Perseverance with a Purpose: The Cue Center for Missing Persons 2015 Conference

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No matter how it is traditionally measured, perseverance took center stage at this year’s 11th Annual Community United Effort for the Missing Conference. It is “the glue of one’s existence” once a missing person and/or potential homicide occurs. Weeks, months, years can pass while the mind, the heart and “every molecule” searches for the reason why with the fervent hope of a rescue versus a recovery.

In the beginning, assumptions are made by families that surely with all of the professionals involved, a blanket of publicity, clues, answers to the puzzle and a final outcome leading to justice will be theirs.

However, reality is often a bitter pill. Crime victim families are never prepared for the onslaught of the hard truths and emotions that “come with the package.” Monica Caison, aka “the Searcher,” the Founder of CUE and the visionary for families of the missing, guides the wounded and broken-hearted to a better place once trust is established.  Her uncompromising standards of excellence have paved the way for unparalleled success in many arenas and won the respect of professionals in the realm of missing persons. It takes a nationwide network and a very special village of dedicated individuals to accomplish her work in order to mend families on the path of their “new normal.”

The 2015 11th Annual Conference was my fourth time witnessing an incredible coming together of good souls, talented people with a mission in their hearts to serve, honor and educate. Unlike other professional conferences, this gathering is never about a “fee for service.” Rather, it is all about community as the name states in a way that no other gathering achieves! New people from across the country “attend and blend” with the veterans who have chosen to use their grief, along with interested volunteers for a productive purpose. In my experience, it takes but one exposure to this event to “hook you forever.” It matters not what your affiliation is you will be transformed!

“The Framework”

At some point in the sequence of events, a “light bulb” will appear. It could occur when Chip Krieger, a personable master of ceremonies, perpetually keeps the action going with a full agenda, good humor and lots of respect for the participants. He also doles out the many donated gift baskets as if,” just for a moment”, we think this must be a cruise, rather than a conference for the missing!

A brief three-hour period of levity in which you can dance and sing the night away to karaoke favorites or “dress up goofy” in the photo booth! What fun! (I got my souvenir with Monica!)

The lightbulb moment could happen when you participate in a newly created law enforcement panel who fields questions previously gone unanswered. Truth be told, families do want answers more than anything. However, often there is no answer, or the answer varies based upon the jurisdiction. In any case, courage abounds whether you are on the law enforcement side of the table or the survivor‘s side.

Drones 101” The Wave of the Future, and how they pertain to search and recovery efforts (as well as over 300 + other uses in the future was presented by John Minor, military and academic expert  of the Unmanned Vehicle University based  in Phoenix , AZ.

Your light bulb may begin to shine when learning about “No Body Convictions” that have occurred with increasing frequency and gained wider acceptance thanks to expert skilled prosecutor and author Tad DiBiase.  Still another reason for hope and perseverance.

The hard truths about Human Trafficking and all of its ugliness (the who, what, where when and why) were laid out as Criminologist, and Director of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute,  Sheryl McCollum and co-presenter Duane Thompson, Ph.D; gave an animated presentation of their investigative experiences in Atlanta.

The “Jane Wayne of the Courtroom” and cable TV, attorney  Holly Hughes,  gave a rousing presentation, Legal facts that can damage your case, discussing the “don’ts”  for crime victims which can damage their cases. Good practical advice interspersed with real courtroom examples!

Victim families are always interested in the forensic side of cases. Commander Peter Cestare educated participants concerning   the processing of the crime scene, and preservation through the presentation of evidence during courtroom testimony in Crime Scene to Courtroom.

Pet First Aid Class

Pet First Aid Class

Early in the conference, I heard rave reviews about the “hands on- on the floor” training regarding the importance of “Canine First Aide.”  Animals need care too!  CPR and First Aide training are the mainstays for the “boots on the ground” volunteers.

Nothing sets off a victim more than the media. Media Matters as told by long time CUE supporter, South Carolina Outreach Coordinator, Brian McQueen. As News Director for the NBC affiliate in Columbia, you will find no one more dedicated and concerned with accuracy and compelling coverage of missing persons families. He’s a true soldier in the fight for awareness!

