Thursday, February 28, 2013


Okay folks, time to get a little wonky regarding self-defense against violence.  Unless you have been living under a rock (or perhaps hiding out from the law after killing your neighbor) you are aware about the current hotly debated struggle between Second Amendment advocates and Gun Control zealots.

     In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics cited some statistics.  You can read the entire testimony (7 page PDF) here

          "Individuals possessing a firearm are more than four times more likely to be shot during an assault than those who do not own one."
     This is stated as if it is an unequivocal fact.  So, let's dig into this a little deeper.  Tracking this statement back to the source, we find that the AAP first refers to their own Policy Statement on gun violence, entitled Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population. in which they state:

          "Evidence from Philadelphia suggests that firearm possession increases the risk of being shot in an assault. In a carefully conducted case-control study, Branas and colleagues found that people possessing a gun were more than 4 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession of a firearm."
     Here it is stated with seemingly less confidence.  Let's dig a little deeper.  If we track this back to the cited article we find a 2009 study entitled Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault

     The investigators looked at 677 shooting incidents in Philadelphia and compared those individuals to a control group (matched for age, sex and race) of Philly residents who had not been assaulted.

     Of the 677 shooting victims, 5.92% (or a total of 40) possessed a gun at the time of the assault.  Simple math tells us that 637 (or 94%) of the shooting victims therefore did not possess a gun.  This can be restated as "16 shooting victims were not carrying a gun for every one that was carrying".   (Incidentally, of the 684 non-victims in the control group, 7.16% (a total of 49) possessed a gun at a comparable point in time.)        Analysis of other variables indicated statistically significant difference between the group who had been shot and the group that had not been shot in the following characteristics:  

         "At the time of shooting, case participants were also significantly more often involved with alcohol and drugs, outdoors, and closer to areas where more Blacks, Hispanics, and unemployed individuals resided. Case participants were also more likely to be located in areas with less income and more illicit drug trafficking." 
       From these data the investigators concluded that an individual is 4 times more likely to be shot if they possess a gun than if they don't possess a gun.  A thoughtful and skeptical person might now ask themselves, "How did they reach this astonishing conclusion?"  Simple, actually.  They performed some freakishly complicated statistical calisthenics (regression analysis) and mathematically cancelled out all of the other characteristics (such as hanging around out of doors around crime-ridden areas in destitute parts of town) as being "confounding variables".  And the so-called "control" group had absolutely nothing to do with their bizarre conclusions.        This is a fine example of utter junk science, and yet we find a supposedly authoritative advocacy group such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, citing this study as a justification for recommending restriction of the gun rights of law-abiding citizens.  This goes well beyond sloppy analysis of data and enters the realm of willfully misleading and despicable behavior.

  Shame on them!    

(In 2009, Gary Kleck of Gun Owners of America did a nice discussion of the Philadelphia study here.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

CAN ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT COSTILLA COUNTY? is a site with forum-style postings about different communities. One thread starts with this query from screen name ShariaRoberts:

Greetings everyone, My husband and I just purchased land in Blanca CO.Costilla County. Can anyone tell me about this area, the people, what kind of work is available, etc...... Thank You

Some of the responses are interesting, especially in light of our own experiences surrounding the disappearance of Jack Gordon. Here is a small sampling of the several dozen responses (or you can check out all the responses here):

Jazzlover- "There are very limited jobs in the area. Costilla County has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the United States."

CrazyBeautifulDisaster- "Of course you will be able to find the happy go lucky people like myself or you can find people that are just angry at the world."

JPPhillips- "There are a lot of beautiful places to visit that are close by."

DragonflySharyn- "Well, if everyone that bought one of these "land deals" would move there we could have a whole community of like minded people and it would be great!"

Base of Mt. Blanca- "Besides the cold, and the poorness of the area, I would like to get advice on this..... if I leave my cabin alone for periods of time, will I go back to find it broken into, everything stolen, and 20 people living in it?"

80skeys- "There's a reason why this land is cheap. Not to say it's "bad." It's just not the first place people think of when they choose someplace to live. It's out in the open, exposed, wide open spaces, no shade. You have to drive a long ways to get anywhere. You have to dig a long ways to hit water. Winters are brutally cold. There's not anything you can do with the land unless you irrigate the heck out of it. Overall it's not most people's idea of where to settle down. It's not even useful as a base camp for outdoors activities because: no running water, very long drive to reach the mountains or the Rio Grande river, nothing really in the way of outdoors activities you can do on the land itself. I don't think the value of the land has changed in decades, so it's not a good "speculative" venture."

