Red Zone- Listener Request!

Tidings and salutations, bibliophiles!  Welcome back to True Crime: By The Book.  I’m the Librarian, Tasha Pierce. Today we’re going to learn about presa canarios, cults of personality, and unfortunately, murder.  Before I get into Red Zone by true-crime queen Aprhodite Jones, let’s say thanks to the Bookworms who have left reviews! This week I’m shouting out Why So Loud from Apple Podcasts and the beautiful Karen T from Facebook.  So, I’m looking for you- yeah YOU- to leave a review for the show on your platform of choice so I can give you a personal greeting and you help others find the podcast. That’s a win-win if I ever heard one!  

Now, let’s talk about one of the most well known true-crime authors in the game, shall we? 

Aphrodite Jones is a best-selling true crime author and journalist who uses her reporter’s hunch to investigate and write about murder. Through her eyes, Jones brings readers inside murder cases as she explores dark motives and conveys the emotional truths hiding behind the tragedy. Over the past two decades, Jones has written a string of best-selling true crime books and has provided TV commentary and expert insights into the psychological profiles of both criminals and victims. 

In recent years, the author created a hit reality crime TV series, True Crime with Aphrodite Jones, which aired on Investigation Discovery for six seasons. The series followed Jones as she unraveled new mysteries lurking behind cases that shocked America: Casey Anthony, Scott Peterson, Jon Benet Ramsey, Phil Spector, the and Menendez Brothers are among the riveting cases that Jones covered. Fans of True Crime came to know they could rely on Jones to present each murder case with authority and flair, to depict a chilling portrait of the crime, and to treat every victim with compassion.

Before landing the hosting position with Investigation Discovery, Jones worked as an investigative reporter for FOX News covering the trials and court hearings of Scott Peterson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jackson, Barry Bonds, Jerry Sandusky and Dennis Rader (the BTK Killer). Jones started her TV career as a crime correspondent for America’s Most Wanted and went on to create and host a true crime show called The Justice Hunters for USA Network. Early in her TV career, Jones also contributed to KCOP in Los Angeles as a true crime on-air correspondent.

When Jones wrote her first book, The FBI Killer, it was quickly turned into an ABC movie-of-the-week, Betrayed by Love, starring Patricia Arquette, which Jones co-produced. Not long afterward, Jones landed the exclusive rights to a teen crime drama that she chronicled in her book Cruel Sacrifice, which hit the top of The New York Times list. Her third book, All She Wanted, was one of the first true crime accounts of a transgender hate crime in America. The book was optioned by Diane Keaton with Drew Barrymore attached to star as “Brandon Teena” and was later transformed into the Oscar-winning film Boys Don’t Cry starring Hilary Swank. Her seventh best-selling book, A Perfect Husband, was made into the highly-acclaimed Lifetime Movie which Jones co-produced, The Staircase Murders.

Jones knows the crime world first hand. She’s known as a TV persona who doesn’t sugar-coat important issues for viewers. She has a penchant for “telling it like it is” and in her 25 years of crime reporting, Jones has been asked to investigate and comment on everything from the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks to the trials of Casey Anthony and O.J. Simpson. She has appeared as a crime expert on CNN, HLN, MSNBC, FOX News, Court TV, MTV, TLC, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, Extra!, Anderson Live, Forensic Files, E! News, The New Detectives, American Justice, Deadline Crime, The Jury Speaks, CBS This Morning, Dr. Oz, The Today Show, and Dateline NBC.

If you follow the blog at TCbyTB.com or my social media accounts -which are TCbyTB on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram- you know that this week we are covering Red Zone.  This book was suggested by friend of the show Harriet C, and is my first listener request. Thanks a lot Harriet! I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Kat Heiser. I must admit- I was a little disappointed in the narration.  Kat repeatedly mentioned the Orion Brotherhood before I realized that she was speaking of the Aryan Brotherhood. There were several other pronunciations that ground my nerves, but nobody’s perfect right? It kind of took me out of the story so be warned. Let’s get the synopsis before I break the actual crime down and share my take.

It was the story that shocked the nation and captured headlines for more than a year. In January 2001, Diane Alexis Whipple bled to death in the hallway of her ritzy Pacific Heights apartment building when she was mauled by two Presa Canarios, a vicious breed of attack dog imported from the Canary Islands. After the lethal attack, animal experts testified that the dogs could not have been stopped, explaining that they had entered a frenzy called the “Red Zone.”