“The Heart: The Victim’s Hour Presentations”

Listening to and relating our true life ordeals and experiences with violent crime and missing persons is the most difficult and heart wrenching aspect of the CUE Center Conference. Sometimes intimidated by the microphone, victims are gripped with emotion, trying to organize their thoughts, often through their tears conveying the circumstances and how very much their loved one is missed. They speak of personal qualities; special moments shared and lost opportunities for the future. This act is repeated informally over and over throughout the Conference. It is the “lifeblood” of the CUE- this give and take of educating and healing.  And, in the telling the first time, I believe families are set on the path of survivorship.   This year’s family representatives spoke of missing loved ones: Bonnie Santiago, Janet “Renee” Field, Jason Bolton and Christopher Douthat.

A special source of pride for me was the fact that five Connecticut based detectives were in attendance at this conference from New Haven’s Cold Case Unit and the Town of West Haven (where the University of New Haven and the Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science is located.) I was nervous in the beginning, for new people often feel like a “fish out of water.”  I did what I could to facilitate and then others took over to have conversations in various and sundry places and late into the night. One such conversation I participated in with Monica and “the Connecticut Five.”  Monica was at her best, full of information, and engaging all of us well into the wee hours.  Four hours of sleep that night, but it was so worth it. Monica and her team paved the way to truly understanding the families’ plight for these detectives by the end of the Conference. I was so proud!

It is in these late night discussions that ideas about cases and future collaborations are forged. This is the true magic that occurs without much effort for everyone gives freely from the heart. Nothing else matters!

What Victims Really Want

Monica spoke from the heart at the State Outreach Coordinators’ orientation and at the start of Sunday’s wrap-up. Her sage advice resonated with those who know, who have been part of the fabric of the CUE, adding their family stories to the thousands of families served in 20 plus years. Her ability to always be sensitive to families needs first and foremost and recall the most salient facts when illustrating a point is nothing short of amazing. As an audience, what we take away is of greatest importance. Each uses a “personal yardstick” to measure success. I was struck by her presentation recounting “fact or fiction” in the missing persons world.  Better to debunk the myths than to assume we always know the facts and understand every nuance.

What Families Can Do After the Tent has Folded and the Circus has Left Town was a skillful metaphor used to demonstrate that families need to be very much part of the equation.  We cannot wallow in grief. We must go to work, for with hard work, healing comes. Taking initiative with the assistance of others, building community is empowering. On this journey,   we will not only survive, but thrive and blossom!  I have seen it a thousand times! It is in this context that we set the building blocks for a future resolution with “person power” and faith in God.

The National Candlelight Service

Families honored at the National Candlelight Vigil

Families honored at the National Candlelight Vigil

The procession began with several busses proceeding along the approximately eight mile route with a full police escort, sirens blazing, stopping traffic along the route to the site of the service! This ceremonial gesture, I believe, was a first, and testament to the respect that law enforcement holds for Monica Caison and the CUE Center.   It certainly was a prideful moment for all of us who witnessed it!  The magic of the WWII USS North Carolina Battleship on the brisk ,but tolerably cool night,  against the backdrop of the Cape Fear River in Downtown Wilmington was the scene of the  moving tribute to persons gone missing.  Loved ones were in attendance to represent them, as well as civilian and law enforcement advocates. It was time to award the many who have contributed and those who have passed.  The beautiful color photo memorial wall featuring several dozen victims was unveiled and shone against the lights and hearts of all who participated.   Two musical tributes by Heather Cohen were breathtaking. We also appreciated the talent, wit and “peppering humor” of MC, local TV personality, Sandra McClammy and the inspirational words of Reverend Angie Davis.   Special honorees this year included the families for Gerald Graham, Angie Pipkin and Alysha Tucker.  Two Musical Tributes by Heather Cohen and the inspirational Reverend Angie Davis.

