Tag Archives: crime

The Mysterious Disappearance of Keith Davis

sea-ship

Davis boarded the MV Victoria No. 168 in Vacamonte, Panama, on August 5, 2015, departing a few days later for a voyage that was supposed to last between two and a half and three months. The Victoria was operated by Gran Victoria International, a Panamanian company, but had ownership ties to Japan, and was staffed with a Taiwanese captain and a Burmese and Chinese crew. It was not an ordinary fishing boat; the Victoria was a tuna transshipment vessel, a kind of mother ship for smaller commercial boats, with large refrigerated holds that allowed boats to offload their catches at sea and avoid the hassle of making regular trips back to port. Such an arrangement also makes it easier to hide illegal shark fins and drugs among the fish transfers. Davis had worked on transshipment vessels before and knew they were among the most dangerous for observers.

“The ship is a little bit different. I’ll tell you about it once I get back,” Davis wrote in an email to his father, John Davis, a few weeks into his trip. The two were close, and John often received emails from his son while he was out at sea—nothing about this one suggested he was in any danger.

Fisheries observer Keith Davis monitored and collected data on fishing vessels, devoting his life to protecting the seas—until he went missing. Sarah Tory reports on his disappearance at Hakai Magazine.

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Over 40 Years in “Closed Cell Restricted”: How Albert Woodfox Survived Solitary

Photo by msppmoore CC-BY SA 2.0

When Woodfox was eighteen, he was arrested for robbing a bar and sentenced to fifty years in prison.

Two weeks after Miller’s death, the four men were charged with murder. There was an abundance of physical evidence at the crime scene, none of which linked them to the killing. A bloody fingerprint near Miller’s body did not match any of theirs.

Woodfox often woke up gasping. He felt that the walls of the cell were squeezing him to death, a sensation that he began to experience the day after his mother’s funeral, in 1994. He had planned to go to the burial — prisoners at Angola are permitted to attend the funerals of immediate family — but at the last minute his request was denied. For three years, he slept sitting up, because he felt less panicked when he was vertical. “It takes so much out of you just to try to make these walls, you know, go back to the normal place they belong,” he told a psychologist. “Someday I’m not going to be able to deal with it. I’m not going to be able to pull those walls apart.”

Woodfox is reserved, humble, and temperamentally averse to drama. When he talked about himself, his tone became flat. He was scheduled to speak at a panel on solitary confinement the next day, and he felt exhausted by the prospect. “I get apprehensive when somebody asks me something I can’t answer, like ‘What does it feel like to be free?’ ” he said. “How do you want me to know how it feels to be free?” He’d developed a stock answer to the question: “Ask me in twenty years.”

At The New Yorker, Rachel Aviv profiles Albert Woodfox, a man originally sentenced to 50 years in prison for robbery. A member of the Black Panthers and the Angola 3, Woodfox spent over four decades in solitary confinement, despite a stunning lack of evidence against him in a prison murder.

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Chronicling Mexico City Nights: The Grave Shift’s Violence

Photo by ismael villafranco CCBY SA 2.0

When you work the night shift for too long, the murders start to link up with one another, blending cause and effect in a centrifugal force that gnaws away at the city. The veteran reporters start to see this; the man gunned down one night is related to an ongoing gang dispute, which originates in another murder from the previous week, and so on. The crimes dot their personal maps. Driving by Mosqueta Street, David points to a specific building and recalls the night he photographed an injured man that had been hit by a car. It was only later that his editor pointed out to him that the victim was in fact José Luis Calva Zepeda, also known as the Guerrero Cannibal, one of contemporary Mexico’s most notorious serial killers, accused of eating parts of his victims, all young women. When the police located him, he jumped out of his apartment window and ran across the street, before being struck by a car and apprehended.

At The Towner, Francisco Serrano shadows journalists during Mexico City’s violent night shift.

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The Day My Brother Took a Life and Changed Mine Forever

Illustration by Richard Allen

Issac Bailey | The Marshall Project | June 2016 | 22 minutes (5,496 words)

The Marshall ProjectThis story was co-published with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletter, or follow The Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.

Drive the backroads of South Carolina to the small town of Ridgeville, and you’ll be greeted by a large, handmade sign reading “Your sins killed Jesus” amid the pine forests and small barns. I grew up traveling those roads but only recently noticed the sign, long after I had stopped caring about sin and consequence or what either of those things means.