Now, New York Times bestselling author Aphrodite Jones shows that the mauling was only one part of a frightening story involving obsession, bestiality, and illegal dog rings. The dogs belonged to Whipple’s neighbors, lawyers Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel, who had been keeping them for a leader of the notorious prison gang the Aryan Brotherhood.

Jones takes us deep into the bizarre world of Paul “Cornfed” Schneider, a Hannibal Lechter-type character who actually owned the dogs, Bane and Hera. She explains how Noel and Knoller, after being warned about these killer dogs, brought them to the heart of San Francisco, leading the dogs eventually to murder an innocent next-door neighbor. Jones also reveals the shocking L.A.-area whereabouts of the offspring of Bane, the dog most directly involved in the mauling.

Jones is a masterful investigator and writer who has interviewed the complete cast of characters — including Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller during their imprisonment — and can now tell the full story of what happened in that apartment hallway. Red Zone is a riveting page-turning account of this news-making story that takes us deep into the relationship between man and animal. 

At first glance, you’d think the villain of this tale would be a presa canario.  I mean, the synopsis spells out that Diane Whipple died as a result of being mauled by one of these attack dogs.  But, that would be too easy- there’s no way to get a ten-hour book out of villainizing a dog. And this is one of those times that I FELT every one of those 10 hours!  No, there has to be something or someone more nefarious involved. But since we started with the dogs, I’m going to tell you what I learned about “presa canarios” while listening to this audiobook.

The presa canario is said to have first shown up in 15th century Spain and was brought to the Canary Islands by Spanish conquistadors.  They were generally bred to be guard/attack dogs. The dogs can grow up to 26” and 100 pounds. Their bite is a frightening 540 pounds per square inch.  These animals can be trained to be warm and affectionate towards their families, but strangers, other animals, and even children need to be careful. Their natural instinct is to protect and they also have an “alpha personality”.  If you are around one of these dogs and are afraid or unsure, they will exert their dominance. This type of situation could end in an attack. It is highly suggested that these dogs receive socialization and obedience training from an experienced dog trainer before adopting it as a pet.  Again, this is a huge dog who needs space to exercise or it can become destructive. If these procedures had been followed, there would probably be no story to tell today. Unfortunately, this story has been recorded in the annals of history because of the negligence of Marjorie Knoller and her husband Robert Noel.

Marjorie and her husband were attorneys in the San Francisco area.  They were living in a Pacific Heights apartment when a close friend of the family, Paul Schneider, asked them to take his dogs in as a favor.  The husband and wife couldn’t say no to their friend so they went to pick the two presa canarios up and bring them home. The dogs were staying with another of Schneider’s friends, but she could not control the animals.  She even warned Noel and Knoller that the dogs were VERY aggressive. She raised sheep for a living but Hera and Bane, the dogs, had killed many of her animals. She had a tendency to leave them locked in a pen all day- but remember, these dogs need exercise!  They began to break out and act aggressively towards the sheep. The attorneys pretty much dismissed what she told them and took the dogs back to the apartment.  

So, we’ve got two grown animals, both massive in size, being cooped up in a small apartment around other people.  We can all guess where this whole thing is going. One thing about Robert- he was able to KIND OF “handle” the dogs.  He tried socialization techniques he had learned from being a dog owner in the past. When it came to Marjorie, the dogs kind of handled her.  As neighbors became aware of the two beasts, it was clear that these dogs were dangerous. Some of the building’s occupants would return to their apartments if the dogs were being taken down for a walk.  Marjorie and Robert were well aware that the neighbors were uncomfortable but they thought it was funny- it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. That day was coming.

This is where Diane Whipple comes in the picture.  She was the next-door neighbor to Marjorie and Robert and she had just about had it with them and their poorly behaved pets.  She had spoken to other residents who felt as if they were being held hostage in their homes by Hera and Bane. She exchanged angry words with Marjorie about her habit of letting the dogs off-leash in the hallways and elevators.  Marjorie pretty much ignored the remarks but made sure she told Paul Schneider about how terrified the residents were of his presas. Paul was proud that his dogs were living up to the presa reputation.  

