Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Crimes of Fashion: Famous Shoplifters

Winona Ryder is not the only celebrity who's been accused of shoplifting. Just ask around Hollywood.

"A famous actress came in here recently and went into the changing room to try things on," says David", the owner of an upscale L.A. boutique, "but I could see she was sneaking scented candles in with her, hidden under some shirts. I said to her, 'What are you bringing candles into the changing room for?' She replied, 'Oh, I like to smell them in the changing room.' So I said, 'Just a second-there are no candles allowed in the changing room!'"

There was good reason for keeping an eye on the Emmy-nominated actress, and for being so harsh toward her. "She's been known to shoplift," he says. "She's a big celebrity, and I caught her trying to steal candles!"

Another celebrity is known for strolling into various stores and invariably asking for something from the back of the boutique-a glass of water, a size that's not on display-and then taking advantage of the distraction to help herself to a five-finger discount. Her other method, says one sales clerk, is making things disappear: "You put ten things in a dressing room for her and only eight come out." Her shoplifting problem is such an open secret that one store owner has billed the star through her personal manager for blatantly stolen items.

A third celebrity, who helped put a certain tony boutique on the map (in the past, she actually purchased items from the store and helped make it well-known), was recently overheard bragging to a friend that she'd lifted items from that same store-unilaterally granting herself a commission, perhaps, for all the PR she'd generated.

What gives? For years there have been whispers among L.A. retailers about a select group of jet set shoplifters, wealthy and, in some cases, quite famous, who believe they deserve a steep discount on the things they want-100 percent off. The arrest and arraignment of Winona Ryder-charged with walking out of Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills with $4,760 worth of clothing and hair accessories "was sort a thrill," according to one clerk at a trendy L.A. boutique, who says it was a watershed moment of awareness about who really shoplifts: not necessarily those in need as much as those who want. "If she's guilty, I guess it's sad, because it means she has an emotional problem, but at the same time, if Winona can get busted, anybody can get busted," the saleswoman says. "These people think they'll never get caught, they think they're invincible-I hope they're paying attention."

There are those who think that Ryder, if she's actually guilty as charged, might have wanted to get caught. After all, news sources have reported that Ryder may have been somewhat graceless in the execution of her alleged crime: A Saks source told Entertainment Weekly that a store camera recorded Ryder snipping security sensors off of the I11crchandisc- which allegedly included two Judith Leiber handbags-and accidentally cutting herself, leaving bloodstains in the dressing room. Maybe it was some sort of cry for help?

"I hate when I hear that!" exclaims shoplifting expert Michael Nuccitelli, executive director of SLS Well ness, a New York health-care center that treats all manner of addictions. Nuccitelli has nothing but contempt for that sort of "pop psychology 'cry for help' mumbo jumbo. The compulsive shoplifter does not want to get caught. She wants the stuff she's stealing-that's part of the compulsion!"

"Shoplifting," he explains, "is nothing more than an irrational expression of whatever the shoplifter's psychiatric problems arc. It's an expression of poor coping mechanisms, such as poor stress management, poor anger management. Shoplifting means something negative is going on inside."

And therein lies the key to the public's enduring obsession with celebrity shoplifting: It's a crime that hints at hidden drama, at troubled waters-a petty and pathetic chink in the armor of our pop-culture royalty.

When celebrities arc accused of shoplifting, they invariably deny it. Winona Ryder's attorney, for instance, says that she was innocently carrying un purchased merchandise between store departments. Farrah Fawcett's two arrests for shoplifting in 1970 came back to haunt her when she became one of Charlie's Angels; she later said, "I took justice into my own hands," and insisted that the stores sold her defective merchandise but neither would let her do an exchange. Then Courtney Love got famous, she never bothered to defend her pre-fame shoplifting arrest-if anything, her youthful theft of a Kiss T-shirt from a Woolworth's in Eugene, Oregon (which led to a stint in reform school), only enhanced her reputation as a rebel.

In fact, tennis great Jennifer Capriati is perhaps the lone celebrity who's spoken candidly about her 1993 arrest, at age 17, for shoplifting a ring at a mall (she was later booked for possession of marijuana). The pressure of her sport and the ego-warping attention of worldwide fame, she says, were too much for her. "\,\'hen I looked in a mirror," Capriati told an interviewer at the time, "all I saw was this distorted image. I was so ugly and fat, and I more or less wanted to kill myself. "

It's telling that Capriati's and Ryder's arrests both had drug components to them (one of the four felony counts against Ryder is for possession of a controlled substance; police found the narcotic pain reliever Oxycodone in her purse, and Ryder allegedly couldn't produce a prescription for the pills). Shoplifters, says Nuccitelli, are often "cross-addicted, which means they're also addicted in other realms, such as alcohol and drug abuse, compulsive shopping, sexual addiction, or eating disorders such as compulsive overeating and bulimia." (Capriati's skewed adolescent body image was certainly a red flag.) Shoplifters also tend to have "a concurrent psychiatric illness, such as depression or anxiety disorder."

Many people think that celebrity or affluent shoplifting merely springs from an out-of-control sense of entitlement, says Norman Sussman, a psychiatrist at New York University Medical Center. But there’s a difference between "grandiosity," he points out, and "the truly addicted and compulsive, who generally have real issues with their own identities." He suggests that the mutability of some performers' personas might make them especially prone to dealing with stress or depression through dysfunctional coping mechanisms like shoplifting. "A lot of people who are good actors," Sussman says, "arc good at what they do because they have a poorly defined sense of who they really are, so they're able to assume the identities of someone else." Shoplifting is a type of role-play: It involves living the life, albeit momentarily, of the cunning and discerning thief, the invincible risk-taker who triumphs over clueless store clerks.

Elle':', 35, isn't famous, but she understands what it's like to live a life of privilege-she comes from a prominent Manhattan family, and has an expensive Ivy League education. "I have plenty of money," she says. For most of her adult life, she's had a recurring problem with alcoholism. As her drinking got out of hand, shoplifting gave her the sense that she had some semblance of control, some sort of edge that magically allowed her to outsmart stores. "Shoplifting gave me this high," she says, "and I was delusional-I'd have intense feelings of grandeur, like I was entitled to get whatever I wanted."

In addition to filching all manner of clothing from stores such as Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and Bergdorf Goodman - her preferred method was to walk in with an empty Hermes or Prada shopping bag, which she'd then fill in the department store dressing room-she would also grab endless amounts of beauty supplies from countertops and display cases and stuff those in her bags as well. "You know Kiehl's? 1 think I must have shoplifted half a warehouse worth of Kiehl's products."

Elle says she grew so brazen "that I didn't believe the signs in the stores-the ones in the dressing rooms about how you're being monitored on hidden camera by a same-sex security guard." She got caught and arrested two days in a row at two different Macy's stores and discovered that "they had video of me cutting the tags off of clothing."

