The Exorcisms of LaToya Ammons

This is the latest installment of the Tales From My Hood segment. Today I’m going to tell you about the weirdest story that Gary, IN has to offer. This situation made international news and even had a documentary to cover the case. To make things even more interesting, I knew the family this shocking story revolved around. Grab your wine, light a fat one, and pull up a chair because this week we discuss “The Exorcisms of LaToya Ammons”!

A Tale From MY Hood

What’s up to my Faithful Few and a big welcome to any newcomers to Sinister Silhouettes!  I’m your host, Tasha, and do I have an awesome story to share.  This is the latest installment of the Tales From My Hood segment. Today I’m going to tell you about the weirdest story that Gary, IN has to offer.  This situation made international news and even had a documentary to cover the case.  To make things even more interesting, I knew the family this shocking story revolved around.  Grab your wine, light a fat one, and pull up a chair because this week we discuss “The Exorcisms of LaToya Ammons”!

First, let me explain how I know the players.  It was Gary, IN circa 1986 and I had recently lost my mother to cancer.  My dad was a steelworker and his job required him to work varying shifts.  That meant that he would need help ensuring that us kids had proper supervision as he did shift work.  He placed an ad in the classified section of the Post Tribune, our local paper.  After interviewing dozens of people and even testing a few out on a trial basis with us (some of them were some real characters- I should probably write a book) he came upon Rose Campbell.  She was a thirty-something mother of 3 back then.  Out of all the women that my dad hired to be our caretaker, she was the one I was most fond of.  

It reared up, monstrous. I froze. My eyes locked with something ...
Rose, left, with LaToya

At the time, I was about 13-years-old, my sister was 8, and my only brother who was still at home was 16.  Rose had a daughter, Latoya, who was roughly the same age as my sister.  You guys kind of informally met my sister when she pod bombed us in a previous episode.  She was an odd little girl, and I say that with nothing but love.  My sister and almost all of her friends were absolutely OBSESSED with horror movies! She loved Children of the Corn, all the Freddy Krueger movies, People Under the Stairs, Amityville and the Exorcist- at 8 years old!  So, while Rose’s daughter hung out with my sister, she was introduced to the absolute worst horror movies of the time.  

Before anyone comes for my family about how irresponsible it was for us to be exposed to that level of horror at such a young age- DON’T.  The worst horror in the world was losing our mom.  We survived that.  The second worst thing we survived was coming of age in Gary, IN!  Trust me, you don’t want that for yourselves.  But anywho-

Time went on, and my dad met a lady that he fell in love with.  She was a single mother of one daughter and after dating for a while they moved in with our family.  Suddenly, she was doing all the things that Rose was being paid to do, so we didn’t need a nanny anymore.  Over the years, we would still stay in touch with Rose and my sister stayed in contact with LaToya at school.

Now, we’ll fast-forward many years.  In January, 2014, I was reading the Post Tribune while having my morning coffee.  We were sitting under about 10” of snow and it was bitterly cold.  You know- a regular winter day in Gary. However,  what I read in that morning’s paper made my blood run colder than the wind chill factor on the lakefront.  The story went like this:

In 2011, LaToya Ammons and her three young children- along with her mother, Rose- rented a home on 38th and Carolina.  After living there for a while, strange things began to happen. 

Flies! - YouTube
*Not* at the demon house in Gary, IN. This photo
is from the movie, “Amityville Horror”.

It began with huge black horse flies swarming around the home in the dead of winter.  Rose stated that they would kill them and kill them- but they kept coming back.  Shortly after, the children began to display troubling and violent behavior.  Their eyes would roll back in their heads, and they would speak in growling voices.  The family would hear thudding footsteps throughout the home and even would find muddy footprints on the floors where no one had been.  Then shit really got real.  The children were being hurled across rooms by invisible forces.  The violence intensified, with one son threatening to kill the other and choking him until he was pried off.  LaToya’s daughter was found levitating her bed before descending back on it.  This was apparently witnessed by a house full of guests- people who never returned to visit the Ammons family at the home.

At this point, Rose realized that they may be dealing with supernatural forces and she implored her daughter to reach out to people who could deal with this type of situation.  LaToya reached out to churches in the area, but no one took her seriously.  In the meantime, the attacks on the children became more frequent and more bizarre.  The spirits in the home would torment them all day and night.  LaToya’s 12-year-old daughter had to get stitches after a headboard flew across the room, striking her in the head.  

LaToya finally found a pastor who visited the home.  He told her there were spirits there. Latoya was told to anoint her children’s head and feet with oil, as well as all the doors and windows. He also recommended cleaning the house with ammonia and bleach, burning sage, and reciting the 91st Psalm.  She and a friend performed the ritual and for three days all was quiet.  This must have pissed those evil spirits off because they came back with a vengeance!  Rose would find her 6-year-old grandson sitting in the closet talking to someone only he could see.  

After the ritual failed to have lasting results, the family turned to two clairvoyants.  The witches told them to get the fuck out of that house because it was inhabited by 200 demons.  I guess they took a headcount or some shit, but one fucking demon is too many for me.  But Ammons couldn’t afford to break the lease to leave.  She had to find a way to protect her family until they were able to get out of there.

The demonic activity was a huge disruption in the lives of the family.  Now, Rose said that she was immune from attack because she was born with a “protector” that prevented her from being possessed- although she did claim to have seen a shadowy figure pacing in the living room.  The rest of the family was constantly being harassed- so much so that the children were missing a lot of school.  

LaToya then reached out to Dr. Geoffrey Onyeukwu.  He was a primary care physician- in fact he was my doctor for many years.  She explained what was going on with the children and insisted that they were possessed.  Dr. Onyeukwu is a man of science, though.  He believed that there had to be a reasonable explanation for the children’s behavior.  He visited the family’s home to observe them and was shocked by their behavior.  He deemed it necessary to call law enforcement when they cursed him, began to thrash about, and finally passed out.  The children were transported by ambulance to Northlake Methodist Hospital.  One of the boys came to and acted regularly.  The other was still violent and had to be restrained.

