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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources & Shit

Sooner State Podcast- This week’s Promo

Shit to know before buying a presa Canario

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

Diane Whipple Wiki

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

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

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

Aphrodite Jones bio

http://www.aphroditejones.com/

Red Zone by aphrodite Jones

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

Wanna Support the Show?

Red Circle Tip Jar

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

TCbyTB on Patreon

https://patreon.com/tcbytb

The Witnesses- Knock, Knock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes destroyed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources & Shit

BBC Report:

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

JW Facts:

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

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

Official website of jehovah’s witnesses:

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

Newsweek Article:

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

Associated Press:

https://apnews.com/95b03b21a0c86f7ec1dfa25372e36f39

Oxygen doc- the witnesses

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

Learn More:

Lloyd Evans

JT & Lady Cee (Ex JW Citical Thinker)

Ex-JW Analyzer

Bad News

Image result for sex abuse survivor ribbon

The episode I’m currently working on bringing to you deals heavily with crimes against children. It’s about the documentary “The Witnesses” that aired on Oxygen (which I hope everyone watches). As it turns out, I was recently informed that the subject matter is hitting real close to home- a family member has been molested. I am angry and in an extremely emotional state over these revelations, and speaking about this right now is -in a word- painful. It brings back painful memories for me (an abused and exploited Black woman). It also makes me wonder how I missed the signs. There’s a bit of guilt being felt by the entire family at this point. That being said, I will ALWAYS advocate for the victims of child sexual assault and this situation just adds fuel to a fire that may only be quenched when there is an end to the victimization of children everywhere. I am more committed than EVER to put out an episode that will light that fire under my audience- or maybe just fuel it, because I am positive you all despise child molestation as much as I do. I’m gathering more info in the interim. I’m only asking that you respect my process in dealing with this news. I just need a little time. Then get ready- cause next episode I’m going all the way IN!! Love ya, miss ya- later bookworms.

Oxygen Doc on Jehovah’s Witnesses!

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

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

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

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

Patriot To Prisoner: Aaron Hernandez

Part 1

Tidings and salutations, bibliophages! Welcome to another episode of True Crime: By The Book! Every week we get together to discuss books, movies, and documentaries that center on true crime. I’m your host, the Librarian, Tasha Pierce.  This week we will be discussing the docuseries that is airing on Netflix called Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.

I would be negligent if I did not address that the sports world lost another legend this past Sunday. Kobe Bryant was among the victims of a helicopter crash in Calabassas- nine people died in total in an accident that shocked many of us to our cores.  There are a lot of opinions on Kobe, both professionally and personally, but I choose today to focus on ways he improved the world around him. Bryant was the official ambassador for After-School All-Stars (ASAS), an American non-profit organization that provides comprehensive after-school programs to children in thirteen US cities.[452] Bryant also started the Kobe Bryant China Fund which partnered with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation, a charity backed by the Chinese government.[453] The Kobe Bryant China Fund raises money within China earmarked for education and health programs.[453] On November 4, 2010, Bryant appeared alongside Zach Braff at the Call of Duty: Black Ops launch event at the Santa Monica Airport, where they presented a $1 million check to the Call of Duty Endowment, an Activision-founded nonprofit organization that helps veterans transition to civilian careers after their military service has ended.[425]Bryant established Kobe Inc. to own and grow brands in the sports industry. The initial investment was a 10% stake in the Bodyarmor SuperDrink company for $6 million in March 2014. The headquarters are in Newport Beach, California.[454] With The Coca-Cola Company purchasing a minority stake in the company in August 2018, the valuation of Bryant’s stake rose to approximately $200 million.[455]

On August 22, 2016, Bryant and his business partner Jeff Stibel launched Bryant-Stibel, a venture capital firm focused on different businesses including media, data, gaming, and technology, with $100 million in funding.[456][457]

In 2018, Bryant became the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and the first former professional athlete to be nominated and to win an Academy Award in any category for his film Dear Basketball.[9]

At 9:06 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 26, 2020, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter owned by Bryant departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, with nine people aboard: Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi), Gigi’s peers and their parents (including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton),[460] basketball coach Christina Mauser, and the pilot Ara Zobayan.[461][10][11][462] The helicopter was registered to the Fillmore-based Island Express Holding Corp., according to the California Secretary of State business database.[463] The group was travelling to Bryant’s Mamba Academy for a practice session when the helicopter crashed in Calabasas.[460]

Due to light rain and foggy weather that morning, the LAPD helicopters[462] and most other air traffic were grounded.[464] The flight tracker shows that the helicopter experienced issues while above the L.A. Zoo. The helicopter circled the area six times at an altitude of around 850 feet (260 m). At 9:30 a.m. the pilot contacted the Burbank Airport’s control tower,[464] notifying the tower of the situation. At that time, the helicopter experienced extreme fog and turned south towards the mountains. At 9:40 a.m. the helicopter climbed in altitude from 1,200 to 2,000 feet (370 to 610 m) flying at 161 knots (298 km/h; 185 mph).[464]

At 9:45 a.m. the helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and caught on fire.[465][464] At 9:47 a.m. authorities were called. The helicopter had passed over Boyle Heights, near Dodger Stadium, and circled over Glendale during the flight. Personnel from the Los Angeles County Fire Department attended the scene. The fire had been extinguished by 10:30 a.m.[466][467] None of the nine occupants survived. Initial reports indicated that the helicopter crashed in the hills above Calabasas in heavy fog.[468][469] Witnesses reported hearing a helicopter struggling before crashing.[461]

The surviving Bryant family members are Vanessa and three remaining daughters. 

