True Crime Tuesdays – “What a Great Idea for a Novel!”

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Some criminals just stay with you. The first criminal I was introduced to was Jeffrey Dahmer. I don’t remember what I was watching but my father told me all about him. I think I was about 12 at the time. His acts were heinous. Killing young men, raping them and having them for dinner. I always wondered if Silence of the Lambs was based on him. Even at that tender age, instead of this disgusting me, Dahmer fascinated me. He has stuck with me since.

And so has Maryann Castorena.

No, she is not anything like Jeffrey Dahmer, but her stupidity is so remarkable I can’t stop thinking about her. I first saw her on Snapped, Season 17, Episode 3. I think my mind was a ball of confusion after the episode was over. I am not sure what she was thinking with her defense, but like I stated, her story (oh, what a story it is!) has adhered itself to some part of my brain, leeching on and not letting go.

Maryann met and started dating a man named Jose Hernandez back in 2005. Love was in the air that they moved in together. At the heart of this story is greed (isn’t it always?!). In 2012, Jose, so infatuated with Maryann, took out a $750,000 life insurance policy. He took this policy out at the insurance company Maryann worked at (convenient, right?!). At the time he put his niece as the beneficiary but question whether he could change that at a later date, say, once he had a wife and kids.

Well, of course Maryann was made aware of this policy and started to manufacture a plan to obtain Jose’s money. If only the policy were in her name already! Maryann was visiting her adult sons one day and met one of their friends, Anthony Delagarza, a member of the gang the Latin Kings. Not the best mother of the year knowing your sons are hanging out with gang members but hey, why not join in, right?! Delagarza claimed he wanted out of the Latin Kings and was working on it. He is truthful in this aspect. In December of 2012, he was officially “jumped” out or in other terms, beaten to a pulp.

But Anthony’s thug-life was not over. Maryann would make sure of that.

In early 2013, Jose had a change of heart and decided he wanted Maryann to have all his money, making her the only beneficiary of his employee stock options plan, his 401k plan, and his life insurance policy through his company. The other one stayed with his niece as the beneficiary.

Ah, it was go time for Maryann!

She started small, having Delagarza destroying the “beat up jalopy” for an insurance payout. This jalopy was a pretty new 2012 Nissan Maxima. Paying him $1,000, he blew up the car (add 1st degree arson to his list of offences). The cover story was that Maryann’s ex-husband did it for revenge. In return, Jose received $40,000 from the insurance company.

This event was so life altering to Jose, that he now changed his beneficiary on his other insurance policy leaving his niece with 60% and Maryann with 40%.

What Maryann never told Jose, was she was in love with someone else and married them July of 2013. She then returned and told Delagarza she needed a favor (seriously man, turn and run!). She wanted him to murder Jose. In return, he would get $50,000 of a 3rd life insurance policy Maryann was going to persuade Jose to take out. So in her charming nature, Maryann gets Jose to take out another $750,000 life insurance policy leaving her as the sole beneficiary.

Side note: Are you adding up the dollar signs in your head? Let’s see… $750,000+(40% of 750,000)+employee stock options, 401K and the other life insurance policy… Maryann stood to gain somewhere between $1.2 – $1.5 million!!!

Now, Jose had to die.

Late 2013, Maryann moved her husband (not Jose) to Michigan from Nevada. She then met with Delagarza several times to discuss the murder of Jose. Meanwhile, Jose now split that first insurance policy 50-50 with his niece and Maryann.

On January 5th, 2014, Delagarza went into action, borrowing a relative’s car and waiting for Jose to leave his apartment and accessing his car. At that time, Delagarza senselessly beat Jose with ball joint remover with a broken prong and left him to die in the snow. Maryann and Delagarzathen got rid of the weapon.

Okay, so why is Maryann Castorena’s murder of her ex-boyfriend so remarkable?! It isn’t necessarily the murder… it is the evidence and defense that is quite the story.

As police searched for Jose’s killer they subsequently interviewed Maryann several times especially since she stood to gain A LOT of money. In these interviews, Maryann was only so happy to give the police Delagarza’s name. Heck, if he was in prison and she wasn’t, she didn’t have to pay him the $50,000 hit fee, right?! (Because $1.2 million isn’t enough!) Well, Delagarza didn’t think twice about throwing Maryann under the bus telling them that she was the mastermind and that…

… she even wrote out the murder plan!

To coin a Yiddish term (yes, I’m Jewish)… Oy Vey!

Maryann had handwritten a note outlining the whole plan to kill Jose from hiding by his car, to beating him, every little aspect was written down. The police ate this up and started searching everywhere for this letter. Instead of burning said letter, the police found it crumpled up inside a book bag. Although I cannot seem to find an image of this letter searching on Google, Oxygen just show a glimpse of it in the Snapped episode.

