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 Tuesdays – “Two Strikes… Want to Make it to Three?!”

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I had a whole True Crime Tuesday post ready for this week but when I read a recent news article in our local paper, I knew I had to write about this woman. So here it goes:

The news article’s title intrigued me: Brookfield woman arrested twice in one day

How?! Just how does one accomplish this wondrous title?!

As I read on, I just kept smacking my head.

The woman in question, 23-year-old Elayna Kathleen Smith, was arrested for breaking a full no-contact order. Police took her in at a park-and-ride where she was found in a vehicle with the young man who took the restraining order out against her. The two were first caught driving a vehicle with no front license plate and then the young man was found to have an expired license. After discovering the expired license, cops asked for the young woman’s name. She first gave some fake name but was quickly found out.

So Elayna is hauled in. She is released on a $500 bond.

Well, Elena isn’t the brightest bulb…

Not minutes after she is released, she is caught by an officer in the police department’s parking lot getting into a truck with who you ask… the same young man she is supposed to legally have no contact with! She is released now after posting another $1,000 bond.

She was arraigned on September 30th, 2019 after pleading “Not Guilty” to the three charges against her. Not sure how she plans on getting away with this one!

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I have so many questions on this one:

  • Why was a no-contact order taken out on her?!
  • Why was the guy who took the order out on her with her?!
  • Why did she choose to break the order and get in the truck with the guy?!
  • Were there drugs involved?! Prostitution?!
  • Or… is she just that dense?!

True Crime Tuesday – “Paging Dr. Schneeberger”

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I have to admit, I jumped at the chance to cover this one based solely on this doctor’s last name… Schneeberger (can’t stop laughing, sorry). No offense to any of my readers if your last name is Schneeberger or if any of your relatives last name is Schneeberger. In fact, my maiden name is the last half of this doctor’s last name. But, come on, who didn’t giggle when reading this?!

Now where did I discover Dr. Schneeberger?

To fall asleep at night, I watch episodes of Forensic Files (no judgement please). I am currently on Netflix’s Collection 8 out of 9. Each “collection” has around 50 episodes. Forensic Files is America’s longest running True Crime show commencing in April 23, 1996 and airing through June 17, 2011. That is over 15 years! Within this collection, I fell upon Season 6, Episode 18 “Bad Blood“.

The episode starts out in Kipling, Saskatchewan with a woman named Candice. Candy, as she is called in the episode, had gone to see her doctor (paging Dr. Schneeberger!) for some sort of sedative to calm her anxiety. This is not the first time Candy has seen him. This man was her primary care physician and even delivered her child. But this time was different. This time the doctor got a bit happy with the wrong head on his body. 

The incident occurred on Halloween of 1992. Schneeberger gave Candy a sedative as requested. It knocked her out completely. When she came to, she was disoriented but remembered Dr. Schneeberger sexually assaulting her. She did not say a word to his nurses, but confronted the doctor about the rape. The wonderful doctor was already beginning to cover his story by telling her that the sedative he gave her, Versed, has a strong amnesic effect and can cause vivid dreams.

Candy wasn’t buying it.

She left the office, but drove to a clinic in another town and got a rape kit performed on her. After semen was found she then called the police to report the rape. After reporting the crime, we see Candy being interviewed by Forensic Files, then her mother and then her father. I lost count on how many times “Eh” was said. It must be very prevalent in Saskatchewan versus all other Canadian provinces (Canada readers, please weigh in).

But I digress. The police went to visit Dr. Schneeberger and asked for his blood. Voluntarily, the doctor allowed them to take it… as long as it was in his left arm. No problem, I understand. I am a righty and prefer to donate blood using my non-dominant arm. His blood is not a match to the semen in Candy’s rape kit. Dr. Schneeberger is off the hook… for now.

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Candice doesn’t quite understand how this happened. Prior to the rape she hadn’t had sex in weeks. Meanwhile, the whole town is beginning to gossip about her and frankly, hate her. She, finally, persuades the police to test it again a year later. This time, the nurse who drew the blood looks at the tube and is a bit perplexed stating that this looks like old blood. But once again, the doctor is not a match even though the sample is very degraded. The police close the case in 1994.

Seems like this is the end for Candy getting justice… or is it?

Several years later, Dr. Schneeberger (god I love his name!) is accused by his stepdaughter in 1997 of sexual assault. Schneeberger’s wife, who had remained by his side and loathed Candy, was now singing a different tune. Lisa, his wife, had him arrested and demanded a DNA test to be performed. Candy’s case was reopened. The Mounties weren’t playing this time. They not only took his blood but also a hair sample and a saliva sample. All 3 were a match to the semen in Candy’s rape kit.

So how did Dr. Schneeberger’s blood not match the semen the first two times it was tested? The sneaky doctor reveals this in his 1999 trial for sexual assault. The doctor took a 15cm tube and filled it with one of his male patient’s blood. Aha! Now remember when the nurse was a bit puzzled after the second test stating that the blood looked old? Dr. Schneeburger had left that tube in him for over a year. Not the brightest move. This is why he always wanted his blood taken from his left arm. In the episode, they even zoom in to his second voluntary blood donation and you can actually see the tube in his arm!

Well, because the doctor was now involuntarily demanded to give his DNA, there was no way he was getting away with this!

