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

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History’s Most Terrifying Female Serial Killers, Part VI: Juana Barraza

In parts IV and V we covered two of history’s least grandmotherly grannies Nannie Doss and Leonarda Cianciulli. As ruthless as these women were they would have been no match for today’s killer, whose crimes earned her the nickname La Mataviejitas, The Old Lady Killer.

Juana Barraza was born in Hidalgo, Mexico in 1957. Like almost all of the women in this series she began her life a victim of those around her. Her parents were Trinidad Barraza, a policeman, and Justa Samperio, a prostitute. Justa left her partner shortly after giving birth to Juana, and the two shared a cold and unloving relationship as she grew.

When she was just 12 years old, Juana’s mother sold her to a man, Jose Lugo, allegedly  for the paltry sum of three beers. For four years she lived with his abuse and was impregnated by him on two occasions, however both ended in miscarriages. After Justa died of cirrhosis, Juana fled to Mexico City.

It was here that Juana, now free of her mother and her abuser, began to take hold of her own life. She held a number of jobs throughout the 80’s and set about making a lifelong dream of hers into a reality. Juana was obsessed with the sport of lucha libre, Mexican masked wrestling, and idolized the fighters, called luchadors.

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Juana Barraza as La Dama de Silencio. source

She became a regular at local matches, often sitting in the front row of the arenas. She eventually made her way into the wrestling world, organizing events and even getting in the ring herself. Juana cut an imposing figure and could bench up to 200 lbs at the height of her wrestling career. She toured central Mexico as a luchador who went by La Dama de Silencio, The Lady of Silence. The name was reflective of Juana’s shy, reserved nature outside of the ring.

By the 90’s Juana had fallen on hard times. She had four children from a number of failed relationships, and supporting them all as a single mother was costly. In 1995, after the birth of her fourth child, she took to stealing from shops and burglarizing homes to help make ends meet.

She and a friend, Araceli Tapia Martinez, combined efforts in a scheme to rob the elderly. The pair would gain entry into people’s homes dressed in all white, claiming to be nurses or social workers. Once inside they would make their way through the house and relieve the occupant of their valuables.

This would become Juana’s modus operandi, except that she rarely stopped at just robbing her victims during these unprompted house calls. In the early 2000’s there was a sharp uptick in murders involving elderly women in Mexico City. When the press picked up the story rumors spread of a new serial killer dubbed El Mataviejitas. Note the use of the masculine “el,” as no one believed these brutal crimes could possibly be the work of a woman.

Juana’s first victim was María de la Luz González, who apparently made some derogatory remarks toward the woman intruding in her apartment. Juana didn’t take kindly to whatever was said and answered by beating González before strangling her to death with her bare hands.

Bodies began to pile up and in 2003 police confirmed the long standing rumor that a serial killer was likely responsible. Despite eyewitness accounts of a woman leaving the scene of these crimes, police held stubbornly to the original assertion that a man was behind the killings. Many of the city’s transgender and transvestite population were rounded up and questioned but none of their prints matched the ones lifted from the crime scenes.

By 2006, the El Mataviejitas murders had subsided leading investigators to suspect the serial killer had committed suicide. Fingerprints of all recent arrivals to the city’s morgues were taken and checked against the crime scene prints but once again no matches were found.

The ultimate break in the case occurred January 25, 2006, when a tenant spotted Juana leaving the scene of the murder of landlady Ana Maria de los Reyes Alfaro. Officers patrolling the area responded to the call and arrested Juana.

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Bust and composite sketches of El Mataviejitas. source

Once in custody, investigators posed Juana next to composite sketches and a bust made of her based on eyewitness testimony. Authorities were eager to give the appearance they had been on her trail for some time when almost every step of the case seemed to indicate the opposite. Juana had even showed her face inside of a police station and in a TV interview about wrestling just weeks prior to her arrest.

A search of her home revealed a trophy room full of newspaper clippings of her murders and a number of objects taken from her victim’s homes. In addition to the mementos police found altars to Jesús Malverde and Santa Muerte, folk saints revered by individuals in the Mexican crime world.

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Juana appearing for trial. source

Juana was tried in spring 2008, the prosecution sought charges in connection with 40 murders. She confessed only to Alfaro, her most recent victim. By the end of her trial on 31 March, she was found guilty of 16 counts of murder and aggravated burglary and sentenced to 759 years in prison. Maximum sentence under Mexican law is 60 years, so Juana will be up for parole in 2058 should she live to see 100.

