Forensic Files Blog Post Index

This week’s post is a reference table to make it easier to find blog posts about specific Forensic Files episodes.

Forensic Files Blog Posts by Episode

EpisodeSummaryBlog PostBlog PostBlog Post
All the World's a StageAn investigator of murders attempts one of his ownTed MacArthur: Homicidal Detective
Bad MedicineNarcissistic plastic surgeon runs wild in BuffaloAnthony Pignataro: Bad Surgeon
Bagging a KillerGirl goes missing, as her mother did years earlierJustice for Valiree Jackson
Capitol CrimesHit and run driver's ID surprises everyoneThomas Druce: Pennsylvania's Not Prowd Thomas Druce 2: Classism Is InThomas Druce: The Epilogue
Chief SuspectHome invasion leaves a nurse deadJim Barton: Bad Lieutenant
Death by a SalesmanRogue door-to-door salesman killsRodger Broadway: Magazine Crew Murderer
Dirty Little SecretNice couple doesn't know new friends are fiendsPlease Never Let the Sifrits Out
DisrobedParents interfere when teen falls in loveSarah Johnson, Yikes
Family InterruptedClean-cut kid can't wait for inheritanceThe Aftermath of BetrayalBetrayal 2: The Walking Wounded
Family TiesStudent uses an ax to get out of financial jamChristopher Porco: The UnthinkableChristopher Porco 2: The Explainable
Grave DangerUnder-educated couple amazes the worldMolly and Clay Daniels: Some Body That They Didn't Used to Know
John List MurdersUptight CPA overreactsJohn List: House-Poor Killer
Mistaken for DeadTwo retailers and a doctor try insurance fraudJust Sweats Gang Cheat SheetMurder, Fraud, Bike Shorts: A Just Sweats TimelineFrom Just Sweats to Eternity
Pinned by the EvidenceSurfer starts street fight Dusty Harless: Death By Testosterone Dusty Harless 2: Grappling with the Facts
Second Shot at LoveGreedy con woman romances lonely surgeonDante Sutorius: Petite Threat
Shattered InnocenceA teenager ruins his life over a carBrian Vaughn: A Student Athlete Kills
Shell GameTennessee town is brutalized until feds step inThe Bruce Brothers: Terror in Tennessee
Shopping SpreeDungeons and Dragons fan
does the unthinkable
Lisa Manderach's MurderDungeons and Dragons, Oh My
Strong ImpressionsAirplane mechanic pays for wedding by murderingRon Gillette: An Airforce Man Who Didn't Exactly Aim High
Summer ObsessionHusband's secret life includes Ponzi and worseCraig Rabinowitz's Gratuitous CrimeCraig Rabinowitz 2: A Double LifeAccounting for a Ponzi Schemer
Sunday School AmbushNice man who doesn't believe in divorce shouldSunday School Killers Revisited
Tourist TrapAttacks on Miami tourists can't be stoppedMiami Robbery Mayhem Miami Survivor's Tale
Transaction FailedFather and daughter repay kindness with brutalityDiane Tilly: A Texas TragedyDiane Tilly 2: A Detective Demystifies
Treading Not So LightlyMother turns detective after truck runs over her childThe Vicky Lyons Story Vicky Lyons: An Epilogue
Voice from BeyondMummified body in a barrel tells Long Island taleThe Reyna Marroquin Story Unsealed
Walking TerrorEngineer has odd excuse for running amokSleepwalking Killer Gets Walkup Call
Writer's BlockWealthy architect dies horribly thanks to husbandNancy Dillard Lyon's MurderNancy Dillard Lyon: Writing's on the WallRichard Lyon: An Epilogue

Thanks to Tobias Bäthge, the German engineer who created the free table-making WordPress plugin TablePress.

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

Top 10 Forensic Files Posts

Recaps That Caught the Most Clicks

In honor of True Crime Truant’s first birthday, I studied the traffic data from the last 12 months.

It turns out that nine out of 10 of the most-visited posts center on Forensic Files episodes, which makes sense because the blog is primarily devoted to the half-hour docuseries.

There was a surprise regarding where the the most readers live: The Ukraine turned up in the Top 5.

The U.S. ranked first, with 199,689 page views. Great Britain, Canada, and Germany round out the list.

Viewers in 142 countries have access to Forensic Files on TV and, as such, True Crime Truant has amassed one reader each in Kyrgyzstan, Brunei Darussalam, Tanzania, Sint Maarten, and Belarus. Fingers crossed for better traction in those locales in the next year.

Below are links to the 10 most-read blog posts.

1. The Vicky Lyons Story
A mother searches for the unidentified delivery truck that ran over her 4-year-old daughter.

2. Vicky Lyons: An Epilogue
We find out what happened in between the Forensic Files episode that told Vicky Lyons’s story and her death at age 34.

3. Ron Gillette: An Air Force Man Who Didn’t Exactly Aim High
A defense lawyer for a father of two who killed his wife for $27,000 (not a typo) answers questions about the case.

4. The Bruce Brothers: Terror in Tennessee
A brutal family who terrorized Camden, Tennessee, for years finally meets some prosecutorial muscle.

