Monday, December 13, 2010

Mother sentenced to 9 years prison, 5 years post release supervision for stabbing husband

A mother who stabbed her husband in the same house that their kids lived in was sentenced to 9 years in the New York state prison system and 5 years post release supervision for the attack. According to prosecutors, this stemmed from a desire to cash in on a life insurance policy. The mother was sentenced in Saratoga County Court Judge Jerry Scarano's courtroom on December 2, 2010.

On the night of Nov. 9, 2009, deputies from the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office responded to a 911 call made by Thomas Vautrin from the home the couple shared with their two children, who were then 5 and 10 years old. Police arrived to discover both Thomas and Mary Jane had suffered serious stab wounds, and the couple were taken for treatment at Albany Medical Center.

Mary Jane Vautrin, 36, initially told police she was attacked by her husband. But investigators said her wounds were self-inflicted, so she was arrested and charged with a six-count indictment that included second-degree attempted murder. Those charges were later dropped in favor of a first-degree felony assault charge as part of a negotiated plea deal.

The stabbing incident was believed to be part of a plan to cash in on a life insurance policy in excess of $30,000, which the woman allegedly forged in her husband's name.

The victim impact statement by Thomas Vautrin,"We had a normal life, normal kids, normal problems. That changed one night about a year ago. On that night, I woke up to my wife stabbing me...Why would you want me dead?"

"When I was in the hospital, I prayed not to live through this," said Thomas Vautrin, who has "14 visible scars. "I can't deny I love you," Thomas Vautrin said to his wife in court Thursday morning.
He went on to explain, however, that the attack has had significant repercussions."The (children), pulled from their beds, seeing the blood-splattered walls ..." he said, his voice trailing off in the courtroom.

Thomas also read victim impact statements from the couple's two children. "I can't see you. I can't snuggle with you...No more doing holiday stuff. No putting up the tree. No Halloween with us," the younger child said.

Besides the prison sentence, Scarano issued a permanent order of protection for the victim against his wife.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Girl's basketball coach charged with child seduction for "affair" with 17 year old sentenced to house arrest

(Original Post 12-20-09)
An Indianapolis girls' basketball coach was charged with child seduction Friday, December 18 for having an "affair" with a 17 year old girl. Investigations believed that Sara Strahm, a 28 year old Pike High School basketball coach, began the "relationship" with her charge earlier in the fall. Pike officials notified police about the alleged relationship.

Sgt. Paul Thompson of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said his agency will give more details of the case Monday, when formal charges are filed. "We believe there were five instances of sexual contact between these two individuals. State law clearly states that if you're under 18, you can't give consent if it's a relationship with someone in a position of trust such as a school official." The Metro police department wants others to come forward just in case there are more victims.

Pike Township School Board member Nancy Poore stated that "I'm saddened to hear of an arrest. I'm not passing judgment on whether this is accurate information or whether anything will be proven against this person. . . . But I'm always saddened when I hear there's a problem related to one of our staff members."

Joe Johnson, a parent of a Pike student, said that "A lot of these parents work a lot of hours, and a coach is like a second family. When you get that trust and you break that, it's really disturbing."
Strahm was released on $5000 bond last night after processing at the Arrestee Processing Center.

(Update 12-24-09) Strahm was officially arraigned on six child seduction charges in an Indanapolis courtroom yesterday. There are more details about the allegetions which led to her arrest.

The affidavit said the 17-year-old student who reportedly was involved with the coach told Tiffany Thomas, another member of the school coaching staff. That information on the allegations was given to Pike Township Schools police and then passed along to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, which started its investigation Friday, the affidavit read.

An e-mail that had been sent to the Pike athletic director tipped investigators to the case. The athletic director, James Perkins, is quoted in the affidavit as saying there had been allegations about teacher and student earlier this autumn, that Strahm had denied the relationship, and that he had warned Strahm about contact with members of the basketball team. Both women initially denied, then admitted to the relationship, according to the affadavit.

The victim claimed she loved Strahm, according to the complaint. "She (the student) said she loves Ms. Strahm and did not want to get her in trouble." Strahm has been replaced by her assistant David Barlow,
father of a former standout.

(Update 12-9-10) Strahm was sentenced to a year in jail, with 185 days suspended and the rest on house arrest after pleading guilty to two counts of child seduction. The guilty plea took place November 22, 2010. In Indiana, child seduction carries a 1 to 3 year prison sentence and occurs when a person in a position of trust has sexual contact with a teen between 16 and 18.

The Marion County Prosecutor's Office said Strahm will be on probation for 185 days and must undergo sex offender treatment. She has a no-contact order with the victim. Strahm was ordered to give up her teaching license. Her felonies will be reduced to misdemeanors if she successfully completes probation.

Besides the above consequences, she was also ordered to undergo 240 hours of community service and fired from her coaching job in January.

Wife gets decade for "manslaughter" of husband

A woman who helped her "lover" to kill her husband was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment Wednesday, December 1, in a St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana courtroom. Kendra Talley, a 30 year old mother of an eight year old son, was sentenced to the decade long term after pleading guilty to 2nd degree manslaughter and crystal meth posession last month. Judge Peter Garcia presided over her trial. The "lover," Tommy D. Rowell Sr., is serving a mandatory life without parole sentence for 2nd degree murder.

The deadly night of Dec. 11, 2004, started when Kendra Talley left her home wearing a sweater, a T-shirt and jeans. Her husband stayed home to recover from surgery to remove his wisdom teeth.

Kendra Talley later met up with Rowell and slipped into a blouse, black miniskirt and knee-high boots, and they drove together to the French Quarter to feast on crystal meth, marijuana and potent "hand grenade" drinks, according to witness testimony from Rowell's trial.

They spent most of the evening and morning with friends at a Bourbon Street bar. There, Rowell and Talley argued after Talley gave Carnival beads to another man and flashed him by lifting her leg onto a railing, friends at the bar testified.

Finally, as the sun rose during their journey back across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, Kendra Talley told Rowell that her husband had raped her.

Rowell took Kendra Talley to her home at 108 Gratitude Drive. He honked his horn. Thomas Talley, who had been taking pain medication, stepped outside, wearing only his pajamas. Rowell drew a gun and shot the husband six times, twice point-blank to the head.

Rowell met Kendra when she was 15 and he was 27, meeting through her parents.

David Talley, the victim's brother said through his victim impact statement that the killing robbed the victim of family bonding time, including watching his son grow up. "I know my brother would like to take his son fishing, but he can't - because his life was taken by a selfish act....Zachary's birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter," he said. "The saddest thing in my life was seeing my little brother in his casket . . . all because of bad choices that were made."

Defense attorney Kevin McNary asked Judge Garcia to take into account the single parenting of his client and Zachary's high grades in school. He said his client was not the same person she was "when she was 24," completing a drug rehabilitation program.

Judge Garcia, focusing on the killing, told Talley, "You had a high degree of responsibility," sentencing her to the maximum possible in the plea deal.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Man who slept with, pimped grown daughter out sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, 15 years sex offender probation - daughter sentenced to probation

(Original Post 5-2-10)
A Palm Coast, FL man who prostituted and had sex with his grown daughter was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and 15 years of sex offender probation Friday, April 30. Alton Smith, 47, was sentenced after pleading guilty to two counts of incest, one count of living off the earnings of prostitution and 52 counts of possession of child pornography. After completion of prison, Smith will be subject to lifetime monitoring under Jessica's Law and civil commitment under Florida's Jimmy Ryce Act.

The incest and prostitution counts were due to his pimping (and having sex with) his daughter Kristilyn. The incest led to a 3 year old son who is now in state custody. Because the incest happened in the presence of their son at their former business, Hot Shots A1A Models and Photography, one of the charges Smith plead guilty to was lewd and lascivious exhibition in the presence of a minor under 16.