When the police responded to the situation, they listened to the doctor’s complaint and gave Rose and LaToya an opportunity to explain their situation.  A representative from DCS and a psychologist also were present to get to the bottom of things.  In the tiny exam room, Rose held her grandson by the hand as she answered the DCS worker’s questions.  It was then that the 7-year-old began growling and showing his teeth.  His eyes rolled to the back of his head and then- in front of the caseworker and psychologist- the child walked backward up a wall to the ceiling and flipped off the ceiling onto the floor.  At that point, the caseworker and doctor got the fuck up out of there. 

Demon House (2018) - Black Horror Movies
Not an actual photo of events

It’s time to throw the whole kid away.  I mean, he can’t come back home with me after I see some shit like that.  Hell, forget trying to break the lease.  I’m burning the whole house down if I see some shit like that- but I digress.  

The children ended up being temporarily removed from the home.  Rose and LaToya returned and still were haunted by the unseen forces at work in the house. 

Strange events lead Ind. family to resort to exorcism
Father Maginot

Enter Father Michael Maginot. He was called to the home to investigate whether they were dealing with an actual demonic possession. While in the tiny 3 bedroom home, Maginot was greeted by a flickering light.  Each time he approached the light, the flickering stopped.  The blinds in the home began to move as if being blown by a breeze.  There was no wind entering the windows- no air current to explain the phenomena.  Maginot also noted the manifestation of wet footprints on the hardwood floors. Neither he nor the women had walked through any water upon entering the house.  He had seen enough.  He told Rose and LaToya to leave the home because it was not safe.  There was at least 1 demonic presence in the house.  The two ladies packed a few belongings and stayed with a relative.

They weren’t gone long.  One week later three police officers, the DCS worker, and Rose went to the house so that the caseworker could inspect the home.  Rose escorted the group throughout the home including the basement.  In her professional opinion, this was the epicenter of the demonic activity.  There was an altar set up on a small table.  A ring of salt was placed around it to dissuade the evil spirits. Directly under the stairs was an area that was dug up to expose dirt.  The police were using digital recorders and their phones to record the visit.  Suddenly, the voice recorder’s batteries drained completely.  The officer who held it mentioned that he had just put fresh batteries in that morning.  When he later listened to the audio he captured, he heard an other-worldly voice whisper “Hey”.  In photos captured, another officer claims that ghostly figures appeared that were certainly not visible to the naked eye.  These officers were now convinced that some top tier bullshit was happening at that house.

LaToya’s children remained in state custody until she could find suitable housing since her place was crowded with her family and the 200 damn demons. In the meantime, she was visited by the three officers who had initially accompanied the DCS caseworker, Father Maginot, two new Lake County police officers and a canine, and a new caseworker.  The original case manager refused to go back to the home.  If they were looking for supernatural activity, the demons didn’t disappoint.  After going into the basement, the caseworker noted an odd liquid dripping on a wall.  She touched the fluid.  It was slippery and sticky at the same damn time.  The group went back upstairs and looked at each bedroom.  In one bedroom there was a film on the blinds.  Father Maginot didn’t notice it there earlier, so the officers cleaned it off the blinds then sealed the door to the room. 

Demon House Deconstructed | Skeptical Inquirer

At about this time, the caseworker began to have a strange sensation on the fingers that she used to touch the unknown fluid.  When she looked at her hand, it was ghostly white.  Then it began to feel as if it were broken.  Ten minutes later, she was in a full-blown panic attack and was removed from the house.  Father Maginot thought that there may be something under the stairs that could explain the unusual activity.  The officers went downstairs with a shovel to uncover anything that might be used in satanic rituals- particularly a pentagram or human remains.  After digging a 4-foot by 3-foot hole beneath the stairs, unearthing a pink press-on fingernail, a white pair of panties, a political shirt pin, a lid for a small cooking pan, socks with the bottoms cut off below the ankles, candy wrappers and a heavy metal object that looked like a weight for a drapery cord, police raked the dirt back over the hole.

Pin on VOO-DOO!

Where are my Creole chicks at?  Y’all know what they say about burying personal effects- specifically underwear.  Could someone have put roots on LaToya?  There were rumors that she had been in an abusive relationship.  Would a jilted ex be sinister enough to put a curse on her and her family?  

Well, there were now a large number of witnesses to unnatural events in the home.  But wait- there’s more!  Remember that room the police sealed off?  Before leaving, they opened it up. To their absolute horror, the film had returned on the blinds!  Maginot told the officers that the oil was a manifestation of evil energies or a demonic presence.  He knew what he had to do.  He would petition the bishop to perform the rites of exorcism on LaToya Ammons and conduct an intense blessing of the home. That same day, Maginot performed a minor exorcism on Ammons. The ritual consisted of prayers, statements, and appeals to cast out demons.

Two police officers and Ilic, the DCS family case manager, attended the ritual.  lic said she left believing that something was going on, although she wouldn’t go as far as saying it was demonic. She said she got chills during the nearly two-hour rite.”We felt like someone was in the room with you, someone breathing down your neck.”

Ilic said she had a string of medical problems after visiting the home. A week after she visited the house for the last time, Ilic said she got third-degree burns from a motorcycle. Within 30 days, she also broke three ribs Jet Skiing, broke a hand when she hit a table, then broke an ankle running in flip-flops.”  After breaking three ribs, I’m pretty sure I would have wrapped myself in bubble wrap and sat the fuck down somewhere.  Less than 30 days later, she was RUNNING?  In flip-flops?  Unless someone was chasing her ,that’s next level crazy.   She later said,  “I had friends who wouldn’t talk to me because they believed that something had attached itself to me. I’m already evil. They try to find something that’s not evil and corrupt it. They wouldn’t waste their time on me.”  Nice to know a woman who has the power to remove your kids from your home and turn your life on its head considers herself “evil”.  I know- that’s low-hanging fruit, but I digress. 