So far Maryann has broken two of my rules seen in my prior post from March: “What Not To Do When Committing A Crime… The Stupidity of Criminals” . She has written out her murder plan (yes I know she is my example in this post) and she hired someone.

It is obvious that Delagarza was going away for a long time for first-degree murder. Now it was Maryann’s time for her trial. Maryann took that letter she wrote and created this whole defense on it. The defense: the letter wasn’t a murder plot, no, it was a story she heard two women discussing at a restaurant she was at and she thought it sounded like a great idea for a novel or movie!

Um… really Maryann?! Who the hell do you think is buying that defense?!

This “story” she heard and was writing was exactly the way things played out in real life with Jose’s murder.

Needless to say, the jury was not falling for this charade and Maryann is spending her days in prison sentenced to life with not possibility of parole. In the end, Maryann, was it really worth it?!


Maryann stays with me because of the letter. Her stupidity in not only writing the murder plot, but also not disposing it and then claiming it was a book idea is what boggles my mind. How do you get so absorbed in killing a human being for money that you totally miss the idea of being caught?! What goes through your mind as you plan the hit?! Do you really think you will get away with it?!

Maryann, my one advice for you… give up on your writing career.

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True Crime Tuesday – The Prodigal Spoiled Brat Son

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This weeks true crime tale begins in West Virginia (no, get your minds out of the gutter, there is no incest in this story). There was a small family of three: a mother, a son, and a stepfather. This is the story of Donald Dunn and the murder and attempted murder of his parents.

I had no idea who Donald Dunn was before watching A Lie To Die For, Season 1, Episode 5, “Deadly Diploma”. I needed a new true crime show to binge watch and the title of the show intrigued me. Due to the fall lineup on the network stations not starting for another week or so, my husband and I decided to watch this show one evening. This is where I met the prodigal son, Donald.

Donald was by all means a typical child. He was loved by his mother, Johanna, and stepfather, Mark. Mark entered Donald’s life pretty early on. He loved the boy, always being there for him. His parents spoiled him. He never had to ask for anything. Johanna and Mark bought him whatever he wanted.

So here we are, a boy who is tremendously loved by his parents and given everything he could ever want. Why would he want to kill his parents?!

Well, as the title states, this millennial fits the stereotype that a lot of people have towards millennials. Donald became lazy. Selfish and lazy.

Donald started community college back in 2008 and then transferred to Marshall University in 2010. It wasn’t long after this transfer that Donald failed out of college. Like any “good” son, he decided not to tell his parents. He moved in with his long time girlfriend and her sister and pretended to go to class. According to them he would leave for 1-2 hours and come back. They didn’t think anything of it. Turns out, young Donald was going and getting high during this time frame. When he was back at the apartment he would play video games and watch movies with his girlfriend. Typical college student behavior. All this while keeping his parents money. He was living the lazy sloth-like life he always wanted… and one he would kill for.

Johanna calls 911 on May 25, 2013, the day that was supposed to be Donald’s college graduation. In this 911 call, Johanna tells police that she shot and killed her husband in self defense. Her son Donald had been in the shower but came upstairs to his mother once he was beckoned to do so. They arrest Johanna and question both at the police station.

Open and shut case, right?! Oh so wrong!

At the police station Johanna is quick to change her story. She tells police that Donald is the one who shot and killed Mark and that he attempted to shoot and kill her as well. He told his mother he had a gift for her and to sit at the dining room table and he’ll bring it to her. Instead he points the gun at the back of her head and shoots. Lucky for Johanna, the gun jams and she frees herself begging her son to turn himself in. Instead he forces her to call the police and tell them she killed Mark.

Now the police don’t know who the heck to believe. That is until…

… Donald breaks!

He fully admits to killing his stepfather and attempting to kill his mother. Then he explains why beginning with:

“First semester there, the classes went from, if you show up, you get an A, to actually having to put forth the effort and do the work,” Donald Dunn told police, “It was just beyond me. I just didn’t have the faculties to do it.” (But you have the faculties to use this word)

Hmmm… didn’t have the faculties to do it. So now Donald is trying to convince everyone he is a big dummy.

He continues by saying he enjoyed living the comfortable life he was living doing nothing and leeching off his parents. He figured to continue that life that he would need to kill his parents to inherit their money, because as he states, it was easier than telling them the truth about flunking out of college. What a typical millennial?! (Honestly, no offense to my millennial readers, he just fits the stereotype perfectly):

“It wasn’t really the thought of upsetting them, I guess it was the thought of losing a vehicle, losing a place to live, losing fancy custom shoes and junk like that,” Donald said. (What a spoiled brat?!)

