Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The initial shootings late Saturday happened within sight of a small white cross on the side of a rural highway marking where the boy had chased a skateboard into the path of a neighbor's pickup truck.
William Odell Wood II, 37, was in jail on March 9 on burglary and attempted murder charges in an unrelated case when his son, Austin Wood, was killed on US Highway 98 in the Barnwell community. The driver was not charged in the accident.
The boy and his mother, Rebecca Melonie Wood, 34, had been staying with Jesse Warrick Jr, 70, and his wife, Louise Lane Warrick, 67.
On Saturday, while he was out on bond in the burglary case, Wood showed up at the Warrick's trailer home and killed the couple and a 20-year-old grandson. The also shot Rebecca Melonie Wood, who was in stable condition at a hospital Monday.
After the shooting, Wood tried to elude officers. He was spotted a county away on Sunday and opened fire before he was shot to death by police, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said. -- AP
Leesburg Husband, Wife Killed in Apparent Domestic Dispute
By Jonathan Mummolo
Originally published at 9:31 a.m., April 29, 2009
Updated at 2:47 p.m., April 29, 2009
A Leesburg husband and wife were killed this morning in an apparent domestic dispute, and police said they are investigating the deaths as suspicious.
Leesburg police said they got a 911 call about 4:45 a.m. from a man inside the home in the 800 block of Smartts Lane NE in the Potomac Crossing subdivision. Inside, they found the body of Inam A. Uddin, 47, in an upstairs bedroom, along with his wife, Nusrat Uddin, 36, who was seriously injured. Nursat Uddin was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where she died, police said.
Police said the incident appears to have been contained within the home, and they are not seeking any suspects at this point. They would not discuss the nature of the couple’s injuries or causes of death.
Authorities said the couple had three children, ages 5, 12 and 14, who were home at the time but were not involved in the incident. The children have been placed with relatives, police said.
“Our hearts go out to the children and hopefully the family network and support system they have will help them get through this,” said Lt. Wes Thompson, a police spokesman. “It’s very traumatic ... now their lives are turned upside down.”
Police and neighbors said the woman was apparently running a daycare business out of her home, but that no other children were inside at the time of the incident.
Josh Ashby, 24, the couple’s next door neighbor, said he was shocked by the news, since he did not know them to argue or fight. He said he did not hear any commotion early this morning next door, prior to the arrival of police.
“I wouldn’t have called that in 100 years,” said Ashby’s roommate, Danny Edmondson, 22.
Neighbor Shirley Villarroel, 32, said she was scared to learn of violence nearby, so soon after an attack on a couple out for a walk in Lansdowne last month that left one man dead and his wife seriously injured. However, when Villarroel learned it was likely a domestic dispute, much of her fear subsided, she said.
“I’m sorry for them,” Villarroel said. “I know they have children.”
By GREG BLUESTEIN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, April 29, 2009 2:52 AM
ATHENS, Ga. -- The manhunt for a University of Georgia professor suspected of killing his wife and two men widened Tuesday as the campus held a solemn vigil to remember the victims.
Authorities across the nation and in Europe have been enlisted to search for marketing professor George M. Zinkhan, who has not been seen since the shootings near campus Saturday.
As the search broadens, life on campus has largely returned to normal _ aside from the police officers carrying assault rifles as they patrol school grounds. Campus police believe Zinkhan left the area but say the weapons are a precaution.
The vigil Tuesday night was part of a long-planned annual effort to honor the 22 students, faculty and staff who have died during the past academic year. But UGA President Michael Adams said it held special significance, and he urged students and residents to look to each other for strength as details of the shootings emerge.
"We struggle with what we know. And we struggle with what we yet don't know," he said to a crowd of about 100 who gathered outside a chapel on the school's campus.
Authorities, meanwhile, said they were struggling to find the motive behind the shooting. And Athens-Clarke County Police Capt. Clarence Holeman said the marketing professor is likely long gone.
