Eric Copple: Unfiltered Rage

Adriane Insogna and Leslie Mazzara Are Murdered in Napa
(“Good as Gold,” Forensic Files)

Eric Copple surrendered to a blind fit of anger and ended up killing two women and ruining his own life. The murders of Adriane Insogna and Leslie Mazzara were the subject of a 2008 episode of Forensic Files.

Eric Copple in court with his lawyer Amy Morton

“Good as Gold” trumpets the way investigators identified the murderer with the help of an advance in DNA analysis.

Bad romance. The testing not only revealed that the murderer was a white male but also provided specific clues about his appearance and what part of the globe his ancestors came from.

While the DNA drama was suspenseful, it didn’t tell viewers anything about Copple’s emotional underpinnings.

Something made him fear being alone so much that he killed his girlfriend’s bff as well as one of her roommates, and the reason had nothing to do with his light-colored eyes or European heritage.

Lily Prudhomme, a contract supervisor from Napa County, had ended her engagement to Copple, age 25, at some point before the murders happened, and he was caught up in anguish over the breakup.

Home invasion. For this week’s post, I dug around for any hints from Copple’s childhood that might explain his psychology and also looked into where he is today.

But first, here’s a recap of “Good as Gold,” along with additional information from internet research:

Scene of the crime in Napa, California

After midnight on November 1, 2004, a volleyball coach named Lauren Meanza awoke to the sound of her dog growling. She then heard the screams of her roommates, Adriane Insogna and Leslie Mazzara, both age 26.

The three women shared a house on Dorset Street in the city of Napa, California.

Massive investigation. Meanza found Mazzara, a tour guide at the Niebaum-Coppola Winery, and Insogna, a civil engineer for the Napa Sanitation District, bleeding from multiple stab wounds.

Meanza saw a male fleeing but couldn’t give a description because it was dark.

Leslie Mazzara

No motive was evident. The assailant didn’t sexually assault the women or steal anything from the house.

Detectives followed all sorts of false leads, like the fact that the father of Mazzara’s former boyfriend had become infatuated with the onetime Miss South Carolina pageant contestant.

The police gathered 218 DNA samples and conducted approximately 1,000 interviews, with no payoff.

Revealing genes. In the meantime, Copple and Prudhomme reconciled and got married in February 2005. She had no idea her new husband was a murderer.

At some point during the 11-month-long investigation, detectives turned their attention toward the DNA on some Camel Turkish Gold cigarette butts found outside the house.

Since none of the roommates smoked, perhaps they came from the attacker.

Asked if the roommates knew any smokers, Meanza casually named Copple, although she apparently didn’t suspect him at that time. (He had helped the women move into their apartment. He also attended Mazzara’s and Insogna’s funerals.)

As mentioned, the latest breakthroughs in forensic science allowed investigators to obtain specific details from the DNA on the cigarettes. The smoker probably had blue or green eyes, light-colored hair, and a northwestern European ethnicity, according to the test results.

Adriane Insogna

Remorse and woe. Once that information became public, Copple turned himself in to the police and confessed.

Copple’s appearance matched the physical specs the test had indicated, so that part of the investigation was a success.

But he wouldn’t give a motive for the homicides or reveal what he did with the knife.

Later, at his sentencing, he said he suffered from depression and had been suicidal throughout his life.

Mental health professionals say that, in men, depression often manifests itself in anger, and Prudhomme’s cancellation of their initial plans to get married in Hawaii probably didn’t help.

Jealousy and anger. With the wedding off, Prudhomme and Insogna had been planning a trip to Australia together.

Insogna, who had a degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was interested in structural engineering and wanted to climb Sydney’s Harbor Bridge.

Although Copple didn’t exactly say so, some sources told investigators that he suspected Prudhomme’s friendship with Insogna had contributed to the broken engagement. The women worked together at the Napa Sanitation District and were close.

Bloodbath upstairs. Copple and Prudomme had argued about their broken engagement at a party they each attended on Halloween 2004, the night of the murders.

Seething with resentment, Copple later went to the house that Mazzara, Insogna, and Meanza shared. He reportedly killed Mazzara first, then Insogna.

Adriane Insogna and Lily Prudhomme

Meanza, who occupied a bedroom downstairs, didn’t cross paths with Copple, so she escaped the attack. Her dog, Chloe, who was in the bedroom with the door closed, also was unharmed.

Contrition spoken. In court, Copple seemed like the rare defendant who regretted his actions, not just getting caught. He described himself as “broken man” and expressed remorse, as reported in the Napa Valley Register by writer Marsha Dorgan:

“I cannot fathom an explanation for my sinful deeds … the terrible agony inflicted upon a great number of people…My relationship with Lily was (in jeopardy) and crashing. It was all like it fertilized the seed of anger in my heart… There was rage inside me. If I had only listened to those who pleaded with me to get the help I needed.”

He also admitted to trying to cope by abusing alcohol.

At the sentencing hearing on January 12, 2007, Arlene Allen, the mother of Adriane Insogna, told the court:

“My baby never wore a turtleneck sweater in her life, and yet she had to be buried in one — and still — it could not hide the extent of her wounds.”

Prudhomme seemed unwilling to completely condemn the man who killed her friends. She spoke of him at the sentencing hearing as someone who had a “gentler side.”

Copple received life without parole.

Insecurity and worry. As far as what made Copple, a surveyor for a civil engineering company who had no prior criminal record, so obsessive about his relationship with Prudhomme, a book about the case, Nightmare in Napa: The Wine Country Murders by Paul LaRosa, gives a clue.

It mentions that Copple’s family moved around a lot because of his father’s career in the military.

Leslie Mazzara was Miss Williamston, S. Carolina

Maybe he felt desperate for a sense of stability and permanence.

The book also discusses an alternate theory that Leslie Mazzara was the real threat to his relationship, that he had made a pass at Mazzara and he was afraid she’d tell Prudhomme about it.

That’s all the information that turned up about Copple’s motive and emotional constitution.

Friendship preserved. As far as epilogues for the cast of characters, Copple resides in Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California. His status is LWOP, life without parole. End of story.

Leslie Mazzara’s mother, Reverend Cathy Harrington, and her two sons built a cottage in Mazzara’s memory at the Calvary Home for Children in Anderson, South Carolina.

Adriane Insogna’s mother, Arlene Allen, who appeared on Forensic Files, remained close to Lily Prudhomme after the murders. Allen has discussed her grief in the media.

No match for FF. Today, Prudhomme, who holds a master of science degree from the University of Edinborough, lists her job as an administrative assistant at the Napa County Office of Education on her LinkedIn profile.

NBC’s Dateline Mystery produced an episode about the double homicide, “Nightmare in Napa,” which you can watch on YouTube. It’s drawn-out and a bit tiresome. But hey, not every true-crime show can rise to Forensic Files‘ level.