Jazzlover- "an individual deputy sometimes having to cover hundreds of square miles. The thieves know this. Having all kinds of locks, etc. offer some protection, but if a thief is determined to break in to an isolated property, he may have all day (or days) to do it. In the SLV, the area is very impoverished, and there is certainly some resentment of outsiders by a chunk of the local population."

gn3- "If your property is fairly isolated (and even if it's not), it stands a fairly high chance of being broken into when you're not around. As Jazz said, it's a poor area and outsiders aren't always well liked. I know several people who have had properties broken into there."

Ziasforever- "If the theives want in your place. They're gonna get in. Alamosa, Conejos and Costilla counties are among the poorest ones in the Southwest. As a result they have limited resources such as fire and police. While it is not policy, the Code of the West is still considered the hallmark of justice in rural areas. You can find the Code of the West and its definitions and procedures on Huerfano and Chafee counties websites. The mountains by their very nature are why it's in place.  Theives literally have days to bust down even the best, solid steel door. I know because mine have dents from assaults and some of my neighbors' doors have been beaten relentlessly with a sledge hammer. I've only seen the sheriff on my road one time in the years I've owned my property. I carry a side-arm and have a large-caliber rifle ready mainly for bears and more worriesome, mountain lions but just-in-case I roll up to my property and the B&E is in progress."

Wanneroo- "I remember as a child my great grandfather at his isolated Colorado home showing me his sheriff deputy badge and his handgun. Plus there were plenty of rifles and shotguns about the house. Where he lived in a gated area it was probably unlikely to have a home invasion but if you did, the cops weren't exactly down the street."

tankpaintertim- "Thanks. I am very serious about moving there ans starting over with good honest open people as my neighbors!!! We are sick of the rat race ...back stabbing , lying people!"

1baccj8- "Really?!? That picture is in the Sangre de Christo Ranches? I didn't see anything even remotely like that there. Most of the lots we went down and looked at were either on a hill with little flat area usage or majorly split by gullies/ravines. We did not look at even one lot that had 5 usable acres. Let alone anything that pretty. All scrub, sage bush and dry dirt." 

It seems to me that there are four types of landowners who have purchased property in the eastern end of the Sangre de Cristo Ranches in the last 15 years.

1. Those who have bought land and have romantic and unrealistic notions about living a simple but beautiful rustic lifestyle amidst like-minded folks.  They tend to say, "I'll just put in a sauna for the cold winters and I can run my Internet business from home."  or "When the s**t hits the fan, I can go hunker down in my bug-out cabin in Costilla County",  or "I'll start with just a small one-room cabin, for me and my wife and the kids and the dogs."

2.  Those who have bought land and actually built a house or cabin and use it as a part time "getaway" or vacation home.

3.  Those who have actually lived year round in the area and realize that the land is harsh and the lifestyle is hard, and accept that for the trade-off of beauty and solitude.

4.  Those who are running or hiding from something in their own life from outside the valley, whether it be a failed marriage, a career gone bad or perhaps worse, a criminal history.  Some would consider the Sangre de Cristo Ranches subdivision to be one of the main stops along the underground railroad for sociopaths.

This is a potentially volatile mix.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


     Jack Gordon disappeared from his building site in the Sangre de Cristo Ranches subdivision in the eastern San Luis Valley of Colorado on October 2, 2008.  The Alamosa Valley Courier on that day, however was reporting on two different unsolved cases.

Mayhem in the Valley

Posted: Thursday, Oct 2nd, 2008


ALAMOSA — As autumn descends on the Valley with falling leaves beginning to leave trees bare for winter, criminal investigators hope the change of the season will also lay bare answers to mysteries new and old in this usually peaceful place.
     It seems two different sets of human remains were discovered in the San Luis Valley during the early fall of 2008.  One set of human bones was found in a shallow grave at the foot of the Mount Blanca massif near the Oasis Campground just south of the Great Sand Dunes.  A man out hiking notified authorities after his dog came back to him with a human bone in its mouth. The partial skeletal remains are still unidentified.  There was speculation about a man from Costilla County named Jack Springer, who had gone missing some 20 years earlier.