A suspicious advertisement for an escort service led investigators to arrest Kristilyn Smith for prostitution on Dec. 12 [2008]. Alton Smith also was charged with being a principal to prostitution and was given a notice to appear in court.  According to a police report, Smith admitted his daughter occasionally worked as a paid escort and he told police that those who answered his Internet ads usually would photograph or film his daughter in the nude.

When Flagler investigators returned to the Smiths' Palm Coast home with a search warrant later in December, they said they found photos of "hundreds" of children posed nude or engaged in sex acts.

Officials also arrested Smith's wife, Tina Marie Smith, 44, who is his daughter's stepmother. Tina Marie Smith had been jailed for 15 months until last month when she struck a deal, pleading guilty to aggravated child abuse in exchange for prosecutors dropping 37 counts of possession of child pornography against her. She was sentenced to 10 years sex offender probation and will not be listed as a sex offender.

Kristilyn will be sentenced at a later date for 3 counts of incest, prostitution, and child neglect.

(Update 11-23-10) Last Monday, November 16, Kristilyn was sentenced to 5 years probation in a Daytona Beach courtroom for a single charge of incest.  Flagler County, FL Circuit Judge Kim C. Hammond dropped a second incest charge and a child neglect charge. Volusia County sentenced Kristilyn to 15 years probation for another incest charge. This concludes the criminal proceedings against her.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sushi chef serial rapist gets 40 years with 34 to serve

A former sushi chef who was convicted of raping women in the Miami and Miami Beach areas was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment with at least 34 to serve by a Miami Dade court Monday, November 1. 31 year old Arturo Ortiz-Soto plead guilty to 2 counts of rape and two counts of attempted rape under Judge Ellen Sue Venzer, sparinig himself a maximum sentence of 140 years.

Ortiz-Soto worked as a sushi chef at various Miami Beach restaurants, the last a rooftop sushi bar at the Gansevoort South Hotel. His spree included:

• Raping a woman he met outside Jerry's Famous Deli in November 2006. Claiming he owned his own sushi restaurant, Ortiz-Soto bought her a calzone then lured her to an alleyway off 14th Street and Collins Avenue.

• Raping a woman in an alley off Collins Avenue and Ninth Street. Ortiz-Soto spied her leaving Mango's Tropical Cafe and lured her into the alley by promising to sell her marijuana. ``Forgive me, I'm sorry,'' he told the woman after the attack, before running off.

• Attempting to rape a woman he met at The Office bar in September 2007. He brutally beat her in an alley off Fourth Street -- after offering her pizza -- but the woman was able to break free.

• Trying to rape a woman in an alley off Collins Avenue and 14th Street in July 2008. He punched the woman several times but was scared off by the screams of a passerby.

After the last attack, police officers saw Ortiz-Soto jump into a taxi with blood covered clothes, and surveillance cameras captured him to the act. According to prosecutor Ivonne Sanchez-Ledo, the perp left DNA evidence in the two rape cases. Ortiz-Soto confessed to the crimes after his arrest. Sanchez-Ledio and defense attorney Christopher DeCoste agreed to a three decade sentence, but Judge Venzer rejected that sentence as being too lenient., leading to the 40 year plea bargain. "You have irreparably changed the lives of your victims by your behavior.I do believe this sentence will sufficiently guarantee you do no more harm to our citizens.''

Bay Area serial rapist gets life for attacking four women

A Richmond, California man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for a rape spree committed against four women between 2007 and 2009 in his hometown and the nearby city of Oakland. Michael Edward Stevens, 30, was sentenced to 165 to life for 15 felonies and 2 misdemeanors. His conviction took place in July, and the sentencing took place Friday, November 5, presided over by Contra Costa County Superior Judge Laurel Brady. Crimes which merited the lifelong sentence included rape, rape in concert, various other sex crimes, false imprisonment and robbery.

Prosecutor Dana Filkowski argued at trial that Stevens is a serial rapist who took sexual pleasure in terrorizing the victims -- some of them prostitutes -- by using a gun and pretending to be an off-duty police officer after sweet-talking them into his car.

One of the victims was a deaf-mute homeless woman who testified Stevens kidnapped her off the street. Another said Stevens left her naked on the side of a road, after which she cloaked herself in a garbage bag and huddled in a portable toilet while she waited for police.

One woman said she was gang-raped by Stevens and a second man who had been hiding in Stevens' trunk when she first got into the vehicle. The second assailant was recently identified at Stevens' nephew, who was 14 when the New Year's Eve 2008 attack occurred.

The nephew, Frank Stevens Dean, now 16, is currently jailed in another county for an unrelated matter, Filkowski said. Once that case is resolved, he will be brought to Contra Costa County, where he has been charged as adult with six felonies, including rape and firearm enhancements.

One of Stevens’ victims said, ”I thank God that the victims are alive, and myself," she said. "I am happy to never see his face again." As for Stevens, just before sentencing, he said, "Murder me today, see me tomorrow... if not in this life, the next." Stevens said. "I assume that's not a threat," Brady said. "That's a promise," he replied.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Seattle serial rapist faces, gets mandatory life without parole sentence for rapes of homeless women

(Original Post 9-20-10)
A serial rapist who was convicted for attacks on two homeless women will be sentenced to life without parole after a Seattle jury convicted him of 2 counts of 2nd degree rape Thursday, September 16. The life sentence which 51 year old Frank Borders will serve upon his sentencing is a consequence of Washington State's three strikes law, which mandated the sentence for a third strike.

The first rape was reported in December 2007, when a 55-year-old woman said Borders, her boyfriend's brother, raped her in the restroom at a downtown Seattle park. The investigation stalled, however, when the victim, who was homeless, disappeared for several months.

After the woman agreed to be interviewed by police the next October, Seattle police began posting fliers with Borders' photo at several downtown homeless shelters in search of other possible victims, according to the court documents.

On March 17, 2009, the day after a flier was posted at a YWCA shelter downtown, police were called by a woman who claimed Borders lured her into the woods with the promise they would smoke crack and assaulted her, court papers said.

The second victim testified during both trials that she didn't come forward earlier because she was convinced that nobody would care about what happened to her because she was homeless during the summer of 2007. She is now 48, off drugs and living in an apartment.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Julie Kays said that due to Borders' 1981 rape conviction of attacking a 18 year old woman for which he served a year in jail and 5 years probation, life without parole is mandatory. "These 12 people protected our community and our very vulnerable by finding him guilty. I have no doubt that if he were released he would re-offend. These 12 people got it that it doesn't matter if you're homeless and an addict you will still get justice."

Borders' attorney, Julie Gaisford, begged to differ, citing the fact that one of the victims was high on crack cocaine and that other did not reliably identify her client. "You glimpse truth over your shoulder, you never see it head on."

(Update 11-4-10) Borders was formally sentenced Friday, October 29, to life without parole by Superior Court Judge Helen Halpert. Before sentencing, Kays said that for targeting vulnerable women, "He preyed on vulnerable women and he banked on the fact no one would care if they came forward.He deserves, based on his conduct alone, to spend the rest of his life in prison."

One of Borders' victims said that the sentencing itself showed that at least in some cases, the justice system does work for vulnerable victims. That victim said that because of Borders' imprisonment,  "I do matter.It's a shame he's thrown away his life. I'm trying to rebuild mine." That victim is no longer homeless.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

20 year old man arrested in live rape of "girlfriend" pleads guilty in Phoenix court

(Original Post 6-3-09)
A 20 year old Phoenix man was charged with 2 counts of sexual assault, a count of kidnapping, and a count of taking a surreptitious photo. John Hock, 20, had allegedly assaulted the victim, who he knew for a couple of months, on February 26, with the victim alerting police in early March.