That’s all for this post. Until next time, cheers. R.R.

Amy Bosley: A Killing in Kentucky

A Time-Tested Template That Doesn’t Work
“Dirty Laundry,” Forensic Files

Amy Bosley backed herself into a corner financially, then tried to finesse her way out with a homicide.

Amy and Robert Bosley

It’s a scenario Forensic Files watchers have seen many times.

This week’s post will explore elements of the “murder to get me out of a jam and keep me in  brioche french toast” plan that usually ends up transporting the culprit to a life of mystery-meat sandwiches on dry bread.

But first, here’s a recap of “Dirty Laundry,” the 2009 Forensic Files episode about the case, with additional information from internet research:

Married to a roofing contractor who built a multimillion-dollar operation, Amy Bosley, 37, handled the books for the business.

Her husband, Robert Bosley, 42, was no miser. The couple, who lived in Alexandria, Kentucky, had expensive cars and a vacation cabin and spent large sums on houseboat parties on Lake Cumberland.

But Amy wanted more of something — no one ever quite figured out what — so she began hiding away (or maybe spending) money that she should have used to pay taxes on Robert J. Bosley Roofing and Chimney Sweep Service Inc.

The company owed $1.7 million dollars by 2005, and the IRS made an appointment with Amy to look over records and get some answers. Meanwhile, her husband knew nothing about the financial misdoings.

On the night of May 17, 2005, hours before the meeting was to take place, Amy shot Robert six times, staged a break-in, and then used her best hysterical-spouse voice to tell 911 that an intruder had materialized in the couple’s bedroom and murdered her husband.

Apparently, she thought that, with her husband dead, the IRS would forget about the tax bill.

But she soon acquired much bigger problems than the feds.

Local police saw through the phony home-invasion evidence and recovered the murder weapon Amy had hidden in her purse.

She got 20 years in exchange for pleading guilty to first-degree murder.

“There is really nothing else I can say that can express the shock and outrage of the community and the agony and hurt left behind … by what’s been done,” Jimmy Bosley, the victim’s brother, said at the sentencing, as reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer on November 3, 2006. Upon exiting the courthouse, Amy faced a “jeering” crowd.

The murder of the roofing king and the aftermath were colossal news in the area but, as previously mentioned, Amy’s situation seems rather typical for folks who watch Forensic Files regularly.

The plot she devised wasn’t as elaborate as that of the Just Sweats gang or as diabolical as the one Craig Rabinowitz tried or as brutal as the method Christopher Porco employed, but it shared fundamental aspects with all of them:

1. Self-motivated financial straits. Like all the rest, Amy had no sob story. She didn’t need the money to save her mother’s house from an Ocwen foreclosure or finance a brother’s experimental cancer treatment in Germany. She got into trouble all by herself.

Party’s over: Amy Bosley in court

Likewise, college student Christopher Porco started defrauding his way into cash because he wanted a new SUV and other possessions he thought would impress his friends and girlfriends. He ultimately attacked his parents with an ax in the hopes of inheriting their assets. It didn’t work.

2. Unwillingness to fess up and declare bankruptcy. Banks, the IRS, and the courts are often lenient if the guilty parties admit what they’ve done and commit to working out some kind of resolution.

Amy apparently thought it easier to put Robert Bosley in a grave than to come clean and let him help decide what they should do about the tax problem.

Similarly, entrepreneurs John Hawkins and Gene Hanson desperately tried to hide the financial disaster engulfing their retail fiefdom. Instead of opting for Chapter 11, they tried out murder and insurance fraud. It did not end well for them.

3. No prior criminal record. When Forensic Files starts out with the search for killers from outside the family, you can almost hear the real murderer’s interior monologue: “I’m a respected member of the community with no record except for parking tickets. My in-laws love me, and my fake hysterics are fooling everyone.”

Amy Bosley was a bookkeeper married to a successful well-known entrepreneur. They had two children, 7, and 10, and looked happy in photographs. Who would suspect her of a violent crime?

Likewise, Craig Rabinowitz, who was running a Ponzi scheme on the verge of collapse, had fooled everybody about his character. His friends poured money into his seemingly existent latex glove business. His in-laws mortgaged their house to help finance his venture.

Fortunately, forensic evidence doesn’t care how respectable the culprit seems. In the Rabinowitz case, an autopsy of his wife’s body contradicted his accidental-drowning narrative and an audit revealed his “business” funds were lining the pockets of an exotic dancer named Summer.

Rabinowitz is in prison for life without parole.

As for Amy Bosley’s epilogue, the children she shared with her husband were placed in the care of relatives. Incidentally, the kids helped the investigation by volunteering that the gunshots took place before the glass-breaking Bosley did to fake the intruder scenario.

Amy now resides in the venerable Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women in Pewee Valley but has a solid chance of exiting on two feet. The state’s website lists her parole eligibility date as May 6, 2022.

Even if the board turns Bosley down, she’ll get out when her sentence expires in 2025, assuming she doesn’t make any trouble during her incarceration.

By the way, no one has figured out what she did with the $1.7 million.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, cheers. RR

10 Surprises from Cold-Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders

A Sundance TV Docuseries Digs Deep

If you’re an In Cold Blood reader, you probably feel a little cheated — out of images.

Eveanna and Bonnie Clutter. Eveanna and her sister Beverly survive but won’t talk to media

The same few pictures of the four members of the Clutter family who were murdered in 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas, have shown up in the media for decades.

Fresh perspective. You might also have a pent-up need for more insight into the Clutters. The wholesome farm family and their killers — Perry Smith and Dick Hickock — were the subjects of In Cold Blood, which established the nonfiction novel genre and made Truman Capote the most glamorous writer in the U.S.

Well, now Sundance TV can help you out.

Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders, produced by Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost), taps into the mother lode of unpublished pictures of Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon Clutter as well as Hickock and Smith.

Gratis deal. It also shares rare video footage and audio recordings and new interviews with Kansans who knew the Clutters and discuss their feelings in an unpretentious way.

More good news: Sundance TV is offering a seven-day trial membership via SundanceNow.com, so you can watch the 4-part bingefest online for free.

Here are 10 revelations from the series:

1. The surviving relatives of Bonnie Clutter who hated In Cold Blood because it portrayed her as emotionally impaired weren’t necessarily just being defensive. The docuseries features people who knew her well and remember her as a great hostess and a lot of fun.

Perry Smith in the army

2. The family of killer Richard Hickock tried to make amends once Dick turned into a petty criminal. They would give a gift of a horse to parties he had wronged.

3. Although she didn’t appear on camera, one of Herb and Bonnie Clutter’s granddaughters gave voice interviews to the documentary makers. It’s surprising because her mother, Eveanna Mosier — Nancy and Kenyon’s older sister — shunned the press and never liked In Cold Blood.