After the ritual, Father Maginot told LaToya to look up the names of the demons who were tormenting her.  He told her that there was power in those names.  Now, this seems like it would be a job for a priest, but LaToya and a friend pored the internet looking for names of demons that matched the type of harassment she was experiencing.  The internet kept shutting down, the computer turned off several times, and LaToya was sick as hell, but they found some names.  They also discovered (I’m not sure how) that LaToya had several high-ranking sergeant and lieutenant demons assigned to her.  

After the minor rite, Maginot said Bishop Melczek gave him permission to exorcise Ammons. The ritual is the same as the minor exorcism but more powerful because it has the backing of the Catholic Church, Maginot said.

Father Maginot ultimately performed three major exorcisms on LaToya – two in English, and the last one in Latin – in June 2012 at his Merrillville, IN church.  Maginot said his voice continued to get louder and more forceful until the demon weakened. He said he could tell how strong the demon was by how much LaToya convulsed.

Two police officers, who had kept in touch with Maginot since the home investigation, stood nearby in case LaToya needed to be restrained.

She said she prayed with Maginot until it became too painful.

She said she felt as if something inside her was trying to hold on and inflict pain at the same time. She said it was different from a natural pain but felt as intense as giving birth.

 Before her third exorcism, LaToya and Rose moved to Indianapolis.  They put a whole lot of miles between themselves and the demons. They still had to go back to Gary because the kids were still in DCS custody. Father Maginot performed the final exorcism of LaToya Ammons in Latin.  She convulsed as the priest condemned the demon and compelled it to leave her.  She was still and responsive while Father Maginot prayed over her.  Then she fell asleep.  The rites lasted two hours.  When they were done, Father Maginot’s assistant wrote the very long name of a demon on a sheet of paper.  They sealed it and put a barrier of salt around it.  If LaToya had any more issues with old what’s his name, they would burn the paper.  Rose and LaToya headed back to Indianapolis.  That night, LaToya experienced horrendous nightmares.  She called Father Maginot.  The paper was burned.  And with that, the entire ordeal was over.  She eventually got her children back and things went back to normal.

Nahh- no the fuck it didn’t.  The story got out.  The local, then national, then international media started sniffing around 3866 Carolina Street in Gary, IN.  Of course, by this time the homeowner had rented the home out. The tenants were not very happy to have all this activity around their home all day and all freakin night.  But media gonna media- shit was an absolute clusterfuck for months.  People the world over were talking about the “Demon House” and this caught the attention of paranormal investigators everywhere.  

Enter Zak Bagans. Zachary Bagans is an American paranormal investigator, actor, television personality, museum operator, and author. He is the principal host of the Travel Channel series, Ghost Adventures. Zak had heard the stories. He. Wanted. That. House.

Zak Bagans 🧛🏻‍♂️ (@Zak_Bagans) | Twitter
Zak Bagans

You know- money talks, bullshit walks.  Zak rode into Gary with $35K and left with the deed to the crown jewel of the paranormal universe. He was seeing nothing but opportunity.  He wanted to film the shenanigans that he could get into with 200 motherfucking demons!  Big fun, right?  Well, it’s all fun and games til somebody gets hurt. Y’all know what that means, right?  I came to bring the pain hardcore to the brain. 

Now, I’m gonna laugh an awful lot at the shitshow that was the “Demon House” documentary.  I think I felt some kind of way because old Zakky boy jumped the whole thing off with a whole lie.  See, he said that he had to wait to begin filming because there were “squatters” in the house.  In reality, those are the people who were getting tired of the press camping out in front of their rental. If a director would lie about something so fucking insignificant, I can’t believe shit that comes after that.  I took that shit personally.   Cause in Gary, IN you don’t call motherfuckers paying rent “squatters”.  You call them tenants.  So, now I have to pick Zak’s shitty documentary apart on principle.  

First of all, fuck yo bitch and the clique you claim… Nah- I don’t have to go that hard on Zak.  But, I will point out that he couldn’t score an interview with LaToya and her mom.  Seems they had sold the rights to their story to a big production company.  He was able to talk to Gary Police Captain Charles Austin, who was one of the officers present for some of the paranormal activity.  This guy would be believable if he didn’t sound like a complete lunatic as he described his experiences.  He provided the photos and audio that was recorded in the house during his visits. Present in the photos, were sinister silhouettes (get it?) but they could have been from anything.  Have you ever heard of pareidolia?  Pareidolia (/pærɪˈdoʊliə/ parr-i-DOH-lee-ə) is the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music. Pareidolia can be considered a subcategory of apopheniaApophenia (/æpoʊˈfiːniə/) is the tendency to mistakenly perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things.  And these motherfuckers were perceiving connections from bursts of light and shadows because they expected to see an apparition.  I guess I‘ve shown my hand.  I don’t believe any of this nonsense.  Now, I know that my audience will likely be split about this- I welcome your correspondence on this and any matter, but for now, I’ll continue to hate on the whole damn story. 

Demon House (2018) - Black Horror Movies

Zak tries to convince us that on his first night in the home with his crew, he was overcome with an aggressive energy that made him attempt to assault his cameraman.  Unfortunately, this encounter was only captured by the home surveillance system so there was no audio.  We have to take his word that this little spat wasn’t about something else entirely.  And right now, Zak’s word ain’t worth much to me.  That tends to happen when you start a relationship off with a lie- but anywho.

Demon House Deconstructed | Skeptical Inquirer
“Apparition” that’s definitely *not* a thumb

We later see an apparition in the bathroom of the house that looks remarkably like the shadow of someone’s hand around the lens.  Don’t worry, though- Zak turns the footage over to an expert who assures us that this is definitely not a hand.  I don’t believe you.  You need more people. 

Then, a lady named Meka caught up with Zak, telling him that she used to live at 3866 Carolina Street.  She visited the home with her three children out of curiosity.  In fairness, Zak warned her about bringing her kids to a home said to have 200 demons that consistently preyed on children.  But hey, there’s only 15 minutes of fame so the whole family had to get in front of the camera.  At least one of them would be a star. 

