Tuesday, December 23, 2014

BUT HE'S NOT A MONSTER

     This week in the national news, we hear of the ambush shooting of two NYPD police officers.  Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed while sitting in their patrol car on duty.  Ismaaiyl Brinsley then turned his gun on himself when cornered by police in pursuit.  Brinsley reportedly had a prior criminal record.

     In state news, the pre-trial maneuvering in the case of the Aurora theater shooter continues.  James Holmes is charged in the mass shooting that resulted in 12 dead and over 50 wounded in 2012. There is little room for doubt of his guilt, and in fact his own parents, in a letter to the Denver Post implicitly acknowledge that he committed the shooting and should be locked in a psychiatric institution for life.  “He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.”  I can understand parents going to great lengths to help their adult children, but even parental tolerance has its limits.

     In local news, the prosecution rested late last week in the trial of Daniel Bessey, accused of murdering two Monte Vista residents back in 2012.  Bessey had initially been a person of interest in the case but was not charged.  He fled the state and was later apprehended in Oklahoma and returned to Colorado for trial.

     In personal news, the man suspected of killing Jack Gordon had a prior criminal record, was living under an assumed name as a non-registered sex offender in violation of terms of his prior conviction and received material aid from his mother before eventually leaving the state in the wake of Jack Gordon's disappearance.  It must really be galling to live with the constant knowledge that someone will drop a dime on you and that it could happen at any time.  I don't know, this is all just speculation.  Maybe he will whisper a confession in the wrong ear at the wrong time in a drug-fueled haze of self pity and remorse.  Maybe an under-aged tranny hooker will get tired of his boozy breath and rat him out.  Maybe mom or stepdad's tolerance will run out. Maybe they will blame his actions on mental illness.  After all, he is not a monster...

*   *   *   *   *
     Columnist Kevin Williamson writes this morning in National Review Online in an article titled "What Causes American Murders".  He makes the point that attempting to assign political motivation, or for that matter any particular motivation to a criminal such as Brinsley misses the larger point of the type of people who commit violent crime in America. 
 ,
If we could eliminate all the American murders rooted in political ideology, there would be (almost) no effect. If we could eliminate all the American murders committed by people with prior criminal records, there would be (almost) no murder. The relevant question in the matter of Ismaaiyl Brinsley isn’t what he was doing on Instagram but what he was doing on the street.


     Jack Gordon wasn't murdered because of his political beliefs.  He was murdered because a murderer determined that Jack's life was worth less than his own.  But some would say he's not a monster. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

THE CURIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF PAIGE BIRGFELD- UPDATE

There was some news last month about the Paige Birgfeld case.


Lester Ralph Jones, 63, was arrested in Grand Junction on November 21, 2014 at his workplace. He had been named as a person of interest at the time of the original investigation into Paige Birgfeld's disappearance in 2007.  In 2012 her body was discovered in a gulch near Delta, CO.  Here is a link with more details about the arrest.  Jones has been identified as a client of Paige Birgfeld's escort service.

  Interestingly, investigators had obtained a court order for a GPS tracking device to be placed on Jones' car, but he discovered the device and returned it to investigators at some point in the intervening years.


   Jones has been charged with two counts of murder (first and second degree) and additional charges of arson and kidnaping.


[UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST-- Denver Post Cold Case reporter Kirk Mitchell gives a detailed review of the facts of the case and the key pieces of the police investigation in his column at the Denver Post.]



   Sometimes the wheels of justice turn slowly, and the case still awaits trial, but it is good to know that there has been some movement in this highly publicized case.  Hopefully the person responsible for Jack Gordon's death is still looking over his shoulder as well.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

THE CURIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF KRISTI RICHARDSON

[Editorial note: Although there are some obvious differences between the case of Jack Gordon and the case I am about to relate, there are also some astounding similarities. Reading some of the accounts of Kristi Richardson's disappearance we were struck by the emotions expressed by her family, to a degree that brought back memories of thoughts that passed through our minds when we were searching for Jack, back in 2008.  Our prayers go out for Kristi's family, asking that they find some answers.]


Disappeared without a trace-  On October 7, 2014, 61-year-old Kristi Richardson of Casper, WY did not show up for work at the family trucking company.  Her daughter and son-in-law went to Kristi's nearby house fearing that she may have taken ill.  What they found was an unoccupied house. Kristi's cars were in the garage.  Her purse was on the counter (with $800 cash still in it).  Her cell phone was in the bedroom.  However, Kristi was nowhere to be found.  She was last seen by family on October 6 2014, when she dropped by her daughter's house to deliver a birthday card. Over two months later, the curious disappearance of Kristi Richardson remains a mystery.