It seems like the world kind of paused when the announcement was (prematurely) made of Kobe’s death.  Then there was a shameful shuffle by those of us who don’t trust one news site. I needed corroboration before I could even begin to believe that Kobe Bryant had passed away.  I say it’s shameful because I can remember a time in my life that if something was on the news, it had been vetted and could be trusted. This fucked up 24-hour news cycle and the ambulance chasers (like TMZ) have made retractions par for the course.  This story is no different- first 5 people were killed, then reports of all of his daughters being on the helicopter, then 7 people- it is absolutely SHAMEFUL- damn near CRIMINAL- to be reporting things before the family is notified. All of this scrambling and false reporting just to be able to say “We were first.” True Crime: By the Book would like to offer condolences to the families and friends of the victims and issue indictments to the media for being soulless.

Now, let’s dig into the topic of today’s episode, Aaron Hernandez.

The documentary outlines his early life, his college years, and finally his time in the NFL.  It also indicates that he may have been living a triple life. At the heart of it all, it raises the questions could he have been helped? Could some of his behavior be a byproduct of being raised in an abusive environment? Did football contribute to his violent behavior?  These questions are really left to the viewer and I absolutely have my own opinions on Aaron. Just know, that you may not agree with me and that’s okay. There needs to be a dialogue. Because discussing and debating this Aaron Hernandez may prevent another one from being created.

Okay, so we start at the beginning- Aaron and his older brother DJ were being raised in Bristol, Connecticut by their father Dennis and mother Terri.  Dennis is kind of a local legend in football so there’s no surprise that his boys were introduced to the sport early. Dennis is described as a “man’s man” very hyper-masculine. He was strict on his boys.  Known around as the King, DJ and Aaron were his heirs apparent. They may as well had been William and Harry as far as he was concerned. They were being primed to step in his oversized footprints. That meant playing football and being outstanding at it. Well, Aaron was outstanding in football- and basketball, and track.  An all-around athlete but a mediocre student. It was the latter that would cause his father to become physically abusive to Aaron. He wanted the best for his boys, and mediocrity wasn’t going to cut it. It’s also noted that Dennis and Terri had a tumultuous relationship that included alcoholism and domestic violence. Besides all that, Aaron still idolized his dad.  His brother, DJ, has stated that besides the physical abuse, Aaron may have also been sexually molested by an older kid. These are things that, left unaddressed, could turn a man into a monster.  

We meet the high school quarterback/friend of Aaron and he admits that they had sexually experimented with one another throughout high school.  His father was in the documentary as well and talked at length about how both he and Dennis were extremely homophobic. According to him, they had created an environment that made it impossible for the boys to question their sexuality or to identify as anything but heterosexual.  I’m sure we can imagine the conflict that this can create in a person who does has questions. This likely added to the anxieties of being a teenager. 

After DJ left for college, Aaron was excited to announce that he intended on going to UCONN with his brother- again, following in the footsteps of dear old dad.  And then tragedy struck the Hernandez family. Dennis had surgery on a hernia and passed away afterward. Totally unexpected, the family was understandably grief-stricken.  Family and friends knew that Aaron would never be the same. His dad, as rough as he was, was Aaron’s moral compass. Without him, Aaron seemed directionless. I’m sure it didn’t help that Terri rebounded rather quickly and it really fucked me up when I heard that she had begun seeing Aaron’s cousin’s husband!  Not only that, she moved him into the family home. Now imagine being an already troubled young man who just lost his father. Now you have to deal with a dude you saw all the time with your cousin banging your mom. That drove Aaron out of the home, to his cousin Tonya’s house.  

A lot has been said about Tonya being there for Aaron, how he felt like she was a mother figure who he could tell anything.  But, in my estimation, Tonya had the “anything goes” house. Everybody comes there to chill, smoke weed, niggas running in and out, eat, and do everything you don’t want going on at YOUR house.  So, she may have been loyal but she was also an enabler. Here this young man was free to openly engage in things that he should have at least had to sneak to do. One of those things was smoking weed.  I don’t have an issue with marijuana- I wish they would legalize it for the WORLD to enjoy- but not minors. I’m sorry, I just don’t think they are equipped to handle the side effects of marijuana consumption and the ability of the drug to kind of take over your life.  I know what he was trying to achieve- he wanted to dull the pain that life was handing him. Unfortunately, when he sobered up that pain was still there. So he spent the majority of his life- from 16 years old on- HIGH. He still was a first-class athlete, though, so people tended to overlook his negatives.  I can empathize with him in this way- I was 12 when my mother passed away. I was very smart and athletic and had never been in trouble at school. But when she passed away, I began to get in fights. I was angry all the time. I got suspended quite a bit. Do you know what straightened out my behavior? The principal, Mr. Reese, heard me using some language that would make Samuel L. Jackson blush.  He and my coach dragged me down to the office and gave me the come to Jesus speech. If I intended to continue to represent Lew Wallace High School and the mighty black and gold as an athlete, I could not have another behavior blemish on my record. PERIOD. Being on the honor roll wasn’t going to be enough- because, frankly, that came easy to me. I had to learn to direct my anger in healthy ways, admit that I was still hurting from the loss of my mom, not be impulsive.  And I wanted to continue to play sports with my band of sisters, so I straightened up my act.