The Heart From My Perspective

Families of those who go missing, or are survivors of homicide, no matter how it occurs, do not want “closure.” This term is a misnomer so frequently used by law enforcement, the media and the legal profession.  Closure is not possible. We have wounded hearts that will forever be damaged. Closure implies that there is a timeline sequence – a beginning, middle and end to grief and pain. An end is a final act. Concerning missing persons in particular, your psyche is perpetually in a “state of suspended animation” if you will – waiting for the other shoe to drop, the next tip to come in or waiting for a person to “grow a conscience.” It is never ending! It is torture! You can see it in their faces, you can hear it in their voices. The term “resolution” is more appropriate as it is more accurate and describes what is happening similar to “chapters of your life.”  The event (i.e. My father’s homicide) will never go away totally for me, although it may fade. BUT, I have successfully made it through many chapters. Each chapter leads to the next. We can never “close the book totally,” but we can achieve a resolution at the stage we are in.

To distill it to its core, when dealing with the uninformed general public, and the media who deals in sound bites, victims need a sense of purpose in their journey versus the ill-conceived “closure.”  A sense of closure means something to do that is productive which contributes to the overall effort of finding their loved one. They cannot sit idly by. Sometimes there is a fine line between “helping/doing what comes natural” and “interfering “with the investigation.  Therefore, the case manager and the police must assess the situation and assign the family a task(s) that will help and at the same time empower them. Such tasks might be small in the overall scheme, but vital just the same. Examples: Gathering photos, constructing a timeline of the last days as they recall their loved one’s activities. If there is a search, purchasing food and water for teams etc.

The Passage Award in Memory of Susan Murphy Milano

Marshia Morton receives the Passage Award

Marshia Morton receives the Passage Award

This award is given to an individual, who has suffered the loss of a loved one by being a missing person, victim of homicide or one that has survived the cruelties from intimate partner violence. This award recognizes the survivor that has healed and who has risen above to contribute oneself to those who remain in need of guidance, empowerment, support and who continually hold a devotion to the cause in memory of Susan Murphy Milano.

This year’s recipient of the Passage Award – Marshia Morton – an excellent choice, who quietly assists in several capacities for the CUE and is a Missouri State Outreach Coordinator.

Another person who is beloved to the CUE organization for being a tireless advocate, as well as the father of a missing daughter, was Robert Cooke, of Georgetown Texas.  Until his death in November, 2014, he had the distinction of participating in every CUE Center Conference since its inception.  He was a special friend and supporter to Monica who is missed every day.  Tragically, his daughter, Rachel Cooke vanished while jogging in 2002 while visiting her parents. She remains missing.

A memorial scholarship for a fee paid conference was set up in his name and was awarded to Gail Soles, the mother of missing Crystal Gail Soles.

Finally, there were so many acts of random kindness from helping, listening , giving, sharing ,awarding expensive goods won (such as a guitar) and hugs throughout!

It humbled me to share my room with family members of one of the vigil honorees. The story of the loss of her daughter, Elisha Tucker is tragic, and only one of many which has befallen the family .

I thank those who assisted me especially Rachael Caison, Delilah Jones, Jerry Sigmon, and Sheryl McCollum for your special assistance and kindnesses. Let’s make it a great year filled with hope for families of the missing!

Donate to the Cue Center for Missing Persons  

CUE Center for Missing Persons

Protection Under the Dome: Is Your State Capitol a Safe Place? 

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It’s a “sign of the times” so they say…being cautious and proactive against future violence.  After 9-11 in our neighboring state of New York and the horrible massacre in Newtown, CT in 2012, you would think that we would have caught up with other states. However, it appears that public buildings for the public’s use and enjoyment was a primary reason against installing metal detectors at our historic and palatial looking State Capitol  (constructed between 1872 and 1879). But perhaps, “the public’s right to enter’” should be safeguarded as much as possible in 2015.

“For decades, legislators in Connecticut resisted recommendations by police to add metal detectors as a permanent feature at the Capitol and Legislative Office Building.”

