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Young killers

Detroit police: Killer may be targeting escorts

Thursday, December 29, 2011

DETROIT – Detroit police fear a killer may be targeting escorts after learning that three of four women found dead in car trunks within blocks of each other had placed sex-related ads on the same website.


Attorneys general for 45 states had raised concerns earlier this year about how the site,, polices ads for adult services.

The latest two victims, women aged 28 and 29, were found Christmas morning when Detroit firefighters discovered their badly burned bodies in the trunk of a car that had been set ablaze in a garage. Two other women were found Dec. 19 in a separate car trunk. The medical examiner's office has not determined how they died.

But Police Chief Ralph Godbee said that three of the women had placed ads for "prearranged adult dating services" on, and investigators were preparing search warrants Tuesday to get more information from the Phoenix-based website. Police were stopping short of calling the deaths the work of a serial killer, Godbee said. said Tuesday that it had provided police with information about ads that a suspect may have posted on numerous websites, and said that the police investigation involves at least 30 different ads on multiple websites, "separate and distinct from ours." The company said it was cooperating with the investigation.

Detroit police: Killer may be targeting escorts
Demesha Hunt, 24, and Renisha Landers, 23
" shares the concerns of law enforcement and the community that every effort be made to stop violent criminals from using the Internet to commit their crimes," the company said.
Detroit police didn't immediately comment Tuesday on the company's statement.
Meanwhile, the families of Demesha Hunt, 24, and Renisha Landers, 23, whose bodies were found Dec. 19, prepared Tuesday for a joint funeral on Thursday.

The Detroit women were found in the trunk of a car parked in the driveway of a vacant home on the city's east side. They were reported missing by relatives after they didn't return from a night out and police said there were no outer signs of trauma to the bodies.
Relatives of Hunt, who had a 10-month-old daughter, and Landers did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press. Their mothers told the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday that the cousins weren't escorts.

"These were good girls. They were not on the streets. They had homes," said Landers' mother Chikita Madison.
Hunt's mother Denise Reid said neither her daughter nor Landers were escorts who advertised services online.

"That was nothing that they were into," Reid said. "It's nothing that I would even say, 'Oh, yeah. Maybe.' It's absolutely not."

The names of the two other victims hadn't been released Tuesday. Police also haven't said which three of the women had promoted themselves as escorts on, which is used to buy and sell things but that also carries personal ads.

Paul DeCailly, a Tampa, Fla.-based attorney who represents escort services in court, said he doesn't believe that could be held liable for providing a service that brings people together. He said a newspaper, for example, wouldn't be held liable for a personal ad placed in its pages.

"I don't think that throwing in the term 'escort' in this particular situation changes the outcome of potential liability," DeCailly said.
He noted that the killings come amid government efforts to stamp out the use of the Internet for arranging escorts.

"Whoever did this, regardless of where he found his victims, was going to do the same thing," DeCailly said. "The question is when they catch him is he going to be someone who even had access to the Internet."

The attorneys general of Michigan and Illinois were among those across the country who wrote on Aug. 31 demanding that it show it was not promoting illegal sexual activity. The officials had raised similar concerns about Craigslist, which agreed to close its adult services section last year.

"My heart goes out to these women and their families," said Rob McKenna, the attorney general in Washington state. "Those advertised on adult services sites like are exploited and sometimes terribly harmed. This may be one of those cases."

James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston who has written about serial killers, said Detroit police could be dealing with a case of a serial killer or a copycat double-killing. Because the bodies were found in pairs it's possible, he said, that more than one person was involved.

He said the women may have been killed elsewhere and their bodies dumped, a common way that serial killers operate. He noted that online ads for escort services are risky for those involved because they're dealing with strangers. And he said the police warnings for caution might not be heeded.

"Even when a perpetrator is known to be on the loose, many women will put profit over protection," Fox said.

On Tuesday, printing business Can You Picture This in Detroit made T-shirts in memory of Hunt and Landers. Money from the sale of the shirts was to go to their families, said owner Clayton Carter.

Near signs promoting printing for business cards, banners and Christmas cards for the just-passed holiday, three adult-sized shirts in memory of Hunt and Landers sat on a counter along with an infant's shirt showing Hunt and her young daughter, their photos in a heart with red roses.

"It's disturbing to have this kind of stuff going on in our city," Carter said.
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10 Child Stars Who Became Broken Adults

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Parents are tightfisted skinflints for a reason. Kids want abundant sugared snacks, loud and irritating noises, bright lights and expensive plastic pieces of crap from Toys R Us, all day, every day, for ever. Imagine if they were given, say, $50,000 a week to play with; what would happen? They’d keep being kids until old age, only with drugs replacing sugar and a totally different genre of toys. If ever there was proof that the process of giving little people money and fame from day one is less than sensible, these people are it.

Macauly-Child Stars Who Became Broken Adults

To Culkin’s credit, he doesn’t particularly seem to have spent as much time as his fellow child stars inhaling bad quality drugs and turning up in mugshots with tags on his legs, but if you look at a picture of him as a sweet little boy in the Home Alone days and then look at him now, it’s like something out of a B-movie. Indeed, the zombie-skinned former child star has been far from squeaky clean, having been arrested in 2004 for possession of a veritable party-mix of illegal and prescription drugs. He was subsequently charged and briefly imprisoned.

lindsay-lohen-Child Stars Who Became Broken Adults
Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay started out as the ultimate angelic child actress, performing in countless commercials throughout her early years before starring as Alli Fowler in the TV series Another World. Cue a deal with Disney in a remake of The Parent Trap, aged 12 and she was a bona fide child starlet. What’s more, after a healthy career spanning her teens during which she played safe, high school orientated roles, who could possibly have imagined that the red-headed cutie could do wrong? Turns out she could. In her early twenties Lohan has been arrested countless times for drug, drink and driving related offenses and regularly appears on glossy magazine pages looking like a starving red donkey with meth-face.

Britney Spears

After being part of the squeaky clean neon nightmare that was The Mickey Mouse Club, Britney became the most famous female face in the world in 1998 after releasing her debut single “Baby One More Time”, aged just 16. What followed was a prime example of a child star meltdown in adult life. In 2007 she had what has been described as an inevitable breakdown in front of the mass of paparazzi who followed her around for her entire career; was charged with a hit-and-run; spent some time beating a photographer’s car with an umbrella; and lost custody of her kids to her ex-husband Kevin Federline. Not wanting to be considered unfashionable, she had a number of obligatory celebrity stints in rehab, but the icing on the cake was her decision to embrace the chromedome by shaving her head bald in the craziest celebrity breakdown stunt of recent years.

Dustin Diamond

Diamond played the lovable nerd Screech in classic nineties teen comedy Saved By The Bell, and was well known for his gangly appearance, curly hair and harmless, geeky demeanor. Scroll forward a decade or so and Diamond not only has a somewhat creepy reputation for womanizing, but even stars in his own sex tape, popularly cringed at on the internet world over. Okay, so that might not seem like a completely legitimate reason to be named a messed up former child star, but watch him perform the ‘dirty sanchez’ on an unsuspecting female accomplice – in the bleached tones of handheld videotape – and it’s sadly apparent that the affable fall guy we knew and loved is now something very sinister indeed.

Michael Jackson

Perhaps the definitive example of the child star disaster story, it’s difficult to be too mean about Michael because you can’t help but feel it was never really his fault. Arguably one of the most famous people on the planet before his early death when only in his fifties, Jackson was one of the most bizarre figures in the celebrity world. Accusations – which were unsubstantiated – of his sexual harassment of children were not altogether surprising following insights into the private life of the star who was never allowed a childhood and never really grew up. Stories flew about his abusive childhood, intense working hours as a child, appearing in the massively successful Jackson 5, and subsequent issues with his sexuality. Add to this the fact that he was – through intense plastic surgery – not only totally unrecognizable from his former self but frankly hideous, and it was very apparent to anyone with brain in their skull that despite his billions of dollars and extreme levels of fame he was not a happy man.

Brad Renfro

Reading like an anti-drug leaflet, Renfro’s life after achieving early fame is littered with tales of binges and arrests right up until his premature death at 25 from a heroin overdose in 2005. The star of films such as Bully and Apt Pupil, Renfro spent most of his adult life hopelessly addicted to various substances, culminating in the attempted theft of a 45-foot yacht in 2000. He is the epitome of the fallen child star.

Todd Bridges

Fifty percent of the Diff’rent Strokes double act and the formerly sweet recipient of Willis gags, Todd went downhill following his childhood stint in the seemingly cursed show. In his twenties he suffered from an ongoing addiction to crack cocaine, which led to his reputed shooting of a Los Angeles drug dealer. He was acquitted at his trial courtesy of efforts by the same lawyer who saved O.J Simpson’s ass years later. In the 1990s he stabbed a man in the chest with a kitchen knife after entering into a dispute involving a samurai sword in his own home. Now a born again Christian, Todd tours schools stressing the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Mackenzie Phillips

Earning $50,000 a week must be tough when you’re a teenager. What on earth do you spend it on? Cocaine, apparently. Phillips, daughter of John from The Mamas And The Papas, was snorting so much of the fun stuff that she became skeletal and developed rotten teeth during the sixth season of the long running show that made her famous – the ’70s hit One Day At A Time. Other details thrown into the ruined celebrity mix include an alleged ongoing incestuous relationship with her father, a refusal to enter rehab which culminated in her dismissal from the show, two near-fatal overdoses and an on-set collapse. Luckily Phillips appears to be coping much better nowadays, having performed guest roles in numerous popular TV dramas and appeared in two productions for the Disney Channel.

Gary Coleman

Where to even begin with pint sized Diff’rent Strokes legend Gary? After spending his childhood portraying Arnold Jackson in the classic show, Gary went on to even loftier heights. Broadway? Hollywood? Nay; security guard at a California mall, in which he ended up punching a woman in the face for ridiculing his poor fortune. On top of that, Coleman was also arrested countless times for ‘domestic disputes’ and even ran over some poor bastard after an argument at a bowling alley. Sadly Gary is no longer with us, but hopefully it’ll be the memory of his lovable portrayal of Arnold that will live on, not some sucker with tire marks down his bowling arm.