But, Aaron was learning the opposite lesson.  He could do damn near anything and the fact that he was an outstanding athlete was a get out of jail free card.  There were no repercussions for bad behavior, only coverups. Once again, Aaron’s fucked up behavior was being enabled.

His prowess on the gridiron meant that a number of Division-I Universities were interested in him as a player.  Remember Aaron had already made a verbal commitment to UConn. He still made other college visits, however. When Aaron was just shy of 17 years old he re-committed. This time he chose to play at the University of Florida alongside Tim Tebow and under Urban Meyer.  By now, he was dating Shayanna Jenkins who he had known since elementary school. Dennis Hernandez had set a path for his sons to follow. Aaron was departing that path and heading to Florida.

There are so many reasons that this decision was problematic. The main one was the football program under Meyer.  I mean, he is an excellent general. If all you cared about was winning and bowl appearances, he’s your man. But as far as guidance to the players- uh-uh. Nope. Aaron failed multiple drug tests- covered up. He took bullshit courses. He was frequenting bars (at 17 years old) and in April 2007 he even punched a bar manager when he was asked to pay his tab. That disappeared. Of course, he stayed high because- childhood trauma.  He was playing alongside Tim Tebow who literally wore his religion on his face (but riddle me this- was still at the bar with underaged Aaron).  

I save most of my ire for Urban Meyer, though.  He established quite a pattern in Florida. Every season there were arrests, infractions of rules, and players who demonstrated horrible character that was left unpunished.  That “win at all costs” mentality was a terrible disservice to these young men and the community that they inhabited. There was none worse than Aaron Hernandez. While on scholarship at the University of Florida he frequented many night spots.  It was not unusual for him to get easily angered at perceived slights, and on more than one occasion he was described as “paranoid”. It was in September of 2007 that Aaron would be first accused of pulling a gun on people and actually shooting them.  The victims were in a vehicle at a light when “a large male who appeared to be Hawaiian or Hispanic with lots of tattoos” approached the car. These guys in the car had a verbal altercation with Aaron in the nightclub and chose him out of a photo lineup as the shooter.  They later said that he wasn’t the shooter- that was after the university and Meyer got involved. Remember- this is a college town. Winning over EVERYTHING! Aaron was sleep in an interrogation room while the school’s attorney’s worked their magic. Now, I don’t know about you, but I watched the Usual Suspects- many times.  In the film, the police detective is attempting to suss out a killer. What does he do? He locks them up overnight and observes.  The one who can sleep is the killer.  This is a 1995 movie that still holds up (except for the whole Kevin Spacey thing), but I digress.  Here this 18 year old kid is able to sleep when he’s in a police interrogation room- not for stealing candy, or getting into a fight- for assault with a deadly weapon at the least and attempted murder at most.  But, if he did this he got away with shooting two men. The school knew about this but continued to roll with Aaron because he was a beast at his position. An absolute BEAST. He remained a Gator for three seasons and finished his college career with 111 receptions for 1,382 yards and twelve touchdowns.  He won the John Mackey award as the nations best tight end.  He also was an All-American and All SEC. But, he was not welcome to play his senior season and was encouraged to enter the NFL draft.  

At 20 years old, Aaron declared that he was ready to move to the next level of play- he was going to be a professional football player but for whom?  His reputation on the field was diminished by his off the field antics. Teams would really be rolling the dice by choosing this loose cannon. He should have gone late in the first round or  early in the second. But teams continued to pass on him until, in the fourth round with the 113th pick he was chosen by the Patriots. This lucky fuck was going to play with arguably the best QB in the league- Tom Brady.  But the Pats wanted to talk to Urban Meyer before they signed him. And Urban- with ABSOLUTELY nothing to lose by telling the truth- still gave his endorsement. Don’t for one second think that I feel sorry for the Patriots organization, I kind of feel sorry for Aaron in this moment.  Because this professionally ideal situation was the worse thing that could have happened to him personally. I listen to a podcast- Crime In Sports with James Petrogallo and Jimmy Whisman. It’s a great show, lots of laughs- but damn near every episode they talk about athletes getting into trouble when they go to wherever they consider “home”.  Well, Aaron would be playing two hours away from “home” and for a person with many demons and as socially immature as him- well this is where it all REALLY goes to shit. I know this is going to be fucked up- but tune in to True Crime By The Book next week so we can talk about what the hell Aaron gets into during his time at Foxborough. If you enjoy what I’m doing here, please leave a rating and review for the show on your platform of choice.  Check the show notes for my linktree- those are all the many places I can be found. Shit really gets wild in the next episode, so tell a friend to tell a friend. Thanks for hanging with me and I’ll catch you in part two of Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. Later Bookworms!

Part 2

Tidings and salutations bibliophiles! Welcome to episode 15 of True Crime By The Book.  We get together here once a week to chat about books, movies, and documentaries that center on true crime.  I am the Librarian and your host, Tasha Pierce. This week we finish our discussion on Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.  If you like the episode please share both parts with a friend, acquaintance, or loved one so I can blow up. I’d also appreciate ratings and reviews on your platform of choice.  I’ve got a couple of shout outs for the end of the episode from Apple, Facebook, and Podchaser. But right now, I think we should pick up with the downfall of Aaron Hernandez.  