Hock set up a computer with a webcam and sexually assaulted a woman he knew as she was passed out from drinking alcohol, according to a Phoenix police probable cause statement released on Monday.

As he did this, he signed onto a Web account and broadcasted the sexual assault live on the Internet, the statement said. The video was then posted to a Web site where it was repeatedly played until the site pulled it off, police said.

Police said Hock raped the woman in her own bedroom after she had been asleep for four to five hours.

She learned about the video after receiving text messages from her friends. After she signed up, the victim found photos of her nude from the waist down. Hock allegedly commented that he knew the victim was passed out and that he was having sex with her without her knowledge.

(Update 9-6-10) Hock plead guilty to attempted sexual assault and voyeurism Thursday, September 2 in Maricopa County Superior Court for the attack. He's expected to be sentenced October 8. Apparentely, Hock is known online for his risque videoes. It is also thought that Hock specifically groomed the victim for the assault.

(Update 10-26-10) On Wednesday, October 20, Hock was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and lifetime parole supervision. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah presided over the sentencing. The victim said, "I opened up my home to him and ended up being molested and videotaped while sleeping."

When Judge Hannah asked about the sentence, the victim said "I think it should be more, Your Honor." Hock said that "I don't think it's fair that I should be a sex offender for the rest of my life over this."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Saudi prince who murdered servant "lover" sentenced to life with 20 year minimum

A Saudi prince who used his servant as a "human punchbag" was jailed for life today for beating and strangling him to death. Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud, 34, stood with his arms folded and showed no emotion as he was told he must serve a minimum term of 20 years in jail.

 The prince killed 32-year-old Bandar Abdulaziz in a brutal assault with a "sexual element" at their five-star hotel in central London in February. It was the culmination of a campaign of "sadistic" abuse including a previous "nasty" assault in a hotel lift weeks before.

Mr Justice Bean told the prince, who had tried to claim diplomatic immunity when he was first arrested: "No-one in this country is above the law." Saud, a member of one of the world's wealthiest and most powerful families, did not flinch as the judge described the injuries he had inflicted on the "subservient" Mr Abdulaziz.

The judge said: "I cannot be sure that you intended to kill your victim. I think the most likely explanation is that you could not care less whether you killed him or not."  Saud, shaven-headed and wearing a black top, was watched from the public gallery by his father Prince Abdulaziz, looking ashen-faced and glancing between his son in the dock and the judge passing sentence.

An Old Bailey jury heard how the prince bit his victim hard on both cheeks during his murderous attack at their suite in the Landmark hotel in Marylebone. Saud was fuelled by champagne and Sex on the Beach cocktails when he began the ferocious beating after a Valentine's Day night out.

He was found guilty of murder as well as a second count of grievous bodily harm with intent relating to the attack in the lift. If he ever returns to his home country, Saud faces the possibility of execution because being gay is a capital offence there, and he could seek asylum in Britain when he is eventually released.

The judge said: "It is very unusual for a prince to be in the dock on a murder charge. But your trial has proceeded in just the same way as anyone else's would in this court. No one in this country is above the law. It would be wrong for me to sentence you either more severely or more leniently because of your membership of the royal family in Saudi Arabia. You killed Bandar in the course of a sustained and ferocious assault. You were in a position of domination over him, as demonstrated both by the lift incident and by the sexually explicit photographs you took of him, at some point prior to February 15, which were found on your mobile phone. Bandar was a vulnerable victim, entirely subjugated to your will. You were in a position of authority and trust over him which you exploited ruthlessly. Whether or not your relationship with him had involved sexual intercourse as well makes no difference to sentence in this case."

Saud's initial claim that the aide's injuries were caused by a mugging were exposed after police discovered CCTV footage of the lift attack on January 22. The judge said: "The most chilling aspect of that footage is that your victim did not resist at all. He was so completely subservient to you that after being treated as a human punchbag he followed you meekly out of the lift."

The attack left the aide's ear swollen to three times the normal size and "beyond medical treatment".
Saud did not take him to hospital and inflicted a further attack in the lift on a later occasion - further evidence, said the judge of "this having been a violent and abusive relationship over a period of weeks if not longer".

The attack which killed Mr Abdulaziz left him with so many injuries, including bleeding in the brain, a fractured larynx and bruising in the abdomen, that pathologists could not say for certain what caused his death.

Saud had murdered him between 1.40am and 2.40am and spent the next 12 hours on the phone "working out his options". "If you had any remorse you would have sought medical help immediately. But you were only concerned for yourself," said the judge.

The prince told a "pack of lies" to paramedics and police before admitting he carried out the killing shortly before the trial - claiming it was manslaughter but not murder, he added.  "To this day you have not explained why you killed him."

A prosecution application for costs was adjourned to be heard on Friday. The sentence spells an end to the gay prince's luxury playboy lifestyle in which he dined in fine restaurants and was attended by male escorts in his hotel room.

A gay masseur who visited him there described the "dashing" Saud as a cross between Omar Sharif and Nigel Havers. In court, his lawyers made a failed bid before the trial started to stop evidence of his homosexuality being made public.

The suave prince pretended Mr Abdulaziz was his friend and travelling companion but no-one seemed aware of the darker side of his treatment of the aide.

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, prosecuting, said: "Beneath the surface this was a deeply abusive relationship which the defendant exploited for sadistic reasons, for his own personal gratification." Mr Laidlaw said the assault leading to the aide's death "was a really terrible, a really brutal attack".

Saud, who told detectives he was the grandson of the Saudi king, had denied killing his servant until shortly before the trial, before finally admitting that he had caused his death. Jurors rejected a claim by his barrister John Kelsey-Fry QC that he was only guilty of manslaughter. Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane said: "He treated Bandar with utter contempt."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Passaic, NJ man gets LWOP for ax murder of wife

A Passaic, New Jersey man was sentenced to life without parole Tuesday, October 12 for the ax murder of his wife as she ran from her own home onto a street. What made the attack worse was that the victim, Luisa Emilia Chireno, was killed as her children cowered in terror in their room. Police were able to follow a trail of hair and blood, left as the murdered struck the victi in the back with an ax and pulled out her hair.

[34-year-old Fernando] Chireno was convicted of murder in June, after jurors rejected his insanity defense. The victim, who was 26 when she died, had a restraining order against him because of past domestic violence. She ran for her life from her Myrtle Avenue home on April 18, 2008, after Chireno broke in. The couple's children were left in the bedroom as Mrs. Chireno was stabbed 15 times and left in a pool of blood on the street. She died a short time later in surgery.

Before sentencing, Chireno "apologized " to the victim's mother, Carlita Pozo. “From the deepness of my heart, I am sorry. I lost my mind. I was having problems and no one was helping me. I know nothing is going to give you your daughter back, but I, too, lost her. Please, I ask from my heart that you forgive me.”

Judge Reddin issued this statement while handing down the LWOP sentence. “It boggles my mind to think that a human being could do to another human being what he did to Luisa Chireno This was not a spur-of-the-moment attack. He went out and bought the ax. He goes to her house at 2 in the morning. He ripped the hair right out of her head. That’s the savagery of this crime, He buried that ax in her back, and he walked away from the scene.

Pozo fainted after the sentencing and had to be led out of the courtroom.

Jealous northern England man sentenced to life without parole for at least 30 years for murder of nurse

By Peter Magill [Burnley chief reporter]

FORMER ambulance technician who murdered his ex-girlfriend while on bail for her rape was jailed for a minimum of 30 years today. Ambulance technician and bouncer Jonathan Vass, 30, launched a frenzied knife attack on nurse and mother-of-one Jane Clough, 26, as she arrived for work at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in July. She was admitted to the hospital’s accident and emergency unit where she worked as colleagues tried in vain to save her.