Dana Plato

Possibly one of the darkest falls from celebrity grace, Dana also starred in Diff’rent Strokes alongside Gary Coleman, as the sweet and pretty Kimberley. What followed her childhood success was a cornucopia of tragic pitfalls in her adult life. Drug addiction, alcoholism, and an inability to properly cope with her typecast career led her not only to appearing in numerous pornographic movies, but even resulted in her robbing a convenience store at gunpoint to take a haul of a couple of hundred dollars. The unfortunate Plato ended up dying of an overdose – suspected initially as suicide – in 1999, having lived the last few years of her life in a trailer park.

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Broken Heart Leads to Knife Fight in the Haight

We all know that broken hearts will make people do crazy things -- sometimes crazy enough to make it on the local police blotter.

For example, police recently had to break up a knife fight in the Lower Haight after a woman and her two brawling men crossed paths. According to San Francisco police, the woman and her live-in boyfriend had recently broken up -- and let's just say there were definitely some hard feelings.

Those feelings got even harder when the ex showed up at their old apartment on Oak Street with a friend to move his stuff out, and found her with her new boyfriend.

The woman's new man had already gotten a restraining order against the ex -- and so the bickering began. As the two were arguing, the new boyfriend pulled out a knife, which never leads to a healthy resolution. The ex-boyfriend's buddy wasn't going to let his friend down, and responded by pulling out his own knife.

Unfortunately, police could not confirm whose knife was bigger -- important details in a love war.

The two men got into a knife fight, which resulted in just a small cut to the nose. And of course, that pain is nothing compared to a broken heart.

As Police Captain Denis O'Leary so eloquently stated: "Isn't love a splendid thing to behold?"
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The "COOL" Killer in the FLASHY FORD

Saturday, December 24, 2011

THE KILLER was a cool customer. No one in the sizable crowd who witnessed his departure from the jewelry store on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, California, early on the afternoon of April 5, 1983, would dispute that.

Twenly-three-year-old Stephen Mitcham was one of two suspects in the bold daytime heist on a busy Oakland street
Twenly-three-year-old Stephen Mitcham was one of two suspects in the bold daytime heist on a busy Oakland street

"Oakland detectives' blood chilled when they heard how the coldhearted gunman calmly blasted the jeweler and the clerk, nonchalantly lifted some choice pieces off "ice" and eased on down the road to make his getaway. They pulled out all the stops to pick up his trail so they could put him in the law's deep freeze for life"

Perhaps he was not physically cool as he stepped out of the flashy Ford Falcon which had parked in front of the icecream store on Trestle Glen shortly after one o'clock. Anyone wearing a down-filled ski jacket in Oakland, even on a damp day in April, would be a little warm, particularly if the zipper was closed to his throat and the hood pulled up and drawn tightly around his face. Whatever portion of the pint-sized killer's face was not hidden by the jacket was effectively masked by a pair of dark glasses.

It was the tightly closed and hooded jacket, and the dark glasses, which worried Rose Miller, the 20-year-old clerk who was in the jewelry store when the killer entered. The man had rounded the corner from Trestle Glen to Lakeshore at a casual gait, ambled down the street to the jewelry store and entered.

The clerk was more than a little worried when the small man in the maroon ski jacket approached her 79-year-old employer, James Ormond, a veteran jeweler. The hood, the dark glasses and the tightly closed coat just didn't look right.

There was no hesitation at all in the little man as he entered the store. He sized up the situation with one quick glance, decided who was the employer and who the employe, and approached Ormond. The jeweler asked, in the same courteous manner he had used for decades, if he could assist the newcomer.

"I'm gonna be getting married," the little man in the ski jacket replied. "I'd like to look at some wedding and engagement rings."

The jeweler nodded and announced he would go to the rear of the store and find some rings for the young man to inspect. As he moved, at a gait slowed by almost eight decades, to the rear of the room. Miss Miller watched the man in the ski jacket.

He just didn't look right, the young woman decided. It seemed to her that the newcomer might just as well have been wearing a mask as the hood and dark glasses. What small portion of his face was still visible was barely so. She decided that discretion was the better part of the valor and began easing toward the door, intending to leave and summon help.

As the young woman moved— inconspicuously, she hoped—toward the door, the young man followed her movements with his eyes. She paused, pretending to adjust a display. As she was about to move on. the man in the ski jacket approached.

Miss Miller will never be exactly sure of what he said then. It was either, "Hi, how are you?" or "How are you doing today?" or words to that effect. But she will never forget what happened next.

Without saying another word the man in the ski jacket removed a small pistol from his pocket and shot her in the face.

When the bullet entered her cheek. Rose Miller fell to the floor instantly. As she landed she was amazed to discover that not only was she alive, but that, despite the blinding pain in her right sinus, she was fully conscious and in full control of her senses—so much so, in fact, that she remembered the one chance she had to make sure she would stay alive was to pretend she was dead.

The single gunshot, although not particularly loud, coming from, as it did. a small-caliber weapon, brought an instant reaction from James Ormond. He put down the ring samples he had selected and hurried to the young woman's assistance. His progress was blocked by the gun-bearing man in the ski jacket.

Despite his 79 years, James Ormond struggled with the younger man. Lying on the floor, her eyes closed and doing her best not to move. Rose Miller heard the struggle. It ended, inevitably, with gunfire.

The young woman heard the little weapon speak once, then again and finally a third time. James Ormond slumped to the floor, a bullet in his arm, another in his stomach and a third in his head.

What followed is still totally incredible in the minds of the people who saw it happen. Gunshots at mid-day in the Lakeshore shopping area were not about to go unnoticed. The proprietor of the shop next to Ormond's, a middle-aged man who felt an obligation to keep an eye on his aging neighbor, was probably the first person to be aroused. He stopped what he was doing and rushed to the jewelry store. He arrived just in time to see the gunman walk deliberately past the bodies of his victims to the front door, close it and turn the dead bolt, effectively locking the entrance.

Next, as a growing crowd gathered outside the store and watched through the big windows, the gunman turned back to the cabinet which Ormond had opened to choose wedding sets for his approval. He walked past his victims without glancing at them, though he had every reason to believe they both were dead.

Carefully, the little man in the ski jacket began selecting the jewelry he wanted to steal, concentrating on wedding sets. He chose large stones with the best quality diamonds his limited lapidary knowledge of gems would allow him to select. Working methodically, the little man filled a jeweler's bag with his loot and walked deliberately back to the front door.

Upon reaching [he door, he unlocked it and stepped outside into the crowd which, by then, had grown to about 100. Holding the menacing little gun, which, as far as the bystanders knew, had already killed two people, in front of him, he moved deliberately through them.

A single man blocked his way. The little killer raised the gun.

"Get out of the way, or I'll blow your head off!" he ordered.

The man obligingly stepped to one side as the little man moved on. He walked, at an easy pace, toward Trestle Glen, where his companion in the Ford Falcon, who had heard the shots, was ready. The Falcon had moved from its position in front of the ice-cream store by then, crossed Lakeshore and turned back to pick up his partner.

As the little killer reached Trestle Glen, for the first time he showed some sign of being in a hurry. He started to run. The Falcon swooped down the street, stopped beside him and the little man jumped into the back seat. Several people who had seen him loot the jewelry store had followed him on foot at a safe distance. They all saw him enter the Falcon and watched it move away along Trestle Glen until it was out of sight.

While some members of the sizable crowd of people who had witnessed either the end of the robbery, or the killer's flight, followed him to Trestle Glen, others found telephones and alerted police and ambulance crews.

Informed of the shooting. Lieutenant Terrence Green of the Oakland Police Department's Homicide Detail assigned Detective Sergeant Frank Mellot and Detective Sergeant Jim Hahn to the investigation.

As the investigators arrived at the jewelry store, paramedics were loading the shooting victims into their ambulance. Miss Miller, although painfully wounded, was still conscious. Ormond, the elderly jeweler, was in critical condition.

Inside the store there was little evidence of the violent crime that had been committed. There was some blood on the floor where Rose Miller had fallen, but relatively little. The same was true at the spot where Ormond had fallen. Although the elderly man had been hit three times, once in the stomach, there was only a small amount of blood where he had hit the floor. Neither was there any sign of back splatter when the slugs hit home. Obviously the killer had used an exceptionally small-caliber bullet and low-powered charge.

Evidence Technicians Rob Stewart and Rick Mahanay arrived and began processing the scene. After photographing the area, they launched a minute search for fingerprints. The detectives theorized that the killer's unhurried actions indicated he was a veteran thief whose fingerprints were sure to be on file.

While the technicians worked over what seemed to be endless glass surfaces in the store. Sergeants Mellot and Hahn began searching for witnesses. The people provided what to the detectives was a pleasant surprise.

The common inner-city syndrome involving crimes and witnesses was missing on Lakeshore Boulevard. Instead of drifting off and disappearing, the people who had seen the incident in the jewelry store were more than ready to talk.

Outraged by the behavior of the gunman, who had seemed to be completely unconcerned after shooting, and apparently killing, two people, the witnesses wanted to talk. For the first time in his memory, Sergeant Mellot had too many witnesses immediately available.

By the time the little bandit had been finally picked up by the Ford on Trestle Glen, the sergeant estimates that about 100 people saw him. Practically all of them wanted to tell their story to the investigators.

"Most of the murder investigations conducted in Oakland are just the opposite," Sergeant Mellot recalled. "'We're not used to an awful, lot of cooperation. These people were anxious to cooperate. They actually came forward and offered information. Color or race had no bearing on their feelings. Black and white, they came forward. Everybody was very anxious to help all they could."

There was, in fact, such a profusion of witnesses that Sergeants Mellot and Hahn found themselves conducting a screening process and asking the people with the most information to come to headquarters for further questioning.

"A murder investigation is a little like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle," Sergeant Mellot explained. "You get little bits of information and you try to match them with other fragments of information until you are able to put together the whole picture.

"In this case, there were a lot of people with tiny bits of information and some with larger pieces. We collected as many of the small morsels as we could at the murder scene, took the people's names and address and then asked the people with more to say to come in foi questioning. There just weren't the facilities there on the street to do the jot properly."

There were, in fact, so many witnesses jammed into the Oakland Police Department's Homicide Detail that afternoon that it was impossible for Sergeant Mellot, to whom the case was primarily assigned, to interview them all. Instead, he assigned other members of the detail to interrogate certain people until the entire unit was working on the case.

Conducting their own specialized interviews were Sergeants Dan Murray and Bob Conners. who began putting together composite pictures of the suspects from the victims' descriptions.

Among the first witnesses Sergeant Mellot interviewed was the jeweler's next-door neighbor, a shop-owner who felt an obligation to protect, as best he could, his elderly friend.