4. As a child, Perry Smith sustained a severe penile injury when a nun hit him with a flashlight. The book made mention of other nun-inflicted abuse at school because Smith was a bed wetter — but it never revealed anything quite as perverse.

Eveanna, Beverly, Nancy, and Kenyon Clutter.

5. Nancy Clutter’s boyfriend Bobby Rupp said that he looked up to her father as a role model despite that the book alleged Herb Clutter pressured Nancy to break up with Bobby because he was Catholic and the Clutters were Methodists.

6. At age 28, Richard Hickock sounded like a weary old man in a recording of his police questioning. Capote portrayed him as ever-charming, sly, and upbeat.

7. The psychiatrist who evaluated Smith and Hickock after their arrest and Smith’s army buddy who testified for him at the trial are still alive and appear on camera.

8. In Cold Blood and the Clutter case garnered so much attention that even David Hickock, the brother of killer Richard Hickock, snagged a writer to pen his biography.

Flo Buckskin

9. The filmmakers somehow managed to get hold of two photos of Perry Smith’s parents, Flo Buckskin and Tex Smith, who performed in rodeo shows together before they had four kids and she sank into alcoholism.

10. “Olathe” (as in “Olathe, Kansas”) is pronounced “oh-lay-thuh.”

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR

Frankie Pullian: Deceived and Killed

A Funeral Director Preys on an Innocent
“Undertaken,” Forensic Files

Frankie Pullian’s murder is one of those stories that simultaneously affirm and deny faith in human nature.

Victim Frankie Pullian

A band of fraudsters put into motion a plan to kill Pullian, a 29-year-old errand runner at a funeral parlor, and pocket $980,000 from life insurance policies.

Justice exists. The culprits thought no one would pay much attention to Pullian’s death because he lived in relative obscurity with no family near him in Passaic County, New Jersey.

But society cared. The criminal justice system worked. It took them a few years, but authorities determined how Pullian had really ended up lifeless underneath a stolen Ford Maverick and put three of the conspirators in prison.

The crime happened in 1980 and the Forensic Files episode about the case dates back to 2006, so for this week, I hunted around to find out whether the perpetrators are still alive and what happened to them.

Guy Friday. But first, here’s a recap of “Undertaken,” along with other information from internet research.

Undertaker  E. Lee White

Frankie Pullian joined the army after high school but received an early discharge because of what Forensic Files called a neurological impairment. An Asbury Park Press story from 1982 described him as retarded.

Whatever the case, he functioned highly enough to take a job with the E. Lee White Funeral Home in Paterson, New Jersey.

White hired Pullian to wash funeral limousines and perform assorted other tasks. Pullian earned $7,500 to $10,000 a year.

Forgotten scandal. Pullian (as well as Forensic Files) apparently overlooked a bit of trouble the business experienced back in 1975.

The state of New Jersey stripped E. Lee White of certification to conduct funerals because of unethical business practices including the “unconscionable” practice of marking up caskets to “four times their wholesale cost,” according to an Asbury Park Press account from July 15, 1975.

The New York Times reported that the revocation was permanent, but somehow, E. Lee White resurrected his reputation and operations within a few years.

Newspaper accounts published after 1980 describe him as a “respected civic leader,” and E. Lee White Funeral Home was open for business.

Cruel quartet. But White had secretly progressed from crooked to homicidal. He hoped to parlay his investment in the innocent Pullian into a six-figure payoff.

In the eight months preceding the murder on April 8, 1980, White and his wife, Erna, and associates Lawrence Scott and William Brown started taking out insurance policies on Pullian, forging his signature, and naming themselves as the beneficiaries.

The stolen Ford Maverick

Newspaper accounts give Scott’s profession as truck driver or construction worker and Brown’s as Prudential Insurance employee, but the two apparently did some kind of work for White’s funeral parlor as well.

Large indemnity. Erna White, a public school teacher, obtained one of the insurance policies on Pullian by claiming she was his sister. She signed the policy “Erna Boone,” her maiden name.

Pullian didn’t have a sister.

One of the policies offered an extra $350,000 if the insured party died in an accident.

Ready to pounce. Investigators believed that E. Lee White was the mastermind behind the crime and had started planning it several years ahead of time — and possibly hired Pullian with the intention of killing him.

Meanwhile, Pullian “idealized White and considered White a father figure,” according to N.J. Superior Court documents.

With all the insurance policies in place, White arranged for someone — the police never determined who — to kill Pullian, run over his body with the Maverick, and abandon the vehicle in an alley so it looked like an accidental hit and run.

Everything worked as planned at first. Emergency services took Pullian directly to E. Lee White’s funeral parlor, where White started the autopsy himself.

The E. Lee White Funeral Home at 628 Market St.

Cops not fooled. The medical examiner arrived and unwittingly declared a car accident the cause of death and cleared the path for the conspirators to begin collecting the funds.

But the position of the body, lack of skid marks, and unlikelihood of a car traveling fast enough on a short alleyway made police suspicious.

One of the life insurance companies requested an investigation.

Three years after Pullian’s death, authorities dug up and reexamined his body. They discovered his skull carried a fatal “moon crater” injury — the mark of a blunt instrument, like a hammer — inconsistent with a death by auto.

Assumed identity. Investigators had noted that the vehicle contained high-velocity blood splatter in the interior. But someone had taken care to wipe fingerprints away.

They theorized that a Lee associate lured Pullian inside the car and killed him there with a heavy implement.

Erna Boone White

Once detectives spoke to doctors who administered the exams required by the insurance companies, it became clear that the plan involved impostors.

The men claiming to be Frankie Pullian had to refer to notes to answer the doctors’ questions.

No sweat. As the case pressed on, White tried to appear calm, even after his indictment for first-degree murder and fraud.

The funeral director said that he was not worried about the charges and that business increased after his indictment, according to a Morristown Daily Record story from 1984.

Lawrence Scott somehow managed to snag William Kunstler, a lawyer world-famous for taking on social outcasts as clients, to defend him.

Nonetheless, a jury convicted Scott, Brown, and E. Lee White on January 18, 1985 after a 47-day trial.

Condemned at last. The following month, Judge Amos Saunders, citing “pure, evil greed,” sentenced White, age 45,  to  life with eligibility for parole after 25 years.

Lawrence Scott, 1980s

Lawrence Scott, 38, also got life but with parole eligibility after 15 years.

William Brown, 1980s

William Brown was scheduled to receive sentencing the day after Scott and E. Lee White did, but newspaper accounts were unavailable.

Erna White was tried separately and convicted of fraud and theft by deception. She got off with probation.

So, where are these four cold-hearted people today?