A little history regarding the registered historic landmark: the Connecticut State Capitol 

The Capitol was opened in 1878 and stands in the picturesque setting of Bushnell Park. (Construction 1872 -1879). Designed by Richard M. Upjohn, a cathedral architect, this High Victorian Gothic style statehouse was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1971 and underwent a restoration between 1979 and 1989.The exterior marble from East Canaan, Connecticut and granite from Westerly, Rhode Island is accented by a gold leaf dome. The interior floors of the Capitol are inlaid with white marble and red slate from Connecticut and colored marble from Italy. The stenciling, stained-glass windows and light fixtures were designed by Boston interior decorator William James McPherson.  This beautiful and unique building houses the executive offices and legislative chambers of the state, as well as historical memorabilia including statues of Nathan Hale, “The Genius of Connecticut” and Governor William Buckingham.

How Does Your State Stack Up with Security?

According to a 2007 survey in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. All three have metal detectors, as do Pennsylvania and New Jersey. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, there are metal detectors installed at 23 state Capitols, in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.    All three have metal detectors, as do Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Some State Capitols screen all visitors with the metal detectors, while others such as California exempt state employees and legislators.

According to a CT NewsJunkie.com article, during Governor Malloy’s second inaugural address at the beginning of the legislative session on January 6, 2015, “every Capitol Police officer and security technician was on duty.” No incidents were reported.

In Connecticut, some state employees and all legislators are exempted from screening by the metal detectors.  Rather, they may use their badges to get through the turnstiles or vestibules to get into the building. (Hmmm! Who are the exempted employees and why? Suppose they did this at airports?)

In terms of overall traffic, legislators, staff, and the nearly 150,000 annual visitors  including   more than 25,000 school children visit the State Capitol Complex and our beautiful  “over the top” cherry wood and marble Legislative Office Building.

Since 1999, upgrades have included: installation of cameras and video equipment, a card access system, increase in staffing of capitol state police, implementing a security technician program, installing garage gate arm access and emergency call boxes, implementing an emergency warden program, (i.e. emergency management building personnel knowledgeable about proper procedures),  mandatory staff  intruder drill training and workplace violence training.

It all sounds impressive BUT… in February 6, 2002 it all went wrong! According to a Hartford Courant article, a report with the following information was issued to legislative leaders, but not to the public! ‘Too embarrassing! I was just into my third year as a state employee when this occurred….

  • Police swarmed the state Capitol complex in response to a report of a gunman on a roof;
  • Some employees of the Legislative Office Building weren’t notified the building was being evacuated, and no one made use of a public address system to direct the hundreds of people who were “locked down” inside the Capitol;
  • “Several lapses” in the police response were described as “an uneven enforcement of the lockdown and a lack of communication between police and legislative leaders and staff.”
  • Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Legislative Office Building and detained in the adjacent Capitol in the hours after the legislative session opened Feb. 6th. *** Two women told police they saw a machine-gun toting man on the roof of the office building’s garage.
  • THE TRUTH – It was a videographer with a hand-held camera.   But, it might have been just as they described!
  • Capitol police admitted that an evacuation at the Capitol complex had “not been tried or practiced before,”
  • Joint training sessions were needed to familiarize state and local police with the government complex. A “lack of communication” between all parties could have been eliminated if only they would have made use of use of public address systems, e-mails and a formal chain of contact.
  • Additional problems included:  insufficient radio communication between the police, a SWAT team, armed military police and the “Trooper One” helicopter, which hovered overhead.
  • The primary concerns expressed by employees centered around the evacuation and lockdown procedures…. Workers in the office building library and maintenance workers in the basement were not notified by police that the building was being evacuated. During the Capitol lockdown, when all doors should have been secured some people were seen exiting and leaving the grounds, potentially in the line of fire of a “potential sniper.”
  • Interestingly, as reported by the Hartford Courant, “a search of the garage turned up evidence that police initially thought could be connected to the reported gunman — a “ski-mask type hat” and three vehicles that they considered suspicious. But by 6:30 p.m., the garage was deemed safe. A half-hour later, an attorney contacted state police on behalf of the rooftop cameraman, suggesting a misidentification had occurred.   (What??  An attorney was representing the cameraman in 30 minutes?? LOL How convenient for him!)
  • Children in the on-site day care center for children of state employees remained safe. However, an upgraded phone system with a message light for emergency calls was recommended.
  • To this day, I can attest to any public meeting in the LOB, “a script” concerning emerge procedures is always read at the outset.  And…. To this day, I believe that no one is allowed to park or have access to the upper floor of the LOB garage!