Sources:

Criminal Minds Wiki – “Juana Barraza” 

Murderpedia – “Juana Barraza”, “The Lady Killer”

J.H. Moncrieff – “The Startling True Story of Mexico’s “Old Lady Killer””

Another Reason To Support Capital Punishment: The Murder of Gabriel Fernandez

The following includes descriptive acts of violence and counts of extreme child abuse. If at any point you feel distressed, there is a list for help lines at the bottom of this page.

Welcome back to Murder Monday.

Today we’re going to touch base on a little thing called capital punishment.

cap·i·tal pun·ish·ment
ˈkapədl ˈpəniSHmənt/
noun
1. the legally authorized killing of someone as punishment for a crime.

Where is capital punishment legal in the US?

The death penalty is legal in 31 states and illegal in 19 states (and DC). The “legal” and “illegal” designations in the “Death Penalty Status” column are based on the US Department of Justice’s “Capital Punishment” reports.

All 31 states with the death penalty provide lethal injection as the primary method of execution. Some states allow methods other than lethal injection, but only as secondary methods to be used merely at the request of the prisoner or if lethal injection is unavailable.

In the following states, death row inmates with an execution warrant may choose to be executed by:
* Electrocution in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia
* Gas inhalation in Arizona and California
* Firing squad in Utah
* Hanging in Washington

Depending on the state, the following alternative methods are statutorily provided in the event that lethal injection is either found unconstitutional by a court or unavailable for practical reasons:
* Electrocution in Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee
* Gas inhalation in Alabama, California, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming
* Firing squad in Oklahoma and Utah
* Hanging in New Hampshire

As we all know, capital punishment/the death penalty is a popular topic of debate. There are many sides to this argument. Was the person proven guilty without a reasonable doubt? Was the evidence collected or presented enough to convict the suspect? What was the severity of the crime? And most importantly to me, was the crime committed enough for me to personally wish death upon this person? Or was it *just* shitty enough for me to be okay with them rotting in a jail cell, being fed daily and having basic privileges, while I ultimately end up paying for their care? Obviously, there are many many other factors that come into play on this topic. For me, personally, I support capital punishment. Especially when it’s sentence falls upon someone who damn well deserves to be put to death – rapists, murderers, sex offenders, and child abusers.

Meet Pearl Fernandez & Isauro Aguirre.

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Pearl Fernandez called 911 on May 22, 2013 to report that her son was not breathing. She told sheriff’s deputies who arrived at the apartment that Gabriel had fallen and hit his head on a dresser, according to testimony. When paramedics arrived, they found Gabriel naked in a bedroom, not breathing. His skull was cracked, he had three broken ribs and BB pellets were found embedded in his lung and groin. He died two days later.

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“It was just like every inch of this child had been abused,” – James Cermak, a Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedic

Gabriel died as a result of blunt force trauma and child neglect, but this was after months and maybe even years of pure torture. Gabriel’s 13-year-old brother testified against their mother and her boyfriend. The court has been struggling to figure out just exactly how this case had slipped through the cracks of child services for as long as it did. The couple allegedly hid the boy’s injuries through doctors notes and sent him to school with them. His school had called the authorities before when the young boy showed signs of being suicidal, so the couple began claiming that the boy’s injuries were all self-induced.

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Gabriel Fernandez was born in 2005, and shortly after his birth he was transferred to the custody of relatives due to his mother’s troubled history. In 2012, Pearl Fernandez reclaimed her children. Just two weeks later, while in the care of his mother, Gabriel demonstrated to his second grade teacher that he knew how to “snort cocaine.” His mother was already the target of six different child abuse investigations, one of which resulting from Gabriel telling a therapist that his mother forced him to perform oral sex on a family member, shot him with a BB gun, and then beat him with a belt until he bled. This was around the time that teachers discovered the child’s suicide letters. Again, this is an 8-year-old child… writing suicide letters.

I warned you before, and will warn you again – this is an extremely graphic case. Please do not continue to read if you are feeling emotionally distressed.

The torture performed on this child, as testified in a court of law by his own siblings, is as follows:

Gabriel Fernandez’s 16-year-old brother, who was identified in court as Ezequiel C., told jurors he recalled his little brother being hit by his mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, and frequently being kept in a “box” in the couple’s bedroom. Photos of their bedroom showed two beds, room for Gabriel to sleep comfortably. His two older siblings would sleep in the same room where he was forced to sleep in a box.

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Other records of statements made by witnesses stated that the boy had been repeatedly pepper sprayed in the face at direct range, forced to eat cat feces, burned with lighters, forced to eat his own vomit, forced to perform sexual acts on unnamed family members, starved, shot with a BB gun, and other heinous acts I don’t feel the need to share. His death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head.