5. Molly and Clay Daniels: Some Body They Didn’t Used to Know
Two crazy lovebirds cook up an insurance-fraud caper that made people around the world shake their heads.

6. Diane Tilly: A Texas Tragedy
A father and daughter repay a teacher’s kindness with deception and brutality.

7. Murder for Life Insurance on Forensic Files
Insurance Information Institute economist Steven Weisbart explains why it’s not so easy to profit from fraud and homicide.

8. Thomas Druce: Pennsylvania’s Not Proud
Police track down a hit-and-run killer and discover he’s a promising state senator.

9. ‘Accounting’ for a Ponzi Schemer
Forensic accountant Ricardo Zayas discusses how CPA know-how helped convict a wife-killer running a Ponzi scheme.

10. Craig Rabinowitz 2: A Double Life
A husband in need of lap dance money cheats his friends and drowns his wife.

I look forward to creating more content for Forensic Files watchers in the coming year.

Thanks to the loyal readers who visit this site — hearing from you makes the stories more compelling and the work more fun.

Until next week, cheers. RR

Vicky Lyons: An Epilogue

It Got Better
(“Treading Not So Lightly,” Forensic Files)

Last week’s post discussed the circumstances surrounding the 1980 hit-and-run accident in Big Spring, Texas, that left Vicky Lyons, at age 4, with severe head and eye injuries.

Vicky Lyons, as picture on the
Vicky Lyons

Vicky was around 25 by the time she appeared in “Treading Not So Lightly,” the 2001 Forensic Files episode about the case, and she spoke of the way her neurological impairments made her feel self-conscious in public.

The closing credits noted she died in 2011 at the age of 34.

That got me curious about what happend to Vicky in the intervening years. Although I wasn’t able to learn the cause of her death, I did come across some information about the later years of her life.

Mat mates. An internet search turned up a video of two semi-costumed women — one of whom was introduced as Vicky Lyons — participating in a wrestling match.

There weren’t any closeups, so it was impossible to tell if the wrestler was the same Vicky Lyons, until I found an online obituary that made it clear the wrestler was in fact almost certainly the Vicky Lyons of Forensic Files fame.

It referred to her as a “professional woman’s wrestling Diva for the past six years working for the Highspots Wrestling School of Charlotte, N.C.”

Michael Bochicchio, owner of the school, also confirmed in an email that it was indeed the same Vicky Lyons, and that she was fondly remembered by many people there.

With her identity assured, I went back and watched the entire wrestling video.

I must say, Vicky kicked ass.

Hard-grapple life. She bounced back after opponent Daffney Unger picked her up and threw her to the mat and put her in a Boston crab hold (you can bet I had to Google that term).

Vicky won the match.

I don’t know too much about wrestling, but it looked more like the Hulk Hogan variety than the kind that leads to varsity letters and the Olympics.

Caleb Konley
Caleb Konley remembers Vicky for her willingness to help other students at the wrestling school

“We have found nearly every student initially comes in here with a character already in mind,” states the website of the school, now known as Rings Pro Wrestling Training School. “However once they make it past training and begin their careers they almost always find their way into a new character that works better for them.”

Whatever the case, Vicky was obviously having a good time and looking strong.

Dedicated to the art. She clearly had come a long way in her physical rehabilitation since 2001. The match took place around 2005 when Vicky would have been about 28 years old.

“She was a sweet person,” wrestler Caleb Konley told me during a phone interview on Aug. 17. “I learned pretty early on what happened [with the car accident]. It was an incredible story.”

Vicky was already a student at the school when Konley moved to Charlotte to train there.

At the time of her match with Daffney Unger, Vicky had a few years of training under her belt, Konley noted.

“She showed up for every practice,” he said. “She lived for it.”

Social media gal. Vicky’s obituary mentioned she was also studying mass media at the Arts Intitute of Charlotte.

Vicky Lyons from a Facebook photo
Vicky Lyons from a Facebook photo

I came across Vicky’s Facebook page, with pictures of her and her friends and posts about current events and fun things like her favorite lip gloss.

Her last update was posted on April 17, 2011. She died on June 9 of that year.

Both Vicky’s parents survived her, according to the obituary. Her father, William Lyons, died three years later, however, at the age of 61.

“Everyone got along with Vicky,” Konley recalled. “She was tough as nails. If you got out of line with her, she’d let you know.”

Vicky Lyons may have started her childhood as a victim of circumstance but, as an adult, she learned how to write her own script.RR

True Crime Truant will be on vacation on August 25, back with a new post on September 1.

The Vicky Lyons Story

One Very Bad Decision
(“Treading Not So Lightly,” Forensic Files)

The story of Vicky Lyons is heart-rending, about a little girl who survives being hit by a truck but spends the rest of her life beset by the effects of her injuries.

Vicky Lyons before the accident
Vicky Lyons before the accident

Treading Not So Lightly,” the Forensic Files episode about the efforts of her mother, Crystal Lyons, to use amateur forensic science to find the driver’s identity, is exciting to watch. And her love for Vicky is beautiful, of course.