January 10, 2010, in Austin Texas:

  • Twenty–four year old Fausto Cardenas, was identified as the shooter after firing several shots from a small-caliber handgun on the Capitol steps.
  • Although beginning in 2009, visitors to the House and Senate galleries were asked to pass through metal detectors outside the third-floor galleries to watch legislative action in those chambers nothing had been done to secure the entrances to the Capitol.
  • Governor Rick Perry had received endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association. His response was: “I’m always up for looking at new ways to protect our citizens, but the last thing I want is for the Texas Capitol to turn into DFW Airport.” (So what else is new??)
  • Another incident “may have forced the hand that fed Governor Perry” when in May 2010, another man was arrested for dropping an eight-inch knife on the floor during a committee meeting.
  • According to AR15.com,”Home of the Black Rifle,” as of their post on Friday, May 21, 2010,  Tourists entering the Texas Capitol during the start of the new security procedures thought “metal detectors were a good idea ***until they found out people with concealed handgun permits are not required to surrender their firearms at the door.
  • “People with licenses still can carry guns in the building, so what’s the point? Why are you putting up metal detectors, some people inquired. Just before noon, perhaps only one in 20 people entering the building through the south entrance had to go through the metal detectors. A special line was set up for school groups, people with concealed handgun permits and people with state-issued building passes. A computer is set up for troopers to check the status of handgun permits.”

Does this make any sense to you?  I say, no guns, period in the Capitol except for law enforcement.

Definition- Conceal and Carry law –

Concealed carry or carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) is the practice of carrying a weapon (such as a handgun) in public in a concealed manner, either on one’s person or in close proximity. Not all weapons that fall under CCW controls are lethal. For example, in Florida, carrying pepper spray in more than a specified volume (2 oz.) of chemical requires a CCW permit. Whereas, anyone may legally carry a smaller, so-called, “self-defense chemical spray” device hidden on their person without a CCW permit.

Texas Requirements Conceal- Carry Weapons: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/RSD/CHL/faqs/index.htm

  • The Concealed Handgun Law sets out the eligibility criteria that must be met. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age (unless active duty military) and must meet Federal qualifications to purchase a handgun.  A number of factors may make you ineligible to obtain a license, such as: felony convictions and some misdemeanor convictions, including charges that resulted in probation or deferred adjudication; pending criminal charges; chemical or alcohol dependency; certain types of psychological diagnoses protective or restraining orders, and defaults on state or city taxes, governmental fees, or child support.  Eligibility requirements can be found in GC §411.172.You must also submit a completed application, pay the required fees and submit all of the required supplemental forms and materials.

Conclusion:

I suppose we all have our preferences as to what makes us feel most secure based upon our culture, upbringing and experience. However, can we not draw the line and hand over the guns when it comes to our public places of assembly, learning, law making and human civility?

Although we know that humans are not at all civil when it comes to the use of violent crime as a means to “settle differences,” I prefer to think that “a gun in your pocket,” particularly in public places designed for our citizenry to come together as one, is not the path for “the ordinary citizen”, not at all.

 

References: http://ctmirror.org/2014/01/17/sign-of-times-metal-detectors-coming-to-connecticut-capitol/

http://www.cga.ct.gov/capitoltours/

http://www.ct.gov/dmhas/lib/dmhas/legislative/SCPD_Press_Release_1-17-2014_.pdf

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/opening_day_inauguration_test_new_security_measures_at_capitol/

http://www.ehs.washington.edu/fsoemerprep/evacwardduties.shtm

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Perry-rebuffs-call-for-Capitol-metal-detectors-1696334.php

http://www.ar15.com/archive/topic.html?b=8&f=8&t=410900

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_carry_in_the_United_States

Who is a Missing Person? 

who is a missing person?