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Last week, in California, Isauro Aguirre, 37, was sentenced to death. Pearl Fernandez, 34, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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There is a special, special place in Hell for child abusers. Pearl Fernandez will rot in a jail cell paid for by our tax dollars, which makes me sick. But, if she is in prison surrounded by women who miss their children, I will rest assured knowing that she will feel the torture that her son felt behind those prison walls. Isauro will either die from lethal injection or gas inhalation. From what I’ve heard, lethal injection shuts down your brain and your body while you feel your insides burning until your heart stops. Although he will die quickly, for a brief moment before that motherfucker slips his last breath in, he will feel the the pain of being burned alive, just like Gabriel Fernandez did – and he fucking deserves it.

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See you next week.

Sources:

https://www.dailynews.com/2018/02/15/mother-of-gabriel-fernandez-8-pleads-guilty-to-first-degree-murder-in-his-beating-death/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Brother-of-Slain-8-Year-Old-Boy-Recounts-Harrowing-Tale-of-Abuse-451532973.html%3famp=y

Yet Another “Florida Man”: The Mental Break of Austin Hauroff

For those of you who weren’t scarred by last week’s topic, welcome back to Murder Monday! If I failed at making you uncomfortable last week, well, you’re probably a sociopath. I’m going to try a little harder this week, and if this doesn’t bother you, you’re definitely a sociopath. Or maybe that just makes me a sociopath… but anyways.

These week, were going to touch base on a little thing called cannibalism.

Cannibalism is the consumption of another human’s body matter, whether consensual or not. In the United States, there are no laws against cannibalism exactly, but most, if not all, states have enacted laws that indirectly make it impossible to legally obtain and consume the body matter.

For whatever reason, cannibalism seems to be the highest form of betrayal against humanity. Not only are you murdering someone, which is by far the worst thing you could do, but you’re consuming them. It seems to be glorified in headlines, like some sort of phenomena. Cannibalism is considered taboo in basically every place except for China, where it is often considered gourmet. Going all the way back to Hannibal Lector, to Jeffrey Dahmer, to Cannibal Cop — these people caught attention. Silence of the Lambs crushed the box office. Jeffrey Dahmer, well, we all know who he is. And Cannibal Cop actually got SYMPATHY of all things after numerous specials and documentaries came out about him (cry me a river, you fucking freak).

You may remember a series of incidents involving bath salts and a drug called “flakka” being associated with symptoms of cannibalism. All of the above are also, not surprisingly, associated with Florida… if you live in America and you have not yet realized that the most absurd crimes happen in Florida, you probably live in a cave. Flakka is a designer drug that can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed. It may also be combined with other, softer drugs such as marijuana. Flakka is most typically made from the chemical alpha-PVP, which is a synthetic version of the amphetamine-like stimulant cathinone. Cathinones are chemicals derived from the khat plant grown in the Middle East and Somalia, where the leaves are frequently chewed for a euphoric buzz. It is made from the same chemical family as “bath salts,” which were thought to be responsible for a man chewing another man’s face off in Miami in 2012. Turned out Rudy Eugen, the attacker in this incident, was not high on flakka. He was shot dead by police after an 18 minute rampage ending in him eating a man’s face from the beard up, even consuming his left eye. Rudy Eugene’s toxicology report only showed positive results for marijuana. Oddly enough, he was not the only “Florida Man” headline associated with cannibalism that was not positively linked to flakka, and not even the most bizarre.

Meet Austin Haurroff.

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Harrouff was born December 21, 1996 in Palm Beach Gardens. Neighbors and friends said that despite being a child of divorced parents, he had a good upbringing and a great childhood. The son of a dentist and pharmacist, Austin Harrouff hoped to enroll pre-med at a four-year university and one day earn a doctorate, according to his test reports in high school. He even took a test three times to improve his scores to meet college-prep benchmarks. In high school, Haurroff thrived in science, and later his passion shifted towards art. He attended Florida State University, and while studying exercise science and participating in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, records show Harrouff had no disciplinary history at FSU. He had a 3.2 GPA at FSU, just shy of a B+ average.

Notes and lists found in Haurroff’s phone from his freshman year at Florida State University showed that he was having strange thoughts.

“keep running even when they say you crazy”

“I don’t want to be worshipped but I know that I will be.”

Friends and family started noticing a shift in his attitude and behavior around this time. His parents said he became obsessed with helping people, so much so that he was losing sleep at night. His “notes” and poems got darker, his sleeping patterns worsened, and his friends distanced themselves out of fear. They said he started making claims of being “half-animal” (specifically half-horse) and bragging about his immortality. His own sister was looking her door at night out of fear that he may hurt her. It got so bad that his parents thought that they should take him for a mental evaluation, but they never did.