"Would you be sticking around if you had three murder warrants?" Holeman asked.
Police searched the woods a few miles from Zinkhan's neighborhood Tuesday after receiving a tip that a red Jeep matching the description of Zinkhan's had been seen nearby the day of the shootings. Authorities didn't find the Jeep or any sign of Zinkhan.
Becky Stonecipher said she had spotted a Jeep in her neighbor's driveway and called police Sunday morning after seeing news reports.
"I wish someone had responded earlier," she said at her home in nearby Bogart. "You just never know."
The shootings took place midday Saturday at a gathering of a local theater group at the Athens Community Theater. Killed were Zinkhan's wife Marie Bruce, a 47-year-old attorney, and two members of her theater group, Ben Teague, 63, and Tom Tanner, 40.
Zinkhan, 57, disappeared after the shootings in his 2005 red Jeep Liberty with the Georgia license plate AIX1376.
The search broadened Monday when the FBI revealed that Zinkhan had a May 2 plane ticket to the Netherlands and left behind an empty passport wallet.
Warren French, a business ethics professor and longtime friend, said Zinkhan has traveled to Amsterdam twice a year _ at Christmas and during summer break _ for the last two years. He has taught part-time at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) since April 2007.
Zinkhan's wanted poster was also posted on the Web site for the Appalachian Trail, where U.S. Park Ranger Eric Barron described Zinkhan as an avid hiker who had spent time on the trail in the past. The 2,178-mile trail's southern terminus is at Georgia's Springer Mountain, about 50 miles northwest of Athens.
In 2003, Zinkhan wrote a short article called "Appalachian Trail, Southern Terminus" for the American Marketing Association's Web site.
Police said Zinkhan left his children, who are 8 and 10, in the Jeep during the shootings and then dropped them off with a neighbor before disappearing. Holeman said they were in the custody of Bruce's brother.
Zinkhan's relatives have been working to help Athens-Clarke County police and the FBI find him, his brother told The Associated Press. Other friends and family members were struggling to explain how cerebral marketing professor could have been involved in the shootings.
"It's awfully hard to talk about it because we just don't understand," said Bruce's aunt Daisy Phelps. "We don't know why. We don't know. All we know is my niece is dead."
By Charmaine Smith-Miles
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
PICKENS, SC — Jerry Buck Inman received his wish Wednesday.
Judge Ned Miller sentenced Inman on Wednesday to die for the brutal killing of 20-year-old Clemson University engineering student Tiffany Souers almost three years ago.
The judge called Souers’ death a “savage and brutal” act upon a “young woman full of life.”
“Inman was described as a lost soul who will remain lost,” Miller said. “But this court views Mr. Inman as a tortured soul whose inner demons will never leave him. Mr. Inman, may God have mercy on your soul.”
Miller followed those comments by saying that Inman’s tragic, abusive childhood did not excuse him for a lifetime of violence, most of which has involved sexual assaults on women.
Inman, 38, of Dandridge, Tenn., went to prison for the first time in his life when he was 19 for the rape of a Florida woman. When he was arrested in 2006, he was listed as a registered sexual predator in Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee. After 17 years in prison, and seven attempts to take his own life, Inman was released from prison in September 2005.
Nine moths later, he reportedly wandered into Central while on an aimless road trip and spotted Souers.
On the night of May 26, 2006, Inman broke into Souers’ apartment, he said, held her hostage, raped her and then strangled her with a bikini top as she fought for her life. Then he tried to pull money out of her bank account as he headed out of town, back to Tennessee.
Wednesday marked the first time in his sentencing hearing in Pickens that Inman spoke at some length to Miller. Before his sentence was made public, Inman asked the judge to order the strictest sentence possible, the death sentence.
“I’ve shown by my actions that in and out of prison, I cannot be rehabilitated,” Inman said. “I do not mean to be disrespectful your honor, but in all reality there is only one sentence that can be imposed for someone like me, and I ask that you give me that sentence.”