The storekeeper had. he told Sergeant Murray, been informed over the telephone that "something strange was going on over at Ormond's!" A businessman across the street had heard or seen something and called him.
As soon as he put down the telephone, the storekeeper ran outside and to the door of the jewelry shop. It was locked. Looking inside, he could see the little bandit calmly going through the drawers of a cabinet in a safe at the rear of the room. It was. Sergeant Mellot later discovered, the same safe the jeweler had opened to find wedding rings sets to show his customer."

A crowd had begun to gather by then and people peered in the windows of the shop, puzzled at first, then angered when they realized what they were seeing. There were, however, some moments of indecision before anyone thought of calling for the police. Someone had thought of breaking in, but another bystander pointed out the man at the safe was obviously armed and whoever entered would probably join the jeweler and his clerk on the floor.

Before the police were called, the killer, working methodically, but fast, had finished ransacking the cabinet and headed toward the door. As he left, he passed close to several people who got a good look at him. A woman, who had stopped by the window of a nearby television store, told the detectives that the killer was exceptionally small, hardly more than five feet tall. She described the ski jacket as being maroon with the hood pulled tight around the bandit's face. He was wearing sunglasses and she remembered he was walking with a limp.

The next door storekeeper also remembered the maroon jacket and the small size of the killer. He also said he believed that the bandit was limping slightly.

Almost everybody among the people who had gathered outside the jewelry shop remembered the bandit as being very small and wearing the ski jacket. Some called the jacket brown, some reddish-brown, but they were all in the same color range. Some witnesses remembered his sunglasses and others did not. Only a few remembered the limp.

A man who had been driving along Lakeshore at the time of the robbery, had a rare view of both killer and his transportation. Having finished lunch with his lady friend, he was returning her to her job at a bank located about a block from a jewelry store.

As he approached Trestle Glen, the witness explained, he turned on the street and found himself behind an ancient, but beautifully kept. Ford Falcon. As he drove slowly, in fairly heavy traffic, to the bank, he saw a small man in a maroon ski jacket jump into the back seat of the Falcon. A lew feet farther along, he told the investigators, the Falcon had been blocked by a parked truck and forced to stop for a few seconds. During that interval, he said, he had a good look at both the driver of the Falcon and his passenger. After dropping his lady friend off at the bank, the witness said he had passed the jewelry store and learned about the robbery.

The witness said that the Falcon was in flawless condition and meticulously groomed. He remembered it as being brown and white but he was not sure about the combination of colors.

Another witness, an employe of a public utility, had also seen the car and his evidence proved invaluable. Just 21 years old, he was. in the words of Sergeant Mellot, "exactly at the age when he was conscious of every car around him."

The Falcon, he remembered, was painted brown on top, white through the center portion of the body, and brown on the bottom. There were, he recalled, several European automobile-club emblems attached to its front grill and bumper. It was, he added, a 1968 model.

Like the young man returning his lady friend from lunch, he had seen the little man in the maroon jacket get into the rear seat of the Falcon. But unlike him, the utility employe had witnessed the killer's flight from the jewelry store and his retreat to Trestle Glen. The young man had followed at a safe distance.

Because the utility worker's description of the Falcon had been so detailed, the investigators ordered that it be broadcast and distributed to patrol officers.

Before they had finished interviewing the witnesses, members of the Homicide Detail were informed that Ormond. the elderly jeweler, had been pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The young clerk. Rose Miller, they were told, would not only live, but was in good condition.
The next morning the information regarding the Falcon began to pay off. Patrol Officers Steve Allen and Walt Ludwig, who were experts in that single phase of Oakland culture, approached Sergeant Mellot. They informed him that the Ford which had been described as the gelaway car in the Ormond murder could possibly belong to a member of a group of automobile enthusiasts known to them as The Falcon Gang."

Although Officers Allen and Ludwig believed that the group was occupied with other, small-time extra-legal activities, the gang professed to be dedicated to the preservation and display of Ford Falcons, which were kept in what they called "cherry condition."
Then were, Officer Allen said, at least two cars owned by members of The Falcon Gang which answered the description of the one involved in the Ormond murder, lie told Sergeant Mellot he could get the license numbers of both cars so their owners could be identified.

To this Officer Ludwig added that he knew a man who fit the description of Ormond's killer perfectly. He was. the officer said, exactly the right height, about 5 feet 2 inches tall. "I think he could stand some investigation." he suggested. "His name is Benny Silkwood."

Officer Allen consulted his files and produced three license numbers for Sergeant Mellot, who promptly ran a routine check of the owners' names through the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The state bureau promptly supplied the names of three Ford Falcon owners—Alfred Ransom, Hphraim Jones and Louis Hammond.

A computer check was also run on the name Benny Silkwood. The investigators received the surprising news that he was dead and had been for some time.

Officer Ludwig insisted that Silkwood had been stopped by Oakland police since the listed date of his death. At his insistance. Sergeant Mellot ran a further probe of the name Silkwood in the computer. That instrument insisted Silkwood was dead but did reveal that his name had been listed in arrest records since his reported demise. Further probing by the machine revealed that the man who had used the name was actually Stephen Mitcham, a 23-year-old transient who had been associated peripherally with "The Falcon Gang."

Sergeant Mellot began assembling photographs of members of1 The Falcon Gang." concentrating on the three young men who owned cars similar to the one described by witnesses near the murder scene. With them they included photographs of Stephen Milcham. the 23-year-old transient.
On Thursday morning, before the photo lineups were fully prepared. Sergeant Mellot was contacted by a woman who announced that she intended to remain anonymous and that she would not, under any circumstances, allow her identity to be used, nor would she testify.

Promised immunity, she informed the detective that two young men were parading through a housing project in East Oakland, bragging about a holdup and murder they had just committed. They were also, she said, selling the jewelry and trading some of it for narcotics.

With the photo lines completed, one was shown to Rose Miller, the clerk in Ormond's store who had been wounded during the robbery. She immediately selected the picture of Stephen Mitcham as the gunman who had robbed the store, shot her and murdered the aging jeweler.

Witnesses at the murder scene, and others who had seen the killer as he moved along Lakeshore toward Trestle Glen, were contacted and shown the lineup. All of them selected Mitcham's photograph from the lineup. Some were positive in their selections, others tentative.

Because the driver of the getaway car had been waiting for the killer on Trestle Glen, around the corner from the Lakeshore Avenue jewelery shop, very few of the witnesses had seen him. Of these, the two prime witnesses were the young man who had been returning his lady friend to the bank, and the young utility company employe.

Each was shown photographic lineups containing pictures of Hammond, Ransom and Jones in one set and Mitcham in the other. Both of them, without hesitation, selected Hammond as the driver of the Falcon.

Sergeant Mellot asked the patrol division to make contact with Hammond's Falcon if possible, stop it and take pictures of it. Patrol officers spotted the car, stopped it and took photographs. When shown the pictures, the utility employe promptly identified the automobile as the one he had seen on Trestle Glen the day of the murder. He was positive that he had seen Hammond driving it and Mitcham climbing into the back seat.

Satisfied with this information that Mitcham and Hammon were their prime suspects. Sergeant Mellot asked for arrest and search warrants for the two men. Both were issued, but, unfortunately, Hammond, when stopped by the patrol officers, had given them a phony address. Sergeants Mellot and Hahn, when they arrived at the building, found someone else living there who had never heard of the young man. "There wasn't any evidence at that place. The search stopped before it was started," Mellot recalls.

By Friday morning, the Lakeshore Merchants Association had offered a reward of $10,000 for evidence leading to the arrest and conviction of the man who had murdered James Ormond and wounded his clerk. News of the reward was published in the Oakland press and broadcast by the electronic media. The response was hardly overwhelming. The killer was said to have offered the stolen gems to some people for sale or trade but only one came forward, he. however, proved to be a key witness.

At midmorning on Friday. Sergeant Mellot was contacted by a young man who said he believed he had purchased one of the stolen wedding-ring sets from Stephen Mitcham.

After some preliminary questioning, the detective took a tape-recorded statement from the youth. He told Sergeant Mellot that, in the beginning, Mitcham had bragged to him that he had shot the old man at the jewelry store.

"1 didn't believe him," the witness told Mellot. "I just thought this guy is full of it and he's just telling one more story."

The young man went on to say that Mitcham did have several wedding-ring sets with him and that he purchased one of them, which bore a price tag of $950. for $250. Shortly after leaving Mitcham. he had given the ring'to his fiance.

Not until the following day. when he read about the murder in the newspapers, had the young man realized Mitcham had been telling the truth. After two days of agonizing, and having read about the $10,000 reward, he decided to tell his fiance about his suspicions. She had promptly returned the rings and said she wanted no part of them. He had then immediately gone to the police.

The witness told Sergeant Mellot that he understood Louis Hammond was also mixed up in the robbery, although he did not know the exact degree of his involvement. All he was sure of was what he had heard from Mitcham who, he said, was inclined to embroider the truth. Sergeant Mellot used a contingency fund to pay the young man the $250 he had paid for the ring and promised to look into his eligibility as far as the reward was concerned.

Next, with the help of Sergeant Hahn and Officers Ludwig and Allen, he contacted members of The Falcon Gang and procured the address of a female relative of Hammond's with whom he was, gang members said, living at the moment.

The investigators contacted the relative and were told that Hammond did live there but was not at home. She added he would probably be at either another relative's home on Sequoia Road, in the Oakland hills, or his girlfriend's house. In neither case did she know the exact address.

Patrol officers began to search the general vicinity of the girlfriend's house while Sergeants Mellot and Hahn. followed by Officer Mike Henson in another patrolcar. went to Sequoia Road in search of the relative.

Neither the investigators nor the patrolman had any idea what address Hammond might be visiting on Sequoia Road. They did know, however, that Hammond would probably be driving his flashy Falcon. When they reached Sequoia Road. Officer Henson spotted the Ford almost immediately.

"How he managed to see it, I'll never know," Sergeant Mellot recalls. "It was parked down a driveway and-sort of behind a garage. Most people would not have seen it in a hundred years. But. somehow. Mike managed to see it."

The detectives and Officer Henson approached the house and were greeted by the second relative of Hammond's. He took them inside where they found Hammond talking on the telephone. The first relative, who had told the officers where he might be, had called Hammond to warn him about the impending visit by police officers!