This question came across social media to me recently and the question had me thinking about all the permutations of “the missing.” Is there a true definition? Is there an official “Journal of the Missing”, published monthly and doled out to all library shelves at University libraries? A quick internet search revealed nothing.  This is a niche that few have studied in any depth with the exception of grass root non-profit organizations. They, in fact, are the experts with honed skills through “being in the trenches “and figuring out what truly is needed, how to assist the families of the missing, building collaborations with law enforcement and other organizations in order to do everything possible to effect a rescue versus a search for remains.  The CUE Center for Missing Persons stands out among such organizations.

At its core, how do we know someone is missing?

On a personal level, I believe that if someone cares for another person, has a personal tie to them, and that person has not been located in several hours, to days, months, years,  that is a “heart definition” of a missing person. Are there people who go missing intentionally? YES!  Are there people who go missing unintentionally by virtue of circumstances beyond their control? Yes! Should we judge as to if their gone missing status was preventable? NEVER, because one mis-step or series of bad decisions and we could be there is “a New York minute!

Legal Definition (According to US Legal.com) A missing person is a person 18 years old or older whose disappearance is possibly not voluntary, or a child whose whereabouts are unknown to the child’s legal custodian, the circumstances of whose absence indicate that:

  1. The child did not voluntarily leave the care and control of the custodian, and the taking of the child was not authorized by law; or
  2. The child voluntarily left the care and control of the child’s legal custodian without the custodian’s consent and without intent to return.
  3. State agencies work to coordinate reports of missing persons with federal agencies, such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
  4. In states with an Amber Alert Plan, parents of a missing or abducted child can contact their local police or sheriff’s department to file a Missing Person Report. If a child is missing and believed to be in danger, there is no 24-hour waiting period.  The law enforcement agency will immediately enter information about the missing child into the Missing Person’s database and the National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person File.

Participating law enforcement agencies can request an Amber Alert if their investigation determines that the child’s disappearance meets the Amber Alert criteria.

Types and Examples of Missing Persons:

Every missing person is somebody’s child…

Other Categories:

We also have men and women missing as a consequence of prostitution, “survival on the street” essentially often hiding in plain sight, fighting their demons, trying to survive.

Another huge category of the missing is attributed to Intimate Partner Violence. We need only to go to SusanMurphy-Milano.Com to see the thousands of examples she left for us!

And on and on….

Suffice it to say, the reasons for going missing are many and varied. If we care for humanity, our hearts are big enough to hold all of the reasons. It matters not why in the final analysis. It only matters that we find them and help them back to a “new normal.”

CUE Center for Missing PersonsIf you know of a missing person, please file a report with the police and then contact the CUE Center for Missing persons, a national non-profit organization.  To support their work: http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/donate/

 

Who is a Missing Person?

 

Confessions: Cleansing the Heart

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There are so many circumstances under which so many people confess….

This blog is not an attempt to chronicle all serial killers, or even one killer’s confessions, or a discussion of false accusations or wrongful convictions. To try to compile such information in one shot, this writer would just faint away in exhaustion. However, my point is to present a smattering of different kinds of confessions, as such emotions are intriguing to me and hopefully to other readers.

Homicide confessions

Tommy Lynn Sells, convicted serial killer . Says he does not want to “Come out here and say a bag of hoo-hoo” to quote his own words from a transcript of a 2004 “20/20 interview.” (He has claimed responsibility for over 70 murders across the United States!)   However, that’s what prolific serial killers do. They are so convoluted in their descriptions and mix up events that you never know what’s really going on.  Are they trying to be coy? Are they trying to fool interviewers? Or, do they really, just don’t remember the accumulated impact of their crimes?

Diane Fanning uncovered the truth and brought justice for  accused mother Julie Rea Harper and her son Joel. In the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1997, Julie Rea was sleeping in her home when she was awakened by a scream. Concerned about her son, Joel, she went to investigate and yelled his name, but his bed was empty. Julie said she then struggled with a masked intruder, chasing him through the house, bursting through two glass doors and into the backyard.  Then, she said, the intruder walked away, removing the mask under a street light before vanishing into the night.