Donald, trying to make off like he is this dumb-ass, admits to typing up a suicide letter supposedly written by his mom. In the letter he glorifies himself like any good psychopath would, how he is such a treasured son.

But he is not done.

He admits to planning these murders during spring break because his “graduation” was approaching. He started going to gun ranges to practice. He stole his mother’s gun and loaded it with the exact amount of bullets you would need for his “murder/suicide” plan with is mother as the shooter. He had been producing fake report cards from the school and continued to. He had everyone fooled.

The cops who interrogated him have said that he showed no emotion whatsoever after reiterating his story. He was cold and shocked that he didn’t feel anything after killing his stepfather.

In 2014, Donald was convicted of the first degree murder of his stepfather, Mark, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The irony is that even though he tried to kill his mother, she defended him at the trial saying that he was such a good boy growing up. She even went as far as to use the insurance money she got from Mark’s death to hire a lawyer for her son! I understand sticking by your child but he murdered your husband and then you took the victim’s money to pay for the guilty’s lawyer?! Just wrong.

In 2016, Donald appealed his case taking it all the way up to the West Virginia Supreme Court. In some not-so-shattering news, they denied his appeal.

Donald’s mother died not long after his sentence from cancer, an illness she had been suffering from for a while. There is no one left to visit him as the rest of the family has cut their ties. He will die in prison alone…

… as the man who “didn’t have the faculties to do it.”

He has never shown any remorse.

 

 

True Crime Tuesdays – “I Did It All For You, Jodie!”

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I don’t know much about John Hinckley Jr. All I knew prior to watching the recent Dateline episode (Season 27, Episode 52) was that he shot President Reagan. After all, I had just had my first birthday a month prior. My focus was on taking my first steps, not true crime. That would come much later.

When I saw the Dateline preview for the episode “Hinckley: Diary of a Dangerous Mind” I became intrigued. I never knew why he did what he did. I never knew that when he shot President Reagan, he shot several other people. And I never knew that the reason behind him shooting the president all lied with his tremendous infatuation with actress Jodie Foster.

Within the episode, they had interviewed some of Hinckley’s childhood chums. They described him as this nice kid, friendly, caring. And then something happened. He changed. He became paranoid. As his friends described him, I jumped up from the sofa scaring my husband as I shouted, “He has schizophrenia!” Leave it to my mentally ill mind to know. I, myself, am not a schizophrenic, but know several people who are and the one thing they all have in common is that their symptoms first appeared in their late teens/early 20s. I have to admit, I high-fived my husband when they did finally diagnose him.

But I digress. A little background on John Hinckley Jr.: He was born in Oklahoma in 1955 to well-to-do parents. Money was not an issue in their house. He grew up in Texas through elementary school on and even into his college years. Because of the symptoms of his mental illness, he wound up dropping out of college and moving back in with his parents who were then living in Colorado.

It was here that he came up with his plan, the plan to shoot (and hopefully kill) the president. Why? Jodie Foster. I know, I know, how are the two connected? My husband and I were greatly perplexed by this, sitting on the edge of the sofa about to fall off, staring at the TV with our faces in a puzzling look. Then the answer was given… the movie Taxi Driver.

Ah, yeah, Taxi Driver! I see the correlation. Totally! (Remember, I was a baby when Reagan was shot. I wasn’t even born when Taxi Driver was released).

So, to put all the points into perspective… Jodie Foster plays a prostitute in Taxi Driver (released in 1976). The lead, played by Robert DeNiro, is a Vietnam Vet who is now driving a taxi through the streets of NYC. He slowly becomes insane and starts to plan the assassination of the presidential candidate and Jodie Foster’s pimp.

Okay, now it is making more sense. Hinckley was obsessed with this movie. This movie was where his obsession with Jodie Foster was fostered (hah, like my play on words there?!). This movie’s lead goes insane. Hinckley was going insane. The lead plans to assassinate the presidential candidate… aha! Hinckley plans to assassinate a president.

Now I got it. All the dots are connected.

On March 30th, 1981, Hinckley fired 6 shots into a large crowd aimed at President Reagan. His first few shots hit police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and press secretary James Brady. It wasn’t until the very last shot, that he hit Reagan. The bullet squeezed by through the small gap at the hinge of the car door and hit Reagan in chest. Reagan recovered as did the others shot, although some of them did not fare as lucky as others.