Predictably, one of the children takes an evil spirit home with her.  The mother frantically called Zak three weeks after their visit.  She tells him that her daughter had become uncharacteristically combative with her and also attempted suicide.  Yep- shit escalated QUICKLY.  The biggest question I had was why the FUCK did the mother call Zak before the police arrived to her house?  I’m not sure he should have been at the top of her mind.   Meka- this has the smell of HOAX all over it.  Now, I’m not positive that this child fabricated this story at the urging of her mother to play a bigger part in this documentary but- if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck- QUACK, QUACK- it’s a duck, man.  It’s a duck. 

I’m also not saying that I didn’t ponder showing up at the Demon House in full makeup and dressed like I was going to the damn Soul Train Awards.  I may have considered it.  But I wouldn’t involve my son in my deception.  Supported by nothing but gut instinct, I feel Meka’s story is a bit contrived. 

Zak met back up with the family to discuss what had happened.  The “possessed” child claimed to have no recollection of even meeting him.  Meka was all smiles when she talked about the horror of her daughter’s suicide attempt.  Her whole affect was off- it seemed like she was talking about a birthday party instead of a near death experience.  She also stated that this same daughter also inexplicably had the number 6 carved in her back because why not?

Then there was the exorcism of this child.  I swear when Father Maginot (still on the clock for his 15 minutes), prayed over her she was literally holding back laughter.  If you’ve seen the documentary tell me if you agree.  After the demon was successfully cast out, we don’t see Meka and family again.

After one of Zak’s camera crew, apparently besieged by evil entities, goes berserk in their hotel, he is forced to fire him.  At this time another crew member had already quit. The demon house had already made Zak behave antagonistically.  For some reason, after seeing all this crap go on, Zak decides to have himself boarded into the house overnight and alone. 

We see snippets of Zak yelling for the spirits to leave him alone.  He hears a woman’s voice clearly but there is no one else in the house.  Of course, we shouldn’t just assume that this is a neighbor’s voice, we are led to believe that this voice was coming from within the room that Zak was sleeping in.  Zak, baby, Gary is the city that never sleeps.  I’m not sure where he is from, but we kinda expected to hear things at night.  I’d rather it be voices than gunshots.

At some point before morning, Zak’s eyes had begun to cross and he had double vision. After seeing his doctor, he learned that this would forever be a part of his life.  He has an eye condition that causes him to have horizontal double vision.  He was told that the surgery required to reverse this ran a risk of leaving him blind.  He opted, instead, to wear prism glasses to correct his vision.  The condition could be caused by neurological damage or disease, but Zak is 100% positive that it had something to do with being in that house.  

By the end of the show, Zak decided to just tear the house down.  Who cares if the 200 demons attach themselves anywhere else, right?  I guess Gary has so many demons, these new ones would have to get in line.  Still, after all he had been through, Zak Bagans couldn’t let the house go entirely.  He kept several “mementos”, including the stairs that led to the basement.  

There are just a couple more pieces of evidence that may give a little insight into the case of LaToya Ammons.  First of all, in 2009 she had a DCS warning given to her.  Why?  Her children were missing too much school.  This was 2 years BEFORE moving to the so-called “Demon House” at 3866 Carolina.  Second, her landlord said all the demon talk started when she fell behind on the rent.  No tenants before or after ever spoke of unusual happenings in the house.  Third, her step-mother has gone on record stating that she doesn’t believe her.  She thinks that there may be mental health issues. The stories were making life difficult for LaToya’s siblings. They all wanted to distance themselves from the entire ordeal.  Lastly, LaToya has been in the local news since her experience with the house.  Why?  She claims her apartment in Indianapolis is covered in mold and affecting her family.  What is it with this family and houses?

No matter what, I appreciate everything Rose did for my family in the 80’s, but there is one more thing that is truly baffling to me about this story.  If the paranormal activity centered mostly around the children, why did LaToya have three exorcisms?  That is one of the dumbest parts of this whole thing.  In fact, this is just one of many things that make it a conspiracy and a true-crime. It’s so dumb to me that it’s criminal.

At the end of it all, there is one person to blame for this whole fucking spectacle- my sister, Felicia.  But how could she know LaToya would take those movies so seriously? 

That’s it, that’s all for The Exorcisms of LaToya Ammons- this week’s Tale From MY Hood.  Tell me what you think about this.  Make a believer out of me- if you have had paranormal experiences that you’d like to share shoot me an email at  My social media handles are tcbytb on all the things.  The website is where you’ll find a shitload of sources- Beginning April 29, Audioburst will be featuring Sinister Silhouettes as a featured podcast on its app- I hope my Faithful Few will download the app and listen.  Do me favor and tell a friend.  Last but certainly not least, please rate and review Sinister Silhouettes on your platform of choice.  The name change is going to make every review super important so the show can be discovered!  Thanks so much for all your support, guys!  I can’t wait to get together here again next week.  Until then, stay outta the shadows!

Sources & Shit—Historical-Place/The-Exorcism-of-Latoya-Ammons-House-655314741198627/

‘Nuisance’ apartments face lawsuit from city

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Hey guys!

I’ve got great news! Beginning April 29, 2020, Sinister Silhouettes will be featured on the home screen of the Audioburst Mobile App! That’s an excellent chance to grow our community- it’s kinda a big deal. I’ll be featured for one month. Please, if you haven’t already, download the app on your phone and listen to Sinister Silhouettes (and all your faves) IN THE APP! That way, Audioburst will know that I have support from my audience and may feature us again. Also, this would be an absolutely perfect time to share the app with friends- and of course, suggest Sinister Silhouettes!

I know things are tight right now. Some of you wish you could do more for the show. This is your chance to do something that costs nothing and means a lot. Continue to rate, review, share, and support! I appreciate you taking out part of your week to hang out with me.

Remember, look for Sinister Silhouettes on the Audioburst Mobile App on April 29!! Oh! And stay outta the shadows!

Zodiac Killer Revealed?