Miller handed down the decision around 6:40 p.m. Wednesday after deliberating about Inman’s fate for roughly two hours. Because Inman pleaded guilty in August 2008 and waived his right to a jury trial, the only thing left in his case was for a judge to decide a sentence.
Inman faced only two possible fates: spending the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death.
Miller indicated in his decision Wednesday that Inman is scheduled to face execution July 27, 2009, however, the decision could be appealed.
The sentencing hearing began in September 2008 and continued Monday after a seven-month delay when attorneys hit legal roadblocks. One of the defense witnesses, Marti Loring, felt threatened after her licensing was questioned. However, after defense asked twice for a mistrial because of that issue, Loring, a licensed social worker in Georgia, took the stand Wednesday.
She painted a picture of how Inman was forced to watch sexual abuse at age 3, given drugs by his family members at age 9 and abused repeatedly, physically and sexually. In her reports, she said Inman’s biological father would pull him and his sister from playing outside and force them to endure “ritualistic sexual abuse.”
Inman also was sexually abused by his stepbrother and battled with a variety of severe mental illnesses, some which were inherited, according to Loring and others.
Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Bob Ariail did not deny many of those statements, but he maintained with witnesses that Inman still knew what he was doing when he killed Souers and had the ability to chose whether to kill her.
“Mercy is something you receive that you do not deserve,” Ariail said. “Justice is what you receive that you do deserve. I would ask the court to focus on justice. Tiffany Souers deserves justice. This is her day in court.”
Inman was convicted of nine crimes between 1987 and 1991. A majority of those charges stemmed from an incident in 1987 when he broke into a Tampa, Fla., apartment and raped a woman there three times while she and her roommate were bound with electrical wire.
Inman also faces charges in an attempted rape in Alabama and a rape in Tennessee that authorities have said occurred in the days before Souers’ death. Both women involved in those cases testified that they identified Inman as their attacker after seeing his face on television during coverage of Souers’ death.
Souers’ parents, Bren and Jim Souers of Ladue, Mo., did not appear in court at all this week and could not be reached by phone.
Inman’s mother, Vera, and stepfather, Ken McArthur, clutched each other Wednesday as they listened to the sentence. Both graciously declined to comment as they left the courtroom.
Ariail said he was pleased with the judge’s decision. But Inman himself had the final word.
“There is no excuse for what I’ve done, or anything I can say that will ease the pain I’ve caused,” Inman said, staring straight at Miller. “I am just sorry I’ve taken their daughter and their sister from them.”
Michelle Lee, an employee of the New York Police Department, was found tied to her bed in Queens and strangled with the cord of a cell phone charger, The New York Daily News reported Tuesday. Detectives said Lee had been stabbed repeatedly and had iron burns on her stomach. She was found Monday by her roommate, who returned home the night before and then found Lee's body after sleeping all night in the next room, police said. The roommate, also a police employee, is not considered a suspect, police said. Lee, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice graduate, joined the department last year and specialized in narcotics testing. Police said they plan to interview Lee's ex-boyfriends, the Daily News reported. "People are very crazy. You can't believe the things that happen in this city," said a neighbor who described Lee as an "extremely beautiful girl."
Michelle Lee, an employee of the New York Police Department, was found tied to her bed in Queens and strangled with the cord of a cell phone charger, The New York Daily News reported Tuesday.
Detectives said Lee had been stabbed repeatedly and had iron burns on her stomach.
She was found Monday by her roommate, who returned home the night before and then found Lee's body after sleeping all night in the next room, police said.
The roommate, also a police employee, is not considered a suspect, police said.
Lee, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice graduate, joined the department last year and specialized in narcotics testing. Police said they plan to interview Lee's ex-boyfriends, the Daily News reported.
"People are very crazy. You can't believe the things that happen in this city," said a neighbor who described Lee as an "extremely beautiful girl."