1. E. Lee White got into trouble while incarcerated in Trenton State Prison.

In 1990, a judge tacked an extra five years to White’s sentence after a jury convicted him of soliciting a fellow inmate to take responsibility for the Pullian murder.

White had offered Robert Earl Moore cash and a sports car in exchange for making a false confession.

That disappointment didn’t deter White’s optimism and, over the years, he has vied aggressively for release on the basis of various claims, including the seemingly universal “ineffective counsel.”

In 2016, two superior court judges affirmed a New  Jersey State Parole Board’s decision to deny parole to White.

The court noted a lack of “rehabilitative progress” and that “instead of confronting the facts as proven at trial, petitioner adhered to a version of events that downplayed his culpable actions.”

According to court papers, Lee would be eligible for another review in 2024.

But his profile is not available via the New Jersey Department of Corrections inmate locator.

An undated Mugshots.com profile of E. Lee White Sr. indicates he was moved to East Jersey State Prison (formerly named Rahway State Prison) at some point.

He may have died sometime after 2016, or perhaps he’s being held out of state.

2. Erna Boone White is alive and still living in Paterson. She is around 77 today.

Interestingly, Mugshots.com lists an “E. Lee White Jr.,” born in 1971, as jailed in Florida in 2014 for an offense related to cocaine possession, although there’s no confirmation on whether or not he’s Erna and E. Lee White Sr.’s son.

Lawrence Scott, in a circa 2016 mugshot

3. Lawrence Scott won release in 2001 but ended up back in prison later that same year. The N.J. Department of Corrections lists his current status as “paroled.”

4. William Brown is not listed with the N.J. Department of Corrections. Newspaper accounts of the crime carry little identifying information about him, and the commonness of his name makes it hard to research him. A story from 1985 lists his age as 50, so if he’s alive, he’s around 82.

Judge Amos Saunders, who viewers may remember from his appearance on Forensic Files, retired in 2000 and became a counsel to the law firm Carlet, Garrison, Klein and Zaretsky. He died in 2015 at age 81.

A New Jersey Star-Ledger obituary noted that Saunders was an expert in boxing law “after presiding over several cases with such luminaries as Don King, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and Evander Holyfield appearing in his courtroom.”

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR

Tim McEnany: An Epilogue

Inside His Innocence Website
(“A Case of the Flue,” Forensic Files)

Last week’s post detailed chimney sweep Tim McEnany’s conviction for the murder of Kathryn Bishop, an 82-year-old who kept a lot of cash in her house.

A young Tim McEnany, in a  Pennsylvania Justice Project photo

He received life in jail without parole and is serving his sentence at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution in Somerset.

But there are two sides to every post-conviction story, and McEnany offers up his via the Pennsylvania Justice Project, which is the subject of this week’s post.

Site to see. I really didn’t want to find anything that seemed worthy of consideration on McEnany’s website. Forensic Files laid out the case so neatly in “A Case of the Flue,” and who can resist a little self-righteous disdain for anyone who would hurt an elderly widow?

While I still suspect that justice was already served in this case, McEnany and his supporters do offer some intriguing counterpoints, including one rather explosive theory, via the Pennsylvania Justice Project.

A review of  McEnany’s website follows, but first here’s a superquick recap of the crime as portrayed in Forensic Files:

Kathryn Bishop, a retiree who lived alone, employed Tim McEnany and his cousin Andrew Reischman to clean the chimney in her house in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, on March 3, 1993.

That afternoon, they completed the job without incident and received payment by check.

Saltwater and slots. Over a beer at Shane’s Flight Deck that evening, the duo allegedly decided to return to Bishop’s house, quickly burglarize it, then establish an alibi by going back to the watering hole before anyone noticed they had left.

Kathryn Bishop (right)

The part that didn’t go as planned was finding Bishop at home and awake. She was beaten to death, and the $6,000 she kept in a basket on her dining room table was stolen.

Afterward, McEnany — a married 26-year-old with two small children — and Reischman returned to the bar and then headed to Atlantic City for some recreation, according to prosecutors.

McEnany doesn’t have a lot of supporters on YouTube, judging from reader comments to A Case of the Flue:

Zeather Ababa
“He should have been given a sign to march in the street which says ‘I kill a old lady.'”

Joseph T.
“Murder just to take the money and piss it away, and give it to the Casino. Hope it was worth it, dumbass.”

With the Pennsylvania Justice Project, Father Francis-Maria Salvato — a priest who has taken up McEnany’s cause — hopes to disabuse the public of such unkind sentiments.

The innocence website includes nine long-form blog posts, a couple of them written by McEnany himself and the rest by Salvato. It also features audio interviews with McEnany’s mother.

Janet Callahan McEnany and Father Salvato’s most provocative contention is that the police should have investigated Kathryn Bishop’s grandson, Greg Seitz, in connection with the murder-robbery.

Treated like soot. According to the Pennsylvania Justice Project, Janet Seitz — who is Bishop’s daughter and Greg Seitz’s mother —and her husband visited Bishop while the chimney sweeps were at work. McEnany recalled the husband as pleasant and trusting, but he got some dubious vibes from Janet Seitz.

In her Forensic Files interview, Janet Seitz said she felt McEnany’s bill, between $300 and $400, seemed high.

I have to disagree. Even by 1993 standards, that sounds like a reasonable fee to have two people do work of that nature. (In addition to the cleaning, they did at least one repair to the chimney.)

Burned by media. It’s possible that some bias on Janet Seitz’s part influenced the investigation.

In one of the radio interviews, Tim’s mother said that concern about a bias toward her son spurred the McEnany family to decline media requests — including one from Peter Shellem, an investigative journalist known for helping wrongly convicted people win exoneration.

Without the benefit of having talked to the McEnany family, Shellem, who worked as a reporter for Harrisburg’s Patriot News, got the facts wrong when he appeared on Forensic Files, Janet McEnany alleges.

Charting it out. A couple of other theories the website brings up are less scintillating: that the police botched the crime scene investigation and that various law-enforcement parties used the case to win themselves promotions.

Not that those allegations are any less worthwhile to explore — it’s just that they’re pretty much standard among convicted people.