The Most Dangerous Animal of All

Earl Van Best Jr. was 27 years old when he met Judy Chandler, 13  at the time. It was October 1961 and they were in front of an ice cream shop in San Francisco.  He became fixated on the teen, but Van Best knew he was far too old to be trying to court Judy. Worse, she had a less than ideal home life- her father was said to be abusive which made her a prime target for a guy who knew how to say all the right things.. Van Best did continue his pursuit and the two began sneaking to see one another for months.  The couple was soon found out, and the whole city was disturbed to know a pedophile was operating and grooming young girls in their area. After running away together, Van Best and Judy eventually eloped in Reno, Nevada.

Their illicit relationship was tabloid news in the ‘60s and in July of 1962, Van Best ended up behind bars for statutory rape.  The marriage was annulled and Chandler was sent to a juvenile facility. In February of 1962 true perversion prevailed and Van Best got Chandler to again run off with him to Mexico.  While there, Chandler became pregnant and Van Best began to show his true colors. He was having problems holding down a job and according to Judy, he asked her to turn tricks while she was pregnant.  Before the baby was born, the couple continued to elude the law- they made stops in California and finally settled in Louisiana for a while.

Judy was all alone when she gave birth to Earl Van Doren Best, Jr, on Feb 12, 1963, when she was just 15 years old.  Van Best was not going to win father of the year when the baby was born- in fact, he would routinely lock the crying child in a footlocker.  Judy would do everything she could to protect her son, and she had considered leaving Van Best because of his complete disinterest in the baby and his constant abuse of her.  She got in contact with her mother, who allegedly told her that she could come home but the baby couldn’t come with her.

Their son was 1 month old when Van Best announced that the baby had to go.  He jumped on a train from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Around 11:30 am, Van Best found himself at 736 North Boulevard where he entered the building with the baby and came out without him.  Baby Van Best had been abandoned in the stairwell of a building by his father. He was found by a woman about 5 hours later.

Upon finding out that Van Best really did get rid of her baby, Judy found the strength to leave.  Amazingly, the pedophile called the authorities on Judy and she was promptly arrested.  Of course, she had dirt on him as well so he ended up back in the slammer.

The whole saga was constantly reported on by San Francisco media outlets, most scathingly by Paul Avery at the San Francisco Chronicle (?).

The poor baby was adopted into a very loving family.  Loyd and Leona Stewart renamed the infant “Gary Stewart” and treated him as their own, but their son still wanted to know who he was and where he came from.  

The Ice Cream Romance could be a true crime episode all by itself, but today it serves as the prelude to a possible conspiracy to cover up the identity of one of the most notorious serial killers of all time.  In his quest to find his birth mother, Gary Stewart believes he stumbled upon the name of the Zodiac.

The Zodiac killer has been covered extensively in episodes of well-known podcasts, on documentaries, and even on the big screen most recently in 2007’s Zodiac (starring Robert Downey, Jr as Paul Avery, Mark Ruffalo, and Jake Gyllenhaal).  I’ll eventually tell the entire story of the murders committed by the Zodiac, but today I want to give my full attention to Gary Stewart and his journey.

After years of both of them searching, Gary found his birth mother.  She was Judy Gilford (formerly Chandler). As one could imagine, Gary had many questions for his birth mother, but it seemed like she couldn’t give him all the answers he had hoped for.  He did find out that she never meant to give him up. That may have been somewhat of a relief to Gary, finding out that his mother did love him. When he heard what his father had done, he initially had no desire to find out where he was.  In time, however, curiosity and that incomplete feeling washed over him again. He wanted to meet the man who abandoned him all those years ago. He felt a need to clear the air.

Judy was a big help to Gary because she had connections in law enforcement.  Her husband Rotea Gilford was a cop in San Francisco before his death in 1998.  Through her connections with the police, Gary was provided with his father’s name, date of birth and social security number.

According to Gary, after getting that information, the police became hesitant to give him any other leads pertaining to Earl Van Best. 

Gary had enough info to discover he had siblings on his father’s side of the family who lived in Austria.  When he reached out to them, they politely declined to provide any details about dear old dad, except that he had abandoned the family years ago.

After that rejection, Gary decided he would call off his search.  One day, while watching TV, Gary and his son Zach were floored by what they saw on Cold Case Files.  A police sketch of the Zodiac Killer from 1969 was on the screen. Zach remarked that this guy bore a striking resemblance to Gary.  Gary thought he looked like someone else entirely. He went to his folder of research on his birth father, then took out a photo and could not believe his eyes.  He was looking at a face, from that era, that matched the sketch.

From that moment on, Gary dug up everything he could on the Zodiac.  He claimed that he had proof that Van Best’s movements in the late 60’s- early 70s lined up with the murderer’s.  He said he could trace his father’s involvement with Anton La Vey- head of the church of Satan and Charles Manson.  He had proof that Earl Van Best’s father was a codebreaker who exercised his son’s brain by challenging him to solve cryptograms.  It was well known that Zodiac liked to use ciphers to taunt the police and the public. Gary also claimed that Earl Van Best’s name was hidden in one of the ciphers.  Van Best had a grudge against Paul Avery for his embarrassing coverage of the Ice Cream Romance. Avery was the only journalist to receive a personal threat from Zodiac.  Gary dug up Judy and Earl’s marriage certificate. He found a handwriting analyst who ascertained the writing on that certificate matched the handwriting of the Zodiac. He also submitted a DNA sample that he says indicates he shared genetic markers with DNA from a stamp that was used on a letter sent to newspapers by Zodiac.  There were more claims made by Stewart that seemed to point to the fact that Zodiac was indeed Gary’s biological father, Earl Van Best.

So, if Gary has all this circumstantial evidence that points directly to his father, why would the police NOT consider his research to close this ice-cold case?  Gary submits that the San Francisco police (including Judy Gilford’s deceased husband, Rotea) bungled the investigation. They allegedly had interviewed Van Best and Gilford noted that he was the pedophile who had kidnapped, abused, and impregnated his now-wife.  For some reason, the case was botched and buried because of this. If this was true, not only had Gary unmasked Zodiac but he had also stumbled upon one of the biggest cover ups ever.

