Podcast Episode 14: Most Metal Crimes

Our August podcast episode is officially here! This month, Jen and Collective contributor Steve sit down to chat about the dark and violent black metal scene of the 90s. This episode will cover Satanic church burnings, ritualistic crimes, gruesome killings and everything in between, all at the hands of black metal musicians.

You can stream the episode on iTunes, Spotify, Podbean, or listen below:

As mentioned in the episode, there’s quite a big of supporting content worth watching in association it. Keep scrolling to check it all out!

In the following clip, which we included part of in the epsode, Gorgoroth member Gaahl discusses Satan being his musical inspiration and his unwavering support of church burnings:

In the episode, we discussed Mayhem frontman Dead’s suicide, which was photographed and later used as an album cover. Below you can see the photo, taken by the guitarist when he discovered his bandmate’s body, and its use by the band.

The following video is Gorgoroth’s infamous 2004 show in Poland which local authorities were quite displeased with and which got Gorgoroth kicked off their record label. Definitely worth a watch.

In the following Vice documentary, we get an introduction to the Norwegian black metal scene and run into Gaal sipping on his glass of red wine (or blood?) once again.

EPISODE SOURCES

Featured image courtesy of bigking.info

Aftonbladet

Blabbermouth

Dark Side of History

Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind

Loudwire

Noisecreep

Stained Glass Attitudes

Ultimate Guitar

VH1

Zoom Dune

The Legacy of 10050 Cielo Drive

WARNING: Graphic images ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

On the morning of August 9, 1968, 49 years to the day, Winifred Chapman, maid to director Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate, went running down the driveway of 10050 Cielo Drive, screaming, “Murder, death, bodies, blood!” Chapman had been the first to witness the brutal slayings of six people inside the now infamous house, including Tate and her unborn child, at the hands of the notorious hippie murder cult known as the Manson Family.

We all know the story of the Tate-LaBianca murders. But what do we know about arguably the most renown “murder house” in the country, tucked away at the end of a dead-end street in Los Angeles? Former occupant Candice Bergen described the house as “a fairytale place… a Never Never Land far from the real world where nothing could go wrong.” But unfortunately, things did go wrong. Very wrong.

J.F. Wadkins, who built the house in 1941 on a 3.3 acre plateau in Beverly Hills, drew inspiration for the residence from the French countryside. It was originally purchased by French actress Michele Morgan for $32,000. When Morgan returned to France sometime between 1944 and 1945, the home was purchased by Dr. Hartley Dewey and his wife Louise, who rented the home and its guest house to the likes of Baroness de Rothschild and silent film actress Lillian Gish.

In 1963, the home was sold and purchased by Hollywood business agent Rudolph Altobelli, whose list of high-profile clients included Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Like the Deweys, Altobelli also began renting out the house. In 1966, music producer Terry Melcher moved in.

Here is where things begin to get interesting. Melcher was well-known in the music industry at this time. He began his career as a performer but eventually became involved with producing, composing and songwriting. He had a close relationship with The Beach Boys, particularly Dennis Wilson, the group’s drummer.

It was through Wilson that Melcher was first introduced to Charles Manson. Manson once accompanied Wilson when he dropped Melcher off at his residence at the time: 10500 Cielo Drive (so keep in mind, Manson was completely aware of where Melcher lived). Those who are not familiar with the story of Charles Manson may be surprised to learn he was an aspiring musician, and he saw his connections with Wilson and Melcher as a possible “in.” However, despite allowing Manson to audition for him on multiple occasions, Melcher eventually refused to sign Manson, something that deeply angered him.

After Melcher and his girlfriend Candice Bergen moved to Malibu, Altobelli rented the home to up-and-coming director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. Tate had even affectionately referred to the Cielo Drive house as “the love house,” obviously unaware of the far different reputation the house would soon have.

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The Cielo Drive victims, photo courtesy of Bonnie’s Blog of Crime

Shortly after midnight on August 9, 1969, Manson followers Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel ruthlessly murdered the following people at the Cielo Drive residence: 18-year-old Steven Parent, celebrity hairstylist and Tate’s friend Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Polanski’s friend Wojciech Frykowski, and of course, the pregnant Tate, just weeks away from her due date.

Although the 1969 murders are by far what the house is most known for, its story didn’t end there. Altobelli sold the property in 1988 to investor John Prell for $1.6 million, several hundred thousand dollars less than his original asking price of $1.99 million. The house sold again in 1991 for $2.25 million.

In 1992, the main house was rented to Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame for $11,000 a month. Allegedly, Reznor claimed to not have known the house had been the site of the murders until reading the lease agreement.

Regardless of whether or not Reznor had sought out the house on purpose or not, he took advantage of the home’s sinister history and named the studio “Le Pig Studios” (the word “Pig” had been written on the front door of the house in the blood of the cult’s victims). It was at the Cielo Drive house that Reznor recorded the albums The Downward Spiral and Broken EP. Marilyn Manson also recorded Portrait of an American Family in the house.

In December of 1993, Reznor decided “there was too much history in that house for me to handle” and he moved out. Shortly after, in 1994, the house was demolished, making Reznor its last known occupant. Despite the demolition, the house lives on. Reznor could not resist taking a piece of the house before its destruction: the front door where the word “Pig” that had inspired his studio name was written. The door now has a new life as the front door of Reznor’s new studio, Nothing Records, in New Orleans.

A new house has since been built on the property, but the address has been changed to 10066 Cielo Drive. However, the house that once stood in its place still haunts the quaint, dead-end street of Cielo Drive.

SOURCES:

Curbed LA

feelnumb.com

Why We Don’t Let Our Friends Leave the Bar With A Stranger: The Murder of Jackie Vandagriff

Welcome back to Murder Monday, ya’ll.