Within minutes, police arrived. Julie had a bruise over her eye and a gash on her arm. Police immediately searched her home and found Joel dead, his T-shirt bloody from multiple stab wounds to his chest.

Why didn’t they believe her? Well, they were sloppy in their initial investigation and trial and there was a messy divorce, and perhaps “the intruder in the middle of the night” just seemed so unbelievable.

Then there was another victim in the ring of terror by Sells who survived. On December 31, 1999, 10-year-old Krystal Surles was staying at the house of a friend, 13-year-old Kaylene ‘Katy’ Harris, when she was attacked by a man in the bedroom where the two girls were sleeping. She had just witnessed Kaylene having her throat slashed, when the man grabbed her and cut her throat. Pretending to be dead, she stayed still until she could escape and get help from the next door neighbor.

She survived and was able to assist in the conviction of Sells.

The actual retrial began in summer 2006. The court ruled that serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells’ confession would be permitted as evidence in her new trial, despite questions about its credibility. Meanwhile, the court ruled that some of the damaging testimony from Rea Harper’s ex-husband would not be allowed.

The Defense attorney, Ron Safer, maintained that Rea Harper’s first lawyer had been in over his head and that despite evidence to the contrary, police had unjustly focused on her as their prime suspect from the very beginning.

“All you have to do is examine the physical evidence and the circumstantial evidence for a concentrated couple of days,” he said, “and you can reach no other conclusion but Julie was 100 percent innocent.-    115_TTWnewcover

Enter true crime writer and researcher Diane Fanning, who saw Rea Harper’s story on “20/20″ and found herself moved by her proclamation of innocence.

Diane was finishing a book on the brutal history of Tommy Lynn Sells, who was a death row serial killer with a history of drug addiction. She corresponded with Sells, and mentioned her doubts about Rea Harper’s conviction. (Through the Window)

Diane said, “I didn’t tell him who she was, I didn’t tell him where it happened, I didn’t tell him when it happened, nothing,” And he popped back with a letter and said, ‘Was that murder you were talking about one that happened two days before the one I did in Springfield, Mo.? Say maybe on the 13th?'”

What was it about a timeline that didn’t make sense? Joel was killed Oct. 13th– two days before police say Sells had raped and murdered 13-year-old Stephanie Mahaney in nearby Springfield, Missouri.

A Second Look and a Second Chance at Justice 

The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University and the Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin decided to represent her in her appeal pro bono and would spend in time and money- The equivalent of $1 million on her defense.

“A taste” of what one of Tommy Lynn’s Sells Confession was like:

For the entire transcript with 20/20 See link- http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=784420&page=1&singlePage=true

INTERVIEWER

Did you commit the murder of the boy in Lawrenceville?

TOMMY

I committed a murder two days before, the Springfield murder. I know this. Is it this murder you’re talking about? I’m assuming, got a good shot at it. You know. But, but to be-

INTERVIEWER

Can you tell me, Tommy, what you remember about that murder?

TOMMY

Next to nothing. And, and I tried talking to Bob [NAME UNCLEAR] about this, and uh, y’all, y’all come here in forty-five minutes and you want me to disclose a murder investigation that, I’ve sat through many, and it takes hours. And, and y’all just want me to try to say that I’ve done something that I’m not a hundred percent sure; I’m not even forty percent sure. I know I committed a murder two days before Springfield…

INTERVIEWER

Can you tell me what you do remember about that?

TOMMY

I remember getting in a fight with a woman. Well, not a fight, but a struggle.

INTERVIEWER

Where was that? At a diner? At a restaurant-

TOMMY

No, no, during the murder.

INTERVIEWER

During the murder?

TOMMY

Right. OK. And I thought it was her that I killed. But apparently it wasn’t. Now, y’all saying it’s a boy, and, and you know, it wasn’t like I asked for a name and, and, you know, I just went in to a dark room and started cutting. Or stabbing.

INTERVIEWER

Do you remember why you went to that particular house?

TOMMY

Well, see, I wouldn’t say I had the right house, but I’m not even sure if I went to the right house. Uh.

INTERVIEWER

Were you looking for someone or something?