The following table boils down major points of contention detailed on the website:

AUTHORITIES SAY THAT McENANY...McENANY SUPPORTERS SAYMcENANY'S REASONING
Called victim's house twice to ensure coast was clearPolice seized his cell phone and fabricated call evidenceAuthorities were anxious to solve case
Left bar for long enough to commit crime and returnHe and Reischman never left the bar (Shane's Flight Deck)Bar employees were guilty of serving a minor (Reischman), so they told police what they wanted to hear
Failed polygraphResults can be manipulatedMother worked for prison system, has seen corruption
Admitted guilt by saying beer gets him in troubleHe only meant he should have gone home instead of to a barWife would be an honest alibi, unlike bar employees
Had paint chip in jacket, from basement windowPaint chip planted by policeWindow never opened until police opened it
Was guilty because of forensic evidencePolice did "Forensic Files" to bolster their credibilityPolice desperate to cover up injustice to McEnany
Got a fair trialTrooper Jack Lotwick drove jurors to and from court, thus had a chance to influence themLotwick used case to win the job of sheriff
Kicked Bishop to death, causing Reischman to flee her house in horrorWitness says fleeing man had long hairHe & cousin have short hair. Victim's grandson's is long
Beat Bishop severely in a rage killingRage killings are personal; he had no rage toward BishopMore likely that someone close to victim (like a relative) did it
Left fiber evidence from his T-shirt on victim's bodyLab scientist had doubts about fiber evidenceEven if fibers are from T-shirt, doesn't prove murder
Went to Atlantic City to spend stolen cashNothing — no mention of an Atlantic City trip on site
Got a fair portrayal on "Forensic Files""FF" hyped up evidence to win viewersShows like "FF" are tools of system

Because this post includes negative reader comments about McEnany, it only seems fair to offer a couple from his supporters:

Timothy Callahan
“Timothy McEnany is my cousin. … My cousin is innocent, a good man, and a good father. A travesty of justice has been committed by our broken legal system and as a result an innocent man is in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He is a victim, not a murderer.”

Darya Eudora Mace-Tasker
“I can remember this years ago and it didn’t make sense then! When reading the facts now, it TRULY is injustice!!! … There are so many wrongly put into the system because the system does not work!”

What about Reischman? While McEnany continues to serve his sentence in medium-security at SCI, Andrew Reischman has never faced charges related to Kathryn Bishop’s robbery or murder.

He did, however, run into a little trouble in North Carolina. From 1995 to 2000, an Andrew Vincent Reischman collected charges of DWI, marijuana possession, resisting arrest, and “assaults or threats against the government.”

The last offense is probably less severe than it sounds, because North Carolina records indicate he received probation for that misdeed as well as the others.

A web search for Pennsylvania and the surrounding states turned up no other brushes with the law for Reischman, who was born in 1972.

In other words, he got his act together before hitting 30.

Hero to the railroaded. On a sad note, Peter Shellem took his own life at the age of 49 in 2009.

Pete Shellem

Former O.J. Simpson lawyer Barry Scheck called Shellem “a rare, one-man journalism innocence project,” according to a New York Times story.

That’s all for this post. True Crime Truant will be off for New Year’s vacation — back on January 18.

Until then, cheers and good tidings for 2018. RR


P.S. The links still work for 5 True-Crime Movies to Watch on YouTube Thanksgiving Weekend, so if you’d like a splash of true crime with your champagne, enjoy.

Tim McEnany’s Murder of Kathryn Bishop

A Chimney Sweep Plays Dirty
(“A Case of the Flue,” Forensic Files)

It seems odd that someone with a strong enough work ethic to wriggle down a 20-foot-tall tunnel and clean away soot would later that same day kill a homeowner and steal her cash for an easy payday.

Kathryn Bishop

Or maybe it’s because chimney sweep Tim McEnany and his cousin Andrew Reischman had labored so hard for the $300 fee Kathryn Bishop paid them that he decided burglary looked like a better pursuit.

As a YouTube viewer named lonehorseman09 put it so eloquently:

 “i owned a chimney sweeping business in western canada for 24 years and this is the type of lowlife you have working for you-fortunately for me nothing physical ever happened to any of my clients.”

Unlike the occasional Forensic Files episode that leaves viewers skeptical about the  guilt of the convicted ( Jim Barton), “A Case of the Flue” presents a straight trajectory from the incriminating evidence to Tim McEnany.

Bundles of joy. That doesn’t mean McEnany has accepted his fate, however. The inmate has an unusually extensive innocence website. I’ll report on that later. First, here’s a recap of “A Case of the Flue,” along with other information from internet research.

Kathryn I. Bishop, an 82-year-old widow, lived alone in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, near the state capital of Harrisburg.

She liked to use cash to pay for groceries and had about $6,000 neatly wrapped in circular bundles in a basket on her dining room table. But McEnany was paid by check after he and Reischman cleaned Bishop’s chimney on March 3, 1993.

The next day, Bishop’s daughter, Janet Seitz, stopped by to visit, only to find an ambulance in her mother’s driveway.

Puzzle left behind. Bishop had been beaten to death — kicked more than 60 times by an intruder the night before. Wounds on her arms suggested that the retiree had fought back.

“There was a lot of trauma,” Graham Hetrick, Dauphin County coroner, was quoted as saying in a March 7, 1993 account in the News Record, a North Hills newspaper. “It’s a real pathetic case.”

Police found a word puzzle and a broken pen near the body. They also discovered a receipt from Ace American Chimney Experts, Tim McEnany’s business.

Clean oilman. A neighbor  recalled seeing a man running from Bishop’s house the night before, but it was too dark to see his face.

Police started their investigation by questioning an oil company driver who had made a delivery to Bishop’s house on the day of her homicide. He had a solid alibi.

Timothy Patrick McEnany

Investigators turned their attentions to the duo from the chimney sweep outfit.

Tim McEnany and Andrew Reischman’s story about their whereabouts the night of Bishop’s death seemed shaky from the outset.

‘Wagers’ of sin. The two claimed they were drinking at Shane’s Flight Deck in Middletown all night, but bartenders recalled that they left and came back at one point.

Cellular One records from McEnany’s massive 1990s-era cell phone showed he made two calls to Bishop’s house that night, both of them unanswered.

Police believed he was checking to make sure she was either asleep or out.

But the burglary turned into a robbery-murder when he (and probably Reischman) discovered Bishop home and wide awake. She was hard of hearing and often didn’t notice the phone ringing, her daughter said.

Loyal cousin. Investigators theorized that McEnany spontaneously decided to kill her, and when Reischman saw the violence, he fled in horror out the side door, in view of the neighbor who reported the sighting.

But apparently, Reischman still returned to the bar with McEnany.

An informant told Patriot-News reporter Peter Shellem that McEnany, then a 26-year-old married father of two, and Reischman, 20, drove to Atlantic City after they left the bar for the night.

McEnany never implicated Reischman, however, and investigators didn’t find strong enough evidence to tie him to the crime. McEnany alone was charged with robbery, second degree murder, and conspiracy.

Investigators had found a paint chip in McEnany’s clothing and discovered it came from the area around Bishop’s basement window, suggesting McEnany entered the  house that way.

Little switcheroo. The defense team hired forensic scientist Skip Palenik to refute fiber evidence that investigators said tied McEnany’s black T-shirt to the murder scene.