Hammond was arrested without incident. He insisted that he had no part of the robbery. Instead, he said, he had decided he wanted some ice cream and stopped in front of the store to purchase some. Micham, he said, he left at that point.

Having finished his ice cream, he said, he was just driving off when he saw Mitcham running down the street. The running man, Hammond said, had jumped into his car without any invitation. Next, Hammond said, Mitcham had told him about the robbery and shooting and given him some of the rings. The suspect said he had kept them for a couple of days and then threw them away. The story did not jibe with the account given to the invjestigators by the woman and the young man who had purchased the ring set from Mitcham.

A bulletin was issued to the patrol division requesting the arrest of Mitcham for the murder of James Ormond. No address was available. "The man was essentially a transient," Sergeant Mellot explained.

That evening, the same man who had returned the suspect ring set he had purchased from Mitcham to the investigator saw the little man at a party in East Oakland. He called Sergeant Mellot, who requested help from the patrol division. Within minutes, patrol officers, lead by Lieutenant Doug Krathwohl. visited the home where the party was reported in progress and arrested Mitcham.

Mitcham flatly refused to give the police a statement, but there were too many people who could identify him as the bandit who shot Ormond and Miss Williams, and two who could positively identify Hammond as driver of the getaway car. Both men were charged with the murder of James Ormond and the robbery of the jewelry store. Hammond was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to from 25 years to life in prison.

On May 12, 1984, Stephen Mitcham was found guilty of the murder of Ormond with special circumstances, the shooting of the clerk. Rose Miller, and the robbery. The jury recommended that he be sentenced to die in San Quentin's gas chamber.

Superior Court Judge Stanley Golde set final sentencing for a later date.

Rose Miller, Benny Silkwood. Alfred Ransom and Ephraim Jones are not the real names of the persons so named in the foregoing story. Fictitious names havebeen used because there is ho reason for public interest in the identities of these persons.

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100 Strangest Unexplained Mysteries

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Download 100 Strangest Unexplained Mysteries Book

100 Strangest Mysteries is an amazing compendium of the weird and the wonderful. The range of entries is extraordinary, from the bizarre to the horrific, and from the spooky to the just plain confounding.

The book includes some of history's most astounding tales of the strange and supernatural, and tells in vivid detail the story of both events and the people involved, the impact of particular myths and beliefs, and the latest investigations being undertaken in an attempt to find answers to the world's most bewildering phenomena. The text is complemented by 100 photographs and illustrations.100 Strangest Mysteries is a gripping and compelling account of some of the most baffling and astonishing events and is sure to shock and amaze in equal measure.

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Three bloody clues nailed the killer in CALIFORNIA'S GRISLY MUSIC-MAN MURDER

Friday, December 16, 2011

AT THE TIME Larry Proctor's battered and bloody body was found on the morning of October 14, 1982. "The Ninth Creation" band was in a slump. The murdered musician was discovered in the back bedroom of the house on the 2400 block of East Market Street in Stockton, California.

There had been better days for the band, which specialized in rhythmn and blues music, and certainly there was every reason to believe they would return. But that October the group was hurting financially, as were many other business organizations in the United States at the time.

Recession was the word voiced as often as any other in the nation's newspapers and the band was feeling the money crunch. Normally the nine-piece group worked a six-day week and took home about a thousand dollars a night, which was split equally among its members.

But in the fall of '82 that six-day week had shrunk to one day for The Ninth Creation and the $650 weekly stipend to which they had all become accustomed had dwindled to a miserly $111. Some of the musicians were suffering.

Larry Proctor, the saxophonist lead singer, was not among them. He managed to maintain his style of living, perhaps because he had saved his money from the good old days when the group was in demand and cutting platters, or maybe because he had something going on the side. There were two theories about that. A man could pay his money and take his choice.

Under any circumstances, Larry Proctor was living, if not high on the hog, reasonally well. He was also living, although he did not know it, on the ragged edge of eternity. Perhaps 13 was his unlucky number. Sometime either shortly before midnight on the 13th or shortly after 12 a.m. on the 14th, the saxophonist died, not quietly and at peace, but violently and while he was desperately afraid.

Mute evidence of his fear was graved in blood on the inside of his droom door.

A dispatcher's notation at the Stockton Police Department reveals the discovery that Proctor's music and songs had been permanently silenced was reported at exactly 11:46 a.m. Patrol Officers Richard Joy and Edward Neeley were sent to the house on Market Street where they were greeted by three young men. One of them guided the policemen through the gate of the low, chain-link fence which surrounded the property and along the walk to the door, telling them that it was open and they would easily find the body inside.

As they approached the dwelling, both officers noticed one peculiar quality about the house. All of the windows were heavily and expensively barred with decorative wrought iron. The decoration, if that is what it was, was not standard for a typical, middle-class California residence.

Even before they entered the house, the officers saw signs of the violence which had erupted inside. A window beside the door had been broken from the inside, so that there was splintered glass lying on the small porch. Behind the broken window, the curtain was torn.

Inside the house, the patrolmen found immediate evidence that a violent and deadly struggle had erupted there some time earlier. There was blood on the front door and there were large spatters of blood throughout the living room. Blood trails led through the house to a hall and from there to a rear bedroom, where the body of Larry Proctor was lying on the threshold.

The musician was sprawled on his stomach with his head and torso in the hall and legs and lower body in the bedroom. A bloodstained sheet covered his head. Beyond him, in the bedroom, the officers could see large quantities of blood spattered on the walls. At first glance it appeared to the patrolmen that the patterns of blood indicated the dead man had been shot at close range by either a large-bore rifle or a shotgun.

Satisfied in their own minds that the musician had been murdered, or at least killed during a violent struggle, the officers called for help from the Stockton Fire Department, paramedics and detectives from the Stockton Police Department's Investigation section.
Paramedics who arrived on the scene routinely examined the body. Although the man's condition was obvious, it was their duty to officially pronounce him dead. They knelt beside him and felt for some sign of heartbeat in his carotid artery, in his neck, and in his wrist, where a person's pulse is normally taken. To complete their examination, the medics had to remove the sheet from the dead man's head. When they did they discovered the top of his head was, or appeared to be, missing.

The patrol officers standing by decided the musician's head must have been blown away by the blast from the same heavy weapon which had been responsible for the stains on the bedroom walls.

Finding no sign of life, the paramedics officially declared the man on the floor dead. They then reported to the patrolmen what they believed to be one more significant fact. Although the corpse was literally drenched with blood almost everywhere, neither of the medics stained their hands while examining him. All of the blood on the body was absolutely dry.

The patrolmen secured the property so that whatever evidence was available would be preserved for investigators. Detective Sergeants Edward Williams and Henry Tovar, both veteran homicide probers, followed the paramedics to the crime scene by a few moments and were filled in by the patrolmen on what had happened.

The detectives examined the house carefully, noting the bars on the windows and that the back door was also barred and barricaded. The only entrance to the house was the front door, and there was no sign of forced entry.

Looking over the living room, the detectives agreed the struggle must have started near the front door, where there was a high concentration of blood, then continued on into the bedroom. The high concentration of blood about head-high on the wall of the bedroom made the investigators believe initially, as the patrolmen had, that the murdered man had been shot with a high-powered firearm at close range. The blood spatters and patterns were similar to those which would have been found after such an attack.

It was obvious to the sleuths that the struggle which had started in the living room had continued on into the bedroom and the final, savage, lethal attack had occurred there. Drag marks made by blood on the floor indicated the musician had been dragged across it to the point where he was found on the threshold.

Another item gave the detectives a more detailed picture of what had happened. The bedroom door had been broken open. The jam was splintered and ripped apart and the striker plate, the little piece of metal on the jam into which the lock fits, was broken off and missing. Another item on the door, which had been pushed back against the wall on the interior of the bedroom, also fascinated the detectives. Three clear palmprints, etched in blood, were easily distinguishable on the outer surface of the door.

Criminalist Richard Collins and Evidence Technician Maxim Cox, sent to the residence by the Stockton Police Department Crime Laboratory at the detective's request, arrived and began processing the scene. They also asked that Dr. Robert Lawrence, well-known San Joaquin County pathologist, come to the residence to perform a preliminary examination of the body on the scene. The pathologist told the officers that Larry Proctor had evidently not been shot but that his head had been beaten in, and the top of it totally destroyed, by a heavy club or blunt instrument of some kind. He also said the musician had been dead for about 12 hours.

Criminalist Collins, looking over the blood patterns, agreed with the pathologist. He told the officers that the spatters had been caused by blows from a blunt instrument, used with exceptional force, and that while they were similar, they were not consistent with those which would have been made by a firearm.

After the musician's body had been photographed from every angle and removed by coroner's deputies, Criminalist Collins was able to look at the inside of the door. There he found another set of palmprints which he and Technician Cox agreed appeared to be different from those on the outer surface. The missing striker plate was found after Proctorwas moved, on the floor where it had been lying under his body.

Recreating the crime, Sergeants Williams and Tovar decided the attack must have started just inside the front door. At some point the weapon which had killed Proctor had come in contact with the front window, breaking it and tearing the curtain.

From that point it appeared that Proctor had retreated to the bedroom and locked the door. His attacker had followed and, from the appearance of the bloody handprints, banged on it three times, then tried to break it open while Proctor, who had lost a lot of blood by that time, tried to hold it closed from the inside. Eventually the killer had won the pushing match, broken in and finished his gory task.

One of the most significant items the investigators noticed was that all of the blood in the house was dry at the time the crime was discovered. Yet the handprints on the door of the bedroom had to have been made when the blood was fresh and fluid.

"It seems like almost a sure thing that if we find the person who made those fingerprints we'll find the one who killed Proctor," Sergeant Williams remarked.

Before the musician's body was removed, the detectives found one other significant item. His left trouser pocket had been pulled inside out indicating, overtly at least, the motive for the crime was robbery.

Criminalist Collins and Technician Cox removed the door from its hinges in the bedroom and collected the glass fragments from the porch and took them to the laboratory for further examination.

The man who had discovered the body identified himself as a musician and member of The Ninth Creation, and identified the dead man, at least tentatively, as Larry Proctor as soon as he reported the crime.

While the technicians were still processing the crime scene. Sergeants Williams and Tovar began looking into the background of the murdered man as they canvassed the community in search of people who might have heard or seen something the night of the murder. They also interviewed all the members of The Ninth Creation and their associates.

