They tried to attack when no other sharks were around to compete. They learned from previous kills.
And they attacked from below, unseen.

There's a big difference between great white sharks and serial killers and it comes down to that old gumshoe standard: motive. The great whites attack to eat and survive, not for thrills. And great whites are majestic creatures that should be saved, Hammerschlag said.

"They both have the same objective, which is to find a target or prey or victim," said study co-author D. Kim Rossmo, a professor of criminal justice at Texas State University-San Marcos. "They have to lurk. They want to be efficient in their search."
The human criminal has to worry about being caught by police and thus is even more careful, said Rossmo, who was a police officer for more than 21 years in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The entire shark-serial killer connection is something right out of a crime novel.

R. Aidan Martin, a Canadian shark researcher who has since died, was reading a whodunit that detailed the relatively new field of geographic profiling, which tries to find criminals by looking for patterns in where they strike. He connected with Rossmo, a pioneer in that criminal field, and they applied the work of tracking down criminals to sleuthing shark strategy.

Martin and Hammerschlag watched sharks from sunrise to sunset, applied the "fancy math" of geographic profiling and came out with plots that showed there was some real stalking going on, Hammerschlag said. Older sharks did better and were more stealthy than younger, smaller sharks, demonstrating that learning was occurring, he said.

The study focused on just one location, but the same principles are likely to be applied to other shark hunting grounds. They can't really apply to shark attacks on people because those are so infrequent, Hammerschlag said. But if you could figure out the base of operations for the great whites, it would give you a good idea of places to avoid if you were worried about shark attacks, he said.

Other animals, such as lions, also reveal strategies in their hunting, Hammerschlag said. Land animals have been observed more easily from the air or elsewhere on the ground.

University of Florida shark attack researcher George Burgess, who had no role in the study, said the researchers simply used a new tool to show what scientists pretty much knew all ready: "Sharks are like many other predators that have developed patterns to their attacking that are obviously beneficial as a species."


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mr. Rasmussen was told by police, “you have been watching too much TV,”

Police Find Suspect in Cold Case: One of Their Own

Detective Stephanie Lazarus of the Los Angeles Police Department was arrested last week in the 1986 beating and shooting death of the wife of a former boyfriend.

Published: June 12, 2009
LOS ANGELES — To her neighbors, she was the kindly friend who delivered chocolate-covered cherries at Christmastime and passed hours in the garage building doors and cabinets. To her colleagues, she was a basketball-crazed jokester who threw herself into work but delighted in pranks like kidnapping a stuffed bear for a candy “ransom.”

But to the police and prosecutors, Stephanie Lazarus, the 49-year-old mother of a toddler whom friends and co-workers could not praise enough, is a killer. Worse, she is one of their own. She is a Los Angeles police detective, and she has been charged with killing the wife of a former lover more than 20 years ago.

Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, who supervises hundreds of detectives and has seen his share of sensational crimes in a 32-year career here, is still shaking his head at the whirlwind turn of the case.

Only a few police officers in Chief Beck’s career have been charged with deliberately killing someone off duty, and he never imagined investigating one of his own seasoned detectives for such a crime.

“I don’t know that everyone is capable of homicide, but certainly you never know who is capable of homicide,” Chief Beck said in an interview. “People can hold dark secrets and hold them very well for a long period of time. She definitely did.”

Detective Lazarus was arrested June 5 at police headquarters and charged with the 1986 beating and shooting death of Sherri Rasmussen, 29, whom Ms. Lazarus had stalked and threatened, Ms. Rasmussen’s father has said. Detective Lazarus, a 25-year veteran, was a patrol officer then with two years on the force.

Now on leave without pay, Detective Lazarus is to be arraigned July 6 and is being held in the county jail without bail. An assistant for her lawyer, Mark R. Pachowicz, said Mr. Pachowicz would not comment.

Prosecutors will have the option of pursuing the death penalty because the police assert that Detective Lazarus committed robbery — Ms. Rasmussen’s car disappeared, along with her marriage certificate, during the attack, family members said.

Ms. Rasmussen and her attacker engaged in a “dramatic” fight, Chief Beck said, before she was shot three times and left for dead. Her husband of three months, John Ruetten, found the body when he returned to their condo in the San Fernando Valley.

The department is now reviewing the original investigation to determine whether Detective Lazarus was overlooked as a suspect.

Ms. Rasmussen’s father, Nels Rasmussen, would not comment, but his lawyer, John C. Taylor, said that at the time Mr. Rasmussen had pressed detectives to look into a former girlfriend of Mr. Ruetten who was a police officer, though he did not know her name.

Mr. Taylor said Mr. Rasmussen was told at one point, “you have been watching too much TV,” and ultimately investigators concluded that the killing had probably resulted from a botched burglary.

