Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BONES JUST KEEP POPPING UP

     Here's a little heads up for those of you who have buried corpses on your property.  Bones don't decompose like soft tissues do.  And those pesky bones have a way of popping up when you least expect.  You will be found out. 

From the NBC News- Home's new owners find human skull bones during landscaping work:


A human skull and bones were found Sunday afternoon by residents who bought the home less than a year ago and who were doing landscaping work in the backyard, police said.


The Orange County Coroner's Office confirmed the remains were human and an anthropologist was being called in to further examine them, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, a spokesman for the Santa Ana Police Department.

 And from the Daily Mail Online:

The current owners of the house live next door and bought the second property when the former owner, identified as Larry T. Dominguez, was forced to sell the house due to lapsed insurance payments after the house burned down in 2006 during an electrical fire.

He had lived there for over 20 years and was described by neighbours variously as 'friendly', 'strange' and as a recluse.
 Does this sound like anyone we know?  Well, except for the 'friendly' part. 

 So, sleep well tonight (while you can) because maybe tomorrow those restless bones will come to light. 



UPDATE (1/30/2013)-

   More information is coming to light.  Police believe the remains are those of Mr. Dominguez' father who may have been dead since 2005.  But the son apparently decided to continue cashing the father's Social Security checks- to the tune of $100,000.
ABC Channel 7 News Los Angeles reports:

Cpl. Anthony Bertagna with the Santa Ana Police Department said detectives believe the remains are that of Dominguez's 83-year-old father, Wallace Benjamin Dominguez.


Police said they suspected Dominguez of murder because of statements he made to detectives while being interviewed. But on Tuesday, the Orange County District Attorney's Office filed a grand theft charge against Dominguez. Authorities said it appears the suspect has been collecting his father's Social Security benefit checks in excess of $100,000.

Cause of death is yet to be determined




Sunday, January 27, 2013

JUST THE FACTS MA'AM

     Here is an excerpt from "The Curious Disappearance of Seamus Muldoon", since I am too lazy to work up a new post.  From Chapter 1- "Just the Facts Ma'am!"


That brings us to the morning of October 2, 2008. Jack awoke at the usual time and announced that he was going out to Luke for a while. He walked out to the driveway of their duplex Section 8 apartment in Fort Garland, coffee cup in hand, and climbed up into his old white van. Pulling out of the driveway at about 8:30 a.m. he waved goodbye to his little family. Little did they realize that was the last they would ever see of husband and father. As usual, Jack pulled in at the post office down the street and picked up the mail. Outside the post office he chatted briefly with one of his neighbors from out on Luke Road and then got back in the van. Heading south on Highway 159 he next stopped in at a local mechanic’s house to discuss some upcoming work he needed done on the van. He left the mechanic’s house at roughly 9:00 a.m. and headed on down the road. That is the last confirmed sighting that we have.


When lunchtime rolled around and his wife had not heard from Jack she began to wonder whether she should fix his lunch or wait. As the early afternoon progressed she began to wonder what was keeping him. The wonder gradually turned to worry. Jack rarely stayed out at Luke past lunchtime. A good lunch followed by a nap was his favorite way to spend an afternoon. Two-thirty came and went and she started to really worry. Jack had never been out later than 2:30 without letting her know. She called some friends to see if someone could drive out to Luke Road and check on Jack. Nobody was available at that time of day, but by 4:00 she convinced one of her neighbors to take her on the 10-mile drive out to the property.

The two women pulled up at the house on Luke Road and saw immediately that his van was parked in the driveway in his customary spot. She walked over to the house and poked her head inside. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary or misplaced, with one rather large exception. Jack was nowhere to be seen. With her pulse pounding and her breathing rate increased to the point of gasping she ran upstairs and searched the entire interior of the house, calling frantically for Jack. Nothing. Knowing that Jack tended to lose his balance easily she took a quick walk around the house, thinking that he may have taken a fall or injured himself. Nothing. She looked inside the van to see if Jack was inside or to see if his keys were lying on the floorboard. Jack’s usual habit in the past had been to drop his keys on the floor when he pulled into the driveway rather than putting them in his pocket. Jack was not inside the van and the keys were nowhere to be seen. Nothing.

