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Crime

Submission + - Texas Rangers Use Internet to Breath New Life into Cold Case Homicides

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Katherine Rosenberg reports that the Texas Department of Public Safety has unveiled a new web site dedicated to unsolved cold case homicides to make sure the victims are not forgotten and to try to catch a break in even the coldest of cases. DPS spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger says continual strides in technology make focusing on cold cases more important than ever because there are more opportunities to solve them with each emerging process or device. The web site was created because the more readily available information is the more people may be apt to pick up the phone and report what they know. “It helps to refresh these cases in the public’s mind and hopefully we’ll shed new light on it. In some cases, we can also re-examine evidence if there’s an opportunity or need there as well,” says Cesinger. One featured case from 1993 is Kathleen Suckley who was 29 when her throat was slashed and she was stabbed about 40 times inside her rented duplex, while her two sons, ages 4 and 1, were home. Officials said they interviewed numerous witnesses but never got enough information for an arrest. Capt. Tim Wilson maintains that in any homicide case there always is someone who knows something. At some point, he believes, the murderer will tell someone out of guilt or pride, or simply the pressure of holding it in. Cesinger points out that over time as relationships change, if prompted by something like the website or a news article, that confidant finally may come forward. “I think we owe it to Kathleen to be this tenacious. It drives me nuts that somebody can do this and get away with it," says Kathleen's mother-in-law Luann Suckley. "I think the website is great ... maybe someone will finally speak up because I’m tired of sitting back and waiting.”"
Crime

Submission + - Spy Drones Used to Hunt Down Christopher Dorner

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Express reports that as a task force of 125 officers continue their search for Christopher Dorner in the rugged terrain around Big Bear, it was revealed that Dorner has become the first human target for remotely-controlled airborne drones on US soil. “The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him," says a senior police source. "On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.” The use of drones was confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio, who revealed agents have been prepared for Dorner to make a dash for the Mexican border since his rampage began. “This agency has been at the forefront of domestic use of drones by law enforcement.” Dorner, who was fired from the LAPD in 2008 for lying about a fellow officer he accused of misconduct, has vowed to wreak revenge by “killing officers and their families”. According to San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon: "To be honest, he could be anywhere right now. Torching his own vehicle could have been a diversion to throw us off track. Anything is possible with this man.”"
Crime

Submission + - Facebook Lands Drunk Driving Teen in Jail

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Washington Post reports that 18-year-old Jacob Cox-Brown has been arrested after telling his Facebook network that he had hit a car while driving drunk posting the message: “Drivin drunk ... classsic ;) but to whoever’s vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P” Two of Cox-Brown’s friends saw the message and sent it along to two separate local police officers and after receiving the tip, police went to Cox-Brown’s house and were able to match a vehicle there to one that had hit two others in the early hours of the morning. Police then charged the teen with two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver. “Astoria Police have an active social media presence,” says a press release from Astoria Police. “It was a private Facebook message to one of our officers that got this case moving, though. When you post ... on Facebook, you have to figure that it is not going to stay private long.” Attorney Bradley Shea says that this is a prime example of social media users being seemingly unaware of the digital footprint they’re leaving with their posts — and the consequences they may face from an update. “You never know who’s watching,” says Shea. “Once you post online, it can be repurposed in ways you never expected.”"
Crime

Submission + - Google Search Missed for 'Foolproof Suffocation' in Casey Anthony Case

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Orlando Sentinel reports that a google search was made for the term "foolproof suffocation" on the Anthony family's computer the day Casey Anthony's 2-year-old daughter Caylee was last seen alive by her family — a search that did not surface at Casey Anthony's trial for first degree murder. In the notorious 31 days which followed, Casey Anthony repeatedly lied about her and her daughter's whereabouts and at Anthony's trial, her defense attorney argued that her daughter drowned accidentally in the family's pool. Anthony was acquitted on all major charges in her daughter's death, including murder. Though computer searches were a key issue at Anthony's murder trial, the term "foolproof suffocation" never came up. "Our investigation reveals the person most likely at the computer was Casey Anthony," says investigative reporter Tony Pipitone. Lead sheriff's Investigator Yuri Melich sent prosecutors a spreadsheet that contained less than 2 percent of the computer’s Internet activity that day and included only Internet data from the computer’s Internet Explorer browser – one Casey Anthony apparently stopped using months earlier — and failed to list 1,247 entries recorded on the Mozilla Firefox browser that day — including the search for “foolproof suffocation.” Prosecutor Jeff Ashton said in a statement to WKMG that it's "a shame we didn't have it. (It would have) put the accidental death claim in serious question.""
Crime