August 15, 2016

On August 15, 2016, Austin Haurroff’s parents grew more concerned than ever. According to his sister, Harley Haurroff, he seemed receptive to a conversation they had about therapy this day. “He always says weird shit,” she told Dr. Phil in a September 2016 interview. Later that day, while on a walk with his father, Austin Haurroff saw two turtle shells on the sidewalk, pulled out his pocket knife, and told his dad “something is gonna happen.”

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He was right, something was definitely going to happen.

He went to a local Duffy’s restaurant with his father and step-mother later that night, and he became irritated. He got up abruptly, left the restaurant, and walked twomiles to his mother’s house. When he arrived, he helped himself to dinner. At his mother’s house, his bedroom had been moved to the garage because he was convinced that there were demons in her house. He sat down and ate a bowl of olive oil full of parmesan cheese (what in the actual fuck) before his mom came in. His mother arrived at the home and found him drinking cooking oil out of a bottle, stopped him, and drove him back to Duffy’s. She then called police, and reported that she was concerned her son was showing signs of schizophrenia and “delusions”. When he got back to the restaurant, he started an argument with his father. His father grabbed him by the shirt, and questioned his behavior. Austin positioned himself to punch his father, but gave up and left the restaurant yet again.

“I’m so sick and tired of doing what I’m told,” Harrouff had written in a note on his phone 10 days earlier, according to records of his phone. “I’m going to leave my mark before I get old.”

This time when Austin Haurroff left Duffy’s restaurant, he walked 4 miles reportedly running from a “dark figure”, and ended up in the garage of John Stevens, a 59-year-old landscaper, and his wife, Michelle Mishcon, 53. He claims to have no recollection as to how he ended up here, but that he was “scared as hell” – as if John and Michelle weren’t.

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He stabbed Michelle Mishcon and her husband, John Stevens, in their garage. A neighbor witnessing the attack was also attacked while trying to help the couple. He was stabbed in the back before calling 911, but survived. When police arrived on scene, Austin Haurroff was crouched over John Steven’s body, spitting chunks of flesh out of his mouth and laughing. He reportedly drank a bottle of motor oil in their garage during the attack also. Austin Haurroff ate peices of John Stevens’ face before being taken into custody.

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Haurroff was charged with two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and burglary. It was oringinally assumed that he was under the influence of “flakka” or bath salts, but toxicology reports only showed minimal traces of THC and drugs that were administered to him upon treatment in the hospital after the attack. There was a small amount of alcohol in his system, but it is thought that this could just be from the oil that he drank in the garage.

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SO, no drugs, no booze, no diagnosed illness – after “weeks/months” of “irratic behavior” documented and reported by his own family, Austin Haurroff became a murderer, and he could have been stopped. He could have, and should have, recieved psychiatric attention or treatment – but he did not.

May 2018

Harrouff, 21, has been inmate No. 896298 since his arrest Oct. 3, 2016. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and single counts each of attempted murder, resisting an officer without violence and burglary of a dwelling while armed. His divorced parents have both showed unwavering support towards their son’s innocence. His father, Wade, has visited 61 times, and his mother, Mina, has visited 75. He is also visited bi-weekly by a minister. Harrouff has also been seen at least 34 times by his trio of attorneys, Nellie King, Robert Watson and Jordon Showe.

“Harrouff’s parents generally deposit about $200 every two or three weeks into his jail commissary account, which reports show has a running total of around $500.

Since October 2016, Harrouff has received $7,998 from his family. He’s also spent $7,679 on food, toiletry and paper items, and he pays a $3 daily fee to the jail administration, records confirm.

Harrouff spends most of his cash on a wide variety of snack foods — sour neon worms, Oreo cookies and Doritos cool ranch are particular favorites, along with Ramen noodles, chicken breast, honey buns, coffee and drinks.

Specifically, Harrouff spends between $75 and $95 per week on a routine list of commissary items that he often reorders week after week.

A typical order might include 10 honey buns, 10 packs of Doritios spicy sweet chili, five “jalapeño cheese sque’ezers,” 10 “double beef sticks” and a variety of candy bars.”

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Austin Haurroff’s trial date has not been set. With an apparent 240 witnesses in the case and a more than 3,700 pages of discovery from his defense team, there still appears to be pieces of evidence missing in the eyes of the court. To be acquitted, Harrouff’s legal team must convince a judge or jury he didn’t know what he was doing at the time of the murders, or didn’t know it was wrong and couldn’t appreciate the consequences of his actions. He could face the death penalty, or he could get off on an insanity plea. In court this past May, Haurroff claimed he “just wanted to be a normal kid again.”