The police may have ignored Gary’s findings, but Susan Mustafa- a true-crime author- found them to be intriguing.  She and Gary pored over his research and before you know it she was set to co-author a book with him. This story was sure to make a shitload of money because EVERYONE who is about this true crime life wants to know the identity of the Zodiac.   Of course, armchair detectives around the country were all pissed off because every good web sleuth has their own theory about the Zodiac. They mostly dismissed Gary’s claim because it didn’t line up with their own speculations. I myself would be thrilled to know who this fucker is- just like I was when the world found out that Joseph DeAngelo is allegedly the Golden State Killer (I can’t wait till that bastard pleads guilty so I can remove that “allegedly”).  But, I digress. So, what happened after the book was published in 2014?

Duh- it became a New York Times bestseller, that’s all!

It has a rating of 4.1/5 on Amazon’s reviews.

Just like the true-crime community in general, the reviews are pretty divided.

A user named 2broke2shop wrote:

5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done!

Reviewed in the United States on October 12, 2016

Verified Purchase

I could not put this book down. The whole story is so well written and put together. I am completely convinced that Earl Van Best Jr is the Zodiac killer. I did not think that I would be so thoroughly convinced. I am really surprised that so many people are being critical about the “lack of evidence.” Back in the day and even now, without DNA, many cases are won if you have enough convincing circumstantial evidence. Nowadays, most of us prefer DNA, or both, but honestly, just comparing his picture to the sketch, and taking into account his unique scar on his finger which matched a fingerprint left behind from one of the Zodiac crime scenes alone was huge!

From <>

The very next review, from Chardee Macdennis, read

1.0 out of 5 stars Where are the facts? Highly questionable claims

Reviewed in the United States on October 31, 2018

Verified Purchase

It lacks significant evidence. All the victims looked like mom…I don’t see it. EVB Jr photo and Zodiac sketch …many people could have be seen as be as bearing a resemblance to a sketch. Perhaps there is something to the handwriting but too small sample of EVB Jr writings in my opinion to give so much potential of a match even from a Professional. Lastly, no DNA TEST. AND the cyphers, seems that many people have found various names with no definitive answers with confidence.

From <The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father . . . and Finding the Zodiac Killer>

Despite the varying opinions, the book was a huge success.  Earlier this year, FX and Hulu teamed up to give us a 4 part docu-series that takes a deep dive into the life of Gary Stewart, an adoptee who needed to find himself and the research he did that apparently uncovered the Zodiac.  It was directed by Academy Award nominee Kief Davidson and Ross Dinerstein. Wow! We met law enforcement officers, the handwriting analyst, Susan Mustafa, Judy Gilford (who is now estranged from her biological son after he wrote that book without giving her a heads up) and so many more people who Gary says substantiate his story.  The series was well done and I found myself wondering if this was it. Had the Zodiac finally been named?

Sadly, it appears he has not.  The documentary fairly laid out Gary’s evidence and told his story of searching for his identity.  It shed light on the struggles of many adoptees who have little to no knowledge of who they are. It made me scratch my head and ponder whether there was a conspiracy to keep Zodiac’s identity a secret.  It made me look forward to the final episode aptly titled “The Truth”. In it, we learned that Gary Stewart was an unreliable narrator. And it finally revealed enough truth to make me doubt not only Gary’s story but his motivation.

It seems that Gary saw that sketch on Cold Case Files and immediately became married to the idea that his dad was a serial killer.  All the evidence he “found” was carefully manipulated to fit his narrative. Yes- Earl Van Best resembled the sketch, but -real talk- half of the white guys in this documentary resembled the sketch.  The marriage certificate was filled out by the judge presiding over his parents’ marriage, NOT by Van Best. The handwriting analyst who definitively said that the certificate was filled out by the Zodiac was debunked by his own peers.  The DNA Gary submitted was never matched against the known sample of the Zodiac. All of the evidence that placed Van Best in the areas that Zodiac was known to be in was stretched by Gary to fit times and dates. Susan Mustafa and Gary turned on one another, each blaming the other for failing to check and double-check the facts surrounding the case.  Gary accused his biological mom of selectively forgetting details of her life with Van Best- and if she did, could you blame her? She was a REAL victim of Van Best, also. Yep- the final episode was a real shit show. Thus, I spent 4 hours watching this show and the only thing I’m sure of is that Gary Stewart was obsessed with the thought that Earl Van Best was the Zodiac Killer.  Obsession is one of those things that lets you see what you want to see. Gary NEEDED his biological father to be a MONSTER. It would explain why he took him to 736 North Boulevard and left him in a stairwell. It would explain why he never looked for him. It would validate his worth if the person who threw him away was a fucking MURDERER. Even if Van Best is not the Zodiac, he was a terrible person.  If his only crimes were against Judy and Gary, that qualifies him as a shitty individual. And shitty individuals deserve shitty endings. Earl Van Best got his. 

He died in 1994, choking on his own vomit in a bar in Mexico City, Stewart said.  He was buried in an unmarked grave where Gary and his son were the first visitors.  That’s it, that’s all- The Most Dangerous Animal is finally in the books. 

What do you think of Gary’s story- also, who is your favorite Zodiac suspect? Let me know!  I’m still TCbyTB on all the things, including my blog at where you’ll find sources and shit.  There’s also a little donate button in case you are so inclined. My email is still if you’d like to catch up with me that way.  I can’t wait to holla at you all next week- until then Stay outta the Shadows. Peace!!

Sources & Shit

‘Most Dangerous Animal’: What Was The ‘Ice Cream Romance’? | True Crime Buzz

‘The Most Dangerous Animal of All’: TV Review

Earl Van Best in Court – Bay Area Television Archive

The Zodiac Killer has been a mystery for 50 years – but one man thinks he’s solved it

True Crime Headlines

This week I would like to discuss True Crime stories that have been dominating the headlines.  Most of us have opinions on these cases, but my goal today is to review what we KNOW so far. Just like every other case I break down, I will share my thoughts as well.  Please note that all of the players are innocent until proven guilty. If I was seated on a jury and presented evidence that would lead to reasonable doubt, I believe I would be able to vote accordingly.  I hope the same goes for the members of my audience.