Diane and her partner of 6 years, Sharon Smith, were the picture of happiness.  Diane was a former lacrosse player, even playing on the US World Cup Team twice.  She was a natural athlete, and after barely missing the Olympics in the 800-meter run, she put down roots and became a lacrosse coach at St Mary’s College of California.  On January 26, 2001, just five days after her 33 birthday, Diane was returning home with groceries. As she attempted to balance opening the door to her apartment with her bags, Marjorie came out of her apartment with both dogs.  There’s only Marjorie’s word to go on about what happened next- she says that Bane, the larger male dog, got away from her and attacked Diane. At this time it was estimated that Bane weighed 143 pounds. He easily took Diane down and began to maul her.  Marjorie states that she attempted to defend Diane from the attack to no avail. She stated that Hera was not involved in the attack.  Her retelling is tragic, but mostly because she blames Whipple for her own death, saying, “I told her to stay still. If she had, this would have never happened.”   Diane sustained over 70 injuries to her entire body save from her scalp and the soles of her feet.  One would think that once Marjorie lost control of the dogs that she would call 911 to report the attack.  She did not. An elderly neighbor who heard the commotion made the call, however. She couldn’t open her door to Diane for fear of being attacked herself but she made sure help was on the way.  When paramedics and animal control arrived they couldn’t believe the sight. The hallway was covered in Diane’s blood as was Marjorie Knoller. Officers entered Knoller and Noel’s apartment to deal with the deadly dogs. They found Bane locked-up in the bathroom. The dog’s black and tan tiger stripe coat and white teeth were painted with Whipple’s blood. The bathroom floor was covered in dog shit. Animal control officers arrived on-scene and shot Bane with three tranq darts strong enough to put down a dog of his enormous size. Fifteen minutes later, though, Bane was clear-eyed and unaffected. 

Eventually, the animal control officers collared the dog with two poles and dragged him outside the apartment building and put him down for good with 25cc of sodium pentobarbitol.

  Paramedics raced Diane to the hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries.  

This was huge news in the Bay Area.  As you can guess, animal rights activists were quick on the scene to defend Hera, pleading for her life.  Like Bane,Hera was eventually put down in January of 2002.  

So, the dogs were like our villain in this story until reports of the indifference shown by Marjorie and Robert were made public.  In the eyes of the community at large, this indifference cost Diane Whipple her life and subsequently cost the lives of the two presa canarios.  Now, I’m a huge fan of Marvel and DC movies and comics. In those universes, we learn the identity of a villain only to learn that there may be a bigger bad guy pulling the strings.  For instance, in the first Avengers movie, the villain was Loki and the the Avengers had their hands full dealing with him. By the 4th Avengers installment, we loved Loki and found out he was being controlled by Thanos who wanted to destroy half of all life in the universe in an attempt to be a savior.  Crazy tangent, I know, but I am a nerd so it all makes sense to me. Thanos had a mighty group behind him- the “Children of Thanos” who were willing to die for their belief in his cause. Call it a cult of personality. I’m bringing it all home, now, so stay with me.

Hera and Bane, the dogs, were let down by their family- in this case Marjorie and Robert.  They had no training so were left to their base instincts. Diane, to them, exuded fear so they asserted their alpha personalities in a horrific way- but that’s  what they were bred to do. Innately, they served to protect. They were not meant to be confined to small spaces and weren’t taught to control the need to be violently aggressive.  In the case of the animals, Marjorie and Robert were the worst thing that happened to them. But, remember, they aren’t the dogs owners. Paul Schneider was. So why is he conspicuously absent from all the blame that’s going around?  Well, Paul is the big bad- saved for the final act.  

Paul “Cornfed” Schneider is the “adopted” son of Marjorie and Robert.  In fact they adopted him when he was 38 years old and already serving a life sentence in prison.  That’s right, he was the “owner” of the dogs- from PRISON. At this point in the story, I will refer to a piece that was published in Mel Magazine- it’s going to give you the Cliff’s Notes version of exactly who this guy is.

The stud dog that Schneider first purchased to start his dog-breeding business was a Presa Canario named Bane. They’re massive animals bred by Spaniards as work dogs who herd bulls. But unlike sheepdogs, Presa Canarios prefer to run up to a bull and bite its lip or ear and then drag the bull to the ground by its face. Schneider planned to breed and train Presa Canarios to work as ferocious guard dogs for the Mexican Mafia’s meth labs. (Or as part of a dogfighting outfit, depending on who is telling the tale)

Paul Schneider has repeatedly left disaster in his wake.  Damn near every person or thing that he has encountered has been left broken.  How does a Mormon woman living a normal life end up in witness protection? Paul Schneider.  How does a married couple go from being attorneys to being involved in bestiality, murder, and a bizarre relationship with their client? Their client is Paul Schneider.  How did Bane and Hera come to be in that building to attack Diane Whipple? Paul Fucking Schneider. He is an unnatural disaster. The worst kind of person to EVER come in contact with because he feeds on a persons insecurities and weaponizes them.  He is obviously charismatic enough to get people to hop on board his bullshit train with nothing more than words in letters and some weird art.  