Her third arrest resulted in court mandated treatment for both alcoholism and shoplifting, which in her case involves a regimen of psychotherapy and antipsychotic drugs. "I still battle with the compulsion to steal when I'm in stores," she says, "but I'm on probation and the thought of going to jail keeps me pretty focused. "

Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist who has treated many affluent shoplifters (including some famous ones), says that shoplifting "is a need to take something to compensate for something you feel was taken from you, or something you think you should have gotten." As with alcoholism and eating disorders, Lieberman says, it doesn't take much to trigger the compulsion, because, of course, the opportunity to shop (and shoplift) is everywhere.

And unlike other addictions, which have often debilitating and obvious side effects, shoplifting doesn't impair its practitioner~-until, of course, they get caught.

Make that if they get caught. The advocacy group Shoplifters Alternative reports that shoplifters say they're caught only an average of once every 49 times they steal-and when they are stopped, they're turned over to the police only half of the time. If anything, celebrity shoplifters, despite their recognizability, may have a heightened sense of immunity. "Their mentality," says one manager of an L.A. store, "has got to be, 'No one's ever going to think that I would steal because I have so much money.'"

"We rarely catch anyone stealing," says Sarah", the co-owner of an upscale boutique on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles. "But we'll figure it out later when we find an empty hanger."

And when she or her employees do suspect that somebody is shoplifting or a bout to shoplift? "All you can do is surround them and be helpful-be extremely helpful," Sarah says. "But honestly, if you catch them, it's generally not worth it to call the cops." Prosecuting a shoplifter, she says, involves "such a stream of paperwork." And merely approaching a suspected shoplifter can be a risk. (For example, a shoplifter should be outside the store with the merchandise for it to be definitely considered theft.) "Believe it or not," says Karen\ the manager of another boutique in Los Angeles, "the shoplifter can sue you for false accusation. You have to be careful how you confront them: 'Would you like to buy that? Would you like to try that on?'" It would be, needless to say, even more risky-and potentially career-ending-to accuse a celebrity.

Robin *, a shoplifter living in San Francisco, has been stealing since high school and has never been caught, "not even stopped or questioned." She's 39 now and says that, for most of her adult life, she's assembled her wardrobe almost entirely by shoplifting. "If you go in my closet, which has quite a beautiful array of clothes, almost everything has been stolen." Last year she stole something near $5,000 worth of goods-"maybe more," she admits after a pause.

Robin's gotten so good at shoplifting, she says, that she's almost gained a sense of invincibility. Recently, she lifted an item that was "bigger than a boom box-this cute wicker thing with drawers"-from her local Longs Drugs.

"I thought it was overpriced for what it was. I ended up just putting it in a shopping cart, and then pushing it over to the end of an empty checkout lane." She then bought-actually paid for-a few small items in the adjacent checkout lane, casually placed her little Longs bag and her purse in the cart with the wicker item, and wheeled the loot right out to her car.

"When you're really obvious like that," she explains, "the store people will just think 'Oh, nobody's bold enough to do that-she must have bought that already.' It's an attitude like 'I'm not hiding anything from you.'''

Robin shoplifts so often that she seems to have absolute]y no sense of her underlying motivation, the inner demons and delusions that have led her to a well rehearsed life of crime. She feels no remorse, she says; in her mind, shoplifting is just something that she's really good at-like other people are really good at tennis or Scrabble. Or acting.

While Robin steals year-round, shoplifters are often susceptible to what psychiatrists call "anniversary reactions." For instance, Elle, the New York shoplifter, was last drawn to "shop" (and was last arrested) on Mother's Day, and she says it didn't take much therapy to draw the connection between her theft and her loss. She was adopted, she explains, and she's never been able to get in contact with her birth mother.

Will Cupchik, a Toronto psychologist who conducts three-day intensive shoplifting intervention programs, points out it's not just shoplifters who need clarity about the root cause of the crime. Some clinicians "and many lawyers," he says, confuse shoplifting with kleptomania-a mental illness that's technically an impulse-control disorder. (A kleptomaniac often doesn't realize she's stealing, and only about 1 percent of retail theft is due to kleptomania.) Kleptomaniacs have no true psychological motivation whereas shoplifters are trying to fill some sort of emotional void. The phenomenon is called "loss substitution by stealing," a now widely accepted hypothesis that Cupchik first published in The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law in 1983.

In one study of shoplifters that Cupchik conducted, he found that in nearly 30 percent of the cases, there was a cancer connection-"the offenders had stolen in response to the occurrence of cancer in either the offender or a significant ocher." Though he hasn't analyzed the correlation between shoplifting and other diseases, Cupchik says it's clear that the crime is almost always "a subconscious response to emotional loss."

Breaking the compulsion to fill that void, to seek that temporary high, is a complicated process that begins by treating the underlying depression or anxiety, often with a prescribed antidepressant like Celexa, Wellbutrin, or Zoloft (another drug reportedly found in Ryder's purse when she was arrested). What the medication does, says Nuccitelli of SLS Wellness, "is create brain-chemistry changes so that the patient is more likely to experience happiness in her life, less likely to focus on negativity, and becomes more receptive to learning different coping strategies."

It is, ultimately, a private, introspective process. And it's the same for celebrity and run-of-the-mill shoplifters alike. Of course, all the high-priced lawyers can generally offer by way of explanation is that it was "all just a misunderstanding."

However, it's always a misunderstanding, Cupchik says. Shoplifters, famous or not, "don't know why they do it-they're confused by why they do it, they're embarrassed that they do it until they get help."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Jack The Peeper

UNBELIEVABLE in Beijing! Today's Legal Mirror reports the following news: a man was caught peeping at a woman from the pit beneath a non-flush, 'long drop' public toilet!

Here are the facts: yesterday at around 11pm in the Shijingshan district, Ms. Liu went to the loo and saw the shape of a man moving underneath the poop-holes of the public toilet. After rushing out in panic, she immediately returned to the scene accompanied by a female friend and two men. After checking the women's toilet without seeing the peeping bugger, they moved on to the men's to find a man quietly squatting over a poop-hole. They asked him if he saw anybody leaving the toilet, and his reply was '走了! 走了!' (he's gone!). Only problem was, the squatting man had smears of crap on his clothes and filthy plastic bags wrapped around his shoes.

The guy was captured and he's now under police custody.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Never Talk With Strangers

The homeless man who called himself "Emmanuel" was clean and relatively well groomed when Lois Smart first met him on the streets of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, in November 2001. Some of her children were with her, including fourteen-year-old Elizabeth and nine-year-old Mary Katherine. Polite and soft-spoken, Emmanuel was begging for change. He said his calling in life was to be a minister for the homeless.