But Palenik ended up agreeing with the prosecution’s theory — that the fiber evidence pointed to McEnany.

McEnany, who gave a semi-incriminating statement (“Every time I drink I get in trouble”) to the police upon his arrest, maintained his innocence throughout the trial.

On October 20, 1993, after deliberating for five hours, the jury found him guilty of robbery, conspiracy, and second-degree murder.

Chaos and histrionics. When the judge polled each jury member on every charge, McEnany had to hear the word “guilty” 48 times, which sent him over the edge, literally.

He screamed of injustice and tried to escape via a courtroom window.

Adept at scurrying through tight spaces, the 5-foot-8-inch-tall McEnany got halfway out before deputies dragged him back by the ankles, according to an account that appeared in the News-Press of Fort Myers, Florida (yes, the dramatics made news all the way from Pennsylvania to the Sunshine State).

He got life in jail without the possibility of parole.

Andrew Reischman never faced charges related to the case

Supporters persist. McEnany, who is now 51 years old, resides in Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institution in Somerset along with 2,393 other inmates.

As mentioned, he does maintain a strong presence on the internet and clearly has some people convinced of his innocence. I’ll give his website a good read and also look for an epilogue on Reischman and discuss it in the next post.

Until then, cheers. RR


Update: Read Part 2

Denise Davidson: A Jamaican Queen Falls

The Murder of Louis Davidson, M.D.
(“House Call,” Forensic Files)

The presence of a beauty queen, even if it’s Miss Southern Delaware Bartlett Pear of 1991, gives a true-crime story the allure of a fairy tale gone awry.

Denise Ann Davidson

The Forensic Files episode “House Call” is especially hard to resist because it centers on a genuine heavy hitter — a former Miss Jamaica pageant finalist.

Pretty face, awful crime. Denise Davidson probably thought police would never implicate someone like her when her estranged husband turned up dead.

But her poise and fluffy hair didn’t help when it really counted, and she ended up in prison. So for this week, I poked around to find out whether she’s still incarcerated — and if so, whether she’s enjoying madcap Orange Is the New Black-like adventures or it’s just plain dismal living behind razor wire.

But first, here’s a recap of “House Call” with additional information from internet research:

In 1982, Louis Davidson, M.D., married onetime swimsuit model Denise Davis, and they moved into a large house in Carrollwood, Florida, a few years later. Both of them originally came from Jamaica.

Messy divorce. The doctor was described as kind and generous and “so smart he was almost scary” by Kathy Molino, R.N., a former colleague who appeared on Forensic Files.

But it turned out that the Bayfront Medical Center’s head of emergency pediatric medicine hadn’t made a wise choice for a wife.

The marriage soured, and Denise filed for divorce in 1989. The doctor reportedly believed she was cheating on him. She alleged there was violence in the relationship, according to a Jamaican Gleaner story.

Louis Davidson, M.D.

The couple reconciled, but at some point Denise acquired Miami night club owner Leo Cisneros as a boyfriend. He had suspected ties to Jamaican drug trafficking.

By 1994, Denise and Louis Davidson were headed for divorce court again and a custody fight over their 8-year-old daughter, Natalie. Denise reportedly wanted to take her back to Jamaica to live.

The doctor had found a girlfriend, a paramedic named Patricia Deninno, and the two were engaged. Denise, 34, and Cisneros, 32, were expecting a baby together and also planned to get married.

Outsourced killers. But Denise and her new man wanted to avoid a dispute over Natalie and collect a life insurance payout  of more than $400,000  by taking the doctor out of the picture permanently.

Denise Davidson at the time of her arrest

The first hitman they engaged was himself gunned down  in Jamaica in 1993, before he could carry out the murder, according to what Denise’s sister, Ava Davis, told police, the St. Petersburg Times reported in a story by Craig Pittman.

The couple then arranged for two more hitmen, Robert Gordon, 32, and Meryl Stanley “Tony” McDonald, 47, to kill the pediatrician.

Pretending to be prospective tenants, the contract killers visited the rental office of Thunderbay Apartments, where the doctor lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, and obtained layouts of the entire complex and a two-bedroom unit.

On January 25, 1994, the doctor, 38, answered his door to find at least one of the killers on the other side. Court papers allege that one of the men had somehow chatted up the doctor in the parking lot, and they walked into the apartment together.

Whatever the case, once inside his home, the men roughed up Louis Davidson and drowned him in his bathtub, then left town pronto.

‘The Wire.’ Dennino found the doctor in the tub with his knees tied with a vacuum cleaner cord and a gag over his mouth.

The victim’s watch, camera, and money clip were missing, according to court papers. But thousands of dollars in cash and other valuables were left undisturbed, leading police to believe that murder was the real motivation.

Leo Cisneros

By this time, Cisneros had fled to Jamaica.

Denise Davidson stayed in Florida, and authorities put her under surveillance.

She made the investigation easy.

Detectives followed her into a Western Union office, where they witnessed her wiring $1,200 to Robert Gordon and noticed that she signed the paperwork with an alias, Pauline White.

They eventually gathered enough evidence to prove that she had given Gordon and McDonald a total of $14,000 to $15,000 via a series of transfers.

Phone records revealed that she made numerous calls to Gordon the day of the murder.

Idle threat. Detectives found the local Days Inn room where Gordon had stayed and discovered a pair of Voit sneakers and a man’s sweatshirt that had Louis’s blood on them. And a sneaker tread matched a footprint at the crime scene.

Meanwhile, once Denise realized the police considered her a serious suspect, she disguised her voice and left a threatening message (“You’ll be sorry, Denise…”) on her own answering machine in hopes of throwing off investigators.

No luck with that ploy, because detectives found evidence that Denise had made the call herself from Dooley Groves, the citrus fruit store where she worked as a manager.

The ultimate penalty. Police arrested Denise at Tampa International Airport as she was waiting to board a flight to Kingston, Jamaica. She was held without bail.

Florida investigators tracked down the assassins and put them as well as Denise on trial in 1995.

Daughters Natalie and Selena (foreground) ended up in Jamaica with Denise Davidson’s father, Peter Davis (right), and one of her sisters

By this time, she had given birth in jail to Selena, her daughter with Cisneros. According to a St. Petersburg Times account, Denise’s face lit up when the baby made an appearance in court, which prosecutors complained was an attempt to win the jury’s favor.

At the trial, Davidson testified that Cisneros had masterminded the murder plot without her cooperation.

Nonetheless, the jury convicted her of solicitation for murder, and she got a life sentence.

At the hitmen’s trial, the jury voted in favor of the electric chair.

“Your honor,” McDonald read from a prepared statement, “God Most High told me to tell that you that you should override the jury’s 9 to 3 recommendation.”