As a single woman with an active social life, I myself have definitely had some questionable encounters at bars. You can never be too sure of the stranger sending a drink your way, or the guy who’s paying a little too much attention to you and your friends. Whether he is attractive or not, there are a lot of factors you need to asses when a stranger approaches you. He could be nice, he could be a little creepy, he could be an actual psychopath out on the prowl for his next victim – you NEVER know. I think we all tend to base our initial assessment of strangers on their physical appearance. If the guy is presentable and attractive, well kept, friendly, polite – he probably stands a better chance of swooning you. If a guy’s lack of basic hygiene procedures is clear, he’s dressed like a slob, and he’s awkward – you’re probably going to ignore him. Here is where the lesson your mother always taught you that you never listened to comes into play… “Never judge a book by its cover.” Because guess what, Ted Bundy was a good looking guy, and Patrick Bateman was a boujee fucking stud. Yet, where did their dates all end up?

Now, I want to make it VERY clear that I am in no way, shape, or form, trying to victim blame here. You literally never know when someone is going to flip a switch and change. This is the reason we have ex boyfriends, this is the reason why people end up with restraining orders against people that they once loved. People are not always the sunshine and rainbows pitched to you in the beginning. Things change, and I understand this. All we can do to protect ourselves is to keep our guard up. If you are going to meet a stranger from an online dating app, drop your pin to a friend and send them updates. If you meet a cute guy at a bar and want to head black to his apartment, let a friend know where he lives. If you are out alone enjoying a few drinks, which I, myself, am a personal fan of doing – keep track of how much you are drinking, keep an eye on your drink, and go home ALONE. I carry a police grade retractable steel baton, pepper spray, and a small knife. I have taken self defense courses and always have an eye over my shoulder when I’m walking alone. Some people think I’m paranoid for this, but hey – if you did the research on these cases as often as I do, you would be too.

As always, I am placing a trigger warning on this post. Please do not continue reading if you feel that this topic could trigger you in any way.

Denton, Texas. September 13, 2016

Jaqueline Vandagriff, a 24 year old student at Texas Women’s University, headed out for a night on the town. She had intended to meet a Tinder date, according to her friends. It is unclear whether she was stood up or if the date was cancelled, but she ended up at Fry Street Public House, a bar located near the university she was attending.

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On this same night, Charles Dean Bryant Jr, a 31 year old personal Brazilian Jiu Jitsu trainer and bartender living in Haslet, TX, found himself at the same bar. He had been out earlier in the night for pizza and drinks with friends, but found himself alone at the Public House afterwards.

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The two sat one seat away from each other at the bar and enjoyed their drinks alone for some time before Bryant struck up conversation with Jackie. Jackie had just missed out on a potential date, and Bryant had just gone through a break up. The two may have both been looking for some company, but the night was about to take a turn for the worst.

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Bartenders at the Public House said the two left the bar together after a few more drinks, it seemed as if the two had been having fun. The left and went to another bar close by where footage showed Jackie letting Bryant finish her drink for her. They had only been seen out together for about an hour at this point. Phone records would later show that the couple sat in Bryant’s car for 39 minutes, and then went to a nearby park for an hour…. where Bryant later claimed the two had some “consensual autoerotic asphyxiation sex” and the date took a turn for the worst. There was no evidence that the two actually had sex – but here is what we unfortunately know about what happened that night.

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Moments after the couple left the bar, Bryant posted a Facebook status that said “Teach you tricks that will blow your mind.” And Vandagriff tweeted “I’m glad I decided to get off Tinder and walk into a bar.”

Clearly the two had different ideas of what was about to happen.

4:28 a.m., September 14, 2016

Charles Bryant was seen on surveillance video walking into a Walmart near his home in Haslet, alone, he purchased a shovel and a kiddie pool and left around 4:44am.

In the early morning hours of September 14, 2016, Jackie Vandagriff’s body was found fully dismembered and burning in a blue plastic swimming pool in a heavily wooded area in Grapevine.

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An unidentified caller contacted 911 to report a brush fire, police arrived shortly after the fire unit had distinguished the fire and found what was burning underneath of it. A witness claimed to have seen a white male standing over the fire before leaving in a light colored SUV.

“The only vibe I ever got from him was that he was woman crazy. He loved women, he loved women’s attention,” said the manager of the bar where Bryant was employed at the time. His co-workers never thought his behavior to be odd, because “he was a good looking guy.”

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Two days after her body was discovered, a post on her Twitter popped up that read “Never knew I could feel like this.”

Cellphone data traced her phone to Bryant’s Home.

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In the backyard of Bryant’s Home, police found evidence that someone had tried to dig a hole where a kiddie pool once was, a bone from her body was found in the yard, and her purse was in his trash can.

Less than a week after the discover of Jackie’s body, Bryant was arrested for capital murder and held on a 1 million dollar full cash bail. He was facing the death penalty. His recent ex girlfriend testified in court that he had been stalking and threatening her, and that she had tried to get a restraining order against him. Just a few days before he murdered Jackie, he was arrested for trespassing. During the investigation, further charges of possession of child pornography were added to his long list of charges. During his trial he claimed that he did not murder Jackie, but that during their consensual kinky sex, she suffocated from a zip tie that she asked him to place around her neck, and that he panicked to hide the evidence. In April of 2018, Bryant was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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The fact that Vandargriff had her location services turned on led to the discovery of evidence at Bryant’s household. She was only 24 years old, a young student with a bright future. The bartenders claimed that the two seemed happy leaving together, and that there were no warning signs. Please, if you are using dating apps, or if you are approached by a stranger in a bar, turn on your location services. Drop a pin to your friends, stay in a populated area until you are sure you can be comfortable with your date. Establish a level of trust, creep their social media, ask them questions. Nothing is more important than your comfort and safety, and no question is off limits when you are curious about the stranger who is trying to swoon you out of a bar. Keep your guard up, have your own back, and as my favorite favorite podcast hosts (second to our leader Jenny, of course) at My Favorite Murder always say – stay sexy, don’t get murdered. The world is full of creeps, and sometimes it’s really hard to tell the difference at first. Be careful out there ladies, see you next week.

SOURCES:

CBS News

Heavy.com

Star Telegram

Podcast Episode 13: Columbine

The moon is full so you know what that means — I released a new podcast episode today! Today’s episode is certainly not for the faint of heart: the Columbine tragedy.