So, stay tuned… I guess.

If you, yourself, or anyone you know is showing side effects of delusions or mental illness of any kind – please do not hesitate to contact local authorities. Mental illness is a delicate monster, a creature in itself, to be handled with care and precision. This child could have been stopped, like many others. You can choose to argue with me on the topic of rehabilitaton all you want, but how would you feel if this kid ate your loved one alive and was then able to return to society? I hope this kid rots in prison, as sad as it is. Once mental illness has hit this sort of peak, there is no coming back. Help is readily available for mental illness in today’s world, so please do something.

See you next week.

Sources:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-austin-harrouff-past-20161129-story.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3965962/Cannibal-frat-boy-killed-couple-ate-man-s-face-NOT-influence-bath-salts-flakka-toxicology-report-reveals.html

https://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/crime/martin-county/2018/03/09/parents-stand-son-accused-brutal-killing-martin-county-couple/311380002/

History’s Most Terrifying Female Serial Killers, Part V: Leonarda Cianciulli

In Part III, we covered the life and crimes of the “jolly” nurse Jane Toppan. Today’s entries are being released concurrently as they focus on two more women you would never have seen coming. Much in the way people trusted Toppan as a nurse, these women didn’t fit anyone’s idea of what a killer looks like. Nannie Doss and Leonarda Cianciulli would have reminded you more of your Grandma than of Ted Bundy. They might have even offered you tea and cookies, but you’d be wise not to accept any consumables from these ladies.

Leonarda Cianciulli was a beloved figure in her Italian community. She was by all appearances a sweet elderly woman fond of entertaining and preparing food for her guests. Like the case of Nannie Doss, no one saw the wolf behind the sheep’s clothing until it was too late.

Born in Italy some time between 1893 and 1894, Leonarda’s childhood was nothing short of tragic. She was conceived through rape, and her mother was left with few options. Rather than face being ostracized by her community, she was forced to marry her rapist Mariano Cianciulli. Leonarda was a painful reminder to her mother of the terrible decision she had to make. Needless to say, this resentment made for an unhappy childhood, resulting in two separate attempts at suicide at a young age.

Leonarda struck out on her own as soon as she was able. Going against her parent’s wishes she married in 1917 to Raffaele Pansardi. She would come to believe her mother had placed a curse on them for this transgression. Leonarda was extremely superstitious and often sought the council of fortune tellers. This propensity for the mystic arts would have a lasting effect on the direction her life would take.

She and her husband were met with an unfortunate series of events early on and were forced to move around on more than one occasion. One move in particular came as a result of an earthquake in 1930 that struck their region, killing over 1,400 people and leveling their home. Leonarda attributed this all to her mother’s alleged curse.

From there, the couple finally settled in Correggio, where Leonarda set up a small shop and quickly earned a reputation as a kindly neighbor and loving mother. For a time it seemed her misfortune had run its course.

This turn wouldn’t last however, and Leonarda began to feel once again like a cursed woman. Out of 17 pregnancies three would miscarry and 10 would die at a young age from a variety of illnesses. She was understandably protective of her surviving four children, especially her son Giuseppe, her eldest and favorite child.

During this time, Leonarda met with a fortune teller who prophesied that she would have many children but would lose them all before she died. Her fears for her remaining children deepened. In 1939, as Italy was entering the war, she learned that her son Giuseppe was to be drafted. She would do whatever it took to redirect what she saw as fate coming to claim another of her offspring.

Leonarda decided the only way to cheat death was to provide a replacement soul for the afterlife. She had become something of a fortune teller herself and could easily manipulate the elderly women who came seeking her services. One particular client, Faustina Setti, was drawn in by Leonarda’s promise of providing a husband. She convinced her to write all of her family and loved ones informing them of her great fortune and that she would be travelling to Pola to meet her future husband.

Leonarda made sure Faustina stopped in to say goodbye before her trip. Ever grateful, her client was happy to oblige. Leonarda drugged the wine she provided her guest and before long Faustina was rendered unconscious. Wasting no time, Leonarda took an axe and cut the woman into nine pieces, collecting the blood into a basin.

In her memoir, Leonarda goes into detail about her unsettling process.

“I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the whole mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.”

 It turned out just one soul wasn’t enough to put Leonarda’s worries to rest. Her first kill had gone smoothly enough that her method varied little for the ones to follow. This time instead of a husband, she claimed to find a job for a Francesca Soavi at a girl’s school in Piacenza. Once again, farewell letters were written to explain her disappearance, and a final appointment made for Francesca to come visit Leonarda before her departure. The visit took place on September 5, 1940 and mirrored that of Faustina’s. Again, the remains didn’t go to waste and were used to make soap and more of Leonarda’s famous tea cakes.