The closest telephone was a quarter mile away at one of the neighbor’s. In a near-panic she rushed over there and placed a call to 911 to report Jack missing. It took nearly an hour for a Sheriff’s Department deputy to arrive at the house. During that seemingly interminable hour a small handful of neighbors helped expand the search on foot around the immediate vicinity of the house. They found not a single trace of Jack or any evidence of what might have happened.

Those are the known facts of the mysterious disappearance of Jack Nels Gordon on October 2, 2008. The following chapters will explore some of the various theories about his disappearance, whether realistic or bizarre, plausible or outlandish, serious or comical. These theories have been put forward by various family members, authorities, friends and neighbors. These scenarios are based partly on fact and partly on speculation. My purpose in writing these vignettes is not so much to solve the troubling mystery of Jack’s disappearance but to celebrate the fascinating variety of his life.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

ONE PEDIATRICIAN'S RESPONSE TO SANDY HOOK

     I am a practicing Pediatric Cardiologist and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). I am also a member of the National Rifle Association.

     How do we, as Pediatric physicians, respond to a tragedy such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School? As advocates for children and as scientists we are obligated to look at the events of that day with a rational, fact-driven perspective, rather than an emotional, agenda-driven viewpoint.

     In the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut, Dr Tom McInerny, the president of the AAP called on President Obama and congressional leaders to enact federal legislation banning sales of “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines” as a “necessary first step”.   As an individual member of the AAP, I beg to differ.  Actually, the first necessary step in solving a public health problem is agreeing upon a clear definition of the problem in terms of frequency, extent and impact. The next step is reviewing the existing body of knowledge. Theories of cause and effect should be explored and hypotheses developed based on existing data. These hypotheses should be tested in a way that allows for meaningful measurement of results while minimizing the effect of confounding variables. Those results are then subjected to review and independent testing in order to establish a degree of scientific acceptance. Even then, the results should rightly be viewed with an element of skepticism.

     So how can we develop strategies that are logical, practical and affordable, without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens, whether at the local, state or federal level? Looking at the existing body of public health research regarding gun legislation the first thing I notice is that the body of existing knowledge is skimpy at best. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Community Preventive Services Task Force did an extensive review of the existing public health research and found insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of gun legislation (Hahn RA, et al. Firearms laws and the reduction of violence: a systematic review.Am J Prev Med 2005;28(2S1):40-71).


     Large population-based studies attempting to measure a particular outcome (e.g. decreased gun violence) as a result of a particular intervention (e.g. ban on high capacity magazines) are incredibly difficult to achieve. They take a long time, and the ability to draw conclusions is hampered by the size of the population, the length of time needed, the inability to compare to a control group (comparable population that was not exposed to the intervention), as well as a multitude of confounding variables both recognized and unrecognized. A rational approach requires the ability to 
               1) define and measure outcomes, and
               2) make observations about cause and effect
Neither of these is very likely in the case of a blanket federal policy. Going off half-cocked without a measurable goal is generally bad policy.

    A major barrier to valid scientific study of the effects of gun legislation as it relates to mass shootings in schools, is the extreme rarity of those events. But, let’s think about it logically. To develop a hypothesis about preventing mass shootings by deranged individuals there are two potential times for intervention- before the shooting starts or after.


  • PRE-EMPTIVE:
    • The field of mental health, particularly as it relates to predicting violent behavior and incarceration of “at risk” individuals is incredibly far from being a precise science. Our courts have accepted “expert” testimony in such cases as being the best information available, while simultaneously acknowledging the imperfect nature of such testimony even when applied solely to a population of known criminal offenders, those who are “in the system”. The notion of successfully predicting which individuals from the general population are mentally unstable enough to commit one of these heinous crimes, while possibly worth exploring, is nowhere near a practical reality.
    • Another possibility is to deny the perpetrator access to the target. This might entail physically reinforcing school buildings and security systems, although that may merely divert a deranged individual to a different, softer target, such as movie theaters, malls, parks or sporting events.
    • The other pre-emptive avenue, which is the one advocated by the AAP, is to try to keep the perpetrator from getting his hands on the instrument he intends to use for his evil deed. Previous gun legislation has emphasized this aspect. Measures have included bans on specific weapons or ammunition, barriers to acquisition (criminal and mental health background checks, waiting periods, registration), securing of firearms (mandatory trigger locks, gun safes), and gun-free zones.