The first case I’d like to talk about is Gannon Stauch.  For those who don’t know, Gannon is an 11-year-old Colorado boy who has been missing since January 27, 2020.  He was reported missing to the police by his stepmother, Letecia Stauch. In her statement to law enforcement, she said her stepson left home sometime between 3:15 and 4:00 to visit a friend.  He didn’t return. For some reason, Gannon was referred to as a “juvenile runaway” until his status was changed to “missing and endangered” on Jan. 30. At this point, the sheriff’s office asked for the public’s help with providing info that could assist in locating the child.  Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 3, online rumors began circulating about Letecia. The chatter caught her attention and she made a public statement addressing the rumors that she was somehow involved in Gannon’s disappearance. “I took care of Gannon for the last two years in our home. I would never, never, ever hurt this child. And I know there are some questions out there … that’s up to the investigations — when they end up letting you guys know — but I’ve cooperated with them,” she told KKTV. “We are going to find Gannon, and that’s the main goal that we all have. I’m just ready for Gannon to come home.”  

She also said that death threats had been made against the family.

The FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Colorado Springs Police Department conducted ground and aerial searches and turned up nothing.

The case got a huge assist from Roderick Drayton, a neighbor of the Stauch’s.  He went through footage recorded by his home surveillance system and came up with some absolutely astonishing footage.  The clip showed Gannon and Letecia getting into a red pickup truck at 10:13 a.m. When the truck returns four hours later, Letecia is alone.  Roderick stated to ABC News that he showed the footage to Gannon’s father, Albert Stauch, and he broke down crying. ‘She lied. She lied about the time. He didn’t go to a friend’s house,'” Drayton said.

On Feb. 5, Gannon’s family (dad Albert, mom Landen Hiott, and sister Laina) appeared in a YouTube video pleading for information that would lead to finding him.  They didn’t address the rumors or the surveillance footage- they just want their child back.

After weeks of public speculation, March 2 Letecia was arrested in connection to Gannon’s disappearance, but the charges are interesting.  On March 11, Letecia appeared in court to be formally charged.  The charges are first-degree murder of a child less than 12 by one in a position of trust; child abuse resulting in death; tampering with a body; tampering with evidence.

At this time, Gannon or his remains have not been recovered.  Letecia remains held without bond.  

The next case that is getting headlines is that of Evelyn Boswell, the 15-month-old missing Tennessee girl.  This one will give you Kaylee Anthony vibes- little Evelyn was last seen on DEC. 10, but wasn’t reported missing until Feb. 18!  An AMBER alert was issued on Feb. 19 after her grandfather called Tennessee’s Dept. of Children Services to report that he hadn’t seen her for two months.  Feb 21 a BOLO was issued for a silver BMW. The drivers of the vehicle were thought to be involved in the toddler’s disappearance. The public still wanted to know why it took two months to report her missing.  The press caught up with Evelyn’s mom, Megan Boswell as she was leaving juvenile court. They asked the typical questions that one would ask the mother of a missing child. She responded with- well, just listen to the clip.  Add clip of this dumb ass lady saying the same shit over and over.  Note that she is saying she last saw her baby the day after Christmas.  We’re sticking with the original timeline of Dec. 11 because I don’t trust a goddamn thing this girl is saying.

Meanwhile, in Wilkes County, North Carolina, authorities caught up to that BMW.  Seems that it was stolen. The occupants of said vehicle were Evelyn’s grandma, Angela Boswell, and her boyfriend, William McCloud.  

Unfortunately, they don’t have Evelyn with them.  Shit is getting convoluted, right? After appearing in court, they get extradited back to Tennessee. 

Next, we’ve got Megan Boswell once again speaking to the media.  She says that she is pregnant so she can’t take a polygraph test.  Turns out nobody asked her to take one. That same day, she was arrested by the Sullivan County Sherriff’s office for false reporting.  When the media made inquiries as to pregnant inmates in custody at the Sullivan County jail, there were none listed. Apparently, Megan was lying to get out of being asked for a polygraph.

That takes us to Feb, 28- at this point, the search is still on for the baby.  There have been no sightings of the child while her mom and grandma are locked up.  Grandma Angela bonds out. We see a flurry of court appearances over the following days- William and Angela for theft.  Megan for false reporting. Angela thanks the public for their help in searching for Evelyn and William bonds out.

On March 6, the remains of Evelyn Boswell were found at Megan’s father’s home.  Yes, the same grandfather that reported her missing in the first place. The cause of death is unknown and the autopsy was sealed.  It has been reported that along with the baby, authorities found diapers and toys that were thought to have been Evelyn’s. Reminder, there have been no arrests in connection to the death of Evelyn Boswell- everyone involved is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  

I guess you can say that I saved the most twisted story for last.  I’m sure most of you know what’s coming- the disappearance of JJ and Tylee Vallow.  This case has so many twists and turns it should really be an episode all by itself.  It jumps off with a set of grandparents who haven’t seen their grandchild since Sept. They contacted police to conduct a well-being check at the home where their 7-year-old grandson, JJ Vallow, lived with his adoptive mother, Lori, and sister, Tylee who is 17.  But, to totally see the full picture, we need to travel further back in time to Feb of 2019. That’s when Charles Vallow, the children’s father, filed for divorce from Lori Vallow. He claimed that she had begun to act erratically and refused to get help. In early March, he pulled JJ out of school and took him to Texas to be near family.  By June, Lori re-enrolled JJ for summer classes. This had to be a difficult time for him because JJ is autistic. A routine is very important to him. 