After recently reading Dave Cullen’s phenomenal account of the tragedy, Columbine, I realized that, even almost 20 years later, much of what I knew about Columbine was actually misinformation thanks to the media frenzy that occurred in the wake of event. I felt compelled to do this episode to bring the facts to the surface. Listen to the episode below and keep scrolling to check out all the supporting content I discuss in the episode.

Patti Nielson’s 911 Call

The Columbine library was the location of the most fatalities. Below is the full 911 call made by Patti Nielson, a Columbine teacher.

Patrick Ireland, aka “The Boy in the Window”

Patrick Ireland was shot multiple times, but managed to drag himself to the window of the library over a period of three hours, as he was in and out of consciousness due to blood loss. His escape from the window and into the arms of the SWAT team below was broadcast live. The video below shows clips of Patrick’s escape and his recovery from severe neurologic trauma.

The Basement Tapes Documents

As promised, here is the detailed account of the Basement Tapes as documented by one of the Jeffco sheriff’s officer. It is 10 pages long but definitely worth a read given the actual Basement Tapes are not available for viewing.

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A Philadelphia Serial Killer on the Loose?

Yesterday, on July 18th at 11:30 a.m., Pennsylvania State Police responded to the report of a suspicious person off the Allegheny Avenue off-ramp. When they arrived to the scene they found the body of a man near the exit ramp.

Photo courtesy of CBS3

An investigation is currently under way to identify the victim and to determine the cause of death.

No link has been made, but this is the third body that was found in Philadelphia within the last two days.

Screenshot courtesy of NBC Philadelphia

The same morning, at 9:40 a.m., a man’s body was found wrapped in plastic wrap. A Spring Garden neighborhood property owner discovered the body in a home that is under renovation to be converted into an apartment. Needless to say, an investigation is currently underway.
“We don’t know his manner of death other than it’s clearly under suspicious circumstances,” Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. Jack Ryan said. “Clearly he didn’t do it himself.”

Okay, so this is all getting a little weird and our true crime minds are spinning… obviously this guy didn’t do it himself!! 

Now didn’t I mention something about a third body?!

Photo courtesy of CW Philly

Tuesday afternoon, at 4:15 p.m., the body of a woman was found stuffed in a suitcase in Southwest Philadelphia. A passerby made the discovery while walking by a 2-foot-by-2-foot suitcase on the sidewalk within a housing development.

They noticed a strong odor and maggots coming from inside the luggage. They then uncovered the remains of an unidentified woman inside. As with the other bodies, investigators are working to identify the woman and determine the cause of death.

Photo courtesy of NBC Philadelphia

Unfortunately, cities are plagued with murder and death. Rates typically increase during the the warmer summer months. Clearly, the City of Brotherly Love is no exception to those statistics.

But what is going on here?! Three mysterious bodies all with mysterious deaths. Could Philly have a serial killer? I sure hope not, but I do hope that we come to the bottom of what happened to these people.

This hits close to home for us here at The Hex Files and I will update the post as details emerge. Stay safe out there, Philly!

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: The Story of James Joseph Richardson

Welcome back to Murder Monday, ya’ll. I’m going to break my pattern on local cases and sexually motivated crimes this week, which should make this one easier to get through for some of you. Unfortunately, this case is beyond fucked for many other reasons.

This case involves the deaths of numerous children, racial discrimination, and the flaws of our criminal justice system.

I have taken a particular interest in wrongful conviction cases recently, thanks to “Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom” by Revolver Podcasts. So I did some googling, and came across the particularly interesting case of James Joseph Richardson.

The United States has the highest rates of incarceration in the world, with around 2 million of its citizens currently behind bars. 1 percent of these convictions (approximately 20,000 people) are wrongfully convicted – 1 for every 25 convicts on death row are incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit. 4.1% of defendants on death row are proven guilty before meeting their death, thanks to organizations such as The Innocence Project. Since 1973, only 144 defendants sentenced to death in the U.S have been exonerated, which leaves an unknown number of innocent inmates who have met their death thanks to the death penalty.

I personally am all for capital punishment, and if you’ve read some of my prior posts on here you may already know that. I want every murderer, sex offender, and child abuser to watch that needle hit their vein, to feel their insides burn until their heart stops. I want every murderer to face a firing squad and watch the blood flow from their wounds as they take their final breath. I want every sex offender to stare into the eyes the person controlling their death, and feel the fear that their victims felt while they inflicted themselves upon them. I want every single child abuser to suffocate through inhaling toxic gas until they fucking croak. In my opinion, in a perfect world – it would be much easier to just kill off those sickos, and save the innocent. Unfortunately, just as much as it has helped us, our criminal justice system has failed us time and time again. Resulting in wrongful convictions, death sentences placed upon the innocent, and even worse – the real monsters that committed these crimes are still out there, free to rape, abuse, and kill. So before I continue, I encourage you to check out some of the links at the bottom of this post and donate to one of these projects for innocent inmates, or at the very least, take some time to read about the cases and educate yourselves.

African Americans are only 13% of the American population but a majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated are black males. They constitute 47% of the 1,900 total exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations (as of October 2016). Just because they have been exonerated does not justify that innocent people have spent time in prison. This should never happen in the first place.

Meet James Joseph Richardson.

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Arcadia, Florida – 1967

James Joseph Richardson was a migrant farm worker, working on an orange grove. He and his wife, Annie Mae Richardson, had 5 children together. Annie Mae had two children from a previous marriage, and they raised the seven children together, who ranged in age from 2-8.

October 25, 1967

James and Annie Mae were sent word that one of their children had fallen ill, and they left the groves to report to the hospital. It was unknown to them at the time, but six of their children were already deceased by the time they arrived. Their seventh and only remaining child would pass away the next day. They died after eating a poisoned lunch containing the organic phosphate pesticide parathion.

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The couple’s neighbor, Bessie Reece, took care of the three youngest children while the other four attended school. That day, the children returned home from school to Bessie and their siblings at lunch time. They ate a meal of rice and beans that their mother had prepared for them the night before and returned to school. The children started displaying strange symptoms and a concerned teacher brought it to the attention of the principle, who decided to take the four sick children to the hospital. Another teacher went to their home to check on the other children, and found them to be ill as well. All seven children, from 2 years old to 8 years old, would pass away in the next 24 hours.