Because on April 27, 1982, while I was asleep in a room with a couple of wooden bunk beds, blankets on the floor, and too many brothers, Herbert “Moochie” Bailey Jr. was killing a man named James Bunch a few miles away. Moochie was 22 years old at the time. I was only 9. Read more…

How a Local Police Chief Took on the Drug War

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After 25 years of fighting a losing war on drugs and with a heroin epidemic raging in his home state of Massachusetts, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello decided to take matters into his own hands. He opened his police station’s doors to any addict seeking help, promising to get them into treatment. Writing for Boston Magazine, Chris Sweeney delves deeply into Campanello’s work, and the unlikely success of his initiative: in just three short months, 145 individuals have already come to Campanello seeking help. But first, the story of the Facebook post that started it all:

Campanello, heavyset with jowls and thinning hair, knew his limitations: just a small-town cop with a tiny budget and no power to enact laws. So on the morning of May 4, he logged into the biggest platform he had—the Gloucester Police Department’s Facebook account—and, for the first time, began typing out his defiant approach. Starting June 1, he wrote, “Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc) or drugs and asks for help will NOT be charged.” Instead, he and his officers would help them get medical care. It didn’t matter what insurance you had, or whether you had insurance at all—Campanello promised to shred the red tape that entangled so many who sought treatment. “I’ve never arrested a tobacco addict, nor have I ever seen one turned down for help when they develop lung cancer, whether or not they have insurance,” he concluded in the post. “The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money. Petty reasons to lose a life.”

He read the message over for typos, floated the cursor over the “Post” button, and clicked his mouse at 10:55 a.m. It instantly went viral, shared by more than 30,000 people, “liked” by 33,000, and viewed more than 2 million times.

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Why Women Are Less Likely to Be Exonerated Using DNA Evidence

Photo: West Midlands Police, Flickr

In a recent piece for Mother Jones, Molly Redden looked at why it can be particularly hard for wrongfully convicted women to be exonerated (Women make up about 11 percent of the people convicted of violent crimes, but just 6 percent of those exonerated of violent crimes). Despite their good intentions, most innocence projects fail to bring justice to wrongly convicted women.  Why? Karen Daniel and Judy Royal—lawyers with Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions —spent three years pursuing that question. Their research brought them a number of insights, including the fact that women are far less likely to be exonerated using DNA evidence:

Daniel and Royal started by digging deep into the exonerations database. Their first insight had to do with DNA evidence—the very breakthrough that launched the innocence movement a quarter century ago. “Women tend not to be convicted of the types of crimes that can be overturned based on the results of DNA testing,” Daniel explained. Men perpetrate the overwhelming majority of rapes and murders of strangers. These crimes are much more likely to leave behind DNA evidence that can rule out an innocent suspect, or point to the real rapist or killer.

But when women kill, they usually kill someone close to them. And in most of those cases, DNA isn’t relevant. When a woman is suspected of killing her husband or her child, investigators are likely to find her DNA all over the crime scene whether she’s guilty or innocent—so DNA testing can do little to exonerate her. Sure enough, 27 percent of the men in the exonerations registry were freed using DNA evidence. The same was true of only 7.6 percent of the women.

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The Day ‘the Elephant Joined the Band’: A Rape Hidden in the Runaways’ History

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From reporter Jason Cherkis and the Huffington Post’s new Highline magazine comes a devastating story about ’70s teen rock band the Runaways. Bassist Jackie Fuchs reveals that early in the band’s history, she was drugged and raped by their producer Kim Fowley in front of several bandmates, including Joan Jett. She stayed silent for decades. (Jett is not commenting.)

Jackie showed up at the next band practice some days later, not ready to stop being a Runaway. Although she was nervous about how her bandmates would treat her, she at least expected them to acknowledge that something bad had happened. But the girls hardly registered her presence. They just plugged in and started running through their songs. That was the day, Jackie says, “the elephant joined the band.”

Jackie took her bandmates’ silence to mean that she should keep quiet, too. “I didn’t know if anybody would have backed me,” she says. “I knew I would be treated horribly by the police—that I was going to be the one that ended up on trial more than Kim. I carried this sense of shame and of thinking it was somehow my fault for decades.”

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How Does a Magazine Go About Calculating the Financial Cost of Gun Violence?