  • REACTIVE:
    • The second way to stop a mass killing is by a proportional response in force once the massacre has started. Preventing responsible adults from having firearms in the school setting will not keep a determined law breaker from breaking the law. It merely provides him with a crucial time period in which to wreak maximum damage. The minutes that elapse between the onset of an attack and police arrival at the scene are crucial minutes. One observation from a review of the literature and numerous anecdotal reports (2012 Clackamas mall shooting, and 2012 San Antonio restaurant/theater shooting are two recent examples) is that deranged shooters do not tend to stop shooting because their magazine is empty. Three 10-round magazines equal one 30-round magazine and changing a magazine takes a matter of mere seconds. They do not stop shooting because they acquired the weapon illegally and have second thoughts about breaking the law. They do not stop shooting because it is illegal to possess that particular firearm in that particular jurisdiction. The fact is, deranged mass murderers stop shooting when they are confronted by proportional resistance. The presence of on-site adults with the ability to interdict immediately is a potentially very effective way to put a halt to a killing spree. Why would policy makers want to dismiss this possibly effective measure right off the bat? Where are the scientific studies sponsored by the AAP or the CDC analyzing the numerous incidents where a possible victim with a firearm altered a violent attack to prevent death or serious injury? An evidence-based approach requires looking at all the evidence critically, thoughtfully and with an open mind. Yet when the NRA calls for exploration of the feasibility of armed adults at schools they are derided as “unreasonable” (citations too numerous to count).
     In my opinion (based on years of observing human behavior) banning sales of so-called assault weapons will not prevent potential murderers from getting their hands on that style of firearm through illegal means. It will not prevent a mass killer from getting his hands on chains to bar an emergency exit and a few gallons of gasoline to ignite. It will not prevent a mass killer from using an automobile as a murderous weapon. In the hands of responsible, trained adults, firearms can be a vital tool of self-defense. Preventing law abiding citizens from possessing an efficient self-defense tool is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater and as a Pediatrician I certainly wouldn’t advocate that.

     We also must not forget the broader view of this issue. How do I reconcile my view of the Constitution with the desire to be a strong advocate for children? Part of our job as Pediatricians is to help children make the transition to adulthood. This transition includes developing a mature attitude regarding choices and consequences. Learning to drive, operate tools, manage finances and plan for one’s future are all important steps toward becoming an adult. Power tools, automobiles and firearms, while potentially injurious, are all useful tools when used responsibly. In this country though, the most important and simultaneously most powerful tool of adulthood is freedom. Helping them find the balance between individual freedom and responsibility is essential to raising our children into adult citizens. Freedom of choice includes the freedom to make mistakes. A large part of growing up is learning how to recognize the future consequences of present choices. We do our children a great disservice when we claim to protect them by absolving them of the consequences of their actions. We also do them a disservice by telling them the world is a safe place when we know for a fact that it is not. The desire to protect our children eventually must give way to a willingness to let them become adults.

     I understand that people are sometimes frightened by events that are seemingly beyond their control. The initial response to the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School was strong and visceral. I have been a Pediatric Cardiologist long enough to know that bad things happen to good people. The world is full of violence and people are imperfect. I have personally experienced the loss of a family member to a senseless murder. And yet, in the face of all that I would rather my grandchildren grow up in a country where they have the freedom to use tools such as automobiles and firearms responsibly as adults even with all of the messiness and uncertainty that is embodied in that freedom.

James K. Schroeder, MD, FACC, FAAP

(The views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of his employer.)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

UNIDENTIFIED PERSONS- THE FLIP SIDE OF THE COIN

   In the case of Jack Gordon, missing since October 2, 2008, and other missing persons, we know who the individual is, we just don't know where they are or what happened to them.  There is a flip side to this situation however.  Sometimes a person is located, but their identity is unknown.  This can occur when there is a living person, such as an amnesia sufferer, or a person in custody but willfully hiding their identity.  It can also occur when an unidentified body is discovered (homicide, suicide, unknown cause of death without identification).  Matching a found person to a missing person is the ultimate goal.

    I recently stumbled across the website "Unidentified Persons- Gateway to the Unsolved".  This site focuses on people who have been located but not identified. The site has state-by-state links to official resources, as well as pages of individual photos of either amnesia victims or deceased individuals, hoping somebody will see the picture and recognize the individual. There is a section devoted to victims tattoos and identifying marks, and a section with personal effects of unidentified persons.