Circuit Court Judge Susan F. Schaeffer, known as “Ms. Death” for her harsh sentencing, was unimpressed and gave Gordon and McDonald the death penalty for first degree murder.

Susan Carole Shore, an accomplice who served as a driver for the hired killers, testified for the prosecution and received probation.

Slippery boyfriend. Pittman, who appeared on Forensic Files, remarked that Leo Cisneros was too cowardly to kill the doctor himself. That seemed a little strange. Reluctance to slaughter an innocent man with one’s own hands sounds more like evidence of a bit of humanity.

Regardless, no one ever got to hear Cisneros’ side of the story at the trials.

He had vanished and was still missing when Forensic Files first aired “House Call” in 2002. In 2008, America’s Most Wanted sought help in finding him, without success.

Cisneros remains at large.

Filing away. It should be mentioned that “Leo Cisneros” is a relatively common name, and the internet has stories about at least two felons by that name, but neither of them is Denise Davidson’s former boyfriend, whose full name is Leonardo Anselmo Cisneros.

Robert Gordon

The two hitmen clearly had no idea where Cisneros was hiding out. Otherwise, they would have used the information to win themselves plea deals.

They both made efforts to get new trials, however.

Gordon filed an unsuccessful 1997 appeal claiming that having an all-white jury didn’t count as a jury of his peers and that the court had neglected to hold Denise Davidson accountable to the same standards that had factored into his punishment.

Meryl McDonald

He didn’t get anywhere with a writ of habeas corpus with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in 2004, either.

Meryl McDonald filed a motion for rehearing, which was denied in 2007. (The Murderpedia page for each of the men provides links to the court papers.)

As of today, neither man has been executed. They’re prisoners in the maximum-security section of Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida.

No deprivation camp. Regarding Denise Davidson, she is inmate #153691 at the Homestead Correctional Institution in Dade County, Florida.

It’s a prison with a minimum-security area that sounds a lot like the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary of Orange Is the New Black fame.

Davidson’s current custody status is “close,” which means limitations on off-premises activities. In other words, for OITNB fans, no van-driving gig like the one Lorna Morello and Tiffany Doggett scored.

Denise Davidson circa 2017

But Homestead offers plenty of other diversions, including four softball teams and classes in art, creative writing, music, aerobics, yoga, and anger management.

Inmates also have the opportunity to study PC support services and automotive service technology.

On the down side, Davidson looks somber in recent photographs.

She probably regrets ending her marriage by soliciting two hitmen instead of one divorce lawyer.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, cheers. RR

Forensic Files Via Netflix

Hike Over to the Stream

Just a quick post this week with a link to a side project that involves Forensic Files.

True Crime Truant posts always provide links to the related Forensic Files episodes on YouTube so you can watch them for free.

If you’re already paying for Netflix streaming, however, you might want to switch.

Netflix has 360 episodes 100 percent free of ads. But its library is time-consuming to navigate.

The Decider.com article “10 Great ‘Forensic Files’ Episodes and How to Find Them on Netflix” tries to make the job easier.

Decider is a website devoted to entertainment available via streaming.

Full disclosure: Decider belongs to the same company that owns the publication where I work by day.

But True Crime Truant is funded, operated, and written by me at home with my dog on my lap, no connection to my employer (except that my colleagues and I like to read one another’s blogs. You can check out Running for Your Life by marathon runner Larry O’Connor or Total Game Plan by girls volleyball coach Mike Tully).

But getting back to Netflix, you’ll find one disadvantage to watching Forensic Files there: The only reader comments are reviews that pertain to the series as a whole, not specific episodes.

You might miss the “I hope the mother’s supervisor rots in hell” and “I knew he was a lying weasel from the 911 call” comments. I rather enjoy them. You can always go back and forth from Netflix to YouTube.

Valentina

Next week, True Crime Truant will resume recaps of Forensic Files episodes, with “House Call,” which tells the story of how pediatrician Louis Davidson met his end at the hands of his wife and some hired assassins.

Until then, cheers. RR

Richard Alexander: Wrongly Convicted of Rape

Making a Sex Criminal
(“Within a Hair,” Forensic Files)

Richard Alexander’s story on Forensic Files is something of a precursor to Making a Murderer, the Netflix docuseries about Steven Avery.

Richard Alexander

Avery, an undereducated auto-salvage dealer, spent 18 years in prison because a rape victim mistakenly identified him as her attacker.

DNA evidence exonerated him and he won a $400,000 judgment from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, but he ended back in prison, for a murder, before he got a chance to enjoy his windfall.

Steven Avery circa 1985

Compact story-telling. Whereas Steven Avery’s saga snagged a 10-hour bingefest on Netflix, Richard Alexander’s got one 30-minute Forensic Files episode.

But Within a Hair gets the job done. It’s absorbing and ends on a happier note, with Alexander’s exoneration for rapes he didn’t commit.

Cagey assailant. For this week, I looked around to see whether Richard Alexander won a financial award and whether he rebuilt his life successfully — or ended up behind razor wire again, like Steven Avery.

But first here’s a recap of the Forensic Files episode along with additional information from internet research:

A series of rapes and robberies were taking place in the River Park section of South Bend, Indiana, in 1996.

The attacker took pains to leave the crime scenes free of evidence. He wore gloves and wiped off surfaces. In at least one instance, he covered a victim’s eyes so she couldn’t identify him later.

Bicyclist implicated. In another case, he came across a young engaged couple who were arguing by the side of the road. He struck the man and raped the woman.

A police dog traced the rapist’s scent from the scene of that crime to some bicycle track marks in the grass. Investigators theorized the attacker got away on a bike.

Not long after, police spotted a young black man riding a mountain bike in the area and took him into custody.

It was Richard Alexander, age 29, and his bad luck was only just beginning.

Lone juror holds out. He denied having anything to do with the River Park rapes and thefts, but three victims picked him or his photograph out of lineups.

Richard Alexander in court after his arrest

A semen sample from one of the rapes in which he was implicated didn’t match Alexander’s DNA. Police dropped charges stemming from that assault, but persisted with other ones.

At his first trial, a racially mixed jury couldn’t reach a decision because one member, a social worker named Barbara Griffin, held out for Alexander’s innocence.

In 1998, after a second trial, an all-white jury convicted him on two of three assaults, and he got 70 years in prison.

Anguish and sadness. Sex criminals tend to get the roughest treament from other inmates in the prison population, and Alexander’s experience was no different.

In an on-camera interview, Alexander’s psychic pain comes through the TV screen. He witnessed inmates raped in the shower.

Inconvenient truth. Still, as heartbreaking as it is to see someone like him wrongly imprisoned, it’s worth mentioning that, like Avery, Alexander had some rough stuff on his record from the years preceding the rapes.

Alexander’s rap sheet, which Forensic Files showed on camera briefly, included burglary, robbery, receiving stolen property, car theft, and something called “crime deviate cond.”