Lois and her husband Ed often hired homeless people to do odd jobs at their home in the Federal Heights section of Salt Lake City. She offered Emmanuel a half-day of work, raking leaves and doing roof repairs if he was interested. He accepted her offer and took the bus to the Smart home where he worked for about five hours. Ed Smart worked with him on the roof. In the course of conversation, Emmanuel said that his self-proclaimed mission was to travel from city to city, reaching out to the homeless. Ed paid him for his services, and that was the last the Smarts saw of him.

But if the Smarts had known more about Emmanuel, they might not have invited him to their home and introduced him to their six children. His real name was Brian David Mitchell, age 48, and he had only recently cleaned himself up to be more presentable for panhandling. Normally his hair and beard were long and shaggy, and he usually wore white robes that gave him the appearance of a Biblical prophet.

Brian David Mitchell had a troubled background. His father, Shirl Mitchell, a social worker, had some odd ideas about childrearing. He tried to teach his eight-year-old son about sex by showing the boy graphic pictures from a medical journal and leaving other sexual material around the house where Brian could find it. When Brian David Mitchell was twelve, his father drove him to an unfamiliar part of Salt Lake City and told him to find his way home by himself. By the age of 16, Brian had started acting out and was caught exposing himself to a child. He was sent to live with his grandmother, but it wasn't long before he got involved with drugs and alcohol and dropped out of school. He got married at age 19 and fathered two children, but the marriage did not last, and he fled to New Hampshire to keep his ex-wife from gaining custody of the kids.

By 1980 Mitchell had returned to Utah and dedicated himself to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He married a woman named Debbie and fathered two more children, but over time his religious beliefs became fanatical, and his fascination with Satan scared her. His exuberant portrayals of the devil in church services displeased the elders of his ward who asked him to restrain himself. Mitchell filed for divorce in 1984, accusing Debbie of being cruel to his children. A year later she accused him of abusing two of her children from a former marriage, a 3-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl.

On the same day that his divorce was granted, Brian David Mitchell married his third wife, Wanda Barzee, a divorcee six years older than him who had six children of her own. Mitchell's increasingly extreme religious practices alienated Barzee's children, and they eventually moved out of the house. He declared that he spoke to angels and said that he was a prophet of God guided by visions. His new wife treated him like a holy man and took to calling herself "God Adorneth." Together they wandered the streets of Salt Lake City, wearing white robes and panhandling for money. When they ran into people who knew them, Mitchell and Barzee treated them as strangers, holding out their hands and asking for handouts. In November 2001, around the same time that Lois Smart met "Emmanuel," the LDS Church excommunicated Mitchell and Barzee for "promoting bizarre teachings and lifestyle" that were not in accordance with church doctrine.

Excommunication did not deter Mitchell. He wrote his own gospel, "The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah" and declared that he was sent by God to return the Mormon Church to its fundamental values, including the practice of polygamy. In one of his writings he urged his wife to accept "seven times seven sisters" into their family.

Lois Smart might have thought twice on that November day when she invited Emmanuel to her home if she knew that his fervent desire was to have 49 more wives.

Six months later, at about 2:00 A.M. on June 5, 2002, nine-year-old Mary Katherine Smart woke from a sound sleep and discovered that her sister, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, was not on her side of the queen-sized bed they shared. She saw that Elizabeth was out of bed and someone else was in the room—a man. Mary Katherine sensed that it wasn't her father or one of her brothers.

As described in the book, In Plain Sight by the girls' uncle, Tom Smart, and Lee Benson, Elizabeth Smart, who was wearing red silk pajamas, was moving around the mostly dark room. She stubbed her toe on something, and Mary Katherine heard her say, "Ouch!"

The man told her in a whisper to be quiet and threatened to kill her and her family if she didn't obey. His voice was soft and seemed vaguely familiar to Mary Katherine.

Petrified, Mary Katherine pretended to be asleep, but through half-closed lids she saw the man's hands and the dark hair that covered the backs of them. He wore a light-colored cap and a light-colored jacket and didn't seem to be much taller than Elizabeth. Mary Katherine thought he was holding a gun.

"Why are you taking me?" Elizabeth Smart asked.

Mary Katherine wasn't sure, but she thought she heard the man say, "For ransom or hostage."

He told Elizabeth to get some shoes, and she briefly turned on a light to find a pair of white sneakers. Elizabeth then left the room with the man.

Mary Katherine waited until she thought it was safe, then crept out of bed and tiptoed to the doorway. She peered out into the hallway and saw Elizabeth and the man coming out of one of her brothers' bedrooms. Terrified that the man would come back and take her, she ran back to bed and shut her eyes. She stayed that way for almost two hours, too scared to move.

Shortly before 4:00 A.M., Mary Katherine threw a blanket around herself and summoned the courage to go to her parents' bedroom. She woke her father and told him that Elizabeth was gone.

Ed Smart's first thought was that Mary Katherine had had a nightmare. After all it had been a difficult week. The child's grandfather, Lois's father, had died the week before, and the funeral had been the previous day. Elizabeth and Mary Katherine had played their harps at the viewing at the funeral parlor. Ed Smart also knew that Elizabeth sometimes retreated to the living-room sofa whenever Mary Katherine kicked in her sleep. He got out of bed and looked for Elizabeth to put his youngest daughter's mind at ease. But as they went from room to room, Mary Katherine begged her father to listen to her. "You're not going to find her! A man came and took her! A man with a gun!"

Unable to find Elizabeth anywhere in the house, Ed Smart called 911. "My daughter's missing!" he told the dispatcher. "Oh my gosh! Please hurry!"

The police arrived at 4:13 A.M., and the search for Elizabeth Smart began.

The police were not the first to arrive at the Smarts' home on Kristianna Circle. In his frantic attempt to locate Elizabeth, Ed Smart had called several friends, neighbors and relatives, and many of them rushed over to do whatever they could. According to Held Captive by Maggie Haberman and Jeane MacIntosh, over a dozen cars were parked in front of the Smarts' house when the police arrived. These people only wanted to help, but they did not realize that their presence was contaminating a crime scene. The police were later faulted for waiting until 6:54 A.M. to seal off the house, almost three hours from the time that Ed Smart had called 911.

It was soon determined that the kidnapper had entered the house through a kitchen window. He had left a lawn chair under the window, which the Smarts had forgotten to lock. The intruder had cut through the window screen and climbed in over the counter, careful not to disturb anything.

Police bloodhounds attempted to pick up Elizabeth's scent, but the trail the dogs found apparently ended several feet from the house. With no evidence of an unfamiliar car in the area, the police concluded that Elizabeth and her captor had departed on foot. But if they had left the house shortly after 2:00 A.M., they had a considerable head start.