Hinckley is quickly tackled and arrested after the shooting. It is at this point where they have a psychiatrist see him. He was then given the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Throughout this whole time (prior to the shooting and after) he is in constant contact with (who else?) Jodie Foster. He created this romantic relationship in his head. Called her dorm room. Wrote her letters. He was in love, the obsessive, stalker kind, but in love nonetheless. Meanwhile, Jodie thought the complete opposite. Frankly, he was nothing to her but an annoying man.

Hinckley is brought to trial in 1982. Everyone is 100% positive that he will be found guilty. I mean, there are over dozens of witnesses. The courtroom is waiting with baited breath as the jury files in and reads the verdict…

“Not guilty by reason of insanity!”

The courtroom was in shock! No jail time for someone who shot the president?!

It isn’t that Hinckley got off Scott-free. He was sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C. During his hospital stay, he decided that conversing with other criminals would be a really good hobby. He and Ted Bundy became good pen pals. He wrote with one of Charles Manson’s women, Lynette Fromme. He tried to get Manson’s contact info but never received it (I guess Manson swiped left on Tinder).

Hinckley did fall in love while in the hospital. He fell for a woman 10 years his senior who was taking up residence there because she shot and killed her 10-year-old daughter. During this tragedy, she cut her arm off as well. The two were crazy about each other and would meet outside, walk together and even enjoyed some sexual escapades. They were so in love that when this woman was released she took a job at St. Elizabeth’s to remain near him. I am not sure how this was allowed by the staff…

In 1987, Hinckley made his first attempt at freedom. He applied to the court for periodic home visits. Because of his correspondence with mass-murderer Ted Bundy, and his continued obsession with Jodie Foster, he was denied.

He was given supervised home visits in 1999. A year later, 2000, the hospital decided he was ready to see the world and suggested unsupervised visits. Not sure what they were thinking, but they quickly realized this was a bad idea and changed their minds.

Throughout 2004 and 2005, Hinckley regained supervised visits with his parents. September of 2005, he requested expanded privileges. He received multi-night visits with his parents, who were now living in Williamsburg, VA. In 2007, Hinckley wanted more. He was denied.

In 2009, he was allowed longer visits with his mother (his father had passed away) and he was allowed a driver’s license. With this he had to have a GPS enabled cellphone to which he had to carry all the time.

In 2011, the hospital deemed him safe and not a danger to himself or society. The Department of Justice disagreed.

In 2013, he received longer visits with his mother, now allowing him 17-day stretches.

After over 30 years at St. Elizabeth’s, John Hinckley Jr. was released on September 10, 2016 into the hands of his aging mother who was 90 at the time. He had a whole bunch of conditions he had to keep in order to stay free and seemed to maintain them all. As of November 2018, the court allowed him to move out of his mother’s house and is live on his own.

I know for a fact that he still resides in Williamsburg, VA as I have a friend there who has seen him. He lives a normal life, goes shopping, has a girlfriend.

But what would a good true crime story be without a good humorous twist?! Am I right?!

As of September 10, 2019, Hinckley is seeking permission to move to California. Why? To enter the music business. The judge is reviewing and requesting additional information.


An interesting side note: Hinckley didn’t care which president he tried to assassinate, there was no democrat/republican angle. He is seen in a photograph standing in a crowd behind President Carter. He just never had the right angle. So Reagan was next.

Okay, okay, so what do I think about Hinckley living a “normal” life?
As a person with mental illness, I think he deserves a second chance at a “normal” life. He spent many years, decades, at an institution. He sees a therapist and a psychiatrist. He is what I like to call “in remission”. Why shouldn’t he deserve another chance at life?!
But to play devil’s advocate… he shot a president! He shot other people as well. No, none of them died (although Brady’s death was ruled a homicide 33 years after the shooting). I often wonder what would’ve happened if he succeeded. But, what ifs are pointless.

 

If you enjoyed this installment, please check out last week’s: “I’m Gonna Be A YouTube Sensation!”

 

True Crime Tuesdays: A Place to Discuss Most Suburban Moms’ Obsession

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So I had this idea… nothing too original, but with my huge obsession with true crime, I thought I should write about it  more than once a season. I know I have written about the stupidity of criminals but I wanted to do something else.

Enter True Crime Tuesdays!

Each Tuesday, I will analyze a case I have seen, heard or read about giving a fresh look from this suburban working mom. Of course there will be some humor, but also seriousness as I will be discussing murders.

I welcome any suggestions on cases. If you have any, please comment below or email spaigewrites@gmail.com

There will be cases from Dateline reviews, Snapped reviews, Cold Justice, A Lie to Die For, Buried in the Backyard, In Ice Cold Blood, Forensic Files… the list goes on and on…

There will be cases from podcasts such as Wine & Crime, True Crime Obsessed, True Crime Brewery, My Favorite Murder, Moms & Murder, Martinis & Murder…

There will be local and national news stories…

All that and more every True Crime Tuesday!