     The second set of remains was found  on September 20, 2008 after being stuffed into a barrel and set ablaze.  This skeleton was identified by DNA evidence as that of Saguache resident Brenda Kay Shepard who was last seen on September 19, 2008.  Shepard's murderer has still not been identified.
From the Valley Courier November 5, 2008, one month later:

“Based on a missing persons report received on Sept. 22, 2008, as well as other evidence, on Thur., Oct. 30, after extensive DNA analysis, the victim in this homicide has been identified as Brenda Kay Shepard, a 45-year old female from Saguache,” [Saguache County Sheriff Mike] Norris said in a press statement released Tuesday night.
On February 4, 2009, the Alamosa Courier reported that:

"The Saguache County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Bureau of Investigation are still working on the homicide case of Saguache area resident Brenda Kay Shepard, 45, whose body was recovered from a burning barrel on September 20 of last year."


     On January 8, 2013, a man by the name of Daniel Bessey was arrested in Oklahoma and charged with first degree murder in the case of Sarah Beasley and John Salazar of Monte Vista, Colorado, murdered in February of 2012.  It seems that Bessey was an ex-boyfriend of Sarah Beasley.  As it turns out, Bessey also was reportedly romantically involved with Brenda Kay Shepard at the time of her murder.  Although he has not been charged with her murder, interest in him as a potential suspect in the Shepard case has certainly been renewed, as reported in the Salida Mountain Mail on January 18, 2013 (emphasis added):

     "Bessey was arrested on a Rio Grande County warrant charging double homicide for the unsolved deaths of John Salazar, 54, and Sarah Beasley, 29, Feb. 13 [2012] in Monte Vista.  Bessey was also charged with first- and second-degree burglary, criminal mischief, three counts of child abuse and reckless endangerment.
     Saguache County Sheriff Mike Norris said, “In 2008 I had a homicide case in my county. It was referred to as the ‘lady in the barrel.’”
     Brenda Kay Shepard’s body was found chopped up and burning in a barrel on a county road in Saguache County Sept. 20, 2008.  Norris said at the time Shepard was Bessey’s significant other and they were living together. 
     While the Saguache County case remained unsolved and ongoing, Norris said investigations had been inactive for some time.  “With the latest information, it makes us interested in pursuing more information to find out if there are any correlations (between the two unsolved cases),” he said.  Norris said Bessey had been considered a person of interest and had been interviewed [previously]."

     Although Jack Gordon's disappearance did not garner much local news coverage in the shadow of these two more spectacular coinciding discoveries, there are some parallels. The take-home message is that human remains have a way of coming to light, even years later, and although the wheels of justice may grind slowly, they do grind.  Time is ultimately on our side.

R.I.P. Brenda Kay Shepard
R.I.P. John Salazar
R.I.P. Sarah Beasley

From Google Earth TM


Sunday, February 10, 2013


     Jack Nels Gordon was many things during his life.  But did you know he invented the World Trade Center?  Well, not the Twin Towers, and not actually invented, but he was involved in the conceptual development of a World Trade Center for the Great Lakes Region.

     In 1962, Jack Gordon was President of International Commerce Corporation an offshoot of SCOPE International, an Akron, OH firm that developed a proposal for The Great Lakes World Trade Center.

     Here, Jack is seen with then Governor Michael DiSalle of Ohio.   Governor DiSalle is holding a binder with the comprehensive Trade Center proposal. 

     A building site had been proposed in the Erieview section of Cleveland, as part of an urban renewal movement.   Potential members for the Board of Directors had been identified, including retired Army General Bruce Clarke.  General Clarke wrote (in personal correspondence to Jack dated 25 March, 1963) the following:

Dear Mr. Gordon:
     In response to your letter of 20 March 1963, I will be glad to accept the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors of your Corporation.  
                                                                                  Sincerely yours, 

                                                                                  Bruce C. Clarke General, USA Ret.

Architectural conceptions had been drawn.

Funding, however eventually failed to materialize, and the project withered. 

     As early as 1959, David Rockefeller had proposed a World Trade and Financial Center to be located in lower Manhattan.  See the historical timeline of the Twin Towers here.  The two projects (Great Lakes WTC and New York City WTC) were evolving in roughly parallel fashion.  Jack often speculated to us that in some way the Rockefellers were able to pull the rug out from under the financing for the Great Lakes World Trade Center.  Whether that is true or not, this whole incident marked a fascinating chapter in the varied life of Jack Nels Gordon.