By 7:30 A.M. local television and radio stations broadcast emergency bulletins alerting the public that Elizabeth was missing. By nine o'clock, 100 police officers and volunteers were searching the area for Elizabeth and a man who fit Mary Katherine's description. State police helicopters widened the circle of the search.

Gordon B. Hinkley, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reached out to the Smart family and offered his help. Hinkley notified LDS churches in five states, distributing Elizabeth's photograph and urging church members to join in the search.

Bob Smither of the Laura Recovery Center was asked to lend his expertise. Smither and his wife had founded the center after their daughter Laura had been kidnapped and murdered in 1998. Smither, who was based in Texas, sent a volunteer to help organize the many volunteers who had congregated at the local Shriners Hospital. The Smithers had written a manual for the parents of kidnapping victims, showing them how to be most effective in such a crisis.

Tom Smart, Ed's oldest brother and a journalist for the Deseret Morning News, became the spokesman for the family. Thousands of missing posters were printed, featuring several photos of Elizabeth from different angles and with different expressions. The Utah Missing Persons Clearinghouse distributed 800 fliers to police departments and school districts in neighboring states. The police expanded the focus of their search beyond Utah into southeast Idaho and Oregon where there had been two recent child abductions.

The Smarts had recently put their million-dollar house on the market, and in the past few months they had done renovations and repairs to get the house ready for sale. The police compiled a list of contractors, repairmen, and real-estate brokers who had been at the house so they could be interviewed. They also checked the Smarts' home computers to see if a sexual predator might have approached Elizabeth in an online chatroom, but they found no evidence of any such contact, and the family reported that Elizabeth never used the Internet. The police offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who came forward with solid information that would lead to Elizabeth's rescue.

On June 5 Ed Smart emerged from the house and faced a gang of reporters and television journalists who had camped out on the curb. Wrestling with his emotions and nearly overcome with grief, Ed stepped up to the microphones and spoke directly to his daughter. "Elizabeth, if you're out there, we're doing everything we possibly can to help you."

Fighting back tears, he then addressed the kidnapper: "Please let her go. Please!"

The next day Ed and Lois announced that private donors had put together a $250,000 reward for information that would bring back their daughter.

Charlie Miller was among the dozens of people the police interviewed in connection with Elizabeth Smart's disappearance. Miller was the milkman in the Smarts' neighborhood, delivering fresh milk products to homes the old-fashioned way. He told police that on Monday, June 3, at around 7:00 A.M.—43 hours before Elizabeth's abduction—he had noticed a green car cruising slowly along Kristianna Circle. He drove past the car in his truck and noticed that the driver was wearing a white baseball cap. Miller didn't think anything of it until the green car turned around and started following him. Fearing that the stranger might be aiming to rob him, Miller wrote down the green car's license plate number and called the police.

The next Sunday a vigil for Elizabeth took place at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. The police patrolled the parking lot, checking license-plate numbers, hoping to come up with a lead, and one officer took note of a green Saturn sedan with license-plate number 266HJH. The number was not an exact match with the one Charlie Miller had written down, but it was close enough and the color matched, so the police decided to stake out the car. When the driver returned to the vehicle, two officers got out of their patrol car and approached the Saturn on foot, but the man quickly started his engine and sped off, losing the police.

Later that day a little boy playing in the high weeds along a road near his home found a set of abandoned license plates—266HJH. The boy brought the plates home, and his father notified the police. Fingerprints lifted from the plates matched a 26-year-old man named Bret Michael Edmunds who was wanted for assaulting a police officer.

Edmunds was six feet two inches tall. Mary Katherine Smart had said that the man who took her sister was much shorter. But Edmunds had done work for people in the Smarts' neighborhood, so he immediately became a person of interest. The police wanted to talk to him, but despite extensive efforts to find him, Edmunds could not be located.

Bret Michael Edmunds was just one person on a long list of possible suspects the police had assembled. Another man, Richard Albert Ricci, soon shot to the top of that list. Ricci had done some painting and yard work for the Smarts in the spring of 2001. He was outgoing and talkative, and the family liked him. Ed Smart had even struck a deal with Ricci, agreeing to give the handyman his white 1990 Jeep Cherokee in exchange for additional work on his home. But as the police checked into the backgrounds of people who had worked at the Smarts' home, they discovered that Ricci was an ex-con who had stolen in the past to support a heroin habit. He had also abused prescription drugs and was an alcoholic. His modus was to sneak into the homes of people he worked for and steal items from the children's rooms, items that might be assumed to have been carelessly lost rather than stolen.

The more the police dug into Ricci's past, the worse it got. Ricci, 48, had a rap sheet that started when he was 19. He was a four-time parole violator, and the most serious of his many crimes was the shooting of a Salt Lake policeman in 1983 while robbing a pharmacy. He was also stocky and closer in build to the man Mary Katherine had described. He had been working full-time at a local nursery, but the day of Elizabeth's abduction happened to be his day off. And a neighbor told the police that in course of conversation one day, Ricci had said without prompting that he would surely be "implicated" in the kidnapping because he had worked for the Smarts.

Ricci and his wife allowed the police to search his home without a warrant and declined to get legal representation. Buried in the tomato patch, investigators found perfume bottles, jewelry, and a wine glass containing seashells. Ed Smart identified these as items that had been missing from his home. A search of Ricci's in-laws' home produced a machete and a light-colored hat.

Ed Smart had a hard time accepting that a man he had trusted could have done anything to harm his daughter, but in time he came to believe that even if Ricci wasn't the actual culprit, he was somehow involved and knew more than he was saying.

On June 14 the police arrested Ricci on a parole violation charge. They didn't want him going anywhere.

At this point Brian David Mitchell, a.k.a. Emmanuel, was not high on the list of possible suspects, and if the police had tried to locate him, it would have been extremely difficult to find him because he was living in the wilderness of Dry Creek Canyon outside of Salt Lake City with his wife, Wanda Barzee, and the person he intended to take as his second wife, Elizabeth Smart.

On the night of the kidnapping, Mitchell had forced Elizabeth to hike four miles up into the canyon where he had previously constructed a concealed shelter for his new bride. He had dug a twenty-foot long trough and built a lean-to over it. Soon after their arrival at the campsite, he insisted that she take off her red pajamas so he could burn them. She was given white robes to wear, just like her captors. He tied a cable around her leg and tethered her to a tree so she wouldn't run off.

Mitchell, a self-anointed priest, planned to perform the marriage ceremony that would join him to Elizabeth. Barzee, his loyal follower, supported his desire to take Elizabeth as a wife. Though the LDS church had officially banned polygamy in 1890, Mitchell firmly believed that multiple marriage was God's will and that the church had been wrong to abandon the practice.