By JIM FENNELL
New Hampshire Union Leader
Monday, Apr. 27, 2009
MANCHESTER – An autopsy revealed yesterday that Arlene Lopata-Houle was strangled.
Gary Roy, 51, has been charged with second-degree murder in the 50-year-old woman's death and is being held at the Hillsborough Country House of Correction. He is expected to be arraigned today. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Emergency personnel arrived at 624 Rimmon St., the three-story apartment house where Roy lived, Saturday morning in response to a call that a woman had been killed there. Police had spent most of the day investigating and collecting evidence before removing the victim's body about 4 p.m., 10 hours after the initial call, authorities said.
Roy was arrested that day. Police said the crime appeared to have happened sometime Friday night.
Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte and Police Chief David Mara announced yesterday that Thomas Andrew, the state's chief medical examiner, called the death a homicide by manual strangulation.
The victim's son-in-law, David Gray, said Lopata-Houle had been dating Roy "off and on" and probably saw him nearly every day.
The Rimmon Avenue neighborhood was quiet yesterday afternoon. A neighbor was raking in the yard next door to Roy's apartment building. A man was having a drink on a porch of a house across the street, and a U.S. flag hung over the door of the second-floor apartment where Roy lived.
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said the last time he saw Lopata-Houle was Friday night as she was entering Roy's apartment shortly before 7 p.m.
The neighbor, who said he has known Roy for almost four years, said Roy would become jealous when Lopata-Houle talked with other men. He also said that Roy, who was unemployed after having lost his job at Harvey Industries, had attempted to commit suicide on several occasions.
"He's a coward," the man said. "That lady was harmless."
Karen E. Huntress, the state's assistant attorney general, said the case is still under investigation.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
It was as if Torrance resident Pamela Hazlett Michell had a target painted on her back the night six years ago she strolled near a Hawaiian beach.
Still grieving from the loss of her father a few weeks before and saddled with stress from her mother's failing health, Michell's vulnerability was a tantalizing lure for an opportunistic and violent predator like Darren Woodley.
"What a beautiful evening it is for a walk," he said as they passed each other on a Waikiki street. "Would you like some company?"
Looking back, Michell, 50, believes it was a mixture of flattery - and her fragile emotional state - that prompted her to uncharacteristically let her guard down.
During their walk, she shared her turmoil, along with information about her family's plentiful financial resources.
It wasn't long before Woodley, 42, sequestered Michell and her mother in a Seattle-area home, where he held her captive, tortured her and plied her with morphine in an effort to get at her family's assets.
Woodley beat her using anything he could, from his fists to an iron to the television remote control. He burned her, stabbed her and choked her unconscious repeatedly.
Woodley pleaded guilty to assault and domestic violence just after a jury was selected to hear his trial in November.
On April 2, he was sentenced by a King County Superior Court judge in Washington to 30 years in prison - an exceptional sentence beyond even the 20 years requested by prosecutors.
Not much is known about Woodley except that he has a minor criminal record for theft and drugs.
Even his attorney, Jennifer Cruz, said she doesn't know much about his client beyond that she believes he's mentally ill.
"He feels bad for the whole situation," Cruz said, calling what Michell endured "a tragedy."
Before Woodley was sentenced, Michell told the judge about the devastating impact Woodley had on her health, family and finances.
"I wrongly perceived his interest as compassion," she said.
Emily Elting, a domestic violence advocate with the King County District Attorney's Office, called Woodley the "worst of the worst" of domestic violence perpetrators.
"He's the only defendant I've ever had a physical reaction to in the courtroom," Elting said.
In a recent interview, Michell, a fund-raiser whose former clients include various domestic violence shelters, began her story by saying: "It's gonna sound strange "
An adopted, only child, Michell was raised in a happy and healthy home. A divorcee with two grown daughters, her previous work gave her knowledge of domestic violence and its symptoms - making her, she thought, an unlikely victim.
