Posts Tagged ‘murder’

My youngest daughter and I headed down to Florida two months ago. It was her Spring Break and she was looking forward to a respite from the Vermont weather. I was happy to be visiting with one of my brothers.

I like a day at the beach just as much as the next guy. But I also like to do a bit of exploring. So, on one of the days, I suggested visiting an orange grove. Because Florida has miles and miles of citrus farms. Plus I like orange juice.

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There were no tours on this particular day so we scoped out the place and sampled some of the different fruit slices that were being offered. Bought some freshly squeezed juice to bring home.

Leaving the grove we began a version of what my daughter calls, “Moose Hunting.”

You might ask, “What on earth is that?”

Here’s the short version. Said Mary never.

There are many signs posted all over New England highways.

Bear Crossing-Stay Alert

Moose Crossing-Stay Alert

Deer Crossing-Stay Alert

Or the one I observed this past weekend in Vermont.

Wildlife Crossing-Stay Alert

It’s like they (the sign makers) just sighed, gave up and lumped all the animals together. Lazy scuts.

Back to my point. For all of these roadside warnings it is very rare to see a moose.

Deer? Yes.

Bear? Maybe.

Moose? Nah.

They exist, for sure, but no one actually ever sees one.

Enough with the warnings already.

So when my daughter and her college friends go exploring it’s called, “Moose Hunting.”

Sort of like rambling.

Whoever is in the passenger seat will give directions. Knowing they won’t see a moose but keeping hope alive.

“Go left.”

“Go Straight.”

“Go right.”

In the end they will arrive at some random town/destination. It’s just a fun way to get out and explore.

On this day in Florida, my daughter was in the passenger seat as we we left the citrus farm.

She said, “Take a right.”

And then another right.

My brother follows her directions. Drives a bit.

There is a cemetery on the left hand side. He slows the car.

He says to me, “Because I know how you like cemeteries and history.”

What he actually thought was probably more along these lines, “As good a place as any to stop for a smoke.” 🙂

Looked like a nicely maintained cemetery. We drive in and pull to the side. Lots of trees dripping with Spanish Moss.

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We get out and stretch our legs. Have a look around the area.

There is a big tree with things on it. Signs that say “Truth” and “Respect.” Another one says something like, “Thief or SOB. Think before you steal from the dead.”

I’m not sure what all is going on with that tree.

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To the right of this tree is another one. This also has something posted. Looks like a “Reward” sign is nailed to it. We get a little closer to see what exactly it is.

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Oh my goodness. It is the unsolved murder of a young boy. His grave is behind the tree where the “Reward” notice hangs. His name was John Welles and he was killed in July of 2003.

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This town appears to be very small. Seemed like a few surnames dominated the cemetery. Probably the founding families of the town. Welles was one of the names.

It is always sad when a young person is taken too soon. But horrific when it is an act of violence. This poor family never having the opportunity for any type of closure. No one ever being held accountable for taking the life of their child. Someone getting away with murder. Sixteen long years for his loved ones.

We looked around the rest of the cemetery on our way out of there. Confederate flags provided a pop of color on some of the older graves.

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Took a last look and we were back on the road.

Now we were very curious to know more about what happened to poor John. Surely, there would be tons and tons of information on such a case. The killing of a young white boy from a small Southern town, descended from settlers, would most definitely be plastered all over the news. I imagined reading about on-going campaigns to reopen the case, reward offerings, articles, etc.

So, after dinner, we put Google to work. What we found was next to nothing. His obituary and one article from a “Most Wanted” type of site. Quoting his mom. That’s about it. Very, very strange.

His mother, after the murder, posted more than 350 notices on billboards in three counties asking people if they had tips to contact police. Apparently, it didn’t help at all.

John’s obituary here.

His mother’s plea here.

Seemed that John arrived home from Walmart that Sunday morning at 11:30am. Within five hours he was found dead in a creek near his house. It was originally thought to be a drowning but an autopsy showed that he was shot in the eye first and then put in the water.

How does something like this happen in a small town on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of summer? No one sees anything? No one knows anything? Why does there not appear to be any interest in solving the case?

So bizarre.

I did come across another article about a young man who was also found dead in the creek. About the same age as John. Found that to be a bit curious.

It is my sincere hope that one day John’s family will finally receive the answers and justice they truly deserve. That one day they can finally take down the sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When I wrote about Kyle, two postings back, it was prompted by a few different things.

Yes, a pal and I were discussing him because one of Kyle’s friends recently passed away.

But there were other reasons that prompted my writing. Soon realized it would result in more than one blog posting.

Here is one of them.

I was reading an article that disturbed me. It was the story of a decorated veteran, like Kyle, who also brought back something from Vietnam.