Throughout the series, we hear excerpts from conversations that disgraced NFL star Aaron Hernandez had with the people closest to him.  Of course, being a guest of any prison comes with a total lack of privacy. The calls in and out are recorded and we get to be a fly on the wall when Aaron spoke with his agent, his mom Teri, his cousin Tonya, and his fiancee Shayanna.  The calls that were featured in the series offers a little insight into the mindset of Hernandez. They also give us a glimpse of the relationships that he had with these people.  

I spoke about Teri in the first episode.  Her husband Dennis passed away unexpectedly after having hernia surgery.  Before her 15-year-old son could even begin learning to live without his dad, she moved her new beau into the family home.  This would have been difficult enough, but the new boyfriend was no stranger. He was the husband of Aaron’s cousin, Tonya. This turn of events alienated Aaron from his mom and brought him and Tonya even closer. We hear Aaron discussing her decisions and how they affected him.  It was both heartbreaking and sickening to hear- he was so frustrated that he couldn’t share secrets with his mom because she would tell others. It is obvious that he lacked a basic trust in her. He also prophesied that “she would die without even knowing her son”. He was only half right 

He spoke to Shayanna very often, as well.  By this time she had mothered a daughter with Aaron.  It seems like she was very in love with Aaron and his imprisonment was weighing quite heavily on her.  There were days that she had to talk when she probably would have rather been crying. She gave him solid advice and talked him out of responding to situations with anger.  He also got to talk to his daughter during these calls. He made it very clear to Shayanna that he was positive he would be beating his case. She seemed to be a little more realistic about his fate, but she didn’t rain on his parade.  

All this talk about Aaron behind bars, but we still haven’t discussed how he got there.  That’s where we are introduced to Odin Lloyd. Odin was a semi-pro football player. Semi-pro basically means that the amount players are compensated would not be enough to live on.  In fact, Odin’s teammate said they paid to play. These are guys that really are just playing for the love of the game. And Odin was a stellar semi-pro player. That’s one thing he had in common with Aaron, love of the game.  They would cross paths again for their OTHER loves- Aaron’s fiancee Shayanna and Odin’s girlfriend Shaneah are sisters. They were close which means Odin and Aaron became close by default. One more similarity between the guys was their love of Mary Jane.  Both were smokers, Odin was known as the “blunt master” for his talent at rolling marijuana cigars. The ladies would hang out while the guys would have sessions in Aaron’s mancave. We can only assume that Odin and Aaron began to share more than marijuana and they would occasionally go out together.  

This is how they came to be together in the early morning hours of June 17, 2013.  Aaron and two of his friends from the hood- the real hood- went to pick Odin up at his sister’s home.  When he got in the car, he texted his sister:

Did you see who I’m with? Followed by: NFL- just so you know.

Right now those texts seem ominous as fuck but at the moment his sister thought he might be bragging that he was hanging with an NFL star.  In June 2013, that’s who Aaron Hernandez was- a STAR. Fresh off a Super Bowl appearance at the young age of 22, Aaron had proven to be one of the premier tight ends in the NFL.  He was rewarded with a contract that would be worth $40mill over 5 years. This was beyond lucrative- it was insane! That contract alone represented 40 million reasons for Aaron to stay out of trouble, which makes it downright confounding that he didn’t.  Because, not only did Aaron continue to go to night clubs (which triggered his paranoia), smoke weed (which could create professional issues), and hang with the boys from the hood- he was about to commit murder.

No one can REALLY know what happened in those hours, but the next day Odin was missing.  He and Aaron had plans to join their girlfriends for Father’s Day Brunch but Odin was a no-show.  Later that evening, his remains were found by a jogger who then called police. Odin’s body was found in a gravel pit- the pit is located less than a mile from Aaron Hernandez’s home.  These guys had to be the biggest idiots ever. Aaron didn’t live in a modest 3 bedroom. He had a MANSION. A mile from a house that size may as well be in its backyard. Then the morons left evidence that included DNA  in the form of a half-smoked blunt at the scene. 

It wasn’t hard to come to the conclusion that Aaron and his friends Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace were involved in Odin’s murder.  On June 26, 2013, Aaron was arrested at his home. Less than two hours later, the Patriots cut him.  

This is where I tell you about how shitty the business end of the NFL can be.  