Who’s excited besides me?!

 

Join me next Tuesday for my first installment.

The Stupidity of Criminals… Part 2!

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Earlier this year I wrote about the stupidity of criminals. With all the true crime I watch, read and listen to, I had to speak up… criminals (99.9% of the time) are stupid! In the blog post I wrote back in March, What Not To Do When Committing A Crime… The Stupidity of Criminals, I had an influx of things I missed told to me from other true crime fanatics. I was shocked. How could I not have picked up on a few of these?! Because of this I feel a second edition (and possibly a third) is needed. And so, the saga continues:

Don’t Like Your Own ‘Wanted’ Post on Facebook

I can’t believe I just typed that. With the rise of social media, local and federal authorities have started to post ‘Wanted’ posts on Facebook and Twitter. The more people that see it and share it, the better.

Meet Levi Charles Reardon from Cascade County, MT who back in 2015 liked his ‘Wanted’ post on Facebook. He was tagged on the post on the Crime Stopper page and made himself known. Stupid, you just gave away your IP address… the cops came and apprehended him.

Meet Anthony Aker from Richland, WA: He liked his own ‘Wanted’ Facebook post from the local police department and even told them he would be turning himself in. Then when he didn’t show a whole chat ensued online between him and the local PD. This honestly began to make the police department look stupid until, low & behold, he actually turned himself in about two weeks later! He just needed to get his affairs in order (so he said).

And of course, there was a Florida man (isn’t there always one?!).  Mack Yearwood was apprehended back in 2016 after the Stuart Police Department did a simple search for him on Facebook. They not only found him, but dude used his ‘Wanted’ poster as his profile pic.

If  you are looking to NOT get caught, stay off of social media.

Do Not Research ‘How to Get Away With Murder’

Yes, I know, How to Get Away With Murder is a popular TV show but researching this is not only going to bring you websites of the show, it will show you a lot more. Just like my previous post on this topic with cell phone & credit card use, whatever you search for online is hidden on your computer even if you delete your search history. It amazes me how many criminals search for poisonous plants, which weapon kills quicker, and my fave, how to dispose of a body and not be caught.

Clue #1, if your are searching online, the cops will know you are guilty.

Going On Vacation With Your Significant Other…

…and only buying 1 round trip ticket.

I really do not think this needs an explanation. But, if you are going to be taking that special someone on a romantic getaway and that person turns up missing and they find out you only purchased 1 round trip ticket… looks kind of suspicious. Don’t you think?!

In relation, do not attempt to ask for a refund if you do purchase a round trip ticket when your significant other is missing. Again… suspicious.

Don’t Give Away A Person’s Belongings…

Especially if they haven’t been missing a long time.

Most notable on this topic is Josh Powell, now deceased, whose wife, Susan Cox Powell turned up “missing” December 6, 2009. Within a month he had sold their house, moved, and gave away most of her belongings. Um, dude, do you know something about her disappearance because it sure looks like you do!

Sadly, Susan’s body has never been found. She is presumed dead. In a tragic twist, Josh Powell beat their two sons and then lit the house on fire with all three of them in it.

Taking Out Life Insurance Right Before A Death

Because money is the #1 cause for murder, this is a no brainer. So many episodes of Snapped, Dateline, etc. where someone loves money more than their significant other. They are worth more dead than alive. Life will be easy. Kill them, collect their insurance money, say $500,000 and live happily ever after…

… except, when you get caught. FYI, insurance companies will not pay out if you are a suspect in a murder or convicted of said crime.

Some examples:

A typical husband and wife scenario: In July of 1997, Nuzzio Begaren, of Anaheim, married his wife Elizabeth Wheat. Three days later, he took out a $1,000,000 life insurance policy on is wife. Nuzzio then contacted some gang members to kill his wife. Elizabeth, who worked as corrections officer, noticed a car following her one day. Her smart thinking eventually led to the arrests of Nuzzio & 2 of the 3 gang members as she jotted down the license plate number of the car. The 3rd is still at large.

A father, Karl Karlsen, of Waterloo, NY took out a life insurance policy on his own son just 17 days prior to his son’s death. Because of the nature of his death, it was initially ruled as an accident and Karl received $707,000. Well, because he got away with it, he took out a policy on his second wife. Turns out Karl is known for this. He received $80,000 for the deaths of his horses and wait, you guessed it, $200,000 on his first wife. It is really sad when a parent kills their own child for money.