Mitchell and Barzee kept Elizabeth imprisoned at their makeshift compound in the canyon from June 5 until August 8 when Salt Lake City residents started seeing the familiar robed couple, who they sometimes referred to as "Joseph and Mary," with a similarly dressed young girl. Barzee and Elizabeth wore veils that covered the lower halves of their faces. The couple took Elizabeth to some of their old haunts, including fast-food restaurants that had inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffets. They typically ate voraciously, mostly salad. An employee at one restaurant later reported that he has seen Elizabeth leave the table by herself to refill her plate at the buffet and returned to finish her meal. Whether she feared for her life or had succumbed to what her father would later call "brainwashing," Elizabeth showed no outward signs that she was being held against her will.

The people who saw the unusual trio considered them eccentric but harmless characters. They were often spotted around town. Hikers and bicyclists ran into them in the canyon. No one ever considered the possibility that this girl in the dirty white robes could be the kidnapped teenager whose photograph was on posters all over the state. And they never considered the possibility that she was with this unconventional couple because she was suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological condition in which a victim comes to identify and sympathize with her oppressors, just as heiress Patty Hearst had when she was held captive in 1974.

When a child is abducted, the police cannot rule out family members as possible suspects, so the Salt Lake City police asked the male members of the Smart family to submit to polygraph tests administered by the FBI. Tom Smart writes in his book, In Plain Sight, that his polygraph test took nearly eight hours, most of it grueling and gut-wrenching. Ed Smart described his polygraph experience as "four hours of hell." Ultimately the lie-detector tests did not single out a possible suspect within the family.

In the meantime the search for drifter Bret Michael Edmunds continued. Ten days after the manhunt began, the police located him in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where he had checked himself into a hospital under an alias. A drug overdose had seriously damaged his liver, and he was in bad shape. He had given the hospital his mother's name and Utah phone number in case of an emergency. A hospital social worker called the number, and one of Edmunds's relatives notified the police of his whereabouts.

Federal marshals guarded Edmunds until investigators from Utah could get there. The marshals found Edmunds's green Saturn in the parking lot. The investigators tried to interview him as soon as they arrived, but he was barely conscious. The next day he was more coherent and able to answer questions, but it became clear from his answers that he knew nothing about the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. He gave the police permission to search his car, but there was no physical evidence to suggest that he had been involved in the crime. The police crossed him off their list of suspects.

Attention now turned to handyman Richard Ricci. On August 27, six and a half weeks after his arrest, Ricci was taken to Third District Court for a brief hearing on burglary charges. Ed and Lois Smart attended the hearing, desperate for some kind of sign from him that he knew where Elizabeth was, but Ricci avoided eye contact with them.

That evening in jail Ricci called a guard to his cell, complaining of a severe headache and shortness of breath. Within minutes he collapse and fell unconscious. He was rushed to University Hospital where he fell into a coma. Doctors determined that Ricci had suffered a brain hemorrhage, and the next morning surgeons operated to remove fluid on his brain. He lay unconscious, his doctors certain that he had sustained brain damage. His prognosis wasn't good, and his wife considered taking him off life support.

When the Smarts learned of Ricci's condition, they panicked. What if Ricci did know something about Elizabeth's kidnapping? That information would die with him if he were allowed to expire. They felt they couldn't afford to let Mrs. Ricci pull the plug on her husband. But ultimately Ricci's wife didn't have to make the fateful decision to end her husband's life. Three days after he collapsed in his cell, Richard Ricci died on his own.

The Smarts now felt that they had lost their best chance to learn what had happened to their daughter.

One night in October 2002, Mary Katherine Smart, who was now 10 years old, walked into her parents' bedroom and went over to her father: "I think I know who it is," she told him. "Emmanuel."

She explained that she had been flipping through the Guinness Book of World Records, and it suddenly came to her. The man she had seen in her bedroom, the man who took her sister Elizabeth, was the homeless man who had worked at their house for half a day nearly a year ago.

Ed Smart told the police what Mary Katherine told him, but their response was lukewarm. Emmanuel was already on the long list of people they wanted to interview, and they were a little skeptical of the ten-year-old's sudden recovered memory. The police still considered the late Richard Ricci their prime suspect and conducted their investigation under that theory. Besides, they had already searched their computerized files for anyone who used the alias "Emmanuel" and had come up empty. They didn't realize that Brian David Mitchell was indeed in their system, having been arrested for shoplifting in September. Unfortunately the arresting officer had entered his name as "Immanuel."

Impatient with the police's investigation and doubtful that Ricci was the true culprit, the Smarts decided to initiate their own efforts to find their daughter. They contacted John Walsh, the host of America's Most Wanted, who had just started a daytime talk show. America's Most Wanted had previously given some coverage to Elizabeth's kidnapping, and on December 14, Walsh broadcast a new segment on her, updating the public on the state of the investigation. More significantly Walsh appeared the talk show Larry King Live on December 23 to promote his own new talk show. King asked Walsh about the Smart case, and Walsh revealed Mary Katherine's memory of Emmanuel.

"Their young daughter has now said that she believed that Ricci wasn't the guy in there that night," Walsh told King on national television, "that it may have been another guy that did some work on the roof, an itinerant guy...." Walsh promised that America's Most Wanted would stay on the case.

Seven weeks later, on February 15, 2003, America's Most Wanted aired a new segment on Elizabeth's disappearance, and this time they showed composite sketches of "Emmanuel."

Derrick Thompson happened to be watching the show from his home that night. His jaw dropped when he heard the description of Emmanuel and saw the sketches. He immediately called his brother, Mark, to tell him to turn on the TV. Derrick and Mark were Wanda Barzee's sons. Mitchell was their stepfather. They decided to go out and try to find Mitchell and their mother.

Mitchell's ex-wife Debbie also saw that episode of America's Most Wanted and strongly felt that "Emmanuel" was the man she had once been her husband. She called the police and told them all she knew about Mitchell, including her daughter's memories of being sexually abused by him. It was her opinion that if Mitchell was the kidnapper, he would not have killed Elizabeth.

New information was now flowing in via the television show. The Smarts felt that this was a positive development, but they needed the police to evaluate these leads. However, there was one critical piece of information no one knew at this point. On the day the show aired, Mitchell was already in police custody in California.

Mitchell, Barzee, and Elizabeth had left Utah sometime in the fall and relocated to Lakeside, California, 25 miles east of San Diego. Mitchell might have picked Lakeside because it had a large transient population and he figured he and his traveling companions would blend in there. But even here Mitchell managed to stand out, preaching loudly in the commercial district and making a nuisance of himself. Storeowners complained to the police who confronted Mitchell on several occasions, giving him warnings and forcing him to move on.