We heard Aaron in one phone call talk about banned substances in the NFL (not just marijuana, but certain pain killers that were also considered illegal drugs per the NFL standards).  He spoke about how hypocritical the league is because every Sunday the team doctors were injecting him full of those illegal drugs. Anything it takes to win, right? Also, Aaron asked to be traded because he was in fear for his and his family’s lives.  Belichick and Kraft said, “Nah- how about we set you up in an apartment where you can lay low?” Of course, there’s a story behind why Aaron was fearful and I’ll get to it once I’m through dragging the Patriots organization. I know he was under contract, but if a kid wants to be traded from a perennial playoff contender, wouldn’t you want to look into that?  WHY would you want to be traded? For Aaron, it was allegedly because he shot one of his best friends in the face and left him for dead. Imagine his shock when, on Valentine’s Day 2013, he received a call from Alexander Bradley- the man he had apparently tried to kill. Bradley was very much alive and pissed- I guess that’s understandable when someone literally wanted you dead.  He wasn’t cooperating with police, either. He never intended to out Aaron as the shooter. He wanted revenge, money, or both. So why the fuck did Aaron shoot him? His constant friend, paranoia, required it. See, there was another case we haven’t yet discussed. Oh yeah, the cases are just PILING up. In this case, on July 16, 2012, Aaron allegedly was at the usual place that filled him with anxiety- the nightclub- when someone had the nerve, gall, and intestinal fortitude to ACCIDENTALLY spill a drink on him.  Upon leaving the club, Aaron and Bradley saw the guys involved in the incident. Instead of asking them to pay his dry cleaning bill, it is alleged that Aaron rolled up on them and said, “What’s up now, niggas” and began shooting into their car.  Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Teixeira Furtado, 28, were hit in the hail of bullets.  They both died from their injuries.  The only person who could finger Aaron as the shooter was Bradley- so, killing him would be the way to eliminate the only witness. 

Well, he had no idea that there would be surveillance footage of a vehicle that looked remarkably like his leaving the scene of the crime- more on that a little later.  

So, the Patriots could have and should have looked further into Aaron’s request and the timing of it and easily deduced that Aaron was involved in some top tier bullshit.  They went the route of plausible deniability. I fucking hate the fact that these players are like chess pieces that the organization “owns”. When you own something valuable you don’t want anyone else to get it.  So they were overlooking the failed drug tests, his incompatibility with the locker room, and the GLARING character flaws because they owned him. As long as he’s useful to us, we are going to continue playing him.  The entire Patriots organization has the blood of Odin Lloyd on their hands because Stevie Wonder could see that this kid was troubled.

I call him a kid- he was 23 when the shit hit the fan.  Yes, he was technically an adult. He was absolutely RICH beyond my wildest dreams.  He was also socially immature (per the Patriots’ own scouting report). He needed guidance.  Actually, later on, we find out he needed even more than that.  

It’s like he found peace behind bars.  Listening to the phone calls with Shayanna, it was clear that she was the adult in the room.  He had affection for her and their daughter, but they weren’t enough for him to make better choices.  And his mom was literally fussing at him about not giving her a million dollars while he was locked up- she didn’t understand that a $40mill contract does not mean that he has $40mill today.  But, of all the damn things to be worried about, why are you worried about that? He wasn’t getting that money. The Patriots were doing everything in their power to not pay his signing bonus, so you know that they weren’t going to be paying any part of his contract.  Even though those bastards knew he was thugging and looked the other way- but I’m making this about New England when it’s really about how fucked up Aaron Hernandez is.  

He strolled into court looking devastatingly handsome and just a little bit scared.  Just a little. He blew kisses to his daughter. He seemed normal. That’s a scary thing, how normal he seemed.  Shayanna sat with Aaron’s family. Her sister sat with Odin’s family. Once so close, now they were estranged because Shayanna stood by her man.  Also never wavering in her support was Tonya- who by now was battling cancer. While I thought the activities she condoned at her home played some part in Aaron’s delinquency, she without a doubt loved him. Remember the other murders that Aaron was thought to have committed?  I said a vehicle that looked very much like his showed up in surveillance video. He was known to drive a silver SUV that -poof- vanished! Well, that vehicle was finally located- it was in the garage at Tonya’s. And try as they may, prosecutors could not get her to cooperate with their investigation.  She even stared down being charged with contempt without blinking. The judge didn’t blink either when he sentenced her to jail time despite the fact that this woman would miss her cancer treatments if she got locked up. She ended up making bail after 196 days. I don’t want to go into all her cases and such, but she was a ride or die.  She did the jail time, plead guilty rather than answer questions, missed precious days with her children for Aaron. She continued battling cancer until passing away in October of 2015.

Do I really need to give you a blow by blow of the court proceedings in the Lloyd case?  Good- I’ll just say Robert Kraft’s old evil, two-faced ass testified. Did I really just say that?  I don’t even know Mr. Kraft- but I do know his organization is always in the midst of a cheating scandal, I DO know that he’s shaking in his boots because THE Patriot, Tom Brady, is dipping his toe into free agency. I also know that he allegedly likes a happy ending. There was very powerful testimony from Odin Lloyd’s mom as she held back tears.  Shayanna got up there and lied- and she is also considered a ride or die chick. I think she was misguided. Tanya Singleton showed the world that it was family over everything, and she had her cousin’s back. In the meantime, Shayanna’s family- her sister- was sitting on the opposite side of the courtroom mourning the loss of her boyfriend at the hands of YOUR boyfriend.  

At the end of it all, Aaron is found guilty in the death of Odin Lloyd.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was acquitted of the murders of Furtado and de Abreu.  So, now his focus was on assisting his attorney with appeals. He and Shayanna were being hopeful for their future.  That is, until a Kirk and Callahan radio show appearance by a reporter named Michele McPhee. There she and the hosts suggested that Aaron was a closeted homosexual.  Two days later, Aaron would be found hanging in his cell, dead from an apparent suicide. He had left three letters- one to Shayanna,, one to his daughter, and one that is rumored to have been to his prison lover.  There was a Bible opened to John 3:16, and that verse was also written on his forehead. There is much speculation that he could not live with the world knowing his deepest secret. But an evaluation of Aaron’s brain after his death may shed light on all of his impulsive and violent behaviors.