TOMMY

Yes.

INTERVIEWER

What were you looking for?

TOMMY

I was looking for a woman, uh, that, that I had got into an argument with at a little convenience store earlier that day. And I had followed her, and thinking this is where she lives. No, go figure that. You know, it’s, it sounds awful coincidental, and the finger sure points to that one. You know. But, but before I say, yeah, I did something; I want to know I did it. I just don’t want to come out here and say, uh, a bag of hoo-hoo, and say this is what you want to hear, this is what I want to tell you. I’m, I’m, and you understand what I’m saying?

And…on and on….

Through Diane’s unrelenting pursuits and meticulous research, in 2011 Diane Fanning received the prestigious Defenders of the Innocents Award.

Status of Tommy Lynn Sells:  Sells was executed in Texas on April 3, 2014, at 6:27 p.m. CST by lethal injection. He declined to make a final statement.

Intimate Partner Violence

In 1991, after years of domestic violence, Geraldine Kelly shot and killed her husband and stored his body in a freezer at their home in Ventura, California. She told her young children that their father died in a car accident. Seven years later moving back to Somerville Massachusetts, she had the body driven across country stored in a local storage facility in Somerville. In 2004, 13 years after the murder Kelly was gravely ill with breast cancer and confessed to her daughter that she had killed her father claiming he abused her for years and told her where to find his body. The body was mummified but identified as John Kelly based on distinctive tattoos he was known to have including a panther, a Kewpie doll and a skull. The cause of death was a gunshot to the back of the head.

Lock Ness Monster Photo

In 1934 a doctor named Robert Kenneth Wilson offered a picture to the Daily Mail newspaper. Wilson told the newspaper he noticed something moving in Loch Ness, stopped his car to take the photo. Wilson refused to have his name associated with it so the photo became known simply as “The Surgeon’s Photo.” For decades this photo was considered to be the best evidence of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. In 1994 at the age of 93 and near death Christian Spurling confessed that the surgeon’s photo taken 60 years ago was a hoax and the mastermind behind it was his Stepfather Marmaduke Wetherell.

Confessed to: the Murder of William Desmond Taylor

William Desmond Taylor was an actor and a top US film director of silent films in the early days of Hollywood. He was to death in 1922 it became one of Hollywood’s most famous mysteries

In 1964, 42 years after the murder a reclusive old woman living in the Hollywood Hills was suffering from a heart attack and summoned her neighbor. she asked for a priest to confess but when no Priest was available she began to make her confession to her neighbor. As she was dying on her kitchen floor she said she was a silent film actress by the name of Margaret Gibson and that she shot and killed a man named William Desmond Taylor. She is alleged to have been involved romantically with Taylor but a motive as to why she killed him was never mentioned.

The Violin Story: In 1936 Polish virtuoso Hall Huberman was performing at Carnegie Hall and decided to switch the Stradivarius he was playing in the first half of his performance to his newly acquired Guarnerius violin. After the intermission the Stradivarius was stolen out of his dressing room by 20-year-old Julian Altman who was a New York nightclub musician.

Altman went on to become a violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. and performed for Presidents and politicians with the stolen Stradivarius for many years. In 1985, 49 years after the theft, Julian Altman who was in prison for child molestation and gravely ill confessed to his wife that he had stolen the violin. He then instructed his wife where to find the Stradivarius at the couple’s home. Along with the Stradivarius, she found newspaper clippings recounting the theft. In 1987 his wife returned the Stradivarius to Lloyds of London in exchange for a $263,000 finder’s fee.

Romantic Confessions of Love…  Okay- Proposals: “That One Thing”

This says it all! 8 minutes of bliss!  http://www.wimp.com/romanticproposal/

 

 

 

References: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2931404&page=1&singlePage=true

http://crime.about.com/od/serial/fl/Tommy-Lynn-Sells.htm

http://www.dianefanning.com/truecrimebooks/throughthewindow.html

http://listverse.com/2009/09/29/top-10-fascinating-deathbed-confessions/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deathbed_confession

http://www.wimp.com/romanticproposal/