Vass, described as “manipulative and controlling”, was freed to kill after being given bail while awaiting trial over allegations that he had repeatedly raped her. The rape charges were dropped after the murder. John and Penny Clough, her parents, were angered by both decisions - first to free him and then to let the rape charges lie on file. They sat in the public gallery just yards from Vass in the dock as he was jailed for life at Preston Crown Court after pleading guilty to murder at an earlier hearing.

Judge Anthony Russell QC handed down the mandatory life sentence before telling Vass he will serve a minimum of 30 years before he can be considered for release. Vass wept uncontrollably, covering his face his hands as he was told he would only be eligible for parole in 2040.

The victim’s parents and family wept and hugged each other as the court heard for the first time that, after stabbing and slashing Miss Clough with a 3in (7.6cm) blade, he walked away momentarily, then went back seconds later to finish her off.

”As she lay bleeding you walked away but then returned and slowly, deliberately and cold-bloodedly slit her throat,” Judge Russell said as he passed sentence. ”It is difficult to imagine a more horrific crime than this murder. Furthermore it was a crime motivated by real hatred and revenge. This was a deliberate, brutal and callous murder for which you have shown no remorse and no care for your own daughter. Jane Clough was a nurse who devoted her life to the care of others. She had the misfortune to become involved with you. She bore your child and then you murdered her, leaving your infant child without a mother and with the prospect of growing up to learn one day that her father murdered her mother.”

The court heard that Miss Clough kept a diary, detailing her abuse and fears of Vass and what he might do.

She and her family, who held a protest outside court before the case began this morning, were “rocked and devastated” when he was bailed on the rape charges, leaving Miss Clough “extremely concerned for her safety”.  She left home to live with her parents and recorded in her diary that she was worried “Johnny was going to do something stupid”.

He had been relying on her to drop the charges.

Another entry read of fears he would “get his revenge”, adding: “What’s he going to do?”

Dennis Watson QC, prosecuting, said it was clear the motive for the murder was to prevent Miss Clough giving evidence. Mr Watson said the couple met while both working at the hospital but their relationship was troubled because of Vass.

”He was a jealous man who wished to dominate and have complete control over Jane despite the fact that, unknown to her, he was carrying on a relationship with two other women at the same time,” Mr Watson told the court. By early 2009 Miss Clough was pregnant but Vass had become controlling and “sexually demanding”.

In November that year she plucked up courage to report him to police, telling officers of the months of physical and sexual abuse and the repeated rapes even when she was seven months pregnant.

Text messages between the pair were read out.

Miss Clough sent him a message saying: “You have hurt, raped and reduced me to tears on countless occasions... and you want to get engaged and have more kids? Why?” He replied: “We are staying together regardless of our problems.” A second text read: “Why should you come back? To push me about, grab me, rip my clothes off, make me cry...” Another said: “You physically and sexually abuse me. You threatened to kill me the other night.”

Vass’s replies read: “Please can I come home... best behaviour promise”, and “I do love you Janey. Either get pregnant or engaged. Your choice.”

Vass was charged with nine rapes and assault in November 2009 and told a work colleague, an ex-boyfriend of Miss Clough, if he was found guilty he would kill her - but the threat was dismissed as “bravado”. When it became clear she was prepared to give evidence in court Vass decided to take “retribution”, the court heard.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Female swim coach charged with sexual abuse of 17 year old girl pleads guilty, sentenced to year in jail

(Original Post 12-6-09)
Sarah Blessing, a 27 year old South Plainfield, NJ woman who is a 5th grade teacher and Edison, NJ swim coach, was charged Wednesday, December 2 with sexually exploiting a 17 year old swim student at Bishop George Ahr High School. Blessing was formally charged with sexual assault, criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a girl, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan and Edison police chief Thomas Bryan.

The relationship lasted for 6 months, from June to her arrest, according to officials, and was found out when Diocese of Metuchen officials notified Edison police. The Metuchen Dioscese fired Blessing from her swim coach job, a job she held for four years. "The Diocese and Bishop Ahr High School is shocked and saddened to learn of these allegations," officials said in a statement [December 1, 2009]. We, of course, take matters of this nature very seriously."

Blessing , a 5th grade teacher at Park Middle School in Scotch Plains, was suspended from that job pending the outcome of her case. She is being held on $150,000 bond without a cash option at the Middlesex County Jail in North Brunswick. Superior Court Judge James Mulvihill has ordered that Blessing not contact her victim.

Authorities ask that anybody with information about Blessing call Investigator Raj Chopra of the prosecutor’s office at (732) 745-3600, or Edison police detectives Michael Michalski or Tim Farrell at (732) 248-7525.

(Update 8-6-10) Blessing plead guilty yesterday to criminal sexual contact and witness tampering in front of MIddlesex County Judge Judge Joseph Paone, according to prosecutors. She must forfeit her teaching certificate and the right to hold public sector jobs in New Jersey. Blessing must also undergo mental health treatment and have no contact with the victim or girls under 18 without supervision.

She is expected to be sentenced to a year in jail when Judge Paone formally sentences Blessing on September 30.

(Update 10-2-10) Blessing was sentenced to 364 days in jail and 5 years probation September 30, 2010 by Judge Paone. At the sentencing hearing,  Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Christie Bevacqua said that Blessing met the victim during a troubled period for the girl. The victim's mother asked Blessing to "watch out for her," but instead Blessing "took my daughter's innocence away." ""The betrayal of trust is a huge thing here," said Bevacqua.

Before the sentencing Blessing read a statement saying "I wasn't manipulative. It wasn't predatory. I had feelings for this person."

Blessing will not be allowed to have any contact with the victim or any unsupervised contact with females under the age of 18 and must undergo mental health counseling. Under the sentence, she can no longer teach and will be barred from holding public employment in New Jersey.

Blessing faced a maximum sentence of a decade behind bars. Criminal sexual contact is a felony which lands one on the sex offender list for life under New Jersey's Megan's Law.

Taken from a New Jersey lawyer's site:

Criminal sexual contact is a third degree charge and if a person is convicted of this crime they will face 3 to 5 years in prison, and serious fines. Additionally, the person will be required to register under New Jersey's Megan's law which is a lifelong notification system in which the local community where the offender lives is provided with his personal information and details about the crime for which he was convicted.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fabulist who murdered wife convicted, sentenced to LWOP

(Initial Post 9-26-10)
A Tulsa County, OK jury needed only a half hour of deliberation in a lawyer's shooting murder by her own husband. John Robert Kastner, 52, was convicted of the 1st degree murder of his wife, 44 year old Lori Moon Kastner, at their south side Tulsa, OK home on June 25, 2008. The motive, according to Tulsa County, OK prosecutors, was that the victim was about to expose her husband's lies.

Kastner had led his family to believe that all five family members were traveling by plane to Israel on June 25, 2008, prosecutors said. Kastner indicated he was a former member of the Israeli military who had been honored for heroism and that the trip to Israel was related to a high-paying job that Lori Kastner was going to get with a corporation connected to her husband.

No such flight or job offer existed, and Kastner never served in the Israeli military, prosecutors said.

Kastner made significant financial promises to benefit Webster that he could not keep, and he "was a ticking time bomb getting ready to explode," [First Assistant District Attorney Doug] Drummond said.

Drummond also insisted that "[Kastner's] reputation was going to be ruined, and that was the most important thing in John Kastner's life."

The other prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, said that Kastner, the "legend of Webster High School," is "nothing but a bald-faced liar. You cannot believe a word that the defendant says."

Kastner said the killer was an intruder who he said picked up Kastner's gun in the house. He told police that he struggled with the intruder and was shot in the hand, and he said the intruder fled with a bag containing about $5,000, evidence indicated.