That exam proved that Aaron at 27 had one of the worst cases of CTE ever studied even at his young age.  There was a considerable amount of damage, thought to have come from sustaining head injuries while playing football.  Unfortunately, the degenerative brain disease can only be diagnosed at autopsy.  

According to a July 2017 article published in Sports Illustrated:

A study by Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee examined the brains of 202 deceased football players and found that 110 of the 111 brains of former NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The brains were donated by families of former NFL players who showed signs of the disease. The study was not conducted on a set of random former NFL players, and Dr. McKee notes “tremendous selection bias” in the samples. 

“It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football—there is a problem,” Dr. McKee said, according to the New York Times.

High school players in the study had mild cases while college and professionals had more severe cases. CTE was found in 177 of the 202 brains.

The disease can cause impaired judgment, aggression, memory loss, and depression. CTE can only be diagnosed postmortem.

The study examined players as young as 23 years old and as old as 89. The brains were also from all player positions including 44 linemen, 10 linebackers, 17 defensive backs, and seven quarterbacks. 

Former NFL Hall of Famer Ken Stabler was among the brains after he asked that he be examined when he was battling colon cancer. McKee determined that Stabler had a “moderately severe” case of CTE.

The family of the only NFL player without CTE did not authorize for Dr. McKee to publicly identify him.

The NFL issued the following statement to SI.com:

“We appreciate the work done by Dr. McKee and her colleagues for the value it adds in the ongoing quest for a better understanding of CTE. Case studies such as those compiled in this updated paper are important to further advance the science and progress related to head trauma. The medical and scientific communities will benefit from this publication and the NFL will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes. As noted by the authors, there are still many unanswered questions relating to the cause, incidence, and prevalence of long-term effects of head trauma such as CTE.  The NFL is committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries.

In 2016, the NFL pledged $100 million in support of independent medical research and engineering advancements in neuroscience-related topics. This is in addition to the $100 million that the NFL and its partners are already spending on medical and neuroscience research.”

Last year, Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, testified before the House of Representatives and was asked by Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky whether he thinks “there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like CTE.”

“The answer to that question is certainly yes,” Miller responded.

Chris Chavez

BY CHRIS CHAVEZ

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With that answer comes another question: What is the NFL prepared to do to ensure players get the help they need when and if they begin to show symptoms?

Because the Florida Gators turned their backs on Aaron and sent him to the league.  The league turned a blind eye, enabled, and discarded him like trash. And he had been playing the sport since early childhood, with an uber-masculine father who may have celebrated his son’s toughness when he sustained damaging hits.  

There was a former player who made the observation that head injuries don’t cause anyone to become a murderer.  I’m not qualified to make this assumption, but I will make it anyway- It is proven that head injuries can result in brain damage and that damage may increase an individual’s likelihood to be impulsive and destructive.  If there are murderous thoughts they are amplified by the damage. Does that mean that I think Aaron should have been let off the hook? Hell no! But I do believe that his repeated blows to the head should have been considered in sentencing.  I also believe that other athletes with a history of severe head trauma who went on to have a cognitive decline should have been presented as examples of what type of difficulties Aaron may have faced. I believe the Patriots should have been sued in civil court for the wrongful death of Odin Lloyd, based on the knowledge that Aaron had approached them about a trade due to death threats.  

Don’t mistake me for being anti-NFL either.  I absolutely LOVE the sport, but I do realize that in the US football worship has gone too far.  When the sport is known to be potentially dangerous to the athletes, it is imperative to take all the preventative actions necessary to mitigate the danger.  I’m not sure what that looks like but I think a good start is to rethink PeeWee and Pop Warner for the little kids. I also think that players should be able to understand and accept the risks when they play on any level- which means that tackle football would have to wait until the teenage years.  And for professionals, organizations need to be about the players’ well-being. They need to staff professionals who can identify changes to behavior in athletes and be prepared to make a player medically unfit to play if they display classic symptoms of severe brain damage. While they’re at it, they can protect and respect a player’s right to peaceful protest, but I digress.  

Aaron led a triple life- he was at the same time an insanely talented athlete, a sexually confused young man, and a cold-blooded murderer.

He was let down in so many ways by so many people.  He also destroyed many lives with his actions. His sexuality should not have been that big of a story (he did protest too much about homosexuality and transgender women, doesn’t mean he should have been “outed”).  I just wish he would have gotten help sooner because this sensational and salacious story may have never happened if he did.

There, of course, was so much more to this documentary than I could cover in two half-hour episodes so I highly recommend that you watch the Netflix series Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.  Also, peep the bit players and let me know if you think that a couple of them were propping themselves up with their appearance in the series. I don’t know- I just got a bad vibe.  

Anywho- that’s my take on what happened.  As promised, I have a couple of shoutouts for leaving me a 5-star review.  You can get a shout just by sending a favorable review on your platform of choice.  I will leave my linktree in the description so you can see all the wonderful places I can be found including TCbyTB.com.

This week I’m saying thanks to Melanie, Joel, and XOTori21 for putting a BIG smile on my face! Thank you all for being a part of my audience.  

Until next week, tell a friend to tell a friend- our numbers are growing! Don’t let them be left out of this expanding community.  That’s it. Thank you for joining me this week on True Crime: By the Book. Rate, review, and share! Later bookworms!