‭Joseph H. Minoughan of the Arcadia Police Department was the first officer to arrive at the hospital. After determining that all of the children were from the same family, he headed to the home to search for any evidence. All he found in relation to poison was a type of bug repellent that was not related to the chemicals found in the children. Four officers searched the family home on five separate occasions and no poison of any kind was found – until the next day, when a two pound sack of parathion was discovered in the shed out behind the house. The police immediately suspected that whoever placed the bag there must have been the murderer – but Bessie Reece (the children’s babysitter) started pointing fingers at random locals.

The day after this, Officer Cline (an investigating detective on the case) came forward with news that James Richardson had discussed life insurance policies on the children the night before their poisoning. Yet statements from Richardson and his insurance salesmen were conflicting. The children’s funeral was held at the end of the week, and two days later Cline charged Robinson with seven counts of murder. The town started buzzing that Cline was just looking for a big break to have his name noticed in the police department.

During the trial, accusations of Richardson having children who passed away in another state came out, but were never confirmed. The insurance salesmen was brought to the stand, but it was never determined if he was invited to the Richardson home or if he was soliciting door to door the night before. Evidence of Bessie Reece being out on parole was released, but reasons for her prior convictions were not specified. The judge provided evidence of Annie Mae and James both taking lie detector tests, which indicated that James “had knowledge” of the poisoning.

After hearing that the judge in Richardson’s case was so openly accusing him of being guilty, John S. Robinson (a 30-year-old white lawyer) came forward offering help. He told Richardson he believed his case was being handled poorly, and offered to reach out to the NAACP for help as well. Richardson accepted this support and chose Robinson as his lawyer. Richardson confided in Robinson that Officer Cline has repeatedly called him the N-word, and told him to plea guilty to get an easier sentence. He was pushing him, and Robinson wouldn’t allow that. He was able to have Richardson’s bail dropped from the initial $100,000 down to $7,500 and Richardson was released on bail.

James Joseph Richardson was sentenced to death for the murders of his children, but was saved in 1972 when the U.S Supreme Court ruled the death penalty as “unconstitutional.” He was still in for a life in prison, and would be eligible for parole in 1993.

He was convicted guilty by a jury of peers that was entirely Caucasian.

1988

Remember the babysitter of the children who had last seen them during lunch? The babysitter who was out on parole for unknown crimes? Bessie Reece was living in an assisted living home with Alzheimer’s disease, and reportedly admitted to the murders hundreds of times — but no one ever took her seriously due to her mental illness. Bessie Reece was a convicted murderer who had killed her husband 10 years prior, and guess how she did it? You nailed it – poison. She died in 1992 before her confessions were ever further investigated. The word of her prior conviction and her confessions got around, and efforts to free James Richardson were sparked back up yet again.

1989

October 25, 1989, a hearing was held in Arcadia in the same courthouse where Richardson had been convicted more than 21 years earlier. His lawyers presented the insufficient evidence and testimony used to sentence their client, and spoke of the grave injustices he faced in prison. There was evidence of a cover-up by Sheriff Frank Cline, State Attorney Frank Schaub and his deputy, Treadwell, as well as the local judge. It was determined that Richardson did not have a fair trial, and he was released to the custody of his lawyers.

Richardson found a job working on a health resort, but unfortunately was struggling with his health and mental state and it did not last very long. His wife Annie Mae who had remained faithful for most of his time in prison, decided to divorce him. Shortly after, he had another heart attack – he had already suffered through one in prison, and received open heart surgery in the prison hospital. Richardson filed a claim under Florida’s wrongful conviction compensation law, which provides compensation for wrongful imprisonment of $50,000 a year. It is unclear whether he ever received this. In 2014, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law House Bill 227 – which provides compensation to a wrongfully incarcerated person who was convicted and sentenced prior to December 31, 1979, and who is otherwise exempt from other state provisions for compensation because the case may have been reversed by a special prosecutor’s review and nolle prosequi rather than being overturned by a court. The law is so narrowly circumscribed that it is likely that Richardson will be the only individual eligible for compensation under it. He was expected to be awarded $1.2 million – yet he never received any of it.

This innocent man had his young children murdered in his own home – poisoned right under his nose. He buried seven tiny caskets, and was arrested two days later. He served over 20 years in prison, some of which on death row, for crimes that he did not commit. He suffered from violence in prison and botched surgeries for his heart conditions. He lost his wife, his home, the job he loved. He sat in a jail cell for 20 years staring at a wall, with no sunlight, for almost 8,000 days. He used to get paid to pick oranges on the grove in the sunlight every day before traveling home to his seven children and the love of his life. His life, his loves, everything he once knew, was stolen from him. And for absolutely no fucking reason.

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There are cases far more captivating then this, such as Making a Murderer, The Staircase, Amanda Knox, Casey Anthony, The Keepers – you know, a list of white people who very clearly committed the crimes at hand but for some reason have thousands of people rooting for their innocence and dumping millions of dollars into making documentaries about them. These cases, whether you believe the defendants to be guilty or not, were supported by factual concrete evidence in a court of law. This is presented to you in the documentaries – and I’m not saying I believe every single one of them to be guilty, but it is up to you to decide whether you believe them or not. Now, if a documentary paints the defendant as innocent, you’re probably going to believe that they are innocent. Just like if you are on the jury, in the courthouse, and the prosecution paints the defendant to be guilty. It is the right of every convict to face a fair trial. That is how this is supposed to work.

No one ever served time for the murder for the seven Richardson children, all under the age of 8. So again, in choosing which wrongful convictions to support, please remember the urgency of the innocent inmates being proved innocent. For every day that the wrongfully convicted are locked away, the real monsters walk free with another chance to kill or assault. There are so many factors to the importance of contributing to the research and funds for the release of the innocent.