Seen recently while binge-watching Forensic Files (Season 11, Episode 13 “Undertaken”:  Frankie Pullian was an errand runner for a funeral home in Paterson, NJ where E. Lee White was the director. Frankie had some neurological impairment. He was making no more than $10,000/year back in 1980 before his death. The police who arrived at the scene noticed a few inconsistencies at the site of where Frankie’s body was found and began to research his employer. Turns out the funeral director, his wife, and two other men began taking out policies on Frankie 8 months prior to his death having someone pose as Frankie and forging his signature. They stood to gain $980,000 with a bonus of $350,000 if Frankie died in an accident. Needless to say, they never saw any payment as all 4 were found guilty.

Pastor hires hit man to collect life insurance. This is a sad story. A pastor of all people, Kevin Jerome Pushia of Baltimore, MD, would trick mentally challenged individuals into applying for life insurance and naming him as the beneficiary. He took out a $200,000 life insurance policy on Lemuel Wallace, a man who was both blind and disabled. In addition to himself, he listed the victim’s brother as a beneficiary. Eventually he admitted his guilt and is serving a life sentence.

If you can’t trust a pastor, who can you trust, right?!


*Because this addition is already so long, a 3rd one will be required. Stay tuned for The Stupidity of Criminals Part 3 where I will discuss arson and more!*

*Disclaimer: I am in no way encouraging any of my readers on what to do to commit the perfect crime. This is an article about how stupid 99.9% of criminals are. I am formally saying, do not commit a crime. Just don’t.*

What Not To Do When Committing A Crime… The Stupidity of Criminals

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There is no denying the fact that I am a true crime fanatic. I live, breathe and sleep true crime. I watch true crime shows and documentaries. I listen to true crime podcasts. And, I read books devoted to true crime. With all this, I have deemed myself an expert… an expert on what not to do if you want to pull of the perfect crime.

My husband, who occasionally joins me for my Friday night “Wine & Dateline”, has stated many times about the stupidity of these criminals. I am not going to lie, these crimes are mostly murders. Please note, I do not condone any criminal act. My heart breaks for the victim and their family.

But, the criminal, the murderer, I have found myself laughing at many of them. I never in my wildest dreams thought this topic would be humorous, but it has become so.

Below is a list of what you shouldn’t do when trying to pull off the perfect crime. I honestly can’t believe how many stupid people believe they will never be caught that have done the following:

Using Your Cellphone

In this day and age, most of us are attached to our cellphones. We check our emails. We peruse social media. We text. And in rare occurrences, we actually make a phone call. The last two are a criminal’s downfall. Somewhere in between informing their ‘boss’, significant other, or anyone else, they forget that their cellphone will ping off of towers within their vicinity. So many Snapped episodes I have seen where the woman (because it is always a woman on Snapped) will constantly deny that they were anywhere near their now dead spouse, parents, or child. Then the cops show her her phone records. Really?! Are you that stupid to believe the cops would not look into your cellphone records?!

Using Your Credit Card

Similar to using your cellphone, do not use a credit card. So many episodes of Dateline and Snapped where the criminal goes to buy supplies and low and behold, pays with a credit card. Their own credit card. Really?! It is not only the credit card use that has solidified it was in fact you, but you are also caught on camera at the store. No need for receipts, law enforcement has already looked into your credit card purchases.

Keeping The Receipt

I just recently watched a Dateline episode, “Finding Venus”, where an ex-husband killed his ex-wife. He lived in Virginia, she in Michigan. He used a gaming buddy as his alibi. He even had this buddy pretend to be him delivering a check to his divorce lawyer. And, he would have gotten away with it if, a big if, he had thrown out a Walmart receipt. The receipt was found in his car from a location in Ohio along the drive from Virginia to Michigan. It gets better though. What was he buying on this receipt you ask? Gloves, a shovel and a tarp. The tarp wrapper was found at the scene of the crime. Yeah, not looking good buddy! If only you had thrown out that receipt…

Also, a big note to Doug Stewart, the ex-husband… it is bad enough you kept the receipt, but also, your outfit of choice when purchasing said items made you stand out even more. A striped shirt and surf shorts are not the way to go in the month of October in Ohio when you are buying murder supplies.

Using Your Real Name

Let’s go back in time. A time before social media. A time before cellphones. The year was 1986 and this crime happened one town over from where I live now. This is the sad murder of Helle Crafts, a Danish flight attendant. Her husband, Richard Crafts, a pilot, is now more famously known as the man who committed the Woodchipper Murder. Another criminal who thought he would get away with murder especially since they could not find a body. They had suspicions that Helle did not disappear but was in fact murdered with her husband as suspect #1. Problem was a snowplow had seen Richard on the side of the road with a woodchipper late the night Helle was last seen. This led the police to looking into rentals as the Crafts’ did not own one. Low and behold, on the rental agreement, although he paid in cash, Richard signed his own name. Doh!