But during that tropical island walk in October 2003, she shared her personal strife with Woodley, including how she did not know how to handle the task of managing her parents' estate, which included $1.25 million in property.
Woodley told her he was a practical nurse who ran adult family homes in Washington, and he could assist in bringing her mother to the mainland and making arrangements for appropriate care while living with Michell.
"He presented as someone who was going to offer a solution to me," Michell said.
Michell left her job as a fund-raiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Venice and moved her and her mother to Federal Way, Wash.
It wasn't long before Woodley's controlling ways began to surface.
He secretly drugged her with morphine prescribed to her mother, then isolated her by refusing her her phone and purse. He cut up her clothes when she tried to escape.
In her drug-induced, foggy state, he got her to sign papers turning over control and ownership of her finances to him. He tricked her into marrying him, then further liquidated her assets for himself.
Meanwhile, he beat her so badly she began to willingly take the morphine for the pain.
Elizabeth Cowdrick, a licensed caregiver hired for Michell's mother, said Woodley showed her the pills and said, "The bitch is going to sleep as long as I want her to sleep. I made sure of that."
Cowdrick stayed, she said, because she felt an obligation to look after Michell and her mother. She didn't report Woodley to the police because she feared the repercussions.
"It was truly a very dangerous situation," Cowdrick said. "I couldn't just run and tell somebody."
Woodley fired Cowdrick often. One time, he told her to leave after she fed his cat wet food while he was away for a few days. Cowdrick said she was afraid to go because she thought Woodley would take his anger out on Michell.
She was right.
When Woodley summoned her back the next day, she said she saw Michell - cloaked in a hood and big sunglasses - try to eat by soaking bits of bread in water and smashing it into her broken mouth.
Cowdrick was fired permanently before Michell's escape.
Michell said she was always afraid to leave because her mother was stuck there. But on May 1, 2005, she decided she had to go, or die.
Unable to eat, she was losing weight. She was having difficulty breathing - Woodley had just choked her nearly unconscious again.
Even though Woodley would check her mouth to ensure she swallowed the morphine, she managed to fool him into believing she did.
When he fell asleep, she took one of her mother's housecoats, and snuck out in her bare feet. She drove to a thrift store, waited for it to open, then bought some pants, a shirt and flip-flops with spare change she found in the car.
"I was scared to death," she said. "I thought as soon as he wakes up he's gonna be looking for me - what will happen to my mother?"
Because she didn't have her identification, Michell went to her doctor, who referred her to the hospital. She spent a month there.
However, the police were not called for weeks - partly because Michell was afraid of what would happen to her mother and also because, unlike California, medical professionals in Washington are not required to report suspected domestic violence.
After the hospital, she moved into a rehabilitation facility for about five months.
The beatings left her face severely deformed. Through the Smile Program, under which cosmetic surgeons help domestic violence victims for free, Dr. Andrew Frankel, who practices in Beverly Hills, rebuilt her face.
Now living in an apartment with her 23-year-old daughter, Michell has her life back on track. She remains active in the business community, including the Manhattan Beach and LAX Coastal chambers of commerce. Her mother is now living in a nursing home.
She hopes to write a book about her ordeal so that others can learn from her harrowing experience and give victims hope.
"Even when it looks like there's no way out," she said, "don't give up, because there is a way out."
Friday, April 24, 2009
PUBLISHED FRIDAY, APR. 24, 2009
Janet Kovacich had been missing for more than two decades before the trial for her murder began. But through a journal she wrote in 1981, she provided the words that prosecutors say helped convict her husband, a former Placer County sheriff's sergeant, of first-degree murder.
Paul Kovacich Jr., 59, is to be sentenced today. He faces 27 years to life imprisonment. Public defender John Spurling said his client maintains his wife's disappearance was always a mystery to him and plans to appeal the verdict.
Janet Kovacich's journal contained the loving words of a mother about her children, which convinced jurors that she could never have abandoned her daughter, Kristi, and her son, John – then 7 and 5 – by killing herself or leaving, prosecutors said.