 On July 11, Charles was at the home of Lori and the children when he and Lori got into an altercation over his cell phone.  He caught her going through it and an argument ensued. Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, was there and he claims that he and Tylee intervened in the fight.  Tylee supposedly grabbed a bat and was using it to defend her mother. The bat was apparently snatched by Charles and he struck Alex in the head with it.  At this point, Alex retrieved his handgun and shot Charles, killing him. He then called 911 and reported that he killed his brother-in-law in self-defense.   The police came and did their report, noting that Lori seemed really nonchalant about the death of her ex-husband. In fact, that same day, she hosted a fucking pool party.  

August 30th, Tylee facetimed with her older brother.  This was the last time he would see her. His mother would make excuses for why Tylee was unavailable when he tried to reach her after this date.  On this same day, Lori arranged to have JJ’s autism service dog picked up. This was a strange request because JJ needed the dog to calm him and help him cope with anxiety.  The dog also assists him in being independent and performing regular daily activities.  

On Sept 5, JJ was once again pulled out of school by Lori.  She claimed to be moving to California to start a new job. Instead of Cali, the family moved to Rexburg, Idaho although the date is a bit fuzzy. We do know that Tylee was alive on September 8, 2019, because a photo of the family was taken at Yellowstone National Park.  This is, however, the last public sighting of Tylee. On Sept. 17, a neighbor’s doorbell camera records JJ playing in the yard in Idaho. Neighbors were keeping an eye on him, as it seemed that he was left unattended for hours at a time. On Sept. 19, Lori hires a babysitter to watch him (where’s Tylee?).  JJ attended school in Idaho for the last time on Sept. 23. By the 24, Lori told the babysitter her services were no longer needed and also told the school that she would homeschooling JJ. At the beginning of October, Lori rents a storage unit. Inside are some of the kids’ belongings and photo albums, among other things.  On Oct.2, Brandon Boudreaux, ex-husband of Lori Vallow’s niece, Melani Boudreaux, says he was shot at in a drive by. Brandon says the shooter was Alex Cox, and he was driving Charles Vallow’s Jeep.

Tammy Daybell, wife of Chad Daybell, dies in Idaho. The coroner originally declares the cause of death as natural causes and she is buried a few days later.

Police begin surveillance of Lori Vallow. Detectives report never seeing Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow once during the month of November

Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow get married in Hawaii.

Rexburg police say they receive a request for a welfare check on Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow at a home in Rexburg. After arriving at the home, officers say Lori and Chad tell officers the children are with a family friend in Arizona.

After the children are not located in Arizona, police return to the townhome with a search warrant to find Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow. Officers say they find the house empty, and learn after further investigation that Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell had left Rexburg, possibly without the children. Police also search other homes in Rexburg looking for the children and the storage unit that Lori had rented.

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell fly from Los Angeles to the island of Kauai. Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and Tylee Ryan do not fly with them.

The family friend in Arizona tells police that both Lori and Chad had asked her to lie and tell officers Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow was with her. The friend says she declined the request.

Tammy Daybell’s body is exhumed so investigators can conduct an autopsy and tests to determine cause of death.

Alex Cox, Lori Vallow’s brother, dies at a home in Gilbert, Arizona . The cause of death has not been released to the public.

Rexburg Police, and other agencies, issue a press release asking for the public’s help locating Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and Tylee Ryan.

Rexburg Police ask for the public’s help locating Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell. Police say the two are wanted for questioning in connection to the children’s disappearance.

Rexburg police update the public on Facebook with details from the case. Police believe Lori knows the location of the children or what happened to them, but say she refused to work with officers.

The credit card Lori Vallow used to rent the storage facility is declined when the business tries to bill her.

Deputies execute a search warrant at Chad Daybell’s home in Fremont County, Idaho.

Larry and Kay Woodcock, the children’s grandparents, offer a $20,000 reward for information.

The State of Idaho files a protection order in Madison County on behalf of the children, ordering Lori Vallow to produce them.

Police on the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands give Lori Vallow the Idaho court order to produce the children to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare within five days.

Kauai police execute search warrants on Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell and their SUV, finding numerous things belonging to the children, including their birth certificates. Police also search their condo.

Larry and Kay Woodcock file for temporary guardianship of Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow.

The deadline to produce the children to Idaho authorities is missed by Lori. No charges or warrants are filed at the time.

The case gets featured national coverage on NBC’s Dateline in a two-hour special on Valentine’s Day. Reporter Keith Morrison calls the story “one of the most bizarre stories, bizarre situations I’ve encountered in this business.”

Maui police say they have been advised that Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell traveled to the island of Maui from Kauai, but also say that they are not involved in any investigation of the couple.

Lori Vallow is arrested by Kauai police on multiple charges, including desertion and nonsupport of dependent children.

Lori Vallow makes her first court appearance in Hawaii. Her attorney asks for her bond to be lowered from $5 million to $10,000. The judge refuses.

At a court hearing, a judge denies Lori Vallow’s request to reduce her bond amount from $5 million. It is also announced that Vallow has agreed to be returned to Idaho to face the charges filed against her.

After leaving Hawaii late on March 4, she arrives in Idaho the afternoon of March 5, landing in Boise before being taken to Rexburg.

Lori Vallow is booked into the Madison County Jail in Rexburg, Idaho.

Where are the children?

Updates & shit

“Ready to Glare” on YouTube gives us an update!!
She doesn’t share my theory that the kids are possibly alive, but her commentary is A+!

So, what do you think? More on the Vallow case as it unfolds.

Fear Not, Bookworms!!

Unless my internet gets disconnected, there will be a new episode for everyone on lockdown! We’ll be covering True Crime Headlines. Can you guess what cases are on the docket? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow! Tell a friend to tell a friend. Love you, miss you. Byeee!

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 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 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

Diane Whipple Wiki


Aphrodite Jones bio

Red Zone by aphrodite Jones

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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.

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,

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:

JW Facts:

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

Official website of jehovah’s witnesses:

Newsweek Article:

Associated Press:

Oxygen doc- the witnesses

Learn More:

Lloyd Evans

JT & Lady Cee (Ex JW Citical Thinker)

Ex-JW Analyzer