Here is the full story as told by Kristi's daughter to the Casper Star-Tribune. An excerpt:


   The phone rang as Amber ate breakfast with her husband, Pete, in the kitchen of their Casper home. On the other line was a dispatcher from Richardson Trucking, the business started by Amber’s parents, Kristi and Ron, in 1979. Kristi, the dependable boss who arrived at 7:15 every morning, hadn’t shown up to work.  Amber and Pete drove the half mile to Kristi’s home on East 24th Street, an affluent neighborhood where the homes have pillars and three-car garages. Amber opened the garage and noticed none of the cars was missing.
   “I started screaming for her,” Amber said. “When I first went in, I thought I would find her in bed, ill, or the thought of her taking her life came across my head, just because I didn’t have any other explanation.”  Pete went straight to Kristi’s bedroom. Amber found her mother’s purse on the kitchen counter, a cellphone missing from the bag. She used her own phone to dial her mom and heard Pete shout from her mother’s room.  The phone was in Kristi’s bed, which police say was stained with what appeared to be blood and urine. Police have not confirmed what caused the stains.


BACKGROUND- 
  • Ron and Kristi Richardson were married in 1972.
  • They founded a family business- Richardson Trucking Inc. in 1979. 
  • Based in Casper, the company's major business involved support for the oil fields, hauling camphouses, drilling rigs, pipe, etc.
  • The Richardsons were big boosters of University of Wyoming Cowboy athletics. 
  • Ron Richardson died in April, 2013, and Mrs. Richardson remained involved in running the business
  • A mysterious fire broke out at Richardson Trucking Inc. in November 2013. 
  • Mrs. Richardson's father died at age 88 in June, 2014. According to his obituary, he spent much time in his later years hanging around the trucking company offices and was well-liked.
  • Kristi lived in a nice neighborhood in Casper, a short distance from her daughter.
  
 
TIMELINE OF KRISTI'S DISAPPEARANCE
  • Afternoon of Oct. 6 -- Kristi drove to her daughter's nearby home to drop off a birthday card for her daughter.
  • 7:45 p.m. Oct. 6 -- Richardson took a routine phone call from one of her drivers.
  • 11:00 p.m. Oct 6 -- A call from a business contact went unanswered.
  • 7:45 a.m. Oct. 7 -- Richardson does not show up for work, daughter contacted
  • ~8:00 a.m. Oct. 8 -- Richardson's daughter and son-in-law arrive at Kristi's house to find her missing.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION
Mrs. Richardson is described as 5'4" tall, weighing less than 100 lbs.  She may have been wearing a University of Wyoming sweatshirt at the time of her disappearance.
 
SETTING:
Casper, Wyoming is a town of 55,000 in central Wyoming.  Interstate 25, the major north-south interstate in the Rocky Mountain region passes through Casper. There has been a boom in oil and gas exploration and production in the last few years.
 
CONTACT INFORMATION:
Anyone with information regarding the mysterious disappearance of Kristi Richardson is urged to call Casper Police Department at 307-235-8278.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Original Appearance of Seamus Muldoon

Seamus Muldoon was a product of Jack Gordon's fertile mind. Way back on Labor Day Weekend in 2000 I sat down with Jack at his property on Luke Road in Costilla County near Fort Garland, Colorado and shot this video footage.  Now there is no denying that he had a curious appearance, what with the "aw shucks" grin, the shaggy beard, unruly white hair and bushy eyebrows, but the playful spirit and at least half the wit of Seamus Muldoon comes through, despite the poor video and sound quality (my apologies on that count). 

Little did I know at the time that this would turn out to be the only recorded video memory we have of Jack.  But this is noteworthy for being the first public manifestation of the character Seamus Muldoon.  His final words on this video are fitting for the manner of his curious disappearance eight years later.




Saturday, April 5, 2014

THE CURIOUS REAPPEARANCE OF CRISTOBAL FLORES

    In 2002, skeletal remains were found in Boulder County Colorado. Initial characterization of those remains was consistent with a young adult male, perhaps 17-20 years old at the time of death.  Those remains have recently been identified by DNA testing as Cristobal James Flores (Longmont Colo Times-Call March 26, 2014)

     Young Mr. Flores had gone missing from his family's home in Aurora (eastern suburban Denver area) way back in September 2001. There is not a lot of information about his disappearance, but his curious "reappearance" thirteen years later via DNA has some interesting aspects.