"I want to go on living for Kristi and John," the Auburn homemaker wrote a year and a half before she vanished on Sept. 8, 1982, just a week before her 28th birthday. "I guess I feel like if I wasn't around no one else could take care of them like me. Or could love them as I love them."
Her journal, written during a weekend Catholic seminar for couples to improve their marriages, also described her love for her husband, her feelings of being controlled by him and her desire and struggles to salvage their marriage.
It mentioned the tensions between her husband and parents, Leo and Jean Gregoire. Prosecutors said the feud strained a rocky marriage.
"I just can't bear to see the three people I love so much in my life hating, and hurting one another," she wrote.
In his journal, also written during the weekend seminar, Paul Kovacich described his mother-in-law as evil, sick, ruthless and bent on destroying their marriage.
"Your mother makes me sick," Paul Kovacich wrote. Both parents opposed their relationship.
In a case built largely on circumstantial evidence, Suzanne Gazzaniga, Placer County senior deputy district attorney, said the journals helped to "paint the big picture" for jurors.
Jurors were also presented with other evidence, such as testimonies from witnesses about the derogatory and abusive way Paul Kovacich treated his wife, and his nonchalant demeanor when she disappeared, Gazzaniga said.
However, the journals never revealed any incidents of physical abuse – a point that Spurling said was corroborated by Kristi Kovacich, who testified for the defense that she never saw her father hit her mother.
"He could not hurt a mouse!" Kristi Kovacich said in a recent letter to the judge. "He has always been the most kind, loving and caring father and human being."
She said she is disturbed by rumors in the community that her father told her and her brother that their mother did not love them and left.
"My dad always spoke kindly of my mom and he never said anything bad about her," Kristi Kovacich wrote.
In his journal, Paul Kovacich said he liked his wife's generosity, compassion and cooking, but detested her nagging. He also wrote about his feelings for her.
"Seriously, my love for you is like a cherry in a whiskey sour, or a lump of sugar in a cup of coffee," Paul Kovacich wrote.
Kristi Kovacich said in court that the family kept the same post office box address and telephone number, even when they moved, so their mother could contact them. Defense attorney John Spurling said his client always hoped Janet Kovacich was still alive.
The four-month trial involved more than 75 witnesses and more than 750 marked exhibits.
Witnesses for the prosecution said weeks before Janet's Kovacich's disappearance, she had been inquiring about divorce attorneys and taking steps to gain independence. She had enrolled in classes at Sierra College. A week before she disappeared, she underwent breast augmentation surgery to improve her looks.
On the day of her disappearance, she made an 11:10 a.m. appointment at Forest Lake Christian School, where she planned to transfer her children. Paul Kovacich said they had argued about getting a divorce that morning.
Janet Kovacich never made it to the appointment, nor did she call to cancel it, prosecutors said. However, the defense argued that it is not clear that she didn't call and cancel.
On Sept. 20, 1995, a judge ruled that she died the day of her disappearance.
A month later, two hikers walking on the dry lake bottom of Rollins Lake near Colfax spotted a partially buried, weathered human skull.
In early 2007, sophisticated DNA technology determined there was "a near statistical certainty" that the skull belonged to Janet Kovacich.
"As with any missing body cold case, the strongest hope for solving the mystery of Janet's disappearance was that her remains would turn up somewhere in the world, and then be confirmed through DNA analysis," prosecutors wrote in court documents.
Public Defender Michael Sganga said prosecutors weaved together a coherent story that made it easy for jurors to digest. But reality, he said, doesn't always provide an explanation.
"I never figured out what happened to Janet, even after reviewing tens of thousands of pages of documents, including all the inadmissible evidence," Sganga said. "Paul always said that he didn't know what happened."
Leo and Jean Gregoire went to their grave – Leo in 2001 and Jean in 2004 – still searching for their daughter, said their son, Gary Gregoire.