I’m positive that you can dig into his past and turn up an even bigger villain than him (his stepfather), and that brings me to my conclusion- we, as a society, can understand that animals can be raised in normal homes and become a loving member of the family.  I know people who have pit bulls as pets with no problems because they take the time to teach them right from wrong. We see that dogs shouldn’t be to blame when they haven’t been taught to KNOW better. Let’s exercise that same line of thinking when it comes to people.  Not with huge crimes, like murder- but when you come from a depressing and desolated environment there is a survival of the fittest mentality. Some people are gifted students or athletes who are lucky those talents take them out of despair. But, what about “normal” average folks?  Sometimes the environment they live in trains them to do other things to survive. I love animals, but I love HUMAN BEINGS more. I think that if dogs can be taken out of abusive situations and rise above their base instincts so can people. I know- another tangent- but isn’t it something to THINK about?

That’s it, that’s all for this week’s episode.  I liked Red Zone, it gave a lot of info not included in my re-telling, get the book if you want to know more OR go to TCbyTB.com to see my other sources. If you’d like to assist the show, I’ll leave a link in the show notes and on the blog- every penny helps.  You can also share the show and leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Podchaser- wherever you listen. Thanks for being a part of my audience- I really appreciate it! Watch your feed for the next one- Later Bookworms!

Sources & Shit

Sooner State Podcast- This week’s Promo

Shit to know before buying a presa Canario

https://animalso.com/breeds/presa-canario/

Diane Whipple Wiki

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Diane_Whipple

THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUE STORY OF BANE THE NAZI HELLHOUND, ‘CORNFED’ SCHNEIDER AND THE DOG-MAULING CASE THAT MADE KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE FAMOUS

https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/kimberly-guilfoyle-hit-cornfed-schneider-bane-nazi-dog

Aphrodite Jones bio

http://www.aphroditejones.com/

Red Zone by aphrodite Jones

https://www.amazon.com/Red-Zone-Behind-Scenes-Francisco/dp/B0002TX4DE

Wanna Support the Show?

Red Circle Tip Jar

https://app.redcircle.com/shows/68139ee2-dec7-43cd-b07d-577d2b89775f/donations

TCbyTB on Patreon

https://patreon.com/tcbytb

The Witnesses- Knock, Knock

Tidings and salutations bibliophiles!  Thank you for joining me in Episode 16 of True Crime: By The Book.  I am the Librarian, Tasha Pierce, and your host. This week I decided to go into another documentary because this subject is receiving a ton of attention lately and I’ve got shit to say.  Awareness is everything and I need my audience to have eyes and ears on this situation as it unfolds. Today, I want to share with you my thoughts on the Oxygen docu-series “The Witnesses”. But first-

This week I had some new reviews for the podcast. The first was sent by the lovely Sarah K from Toledo, Ohio!  I really appreciate your support, Sarah. It’s Murder Up North sent a five star review from across the pond- and she has a great show to boot. You can definitely find her on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  Newbie2016 had some nice words for me- thanks Newbie! As for the rest of you- what are you waiting for? Reviews are a huge help to the podcast. It helps to ensure that others are able to find the show and also shows me who is listening.  So, make this a priority this week- leave reviews for your favorite podcasters (even if it’s not my show).

With that out of the way, let’s hop into today’s episode.

I’m sure that most of us can recall sleeping in on a Saturday morning, worn out from a whole week of whatever when a sharp knock on the front door stirs you from your dreams. Reluctantly, you get out of bed and stumble to the window.  You look out and see two or three well-dressed people with briefcases on your steps. They look like they’re selling something and you don’t particularly want to buy anything. One of them spots you peeking out of the window. You don’t want to seem rude so you crack your door to tell them you’re not interested.  Before you can say anything, the “leader” introduces themself and politely asks if they can talk to you about the Bible. The hook is usually something like, “Would you like to live forever on a paradise earth?” This is just an example of encountering a Jehovah’s Witness in the preaching work- what they call field service.  For many of us, that is the extent of our experience with this Christian sect.