From them, they learned that the house in which Larry Proctor had been living was owned by members of his family and that he had been living there for several years when the band was in town. They also learned that while The Ninth Creation had done exceptionally well as a musical group in the past, having toured Japan, played in some outstanding night clubs and hotels in the United States and made several albums, they were currently enduring a recession of their own. The group, for the past month or so, had been playing only one date a week, at a major hotel for its top price. But one night's work a week only provided the musicians one-sixth of their normal pay and some of them were suffering financially.

Larry Proctor, they said, was not hit as badly as the rest of them. His neighbors and some of the band members said he was known to operate a small-time marijuana sales operation. That, they added, explained the reason for the bars on the windows and the back door of the house. He had been burglarized for his marijuana several times and did not intend to have it happen again.

Band members also told the detectives that Proctor habitually carried with him three diamond rings ranging in size from a quarter karat to a full karat. They explained that he only wore them when he was playing, but kept them with him because of their value and the danger of their loss in a burglary.

As a defensive measure, they said, he kept a baseball bat leaning against the wall of the living room near the door. The investigators searched for both the missing jewelry and the baseball bat and found neither in the house on Market Street.

Richard Kevin Kemp, a drummer with the band, who had discovered the body, told the officers that he had been visiting his sister in the neighborhood on the morning of the 14th. While he was there, he said, two young men came by and told him they had been looking for some marijuana, had just dropped by Proctor's house and had not been able to get anyone to answer the door.

They had noticed the window beside the door was broken. The door itself, they had said, was open slightly, the television set was playing and Proctor's new Dodge van was parked in front of the house. When they looked in through the window, they said, they could see blood inside the house. They did not go in, they just looked and left. Their next move, they said, was to go to Kemp, whom they knew as a friend of Proctor's, and ask him to check the house out.

Kemp told the investigators he had gone inside the house, seen the blood, then returned immediately outside and informed the two prospective drug buyers that the place was covered with blood. The next move, he said, was to go next door and call the police. Alter he had done that, Kemp said, he returned to the house, went inside and followed the blood trail back to the body.

During their canvass of the neighborhood the detectives contacted a man who lived at the end of an alley which dead ended into Proctor's property. He told them that at about 1:00 a.m. on the morning of the 14th he had been aroused by the sound of dogs barking. Irritated by all the noise, he had eventually looked outside. When he did he said he saw a man who was carrying something leave Proctor's house and get into a blue Cadillac Eldorado which was parked in front of the residence.

The witness said he could not be sure of the person's description or of what he was carrying, but he was positive about the blue Eldorado. He was, he stated, familiar with most body types because he operated an automobile body detailing business.

While the detectives were interviewing members of the band and searching for friends and acquaintances or people who might have been purchasing marijuana from Proctor, Criminalist Collins and Technician Cox examined the evidence they had collected. They informed the detectives that all of the palmprints, if not the fingerprints, found on the outside of Proctor's bedroom were excellent and could easily identify the man who made them if he was found. They also said they had discovered an excellent fragment of a latent palmprint on the bottom of the shattered glass they had taken from the front window which would identify its owner, but added that they doubted seriously that it had been made by the killer.

Because the detectives believed that the bloody palmprints on the bedroom door were their key clue, they began taking complete handprints of all of the musicians in The Ninth Creation, Proctor's friends, acquaintances and anyone who might have had been involved in his marijuana dealings.
Among these they discovered one young man, Theodore Vega, who freely admitted having drug dealings with Proctor in the past. His interest, he said, was in cocaine, not marijuana. The detectives had been directed to him by members of the band who had said he was a fairly close friend of Proctor.

When the investigators found Vega they discovered he drove a blue Cadillac Eldorado. But when they asked him where he had been on the night of the 13th, and early morning of the 14th, Vega could not account for his time.

Asked to accompany the detectives to Stockton Police Headquarters so that his fingerprints could be taken and compared with those on the bedroom door, Vega consented immediately. While in the identification room he was asked to leave his property with the clerk there, and while his money was being counted a bloodstained five-dollar bill was discovered. Vega told Sergeant Williams he had no idea how the bill became bloodstained.

"Do you mind if we take this to the laboratory for examination?" the detective asked.

Vega said he did not. The bill was taken to the crime laboratory and tested for type. It was the same as that which was taken from Larry Proctor during an autopsy by Dr. Lawrence. The young man's handprint was forwarded to Criminalist Collins and Technician Cox for comparison with those taken from the door to Proctor's bedroom and the broken window in front of the house.

The technicians came up with a startling discovery. "The partial palmprint taken from the window matched Vega's perfectly," they reported. "But they did not match the prints taken from the bedroom door. The prints on the inside of the door belonged to Proctor, those on the outside to someone else."

From the beginning, the detectives had assumed there was only one man involved in the murder of the musician. With the news from the laboratory it appeared two might be involved. The detectives contacted Vega, took him to police headquarters and told him what they had discovered.

"How do you explain this?" he was asked.

Vega told the detectives he had helped Proctor install a new front window next to his front door shortly before the murder.

"I carried it in and put it on the sill.

Naturally my palmprint would be on it," he said.

"How about the five-dollar bill?" he was asked. "It's the same blood type as Larry Proctor's."

Vega explained that money changed hands all the time. In the case of the five dollar bill, he remembered where he got it. The bill had come from an acquaintance of Proctor's who was a cocaine dealer. He gave the detectives the dealer's name. They checked him out and discovered he also owned a blue Cadillac Eldorado.

Detective Williams, remembering he had been told by Criminalist Collins that the man whose fingerprint was found on the shard of glass was probably not the killer, conferred with the specialist.

Criminalist Collins convinced him that the person who made the print was almost certainly not the killer. When Sergeant Williams told him about Vega's explanation of the palmprint, the criminalist said he believed he was telling the truth.

Next, the criminalist showed the detective the shard of glass. The palmprint was on the bottom of the pane where it had been well stained with putty. He explained that the print had to have been made when the glass was being carried to the window, then covered with putty and the wooden sill.

" You carry a large piece of glass from the bottom," the criminalist explained. "That is what happened here. The palmprint was left on the glass and not exposed again until it was broken and knocked out of the sill. The person who made this print was probably nowhere near when the murder took place, at least as far as this evidence is concerned. The print was made long before Larry Proctor was murdered."

The detectives were not completely convinced that Vega was not still their prime suspect. They remembered the bloody five-dollar bill and the blue Eldorado. But they also knew that five-dollar bills change hands rapidly and that even if a breakdown of blood types proved the odds were 5,000 to one that the stain on the bill came from the murder victim, there was no way to show the bill had not passed through several hands before reaching Vega.

They were also aware that already two blue Cadillacs had been introduced to the case and knew there were a lot more than that on the street. They returned to the witness who had seen the man leaving Proctor's house at I: a.m. on the morning of the 14th and asked him to examine an automobile mug book. The auto de-tailer looked through the volume carefully until he reached the photograph of a battered 1971 Cadillac Eldorado with a primer mark on the left rear fender.

"That's the car," the witness said. "It looked almost exactly like that."

Detectives Williams and Tovar procured a copy of the photograph and began showing it to members of The Ninth Creation and other friends and acquaintances of Proctor. The band members remembered the Cadillac immediately.

"Kevin Kemp has one almost exactly like that," the investigators were told.

The investigation was 11 days old by that time and the detectives had arranged to have every available friend and acquaintance of Proctor's fingerprinted. They had been compared with those found on the outer surface of the murder victim's bedroom door and none had matched. The exception was Richard Kevin Kemp. The drummer had not been available to the police, mostly through coincidence, it seemed, since he had reported the murder.

Kempt had never been eliminated as a suspect. In the early days of the investigation, everyone who knew the murder victim was a suspect as far as the officers were concerned. But he had told them he had spent the night with his godfather watching a cable TV sex movie when Proctor was murdered. The alibi had been confirmed by the godfather.

Sergeants Williams and Tovar began examining Kemp's background. They discovered the drummer had a cocaine habit that was costing him at least $200 a week during The Ninth Creation's good times. He had been suffering during the slump.

Next, (he detectives began checking on Kemp's alibi. They checked with cable network officials in Stockton, San Francisco and eventually New York and discovered the motion picture the drummer said he had watched with his godfather on the night Proctor was murdered had been shown three days earlier.

The detectives launched an all-out effort to find Kemp who, unable to make ends meet on one night's work a week, had given up his permanent living quarters and had been staying with friends around town. They found him in a friend's apartment and when they asked him to come to headquarters for a fingerprint comparison, he consented immediately.

Kevin Kemp appeared to be at ease when the prints were taken and chatted pleasantly with the detectives. Sergeant Williams took the impressions to Criminalist Collins and a comparison was made. The bloody palmprints on the bedroom door matched those of the drummer's perfectly. With a solid case building rapidly against the drummer, the detective confronted him with the facts:

1. His palm prints matched those etched in blood on Proctor's bedroom door at the death scene perfectly.

2. A neighbor had seen a blue 1971 Cadillac Eldorado with a primer mark on the left rear fender parked in front of Proctor's house at about 1:00 a.m. on the morning of the 14th. Kemp drove a 1971 Eldorado which matched that description.

3. Kemp's alibi, that he had spent the time when Proctor was murdered watching a motion picture on television with his godfather, was phony. The movie the two men claimed to have been watching had been shown on the 11th, three days before Proctor was killed.

During a two-hour interview which followed, Kemp flatly denied he had ever touched Proctor's body. He also said he had not touched the door and added that he never got blood on his hands when he went in the house and found the dead man.

Sergeant Williams then showed the drummer a photograph of the bloody palmprint taken from Proctor's door and a reproduction of his own inked palmprint. Kemp studied them but flatly refused to admit either print was his. "It's a trick," he insisted. "You're just trying to trick me."

Despite his protests, Kemp was arrested and charged with the murder of Larry Proctor.

A weird series of legal maneuvers followed. Kemp was tried once and a jury failed to reach a verdict, declaring itself hopelessly deadlocked after a ten-to-two verdict. Kemp had taken the stand during the trial and changed his story completely. He told the jury he had reentered Proctor's house after calling the police.

The drummer said he had gone there for the purpose of removing any marijuana that might be in the house, explaining simply he did not want the police to know his friend had been mixed up in narcotics traffic.

When he returned, he said, he had stumbled over the saxophonist's body after touching it and touched the door while there was blood on his hands. He had done all this, he said, between the time he called the police and before the firemen arrived.