"One of the last things my mother used to say to me was, 'Remember Janet, always remember Janet,' " he said.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
10:54 AM Mountain Standard Time on Thursday, April 23, 2009Phoenix Police DepartmentAt around 5:30 a.m. on April 21st Phoenix Police were called to the area of 6100 N. 27th Av. in reference to a possible dead body. Upon arrival police learned that the suspect had entered a labor business in the strip mall area asking for medical assistance because he did not feel well. Witnesses in the business noticed that the suspect was covered in blood. The suspect left the office area but returned moments later and continued to ask for medical assistance.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Nearly 28 years after Kathleen Dawson's charred body was discovered in her torched car in Somerset County, state police arrested her husband in Jacksonville, Fla., saying he beat his wife with a blackjack and made it look like an accident.
John David Dawson, 59, was arrested late Monday and was jailed in Jacksonville pending an extradition hearing today, Somerset County District Attorney Jerry Spangler said.
Ms. Dawson was 30 when she was killed on Nov. 9, 1981, while returning home from her nursing job at Windber Hospital.
Her husband, who has long been a suspect, was charged after a cold case squad uncovered new information linking him to a blackjack found at the crime scene.
State police said Mr. Dawson, a manual laborer for most of his life, struck his wife in the head before putting her in the back of her car on Soap Hollow Road and burning it, making it appear as though she had crashed.
He then returned to his home about eight miles away and called 911 "in an effort to establish an alibi," state police wrote in a criminal complaint.
Police say Mr. Dawson had ample motive to kill his wife. The couple were "suffering from financial hardships," and, on the day of her death, Mr. Dawson changed an insurance policy to ensure his wife was covered if she were hurt or killed in a car crash, the complaint said. He was also having an affair with a woman, and moved to Florida with her within three months of his wife's death.
Family and friends who gathered at Mr. Dawson's house after the killing recalled "an awful smell" of burnt flesh, the complaint said, and noticed burn marks on Mr. Dawson's face, for which he offered at least four different explanations.
Conemaugh police, who investigated the case until state police took it over in 1982, also noticed the marks but didn't thoroughly investigate Mr. Dawson's stories about them, Mr. Spangler said.
Police in recent weeks learned that Mr. Dawson's brother-in-law was known to carry a blackjack for personal defense during his employment at the steel mills in Johnstown. The brother-in-law's blackjack disappeared about the time of his death in 1977, when Mr. Dawson was living with him.
The Rev. Don Eller, a close family friend, told police he held the blackjack and "played with it" during a visit to Mr. Dawson's house.
According to the complaint, the Rev. Eller's statement contradicts comments Mr. Dawson made at an insurance deposition in 1982, where he said "I don't even know for sure what a blackjack looks like -- that's honest."
Associated Press Writer
A father shoots his wife and three children to death and then kills himself. A few days later and about 40 miles away, a family of four turns up dead in a hotel room in another apparent murder-suicide.
The two chilling cases in Maryland in the last week are the latest in a string of family slayings and subsequent suicides that leave neighbors and friends grasping for answers when entire households around them are suddenly wiped out by violence.
Authorities on Tuesday revealed more details about the family from New York's Long Island found in a hotel north of Baltimore the day before. Baltimore County police described the deaths as a murder-suicide, but did not indicate who was the killer or how the family died.
They seemed like an ideal family: William Parente was a lawyer, his wife Betty a stay-at-home mom active in the community. Their daughters were well-liked by teachers and classmates.
Friends and neighbors said they never suspected anything was amiss and were dumbfounded to learn the family was found dead at the hotel after they failed to check out on time.
Experts say that's typical of family killings. Several similar high-profile cases in recent months have been tied to families' economic woes, though there's no indication that was the case with the Parentes.
They lived in a neighborhood of million-dollar homes in Garden City, N.Y., next to a golf course. William, 59, was a tax and estate planning attorney who commuted to Manhattan. Betty, 58, volunteered.