Sources and Shit

Netflix Documentary

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

https://www.netflix.com/title/81062828

Randy Roth

Tidings and salutations bibliophages!  Welcome back to True Crime: By The Book. Every week we discuss a new book, movie, or documentary related to true crime.  I’m your host- the Librarian- Tasha Pierce. I appreciate all the ratings, reviews, and feedback that I’ve been receiving.  Keep it coming! If you’d like to help the show, please leave a rating or review on the platform of your choice. This week we are digging into Randy Roth by way of Carlton Smith’s book, Fatal Charm.  So, let’s dig into the author’s bio, shall we?

An award-winning journalist for The Los Angeles Times and The Seattle Times during the 1970s and 1980s, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting in 1988. His books include Mind Games, Cold Blooded, The Prom Night Murders, Cold as Ice and In the Arms of Evil. There are more than two million copies of his books in print.

Carlton Smith

We know we’re in good hands with Smith, and he has teamed up with a stellar narrator in Keith Sellon-Wright.  He delivers the text with passion and enthusiasm and kept me engaged.  

That’s the author and narrator, short and succinct- which means there’s more time to unpack the story.  Here is the summary from Fatal Charm:

Smith, a prize-winning reporter for The Seattle Times, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for his coverage of the Green River Killer case. Now he reveals the shocking true story of serial wife-killer Randy Roth, the alluring, handsome man who was caught after his fourth wife “accidentally” drowned.

Once again, a description that is short and sweet.  Tells us enough to help us decide if we’re interested.   And of course, I’m interested.

This is the story of a man who knew what women wanted, and he delivered. He was born on Dec. 26, 1954 into a family that would ultimately consist of five children. Lizbeth and Gordon Roth were the parents in a dysfunctional home.  The atmosphere was patriarchal with zero tolerance of what was considered weak emotions. Randy absolutely worshipped his dad and even sided with him when he and Lizabeth divorced. In 1973, after graduating from high school, Randy enlisted in the Marine Corps.  He was an average soldier, but he would embellish his service record in letters that he wrote to his girlfriend at the time. He ended up being discharged after a year because his mom said she needed him home to provide for the family- it is speculated that Randy had grown tired of being a file clerk so his mom bailed him out of completing his service obligation.

When he returned home, he began living with his girlfriend, Teri.  Her family allowed them to reside in a home they owned. It was at this time that Teri discovered that he was seeing another woman named Donna.  Teri eventually had enough of Randy and broke things off with him. Even though Randy was as wrong as two left shoes, he gave Teri and her family HELL after the breakup.  He broke into the home of her parents, stealing and vandalizing. Teri went to the police and informed them that Randy was responsible for the break-in at her parents and she also gave them information on an unsolved robbery at a convenience store.  She told them that the perp was Randy, who had robbed the store in order to give her money for an abortion after an unwanted pregnancy. This occurred shortly before he left for basic training. This was the first known instance of Randy using illegal means to come into money.  Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last.  

Randy served two whole weeks in jail for the burglary of Teri’s parents’ home. Before long he married Donna and in 1978  they welcomed a baby boy to the family. Shortly after that, Donna was shown the exit. Randy divorced her and took custody of their son.  

Randy was considered “1970s hot”.  Think Magnum PI. So it wasn’t very difficult for him to get back in the dating arena.  In fact, this is where he meets Janis Miranda. He wooed her with his charm and wowed her with stories of his military service.  In these fairy tales, Randy spoke of death surrounding him, women and children being slaughtered, him being a killing machine in the jungles of Viet Nam.  He claimed to suffer from flashbacks of his service and that he was a very dangerous man. In fact, when they would meet up with friends who really did see combat, he would regale in these stories while they wondered why he would want to constantly relive these nightmares.  That was a problem that Randy didn’t know he had. He seemed to actually be proud of the things that most real combat veterans wanted to forget.   

In March of 1981, Randy and Janis married.  They bought a home and got insured to the gills.  Randy said that he wanted her to have the security of knowing that the home would be paid for if tragedy ever befell him- you know, because he was so scarred from his imaginary time in Nam.  The day after Thanksgiving of 1981, Randy and Janis decided to go hiking on Beacon Rock Trail. This was a roughly two-mile trail that is considered a moderate level hike. Randy and Janis had separated from the throng of hikers on the trail.  It was then that Janis went close to the edge, lost her footing, and plummeted over 300 feet. Randy was spotted going back and forth before pleading with others to assist him in finding his wife. The authorities were called but by the time they got to Janis, she was dead.  Although Randy’s statement was doubted, there was no real evidence tying him to her death. The following day, before notifying Janis’ family and friends of her death, he arranged to have her cremated and cashed in on her life insurance policy. That would be $100k in 1981 currency equal to just over 280K today.  

In 1985, Roth met and married a second Donna- single mother Donna Clift.  He followed the same pattern of charming, proposing, marrying, and becoming a massive asshole after the wedding.  He also talked Donna into getting a huge life insurance policy yadda yadda yadda. Then one day, when they were rafting, Donna was terrified when it seemed that he was intentionally heading into rough water.  She survived the incident and got the fuck out of Dodge. That’s 2 Donna’s that escaped what seemed like Randy’s death trap.  