Just to be safe, Leonarda decided a third victim was necessary. Virginia Cacioppo was lured into her trap with a promise of a secretary position in Florence. According to a chilling statement by Leonarda:

“She ended up in the pot, like the other two…her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.”

 Her third victim would prove to be her undoing. Virginia’s sister-in-law wasn’t satisfied with the explanation she was given for her disappearance and decided to look into it herself. When she learned Virginia was last seen entering the Cianciulli’s home, she relayed her concerns to the local chief of police.

After an investigation, Leonarda was arrested. She confessed to the murders almost immediately, and even made corrections to the official account of her crimes during her trial in 1946. She was found guilty and sentenced to thirty years in prison and three in a criminal asylum.

Leonarda Cianciulli died on October 15, 1970 of cerebral apoplexy while housed at the women’s criminal asylum in Pozuolli. Artifacts from the case, among them the pot she used to boil the bodies of her victims, are on display at the Criminological Museum in Rome.

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Sources:

gizmodo.com “The Superstitious Murderer Who Turned Her Victims into Cake and Soap”

murderpedia.org “Leonarda Cianciulli”

youtube.com “Making Bodies Into Soap” – Leonarda Cianciulli

History’s Most Terrifying Female Serial Killers, Part IV: Nannie Doss

In Part III, we covered the life and crimes of the “jolly” nurse Jane Toppan. Today’s entries are being released concurrently as they focus on two more women you would never have seen coming. Much in the way people trusted Toppan as a nurse, these women didn’t fit anyone’s idea of what a killer looks like. Nannie Doss and Leonarda Cianciulli would have reminded you more of your Grandma than of Ted Bundy. They might have even offered you tea and cookies, but you’d be wise not to accept any consumables from these ladies.

Nannie Doss, born Nancy Hazle on Nov. 4, 1905, in Blue Mountain Alabama, had an unhappy childhood. She and the rest of the Hazle family lived under her father James’ strict and often abusive rule. As education was of little import to the family, Nannie left school after sixth grade to focus on household chores.

At 16, Nannie began work at a linen factory where she met her first husband, Charley Braggs. While living at home, she and her sisters were never allowed to wear dresses or makeup and talking with members of the opposite sex was likewise forbidden. She saw Charley as an escape from this oppression and the two were married within the first year of their meeting. She moved in with him and his mother in 1921.

Despite her high hopes, Charley turned out to be an abusive alcoholic and his mother a control freak much in the same manner as Nannie’s father. Six years and four children into the marriage, she found the escape she had been seeking. In 1927, the Bragg’s two middle children died suddenly after breakfast one day. Doctors attributed the deaths to food poisoning, a more common killer at the time.

Suspicious of Nannie, given their deteriorating marriage, Charley moved out with their eldest daughter, Melvina. The controlling mother-in-law didn’t last long after her son’s departure, and died under mysterious circumstances. In 1928, Charley returned briefly to drop Melvina off, and finalize their divorce. He would be the only man to survive a marriage to Nannie.

Before long, Nannie decided it was time to move on and took to the lonely hearts column of her local paper for prospective mates. It was through these ads that she met and married her second husband, Frank Harrelson in 1929. They spent a mostly unhappy 16 years together. Like Nannie’s first husband, Frank was an alcoholic. After a particularly hard night of drinking with friends, he returned home and forced himself on Nannie. Revenge was swift, and came in the form of rat poisoned corn whiskey. Frank died an agonizing death while Nannie watched on.

In 1943, Nannie became a grandmother at just 38 years old. Her daughter Melvina had a son, Robert, and a daughter who died shortly after being born. Accounts from family that were present at the hospital would later surface that allege Nannie had stuck the newborn with a hairpin while Melvina recovered from the delivery. Just a few months later, Robert died from asphyxia while in his grandmother’s care.

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A concerned looking Melvina keeps a wary eye on Doss with children. source

Nannie was married again in 1947 to Arlie Lanning, another alcoholic. This marriage lasted only two and a half years before the man fell suddenly ill and died. No autopsy was performed as doctors believed the death was due to a heart attack brought on by Arlie’s lifelong drinking.

1952 saw Nannie’s fourth marriage to a Richard L. Morton. Although this one was not an alcoholic like her previous beau’s, he seemed to have a tenuous grasp on the sanctity of marriage. He didn’t last long after Nannie discovered he was seeing an old flame on the side. One arsenic laced thermos of coffee later, Morton joined Frank and Arlie on Nannie’s burgeoning list of victims.