Sergeant Williams checked with the computer which records all such calls and discovered the fire house which responded to Kemp's call was just six-tenths of a mile from his house. He also learned that the firemen had arrived on the scene between one minute and 54 seconds and two minutes and 18 seconds after receiving the call.

The computer also revealed Kemp had been on the telephone 54 seconds after the firemen were dispatched. In rebuttal, the prosecution presented all of this, pointing out that it was almost impossible for Kemp to have done everything he said he had before the firemen arrived. It was also pointed out that the blood was dry at the time Kemp claimed to have stumbled against the door and also that it was almost impossible for anyone to have made the palmprints after Proctor was lying in the doorway. Regardless, two jurors chose to believe Kemp and the trial ended that way.

During a second trial, while the jury was being chosen, one of Kemp's friends approached a juror and apparently threatened him. A mistrial was called and Kemp was tried a third time. Another deadlock resulted, this time 11 to 1 for conviction. One female juror explained later she just didn't want to send that "nice-looking young man" to prison.

Between all the trials. Sergeants Williams and Tovar continued to search for more evidence. While working on another murder case, Williams questioned a woman who told him she lived next door to the relative with whom Kemp claimed to have watched a television motion picture at the time Proctor was murdered.

The woman told Sergeant Williams that she and her husband had been awakened some time after 1:00 a.m. by Kemp. She said that at the time he was perspiring and out of breath and said he had been in a fight. She also said Kemp told them his car was out of gas and asked for a ride to a service station so he could buy some. They had taken Kemp to a station, she said, and then to his car. It was parked less than one block from Proctor's house.

When this new evidence was presented during the fourth trial the jury was out only 30 minutes before convicting Kevin Kemp of second-degree murder on May 4, 1984. He was sentenced to from 16 years to life in prison.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Theodore Vega is not the real name of the person so named in the foregoing story. A fictitious name has been used because there is no reason for public interest in the identity of this person.
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Sirhan Sirhan: Assassin of Modern U.S. History

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sirhan Sirhan, now 66, convicted of assassinating Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968,
gestures (3/2/2011) during a Board of Parole Suitability Hearing at the
Pleasant Valley State Prison  in Coalinga, Calif. A panel of two California parole
board commissioners denied parole to Sirhan.

Sirhan Sirhan did not set out with any grand plan to change U.S. history. He simply wanted to kill Robert F. Kennedy in revenge for Kennedy's support of Israel. As it turned out, Sirhan's assassination of Robert F. Kennedy -- on June 5, 1968, the first anniversary of the Six Day War -- would do more to alter the flow of U.S. history than even the assassination of President John Kennedy accomplished four years earlier. Although both assassinations would have profound and untold impact for decades to come, Sirhan's killing of Robert Kennedy would lead in a matter of months to the election of Richard Nixon as president, the escalation of the Vietnam War and eventually to the national nightmare of Watergate.

Kennedy, who was gunned down within minutes of winning the California Democratic presidential primary, would have gone on to win the Democratic presidential nomination and would, with little doubt, have soundly defeated Nixon in the general election in November. It is impossible to know what Kennedy would have accomplished as president, only that the next four to eight years and beyond would have unraveled in a far different manner.

Sirhan did not just assassinate Robert Kennedy. He assassinated modern U.S. history.

In 1968, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination was thrown wide open when President Lyndon Johnson stunned the nation by announcing on March 31 that he would not seek re-election. Earlier that month Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, running as an anti-Vietnam War candidate, had challenged Johnson in the New Hampshire presidential primary, finishing a surprising strong second to Johnson there and winning 20 of the state's 24 electoral votes. Once Johnson bowed out, Sen. Robert Kennedy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey joined the presidential race.

Humphrey was popular but tainted in many people's eyes by his association with the beleaguered Johnson administration. McCarthy, like Kennedy, wanted to pull American troops out of the Vietnam conflict so both candidates appealed to young Democrats. McCarthy lacked the dynamic personality and attractive background of Kennedy. Much of the luster of "Camelot," the common nickname for his assassinated brother John F. Kennedy's presidency, clung to the younger Kennedy. Moreover, many Democrats believed history would repeat itself to the party's advantage. Richard Nixon was the expected Republican nominee. John F. Kennedy had defeated him in the 1960 presidential election and RFK supporters believed another Kennedy would defeat him in the upcoming one.

On the evening of June 4, Kennedy was in the Royal Suite of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles watching TV as the returns poured in from that day's California primary. California, with its hefty 174 delegates to the Democratic convention, was a coveted prize. The candidate sat on a sofa with his wife Ethel, who was three months pregnant with the couple's eleventh child. Also with Kennedy were some of his best friends and closest associates, among them football star Roosevelt Grier and Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson, aides Pierre Salinger and Ted Sorenson as well as press secretary Fred Mankiewicz.

According to Robert Blair Kaiser in "R.F.K. Must Die!" Kennedy learned from the major networks that he was winning. "CBS predicted a Kennedy victory by as much as 16 percentage points," Kaiser wrote. "NBC held out, [but] finally announced that a sampling of key election precincts, selected in advance to represent a cross section of the state, also indicated that Kennedy would win."

Buoyed by these predictions, the candidate went to the ballroom shortly before midnight to make a victory speech. At the end of it, the appreciative crowd chanted "We want Bobby! We want Bobby!"

A few minutes after midnight, Kennedy went through a side door that would lead through a crowded food preparation area into the Colonial Room where the press awaited him. Kaiser wrote that Kennedy was escorted by "an armed security guard" named Thane Cesar." Cesar "grabbed Kennedy's right arm and started pushing back the crowd in the pantry with his own right arm."

Suddenly a dark-haired, slightly built young man moved close to the senator. "Kennedy, you son of a bitch!" he shouted and repeatedly shot a .22 caliber pistol.

According to Kaiser, "Cesar, the armed security guard, also saw the gun. 'I saw a hand sticking out of the crowd,' says Cesar, 'between two cameramen, and the hand was holding a gun.' Cesar says he was blinded by the brilliant lights, moved toward the gun, then saw a red flash come from the muzzle. 'I ducked,' says Cesar, 'because I was as close as Kennedy was. When I ducked, I threw myself off balance and fell back and when I hit . . . I fell against the iceboxes and the senator fell down right in front of me."

A maitre d' named Karl Uecker grabbed the arm in which the shooter held the gun and pressed it down on the steam table beside him even as the gunman continued to fire. Others, including the powerfully built Rosey Grier and Rafer Johnson fought with the diminutive but well-muscled assailant and pried the weapon away from his hand – but not before all eight chambers had been emptied.

Writer George Plimpton was one of those struggling to disarm the assailant. According to William Klaber and Philip H. Melanson in Shadow Play: The Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, the Trial of Sirhan Sirhan, and the Failure of American Justice, Plimpton recalled the gunman as having "enormously peaceful eyes." Others would see the look of tranquility on the man's face and wonder if he was hypnotized or drugged.

A wounded Robert Kennedy, shot once in the head and twice through the armpit, lay flat on the floor. His speechwriter Paul Schrade was also down, struck in the forehead. Four others were also shot. All, including Schrade, would recover.

Kennedy would not. Surgeons struggled to save him. The senator received blood transfusions and a tracheotomy was performed to, as Kaiser wrote, "keep his airway clear of secretions and ensure a steady and adequate supply of oxygen to the brain." Doctors operated on his brain to remove as much of the bullet as they could and the blood clot forming as a result of it.

But Kennedy could not be saved. He died at 2 a.m., June 6, at Good Samaritan Hospital.

The man in custody refused to give police his name. According to Special Unit Senator by Robert A. Houghton, he coolly told the questioning officers, "I wish to remain incognito." However, he did not maintain a stony silence. At the police station, he spoke with officers on subjects not directly tied to the reason he was in custody: unrelated murder cases, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and the stock market. He even asked the police philosophical questions about the nature of justice.

Police attempted to coax the suspect to identify himself. Kaiser wrote how a police sergeant asked his name and got no answer. "What's the matter?" the officer pressed. "Ashamed of what you've done tonight?"

"Hell no!" the prisoner instantly answered.

He had been searched. He carried a column by David Lawrence dated May 26 that had been clipped out of the Pasadena Independent Star-News in a pocket. As James W. Clarke wrote in American Assassins, "The title of the column was 'Paradoxical Bob.'" In it Lawrence criticized Kennedy for opposing the war in Vietnam while advocating military aid for Israel.

According to Kaiser, at about 9:15 a.m. June 5, two brothers, Adel and Munir Sirhan, "were presenting themselves at the Pasadena Police Department" to identify the man being held for shooting the senator as their brother, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. Like them, he was a Palestinian refugee.

Even before the suspected assassin's name was known, the possibility that others were involved swirled through media reports. Like the killing of Robert's brother John four years previously, and the slaying of Martin Luther King Jr. only two months before, the assassination of Robert Kennedy would spawn a cottage industry of conspiracy theories.

Prominent in such theories is a phantomlike young woman "in a polka dot dress." According to Klaber and Melanson, Ambassador Hotel employee Vincent DiPierro told police that prior to the shooting he had seen Sirhan apparently accompanied by an attractive woman wearing "a white dress with black or purple polka dots." DiPierro said the woman and Sirhan looked and smiled at each other in a way that suggested acquaintanceship.

Kennedy campaign worker Sandra Serrano had an even more intriguing story about a polka dot dress-wearing woman. Kaiser reported what she told homicide detectives: "She said that during Kennedy's speech she had been out on the fire escape outside the Embassy Room 'because it was too hot inside' when three people came up the fire escape. One of them was a girl in a white dress with black polka dots, a Caucasian with dark brown . . . With her was a young man of about 23, perhaps a Mexican-American . . . and another young man with 'messed-up clothes and a lot of hair.' Then, said Sandra Serrano, 'the same girl, about two, two minutes later, three minutes later maybe, came running down the stairs. She practically stepped on me, and she said, 'We've shot him. We've shot him.' Then I said, 'Who did you shoot?' and she said, 'We shot Senator Kennedy.'"

Police suspected the stories told by Serrano and DiPierro. According to Houghton, Serrano made a long-distance phone call to her mother immediately after the shooting but never mentioned the polka-dot dress. Houghton also wrote, "Captain Cecil R. Lynch of the Los Angeles Fire Department had been making the rounds of various stairways and exits from the Embassy Ballroom to check for possible fire-law violations that evening of June 4. He had personally inspected the outside flight of stairs on which Sandra Serrano claimed to have been seated during Sen. Kennedy's victory speech. Lynch saw no one on the stairs at that time."