Writing Out Your Murder Plan

When I first saw this on an episode of Snapped I was extremely amazed at the stupidity of this woman. Meet Maryann Castorena. She hired someone to kill her ex-boyfriend for his insurance as she was still declared the beneficiary. Not uncommon. Most murders are done for the insurance money. What makes her so ‘unique’ or just plain stupid, is she wrote the whole murder plan out for her hired help. When the cops asked her about the letter which highlighted every step of the murder, she claimed it was for a book or screenplay she was writing. She pleads with law enforcement that she overheard 2 women at a restaurant talking about this and thought, “Hey, what a great book/movie idea!”

Ms. Castorena… if you didn’t want to get caught, you shouldn’t have laid out the whole plot on paper.

Your Last Name Should Not Be Peterson, Period

If your last name is Peterson, just change it. Between Drew, Scott & Michael, you’re screwed.

It doesn’t matter if you are found innocent, you will still be guilty. Then again, you could just blame it on an owl!

And if you are a female with the last name Peterson, you will wind up being killed.

Not Paying Your Hired Help

I have seen many a Snapped episode where the instigator of the murder plot ‘forgets’ to pay their hired killer. As much as this killer does not want to get caught, you can bet if he or she does, your ass is going down with them… especially if you didn’t pay them. They will quickly tell the cops who hired them.

Paying Your Hired Help $100

Offering your hired help a mere pittance to murder your significant other will not work out well either. I am still perplexed at the people who agree to kill someone for $100. Really?! Let’s weigh the pros and cons: Pro, $100; Con (and most likely outcome) life in prison with or without parole. Does that $100 seem desirable now?!

(Insert head smack)

Please let me know if I left any off the list. Honestly, this list will constantly grow with all the advances in technology. I may have to write a follow-up to this in a year or two.

*Disclaimer: I am in no way encouraging any of my readers on what to do to commit the perfect crime. This is an article about how stupid 99.9% of criminals are. I am formally saying, do not commit a crime. Just don’t.*

 

 

The Day Jim Cantore Came To Town

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I have been an avid Weather Channel watcher for decades. The storms and catastrophes that Mother Nature can produce have me in awe. I am amazed at the destruction that can be caused and, unfortunately, the many lives that are lost.

When I was in college, I had to reapply to the architecture program after 3 semesters. It was required of all of us undergrads at the time and just because you were in the program didn’t mean you were guaranteed a spot to continue after the review. I feared that review. My drawings skills were average with many others who were way better and my design concepts weren’t highly imaginative. So I sat there, in the midst of waiting for my results thinking about what major I would transfer to if I had failed to receive acceptance. Meteorology was my number one choice. Although I did wind up continuing in the architecture program, in some ways I wish I didn’t.

Weather has been an interest of mine since I was young, the desire not as strong as architecture for me. I slept through Hurricane Gloria in 1985. I was a young kid who took a nap. When I woke up and saw the chaos outside my window, I was in wonderment. A force of nature could do this?! My little 5-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend this. Once we got cable several years later, I would sit and watch the weather channel instead of cartoons after school. Hurricane after hurricane… I watched wide-eyed, mouth gaping.

This continued through college. Every morning I would turn on the Weather Channel and wait for the Local on the 8s to appear so I could see what the weather was like for that day. That is when I started to learn the names of the anchors. That is when I became aware of Jim Cantore. He and Stephanie Abrams would start off my morning. After graduation, when out on my own in the real world, shows started to pop up on the Weather Channel with Jim Cantore hosting. My fave was ‘It Could Happen Tomorrow‘.

As the years passed, it became apparent that when there was a massive hurricane or snowstorm hitting, the Weather Channel always sent Jim Cantore to what they deemed would be the worst hit area.

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Forget Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, now it is Where in the World is Jim Cantore!

And then the day came, the day all of us dread, the day Jim Cantore came to town!

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In March of 2018, Jim Cantore came to my town. Winter Storm Quinn was approaching and predicted to drop feet of snow. There were many areas where he could of been sent, but instead he was sent to my little town. I sat at my TV watching, debating back and forth whether I should go to where he was and get a selfie with him. In some ways I idolized him. He was what I would have liked to have been had I gone into meteorology.

This storm was so unique, according to Jim, because of the thundersnow. Basically, instead of thunder during a rainstorm, there is thunder during a snowstorm. Aside from the 12+ inches of snow and the thunder, we had blizzard conditions due to the strong winds. A perfect set up for Jim Cantore. And here he was, frankly, scaring the shit out of us residents.