Still, the case in a way seems like a search for a villain where none exists. Terrible judgment contributed to the incident, but criminal intent or even ill will was nonexistent. Here’s the story:

No playground. One day in 1980, Crystal Lyons called her boss in the circulation department of the Big Spring Herald newspaper in western Texas to say she wouldn’t be coming into the office because her daughter Vicky’s babysitter was unavailable.

But he threatened her with termination, she said, so she went to work and took Vicky, age 4, with her.

At some point, Crystal’s boss told Vicky to go play outside in the parking lot, according to what both women said on the episode. (It was filmed in 2001 when Vicky was about 25.)

Wrong suspect. By the time Crystal went outside to retrieve Vicky, it was too late. She found her lying unconscious next to the toy dishes she’d been playing with. What looked like a tire track mark ran across her face.

No one saw what happened, but the police arrested and jailed a local fish peddler and minister named J.B. Hardeman who had been seen in the vicinity around the time the accident would have taken place.

Crystal said she never believed Hardeman was the culprit. A grand jury declined to indict him after forensics showed that a suspicious spot of blood on his truck actually came from a fish, not a person.

At some point, the police decided the accident was a civil matter and stopped investigating.

Meanwhile, Vicky lay in a coma for three weeks with severe damage to her skull and one eye. When she awoke, she was unable to walk or speak.

Tire test. Here’s where the suspense starts. Crystal decided to embark on her own investigation. She surreptitiously applied shoe polish to the tires on trucks parked in the Big Springs Herald’s lot, then placed sheets of typing paper on top, rubbed a comb over them to make impressions, and saved them as evidence.

By coincidence, in 1982, Crystal saw a Time magazine story by  about Pete “Sherlock” McDonald, a former Firestone designer who taught at the FBI Academy and specialized in forensic tire evidence.

He agreed to help Crystal with her investigation by comparing the tire impressions she had made to pictures of Vicky’s face taken right after the accident.

Laying blame. He determined that the marks on Vicky’s face didn’t match those from Hardeman’s vehicle, but they looked very similar to the Golden Sonic 78 tire patterns on a Ford pickup truck belonging to the Big Spring Herald, according to Mcdonald’s book,  Tire Imprint Evidence (the link enables you to view some of the passages about Vicky Lyons for free).

J.B. Hardman, who picked up his newspaper directly from its facility every day, was wrongfully accused of committing a hit and run
J.B. Hardeman, who picked up a copy of the Big Spring Herald directly from the newspaper’s building  every day, was wrongfully accused of committing a hit and run

The driver, whom the show never identified, later said that if he hit Vicky, he had no idea at the time. His contention seemed believable.

No one expects to see a tiny child alone in a parking lot. Many a driver in a residential neighborhood — where people are accustomed to watching out for kids — has accidentally hit a tricycle left in a driveway. Sitting down like she was, Vicky may have been even harder to see.

Also, as Forensic Files noted, the parking lot was unpaved and bumpy and the driver could have simply thought he hit a pothole. And the accident wasn’t part of any other crime — it’s not as though the truck was being used as a getaway car or that the man had any malice toward the Lyonses.

That’s why the whodunit aspect of the episode, although interesting to follow, rang a little hollow for me.

Damages award. Crystal sued the newspaper for “not supervising the parking lot properly.” That seem a little odd. The problem wasn’t the parking lot but rather that the supervisor suggested a child go outside and play there.

It reminded me a little of “the IRS brought down Al Capone” syndrome, whereby wrongdoers ultimately receive punishment — but for some ancillary offense rather than the egregious crimes.

Whatever the case, the Lyonses received a $750,000 settlement from the newspaper and used the money for the numerous surgical procedures Vicky needed to alleviate damage to her vision, hearing, and sense of balance.

Feeling vulnerable. Vicky learned to speak and walk again, although her neurological impairments remained apparent. She said having others gawk at her in public was the worst part of her ordeal.

“[Sometimes people] ask me if I’m mentally retarded or if I had a stroke,” Vicky told Forensic Files.  “I’d rather they ask me than sit there and stare.”

The episode manages to end on a positive note, revealing that Crystal Lyons, divorced from Vicky’s father, went back to school to study forensic science.

Vicky Lyons, shown here as an adult, said she remembered a truck hitting her and seeing the driver's face in the rear-view mirro
Vicky Lyons, shown here as an adult, said she remembered a truck hitting her and seeing the driver’s face in the vehicle’s mirror

But it takes a chilling turn during the closing credits: They reveal that Vicky died in 2011 at the age of 34.

Epilogue odyssey. So what happened to Vicky in the decade between the Forensic Files interview and her death? Did her impairments continue to lessen to the extent that she felt comfortable getting out and finding more fulfillment in life?

After nosing around on the internet, I came across some information about Vicky’s later years, although a lot of it came from reader comments — hardly a verifiable source of intelligence.

I’m doing more research and should be able to weave together a reliable epilogue for next week’s post. Until then, cheers.RR

Update: Read Part 2 of the Vicky Lyons story.