Kunzweiler said Kastner's account features a "mysterious man" moving around in a dark house and finding a loaded gun and money on the same table. Kastner was an English teacher, "and as an English teacher he deals in fiction," Kunzweiler said

Assistant Public Defender Jill Webb said that Kastner had no motive to kill his wife because killing her would not solve his problems - "John's problem was John." Webb said that while Kastner was guilty of lying and making false promises, it did not prove he was a murderer. Kastner was never called to the witness stand.

When he is formally sentenced tomorrow, Kastner will be sentenced to life without parole - in Oklahoma, murder carries death, life without parole, or life with parole. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, and jurors ruled out life with parole.  Amber Merchant, Lori Kastner's best friend, said "We're very pleased with the verdict and feel like justice was served."

Kastner plans to appeal the verdict, according to Chief Public Defender Pete Silva. The presiding judge is District Judge Tom Gillert.

(Update 9-29-10) Kastner was formally sentenced to life without parole Monday, September 27, 2010. If he had been granted parole, he would have had to serve 38 and 3 months before his first chance of it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Serial "girlfriend" rapist sentenced to life without parole for raping woman in front of her child

A Savannah, GA man with a history of raping "girlfriends" was sentenced to life without parole as four-time habitual offender Monday, September 20. 47 year old Jerry Howard was convicted by a Chatham County, GA jury Saturday, September 18 of rape, aggravated assault, and misdemeanor cruelty to a child for raping and choking his 28 year old "girlfriend" in front of her 1 year old daughter at his home November 29, 2007.

Assistant District Attorney Isabel Pauley presented evidence that Howerd tried to intimidate the victim into recanting the charges and called as a witness a previous "girlfriend" who was attacked in a similar manner in 1988. 

Chatham County Superior Court Judge John E. Morse Jr imposed the life sentence on Howard based on prior felony convictions. The life term for rape and the 20 year term for aggravated assault were imposed consecutive to each other. A year term for cruelty to a child will be served concurrently with the life sentence. Because this is his fourth strike, the life term is without parole. These convictions include robbery, possession of controlled substances and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Howard was released from prison in August 2007, three months before the latest attack.

Below is the law requiring four time felons in Georgia to serve the maximum sentence for that crime without parole.

[A]ny person who, after having been convicted under the laws of this state for three felonies or having been convicted under the laws of any other state or of the United States of three crimes which if committed within this state would be felonies, commits a felony within this state other than a capital felony must, upon conviction for such fourth offense or for subsequent offenses, serve the maximum time provided in the sentence of the judge based upon such conviction and shall not be eligible for parole until the maximum sentence has been served. (from O.C.G.A. 17 -10-7)

Queens rapist gets 37 to 42 years imprisonment for attacking student during first day on job

A Queens, NY rapist was sentenced to a prison term of 37 to 42 years Thursday, September 23. 23 year old James Gillespie was convicted September 3 of the July 2009 rape of a 20 year old St. John's University student in Fresh Meadows, NY. The victim was walking to her first day at work as a part time restaurant hostess when Gillespie pounced.

As Gillespie dragged the woman into an alley, she reached into her purse and called 911 and her pleas for mercy – which Gillespie ignored – were recorded and played back in court during Gillespie’s trial.

"Please don't do this to me- Oh, my God, sir, please!" she pleaded just before the rape. Of course, Gillespie violated her. He also took her cell phone and purse.

Assistant Queens DA Jared Rosenblatt asked for the maximum sentence.

"You are an animal," Rosenblatt said over the objections of Gillespie's lawyer. "You are evil and your actions were heinous."

Gillespie offered a rambling denial."I don't even know why I'm still standing here in this courtroom," he said. "I don't understand what's going on here."

At the sentencing, which the victim attended, her statement to her attacker was this. "You are less than a man. Luckily, I'm a strong individual...I must let you know you are weak. You are a coward. You do not deserve to walk the streets as you are."

Queens Supreme Court Richard Buchter sentenced Gillespie to the max for rape, criminal sex act, and robbery.

"I think Mr. Gillespie is seriously lacking in any humanity.The defendant’s only concern us his own perverse sexual satisfaction. He’s young and that what worries me. He shouldn’t get out while he can still do it again."

Queens DA Richard Brown said about the woman's testimony, "She testified with dignity and grace. Hopefully, knowing that he will now be behind bars for a long time will provide her with a small measure of help in overcoming the physical and psychological trauma." That trauma includes sleepless nights, fear of AIDS, and a reluctance to walk alone.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bangor, ME woman gets six years for scalding, sexually assaulting man

A 28 year old Bangor, ME woman was sentenced to 6 years in the Maine prison system yesterday for sexually assaulting, then scalding a now 43 year old man. Laura M. Smith plead guilty in June to elevated aggravated assault and gross sexual assault for scalding her victim with boiling water and sexually assaulting him with a wooden dowel on November 28, 2009.

The 43-year-old man, who is not being identified by the Bangor Daily News, was passed out at a party at Smith’s First Street apartment in Bangor. In addition to suffering second-degree burns on his back, the man’s bowel was perforated, according to court documents. The victim also suffered a broken ankle when Smith and another man moved him to his apartment. He was hospitalized for more than a month, according to previous reports.

Superior Court Justice William Anderson sentenced Smith to 18 years in prison with six to serve and four years probation afterwards. Penobscot County district attorney Michael Roberts and  defense attorney David Bate agreed on the 18 year sentence, but Roberts believe only 6 years of the sentence should be suspended. Bate did not give a sentencing recommendation.

Just before the sentencing, Smith said “I am truly sorry for the pain and suffering I caused. I truly, truly am sorry for all that you have been through.” The victim was not present during Smith's sentencing. Smith also tried to partially excuse herself by claiming the attack was due to her alcoholism.

The following is Judge Anderson's sentencing statement. “Although this was a barbaric and depraved act, I can’t conclude it was done for sexual gratification as the statute defines the crime. It seems to have begun as a cruel, painful and degrading prank. The person who did it was not really aware of how horribly painful this was going to be to the victim. There’s absolutely no reason in the world for this to have happened.”

Smith will be credited for the time she has served in the Penobscot County Jail. After release, she will have to register as a sex offender for a decade.

Katy, TX man sentenced to 48 years with half to serve for point-blank shooting murder of wife

A Katy, TX man was sentenced to 48 years imprisonment Monday, September 20 for the point-blank shooting murder of his wife. Michael Wayne Cantu, a petrochemical engineer, will be eligible for parole after serving half of his sentence. Cantu was tried in Texas 400th District Court under Presiding Judge Clifford J. Vacek.

Cantu reported his wife of 15 years, Jackie Ramirez Cantu, shot herself at their home in the 26300 block of Eden Point on April 24, 2008.

He said during the initial police investigation that he and his 37-year-old wife got into an argument while looking at family photos and reported that his wife then went into the master bathroom and shot herself in the forehead with a .38-caliber revolver.

The couple's two children, now 11 and 9, were in the house at the time but were asleep, [Defense attorney Wendell]Odom said.

Changing statements about the manner of the woman's death led police to charge Cantu with murder. Cantu first told police that he was in the kitchen when his wife committed suicide, then changed his story to claim he was in the bathroom. Cantu later told detectives that he move the gun from the bathroom floor, where it was pointed towards the victim's neck. Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office officials eventually ruled Jackie Cantu's death a homicide.

During the trial, Fort Bend County prosecutor Chad Bridges successfully argued that the changing statements, along with ballistics showing gunpowder residue on Michael's hands and a bruise where he pressed the gun up against Jackie's forehead before firing, constituted evidence of murder. According to Bridges, the forehead bruise was "a tight contact wound, which is inconsistent with trying to pull the firearm away." Jackie tried to defend herself before the father of her two children killed her.