     How do investigators identify a particular set of remains as being a particular individual? This field is sort of a merger between pathology and anthropology, under the rubric of forensics.  I would say that the distinction between a forensic pathologist and a forensic anthropologist is mainly a matter of how long the victim has been dead.
Here is a nice elementary review related to identification of MIAs from the Vietnam War.  Here is an example of the steps taken to identify remains in a general investigation.


So what can we determine about a set of skeletal remains?

1. SPECIES: 
Skeletal remains can range from a single small bone fragment to nearly complete skeletons. Initial forensic analysis focuses on identifying the remains as human or non-human. The more complete the remains, the easier it is to make this distinction.  Even with single bones however, both macroscopic and microscopic features can be analyzed to make this determination.  Although other large mammals such as elk or bear can have bones that are similar in size to a human, generally a determination can be made with confidence.
Here are some of the features used for macroscopic (anatomic) determination:
and here is an abstract link to a publication describing microscopic (histologic) determination.

2. CONTEXT:
The location where skeletal remains were found can be used to help make an identification, in a general sense.  Obviously, the likelihood of skeletal remains found relatively close to the last known location of the missing person will have a higher likelihood of being that person than remains found halfway around the world. Equally obviously, this does not prove identity. Items found in the vicinity of the remains (clothing, personal items, etc) can also give clues to the identity.

3. INDIVIDUAL CHARACTERISTICS:
 -SEX
 -RACE
 -AGE (at the time of death)
 -HEIGHT
 -WEIGHT
 -IDENTIFIABLE INJURIES OR PATHOLOGIES
While determination of individual characteristics does not allow specific identification of an individual, it can allow the forensic investigator to narrow the possibilities. If your missing elderly Aunt Edna was not 6'3" tall and male, she can be eliminated from consideration when the discovered remains have those characteristics.

4. SPECIFIC INDIVIDUAL IDENTIFICATION:
There are two main techniques utilized by forensic investigators to confirm an individual identity, dental comparison and DNA profiling. Both of these techniques require an unknown sample to be matched with a known sample.  In the case of dental records, this control sample is usually written dental records and previous X-rays, that can then be matched to specific findings in the teeth of the unidentified remains.
In the case of DNA testing, the control sample can be from the personal effects of the missing person (hair from a hairbrush, dried saliva from a toothbrush, etc.) or from first-degree blood relatives (parents, siblings, offspring). 

I will talk more about DNA testing on a future post.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

THE CURIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF JAMES MCGROGAN

UPDATE (4/5/2014)-  Missing Ind. hiker’s body found just 1.5 miles from the Booth Falls trailhead- (Glenwood Springs Post-Independent 4/4/2014).  Our condolences go out to the surviving family of Dr. James McGrogan, may he rest in peace.
 
************************************************************

   Camp Hale, located near the town of Leadville, was built in 1941-42 and became the mountain home of the 10th Mountain Division and one of the key military training centers for mountain warfare. 

   Part of the visible legacy of the 10th Mountain Division is a series of mountain huts that provide visitors with a modicum of comfort in the remote high mountains. These huts are popular destinations for skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer.  Roughly four straight-line miles north of the town of Vail, Colorado sits the Eiseman Hut. Perched on a high mountain ridge more than 11,000 feet above sea level, the Eiseman Hut usually serves as a hub for back country skiing in the winters, and offers spectacular views of the high peaks of the central Rockie Mountains. 

MAP: Topographical map of the Vail to Eiseman Hut area.

MAP: 3D relief schematic of the Vail to Eiseman Hut area.

PHOTOS: Scenic views from the Eiseman Hut


   The terrain surrounding the Eiseman Hut is steep and rugged. The Hut itself, although only a few short miles from Interstate 70, is not easily accessible.

   On Friday, March 14, 2014 a hike to the Eiseman Hut developed into yet another curious disappearance in Colorado. Gleaned from multiple news reports and official sources I have pieced together a rough timeline of the events of that day.

   That morning at about 8:30 AM, Dr. James McGrogan, a 39-year-old emergency room physician from Indiana along with three hiking companions set out on the roughly 9 mile hike to the Eiseman Hut.  At about 10:00 AM, still roughly 5 miles from the hut, the group stopped to rest.  McGrogan, according to his companions, decided to hike on ahead of the party, and they expected to catch up with him along the way.  According to the Eagle County Sheriff's office McGrogan was well equipped, with
"...a large pack with food, water, basic medical supplies, a sleeping bag, avalanche beacon, GPS and warm clothing."