     It seems to me even more tragic when there are found individuals who are not identified.  It may be that the person's loved ones have not been able to connect with the agency or website that has the key information.  Perhaps the individual ended up in a jurisdiction far away from where they disappeared.  Perhaps the time lag between going missing and being found is so large that the connection is not made. Clearing houses or compilation websites such as NAMUS are attempting to overcome some of those "needle in a haystack" obstacles.  The sadder scenario is that nobody is even looking for that particular individual.  I cannot fathom how far off the radar somebody must be to end up as a potentially identifiable and yet still forgotten person. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

HIDING A BODY MADE SIMPLE

   In my last post related to the disappearance of Jack Gordon and his neighbor on the same day in 2008 (link here) we were discussing techniques used by criminals to conceal evidence of a murder.  Concrete is a time-tested method of 'disappearing' a body.  Construction methods in the Sangre de Cristo Ranches portion of the San Luis Valley vary some, but there are some common features.  Most of the ranches are off the electrical grid, so alternative energy (usually solar) is utilized.  Access to properties can be severely hampered by weather and road conditions.  Building supplies are sometimes in short supply. The terrain is rocky and basements are seldom included due to added difficulty and expense of excavating.  Some builders use concrete stem walls or foundations, while others use a concrete slab as depicted here, during the construction of one of Jack's neighbor's houses near Luke Road:



   If the body is available when the concrete is being poured, it would be a fairly simple matter to excavate a shallow depression for the body and fill in with poured concrete.



   Other builders go a cheaper route, using simple footings to support the structure as shown in this You Tube video ... er ... slide show, depicting the construction of the convicted sex offender John Robert Fureigh's house on Luke Road, a mere half mile from Jack Gordon's home site.  I present these images solely as representative of the terrain and building styles used in the area.  In case the link is broken or the video ... er ... slide show is taken down, here is a screen grab:


 This leaves just an earthen crawlspace beneath the main floor of the building.  If the building were already standing, it would not be terribly difficult to dig out a shallow grave within the crawlspace and hide a body.  As creepy as this sounds, killers have certainly been known to do this.  I imagine they don't sleep comfortably, knowing there is a body in the crawlspace, but I may be wrong.

   So I guess the question boils down to, if the person or persons who killed Jack Gordon disposed of the body on property they owned, was it in the setting of an existing structure or concurrent with the new construction of a house or other structure. Once again, time will tell the tale in this regard.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

DEAD BODIES KEEP POPPING UP

In spite of the best efforts of murderers to hide the evidence of their crime, dead bodies have a way of popping up.  One of the most popular means of disposing of a body seems to be concealing it in new construction.   Concrete slabs, foundations or patios are especially popular.  Murderers, according to a law enforcement friend of mine, often prefer to keep the evidence where they can exercise some control or surveillance, for example on property owned by themselves or family.

From the Los Angeles Times comes this article: Body found buried in concrete in Santa Fe Springs; man arrested

A man's body has been found in newly poured concrete inside a Santa Fe Springs business and a homicide suspect arrested following what authorities believe was a feud between the pair, police said Monday.
Here's the nice thing about concrete.  It serves two important functions.  One, it actually preserves the evidence, protecting the corpse from oxygen and the environment.  Two, it presents a tangible, physical connection between the victim and the perpretrator, especially when the construction site in question is owned by the perpetrator.  Wouldn't that be something?

A mere six months before Jack Gordon died John Busby (aka John Robert Fureigh) made a comment on his own blog alluding to the possibility of disposing of a body in his septic tank (more about this in an upcoming post).  He may or may not have been joking.  We know from video posted on-line by John Busby (aka John Robert Fureigh, aka "Mtn Tracker") that he did not use a poured concrete slab or foundation in the construction of his cheaply-built house on Luke Road (more on that in a future post).  Instead, he demonstrated his technique of suspending his house on pre-formed concrete footers spaced several feet apart.  It turns out that there was another house built by John Busby (aka John Robert Fureigh) during the year following Jack Gordon's death.  I don't know if this is merely a coincidence or if there might be a connection.  Perhaps time will tell the tale.