As for the nature of the argument, Bridges said "As for what exactly happened that night and what they were arguing about, we don't know," Bridges said. "We don't know what the exact nature of the conversation was."  About the jury, he said, "We recognize the juror’s personal sacrifice to see that justice is done. It was a long trial of terrible circumstances and intense emotions.  It’s never pleasant but always necessary

The Cantus met while both of them were attending Texas A&M University. Jackie Cantu was originally from Bryan, while Michael Cantu was from Houston. They married in 1992. Both graduated from Texas A&M with Jackie Cantu earning a degree in microbiology, said her father, Guillermo Ramirez of Bryan.
"I wish this thing would have never happened to my daughter, to the family. There's a lot of sadness. The only justice that would satisfy me is if my daughter came back and if I could turn back time and prevent this from happening. But I can't."
Odom said this about his client after the sentencing. "He's always maintained that it was an accident, that he was trying to take the gun away from her.He's realizing that his life will never be the same — that he'll probably spend the rest of his adult life in the penitentiary. He vows that someday he'll be exonerated."
The Cantu children, the true victims of this crime, are being cared for by both sets of grandparents.

Paroled rapist gets two life without parole sentences for rape, arson murder of sisters

A man who raped and burned to death two Northwest Indiana sisters was sentenced to life without parole Thursday, September 9, 2010. 36 year old David Alan Flores, a sex offender convicted of rape twice before, was sentenced by Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr for the burglary, rapes, and murders of two twenty something sisters, one of which had recently married.

Flores, 36, of Griffith, had faced the death penalty had the case gone to trial. He pleaded guilty Aug. 26 to two counts of murder and two counts of rape of Jennifer Evans, 28, of Griffith, and Kristen Evans-Kennedy, 25, of Chicago.

Acknowledging the family's wish to avoid reliving the horror of the sisters' deaths during perhaps 25 years of death penalty appeals, Stefaniak reluctantly accepted Flores' guilty plea for which he will serve two life sentences for murder and two 20-year sentences for rape.

Stefaniak said that if Flores had received the death penalty, there was a three-in-five chance that it would have been overturned on appeal. However, the judge made clear that Flores deserved such a punishment. "As I live my life and talk to people, this is just the case in a perfect world that would justify the death sentence. I could pronounce a death sentence. The fact of the matter is you, Mr. Flores, are the devil among us. There are no redeeming qualities that you have and there is nothing you can offer society," Stefaniak told the murderer.

Jennifer had bought a house on North Lindberg Street, and Flores happened to show up with a friend on Sept. 10, 2009, at a small gathering she hosted.

He went inside to use the bathroom, unlocked a window to the office across the hall, and returned after the women were in bed to rape, strangle and stab them. Before he left, he collected items he'd touched, then set fire to the home. The autopsies showed the women were alive when the fire was started.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said that the family of the victims would have gone for the death penalty, but "They did not want in and out of court for the next 25 years.You have to listen to the family."

Family friend Sue Brownwell said that "Each was a force in her own right, and they were an unbeatable team together. They will live in our treasured memories."

Mary Ann Evans, comparing the murders of her daughters to 9-11, called the murders her "personal terrorist attack." Her husband and the victims' father Ron, a retired Munster firefighter, was the person who discovered his daughters' still burning bodies. "I watched him die the day he found Jen and Kristen. I am alone. I am the woman that everybody pities," she said. Ron died of cancer six months after the murder. A slideshow of them was played just before Flores' sentencing.
Mary Evans is working with legislators to ensure that repeat sex offenders like Flores can never be granted parole. Flores was on parole for another rape when he murdered the two young women.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More allegations against sexting Calumet County WI DA lead to his resignation

(Original Post 9-21-10)
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has called for the removal of the Calumet County DA over allegations that he sexted a domestic violence victim and invited a "date" to an autopsy. The DA, Calumet County Attorney Kenneth Kratz, has taken a leave of absence, citing "medical reasons." Doyle cannot formally seek removal unless he receives a complaint from a Calumet County resident, something he expects to occur later this week.

The second allegation regards a woman who was "dating" Kratz when he took calls involving a missing persons case. The case involved someone believed to have been murdered. He discussed aspects of the case that no other layman (or woman) knew, and that woman alleged Kratz "invit[ed] me to go with him to the autopsy (provided I would be his girlfriend and would wear high heels and a skirt)."

Doyle said "It's mind-boggling.To have an autopsy be used for the premise of a social engagement is just beyond anything anyone can imagine, I think.... That's the part that concerns me the most because it's really the use of official duties, in his official status as district attorney, for purposes completely unrelated to his job as district attorney."

Legislators, advocates for crime victims and prosecutors from across the state had already been calling for Kratz's resignation in the wake of reports that he had sent 30 text messages last year to Stephanie L. Van Groll, 26, while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend on domestic violence charges.

Van Groll's lawyer, Michael R. Fox, said Monday that he is aware of the new allegations against Kratz. "If it's credible, it's incredible," Fox said of the letter released by Doyle's office.

Kratz began texting Van Groll just minutes after she met with him Oct. 20 to discuss the abuse her ex-boyfriend had inflicted upon her. After Van Groll told Kratz about the abuse, he asked if she would mind if he dropped the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, according to documents released Monday by the state Department of Justice.

Van Groll said she considered the request odd and told Kratz that trying to strangle someone is a felony, the documents show. Kratz sent his first text to Van Groll about 10 minutes after the meeting, telling her that she had potential and signing the message, "KEN (your favorite DA)." In other text messages sent over three days, Kratz referred to Van Groll as a "young, hot nymph" and asked if she "likes secret contact with an older married elected DA."

Van Groll reported the text messages to police. Kratz removed himself from the prosecution of Van Groll's boyfriend after the state began investigating his communication with her. The state appointed a prosecutor to take over the case, and Van Groll's ex-boyfriend was convicted in April of a domestic violence felony, according to court records.

On Friday, Kratz issued a statement saying that he "showed a lack of respect not only for my position but for the young woman that was involved," but refused to step down.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault released a joint statement saying "Whether or not Kratz has been an advocate for crime victims in the past, it is clear he can no longer serve in his current position. He has ignored victims, advocates and his peers, who have all called for him to step down. His repeated attempts to minimize his behavior show he either is in denial or only concerned for his personal interests."

The Wisconsin District Attorneys Association sent this letter, stating that Kratz' actions "has cast aspersions on our entire profession," and goes on to say that the would have fired subordinates who commites similar actions.
Van Groll's lawyer, Michael R. Fox, said "I am going to pull up every floorboard that I can to see what is behind this. There are things here that don't make sense. It is very strange how it has come to light. I believe my client was treated the way she was treated because she is a woman and was very vulnerable because she was a victim of domestic violence. It strikes me as something that requires further inquiry, because I don't know how you can text a victim in such a suggestive way and not immediately, the moment those texts leave your (phone), be in a conflict of interest."

(Update 9-22-10) Two more women have claimed that Kratz has harassed them. Maria Ruskiewicz, an Appleton, WI native who is now 31, claimed that she was sexted when she met with him in 2008 to discuss a pardon for a 1997 drug conviction. Ruskiewicz needed the pardon because as a student attending Oklahoma City University as a law student, it was necessary for her career goals. Kratz had prosecuted her for the drug conviction and she needed his support for the application she would send to Govenor Jim Doyle.

At the meeting, Kratz asked her about secratary - boss sex, and afterwards Kratz began to send her sexually suggestive texts, including texts describing him in the bedroom. After discussing the harassment with relatives, Ruskiewicz asked Kratz to stop texting her, which he did.

Deborah Felice, the associate dean for students at the law school, said she met with Ruskiewicz at her request on Sept. 25, 2008, to discuss the messages.

"She said she was very upset because she was pursuing a pardon and the DA she was working with was sending her these text messages that were basically stalking her," Felice said, adding that she was shown some of the messages.