Being an inmate in California for one year, as of 2017, costs more then a years tuition at Harvard University ($75,000). The average taxpayer cost for inmates nationwide is around $31,000 per inmate a year. In a recent study, after death penalty case costs were counted through to execution, there was said to be a median cost of $1.26 million. Non-death penalty case costs were counted through to the end of incarceration, the median cost was $740,000.

Take some time to educate yourself and donate money or even just time to some of these projects for the innocent. You are already currently paying for their incarceration with your tax dollars.

https://www.innocenceproject.org

See you next week.

Sources:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Joseph_Richardson

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/07/519012758/black-people-are-wrongly-convicted-of-murder-more-often-data-shows

The Kensington Strangler

Welcome back to Murder Monday.

For all our local supporters, if last week’s episode didn’t give you the creeps about some familiar spots in Philadelphia – let me try again.

Meet the Kensington Strangler.

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November 3rd, 2010

The body of Elaine Goldberg, a 21-year-old nursing student, was found half naked and strangled to death in a vacant lot in Kensington. Police originally thought the cause of death to be a drug overdose, judging from the area and the victim’s past. Elaine had just celebrated 30 days sober from heroin, she was on the right track with nursing school and had family and friends supporting her fully. Her body was found near evidence of drug use and paraphernalia, which also pointed towards an overdose. Her death was ruled suspicious, though, after police noticed that her hips had been propped up and posed postmortem – indicating a sexual assault or motive. It was determined that she died from strangulation, and that she had been sexually assaulted after her death. DNA was found inside of her, thought to be that of the killer.

November 13th, 2010

Another suspicious death was reported in Kensington. A body was found in the doorway of a vacant row home. It was surrounded by human feces, used needles, trash, and used condoms. The victim was identified as 35-year-old Nicole Piacentini, a mother of four. Her hips were also positioned upwards following her death by strangulation. Police now knew they had a serial rapist on their hands.

December 15th, 2010

The body of 27-year-old Casey Mahoney was found battered and strangled in the same neighborhood as the recent attacks. Her body was positioned upwards and naked from the waist down, with a bag over her face.

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In this same time period, four other women escaped an attack of a similar nature involving a sexual assault and strangling. Police presence was heightened, and local sex workers and drug offenders were on high alert. A $37,000 reward was put out as an offer to the public for information leaving to the suspect’s attest.

“Get this psycho off the streets of Philadelphia”
– Mayor Nutter (ur boy)

January 2011

DNA evidence and the involvement of the FBI lead to an arrest. Antonio Rodriguez, a previously convicted drug offender out on parole, confessed to the murders of Elaine Goldberg, Nicole Piacentini, and Casey Mahoney. At the time he was also the suspect of at least 3 other sexual assaults. According to forensic psychologists, Rodriguez fit the profile of a sexual serial killer.

Sexual serial killers often choose strangulation as he method for their killings because it is up close, and personal. Using your bare hands gives you an unmeasurable sense of personal strength and control. They could look their victim in the eyes as they watch the life leave them, all on their own timing. It is common for sexual serial killers and deviants to choke their victims to the point of death and then release them for air, repeatedly. The sense of control over someone’s life in the grip of your hand is said to be sexually stimulating for these people. FBI’s profiling for this case also stated that this type of crime would have been committed by a 25-35 year old man – but Rodriguez got an early start, apparently.

What stood out particularly to authorities following the arrest of Rodriguez was that he strictly crossed a racial line in every one of his attacks. In most cases, white serial killers have white victims, and black serial killers have black victims, etc. (to be clear – this is solely based on SERIAL attackers. Interracial crime is actually approaching an all time high in America currently). On the other hand, most serial killers also have a particular type, they hunt – they pick and chose. It is more common for serial sex offenders to stay within their own race. Rodriguez absolutely had a type, even in his suspected surviving victims. All of his victims were 20-40 year old slim white female sex workers. After his arrest, he claimed he “didn’t mean to kill them”…

Antonio Rodriguez was convicted of three counts of rape and murder, and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and abuse of a corpse. He is serving three consecutive life sentences.

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Stay safe out there, neighbors.
See you next week.

sources:

http://philadelphiacriminallawnews.com/2010/12/casey-mahoneys-death-linked-to-previous-kensington-murders.html

https://abcnews.go.com/US/confessed-kensington-strangler-antonio-rodriguez/story?id=12648308

https://www.cnn.com/2012/08/16/us/pennsylvania-strangler-conviction/index.html

The Frankford Slasher

Welcome back to Murder Monday.

This week I’m going to do my first *unsolved* crime – and if you’re from our home base area, he might be right in your backyard.

Meet the Frankford Slasher.

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Not to be confused with the Kensington Strangler (we’ll talk about him another time).

8:30 a.m., August 26, 1985

A half nude and clearly deceased female was found by transit workers at the SEPTA train yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the section of the city known as Frankford. The woman’s clothing was removed from the waist down and she was positioned in a provocative manor, with her legs open and her blouse pulled up to reveal her chest. The next day she was identified as Helen Patent, 52, of Parkland, PA. The autopsy revealed that the cause of her death was from 47 stab wounds to her head and chest after she had been sexually assaulted. She also had one deep slash across her abdomen, leaving her organs fully exposed as she died. She was last seen by her ex-husband at their home seven days prior. She was known to frequent Frankford area bars.

January 3rd, 1986

Ten miles away from where Helen Patent’s body was found was the discovery of Anna Carroll. On the 1400 block of Ritner Street in South Philly, 68-year-old Anna Carroll was found lying on the floor of her bedroom after someone found her front door open on a cold day. She was also positioned in a provocative manor and nude from the waist down. She died from six stab wounds to the back. There was also a gaping postmortem wound going from her breastbone to her groin, and there was a kitchen knife left inside of her. It appeared her attacker had literally tried to gut her like a fish. Anna Carroll was also known to frequent Frankford area bars, but this connection was not made until the next murder occurred.

Christmas Day, 1986

Nearly a year later, 64-year-old Susan Olszef was found murdered in her home on Richmond Street after the front door had been left open. She had also been stabbed in the back six times.