Submission + - Apple's New iPhone is Popular -- with Crooks

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "A mini-crime wave is rolling out across the nation as crooks clamor to get their hands on the tech giant's latest gadget as Patrick May reports that the iPhone 5 has quickly become the smartphone de rigueur for thieves and robbers throughout the land who are whipping out guns and assaulting people for the mobile devices. "Then basically they do a quick turnaround and sell it on the black market somewhere in the city, where they make a profit and then go rob more people," says San Francisco police spokesman Albie Esparza. Victims are also losing iPads, MP3 players as well as Android devices said Esparza adding that through the end of August, there were 2,374 robberies, and of those 1,199 involved cellphones. "Just before the new iPhone came out, we had a record low in thefts for the year," says New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly noting that so far this year 11,447 Apple products have been stolen in the Big Apple, with the highly touted release of the iPhone 5 putting the department on higher alert. "It's as if the criminals were waiting for the new version. After all, why steal an iPhone 4S when they can steal an iPhone 5?""
Crime

Submission + - The Case Against DNA

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Thanks to fast-paced television crime shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, we have come to regard DNA evidence as uncontestable. But BBC reports that David Butler has every right to be cynical about the use of DNA evidence by the police. Butler spent eight months in prison, on remand, facing murder charges after his DNA was allegedly found on the victim. ""I think in the current climate [DNA] has made police lazy," says Butler. "It doesn't matter how many times someone like me writes to them, imploring they look at the evidence... they put every hope they had in the DNA result."" The police had accused Butler of murdering a woman, Anne Marie Foy, in 2005 — his DNA sample was on record after he had willingly given it to them as part of an investigation into a burglary at his mother's home some years earlier. But Butler has a rare skin condition, which means he sheds flakes of skin, leaving behind much larger traces of DNA than the average person and Butler worked as a taxi driver, and so it was possible for his DNA to be transferred from his taxi via money or another person, onto the murder victim. The case eventually went to trial and Butler was acquitted after CCTV evidence allegedly placing Butler in the area where the murder took place was disproved. Professor Allan Jamieson, head of the Glasgow-based Forensic Institute, has become a familiar thorn in the side of prosecutors seeking to rely on DNA evidence and has appeared as an expert witness for the defense in several important DNA-centered trials, most notably that of Sean Hoey, who was cleared of carrying out the 1998 Omagh bombing which killed 29 people. Jamieson’s main concern about the growing use of DNA in court cases is that a number of important factors -human error, contamination, simple accident — can suggest guilt where there is none. “Does anyone realize how easy it is to leave a couple of cells of your DNA somewhere?” says Jamieson. “You could shake my hand and I could put that hand down hundreds of miles away and leave your cells behind. In many cases, the question is not ‘Is it my DNA?’, but ‘How did it get there?’”"
Crime

Submission + - Chemists are Winning the War on Synthetic Drugs

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Brandon Keim reports that the war on drugs has a new front with chemists fabricating synthetic mimics of marijuana, dissociative drugs and stimulants, and so far lawmakers appear to be a losing the war as every time a new compound is banned, overseas chemists synthesize a new version tweaked just enough to evade the letter of the law in a giant game of chemical Whack-a-Mole. “Manufacturers turn these things around so quickly. One week you’ll have a product with compound X, the next week it’s compound Y,” says forensic toxicologist Kevin Shanks. “It’s fascinating how fast it can occur, and it’s fascinating to see the minute changes in chemical structure they’ll come up with. It’s similar, but it’s different." During the last several years, the market for legal highs has exploded in North America and Europe and while people raised on Reefer Madness-style exaggerations may be wary of claims that “legal high” drugs are dangerous, researchers say they’re far more potent than the originals. “The results are toxic and very dangerous, especially for vulnerable people — people with previous psychotic episodes — and the young,” says chemist Liana Fattore. Reports of psychotic episodes following synthetic drug use are common and have led to a variety of laws but so far the bans aren’t working as the drugs can be subtly tweaked so as to possess a different, legal molecular form while performing the same psychopharmaceutical role. One obvious alternative approach is to ban entire classes of similar compounds rather than focusing on individual forms., however this is easier said than done. “The problem with that is, what does ‘chemically similar’ really mean? Change the structure in a small way — move a molecule here, move something to the other side of the molecule — and while I might think it’s an analogue, another chemist might disagree," says Shanks. That’s the crux of the entire problem. The scientific community does not agree on what ‘analogue’ essentially means.”"
Crime