This hero’s name was Andrew. He came from a Southern military family. His father and brothers served our country. Andrew volunteered for Vietnam.

His position was “Forward Observer.”

The following is a quote from a guy who served with him.

“During the period when Lieutenant Brannan served, the Forward Observer had the shortest life expectancy of any category of soldier in Vietnam.”

Can you imagine what horrors he witnessed? What horrors he might have inflicted?

All accounts show that Lieutenant Brannan returned from Vietnam a changed person. He had experienced warfare. Like Kyle he had been exposed to Agent Orange. Family loss and weakening mental health only added to the trouble that was brewing ahead of him.

It just sounds like he couldn’t get it together after the war. He isolated himself. Couldn’t finish school. Wasn’t successful with his marriage. Was eventually put on meds. Lived in a plywood shack he constructed. Spent lot of time trekking alone in woods.

He was off his medication for a few days when he was pulled over by a young police officer for a traffic violation in 1998.

The end result is that Andrew Brannan killed a Sheriff’s Deputy. There is a video of the actual confrontation and crime. No disputing the video.

The video shows a man (who did not know he was being filmed) exhibiting erratic behavior. Dancing around weirdly. Then he grabs a rifle from his truck. If you notice his stance and movements toward the policeman’s car it would put you in mind of a soldier during the middle of a war scene.

No disputing the man wasn’t right in the head.

This veteran murdered an innocent, young man that day.

A heart-breaking tragedy for the family of the deputy. And so many others.

On January 15, 2015,  Andrew Brannan was executed by lethal injection in the state of Georgia.

His lawyers tried to get his sentence commuted to life without parole. But they lost their appeals. So Lieutenant Brannan, decorated veteran with severe PTSD, ceased to exist.

Just feels kind of rotten to kill someone who served our country by killing for us. So much wrong with that sentence. No pun intended.

In a prepared statement given to his lawyers, he said: ‘I am proud to have been able to walk point for my comrades, and pray that the same thing does not happen to any of them.’

In his official last statement, moments before the injection was administered, Brannan said: ‘I extend my condolences to the Dinkheller family, especially Kyle’s parents and his wife and his two children.’ 

I was discussing the death penalty with my friend, Jenny, on a recent visit to Malaysia.  There are many viewpoints on this very hot topic. We touched upon a few.

There is this one. How about we don’t kill anyone at all?

The guilty could suffer every day. Just like the surviving victims of their crimes. Or become remorseful. Or get help if they are mentally ill.

One “newly available” cell will not make a difference in America’s already over-crowded and over-burdened prisons. The death penalty does not deter.

Evil exists. I have no doubt about that. But not all criminals are evil. That’s another blog posting.

No one is above the law. Whether you served your country or not. Everyone needs to be accountable in a courtroom in they committed a crime.

The punishment, however, is the tricky thing. Especially for the U.S. because we actually have States that still practice the death penalty.

Side note: Along with more than fifty countries in the world. If you look at that guest list you’d reconsider going to the party. Not exactly the finest bedfellows.

So can a person who is or was mentally ill be executed?

Sure.

Usually not mentally retarded folks. But history will show more than a few, with IQs less than 70, got the chair or injection. More than a few.

Mentally ill? Jury is still out on that one.

Is everyone who commits an act of murder mentally ill? Even if it’s temporary?

I do not believe that the late Lieutenant Brannan, Bronze Star recipient, was evil. He was just very ill.

Andrew Brannan was a fresh-faced young man from the South who proudly served his country. He came from a family who all served their country. He was one of the “lucky ones” who came back.

But he brought something back from those jungles and it was called mental illness. In the form of PTSD.

Honestly? I think we killed him twice.

His lawyers might have failed him by not getting the “life without parole” sentence but it sure is tough for folks not to be emotionally moved by a young widow with small children. Especially when it’s the family of a police officer.

But who is really responsible and could this all have been avoided?

We (our nation) are responsible and yes it could have been avoided. If we never sent our boys off to war. If we never exposed them to chemicals and atrocities that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.

But that horse is already out of the barn.

Nothing to be done for Kyle or Andrew. Too late.

What can be done for the many others who are still out there suffering?

Maybe every time we say “Thank you for your service” to a veteran it’s not just a rote “see how patriotic I am” reaction. Instead of that gratefulness recusing any work, charitable or not, on our part why not explore how we can actually support them. What if every “thank you” prompted a knee-jerk act of kindness of compassion? Being an advocate for their needs. Donating time or resources. Reflect on those suffering. Before posting passive-aggressive memes “Helping homeless U.S. Veterans before refugees” without doing anything except moving digits on a keyboard maybe take the time to actually help homeless U.S. Veterans.