But preaching wasn't the only thing on Mitchell's mind. He wanted to take another wife and had set his sights on the twelve-year-old daughter of an LDS church official in a neighboring community. Mitchell tied back his long hair, put on jeans and a checked shirt, and went to Sunday services, pretending to be interested in learning more about the religion. Virl Kemp, the father of his target, invited Mitchell, who had introduced himself as "Peter," to his home for dinner, hoping to answer any of the man's questions about the church. During the meal, Kemp got the impression from Mitchell's questions that he knew a lot more about the LDS church than he was letting on. Mitchell's real purpose was to case out the house. Later that winter he tried to break in to kidnap Kemp's daughter just as he had kidnapped Elizabeth, but Kemp's house was burglar-proof, and Mitchell was forced to abandon.

Several weeks later, on February 15, 2003, Mitchell broke into the pre-school at the Lakeside Presbyterian Church. A neighbor reported that she had seen a man in long johns climbing through a window at the preschool. When the police arrived, they found Mitchell asleep on a classroom floor. He told them his name was "Michael Jenson" and gave a false date of birth, but his fingerprints revealed his true identity. Unfortunately his computer records did not show that he had skipped out on a court date in Utah on the shoplifting charge in September because it was only a misdemeanor. The police held him over the Presidents Day weekend until a hearing could be scheduled. his plan.

In the meantime Barzee became frantic when Mitchell did not return to their makeshift camp in the woods, one of several Mitchell had set up in the area. Barzee ran to another campsite where Mitchell had built an altar, which they called Golgotha after the hill where Jesus was crucified. She wept and prayed for hours, pleading with God for Mitchell's safe return. Elizabeth was left behind on her own, but she did not try to escape.

When Mitchell finally got his hearing, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of vandalism. The judge gave him three years of probation, a $250 fine, and a stern warning to stay away from any church that doesn't want him on their property. Mitchell, who insisted that his name was "Michael Jenson," promised to follow the judge's orders and said that the only reason he had broken into the preschool was because he had gotten drunk that night. Many people would later attest to the fact that Emmanuel had a taste for beer.

Two weeks later on March 1, America's Most Wanted broadcast an update on the Elizabeth Smart case with the photos of Mitchell provided by Barzee's sons. A viewer from Lakeside, California, called in and said a man fitting Mitchell's description had been in her area, traveling with two women wearing veils over their faces. The Salt Lake City Police Department sent an investigator to Lakeside to follow up on this lead.

That same week a librarian at the Lakeside branch of the San Diego County public library saw Mitchell, Barzee, and Elizabeth, dirty and disheveled, sitting at a library table. She recognized them because they had come in before, but this time they weren't wearing their robes. Elizabeth wore sunglasses and sat silently as Mitchell studied an atlas for nearly an hour.

On March 4, a man driving along the highway north of San Diego noticed three people in robes on the side of the road. It was pouring rain, and the driver stopped to ask if they wanted a ride. Mitchell accepted the man's offer and introduced himself as "Peter." He said his "daughter's" name was "Augustine." He told the driver that they were on their way to Las Vegas where he planned to preach God's message. The trio rode with the man for about 40 miles, and then set off on foot.

Mitchell, Barzee, and Elizabeth were next spotted a week later on March 11 in North Las Vegas, begging for change in front of a Burger King. They were not wearing their robes and looked like average down-on-their-luck transients. Employees at the fast-food restaurant called the police, complaining that the trio was harassing customers, but by the time officers arrived, they were gone. The officers found them nearby and questioned them. Mitchell said his name was "Peter Marshall" and that Barzee was his wife, "Juliette." Elizabeth, he said, was his daughter, "Augustine." With no reason to detain them, the police told them to move on.

The next day the trio resurfaced in downtown Sandy, Utah, 40 miles south of Salt Lake City. Mitchell was wearing a green tee shirt and a brown hat. Barzee wore a scarf over her hair. Elizabeth wore a gray wig and large sunglasses.

Just before 1:00 P.M. Salt Lake City police received two separate 911 calls from women who thought they had spotted Mitchell in Sandy. Sitting in her car, watching the trio trudge down the street, Nancy Montoya, a fan of America's Most Wanted, was sure that she was looking at the man whose face she had seen several times on the show. At almost the same time, Anita Dickerson spotted Mitchell and recognized him from photos shown on local news programs. She got out of her car and walked close enough to him to get good look at his face, then immediately called 911.

Sandy Police Officer Karen Jones was the first on the scene. She stopped the trio and asked for some identification. Mitchell told her they were the "Marshall" family from Miami, Florida, and said they didn't need identification because they were messengers from God.

The next officer to arrive was Troy Rasmussen. As soon as he saw the girl in the gray wig, he was convinced that it was Elizabeth Smart. Rasmussen called for assistance, and the police separated Elizabeth from Mitchell and Barzee and questioned her alone. She said she was 18 and insisted that she was not Elizabeth Smart. They asked her questions about her parents' background, and she stumbled with her answers, then changed course and said they were her stepparents. She openly showed her annoyance with the officers and their persistent questions. When they asked why she was wearing a wig, she insisted that it was her real hair.

Salt Lake City investigators arrived, and they continued the questioning. At one point they showed her a missing-person poster with a photograph of herself. Her face was thinner in the photo, and her arms and shoulders weren't as developed. Hiking through the mountains, hauling a backpack had built up her muscles. She stared at the picture, tears brimming in her eyes.

The officers asked her again if she was Elizabeth Smart.

"If thou sayeth, I sayeth," she answered.

Later that day Ed Smart was called to a Salt Lake police station. He thought he was being summoned to identify "Emmanuel," but when he walked into a holding room and saw Elizabeth sitting on a couch, he was stunned. An investigator asked if this was his daughter. "Yes!" he cried and ran to her, hugging her close. He looked into Elizabeth's face and asked if it was really her.

"Yes," she said, holding him tight.

Ed Smart wanted to bring his daughter home immediately, but the police detained her a while longer for further questioning, so they could start building their case against Mitchell and Barzee. Word spread quickly that Elizabeth had been found, and people celebrated in the streets.

Elizabeth was reunited with her family that night, and seeing her mother and siblings brought her further out of the nightmare she'd been living. Her parents just assumed that she would want to sleep in their bedroom for a while until she adjusted, but to their surprise she said she wanted to sleep in her own bed with her sister Mary Katherine. Lois Smart writes in the book she wrote with her husband, Bringing Elizabeth Home, that Elizabeth told her, "Mom, don't worry. I'm just fine. I'm going to be safe. I'm going to be here in the morning."

Elizabeth's adjustment to her old life was quick. She had matured and changed physically in the time that she was gone, and when she tired to play her beloved harp, she found that she was very out of practice. But despite the traumatic events of the past nine months, she seemed to regain her place in the family with relative ease. Everyone was happy for her and her family, but one question lingered in the public's mind: What exactly did Mitchell do to her during her captivity?

David Smart, Elizabeth's uncle, told reporters that a doctor had examined her and that she was not pregnant and never had been pregnant. But the family refused to answer any questions about sexual assault.