Both DiPierro and Serrano took polygraph tests. Both flunked and admitted they had fabricated their stories. The police discounted the theory that Sirhan had a polka-dot dress-wearing accomplice but she continues to haunt conspiracy scenarios.

Different conspiracy theorists posit different villains. Arab terrorists are high on the list of theorists' possible conspirators, logically enough given Sirhan's background. Others believe organized crime was behind the murder. Bobby Kennedy had drawn the ire of Mob figures when he had acted as an attorney for the Senate Rackets Committee. Communists, the CIA, extreme right-wingers and other groups have been suggested as having masterminded the assassination.

In most conspiracy scenarios, Sirhan is a willing participant, often shooting at the candidate ineffectually so another assassin can do the actually dirty work of killing. However, some, including Klaber and Melanson, lean toward the possibility that he was an unwilling dupe, hypnotized without his knowledge or consent, a kind of real-life "Manchurian Candidate."

The Manchurian Candidate is a movie directed by John Frankenheimer and released in 1962. It stars Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury. Harvey plays veteran Raymond Shaw who was awarded a medal for rescuing a platoon of American soldiers captured by North Koreans in 1952. Officials do not know that Shaw was himself one of those captured and that, during his imprisonment, he was hypnotized to act as an assassin.

This is the scenario Sirhan himself now advocates. His current attorney, Lawrence Teeter, filed a petition July 24, 2002 challenging his conviction on the grounds that the late Grant Cooper failed to introduce evidence of Sirhan's having been "programmed through hypnosis to pull a weapon and fire it without knowing what he was doing."

The United States Supreme Court turned down this petition.

Despite the plethora of elaborate theories, intense investigation would only show indisputable links between the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the individual found with a gun in his hand, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. Many conspiracy theorists and his present lawyer see him as a dupe of shadowy and nefarious forces. The attorneys who defended viewed him as a disturbed man who acted out of a deep psychological sickness. Facts showed him a rational assassin who had good reason, from his particular political and personal perspectives, to hate Senator Kennedy and want him dead.

The Suspect
Sirhan Sirhan was born on March 19, 1944 to an Arab Christian family in Jerusalem. His father was a highly paid worker with the city's water department who adequately supported his wife and seven children.

Palestine was a fiercely disputed territory. Governed by Great Britain, the Zionist movement claimed it as the homeland of the Jewish people. That movement acquired special urgency in the aftermath of World War II and Hitler's attempted genocide of the Jews.

Sirhan Sirhan was an infant, then a toddler, in a neighborhood that rang regularly with hectic shouts, explosions, gunfire, and the anguished cries of the wounded and the grieving. According to James W. Clarke in American Assassins, a young Sirhan found the shot body of an Arab neighbor drenched in fresh blood. The entire Sirhan family saw a British soldier's body freshly mangled by a bomb and discovered his finger in their yard. Klaber and Melanson recount him as seeing an explosion resulting in "a little girl's leg blown off, and the blood spurting from below the knee as though from a faucet."

Clarke noted that Sirhan was only 4 years old when he witnessed a bomb explode and saw "the street strewn with the bloody, mutilated bodies of Arab victims." A worse trauma soon followed. Sirhan and an older brother were playing in the street. Gunfire broke out and a Zionist truck swerved straight into one of Sirhan's brothers, crushing the child.

After his death, Mary Sirhan forbade her other children to play outdoors. Her caution was understandable in a land torn apart by war. But it was also inevitable that growing, energetic youngsters chafed under this restriction.

In 1948, still during Sirhan's fourth year, Zionists attacked a village called Deir Yassin and massacred 250 people, most of them women, children and elderly men. Together with the official declaration of Israeli independence, it led the Sirhans, along with many other terrified Arabs, to flee their homes.

A family that had been comfortably middle-class sank into dire poverty. The Sirhans shared a tiny home in the Old Walled City part of Jerusalem with two other uprooted Arab families.

Grotesque violence remained a terrible part of young Sirhan's life. Kaiser recorded a particularly horrible scene remembered by Mary and Adel Sirhan. Little Sirhan was screaming as he ran to his family's crowded apartment. He was carrying a bucket, half-filled with water – and with a human hand floating on top of it. The sobbing boy was, understandably, "quivering with fright."

Sirhan and his father frequently clashed. According to Klaber and Melanson, a Palestinian-American named Ziad Hashimeh who had been friends with Sirhan when they were children called the father a strict disciplinarian. Hashimeh claimed he had seen Bishara Sirhan strike Sirhan "quite a few times" with both "sticks and hands" and that Bishara was "too emotional."

Like many Arab refugees, the Sirhans hoped a quick Arab military victory would restore their lives to normalcy. When that hope faded, the Sirhans sought to immigrate to the United States. They did in 1956.

The family journeyed to New York, then California. Sirhan was 12 years old when he set foot on American soil. As an adult, Sirhan would testify in court that he had experienced trepidation about moving because he "wanted to stay in my own country . . . with my own people."

Despite his reluctance to immigrate, adjusting to life in the new country seemed to be easier for Sirhan than some of his other family members. He had that most valuable attribute of the immigrant – facility with languages. He received adequate, although not good, grades and made friends in school.

After seven months in the United States, Bishara Sirhan abandoned his family to return to the Middle East.

Mary Sirhan got a job, as did Sirhan's older brother Aden. Thirteen-year-old Sirhan helped out by taking on a paper route.

In high school, the seemingly well-adjusted Sirhan joined the officer cadet corps and was elected to the student council in both his junior and senior years. Kaiser recorded Sirhan's brother, Munir, as saying that during this period Sirhan discovered a fondness for target shooting.

Sirhan's sister, Ayda, to whom he had always been especially close, became ill with leukemia soon after Sirhan entered college. He often skipped classes to help her and racked up a series of poor grades. She died before he was dismissed from college in 1964.

Continuing to live with his family, Sirhan got a job as a gas station attendant, then a gardener. In 1965, he became a stable boy at the Santa Anita racetrack. In between shoveling hay and sweeping up manure, he daydreamed of being a jockey. The goal was realistic for an athletic man of 5'5" weighing 120 pounds. One morning in September 1966 Sirhan was riding a horse to exercise it. He fell and the dream of becoming a jockey crashed to the dirt with him. He tried getting back in the saddle but had lost the nerve that a jockey needs.

He took a job clerking in a health food store.

He had another interest: guns. On Aug. 10, 1965, according to Robert Blair Kaiser's "R.F.K. Must Die!" Sirhan acquired a .22 Iver-Johnson revolver that he used for target shooting. Kaiser wrote that it is likely that his brother Munir purchased the pistol and gave it to Sirhan.

On the morning of June 4, 1968, Sirhan's name would be on the roster of the San Gabriel Valley Gun Club's as one of those using the shooting range that day.

As an Arab Christian, he was attracted to the pan-Arabism (rather than Islamic militancy) preached by Egypt's Gamal Abdal Nasser. Thus, he had a special reason to be emotionally devastated when Nasser's forces and those of his Arab allies were so easily vanquished by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War that started June 5, 1967 and was over by June 10.

Occultism caught Sirhan's interest. Klaber and Melanson wrote that "Sirhan fervently embraced the realm of the mind: self-hypnosis, mind control, mysticism. He practiced the mental projection of images and ideas. He frequented one Pasadena bookstore that specialized in the occult and got a part-time job at another. There he read books he could not afford to buy, books with titles like The Laws of Mental Domination, Thought Power: Its Control and Culture and Meditations on the Occult Life: The Hidden Power.

"Sirhan also joined the Rosicrucians, a self-described 'ancient mystical order.' In May 1968 he paid $20 to join after seeing an ad in a newspaper."

It was also during this period that Sirhan began keeping a journal. It is a most bizarre work. One indication of its strangeness is that it can be read in radically divergent ways. The prosecutors, as well as writers like Clarke, believe it conclusively proves rational premeditation. Psychiatrists who testified on his behalf thought it showed he was incapable of it. Others like Klaber and Melanson think it supports the hypothesis that he was the unwitting dupe of others.

In an entry dated "May 18," he wrote, "My determination to eliminate R.F.K. is becoming more the more of and unshakable obsession [sic]."

Why did Sirhan want to "eliminate" Bobby Kennedy? Clarke wrote of Sirhan, "there is little doubt that he read in the Arab papers that The New York Times reported on January 9 and 10, 1968, Sen. Kennedy's proposed sale of 50 Phantom jet bombers to Israel." Actually, President Johnson had negotiated the plan and Kennedy merely said he would honor it.

Kennedy had long been an outspoken supporter of Israel. The phrasing of the May 18 journal entry indicates that Sirhan had been planning to kill Kennedy for quite awhile before putting it on paper. Moreover, Kennedy's intention to send bombers to Israel had been reported much earlier in the year, as was his belief that America should supply Israel with "whatever assistance is necessary to preserve Israel's borders and protect the integrity of its people."

Later in his journal, Sirhan declared, "Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated by 5 June 68." That date was significant because it was the first anniversary of the Six-Day War as well as the day after the California presidential primary. According to Clarke, "Sirhan later explained to author Robert Kaiser: 'June 5 stood out for me, sir, more than my own birth date. I felt Robert Kennedy was coinciding his own appeal for votes with the anniversary of the Six Day War."

Other entries in Sirhan's diary read: "RFK must die RFK must die Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated must be assassinated." These phrases and many others repeat like lines from a broken record.

At his trial, the defense explained them as the product of a broken mind.

A Tangled Defense
Heading the defense team, all of whom took Sirhan's case pro bono, was 65-year-old Grant Cooper. A prominent attorney, Cooper was considered, as Klaber and Melanson put it, "at the top of his profession." Seventy-five-year-old Russell Parsons, another lawyer with a fine reputation, would also defend Sirhan. Joining the defense the day before trial began was Emile Zola Berman. Klaber and Melanson wrote, "Berman was a Jew, and Cooper thought that might help in defending an Arab in a case with political overtones." 

Chief Deputy District Attorney Lynn "Buck" Compton led the prosecution. Deputy district attorneys John Howard and David Fitts assisted Compton.

Judge Herbert Walker presided over the trial. The bespectacled, white-haired jurist had been born in 1899 and enjoyed a reputation as an impartial judge.