Submission + - Ten Cops Can't Recover Police Chief's Son's iPhone 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Oakland Tribune reports that when Berkeley police Chief Michael Meehan's son's cell phone was stolen from a school locker in January, ten police officers were sent to track down the stolen iPhone, with some working overtime at taxpayer expense. "If your cell phone was stolen or my cell phone was stolen, I don't think any officer would be investigating it," says Michael Sherman, vice chairman of the Berkeley Police Review Commission, a city watchdog group. "They have more important things to do. We have crime in the streets." But the kicker is that even with all those cops swarming around looking for an iphone equipped with the Find My iPhone tracking software, police were not able to locate the phone. "If 10 cops who know a neighborhood can't find an iPhone that's broadcasting its location, that shouldn't give you a lot of confidence in your own vigilante recovery of a stolen iProduct," writes Alexis Madrigal. "Just saying. Consider this a PSA: just buy a new phone.""
Crime

Submission + - Insects Help Forensic Entomologist Solve Murders

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "BBC reports that after collecting beetles and blowflies while growing up in Zanzibar, Dr Martin Hall became a forensic entomologist and since 1992 has been called on by detectives to help police solve 10 and 20 cases a year including the deaths of five sex workers in Suffolk in 2006 and the murder of 17-year-old Alisa Dmitrijeva who was found dead on the Queen's Sandringham Estate after being hidden for four months. "The first time you do see a dead body is a bit disquieting but I'm relatively comfortable in doing it now," says Dr Hall who adds that he finds the work extremely fulfilling "Many people may be beavering away all their lives with research and not see anything productive come from it. For me, it's great to see an outcome every few months at the end of the criminal case." When a body is found Hall collects insects from on and around the body and looks for the oldest insect on the body — that gives a very good indication of how long the person has been there. Hall says there is often a link between where the insects are feeding on the body and the cause of death, a gunshot wound but also look for other aspect of the crimes. For Hall, the taxonomic identification of the insects found on corpses is essential to the reconstruction of events surrounding criminal cases involving death. In the case of maggots, their location on the body can provide important information because on an uninjured body, blowfly eggs are usually laid at the openings of body orifices and it is in those areas that the emerging maggots start to feed. "You only get one chance to gather the evidence and it's vital nothing is missed," says Hall. "You have to think like a maggot (PDF). Where would I go if I was a maggot? What would I do?""
Crime

Submission + - Can the Internet Breed Killers?

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Andrew Keen writes that Anders Behring Breivik may or may not be found to be clinically insane for his meticulously planned mass murder of 77 people in Oslo on July 22, 2011 but beneath or beside his madness, there's something about Breivik that captures the increasingly delusional, violent and narcissistic nature of our digital culture and although it would be crass to blame something as tragic as the mass murder on social media, it would be equally irresponsible to ignore any connection at all between Breivik's troubled personality and the broader culture forces in our electronically networked world. First, there's his self-evidently narcissistic personality which has enabled him to stand in an Oslo court this week and unselfconsciously boast about what he called "the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack in Europe since World War II." Narcissism, of course, wasn't invented by the Internet and it would be absurd to establish a causal connection between self-love and mass murder. However today's digital media culture — which shatters the 20th century mass audience into billions of 21st century authors and enables them all to broadcast their most intimate thoughts to the world — seems to be making narcissism the default mode of contemporary existence. Most troubling of all is Breivik's obsession with the multiplayer role-playing World of Warcraft, a violent online game that he played "full-time" between 2006 and 2007. Indeed, one of the few times that he smiled this week was when the image of his World of Warcraft character, Justicar Andersnordic, was displayed in court. "Breivik's obsession with violent online games, his narcissism, his reliance on Wikipedia and Facebook are warnings about how digital media can corrupt our grasp of reality," concludes Keen. "Breivik may be a worst case scenario, but I fear that there will be more young men like him in future if virtual reality becomes our only reality.""
Crime

Submission + - Forensic Experts Say Screams Were Not Zimmerman's

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "As the Trayvon Martin controversy splinters into a debate about self-defense, a central question remains: Who was heard crying for help on a 911 call in the moments before the teen was shot? Now the Orlando Sentinel reports that Tom Owen, a leading expert in the field of forensic voice identification sought to answer that question by analyzing the recordings. His result: It was not George Zimmerman who called for help. Owen, forensic consultant for Owen Forensic Services LLC and chair emeritus for the American Board of Recorded Evidence, used voice identification software to rule out Zimmerman. Another expert contacted by the Sentinel, utilizing different techniques, came to the same conclusion. Owen used software called Easy Voice Biometrics to compare Zimmerman's voice to the 911 call screams. "I took all of the screams and put those together, and cut out everything else," says Owen. The software compared that audio to Zimmerman's voice and returned a 48 percent match. Owen says to reach a positive match with audio of this quality, he'd expect higher than 90 percent. Owen cannot confirm the voice as Trayvon's, because he didn't have a sample of the teen's voice to compare however "you can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it's not Zimmerman.""
Idle