I bet you’re wondering what beef I could possibly have with Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They are some of the nicest people in the world and they spend their free time sharing the “good news of Jehovah’s kingdom”.  I have to agree that, as a whole, the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are full of people who sincerely want to be good citizens.  However, there are policies that are put in place by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and enforced by each congregation’s elders that leave the most vulnerable members in danger.  “The Witnesses” places these policies under a microscope and we hear stories from former JWs that have left them scarred for life. 

I will also tell you more about what the JWs believe and how their practices could be considered cult-like.  This documentary will shed light on problems that have slid under society’s radar because of the secretive and isolated nature of this sect.  I hope you hear this before you join the JWs or that it helps you better understand friends or family who practice this religion.  

In this documentary, we meet several former JWs, beginning with Debbie McDaniel.  Her family lived in Houston, TX, where her dad worked for NASA. That’s right- NASA.  He was part of the “race for space” in the 60s. The US and the USSR were competing in space exploration- who would be the first to put a man on the moon.  We know who eventually won that battle. It was after this milestone in human history that Debbie’s mom was visited by JWs in field service. They introduced her to the wonders of Jehovah’s kingdom and she was sold.  She shared this good news with her husband and after studying with the Witnesses, the family packed up and moved to Oklahoma to join a congregation. The family had to leave old things behind- observing holidays such as Christmas and Easter, celebrating birthdays, and being a part of “Satan’s world”.  They learned that the entire world was under demonic control- “world” meaning anyone who was not a JW. The only safe place on Earth was Jehovah’s chosen organization- the JWs. This type of isolationism is common in cults, and it allows for unthinkable acts to be committed against members.

There is a hierarchy in this religion that kind of puts me in the mind of a multi-level marketing business.  The bottom tier consists of rank and file Witnesses-called publishers. Next are the congregation’s elders- who are said to be handpicked by Jehovah himself.  Then there are the traveling overseers, who go from congregation to congregation ensuring that they are following mandates from upper levels. The next tier is Branch Committees, followed by the highest level, The Governing Body.  The GB consists of 8 anointed men. (explain anointed) They are said to be guided by Jehovah’s Holy Spirit. The entire organization is supposed to guided by the Bible- their own special translation of the texts, The New World Translation.  They also publish companion texts and literature- for example, the Watchtower and Awake magazines- that are to be followed as if they were sent by God himself. In fact, many Witnesses have an extensive library of companion literature that they must keep updated and follow.  These books contain direction on nearly every aspect of everyday life. This creates kind of a hive mentality amongst publishers. Anyone caught thinking or speaking independently of the teaching will be reprimanded or removed.

You heard that correctly- if you THINK the wrong thing, you will be expelled.  They are very good at enforcing this because they turn the members loose on one another.  They are encouraged to keep the congregation clean by snitching on each other. If you are caught on the wrong end of this independent thinking conundrum you could lose privileges or worse- you could be disfellowshipped.  

There are a number of sins besides thinking independently that could be a disfellowshipping offense.  These include the big ones like adultery and fornication but there also weird ones like selling tobacco or participating in yoga.  And there’s a LOT in between. So, are you asking me how any of this constitutes a crime? It is shameful but these people make a choice to live like this, right?  What about the children? They are in a position that the parents raise them in this organization because they sincerely believe that it is “the Truth”. So, if you are an infant- literally minutes old- and the only thing standing between you living a long healthy life or dying within the hour is a blood transfusion, your parents will choose for you to die.  As a Jehovah’s Witness, blood transfusions are equal to eating blood. There have been many people that lost their lives because they abstain from taking blood transfusions. It’s one thing when there are adults who make these decisions for themselves and something else entirely when adults are making decisions on behalf of children.

There are so many ways to find your way on the outside looking in of the religion.  It all starts with a judicial committee presided over by three elders. They show you what rule you broke using their Bibles.  They hear your side of the story and then determine if you are being truthful and remorseful. Once you have been disfellowshipped, an announcement is made from the podium by the elders.  That goes something like, “Tasha Pierce is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses”. They don’t go into why they just make the announcement. With that, a flip is switched in all Witnesses in good standing and they immediately begin to shun the ousted individual.  It’s considered a spiritual death- the worst thing that can happen to a Witness because being disfellowshipped means no resurrection to the earthly paradise.  