   McGrogan has not been seen since that parting of the ways.  When the rest of the group reached the Eiseman Hut it was late afternoon and there was no indication that McGrogan had reached the hut.  By 5:30 PM they had notified the Eagle Valley Sheriff's Department and a Search-and-Rescue operation was underway.  Over the next three days, teams of searchers on foot, snowmobile and helicopters from the National Guard's High Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS),  based in nearby Gypsum, Colorado scoured the vicinity.  McGrogan was not found.

   By Tuesday, March 18, 2014 another round of winter weather moved into the area, forcing suspension of the search efforts. There have been no public updates from the Sheriff's office since then and no updates in the local news media.

VIDEO: ABC News 7- Denver report from 3/18/2014
 
   There are two main routes from the Vail area to the Eiseman Hut.  One is via Spraddle Creek. A more westerly route is via Red Sandstone Creek.  It is not reported in the Sheriff's press release or in any of the subsequent news reports which of these two routes was taken by the group.

   Anyone with information that might help solve the curious disappearance of James McGrogan is encouraged to call the Eagle County Sheriff's Office at (970) 328-8500 or Eagle County Crime Stoppers at 970-328-7007, 1-800-972-TIPS, submit your tip online at www.tipsubmit.com, or text a tip from your cell phone by texting STOPCRIME plus your message to CRIMES (274637).

NEWS LINKS:
Denver Post 3/16/14- Eagle County authorities search for man missing on hut trip
NWI.com (Duneland) 3/17/14- Chesterton man missing on hiking trip in Colorado
WSBT 22 CBS 3/17/14- Search for missing doctor
South Bend Tribune 3/17/14- Mishawaka doctor missing in Colorado
Fox 31 Denver 3/17/14- Search for missing Eagle County hiker resumes Monday with no success
WSBT 22 CBS 3/17/14- Search continues for missing Colorado hiker
Vail Daily 3/18/14- Severe weather hampers Vail-area search for missing man


Google Earth view of the mountainous terrain just north of Vail, CO, showing the location of the Eiseman Hut

Sunday, March 16, 2014

BEST DOG EVER!!


On February 27, 2014 our long-time companion and friend Kenoh, an Australian shepherd of uncertain lineage, succumbed to the ravaging effects of cancer after 13 good years on Earth. 

Kenoh was a working dog.  His first job was chasing and catching Frisbees.

  His second and ultimately more important job was watching out for his kids.

He was always up for a hike, or a trip to the park. 

His work is now completed, and we shall miss him greatly...
 
Well done, good and faithful companion...
 
Godspeed Kenoh...
 
Best dog ever!
 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

WINNIE THE POOH INVESTIGATES

The official investigation into the disappearance of Jack Gordon never really gained any traction.  In ways, it always has reminded me of the original Winnie the Pooh book, chapter 3 In which  Pooh and Piglet go hunting and nearly catch a Woozle.  You can read the whole chapter here.


If you have never read the story, it concerns Winnie the Pooh and his small friend Piglet.  Piglet has become concerned about a trail of footprints near his house.  As he follows the footprints he doesn't realize that he is walking around in a circle.  He then becomes alarmed because all of a sudden there are two sets of footprints, so there must be two Woozles, not just one.  Pooh then joins the investigation with predictable results:

"Pooh says that it might be a Woozle, or it might not, and Piglet joins in with the tracking and walking in circles to see if they can find out for sure. And after a little while Pooh stops walking, and says that it's very funny, but there are now two sets of paw-prints, which means...well, what does that mean?"



Now you might ask why I am reminded of this story.  Perhaps it is this excerpt from the original police incident report of Jack Gordon's disappearance, as written by Deputy Jacob Vigil of the Costilla County Sheriff's office:

"I searched the residence, as well as a camping trailer that was parked next to the home. The house and camping trailer were empty. While looking around the house I noticed a single set of footprints that went to the back of the house and around the other side and onto the road where I lost track. I was unable to notice any tire tracks as there were several vehicles traveling on the road."



And so it goes.


 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

THE CURIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF SEAMUS MULDOON- JUST THE FACTS MA'AM

My personal story of Jack Gordon's disappearance was put forth in the book entitled The Curious Disappearance of Seamus Muldoon (available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon.com).  I would like to share the first chapter of that book here, for any who might be interested. Ultimately, for me and my wife, the story is about the life of Jack Gordon more than his unseemly disappearance.

Enjoy!