Mitchell and Barzee were arrested and held at the Salt Lake County Adult Detention Center. According to authors Haberman and MacIntosh, when Mitchell was asked for his current address, he said, "Heaven on earth" and gave "God" as his emergency contact. Though he had told various people over the past few months that Elizabeth was his daughter, his attorney, Larry Long, told a television reporter that Mitchell considered the girl his wife. His name for Elizabeth was Shear Jashub Isaiah, "Remnant who will return."

On March 18, Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom announced that Mitchell and Barzee would be charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and aggravated sexual assault as well as attempted aggravated kidnapping for trying to snatch Elizabeth's cousin, Jessica Wright, from her home on July 24, 2002. According to the probable cause statement, Mitchell had "committed a rape, attempted rape, forcible sexual abuse or attempted forcible sexual abuse."

If and when Mitchell and Barzee are ever tried, the details of the alleged sexual assault will come to light and Elizabeth herself will most likely be called to testify. However, the court has ruled that neither Mitchell nor Barzee are mentally competent to stand trial. Mitchell has been ejected from several of his mental-competency hearings for singing the hymn, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand." His lawyers have said that he is unable to assist in his own defense and that he has become increasingly delusional since his arrest. Mitchell and Barzee might never be tried and the details of Elizabeth Smart's time under Mitchell's spell will remain a private matter, known only to Elizabeth, her captors, and her family.

Barzee has filed for divorce from Mitchell.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Real Texas Chainsaw Massacre

When the police arrived at a secluded farmhouse outside Plainfield, Wisconsin, where Ed Gein lived alone after the passing of his parents and brother, they meant to question him about a local incident. It was a cold November day in 1957 and he'd been seen in the store from which a woman had gone missing, inquiring about antifreeze. Known to be a bit strange, they were aware that the diminutive high school dropout-turned-handyman was capable of some odd behavior, but he'd always seemed fairly benign. His deceased father had been an alcoholic and his mother an antisocial religious fanatic. Brother Henry had mysteriously died in a fire.

It seems that Gein was not at home, so the officers decided to look around. Entering a deteriorating and darkened out-building, they spotted a dressed deer carcass hanging from the rafters. Going closer, they thought there was something odd about this deer. It didn't hang right.

Suddenly, under a flashlight's glare, they realized that the carcass was no deer: it was a human corpse. Hung feet first was the headless nude body of a woman, slit from her genitals to her neck, with her legs splayed apart. The officers wondered if this might be the missing storekeeper, Bernice Worden. Whoever it was, she'd clearly been the victim of a crime, and there was no one around but eccentric Ed Gein. Was he peculiar enough to commit outright murder, they wondered? It certainly seemed possible.

Next, the police entered Gein's house and right away their question was answered. Inside, scattered around, they found all manner of body parts, including skin, a box of preserved female genitalia, a heart in a frying pan, a box of cut-off noses, the sawed-off crania from several skulls, death masks peeled off dead females, a skin vest with female breasts and genitals, and a female scalp with black hair. They wondered just how many women Gein had killed. It appeared that there were parts from at least a dozen victims, possibly more. Then they found Bernice Worden's head in a bag, with nails driven through the ears.

In those days, little was known about the kind of person who might kill repeatedly — although a handful of serial killers were at large around the country — other than that he had to be some sort of monster. It was one thing to kill; it was quite another to remove and preserve body parts to decorate one's home. This wasn't Nazi Germany, after all. In fact, it appeared to the investigators, from items in a frying pan, that perhaps Gein was indulging in a bit of cannibalism as well. They could only wonder how long he'd been doing it and they intended to check their records for more missing women when they returned to town. But first they had to find Gein.

Once arrested and taken to Madison, Gein freely admitted that he was aware of the body parts and corpses, but he said that he'd stolen most of them from the local cemetery — to the tune of some forty grave robberies. He'd hear about a woman who had recently died, he explained, wait until she was buried, and then go dig her up to take whatever he wanted. Sometimes he took the whole corpses, sometimes just a specific part.

However, Bernice Worden had been alive the last time anyone had seen her. She'd gone missing from the store where she'd been working that day. Gein readily confessed to having killed her, as well as another missing woman, Mary Hogan, who had disappeared three years earlier. They both had been about the size of his dead mother and he'd been unable to wait until they died; he'd needed them to complete his project. So he'd shot them and brought them home. The police listened in horror as he described his grisly pastime.

Gein remained a suspect in the disappearance of four others, but those women he did kill or dig up he'd used to make himself a female "suit." He'd skin them for the various pieces, but he found that dead skin was not very pliable, and he'd heard or read that living women worked better for this purpose. Apparently he missed his dead mother so much that he was trying to become her by dressing in his special female "suit." Sometimes he wore it, he admitted, while he pranced around in the yard during a full moon.

"When I made these masks, you see," he said in his confession, "I stuffed them all out with paper so they would dry." He also had used salt as a preservative. In any event, he was detained and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Eventually, Gein was deemed competent to stand trial for one murder, but then found not guilty by reason of insanity. In 1974, he petitioned for release from the psychiatric institute in which he'd been a patient, but his petition was denied. He died a decade later.

It's true that there's little in TCM that compares to what Gein did, aside from the skin mask that Leatherface wears, but the house where this character resides with his family is similar to Gein's: isolated, cluttered, full of body parts, and generally disgusting. Alone and socially inept, apparently unaware that what he was doing was wrong, Gein had devoured books on human anatomy and Nazi experiments, even sending away for shrunken heads. Although he denied consuming the flesh, some who studied the case believe he did. In any event, regardless of the facts, he certainly has the reputation of being a cannibal, and he was mentally so stunted and dysfunctional that he served as a viable model for the Leatherface character.

A grave-robber, too, Leatherface wears a mask made of skin and a bloody butcher's apron. Yet he relies on a chainsaw to kill and dismember his victims, and there's no indication that Gein ever used such an implement on people. He did gut and behead his two live victims, which is gruesome enough, but he didn't run around like Leatherface does. So just how did Gein come to inspire Tobe Hooper to create TCM?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Top 10 Unsolved Murders

Every year a large number of murders go unsolved, but some gain such infamy that they remain in the public mind for many years to come. This is a list of the ten most famous murders in modern history. The one rule I had for this list was that there had be a body - this excludes people like Jimmy Hoffa.

10. Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero was a prominent Roman Catholic priest and Archbishop in El Salvador during the 1960s and 1970s. After witnessing numerous violations of human rights, he began to speak out on behalf of the poor and the victims of El Salvador’s long and bloody civil war. After speaking out against U.S. military support for the government of El Salvador, and calling for soldiers to disobey orders that harmed human rights, Archbishop Romero was shot to death while celebrating Mass at a small chapel near his cathedral. It is believed that his assassins were members of Salvadoran death squads, including two graduates of the School of the Americas.