This brings me back to Debbie’s story.  What happens when the person committing the disfellowshipping offense is an elder?  The whole congregation feels as if this man (it’s ALWAYS a male) was appointed by Jehovah through his Governing Body.  That means there should be no mistakes. An independent thinker would argue if Jehovah can be wrong about HIM what else might he be wrong about?  But independent thinking is discouraged. Wonder why? Unfortunately, Debbie would find out the congregation had a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  

Ronald Lawrence was a respected elder in the congregation.  He would often assemble the teams that would go out in the community for field service.  It was looked at as an honor to be paired with him, so imagine the excitement that Debbie and her mom felt when he chose Debbie to be his partner.  I guess I should mention that this is a very patriarchal religion. Women are only as powerful as the men they are associated with. Women and girls don’t hold positions of authority in the congregation.  They can ascend to the level of Pioneer- a person who devotes at least 70 hours per month to the field ministry. Women who pioneer are held in higher esteem over ones who don’t- and if a man is looking for a wife he’s looking at these strong women of faith first.  The level down is auxiliary pioneers who only do 50 hours per month. This is likely the capacity that Debbie served at 7 years old. Little Debbie, turning in her little time slips and preaching the good news. And now she’s out preaching with Brother Lawrence. It seems, however, that Ronnie Lawrence had other things on his mind.  Debbie says that, on that morning, he began a campaign of sexual abuse that would last 7 years. 

Deloris Lyles was another JW child who was entrusted to Ronnie Lawrence.  At ten years old, after her dad passed away, she was sent to do janitorial work with him because the family needed money.  This wasn’t odd, as JWs are encouraged to do this type of work in order to have more time to devote to the Watchtower. The family business would be window washing or cleaning office space.  This gave Ronnie all the time he needed to molest Deloris, using scripture to justify his actions. The abuse was ongoing, including at a pool in Arkansas when she attended a District Convention with the elder.  Ronnie also had a pool at his home where he routinely abused girls.

In 1994, Deloris found her voice and reported this abuse to the body of elders.  So, a judicial committee was formed with three elders to investigate her claims. They spoke to Deloris who gave an uncomfortable and in-depth account of Ronnie’s abuse.  They then spoke to Ronnie, who vehemently denied her accusations. The hearing ended with no disciplinary action- and this is where the conduct can be considered criminal by the organization.  Ronnie didn’t get disfellowshipped because the Witnesses adhere to an archaic biblical rule that was used to litigate civil disagreements between god’s people. This rule is known as the “two witness rule”.  Basically, there need to be two witnesses to any sin. Of course, this is ridiculous. Most child molesters do not keep a witness around to report their wrongdoing. In the case of a child against an elder, it was her word versus his.  No disciplinary action was taken and Ronnie was free to molest again. Notice that at no point did the elders (window washers and janitors by trade) decide that this situation was too big for them to handle. You know, maybe report this kind of crime to the secular authorities.  They specifically followed the mandate handed down to them by the GB via memo in 1989. In so many words, the memo cautioned elders to remain quiet about incidents of sexual abuse. These matters were confidential and taken care of in-house. The only call they were required to make was to the Legal Department of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The Legal Department.  

Because they didn’t have a “second witness” to this abuse the elders closed the case, putting many other children in harm’s way.  And remember, these are people who go door to door preaching to families. If any of those families decide to have an ongoing bible study, they could be inviting a predator in their homes.

This brings us back to Debbie.  Deloris caught up with her and asked if she had the same experiences with Ronnie.  By this time Debbie was 29 and married with a child. A good witness woman. She was also a SECOND witness to Ronnie’s conduct.  They were now in the position to bring this monster down. Debbie reported her abuse (one of the presiding elders was her dad), her testimony along with Deloris’ was credible.  Finally, Ronnie stopped lying and took his punishment. He was disfellowshipped. Now I already explained that once disfellowshipped, the congregation views that person as dead. There is a way back to the truth.  That would be by being super gung ho in meeting attendance and showing your remorse. If you prove that you want to be part of the congregation again you will be reinstated. It’s a matter of time and if Jehovah sends word to the elders that you are totally repentant it might not take very long.  You would think that Jehovah would’ve gotten word to the elders before this shit happened, but I digress. In the meantime, the congregation has no idea why Ronnie had been disfellowshipped. When he is reinstated, he regains all the privileges of a regular congregant- including being a traveling, child molesting, door to door doomsday peddler. 

During this time, Debbie decided to report her abuse to the authorities.  She was warned that if she did that she would be punished. See, another rule that JWs adhere to is not taking a brother or sister to court.  If it hasn’t become apparent, these rules protect the worst kinds of people although it may be inadvertent. The JWs are very concerned with not bringing reproach on Jehovah’s name and keeping the congregation clean but they seem to give zero fucks about the COMMUNITY they operate in.  And this still may not be enough info for many people to see how this makes the Watchtower organization the subject of a true crime podcast.  