Nannie’s fifth and final marriage was to Samuel Doss in 1953. This time she decided to go against her usual type. Samuel was neither abusive nor an alcoholic. If anyone could temper her murderous tendencies, this man was it. Or so it seemed for a time.

It would seem Nannie’s previous husbands had ruined her for more mild mannered individuals. She found Samuel uptight and boring. He lived a strict and disciplined life, enforcing household bedtimes and forbidding what he saw as frivolous activities like magazines and television.

Nannie was particularly not fond of Samuel’s tight grip on their finances. She ended up moving out for a short time until he agreed to add her name to his bank account. She returned a much more affectionate bride and Samuel believed the matter settled. Such was their marital bliss that he didn’t think twice when she convinced him to take out two life insurance policies with her as the sole beneficiary.

When Nannie decided it was time to collect, she set right to work. An arsenic-laced prune cake almost did the trick, but resulted instead in a months long hospital stay for Samuel when he complained of extreme stomach pains. Nannie’s upped the dosage for her second attempt, this time in his morning coffee.

Her deceased husband’s doctors took note of how quickly he passed after returning home and ordered an autopsy. When the report showed staggering levels of arsenic in Samuel’s system at the time of his death, Nannie topped the list of suspects and was arrested in 1954.

Nannie was surprisingly forthcoming with her confession, which police received in return for allowing her to keep romance magazines in prison. She appeared to actually enjoy the attention she received during her trial and the investigation into her murders. She was often seen smiling and laughing and made jokes about her late husbands. She earned the nickname the “Giggling Granny” for her unsettlingly cheery manner throughout interviews and the trial process.

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Nannie Doss leaving Tulsa County Attorney’s Office in Tulsa, OK in 1954. source

On May 17, 1955 Nannie Doss received a life sentence at 50 years old. After eight years of incarceration, she died of leukemia in 1963 while housed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. She is believed to have claimed at least 11 lives before she was caught.

Sources:

encyclopediaofalabama.org “Nannie Doss”

gizmodo.com “The “Giggling Granny” Serial Killer Who Smiled All the Way to Prison”

thoughtco.com “Profile of ‘The Jolly Black Widow’ Nannie Doss”

The Yates Family

Welcome back to Murder Monday, ya’ll.

Before you dive in, I’m going to give you all the courtesy of some trigger warnings. I don’t think anything I have posted on here is for the faint of heart, but this case is especially morbid. If you have sensitivity to violence involving children, mental illness, abuse, etc, please do not continue. If at any point you feel uncomfortable during this read, go ahead and close the page. Put on some fluffy bullshit sitcom and move on with your day, or something. This is the case that sparked my fascination with homicide. This is the first murder case I Googled on my giant Dell computer monitor in middle school, praying my parents wouldn’t realize that I cleared the Google search history. This is the one case that truly, deeply, shook me to my core. I was a kid when I heard about this case, and I was scared of bath tubs for years after (oh yea, if you like taking bubble baths good fucking luck with the mental images I’m about to give you). Anyways… you have been warned.

Meet Andrea Yates.

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Andrea Yates is one demented little shit. I’m not going to waste my time by looking into her background story for you or trying to dig deep into what made her snap. She doesn’t deserve to have her story told, because she robbed five innocent children from the chance of even having a life story. She brought five precious, loving, innocent, beautiful children into this world – and she took them right back of of it, all by herself. Now, I can sympathize with mental illness, and I probably do so a little more than I should. I have also been close with someone who has experienced postpartum depression, and can sympathize with how truly terrible it must be to experience it first hand. But there is nothing in the world that could justify what Andrea Yates did, not even a pathetic cry for an insanity plea.

Some people just should not have children. 

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In the summer of 1989, Andrea met Rusty Yates. They quickly moved in together, and the two married in 1993. They were living in Houston, Texas when they had their first child, Noah, in 1994. They then relocated to a small trailer in Florida. They had their second child, John, in 1995. By the time they had conceived their third child, Paul, the couple purchased a GMC motor home and moved back to Houston for Rusty’s job. Following the birth of their fourth child, Luke, Andrea fell into a depression. In 1999, Rusty knew something was deeply wrong with her when he starting catching her vigorously chewing on her fingers and shaking. Yates had been struggling with bulimia and depression, and on June 17, 1999, she attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. She was put on antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers and she seemed stable for quite some time. The family then moved into a small house for the sake of her health.