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

To begin to get a grasp on the economic toll, Mother Jones turned to Ted Miller at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, an independent nonprofit that studies public health, education, and safety issues. Miller has been one of the few researchers to delve deeply into guns, going back to the late 1980s when he began analyzing societal costs from violence, injury, and substance abuse, as well as the savings from prevention. Most of his 30-plus years of research has been funded by government grants and contracts; his work on guns in recent years has either been tucked into broader projects or done on the side. “I never take positions on legislation,” he notes. “Instead, I provide numbers to inform decision making.”

Miller’s approach looks at two categories of costs. The first is direct: Every time a bullet hits somebody, expenses can include emergency services, police investigations, and long-term medical and mental-health care, as well as court and prison costs. About 87 percent of these costs fall on taxpayers. The second category consists of indirect costs: Factors here include lost income, losses to employers, and impact on quality of life, which Miller bases on amounts that juries award for pain and suffering to victims of wrongful injury and death.

Mark Follman, James West, Julia Lurie, and Jaeah Lee writing in Mother Jones about the magazine’s six-month-long investigation into the financial costs of gun violence in America.

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How to Friend Request Your Way Into a Cyber Posse of Unwitting Informants

Photo by ATOMIC Hot Links, Flickr

The set-up was like something out of a movie—Four California Highway Patrol officers with little to no undercover experience decide to pose as Vegas players to take down motorcycle thieves in LA. Southern California’s street bike culture had made motorcycle theft a major problem in recent years, and so the officers would need to infiltrate the scene in order to pull off their sting. This is where things got tricky. Writing about the operation in Los Angeles Magazine, Greg Nichols details the creative way one of the officers gained credibility in the biker community:

With the team members in place, they set to work finding a second suspect. Scores of thieves were scooping up sport bikes around Los Angeles, but that didn’t make them easy to locate. Combing through Craigslist and eBay, the investigators scanned for ads containing suspicious language. Watson asked insurance companies to provide bike parts. Looking for leads, he and Clifford wrapped their inventory in cellophane, stepped into character, and went around to local motorcycle shops offering tidbits for sale or trade. Watson, always animated, did most of the talking. Clifford was younger, a good kid from a small town in Northern California. He was stiff at first, and cusswords tumbled out of his mouth with the overenunciated eagerness of a parent using slang. Incredulous shop owners sized up the short-haired white boys bearing gift-wrapped parts and said no thanks. The CHP had sprung for fake business cards, which the investigators passed out all over town, but nobody seemed eager to follow up with them.

Then Watson realized he had a teenager’s gift for social media. His humor and goofiness played well online. Watson joined motorcycle forums and set up a Facebook account to get close to club members. Men were slow to respond, but women seemed happy to accept his friend requests. The more female friends he acquired, the more the male bikers warmed to him. Soon he had a cyberposse of unwitting informants. Using those contacts, and cross-referencing frequent posters on Craigslist and eBay, the team discovered a likely suspect. When Clifford called about a Suzuki GSXR posted on Craigslist, the man introduced himself as Biscuit.

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Vanity Fair’s Early Look into the Alleged Crimes of Robert Durst

Photo by HBO

The Jinx—a six-part documentary miniseries about alleged murderer and real estate scion Robert Durst—aired its final episode this past Sunday, a day after Durst’s real life arrest for the murder of his close friend Susan Berman. Berman was killed in 2000. In 2002, Ned Zeman profiled Durst (and his alleged crimes) for Vanity Fair. The excerpt below offers a window into Durst’s early friendship with Berman:

The second influence was Susan Berman. Acerbic and lively, talking a mile a minute, controlling the room, Berman was, by almost any standard, an exotic. She had shiny, black Louise Brooks-style hair, and she had stories. She’d spent her childhood in Las Vegas and Hollywood, where her classmates included Liza Minnelli and Jann Wenner. Her late father, Dave Berman, had run the biggest hotels on the Las Vegas Strip—the Riviera, the El Dorado, and, most notably, the Flamingo, where his only daughter’s portrait hung over the reservation desk. That Dave Berman had been a confederate of Mob bosses Meyer Lansky’s and Bugsy Siegel’s—that, in fact, he was a notorious gangster whom one detective called “the toughest Jew I ever met”—was Susan’s obsession. Bobby was fascinated. They’d both lost their mothers. They both had paternal issues. They became fast friends. He doted on Susie, as he called her.

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