Well, in 2013, Debbie does report her abuse to the police.  She is also disfellowshipped for admitting that she was attracted to women (because homosexuality is also a no-no).  While describing her situation to the detectives, she mentioned a filing cabinet that had all the dirt on every member of the congregation.  Armed with this knowledge, the police obtained a search warrant so they could get to the bottom of these allegations. Imagine their surprise when they got to the Kingdom Hall and the contents of that cabinet were removed!  These fuckers were attempting a coverup, and the elders make no moves without consulting the Governing Body so this likely went all the way to the top.  

Debbie’s life was now in shambles.  Her family was shunning her. She was having an identity crisis.  Her child was being kept from her. And the congregation’s elders were now practicing “theocratic warfare” a doctrine that teaches that refusing to cooperate with criminal investigations involving Jehovah’s Witnesses is sanctioned by God because outsiders are not entitled to the truth.  Now we’re getting into real criminality. Under theocratic warfare, all the nice shit goes out the windows.  JWs are allowed and encouraged to lie to protect their beliefs. The wild card is PIMO JWs- those are people who are physically in, mentally out. They haven’t come up with an escape plan that won’t turn their lives upside down, but the indoctrination has worn off.  It is believed that one of those PIMOs called the police and tipped them to re-execute the search warrant. The police did just that and hit the mother load.  

In that once empty filing cabinet there were documents that not only supported Debbie and Deloris’ accusations, there were others.  The JWs keep meticulous records. The elders from one congregation will send letters to elders in another to introduce them to publishers who are moving into their area.  In this letter, they spell out any problems or issues that came up involving the new congregant. In essence, there is a database that exists which details all the lurid secrets in a member’s history with the organization.  Then it was learned that an even BIGGER database that holds each congregation’s secrets exists at the Watchtower HQ in New York. This is a worldwide organization. Imagine the scores of people the Watchtower has intel on.  

When Debbie had her day in court, she had no support. In fact, the people she once considered friends and family had shown up in full support of her abuser- including her mom and dad.  Unfortunately, Ronnie was protected by the statute of limitations and the charges were dismissed. Debbie had to watch as her family and friends celebrated this “victory”.

Debbie McDaniel and Deloris Lyles are no longer a part of the organization, but they are still advocating for victims of sexual abuse.  

The Jehovah’s Witnesses Church in Australia failed to report more than 1,000 alleged child sex abusers to the police, an inquiry has heard.

Instead, the commission says, the Church itself handled all the cases – some of which date to the 1950s.

One elder told the hearing that notes relating to abuse claims were destroyed so they would not be discovered.

Australia began a national inquiry into child sexual abuse in 2013, after claims of abuse in the Catholic Church.

Members of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, whose remit includes religious groups, NGOs and state-care providers, say more than 4,000 victims have come forward.

The commission has heard allegations of abuse taking place within the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Jewish community, as well as schools and children’s homes.

Notes destroyed

Angus Stewart, counsel for the commission, said that of 1,006 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse identified by the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church, “not one was reported by the church to secular authorities”.

The Church dismissed 401 members following internal abuse hearings, but more than half were later reinstated, the inquiry was told.

One Church member, identified only as BCB, gave testimony to the commission, saying that she was sexually assaulted by an elder as a teenager, and suffered depression as a result.

“The abuse changed who I was,” she said. “It destroyed my confidence and my self esteem.”

Another woman, given the pseudonym BCG, will give evidence that she was abused by her father, but forced by Church authorities to confront him about the allegations, Mr Stewart said.

Her father responded by blaming her for “seducing him”, Mr Stewart said.

One Jehovah’s Witnesses elder who handled BCB’s complaint, Max Horley, admitted he destroyed notes about her allegations in case they fell into the “wrong hands”.

“We do not want our wives knowing our stuff – what sort of things we are dealing with,” Mr. Horley told the hearing, adding that they wanted to limit the number of congregation members who knew about it.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-33673240

Over the past two decades there have been dozens of cases alleging the watchtower hid or mismanaged allegations of child sexual abuse. In September 2018, a Montana woman who claimed her elders were ordered not to report her abuse won a $35 million suit (later overturned by the Montana Supreme Court). The Watchtower is currently petitioning the Supreme Court to review another case in California, claiming a database it maintains of alleged molesters is protected by clergy-penitent confessional privilege.