Steven Avery’s past misdeeds included cruelty to animals.

It’s not outrageous for law enforcement to believe that either of those men could have committed a rape.

Hair does damage. But other parts of the Richard Alexander investigation seemed like a witch hunt. Police deemed it suspicious that his apartment contained “a knife, some hoods, and bandannas.”

Also, the prosecution used a pubic hair found at one of the rape scenes as evidence against Alexander simply because under a microscope, it looked similar to his hair. At the time, there was no mitochondrial DNA testing.

And with Alexander locked away, the rapes continued, this time in the nearby city of Mishawaka, Indiana. One woman identified Alexander as her attacker despite that he was in jail when the assault happened.

Finally, in 2001, Alexander caught a break when police nabbed Michael Murphy fleeing from a residential robbery scene. They found a trove of stolen items in his apartment, including things taken during rapes that were pinned on Alexander.

Sgt. Cynthia Eastman

Yet another attacker. Murphy ended up confessing to rape and 250 thefts. By this time, scientists had developed mitochondrial DNA testing and concluded the pubic hair came from Murphy, not Alexander.

The semen matched DNA from a third man, Mark Williams.

Sergeant Cynthia Eastman noted during her Forensic Files interview that all three of the men looked alike in stature and musculature and were around the same age.

Free at last. They also had completely different facial features, but the crimes happened in the dark and the victims were traumatized.

Murphy got 30 years in jail. Williams, who was already incarcerated for other crimes, received 40 years for one count of rape.

Richard Alexander was liberated on December 12, 2001 after five and a half years behind bars.

He was 35 years old.

“Richard has proclaimed his innocence from day one to anyone who would listen to him. He is extremely happy to be vindicated. He is excited about rebuilding his life,” said deputy public defender Brian Eisenman, as reported in an AP story.

It’s not over. Eastman, who said she always had a feeling Alexander was innocent, described a jubilant hug shared between her and Alexander, and Forensic Files shows joyful scenes of his reunion with family members.

In his final on-cameral interview, Alexander said he had received no apology for the wrongful conviction and that “it still hurts because really nothing’s been done since I’ve been out.” The episode ended there.

Sadly, Alexander’s life has improved very little since then, according to information available on the internet.

He found a sympathetic lawyer, Roseann P. Ivanovich, who filed a multimillion lawsuit against the city of South Bend and its police department in 2002.

New woe develops. The suit named Cynthia Eastman as one of the wrongdoers. “Even though she had doubts, she testified against him twice. I have a big problem with that,” Ivanovich said, as reported in a 2002 AP story.

A US district court dismissed Alexander’s lawsuit. A court of appeals upheld the dismissal in 2006.

Things got worse for Alexander.

In 2007, he pleaded guilty to a count of battery for assaulting a former girlfriend with a lead pipe. He got six years.

Today, the Indiana Department of Corrections lists Richard L. Alexander as having been eligible for parole in 2008 and gives his status as “Returned to court authority on release.”

I believe that means he’s out of prison by now, but no information turned up about his doings for the last few years.

Let’s hope that no news is good news.

Cause célèbre flattened. As for the rest of the players, it’s unclear whether Michael Murphy  — who in addition to the rapes and robberies, had an attempted sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl on his record — is still in jail.  The Indiana offender database lists his earliest possible release date as December 15, 2015.

Steven Avery in 2015

The database gives a 2016 earliest-possible release date for Mark Williams, but doesn’t state whether or not he won parole.

Steven Avery is definitely still in prison and will probably stay there. On November 29, 2017, a Wisconsin judge denied him a new trial.

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR

5 True-Crime Movies to Watch on YouTube Thanksgiving Weekend

A Free Banquet Awaits Online

Whether you need a diversion while dicing potatoes, want a break from a pompous in-law, or are home alone and bored, you’ll enjoy feasting on at least one of these.

Brandon Teena and Lana Tisdel

1. The Brandon Teena Story (1998)
Genre: Documentary
Watch If: You want proof the U.S. has made progress on LGBT acceptance over the past 20 years.
Length: 1 hour 28 minutes.
Beautiful and devastating true story of Brandon Teena, a transgender 21-year-old Nebraskan who was raped and murdered by former friends. Hillary Swank won an Academy Award for playing Brandon in the subsequent Hollywood dramatization, Boys Don’t Cry. The documentary version is equally good and features Lorrie Morgan on its soundtrack.
Warning: Could make you afraid to even fly over the Bible Belt.

Eric Roberts and Anne Heche star in the movie

2. Fatal Desire (2006)
Genre: Made-for-TV Lifetime movie
Watch if: You feel like some absorbing lightweight drama.
Length: 1 hour 53 minutes.
Anne Heche portrays a character based on Sharee Miller — a real-life seductress who wielded her flaxen hair and lingerie effectively enough to ruin at least two men’s lives. Eric Roberts plays one of them in the dramatization. Heche and Roberts both do a good job in their roles.
Warning: When you Google “Sharee Miller” afterward, you’re going to be disappointed.

Damien Echols on trial

3. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)
Genre: Documentary
Watch If: You want to understand why Johnny Depp adopted this cause.
Length: 2 hours 30 minutes.
Disturbing tale of how a rural Arkansas community persecutes a trio of misfits after three small boys turn up dead. One of the accused has to take flak just for liking black clothes. From producer Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper).
Warning: The witch hunt is so upsetting that the tragedy of the homicides kind of slips away.

Farrah Fawcett at peak

4. Small Sacrifices (1989)
Genre: Made for TV movie
Watch if: You like Ann Rule books.
Length: 2 hours 39 minutes.
Dramatization of the story of Diane Downs, a mail carrier who shot her three children when they got in the way of her obsessive love life. Farrah Fawcett had evolved into a good actress by the time she took on the role of Downs. Ryan O’Neal and John Shea co-star. Based on the Ann Rule best seller of the same name.
Warning: Might compel you to check out Charlie’s Angels, the 1970s TV series that made Fawcett and her hair a sensation.

The MacDonalds wed when they were both 20

5. Fatal Vision (1984)
Genre: NBC Made for TV Movie
Watch If: You’re a fan of actor Gary Cole or writer Joe McGinniss.
Length: 3 hours 1 minute (plus commercials).
A time capsule within a time capsule because the movie portrays events from the late 1960s and 1970s — and the version on YouTube features commercials from the original 1984 TV broadcast. The drama, based on Joe McGinniss’ blockbuster book, tells of how Dr. Jeff MacDonald’s status shifts from best and brightest to psychopathic killer of his family in a bloodbath he still blames on hippies.
Warning: A number of respected journalists, including The New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm, believe Fatal Vision is a sham and MacDonald is innocent.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, cheers. RR