Felice said she and Ruskiewicz met with a university lawyer five days later. They decided the best course of action was to ignore Kratz and hope he would go away. Felice said she spoke with Ruskiewicz weeks later and the messages had stopped, and "that's the last I heard of it until this morning," when she saw a segment about Kratz on national TV.

Richard Ginkowski, an assistant Kenosha County prosecutor, discussed the texts with Ruskiewicz as they were discussing the pardon application, and Ginkowski offered to take the matter to the Office of Lawyer Regulation, but "I decided in the end I didn't want to rock the boat." Since the scandal broke, she has said "This is not an isolated event. This happened a year prior to the first woman who came out. He is choosing women who are in vulnerable positions, not just women in general."

Ruskiewicz was granted her pardon last month by Gov. Doyle. A fourth woman has also claimed that Kratz contacted her inappropriately.

(Update 10-5-10) Kratz resigned yesterday as Calumet County DA. In a letter to Jim Doyle, Kratz said, "I hereby resign from my position as District Attorney, Calumet County, effective immediately." The resignation ends Kratz' 18 year career as Calumet County, WI district attorney. The resignation ends the official removal process, with a hearing scheduled for October 8 in Chilton being canceled.

A statement sent by fax to news outlets said Kratz remains at an out-of-state treatment center. He apologized to his "wife, son and entire family for the embarrassment and shame I have caused" and offered his "deepest apology to the citizens of Calumet County."

He cited an undisclosed condition for which he's receiving treatment as his downfall. "I have lost the confidence of the people I represent due primarily to personal issues which have now affected my professional career," Kratz wrote.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence spokesman Tony Gibart said "I think the resignation is an important step and a necessary step. It's something that had to happen for victims to regain trust in the Calumet County legal system." However, Gibart said that Kratz needs to also face professional and perhaps even criminal charges for his actions. "I don't think that [only a resignation]sends the right message to victims," Gibart said.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Man who dropped into house, stabbed estranged wife to death sentenced to life without parole

On Friday, September 17, a Ft. Worth, TX man who stabbed his estranged wife to death in front of his 8 year old twin boys, named after him, was sentenced to life without parole by State District Judge Mike Thomas. 41-year-old Alma Garcia was stabbed to death by her husband, 42 year old Abel Noe Dominguez, on March 8, 2009. Dominguez broke into his wife's house and stabbed her between 11 PM and 10 AM, according to the testimony of his two oldest children, earning him a capital murder charge, which is applied to murder committed in the course of another felony, in this case, burglary.

[Noely] Dominguez, 17, said she spent most of the day [March 7, 2009] at South Hills High School practicing track and cheerleading.

She said her brothers, Abel and Noe, were at a neighbor’s house while their mother and Janette [Jaimes, 20 year old]were at a birthday party. After returning home about 10 p.m., Dominguez said she picked up her brothers and went back to their house, where the boys watched television in their mother’s room. Dominguez said she watched TV in her own room.

About 11 p.m., when she looked out the window after her dog began barking, Dominguez said she saw a ladder leaned up against the house. Several hours after she went to sleep, she heard her mother and Janette come home but she went back to sleep, she said.

Prosecutors contend that Dominguez broke into the home and waited for Garcia. Defense attorneys say that Dominguez walked through the front door of a house that he shared with Garcia.

Nohely Dominguez said she and Janette were awakened about 11 a.m. by her brothers screaming, “Wake up, I think Mommy’s dead.” When she hesitantly went into her mother’s room, where the boys had been sleeping, Dominguez found “blood everywhere” and her mother['s] body. “We tried shaking her but she was dead,” she said.

During closing arguments,  prosecutors Alana Minton and Kimberly D'Avignon argued that the break-in was burglary because the victim's sister owned the home and the victim kicked her husband out during a violent argument two weeks before her murder. While defense attorneys Wes Ball and Santiago Salinas argued it was Dominguez' home because he made mortgage payments for 15 years, Minton said that the way he entered - climbing onto the roof, dropping through a hole in his sons' room, then lying in wait to stab him victim 19 times, made it murder committed during a burglary.

The burglary specification was significant because in Texas, jurors can convict defendants of capital murder, which carried life without parole or the death penalty, if the homicide is committed during the course of another felony. In Texas, burglary is defined as breaking into someone's home without permission to commit another felony. If not, the homicide becomes simple murder, punishable by 5 to 99 years with one-third to serve. Tarrant County jurors found Dominguez guilty of capital murder after three hours of deliberation over two days.

During the victim impact statement, made after sentencing, Patricia Rodriguez, the homeowner and sister of the victim, said that the children They not only lost their mother. They lost their father. They still have nightmares and cry themselves to sleep because what you’ve done.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Shotgun Bandit" sentenced to life for rape, attempted murder of woman

A suburban Dallas-Ft Worth man was sentenced to life for the rapes of two women Thursday, September 16. Stanley Vernell Ledbetter Jr., a Muscogee, OK native and a Plano, TX resident, was sentenced to life for aggravated sexual assault in a April 10, 2007 sexual attack. Jurors took half an hour to convict Ledbetter of aggravated sexual assault and another 20 minutes to assess him the maximum sentence - life with a $10,000 fine.

Testimony opened on September 15 with the then 29 year old's account of the attack.

The woman, who is not being named because she is a sexual assault victim, told jurors she was in her pajamas watching television about 2 a.m. when the glass on her patio door exploded.  "I screamed," she said. "I saw a dark figure coming through the door right at me."

The man, holding a short-barreled shotgun, dragged her by her hair to the bedroom. She testified he made her dump out her purse and turn over hundreds of dollars in cash she had earned from her waitress job. He also forced her to give up her debit card and the personal identification number.
He made her stay in the bathtub as he searched the place. What he was looking for, she didn't know, she told jurors. Then the attacker took her to her bedroom, where he forced her to perform a sex act. If she didn't, he threatened to blow her head off, she testified.
The attacker used zip ties to bind her hands behind her and laid her on the bed. He stuffed a sock into her mouth and held it there with duct tape. Then he covered her face with a pillow and stabbed her three times.
"I couldn't believe this was happening," she said. "The pain was unreal."

The woman said she played dead as he checked her wrist for a pulse. She rolled her eyes back as he lifted each lid to check for signs of life. He removed the sock and duct tape. She said she heard her front door open and then close. She waited about five minutes and then went to her kitchen to try to cut the ties with a knife. When she couldn't free herself, she went to get help.

She met her attacker at the front door. "You didn't think I wouldn't see the kitchen light come on?" she recalled him asking. There was a struggle. She told jurors he pushed her down and stabbed her two more times. He locked the door behind him as he left.

The woman said she lay there for 30 to 45 minutes "to make sure he was gone."

During the trial, Ledbetter's defense attorney attempted to introduce reasonable doubt by sugessting that his client wasn't the one who stabbed the victim. The defense conceded the DNA evidence proved Ledbetter raped the victim. The only defense witness, Denise Ledbetter, was the attacker's mom. She portrayed her son as a devoted son and asked jurors to give him less than life so "That I have more time with my son."

The 2007 attack victim's impact statement followed the penalty phase of the trial, and went like this. "No matter how much pain and anguish you caused, not once would I let you get the best of me. I will never let you steal my strength or my perseverance. ... I'm the reason you were caught. I got you. ... May you rot in jail for life."

During the punishment phase of the trial, jurors got a clearer picture of Ledbetter, known before his arrest as the shotgun bandit because of his choice of weapon in some of the crimes.

A former Garland woman testified about a man breaking into her home through the patio door on June 1, 2005. He forced her to drive to two automated teller machines and withdraw $500 while he sat in the back seat of her Jaguar with a sawed-off shotgun jabbed in her side. "I was petrified," she told jurors.