In 1999, he was sentenced to six years in prison (frankly not enough time if you ask me). He medical license was revoked. His wife divorced him and complained about his citizenship to the the Canadian authorities. You see, Dr. Schneeberger was actually born in Zambia, a country located in south-central Africa. When the good doctor was released four years later on parole, the authorities revoked his citizenship and began deportation procedures. It seems Dr. Schneeburger may have mislead the authorities on his citizenship application (What Dr. Schneeburger lie? No way!) On his 1993 application, he claimed he was not part of an active police investigation. It seems the doctor had “forgotten” about the case Candy had brought against him (maybe he took some Versed!)

Dr. John Schneeberger was deported to South Africa in July 2004.

Candy was elated that she finally got justice, eh.

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 Tuesday – “I’m Gonna Be a YouTube Sensation!”

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A tale as old as time…

Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Boy marries girl. Girl hires hit man to kill boy… whoa, wait a minute!

This is the story of Dalia Dippolito, of Boynton Beach, FL who met her husband Michael Dippolito when she first appeared on his doorstep one day as a hired escort in 2008. Four months later (yes, I said four months) they were married. Hmmm… how much do you really know about a person in 4 months?! Their quick-to-the-altar marriage started out euphorically. All sunshine and roses, until it wasn’t, you know a few months after that. Why do I say a few months? Because Dalia started to plan Mike’s murder in 2009!

Maybe the sex wasn’t good, she didn’t like him anymore, who knows?! But he had to die! Why? Because the easiest most profitable way to get out of the marriage was to have him killed.

Detour here… I don’t understand what goes on in the criminal mind. You want out of a marriage and you want money. Ah, let me murder my spouse! Okay, I see that train of thought, BUT, and a big, BUT, criminals are stupid. They seem to get stuck on greed, that they don’t realize they will be caught and then instead of seeing all this insurance money & freedom, you’re seeing the inside of a prison. Just mind-boggling to me.

Back to the story. So Dalia wants her husband dead so she can collect his life insurance. Not original by any means. Greed is the #1 instigator of murder. Money talks. While she is planning his death, she starts stealing his money, $100,000 of it.

She begins with plans that only involve herself… poisoning his drink with antifreeze, attempting to steal a gun, trying to get him back behind bars on a probation violation (yes, Michael was not a saint by any means). All this backtracked her. She had to bring in reinforcements.

Enter her boyfriends.

She went first to Mike Stanley telling him that they could be together if they got Michael out of the picture. He helped put a townhouse Michael owned into Dalia’s name only. He aided in making phone calls to the U.S. Department of Treasury reporting Michael for fake money scams. This wasn’t enough.

She then enlisted Mohamed Fawzi Shihadeh. With this, Dalia makes the biggest mistake of her life… she tells Mohamed that she wants her husband dead. Oh Dalia, you broke one of my rules, disclosing your plan to someone else.

Well, at least the boyfriend isn’t as dumb as Miss Dalia. He takes his smart thinking directly to the local PD where he informs them of Dalia’s statement. The officers and Mohamed strike up a deal. Mohamed, now an informant, is to tell Dalia that he has found a hitman for her. Of course, this soon-to-be hired hitman is actually an undercover cop. This plan is the beginning of Dalia’s demise.

Dalia meets with the uncover cop, I mean hitman, in his car. Naturally, being an undercover cop there is not only sound recording devices in the car but video as well. Oh Dalia… She can be heard on the recording stating, “I’m positive, like 5,000 percent sure I want it done!Well, at least she is, like 5,000% sure and not only 100% sure. The video became an internet sensation.

But not as much as a sensation as her “grieving wife” video.

She goes back and forth texting the hired hitman. After the time and date is decided, the cops disclose to Michael Dippolito his wife’s plans for him. He was a bit shocked but not “Oh my God! No way!” shocked. He decides to play along to the cops plan… fake his death. Good thinking Michael! When no one was home, the cops went in and staged a murder scene and then waited for their prey to show up.

Soon enough, they get their wish. When Dalia arrives home, the cops tell her that Michael is dead. Without hinting to her involvement, she starts dramatically sobbing, falling into an officers arms. It is an absolutely fabulous performance. She is then taken back to the precinct for questioning. They bring in the ‘hitman’ and tell her he is an undercover cop. Then they bring in Mike, back from the dead. Dalia is utterly shocked, in tears and begs him to come to her. (Watch all this in the video below)

Well, if the story hasn’t brought you to tears of laughter yet, it is about to. Remember, criminals are stupid. Dalia’s defense at trial is that it was all fake. The murder plot was a sham. She wanted to become a YouTube sensation because, she thought, YouTube would lead her to her own reality show. (Insert head smack here). Her defense didn’t work and she was found guilty, sentenced to 20 years in 2011. (The texts and the video didn’t help your defense Dalia… not one bit)

But, in an unforeseen turn of events, her conviction is overturned. (Gasp!) A 2nd trial in 2016 wound up having a hung jury. Because of this, she was sent home on house arrest until the start of trial #3. In this short period of time, she gets pregnant and has a baby. Her 3rd trial happens in June of 2017 and she is found guilty once again and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Her ex-husband, Michael Dippolito, expresses his joy with a little play on words, “I am 5,000% happy with the result.

At this point the residents of Florida, and frankly anyone who has been following this case, is so exhausted about hearing about Dalia Dippolito. But, sadly, we are not done. A few days ago, her name appeared in the news once again. She filed for an appeal. In the smartest decision of the Florida Supreme Court, they rejected it.

She is due to be released in 2032 at the age of 50.

So much for living that carefree life with all that insurance money!

 

Seen on:

Snapped, Season 8, Episode 20, Dalia Dippolito,

Dateline “The Sting” Season 25, Episode 13

Cops, 20/20, American Greed & Crime Watch Daily