After the third crime, the connection was made that all three victims had been regularly seen at the Frankford Avenue bar Goldie’s. Amongst many other problems that got in the way of this murder investigation, the nightlife at the time was booming, not only from the prosperity that the El was bringing to town but also the convenience of the area. This area was well known for its drugs and bars and although it appeared run down, it had also been the scene of the film ‘Rocky’ which seemed to have made people less weary of it.

7:30 a.m., January 8th, 1987

Jeanne Durkin’s body was discovered beneath a storage truck just off of Frankford Avenue. She had been stabbed in the back, chest, and buttocks 74 times. She was lying in a pool of blood, nude from the waist down, positioned with her legs spread. Blood was spattered along the fence next to the truck, and an autopsy showed she had been sexually assaulted. Jeanne Durkin lived on the streets, and was most commonly seen sleeping in the doorway of a bakery just two doors down from Goldie’s bar (not surprised).

By the fourth victim, it was finally now clear that Philadelphia had a serial killer on their hands, but they were busy in the midst of figuring out several other series of crimes as well. The Frankford Slasher was active right around the same time that Gary Heidnik AND Harrison “Marty” Graham were busted. The city was in over its head.

January of 1988

Police had reported to the local papers that the crimes might not be related despite similar circumstances, but changed their mind in the following year. In January came the murder of Margaret Vaughan, a 66 -year-old woman who had been evicted that same day from an apartment just 3 blocks away from where Jeanne Durkin’s body was found. Margaret Vaughan was stabbed 29 times, and, you guessed it, positioned in a provocative manor. Police came up with a sketch of a man who was seen drinking with Margaret the night before at Goldie’s. He was a barmaid, a Caucasian man with a round face who walked with a limp and wore glasses. No one came forward to identify the man.

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January 19th, 1989

Theresa Sciortino, 30, was found in her apartment stabbed 25 times. She was found three blocks away from the fifth victim, and lived just one block off of Frankford. Police discovered that Sciortino and Durkin, two of the victims, had both recently been in several psychiatric institutions and were under outpatient care and treatment at the time of their murders. Sciortino was found in a pool of her own blood on the kitchen floor, lying face up, with 25 stab wounds caused by a kitchen knife left at the scene next to a bloodied 3-foot long piece of wood that had been used to sexually assault her. Oh, and guess what else — she was a regular at Goldie’s (ya’ll are seriously trippin’ for even letting women leave this bar by themselves at this point….. the fuck is wrong w u).

2 a.m., April 29, 1990

A patrol officer discovered the nude body of Carol Dowd in an alley behind Newman’s Sea Food at 4511 Frankford Avenue. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 36 times. One of the wounds went across her stomach, and her intestines were left spilled out of her body. Carol Dowd had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was in and out of mental institutions, something else she had in common with other victims in the slashings.

Police began interviewing employees of the fish market and came across Leonard Christopher, who worked there and lived nearby. He encountered the police in the alley way that morning and stated he figured they were there investigating another burglary because there had been several recently. He spoke further with police upon finding out that it was, in fact, a murder investigation. Leonard Christopher admitted that he knew one of the earlier victims, Margaret Vaughan. They questioned his girlfriend, who could not form an alibi for him. He claimed to have been home alone that night, but witnesses placed him at the bar that night with Dowd.

May 5th, 1990

Leonard Christopher was arrested and arraigned on charges of robbery, abuse of a corpse, murder, and possession of an instrument of crime. A witness said they had seen him sweaty with a large knife in his belt the night of the most recent murder. His coworkers and landlord vouched for his good character. A search of his apartment turned up clothing with blood on it, but his coworkers said it was only due to him cleaning up the mess from the crime that was left in the alley at his place of work. One witness claimed to have seen him exiting that same alley way that night, but another witness said they had seen Dowd leaving the bar with a “date” in his vehicle.

June 20th, 1990

Christopher was ordered to stand trial for the murder of Dowd and the evidence was deemed sufficient. Neighbors were relieved to know the spree was over and that they would be safe.

But nope! Not quite.

Leonard Christopher was a young black man, not the middle aged white man that was seen with all of the other victims around the time of their murders, yet he was jailed without parole for the murder of Dowd on September 6, 1990.

September 6th, 1990

You fucking guessed it. While the suspect believed to be responsible for the murders was in jail for murder without parole, another body was found. Michelle Denher, 30-years-old, was found murdered in her efficiency apartment just one block off of Frankford. Interestingly enough, Michelle Dehner has previously been a suspect for the killings because she had been seen fighting over a blanket with another victim. She went from suspect to victim when she was sexually assaulted and stabbed 23 times with a final gaping slash to her stomach. This murder was only three blocks from the most recent attack, and on the same street as Sciortino’s murder. Michelle Denher was ALSO mentally ill. Locals referred to her as “crazy Michelle” – she would wander from bar to bar on Frankford, and if she wasn’t too busy drinking through her days, she’d sell pretzels on the street. A day and a half before her murder she was seen leaving a bar with a middle aged white male who fit the original description of the Frankford Slasher.

After this incident, the public outcried for the release of Leonard Christoper. In his court cause they described him as a “Rambo style killer” even though at the time of his arrest, he had no visible injuries, he cooperated with police investigations, there was no murder weapon recovered, and no so called “Rambo knife” – but he was sentenced anyway. Leonard Christopher is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Numerous women pointed to SEPTA workers as suspects, and the case took twists and turns that got completely out of hand. Theories formed that the murders could have been related to witchcraft, because at the time there was an apparent female cult presence in the neighborhood. They even practiced in a park nearby.

Investigation brought no new leads, and the case turned cold.

Thanks for tuning into this week’s Monday Monday. Enjoy your commute from the El after work tonight knowing that a sexually deviant stomach slashing serial killer picked his victims off of Frankford and never got caught. It was only 28 years ago. I’m sure he’s out there somewhere.

Here’s an absurd link I found on YouTube of a guy singing a song about the Frankford Slasher. God, I love the internet.

See ya next week!

sources:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankford_Slasher

https://www.google.com/amp/s/massmurderers.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/frankford-slasher/amp/

Everything You Need To Know About ‘The Staircase’ Owl Theory

If you’re a true crime fan, you’ve probably watched (or perhaps are currently watching) Netflix’s latest docuseries craze ‘The Staircase.’