The case had remained unsolved until investigators in the department’s cold-case unit, newly bolstered as a result of the city’s plummeting homicide rate, reviewed it as part of a systematic check of old files using technology that was not available at the time of the crimes.

They discovered evidence — a saliva swab from a bite wound on Ms. Rasmussen — that, after recent DNA testing, revealed the attacker was a woman and not a man, as originally thought.
After re-interviewing Ms. Rasmussen’s friends and family, investigators began looking at Ms. Lazarus as a prime suspect and surreptitiously retrieved a discarded item from her, tested it and determined that her DNA matched the swab.

Detective Lazarus worked on a small squad investigating art theft and fraud. The homicide unit is right across the hall.

Chief Beck said the department had gone to great lengths to keep its investigation secret, including housing the detectives on the case in another building and limiting its knowledge to “very, very few people.”

The arrest stunned colleagues and friends.

“It is heartbreaking,” said Detective Deborah Gonzales, president of the Los Angeles Women Police Officers and Associates, an organization in which Detective Lazarus had been an officer.
“You had the impression this job was her life,” Detective Gonzales said, adding that at work Detective Lazarus often displayed a sense of humor, for example, swiping a stuffed animal for ransom.

“She left a note saying leave 10 M&Ms on her desk and she would give it back,” Detective Gonzales said.

Detective Lazarus lives in suburban Simi Valley on a street populated with several current and retired police officers. Her husband, Scott Young, is a Los Angeles police officer as well, and they have lived on the street for about 10 years.

An elderly woman who answered the door at their home said: “I have nothing to say, and I may never have anything to say. The press has made a circus out of this.”

Neighbors said Detective Lazarus was friendly but not particularly outgoing. She and her husband mostly kept to themselves, the neighbors said, working on the house or walking with the daughter they have adopted, but displayed kindness through small gestures, like distributing Christmas treats and offering flowers to the sick.

They did, however, share their eagerness for a child.

“They wanted a baby so bad,” said Sandra Preece, who lives across the street. “They asked the neighbors if we knew of anyone who wanted to give up a child for adoption.”

For a time, Detective Lazarus ran a private investigation firm on the side called Unique Investigations, according to The Ventura County Star. An article in the paper from 2000 describes her offering free photographing and fingerprinting of children as part of a protection kit for parents.

Mostly, those who knew her said, Detective Lazarus seemed committed to work. In an article on the art-theft unit in The LA Weekly in April, the detective, who graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, said she became an art lover at 18 after a trip to Italy. She was described as a protégée of the senior officer in the unit.
Her career collapsed on the morning of June 5. Shortly after arriving at police headquarters, she was summoned to a holding jail in the basement with word that a suspect needed to be interviewed. She was relieved of her gun as part of the jail’s procedure for visiting officers, and an arrest team swooped in.

“There was” a suspect, Chief Beck said. “But it was her.”


Monday, June 01, 2009

Canada tightens sex offender registry

Hey, this only friggin' took forever:

Ottawa to tighten up national sex offender registry, DNA database
Last Updated: Monday, June 1, 2009

Sweeping changes to the national sex offender registry and the national DNA database are intended to make them more effective tools for police in tracking and preventing sex crimes, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said Monday.

"The government is delivering another aspect of our commitment to get tough on crime and protect the safety and security of our communities," Van Loan told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa.

"Police and victims groups have requested these changes for some time and our government is delivering on them."

Those advocacy and law enforcement groups had argued the registry, in place since 2004, hasn't been responsible for solving a single sex crime.

Among the proposed changes:

All sex offenders will automatically be added to the registry upon conviction. Currently such offenders are included only after a formal request is made by the Crown and a judge orders it — which happens 58 per cent of the time.

Convicted sex offenders will also automatically be required to provide a DNA sample to be entered into the national database.

Police will have access to the sex offender registry to prevent sex crimes. "If police see an individual behaving suspiciously near a school ground, for example, they will be able to request information from the database," said Van Loan. "They will be able to obtain additional information to assist them in their prevention work." Currently police can use the sex registry to investigate a crime only after it has happened.

Those who are convicted and jailed for sex crimes in another country and are returned to Canada to serve the remainder of their sentence will now be registered with the registry.
Canadians convicted abroad of sex crimes and returning to Canada at the end of sentence must report their conviction to police within seven days of arriving back in the country or face criminal prosecution. "No longer will Canada be a safe haven from which travelling sex offenders can operate safely," said Van Loan.

Sex offenders must report the name of their employer, the type of employment as well as any volunteer organizations they are associated with. They will also be required to provide notice in advance of absences from their residence of seven days or more.

Police will be allowed to notify other Canadian and foreign law enforcement jurisdictions when registered sex offenders are travelling to another area.

Federal and provincial correctional services will be allowed to notify registry officials if a registered sex offender is either released into the community or re-admitted to custody.