Chapter 1- Just The Facts Ma'am



On the morning of October 2, 2008 seventy-seven-year-old Reverend Jack Nels Gordon vanished from the face of the earth.   I mean he literally vanished.  Here are the facts of the case as we know them.  Jack had lived in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado for about 12 years with his fourth wife, a Filipina barely half his age, and younger than most of his children from previous marriages.  Life had thrown Jack and his wife a curveball 6 years earlier when against all medical odds they became pregnant.  Not just once, but twice in two years Jack’s wife gave birth.  The life of quiet solitude and contemplation that Jack had expected in his elder years gave way to the chaos of a house filled with the joyful sounds of two vibrant young children.  Jack’s biggest project in this stage of his life was the almost single-handed construction of a permanent home for him and his young family.  This was taking place on a five-acre plot of land in the Forbes Sangre de Cristo Ranches, a large, remote rural subdivision at the southeastern extreme of the San Luis Valley. 
<>

Sunday, January 5, 2014

THE MYSTERY OF TWO MEN'S DISAPPEARANCE ON THE SAME DAY- REVISITED

I am going to post some links expanding on the curious disappearance of Jack Gordon. Let's start with the 2010 Denver Post article entitled "The Mystery of Two Men's Disappearance on the Same Day"

When I originally posted the link to this Denver Post article back in 2012 I did not excerpt very much content.  As I re-read that original post I realize that it did not really give much of the story.  Mr. Mitchell of the Denver Post summarized the Jack Gordon case very well.  I am going to now provide a more extensive excerpt from that story in order to help round out my readers' understanding of the case.

Two men, retired preacher, sex offender — vanish on same day in '08

On Oct. 2, 2008, 77-year-old retired preacher Jack Nels Gordon disappeared from his land in Costilla County, leaving behind a wife and seven children.  That same day, Gordon's neighbor, a convicted sex offender named John Fureigh, also disappeared from the area, leaving nothing behind but questions.  Did they leave together? Did they both choose to coincidentally disappear on the same day? Or did one or both of them meet with foul play that night?  The only evidence left behind was a dark stain found on the dirt driveway leading to Fureigh's home. But even that has a mystery attached — the sheriff, strapped for time in patrolling a 1,200-square-mile county — didn't test the spot to see whether it was blood, or, if so, whose.


(NOTE: Let me clarify one little detail.  Jack had seven adult offspring from previous marriages.  He "left behind" his most recent wife and two young children aged six and five at the time. )

READ ON:

What is known is this:
Fureigh was living in Costilla County under the alias John Busby. And he had a good reason for using it. He bought a 5-acre parcel in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to escape an active warrant for his arrest out of El Paso County for failing to register as a sex offender.


MORE:

On the last day anyone saw him, Gordon announced he was headed to Luke Road and walked out to the driveway of their duplex apartment in Fort Garland, coffee cup in hand, and climbed up into his old white van. He waved good-bye to his family for the last time about 8:30 a.m.  Gordon stopped by the post office, headed south on Colorado 159, then stopped at a local mechanic's house to discuss work on the van. It was the last confirmed sighting.

Gordon also had indicated he needed to speak with Fureigh, who was helping him design a website for people living in countries with no religious freedoms. Fureigh's house, which he also built himself, was about a half mile from Gordon's home.  When Gordon didn't come home by his customary 2:30 p.m., his wife caught a ride to the house and searched for him. She found his van, but no sign of Gordon. She called the sheriff's office, but when an officer mistakenly thought she said Gordon normally came home by 2:30 a.m., a search was delayed.



Since that day, (October 2, 2008)  no trace of Jack Gordon has ever been found.  John Fureigh left his home on Luke Road the same day, never to return.  Why would he leave a home that he had spent 2 1/2 years building with his own two hands?  There have been rumored sightings of Fureigh in the hills of the Forbes Trinchera Ranches since that day, but he is not living in the area openly.   Did they leave together?  Did their paths cross on that fateful day?  Was there a confrontation of some sort between the elderly Jack Gordon and the much younger Fureigh?  Did somebody else kill Jack and Fureigh was a witness, hiding in fear for his own life?  It is a certainty that somebody knows what happened.

We have heard through the grapevine that Fureigh's mother still lives in the area.  Perhaps she knows of a way to get a message to her son, asking him to come forward and clear his name.   If either of them is reading this post, they can contact the blog administrator anonymously by e-mail at seamus_muldoon@yahoo.com  and let us know their side of the story.  Maybe there is a rational explanation for what happened.

My suspicion is that the only way we will ever know  what happened to Jack Gordon that day is if the burden of knowledge weighs so heavily on the one who knows that he can no longer bear to look in the mirror day after day.  Rather than taking that knowledge to his grave, perhaps he will feel the need to tell somebody what he knows.  Until that day, the man who killed Jack Gordon will fester in the rot of his own corruption.   Ultimately God will pass judgment, even if the local authorities do not.