Submission + - Mozart and Bach Handel Subway Station Crime 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that transit officials have started to get a handel on subway crime when they started playing Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and Strauss at the Lake Street light-rail station after neighborhood residents complained about the station becoming a haven for rowdy teens and vagrants. "If it encourages some people to wander away because it's not their favorite type of music, I guess that's OK," says Acting Transit Police Chief A.J. Olson. The program is modeled after one is Portland that has shown early signs of success, though the numbers are so small as to be statistically insignificant and even supporters of the music haven't reached a consensus on whether such environmental changes actually deter crime or just push it down the block. Not everyone is sold on using "lovely lovely Ludwig Van" as a deterrent. "Classical music lovers hate the fact that urban planners use classical music to disperse youth," says Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff. "Does it chase crime away?" adds Olson. "It's hard to measure. But I do think it makes it a more pleasant place to wait for a train.""
Crime

Submission + - Woman Burns Down House After Facebook Unfriending

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Des Moines Register reports that detectives have arrested Jennifer Christine Harris of Des Moines, on a charge of first-degree arson after the home of Jim and Nikki Rasmussen went up in smoke in the early morning hours. The friendship of Nikki Rasmussen and Harris apparently hit a rough patch while the former friends were planning a party via Facebook and the big event went bust with many declined e-vites, Harris allegedly held Rasmussen accountable, and according to news reports, posted some unsavory items on her Facebook wall. Rasmussen exacted her revenge with a few clicks of the mouse and de-friended Harris. This affront was too much for Harris who took her anger offline and allegedly torched the family’s garage. The family was sleeping at the time but the sounds alerted family members to the danger and they managed to escape as the siding on their house began to melt from the heat of the fire in the detached garage. Harris is being held in the Polk County Jail on $100,000 bond."
Crime

Submission + - Craigslist Bank Robber Flees in Getaway Inner Tube

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Cnet reported earlier in October on an ingenious bank robber in Seattle who used Craigslist to recruit a crowd of unwitting participants to facilitate his escape. In the days leading up to his robbery of an armored car, the perpetrator placed an ad on Craigslist seeking workers for a purported road-maintenance project paying $28.50 an hour and instructed all applicants to show up at the same time and location wearing a yellow vest, safety goggles, respirator mask and blue shirt — the criminal’s exact outfit the day of the robbery. After overpowering the armored car driver with pepper spray, the suspect grabbed a duffel bag filled with cash, ran past a dozen similarly dressed innocents and made his escape at a local creek where he floated away in his pre-positioned getaway inner tube down Woods Creek toward the Skykomish River. 911 calls reporting the robbery described the suspect as being a construction worker in a yellow vest so when police arrived on scene, they had numerous robbery suspects from which to choose. "We did some research after the actual event, and we believe the ad was not a credible ad and that it may have been an attempt to get people dressed like the suspect into the area," says Monroe Police Department spokeswoman Debbie Willis."
Crime

Submission + - Criminal Crowdsourcing Confounds Constabulary

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Forbes reports on the growing popularity of crowdsourcing by nefarious groups who are outsourcing criminal tasks to a large, undefined group of people through an open call. In some cases groups of individual criminals are organizing themselves online and suddenly descending into unsuspecting stores to steal all that they can in a flash including one in which co-conspirators planned an attack via Facebook and Twitter that led to the pillaging of a Victoria’s Secret store in London. But perhaps the most ingenious and creative use of crime-sourcing seen to date was a bank robber in Seattle who recently utilized Craigslist to recruit a crowd of unwitting participants to facilitate his escape. In the days leading up to the robbery of an armored car, the perpetrator placed an ad on Craigslist seeking workers for a purported road-maintenance project paying $28.50 an hour and instructed all those showing up at the same time and location to wear their own yellow vest, safety goggles, respirator mask and blue shirt — the criminal’s exact outfit the day of the robbery. After overpowering the armored car driver with pepper spray, the suspect grabbed a duffel bag filled with cash, ran past a dozen similarly dressed innocents and made his escape at a local creek where he floated away in his pre-positioned getaway inner tube. 911 calls reporting the robbery described the suspect as being a construction worker in a yellow vest so when police arrived on scene, they had numerous robbery suspects from which to choose."

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