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In July of 1999, Andrea suffered from a severe nervous breakdown which resulted in two attempts at suicide. She was hospitalized, and diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum Psychosis: a rare illness that occurs in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries, or approximately .1-.2% of childbirths. The onset is very sudden, usually occurring up to two weeks after delivery.

Symptoms of this illness include:
Delusions and strange beliefs
Hallucinations
Feeling very irritated
Hyperactivity
Paranoia and suspiciousness
Rapid mood swings
Difficulty with communication at times

The most significant risk factors for postpartum psychosis are a personal or family history or bipolar disorder, or a previously psychotic episode.

There is a 5% suicide rate for mothers suffering from postpartum psychosis, and a 4% infanticide rate associated with the illness. So nearly the same amount of mothers who kill themselves while suffering from this also kill their children.

Seven weeks after her latest suicide attempts and hospitalization, Andrea Yates, who was diagnosed and taking Haldol, among other medications, conceived her fifth child against doctors’ suggestions. Her psychiatrist had warned her that if she gave birth again, her chances of a break in reality were very high.

She did it anyway.

She gave birth to her fifth child, Mary, in November of 2000, and she seemed to be coping well until the death of her father in March of 2001. After his death, Andrea became obsessed with the Bible. She stopped feeding Mary, her newborn child. She started mutilating herself, and tried to drown herself on multiple occasions. She was caught in a suicide attempt around this same time, and when she was admitted to the hospital she was described as “catatonic.” She told the doctors that the bathtub was full at home because she had intended to drown her children that day, but changed her mind.

Red fucking flag.

Andrea Yates’ psychiatrist, Dr. Saeed, suggested that Andrea no longer be left alone with her children. She should have been under supervision at all times. She was not in control of her own mind, and she needed assistance with the children for their well-being and for her own. Rusty went against the doctor’s orders and left his wife unattended with their five children. He did so because his mother was supposed to arrive to assist her within the hour, but in that hour, Andrea Yates murdered her children, all five of them, one by one – in the bath tub.

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She started with John, then Paul, then Luke. After drowning them, she laid them on her bed. She then drowned 6-month-old Mary and left her floating lifelessly in the bathtub. Noah walked in and asked her what was wrong with Mary. He then ran away when he noticed she was lifeless. His mother chased him, caught him, and drowned him. Noah’s body was left floating in the tub and Mary’s body was taken and positioned in the arms of her brother, John. She positioned them like fucking puppets. She then called the police numerous times, but would not give them a clear explanation. She also called Rusty, telling him to come home immediately.

(Side note: she also locked up their dog while she murdered her children but left the dog unharmed. She had the guts to murder all of her children, but spared the life of her dog.)

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Yates confessed to drowning her children. After a lengthy case, where her sentence was repeatedly overturned and questioned due to her insanity plea and record of mental illness, Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity on July 26, 2006. She was then committed to the North Texas State Hospital-Vernon Campus and later moved to a low-security state mental hospital in Kerrville. Although doctors for both the prosecutors and her defense team agreed that she was severely mentally ill with several diagnosed psychotic diseases at the time of the murders, the state of Texas asserted that she was by legal definition aware enough to judge her actions as right or wrong despite her mental defect. The prosecution also further implied spousal revenge as some sort of motive for the homicides, but there was no support for this claim.

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During her trial, Rusty Yates held strong to her claim of innocence by fault of insanity. He had fantasies of continuing to have more children with her. He thought she could get better.

“All depressed people need is a swift kick to the nuts to get motivated.” This is what Rusty’s brother-in-law told Larry King that Rusty had said while visiting Andrea in the hospital.

Andrea was 450mg of Effexor among many other mediations at the time of the murders. The warning label at the time for the drug Effexor stated a warning for experiences of “homicidal ideation” and yet…

By the fault of every doctor that came across this woman, her husband, and her own god damn parents – this woman was prescribed and handed a medication to take on a daily basis that could cause homicidal tendencies with a warning right on the god damn label AFTER THE FACT that she had ALREADY threatened to DROWN HER CHILDREN.

Every single person in contact with Andrea Yates at the time of the murders should be held accountable. This woman was not in control of her actions, and everyone who knew her was thoroughly aware of this. Child protective services was not involved. Her husband held hope. Her parents were not closely involved. Andrea Yates murdered her 5 children, all under the age of 7 – and she could have been stopped.

Andrea Yates is still currently being treated for severe psychosis, and is expected to be let back into the community upon rehabilitation.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, harming themselves or others, or posing a threat to others or risk to themselves at any time – please, fucking do something. Things like this happen every day, and sadly, in most cases, they could have been stopped.

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See you next week.

Sources:

Murderpedia

Wikipedia
http://www.postpartum.net