Zalkin has previously targeted the Watchtower, local congregations and alleged perpetrators themselves. But Ewing and Steele’s cases mark the first time he’s named the eight-member Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the organization’s ruling council, as defendants.

“Before, having to sue from another state, we’ve had trouble even getting a deposition from these guys,” Zalkin says. “But given that [the Governing Body] operates from the state of New York, and control the conduct of Witnesses worldwide, we think have a good shot.”

He’s also encouraged by the fact that some of Ewing’s abuse happened while he was staying at the Bethel (branch complex) in Wallkill, New York, in the mid-1980s. Steele lived in New York State when her abuse occurred.

“There was an incredible amount of knowledge among elders about Heather’s abuser,” he says. “There’s such a volume of evidence. There’s very little question of responsibility on the part of the Governing Body.”

In a statement to Newsweek, the U.S. Branch Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses said it would not address current litigation “out of respect for the judicial process and the privacy of those involved.”

“Watchtower’s stand on the subject of child abuse is very clear: we abhor child abuse in any form,” it added. “Over the years, Watchtower’s publications have addressed this topic with a view to equipping parents to protect their children. In addition, Watchtower’s practice is to always follow the law, and we support the efforts of elders in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses to do the same.”

There are so many other cases in different phases of litigation and I will do my best to stay on top of details as they become available.  In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about this wacky cult there are a lot of great YouTube activists you should check out: Lloyd Evans from the John Cedars channel, JT and Lady Cee of Ex JW Critical Thinker,  and Ex JW Analyzer should get you started. I’ll leave their links on my website, TCbyTB.com.

I’m at TCbyTB on all the things.  You’ll notice I added More Than a Movie to my title- because we do talk about movies and such. Please share with a friend or loved one who may be considering joining this cult and implore them to DO THEIR OWN RESEARCH.  The Witnesses would rather you use their literature to research their religion but that’s a huge circle jerk. If it’s the truth it can stand up to scrutiny. Please leave ratings and reviews on your platform of choice. We’ll get together again real soon to discuss all things true crime.  Later Bookworms!

Sources & Shit

BBC Report:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-33673240

JW Facts:

Website devoted to informing the public of the truth about “The Truth”

http://jwfacts.mobi/disfellowshipping-and-shunning/disfellowshipping-watchtower-offences/

Official website of jehovah’s witnesses:

https://www.jw.org/en/

Newsweek Article:

https://www.newsweek.com/jehovahs-witnesses-child-sex-abuse-lawsuit-1454001

Associated Press:

https://apnews.com/95b03b21a0c86f7ec1dfa25372e36f39

Oxygen doc- the witnesses

https://www.oxygen.com/the-witnesses/season-1/the-watchtower

Learn More:

Lloyd Evans

JT & Lady Cee (Ex JW Citical Thinker)

Ex-JW Analyzer

Stephen Lett vs. Marshall Applewhite

In my Jehovah’s Witnesses rabbit hole, I came across a photo of one of the governing body members of the organization, Stephen Lett. OMG- this guy reminds me so much of ANOTHER cult leader, Marshall Applewhite. You probably remember Applewhite as the leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult. We’ll eventually get to him in a future episode. Had to share this because the similarity seems downright eerie. What do you think?

Applewhite
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Lett

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Oxygen Doc on Jehovah’s Witnesses!

Last night Oxygen released a full length documentary that explores the child sexual abuse accusations that are plaguing the Jehovah’s Witness organization. I have been following the allegations for a number of years, so this is hardly a new issue, but it is gaining media attention due to the sheer number of lawsuits that are being levied against the religion.

I am particularly interested in following this story because I was married to a member of the religion and I did study the Bible with my former mother in law and spouse. I had very strong opinions then, but I felt as if I wasn’t giving the religion a fair shot due to my Baptist upbringing. I have long since re-evaluated my thoughts on ALL organized religion and as the stories pile up I am glad that I never was indoctrinated into the Witnesses.

I planned on covering Solitary this week, but given the timing of this documentary and new investigations being underway, I thought I would take an episode to explain the situation as it is right now. Of course, this is an ongoing situation that will be updated as new info comes out.

Please join me Friday when I lay the allegations out, the reasons why the organization is being held responsible, and other doctrines of the Witnesses that are considered problematic. Of course, I do plan on releasing the episode on Solitary in the very near future.