So many opportunities to help so many.

In memory of the Kyles and Andrews who sacrificed their minds and their bodies.

For us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am sharing a blog.

I read it a few days ago. In almost one sitting.

It follows a young Dublin woman’s quest to solve a case that haunts her. She heard about the shocking story only sixteen months ago. Even though it actually happened almost thirty years ago. 1988.

It is about an unsolved murder that took place in Northern Ireland. A young German girl, Inga-Maria, armed with only her back pack, diary and itinerary was on a ferry that docked in Northern Ireland. Her plan was to head to Belfast.

This girl, only eighteen years old, never made it.

Maybe she never stepped a foot on Irish soil while she was alive. It’s possible she accepted a ride from someone and was in a vehicle on the ferry that drove off into the night. Away from Belfast. Or maybe she did step foot in the country after disembarking and accepted a ride from a lorry driver. Although those who knew her said she was not in the habit of accepting rides from strangers.

Her body was found in a forest called Ballypatrick in County Antrim.

What the investigators do know is that she was brutally raped and her neck broken. They also know, based on where the body was dumped, that the murderer(s) knew the Ballypatrick Forest like the back of his hand.

It is the widely held belief that there is a person (or persons) in one of the three neighboring towns who has knowledge of this crime.

The author of this blog has one goal. To bring closure to this case for the sake of Inga-Maria’s family. Bless her for her dogged determination to keep Inga-Maria on everyone’s mind. Inga-Maria’s father has died since the murder. But her mother is still alive. An old woman now. Wondering who took the life of her precious daughter.

That person has to be held accountable for this brutal crime.

The clock is ticking.

And when that happens it will be the result of this young woman’s campaign. She, who was haunted by this horror, kept this story alive. In her blog, music and television. Hoping that the message will eventually and finally get to the right person.

https://thekeeleychronicles.wordpress.com

And if you don’t have the time to read it all in one sitting have a listen to a recently released recording of Inga-Maria singing “Greensleeves.” Part 13 of the blog and the most recent posting.

A haunting but beautiful voice from the grave. A message for us all. So that we will continue to share her story. To bring the killer(s) to justice so that she can finally rest in peace.

I’m looking forward to when “The Keeley Chronicles” will no longer need to exist. I hope it’s very soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This past summer I was driving to my friend’s home in Rhode Island with my two daughters. It’s a lovely area near the beaches. Tree lined roads winding by horses grazing, babbling brooks and placid ponds. Gorgeous old, clapboard homes on green acres dot the landscape.

My eldest, who is twenty five, says, “This area is so beautiful. Not like the usual creepy New England towns.”

I exclaim, “What?? Creepy like how? A van with no windows is creepy. But not New England!”

Later on, while we are soaking up the sun on a fabulous beach, same daughter proceeds to tell my friend that ever since she was a little kid I’ve told her probably every single ghost story or mystery that took place in our part of New England.

Okay, when you put it like that. I sound like a monster.

It’s true. I might have pointed out a haunted house or two.

The Westport house where folks claimed a ghost resided.  One of the occupants fell asleep in a rocking chair and woke up with a haircut.

I probably mentioned the ghost of the red-headed hitchhiker on Interstate 195.

Most likely gave the background of the childhood rhyme about Lizzie Borden. I did take my youngest (seventeen at the time) to Lizzie’s house last year where the gruesome crimes took place.

I may have pointed out the lovely house that sits at the bottom of Metacomet golf course in my home town. Shared that murders were never a thing while I was growing up but a few years before I was born an elderly widow had been murdered in that very home during a robbery.

Could have mentioned the still unsolved mystery of the “New Bedford Highway Killer.” Eleven prostitutes went missing. Nine were found strangled and dumped in the woods. And that it was very possible a local attorney was the killer and actually indicted at one time. He moved to Florida in 1988 and there were no more murders on that stretch of highway since then.

Yes, I might have shared a story or two.

Dear Norah,

I’m very sorry and hope that you realize it’s not New England that’s creepy. Stuff happens everywhere.

It’s just your Mom who is creepy.

Hope I didn’t do too much damage. I’m just thankful that I spent a lot of quality, non-creepy time with you when you were young.

I absolutely loved cuddling up with you at bedtime every evening while reading you many, many wonderful fairy tales. As you peacefully drifted off to sleep.

Like Snow White and her killer stepmother. The orphaned Bambi who yearns for his murdered mother. Three little pigs trying to protect themselves from the wolf who wants to destroy their home. Hansel and Gretel’s great escape from the witch who attempted to burn them alive in an oven. And so many others.

I pray that, in some small way, it makes up for the ghost stories.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

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