A former Southern Methodist University student testified under a pseudonym about a man dressed in black and wielding a shotgun who broke into the Dallas apartment she shared with a friend on June 4, 2005. Both were sexually assaulted. A DNA expert testified that trace evidence from the Jaguar's back seat and the Dallas attack matched Ledbetter's DNA.
A 41-year-old woman testified about being sexually assaulted by Ledbetter on Nov. 7, 2005, at her Plano apartment. Several details matched the other attacks.

Prosecutor JoDee Neil told jurors: "There is no why," she said. "This is evil, plain and straight."

First Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis said Ledbetter deserved the maximum of life without parole
"so that no other woman will have to look at Stanley Ledbetter again and fear for her life."
Ledbetter, known as the "Shotgun Bandit," was already serving two life sentences on similar criminal convictions. Ledbetter is suspected in attacks on 7 women that took place between May 2005 and April 2007, and is suspected in at least 19 home invasions. The presiding judge was State District Judge Webb Biard. The convictions, from Dallas County, are under appeal.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hialeah, FL armed robber gets 30 years for robbery, rape, kidnapping

A Hialeah, FL rapist and robber was sentenced to 30 years in prison by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzer on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 after pleading guilty to a crime spree which included burglary, robbery, and rape. Jeosvany Salas was caught after DNA evidence left at the attacks matched his profile.

The crimes Salas plead guilty to involved:

Tying up and robbing a 73-year-old Miami woman in a September 2007 robbery that police said was a case of mistaken identity. Through forensic science, again, a fingerprint found on a piece of Scotch tape doomed Salas.

Kidnapping a Miami-Dade pawn shop owner in August 2008, holding him hostage for nine hours. Salas was nailed when his DNA was found on a beer bottle he drank from inside the victim's home.

Taking a Hialeah mother hostage in May 2008, shooting her with a stun gun and sexually assaulting her. It was that final act that broke the case: Saliva swabbed off the victim's chest matched Salas' DNA.

Salas was set to go to trial on the attack on the 73 year old woman, and was facing 21 life sentences in all, but plead after prosecutors filed the rape case. The attack on the woman occured after Salas and other robbers mistook her home for a Cuban human trafficer's. The rape case started out as a kidnapping and robbery, where Salas and his gang tied up the mother and her daughter while ransacking their home looking for electronics and jewerly. The rape occured after Salas asked the mother for a kiss and licked her body. The pawn show owner was beaten for hours while the robbers tried to get him to hand over his secuirty codes. Police caught Salas after noticing his SUV outside the pawn shop.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Craigslist - "Adult Services" ad section gone for good

updated 9/16/2010 10:43:07 AM ET By Sarah Jacobsson Purewal [PC World]

Pressured by law enforcement, advocacy groups, and Congress, Craigslist said it would permanently remove adult services from its online classified ads here in the United States. The move quickly sparked criticism by free-speech advocates who see Craigslist's shuttering of its adult services as a threat to free speech on the Internet.

Craigslist's lawyers told a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on child sex trafficking Wednesday that it has no plans to reopen its U.S. adult services section, which it shut down Sept. 3 after heavy criticism from human rights advocacy groups and Congress who charged that Craigslist was commonly used in the global sex trade of women.

William Clinton Powell, the director of customer service and law enforcement relations for Craigslist, said that his company had "no intention to bring the category back" and "money is not a consideration." Craigslist skirted the issue of whether it would yield to calls by advocacy groups to stop running erotic services ads that appear on international versions of the Craigslist site outside the U.S.

At the end of August a group of 17 attorneys general requested, in an open letter, that Craigslist disable the adult services section of its site immediately. The letter explained that the "increasingly sharp public criticism" of the adult services section "reflects a growing recognition that ads for prostitution — including ads trafficking children — are rampant on it."

The letter also gave examples of how adult services ads on Craigslist were allegedly tied to sex crimes. It cited one story of two girls who were allegedly trafficked over the Internet through listings on the Craigslist site. Those two girls wrote an open letter in July 2010 requesting that Craigslist take the section down.

Craigslist responded with a request evidence of the alleged trafficking authorities.

Earlier this month Craigslist complied with lawmaker requests and put a black bar with the word "censored" over the section of the site labeled adult services. The move raised the question of free speech and the Internet — and whether or not Congress has the right to censor Internet.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Craigslist decision to "censor" its Adult Services section is an unfortunate one. The EFF points out that the attorneys general basically bullied Craigslist into making such a decision, as "over the past two years, Craigslist repeatedly offered to go far above and beyond their legal obligations to work with law enforcement officials," and "the AGs have inevitably rewarded completely voluntary, non-mandatory offers of cooperation from Craigslist with further demands and insults."

Of course, shutting down Craigslist's Adult Services section for good is unlikely to fix all the sex trafficking issues like that. As Elizabeth McDougall, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP (the law firm representing Craigslist), says, the ads will just "migrate to less socially responsible sites" that won't cooperate with law enforcement.

Brooklyn serial rapist sentenced to 174 1/2 to 178 years in prison

A Brooklyn serial rapist who preyed on women in the Crown Heights neighborhood was sentenced to 174 1/2 to 178 years in the New York prison system Wednesday, September 8, 2010, according to the Brooklyn DA's office. 23 year old Erick Lewis was convicted of rape, criminal sex act, robbery, and 2 counts of sex abuse in August.

Lewis’ string of rapes around Crown Heights began in January 2008 around 12:30 p.m, when Lewis followed a woman into a laundry room in the basement of her Crown Heights apartment building, assaulted her and attempted to force her to perform oral sex.

In August 2008, just after midnight, Lewis raped and robbed another woman, at gunpoint, in the elevator of another Crown Heights building. The victim reported the incident to the police, and was taken to Methodist Hospital. There she was treated, and forensic evidence was collected.

On September 11, 2008, Lewis robbed a woman and forced her to perform oral sex on him, in the elevator of another Crown Heights building. Forensic evidence was collected from the floor of the elevator linking Lewis to the crime.

The presiding judge was Brooklyn Superior Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice.

Text messaging "lovers" receive life without parole in murder of woman's husband

Monterey County, CA Judge Larry Hayes sentenced a mother and her "lover" to life without parole for kidnapping and killing the woman's husband.  Marisela Zarate Andrade, 33, and Sergio de la Cruz, 34, were sentenced to life without parole Tuesday, September 14 for the murder of Jose "Nicco" Zarate of Wasco, CA. Zarate was kidnapped April 11, 2008 from his home and his body was found three days later in the trunk of a Ford Escort near Gonzales, CA vineyard with his hands and feet bound with duct tape, shot between the eyes.

The evidence which convicted the two was collected by Monterey County Sheriff's detective Brett Speirs. These included text messages which spoke of how Marisela and De La Cruz intended to kidnap and kill Jose. Marisela would drug her husband's coffee with chloroform, then De La Cruz and another man would kidnap Jose from his Wasco home. After killing Jose, Marisela wanted De La Cruz to behead her husband to make sure "the rat (is) very dead." The pistol used to kill Jose was recovered in San Francicso during a drug raid.

She gave police different statements about the last time she saw him. When confronted with the text messages, she admitted she participated in the plan to have her husband abducted, but insisted she only wanted him beaten up, a claim she maintained at trial.

Noting that he had received a letter from Zarate Andrade prior to sentencing, Hayes said Tuesday the woman was in denial. He said the length of time the two spent planning the murder, and the content of the text messages, showed the extent of the cruelty they intended to inflict on the victim.

Judge Hayes said,"In some ways you are both very lucky the DA did not choose to (seek) the death penalty in this case. That's how atrocious this murder was." Prosecutor David Gross could have sought the death penalty because Zarate's murder occurred duing the course of a kidnapping.

Besides the life without parole sentenced, Judge Hayes sentenced Marisela to an additional 8 years for kidnapping and De La Cruz to an additional 33 to life for kidnapping and executing the victim. Hayes stayed both sentences. The victim's family attended the sentencing.