Through the decades, I never actually thought I would be living in an area where Jim would show up. There usually isn’t any weather that would warrant a visit from him. Sure we get snow, but we are used to it in the northeast, even a storm expected to produce more than a foot.

I decided that I should stop fan-girling him and did not go down to meet him. I had until noon that day since the snow really hadn’t started until then. With flakes falling, the wind howling and the growling thunder, I stayed in the comforts of my home watching him on the TV. The warmth of the pellet stove was more comforting then the mess going on outside.

And then it was over. And like with any other winter storm in the northeast, we cleaned up in less than a day. Jim Cantore left for his next adventure in weather. Turns out, he should have gone one town over. We only received about 18″ of snow while the next town received over 26″. All in all, it was both scary and amazing to see the legend of Jim Cantore in our town… a town that would never have been known to most had it not been for him.

 

 

Hi, My Name Is Not “Sophia’s Mom”

I was not given the name “Sophia’s Mom” at birth.  How would my parents know all those years ago that I would go on to have a beautiful daughter and name her Sophia.  I am sure they had hopes and dreams for grandchildren, but exact details as the sex and name of the child could not be foreseen in the stars.  After the birth of my daughter though, my name has gone from “Stephanie” to “Sophia’s Mom”.  When introducing myself to her friends’ parents, I always say, “Hi, I am Stephanie, Sophia’s Mother.”

And yet, almost 99% of the time when introduced at school events, or to other friends, I am always referred to as “Sophia’s Mom”.  

But I am so much more.

Being Sophia’s mother is just one piece of me and it is a major important piece of me.  Having a child changes your life.  You are no longer responsible for yourself, you are now responsible for another human being.  I would be foolish to say that being her mother was not significant.  She is one of the reasons my heart beats.  She is one of my strengths.  She is this beautiful human being.  And I love being her mother.

But I am so much more.

I didn’t grow up thinking my career would be ‘Mother’.  I played house and had baby dolls and that was a dream of mine.  But, I was taught to have more aspirations.  My mother stayed at home until I, her youngest, was six.  Then she returned to work.  Her having a career taught me that I could have one of my own.  I did not have to rely on my future spouse for income.  I could earn my own money.

When I decided Architecture would be my schtick at six years of age, I dove into the career head on, even as a young child.  I would build any Lego set I could get my hands on.  The sets progressed in size and complexity as I aged.  In high school, I took drafting classes and started to design houses.  Instead of Teen Vogue, I would buy house plan magazines.  In college, I majored in Architecture and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture.  Since graduation 15 years ago (wow, I’m old), I have worked in my field for several architects and now for a prominent furniture retailer & interior design studio.  I am not just “Sophia’s Mom”, I am also a “Project Manager/Architectural Services”.

Not every title is positive though.  Since teenager-hood, I have been a diagnosed Depressive.  Through the years, I gained the title of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD.  At my daughter’s birth, I had the titles of Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety.  I am Mentally Ill.  While most see these as negative, I have turned this into a positive.  I served as a Warrior Mom Ambassador and Climb Leader for the former Postpartum Progress.  I am an Ambassador for PatientsLikeMe.com.  I stand up to the stigma of Mental Illness and contribute not only to my blog, but online to The Mighty and Stigma Fighters.  I have contributed to three different books concerning Mental Illness, Stigma Fighters Anthologies II & III and A Dark Secret: Real Women Share Their Trials And Triumphs Of Their Battle With Maternal Mental Health Illness.  I am not only “Sophia’s Mom”, I am also a “Mental Health Advocate & Mental Health Author”.

While being a mother, I knew once Sophia started school, that I wanted to be known in that school for a reason most parents would not imagine.  I wanted the teachers and staff to know who I was in case my child was a trouble maker, which thankfully she never turned out to be.  I also wanted to be aware of what was going on in the school so I joined PTO.  First I was just your typical PTO member, then I became Treasurer.  For the last three years, I served in this position and will relinquish it once the school year ends and my daughter graduated elementary school in three weeks.  I have grown close to the staff and will miss them as they have always been nice and considerate to my daughter and myself.  I was not only “Sophia’s Mom”, I was “PTO Treasurer”.

What I am saying is we as moms are so much more than mothers.  You have likes and dislikes, hobbies and other things you are interested in.  Aside from all that I mentioned above, I am a daughter, sister and loyal friend.  I love to garden, to hike, to exercise.  I like hanging out with my friends painting or enjoying a nice meal.  We need to remember that being a mother is a part of us, a huge part, but not the only piece.  The next time I am introduced as “Sophia’s Mom”, do not be shocked if I correct you and say:

“Yes, I am Sophia’s Mom, but I am Stephanie Paige.”