9. Olof Palme

Palme was a Swedish politician and prime minister (1982 - 1986). The nuclear accident in 1979 at Three Mile Island in the United States had a great impact in Sweden, and Palme contributed to a referendum (passed in 1980) to remove all nuclear reactors in Sweden. After being elected prime minister again in 1982, Palme tried to reinstate socialist economic policies in Sweden, and he continued to be outspoken on matters of European security. He was shot and killed while walking home with his wife after a visit to a cinema. The motive and identity of the killer remain a mystery.

8. The Boy in the Box

In 1957, an unidentified Caucasian male, probable age 4 to 6 years, whose nude body, wrapped in a cheap flannel blanket, was found lying face up inside a large cardboard carton just a few feet from the edge of Susquehanna Road in Northeast Philadelphia. The body was dry and clean. The boy’s arms were carefully folded across his stomach. The finger and toenails had been recently trimmed short and neat. His hair had been cut recently - very close to the head, in a crude, hurried way, perhaps as a deliberate attempt to conceal the child’s identity. Small clumps of cut hair clung to his entire body, suggesting that someone had groomed him while he was unclothed, probably either shortly before or immediately after death. There were many bruises all over the child’s body; particularly on the head and face. All of the bruises appeared to have been inflicted at the same time. Despite recent DNA investigations in to the crime, it remains unsolved.

7. Jack the Stripper

Jack the Stripper was the nickname given to an unknown serial killer responsible for what came to be known as the London “nude murders” between 1964 and 1965. His victimology was similar to Jack the Ripper’s. He murdered six — possibly eight — prostitutes, whose nude bodies were discovered around London or dumped in the River Thames. The victim count is ambiguous because two of the murders attributed to him did not fit his modus operandi. Like the Jack the Ripper killings, the Stripper’s reign of terror seemed to cease on its own, and there were few solid clues for police to investigate. Though his identity remains unknown, crime writer Donald Rumbelow notes that the killer could have been a young man who committed suicide in south London. This main suspect, who was also a favorite suspect of Chief Superintendent Du Rose, was a security guard on the Heron Trading Estate in Acton whose rounds included a paint shop where one of the bodies was thought to have been hidden after the crime. Though there was never any hard evidence to link him to the crimes, his family found his suicide inexplicable, and his suicide note cryptically said only that he was “unable to take the strain any longer”.

6. The Axeman of New Orleans

On May 23, 1918, an Italian grocer named Joseph Maggio and his wife were butchered while sleeping in their apartment above the Maggio grocery store. Upon investigation, the police discovered that a panel in the rear door had been chiseled out, providing a way in for the killer. The murder weapon, an axe, was found in the apartment, still coated with the Maggio’s blood. Nothing in the house had been stolen, including jewelry and money that were nearly in plain sight. The only clue that was discovered was a message that had been written in chalk near the victim’s home. It read: “Mrs. Joseph Maggio will sit up tonight. Just write Mrs. Toney”. Almost exactly a month after the Maggio murder came a second crime. Louis Bossumer, a grocer who lived behind his store with his common-law wife, Annie Harriet Lowe, was discovered by neighbors one morning, lying in a pool of blood. The Axeman murdered a total of eight people before the killings stopped. There was no evidence to link the only suspect, Joseph Mumfre, to the crimes.

5. JonBenét Ramsay

JonBenet Ramsays was a six-year-old girl known for her participation in beauty pageants in the United States. She was found murdered in the basement of her parents’ home in Boulder, Colorado, nearly eight hours after she was reported missing. The case is notable in both its longevity and the media interest it has generated in the United States. After several grand jury hearings the case is still unsolved. In December 2003, forensic investigators extracted enough material from a mixed blood sample found on JonBenét’s underwear to establish a DNA profile. The DNA belongs to an unknown Caucasian male. The DNA was submitted to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a database containing more than 1.6 million DNA profiles, mainly from convicted felons. The sample has yet to find a match in the database, although it continues to be checked for partial matches on a weekly basis.

4. Black Dahlia

Elizabeth Short (born 29 July 1924) was a 22-year-old American woman who was the victim of a gruesome and much-publicized murder. Nicknamed the Black Dahlia, Short was found cut in half and severely mutilated on 15 January 1947 in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. The murder, which has remained unsolved, has been the source of widespread speculation as well as several books and film adaptations. Sensational and sometimes inaccurate press coverage, as well as the horrible nature of the crime, focused intense public attention on the case. About 60 people confessed to the murder, mostly men, as well as a few women. As the case continues to command public attention, many more people have been proposed as Short’s killer, much like London’s Jack the Ripper murders of 1888.

3. Andrew and Abby Borden

On a Thursday morning, August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden left home to conduct his business, leaving in the house, besides his wife, an Irish maid (Bridget Sullivan) and his daughter Lizzie. On his return, he settled on a sofa for a nap. About 11:15 AM, Lizzie (according to her testimony) discovered her father dead, repeatedly struck in the head with a sharp instrument. Upstairs his wife’s body was found, even more brutally mutilated; examination proved that her death had preceded her husband’s by an hour or so. It was found that Lizzie had tried to purchase prussic acid (a poison) on August 3, and a few days later she was alleged to have burned a dress in a stove. Sullivan, who also has been suspected, later that evening reportedly left the house carrying an unexamined parcel. No weapon was found, though an axe found in the basement was suspected. Lizzie was arrested and tried for both murders in June 1893 but was acquitted, given the circumstantial evidence. She was nonetheless ostracized thereafter by the people of her native Fall River, Massachusetts, where she continued to live until her death in 1927.

2. The Zodiac

The Zodiac Killer is one of the great unsolved serial killer mysteries of all time, taking only second place to Jack the Ripper. Even though police investigated over 2,500 potential suspects, the case was never officially solved. There were a few suspects that stood out, but the forensic technology of the times was not advanced enough to nail any one of them conclusively. The Zodiac murdered five known victims in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa, and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. Four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29 were targeted. Others have also been suspected to be Zodiac victims, but there has been thus far no conclusive evidence to link them to the killer.

1. Jack the Ripper

Traditionally, Jack the Ripper is considered to have killed five women, all London prostitutes, during 1888. The Ripper generally killed by strangling his victims, then laying them down and cutting the arteries in their throats; this was followed by a varied process of mutilation, during which parts of the body were removed and kept. During the autumn and winter of 1888/89 a number of letters circulated among the police and newspapers, all claiming to be from the Whitechapel murderer; these include the ‘From Hell’ letter and one accompanied by part of a kidney. Ripperologists consider most, if not all, of the letters to be hoaxes. Over a century later Jack’s identity has never been wholly proven (there isn’t even a leading suspect), most aspects of the case are still debated and the Ripper is an infamous cultural bogeyman