He met another woman, Mary Jo Phillips. He didn’t marry her because she was a cancer survivor.  Cancer is rarely a lucky thing, but in this case, Mary Jo dodged the bullet because no insurance policy would cover her.  She wouldn’t be beneficial to Randy financially, so he was on to the next.

The next turned out to be Cynthia Baumgartner, a recently widowed young mother of two boys. Her first husband had passed away after being diagnosed with Hodgkins.  He had benefits that left his wife and children taken care of. This seemed to be an ideal situation for Randy. He swooped in and charmed who would turn out to be his fourth wife.  She was unaware that she would be the next wife to die so Randy could get his money right.

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Before they had even been married a year, Cynthia and Randy went out on Lake Sammamish with their raft.  After a few hours, Randy returned at a very nonchalant pace with an unconscious Cynthia. He claimed that she had fallen in the water and he had to rescue her.  The lifeguard on scene tried to resuscitate Cynthia to no avail. Her children watched as the paramedics arrived to work on their lifeless mother and they began to cry.  Randy was attempting to deflate the raft- seemingly unconcerned about the fate of his wife. That’s the thing about psychopathic murderers. They just don’t know how to perform as if they have emotions unless they have experiences to emulate from.  Randy’s upbringing didn’t afford him any opportunities to practice emotions. He simply didn’t know how to even PRETEND to give a fuck.

In fact, a witness stated that he told Cynthia’s sons to stop crying.  How do you expect children to react to watching their mother die? It was just noise to him.  He couldn’t empathize with their feelings. He took the boys to eat, went home, and probably dreamed about the 400K he stood to gain from Cynthia’s insurance policy.  Not to mention, he had her boys- which meant he also would have access to her first husband’s survivor’s benefits. Except, through all his controlling and abuse, Cynthia had the foresight to make her best friend the caretaker of her children in the case of her untimely death.  That was a wrench in Randy’s program, but he was still set on a huge life insurance payout plus proceeds from selling their home.  

In the meantime, King County police investigators were slowly building a case against this piece of crap.  They recreated the series of events that led to Cynthia’s demise according to Randy’s statement and- SURPRISE- the shit couldn’t have happened that way.  Then statements from witnesses on the beach when Cynthia was receiving CPR noted that Randy gave zero fucks about anything. Co-workers came out saying that Randy was utterly disgusted by Cynthia and was counting down the days before their “contract” ended at the one year anniversary.  Of course, before this day arrived his wife was already dead and cremated. There were many other disgusting acts by Randy during this “time of grief” that I will leave out for those who want to read the book. 

Of course, he was taken to trial in the murder of Cynthia Roth.  He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison and an additional year for theft.  He is eligible for parole in 2029- so be careful who you swipe right on in 2030! Also, sadly, the first Donna remained convinced that Randy is innocent and that he was a good husband.  I’ll remind you- he divorced her and took their child with no explanation. The bar is set really low for “good husbands”.

And this is where I’ll leave the story with my thoughts.  First of all- women, we have to be vigilant. It was far easier to be bamboozled in the early ‘90s, but let’s not act like this isn’t still a thing.  Dirty John, anyone? And if you aren’t sure what I’m referring to there is a FANTASTIC podcast, Netflix movie, and a couple of documentaries detailing THAT case.  We need to KEEP a network of friends, associates, and loved ones who need to be empowered to tell it like it is when it comes to new men in our lives. If the relationship is moving too fast, it’s okay to pump the brakes.  If things seem too good to be true be cautiously optimistic. Because a Randy Roth won’t have the patience to deal with a woman who is taking her time to make sure he is who he says he is. Also, if there are too many mysteries- Randy was known for not disclosing his age, not being interested in sex, and the horrible LIES that he told about Viet Nam- these kinds of mysteries should make us ask, “What does he have to hide?”  And then Donna- what the heck is your issue? This man is either the most unlucky husband on the planet or he is skilled at picking unlucky women. And she was clearly only good enough to carry his male child- he didn’t trust her to RAISE him. So, how could you back a man who thinks you aren’t shit? 

There are so many other tangents that I could go on with this case but I’ll just encourage you to read the book and let me know your thoughts!  You can always share feedback at TCbyTB@gmail.com.  You can also find me on social media on all the things- TCbyTB.  I do have a patreon and would love for someone to be my first donor at patreon.com/TCbyTB. I need to keep a stash of munchies and other edibles (wink, wink) for recording days!  Next week- we gotta discuss Aaron Hernandez! Netflix has released a documentary Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez and we MUST talk about it! That has the potential to be a two-part episode.  The next book on the docket is Solitary by Albert Woodfox in case you want to read it beforehand. 

As promised, I’ve got two new reviews that really lifted my spirits this week:

Thank you to NickRich5737 and fledanow from Canada for your wonderful reviews! Thanks for listening guys!  If you’d like to make my week, leave a rating and review on your platform of choice. I’ll shout you out on a future episode.  With that, I thank you for joining me for episode 13 and I hope you meet me here next week. Later bookworms!

India Mackey & Me/ Domestic Violence Stories

National Domestic Violence Hotline- 800-799-7233 or visit hotline.org

We’ll get to “Growing Up Buttafuoco” next week. The death of the young, bright, and beautiful India Mackey and others like her is pressing on my soul this week. I’m sharing her story and mine- we both were victims of domestic violence. She can’t share her story, so I’m sharing mine.

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E-mail: TCbyTB@gmail.com

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