‘The Staircase’ documents the events following the death of Kathleen Peterson, a woman found in a pool of her own blood at the bottom of a staircase in the Durham, North Carolina mansion she shared with her husband Michael. Naturally, Michael is accused of being responsible for her suspicious death, and the documentary follows his journey as he defends his innocence in the untimely passing of his wife.

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The staircase where Kathleen Peterson mysteriously met her end, photo courtesy of thegeekden.com

After watching ‘The Staircase,’ I was left feeling immensely torn. I just couldn’t fathom how Michael cold have beaten Kathleen to death without causing any fractures to her skull. At the same time, the photos of Kathleen at the bottom of that staircase seemed far too bloody to constitute an accidental fall down a couple of steps. And then I found what I am almost ashamed to admit may be the most plausible theory surrounding the death of Kathleen: she was murdered by an owl.

In 2008, Larry Pollard, an attorney and neighbor of the Petersons, proposed what has come to be known as the “Owl Theory.” He believes Kathleen suffered injuries from an owl attack that led to her death at the bottom of the stairwell.

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Larry Pollard, photo courtesy of newsobserver.com

If you watched the documentary, you’ll recall the struggle between prosecutors and the defense to explain the large lacerations to Kathleen’s scalp without any associated skull fracture. The prosecution argued Michael had beaten Kathleen over the head with a blow poke while the defense claimed she sustained this injuries during an accidental fall down the stairs. Pollard proposes a third explanation by stating that these lacerations actually occurred from an owl swooping down onto and attacking Kathleen on that fateful evening of December 9, 2001.

According to Pollard, Kathleen was attacked by an owl (not an uncommon occurrence, apparently) as she arranged reindeer Christmas decorations outside. He believes the owl may have mistaken the decorations as prey, leading it to initiate the assault. Kathleen ran into the house to take cover, attempted to go up the stairs, but fell backward down them. He suggests that in her drunken, injured and partially conscious state, she tried to get up several times, causing the infamous blood splatter on the walls of the stairwell.

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Diagram of Kathleen Peterson’s autopsy, photo courtesy of wral.com

As crazy as this may seem, maybe it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. According to the SBI report, Kathleen actually had a microscopic feather and sliver of wood from a tree limb in her hand, along with her own hair, when they examined her body. Assuming they had nothing to do with her death, examiners disregarded these findings.

Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, the director of ‘The Staircase,’ also views the owl theory as being a possibility. According to Lestrade, “The first time I heard about the owl theory, I really laughed. But when I started looking at it and I met with Larry Pollard… It might be the more plausible explanation. How can you explain all the cuts and lacerations and the absence of fractures? When you start thinking about the owl theory, and the kind of injuries she had, you start thinking maybe there is something there.”

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Michael Peterson with his lead defense attorney David Rudolf, photo courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

Even Michael Peterson’s lead defense attorney, David Rudolf, said the following regarding the owl theory: “When you step back and really start getting familiar with the fact that there have been literally scores if not hundreds of documented instances of owl attacking the heads of people… and you look at the wounds and you compare them with the talons of an owl, it starts having some real credibility.”

The theory has also been backed up by multiple expert witnesses. University of Minnesota professor of veterinary medicine Dr. Patrick T. Redig, who stated such an attack is “entirely within the behavioural repertoire of large owls.” Kate P. Davis, director of Raptors of the Rockies, reported that the lacerations “look very much like those made by a raptor’s talons, especially if she had forcibly torn the bird from the back of her head.” Davis goes on to say this would also explain why Kathleen’s body presented with her hand holding clumps of her hair that also contained the feather and wood sliver.

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The lacerations to Kathleen’s scalp juxtaposed with an owl talon, photo courtesy of owltheory.blog.lemonade.fr

And, as I stated above, owl attacks are not uncommon, especially in Durham. On NBC’s Dateline episode of the Peterson case, they interviewed a man who was once attacked by an owl. He stated the attack felt like being hit with a baseball bat, and that he bled so much he thought he had lost his eye.

If you are interested in learning more about Pollard’s owl theory, I highly recommend listening to episode 9 of the podcast Beyond Reasonable Doubt?. The episode is only 17 minutes long but thoroughly explores this bizarre yet surprisingly plausible theory.

All in all, it appears as though the only person who knows what happened in the stairwell the night of December 9, 2011 is buried beneath a beautiful rose bush in Durham’s Maplewood Cemetery. If only walls could talk — what would they say?

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Kathleen Peterson’s grave, photo courtesy of newsobserver.com

SOURCES

Esquire

The News & Observer

Vulture

Jumped or Pushed? The Spreckels Mansion Mystery

I have been patiently waiting for a week when Tess needed a cover again for #MurderMonday so I could talk about this completely bizarre case. As you might be able to tell based on my last pick for #MurderMonday, complex, unsolved cases are kind of my thing.

But before we get into it, I’m excited to tell you guys that this is an extra special #MurderMonday because we have teamed up with True Crime Magazineto offer you guys 40% OFF your first purchase! True Crime Magazine is a best-selling true crime publication offering you the ultimate journey through the criminal mind. You can’t possibly call yourself a true crime enthusiast without a subscription to this e-magazine and now you can get it for a great price using the code HEXFILES at checkout. I’ll give you all a moment to go get your subscriptions and then I’ll meet you back here for this week’s #MurderMonday feature.

Okay, now that you’re all subscribed to True Crime Magazine, let’s get back to your regularly scheduled #MurderMonday. This case was actually introduced to me by my aunt (I have to say, it’s pretty fantastic how supportive my family has been about me starting a blog and podcast about murder, demons, etc. — hi, Aunt Jan!) and I’ve been dying to talk about it more. So, without further adieu, I present to you: the Spreckles Mansion mystery.

I use the term “mystery” because, well, that’s what it is. Was it a suicide? Or was it a murder? I know what my opinion is, but I’ll give you the facts and let you decide.

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Photo courtesy of travelandleisure.com

Welcome to beautiful Coronado Island, California.