They were in Maryland to visit older daughter Stephanie, 19, a sophomore at Loyola College in Baltimore. With them was her sister, Catherine, 11, a sixth-grader at Garden City Middle School.
"I can't tell you how heartsick I am," next-door neighbor Mary Opulente Krener said. "This is the most wonderful family, the most kind and loving family. I'm astounded."
The Parentes ate breakfast together Sunday morning and an employee of the hotel saw them together Sunday afternoon. On Monday, after they failed to check out of their room on time, a housekeeper found their bodies.
Cpl. Michael Hill, a police spokesman, said that the Parentes were not shot or stabbed. He declined to release the results of autopsies conducted Tuesday.
Maryland was already dealing with a similar tragedy when word of the Parentes' deaths began to spread. Sometime late Thursday night or Friday morning, a father in the northwestern Maryland city of Frederick fatally shot his wife and their three young children, police said.
The father, Christopher A. Wood, 34, then shot himself. Police revealed Tuesday that the family was having extreme financial problems.
An analysis by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., found an average of nine or 10 murder-suicides a week. But familicides — in which both parents and all their children are killed — generally happen only happen two or three times every six months, said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the center, a nonprofit gun-control advocacy group.
"They were so rare that we didn't really bother to count them as a separate category," Rand said. But in the last few months, she said, "there's a clear rash" of such killings.
They can be tied to the nation's economic woes, said Richard Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.
He describes familicides as "canaries in a mineshaft" — sensational cases that herald an uptick in more common forms of domestic violence.
"You can only speculate over whether the economy is going to affect the broad swath of abuse of children and abuse of women," he said. "But the warning sign is when these familicide cases begin to cluster. In the past few months, they have begun to pop off across the country."
Familicides have also occurred this year in Los Angeles and Santa Clara, Calif., and in Belle Valley, Ohio. The slayings are usually committed by men, usually because of shame over financial problems, and people close to the families never see it coming, Gelles said.
While details of the Parente case remained sketchy, the reactions of those who knew the family fit the pattern.
The Parentes were "the most wonderful, beautiful, adorable people. This is impossible, impossible," said a sobbing Lucille Messina, who worked with Betty Parente on the board of the Tri Town Auxiliary of United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau.
Kremer, the Parentes' next-door neighbor and a clinical social worker, said she saw nothing to indicate the family was having financial or psychological problems. She did note that William's parents and Betty's mother had died somewhat recently.
The Rev. Brian F. Linnane, president of Loyola College, did not know Stephanie Parente well but had met her parents twice at an annual parents' gathering on Long Island.
"They were very memorable to me for how lovely they were. What a wonderful couple," Linnane said. "I'm stunned, because they were just very gracious and obviously devoted to their children."
Such events are baffling even to theologians, Linnane said.
"It's very important for the students to realize that all of us are struggling with this mystery of evil," he said. "We're trying to find a way to move forward and bring some meaning to something that seems so meaningless."
Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield and Ben Greene in Baltimore and Frank Eltman in Garden City, N.Y., contributed to this report.
Monday , April 20, 2009
A northwest Arkansas man shot himself to death after a Lowell police officer pulled him over to investigate a domestic disturbance, police said.
Lowell Police Chief Joe Landers said that 36-year-old Richie Woods got into a fight with his estranged wife at a home outside of Lowell on Sunday. Woods left the home, and Lowell police were asked to locate him.
Sgt. Robert Jones pulled Woods over in a parking lot, and Woods shot himself in the head while sitting in his vehicle, police said. He was declared dead at the scene.
Jones, who is on administrative leave, did not pull his gun until after he heard the shot, according to police.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
James Spiers, accused of shooting his wife to death in 2007, pleaded guilty today in Hancock County Circuit Court.
Spiers agreed to a plea to manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years.
Sunherald.com will update this story as more details become available.