The defense conceded that Sirhan had killed Kennedy but said he could not be guilty of first-degree murder because he suffered from a "diminished mental capacity" that prevented him from "maturely and meaningfully" premeditating the crime as was necessary for a verdict of first-degree murder under California law. They hoped for a verdict of second-degree murder that would spare him the death penalty.

Sirhan himself appeared deeply conflicted about a mental defense. He often seemed, by both actions and words, to accept the prosecution premise that he had assassinated out of rational political motives.

Prior to the beginning of the trial, Cooper had made a motion to quash Sirhan's indictment by challenging the representative nature of the grand jury's make up. Sirhan was called to the witness stand to testify about his poor financial status. As he took the oath, Sirhan raised an arm with a clenched fist over his head. This was obviously in imitation of the black power salute that U.S. sprinters Tommy Smith and John Carlos had given at the Olympics a few months previously.

When called to testify in his own defense at this trial, Sirhan again took the oath with an upraised arm and clenched fist.

During his testimony, Cooper asked Sirhan how he had felt toward his victim's older brother, President John Kennedy.

The witness replied, "I loved him, sir, more than any American would have."

Cooper asked him to explain and Sirhan said, "Because just a few weeks before his assassination he was working, sir, with the leaders of the Arab government, the Arab countries, to bring a solution, sir, to the Palestinian refugee problem, and he promised these Arab leaders that he would do his utmost and his best to force or to put some pressure on Israel, sir, to comply with the 1948 United Nations Resolution, sir, to either repatriate those Arab refugees or give them back, give them the right to return to their homes. And when he was killed, sir, that never happened."

Sirhan testified that he had no memory of the killing of Robert Kennedy. Nor did he have any recollection of wanting to kill Kennedy or of writing in his notebook of such a plan. However, he agreed that he must have killed the senator.

His being at the Ambassador was a matter of happenstance, he testified, rather than conscious planning. He had been eating at a Bob's Big Boy, reading a newspaper. One ad caught his eye. As Klaber and Melanson wrote, it was "for the 'Miracle March for Israel,' a parade on Wilshire Boulevard to celebrate the Israeli victory over the Arabs in the Six-Day War a year earlier. Sirhan told Cooper that just seeing the ad gave him 'a burning feeling inside.'"

He drove to where the parade was going to take place. Perhaps because he was upset, he had failed to notice that the celebration was scheduled for the next day. As Klaber and Melanson reported, "Instead of a parade, all Sirhan found was a storefront campaign party for U.S. senatorial candidate Thomas Kuchel. Sirhan stopped in and overheard that there were several larger parties going on at the Ambassador Hotel, a short distance away. He made his way to the Ambassador."

There he downed several Tom Collins drinks. He wandered around, then went back to his car. Deciding he was too drunk to drive, he went back to the hotel to get some coffee to sober up. Around a coffee urn, he saw a "beautiful" young woman.

The defendant claimed he next remembered "being choked." He had no memory of getting his gun from his car but said he "must have."

When questioned about his notebooks, Sirhan acknowledged that the handwriting was his so he must have written them but said he had no memory of writing in them and could not account for the repetitive entries.

On cross-examination, Sirhan said "I'm not even aware that I killed Mr. Kennedy," then "I know he's dead. I've been told that." He said he was "not glad" the senator was dead but "not sorry" because he had "no exact knowledge, sir, of having shot him."

At one point early in the trial, Sirhan wanted to abandon his defense. Trembling and gripping the sides of his chair, Sirhan told Judge Walker he wanted to plead guilty, "disassociate" himself from his counsel, and "ask to be executed." When asked why, Sirhan said, "I killed Robert Kennedy willfully, premeditatively, with 20 years of malice aforethought."

According to Klaber and Melanson, Sirhan's action was triggered because he thought two women whom he had had crushes on were going to be called as witnesses. Assured he was wrong, he took his lawyers back and allowed the trial to continue.

Clinical psychologist Martin Schorr testified for the defense. He said Sirhan suffered a "paranoid psychosis" and that he was probably in a "dissociate state" when he killed Kennedy.

On cross-examination, D.A. John Howard had Schorr read from the report he had made on Sirhan. That report gave a rigidly Oedipal interpretation in which, "By killing Kennedy, Sirhan kills his father, takes his father's place as the heir to the mother." It must have sounded suspicious to many listeners. The liberal American presidential candidate would seem a poor stand-in for Sirhan's strict Arab father.

This report, fishy on the face of it, became laughable when Howard showed that it seemed to have been lifted almost word-for-word from Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist by James A. Brussel. According to Klaber and Melanson, Grant Cooper said he "could have crawled under a table" during Howard's withering cross-examination of Schorr.

Another clinical psychologist, Dr. Orville Richardson, followed Schorr to the stand. Reading from his report, Richardson testified that Sirhan suffered "a very severe emotional and mental disturbance," that "his personality is highly fragile" and that he was "subject to episodes of acute and rapid deterioration."

When Richardson discussed test results that had led him to his conclusions, he seemed peculiarly unconvincing. He had given Sirhan a "test of similarities." Klaber and Melanson reported, "To the question how a banana and an orange are alike Sirhan said, 'You have to peel them before you eat them,' instead of 'They are fruit.' He said, "A coat and a dress are alike because they are both worn,' instead of 'They are clothing.' He said an ax and a saw . . . cut wood' rather than 'They are tools.'"

Klaber and Melanson comment quite astutely: "To Richardson these responses were 'indicative of impairment, some fracture in his intellectual process.' But to a member of the jury it may have seemed as though Dr. Richardson was reaching, for Sirhan's answers might well have been considered superior. That a saw and an ax both cut wood is a more distinguishing similarity than the fact that they are both tools. The same would be true of Sirhan's answer concerning the orange and the banana."

Dr. Bernard Diamond testified that Sirhan admitted killing Kennedy whom he regarded as an enemy of the Arab people but claimed he had no recollection of either the shooting or writing in his notebooks. After putting Sirhan under hypnosis several times, Diamond concluded that Sirhan had previously been hypnotized, probably self-hypnotized, and that those self-induced trances led to the assassination.

"With absolutely no knowledge or awareness of what was actually happening in his Rosicrucian and occult experiments," Diamond explained, "[Sirhan] was gradually programming himself . . . for the coming assassination." The programming took place in "his unconscious mind" while "in his conscious mind there was no awareness of such a plan." Diamond accepted Sirhan's claim that he had not planned to kill RFK June 4, 1968 but had found himself by happenstance at the Ambassador Hotel. There "the mirrors in the hotel lobby, the flashing lights, the general confusion" put him "back in his trances" and in this "almost accidentally induced twilight state he actually executed the crime."

The jury deliberated three days. On April 17, 1969, they found Sirhan guilty of first-degree murder. On May 21, Judge Walker sentenced Sirhan to be executed in California's gas chamber. Sirhan spent about three years on death row before the California Supreme Court abolished capital punishment in 1972. Today, the aging convict -- now in his early 60s -- is in California's Corcoran State Prison.

Conspiracies and a "Manchurian Candidate"
"Special Unit Senator," a group formed by the Los Angeles Police Department, investigated conspiracy allegations in the immediate aftermath of Sen. Kennedy's death. Its investigation concluded that Sirhan acted alone.

But it could not lay doubts to rest. Conspiracy buffs found enough unexplained items to buttress their theories.

Witnesses in the pantry differed grossly in their estimates of how close Sirhan got to Kennedy. As Andrew David wrote in Famous Criminal Trials, "Some witnesses said Sirhan's gun was as much as 10 feet away from Senator Kennedy when it was fired. Others said it was as close as two feet." But at least one shot was made at point blank range. It was also made to the back of his head and no one remembered him turning his head to his killer.

The one person who was known to have been close to Kennedy, within point blank range and armed was security guard Thane Cesar and many have pointed fingers at him. A conservative, Cesar had a strong dislike for the Kennedys. Moreover, as Juliet Ching wrote in The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, "A witness saw Cesar pull out his gun and fire at Sirhan." Some have speculated that he actually shot Kennedy. Of course, it should be pointed out that only one witness claims to have seen Cesar fire his gun and that the security guard said, as Klaber and Melanson recorded, that he only "displayed his gun."

Klaber and Melanson also reported that journalist Dan Moldea interviewed Cesar in 1989 and persuaded him to submit to a polygraph about his actions during the RFK assassination. According to Klaber and Melanson, "Cesar passed the test. Moldea subsequently concluded that Cesar had not participated in the assassination."

That no eyewitness can recall seeing Sirhan get close enough to RFK to inflict a wound to the back of his head is probably the result of the circumstances of crowding, confusion, blocked vision, and terror.

Sirhan's faulty memory is, in all likelihood, a way to distance himself from the crime. His emphatic "Hell, no!" when asked if he was "ashamed of what [he] had done" strongly suggests that he knew what that something was.

Klaber and Melanson believe he "did not behave like a political assassin" since he did not immediately proclaim his political motive. They think a politically motivated killer would have proudly given the reasons for the killing rather than hiding behind amnesia.

This seeming dichotomy can be seen as the reasonable result of Sirhan's understanding of his two cultures, the Arab for which he killed and the American in which he was tried. He believed his fellow Arabs would see his actions as political – as indeed they did. Klaber and Melanson noted that in the aftermath of the assassination Sirhan's "likeness [appeared] on tens of thousands of Al Fatah posters; the ambassador of the Palestinian UN delegation attends his trail; [and] he receive [d] adoring letters from Palestinian girls."

In America, Sirhan knew he had no chance of escaping conviction and a death sentence if he simply admitted in court he was politically motivated but might if a jury were convinced he was not completely mentally responsible. Saying he could not remember the planning or commission of his crime made perfect sense from that perspective.

Klaber and Melanson, among others, found his assertion that, "I murdered Robert Kennedy with 20 years malice aforethought" indicative of a distorted mind "since he obviously was not planning to murder Robert Kennedy when he was 4 years old."

They ignore its implications. Kaiser quotes his attorney Emile Berman was saying, "If we're speaking about a psychiatric defense, that means going back to the time when he was 4 years old." The 4-year-old Sirhan had fled with his family from their home after the Deir Yassin massacre and the Israeli declaration of independence. It was the defining trauma for him along with his fellow Palestinians. For most of his life, that grievance had festered inside him like an unhealed wound. That wound had been torn open and rubbed with salt when the Arabs were defeated with dismaying swiftness in the Six-Day War. He took revenge for it on June 5, 1968 with the assassination of the pro-Israel senator and presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy.

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