On Coronado, there is a magnificent home known as Spreckels Mansion, a gorgeous 26-room French Baroque chateau designed for Adolph Spreckels, son of sugar tycoon and entrepreneur Claus Spreckels. The stunning mansion was purchased in 2007 by pharmaceutical tycoon Jonah Shacknai for close to $13 million dollars as a summer home. According to Shacknai’s former wife, Dina, Coronado was the chosen location because “… you felt like nothing bad could happen in Coronado.” But unfortunately, something bad did happen. In fact, multiple bad things happened.

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Sprenkels Mansion, photo courtesy of welcometocoronado.com

In July of 2011, Dina received the call that no parent ever wants to receive: Dina and Jonah’s 6-year-old son, Max, was in a medically-induced coma at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Max had suffered a fall over a railing on the second floor of the mansion. Unfortunately, Max’s devastating fall would not be the only tragedy the mansion would see that week, but hold that thought.

It was concluded that Max had been running down the hallway at the top of the stairs when he went over the balcony, hit or tried to grab onto a chandelier, hit a banister before finally crashing to the floor. The young boy was found face-down beside the fallen chandelier.

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Photo courtesy of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department

At the time of Max’s fall, his father, 54-year-old Jonah, was not home. Watching Max was Jonah’s girlfriend of two years, 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau, who claims she was using the restroom at the time of the accident but rushed out the moment she heard the crash. Two days after Max’s fall, Rebecca was found hanging naked from one of the mansion’s balconies, her hands and feet bound with rope.

“I got a girl, hung herself.”

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The balcony where Rebecca Zahau was found hanging, photo courtesy of ABC News

Rebecca’s body was discovered by Adam Shacknai, Jonah’s brother. Adam had flown in from Tennessee to be with his brother during the difficult days following the accident, but was in the mansion’s guest house the evening of Rebecca’s death while Jonah was at the children’s hospital with Max. Only Rebecca and Adam were home the night of July 12th. Adam told investigators he had been watching porn that evening in the guest house and had not gone into the main house. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m going to fly across the country to be with my family during a tragic time, I’m probably going to actually be with my family and not be back at their house watching a porno (if that’s what he was actually even doing, if you catch my drift). Regardless, the morning of July 13th, Adam discovered Rebecca’s body, cut her down and then called 911. Below is the audio of Adam’s call.

As you can hear in the audio clip, Adam performed CPR on Rebecca while waiting for emergency services to arrive. However, the only fingerprints and DNA found at the scene were Rebecca’s, despite the fact that Adam had cut her body down and also tried to resuscitate her. Investigators did not find Adam’s fingerprints on the knife he had used to cut Rebecca down. Adam also showed investigators the table he had stood on to cut her down — a 3-legged table. As you can imagine, it would prove quite difficult for a grown man to stand on a 3-legged table and be supported enough to then cut down a lifeless corpse.

If you think all this is strange, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

When investigators discovered the scene left behind in the bedroom attached to the balcony from which Rebecca’s body was found, it was certainly puzzling. On the door to the bedroom was a cryptic message written in black paint: “She saved him, can you save her.” Investigators also took note of a book found on one of Rebecca’s shelves: “Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft” which included images of a rite with a woman with her hands tied behind her back. Rebecca’s toe and heel prints were found on the balcony, as well as a print from a male boot.

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Rebecca Zahau’s bound feet, photo courtesy of cbs8.com

Let’s jump back to how Rebecca’s body had been found. She was naked. She was gagged with a T-shirt. Her feet were bound. Her hands were bound in complex sailing knots that Rebecca would have had to do blindly considering her hands were bound behind her back (seriously, think about how difficult this would be to do). Oh, and did I mention Adam Shacknai worked for a tugboat company and was very familiar with various nautical knots?

Dr. Lisa Boeski is a clinical psychologist who specializes in suicide cases. According to her, there are known suicides where the decedent had bound their hands as an attempt to keep them from changing their minds during the act, though very rare and never with such complex rope-tying. She also adds that she is unaware of any other suicide case, attempted or completed, where the decedent was gagged or their feet were bound, making Zahau’s suicide completely unique (if a suicide at all). Dr. Boeski also pointed out that the message on the door was written in the third-person, another unusual occurrence in a suicide case.

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Rebecca Zahau and Jonah Shacknai, photo courtesy of people.com

As investigators sorted through the strange evidence and tried to make sense of Rebecca’s suspicious death, Max Shacknai died on July 17th, 2011 at the age of 6 from injuries related to the traumatic fall. In an interview, Jonah Shacknai stated, “All I can think of, is that Rebecca saw what happened, felt responsible in some way, not that she did anything, but she was entrusted with Max. And that was too much to bear.” But let us not forget, Rebecca’s suicide occurred days before Max’s death. At the time of Rebecca’s hanging, Max was in critical condition but still alive.

On August 20th, 2011, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department ruled Rebecca’s death as a suicide, stating that her autopsy as well as DNA and fingerprints left at the scene did not show a sign of an attack. They presented this video to show how Rebecca would have been able to bind her own hands behind her back to support. According to them, the boot print found in addition to Rebecca’s toe and heel prints on the balcony were accidentally left behind by a police officer when investigating the scene.

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Adam Shacknai, photo courtesy of AZcentral.com

On April 4, 2018, a 12-member-jury found Adam Shacknai guilty of Rebecca’s death in a 9-3 vote. Jurors awarded $5 million dollars to Rebecca’s family, but for her mother and sister, it isn’t about the money. They just want to see justice for Rebecca. Because this was a civil trial, there does not need to be a unanimous decision. Also, Shacknai will not face any criminal charges and cannot be sentenced to prison.

In conclusion, did Rebecca go over a railing because Max went over a railing? Or did this poor woman feel so much guilt related to the young boy’s accident that she took her own life in such a dramatic fashion? I hope for the sake of Rebecca’s family that one day, this case will be reopened.

Sources

ABC News 1

ABC News 2

Atlas Obscura

AZ Central 1

AZ Central 2

Marcia Clark Investigates the First 48: The Spreckels Mansion Mystery

NBC San Diego

Town & Country