Busy Lawpsyc news week in review

It’s been one week since I appeared on Nancy Grace and stated that the bodies found strewn across several kilometers of a Long Island beach appeared to be the victims of more than one killer.  If you watched that show, you probably missed my point over the incredulous interruption and dismissals that I received from the host and a less-credentialed-yet-oft-cited-as-an-expert panelist.  Since then, article after article, story after story, quoting inside source after inside source, quoting expert after expert, have concurred en masse with…me.  Unfortunately, neither I nor Nancy Grace will get any credit now for being ahead of our competitors, as I was, in informing the public, as I tried to do, about what appears to have happened on Gilgo Beach.  I’ve spent years amassing a formidable combination of education and experience, so when I come on a show, instead of just speculating like many lesser-trained talking heads often do, I can provide the kind of analysis that can actually be news, if I’m allowed to finish a sentence.  Of course the Long Island story is still developing, and as it develops, I’ll be happy to keep going on the air and discussing it, as long as people really want to hear what I have to say.

Among the developments in the Long Island story in recent days, there’s been increased coverage of a series of telephone calls reported to have been made to the teenage sister of one of the four murdered prostitutes who apparently advertised their “services” on the web site Craigslist before ending up dead on Gilgo Beach.  The calls reportedly were made from the victim’s cell phone, and a male voice reportedly 1) asked the little sister whether she knew what the victim was doing (that’s important because it suggests that the victim was still able to be “doing” something at the time), then 2) told the little sister that the victim was “a whore,” and finally 3) confirmed to the little sister that the victim was dead.  Is it possible that the caller is the killer of the victim and the three other Craigslist prostitutes whose bodies reportedly have been found in the exact same location and condition (those four appear highly likely to have been killed by the same person)?  Sure, it’s possible that it’s him, but I doubt it.  It’d be an unexpected departure from what appears to be an otherwise uniform and relatively impersonal modus operandi.  I think it’s more likely that the person who made the calls didn’t kill the victim or anyone else but instead is a ball-less wonder who’s basking in what he sees as the “glory” of another ball-less wonder who contacts women on Craigslist, lures them into danger, unarmed, then ambushes and kills them.  He could’ve gotten the victim’s cell phone before she was murdered, or he could’ve found it afterward; perhaps he even obtained it from the killer, or perhaps he didn’t have it at all and just used an application that made his calls appear to have come from the victim’s phone.  It’s funny to listen to some “experts” opine about how “smart” this caller was, killer or not, for making the calls last under three minutes.  Apparently these so-called “experts” think that it’s still “Hill Street Blues” in New York, and that it still takes three minutes to trace a call.  Anyone, caller or pundit, who still thinks that, is…well…not “smart.”  Tracing cellular calls to the vicinity from which they originated can be done in milliseconds.  In this case, the caller supposedly is also “smart” for calling from crowded areas of New York City (instead of one of those many uncrowded areas I guess).  If that’s true — not that he’s smart but that he called from crowded public places — then with all of the surveillance cameras in such places, it should only be a matter of time before law enforcement matches images of the same guy on a cell phone with the vicinities and exact times of the calls.  I hope so, and I hope that when they identify him, they catch him quickly, and he turns out to be solely responsible for all ten of the bodies that have been found on Gilgo Beach.  I’d love to be wrong about this one.

And a lot of other Lawpsyc news happened while I was busy doing expert-witness work last week, so here’s a rundown:

Baseball star Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice for his role in covering up steroid use among professional baseball players, and I think that’s great (that he’s convicted, not that he’s a liar)!  If you want to know more about what I think of steroid-popping baseball players and the pathetic examples they’ve set for America’s kids, check out my pieces “Cultural Chaos in Film and Sports,” dated 7/11/07, and “Major-League Liars,” dated 2/13/08 in my blog archives.

And speaking of bonds, can Dog keep Cage from chasing Charlie?  Celebrity bail bondsman Duane “Dog” Chapman posted bond last week for fellow celebrity Nicolas Cage.  The highly-intoxicated actor reportedly was arrested for domestic abuse and disturbing the peace after a heated argument with his wife on a public New Orleans street.  As we head into tax day, it’s notable that despite a highly-successful movie career, Cage’s reported tax debt makes fellow actor Wesley Snipes’ tab look like chump change (and Snipes got a prison sentence).  So, when you factor in substance abuse, possible domestic abuse, and massive personal debt despite massive personal earnings, Cage’s presentation starts to have the “sheen” of an all-too-familiar Hollywood train-wreck.

Meanwhile, that “Two-and-a-Half Men” star who just won’t go away continues to tour the country telling his story to jeering, booing audiences who’ve actually paid to listen, which is almost a sadder commentary on America than it is on Sheen.  It illustrates the power of “schadenfreude” — a psychological phenomenon in which people, instead of looking away from a proverbial train-wreck, take a little bit of guilty pleasure in the misfortunes of others, especially others who’ve made themselves standouts.  It’s not that people are sadistic (that’s taking pleasure in inflicting pain on others) — it’s that, on some level, seeing someone rise above the crowd only to fall back down can help people who’ve never really tried to rise above the crowd feel better about having not done so (having not chased an acting dream, competed in athletics, started a business, run for office, etc.).  Schadenfreude, or in this case maybe “Sheenenfreude,” helps people affirm that a “regular” life is just fine, which of course it is, but it’d be nice if people could come to that conclusion regardless of what’s happening to others.

A “mother” (I put quotes around that term because I use it very loosely) of four drove her minivan into a New York lake, drowning herself and three of the children.  Only one child, a ten-year-old, escaped alive.  Everyone wants to know how she could do it.  Well, she’s sadly not the first, not even the only in recent memory, “mother” to do something like this.  Back on 4/22/09, I wrote about the various types and motives of murder-suicide, stating, in part:  “Murder/suicides generally fall into one of three categories:  1)  The murderer, driven by hatred of the intended victim(s), premeditates his/her actions, kills the victim(s), and then commits suicide to avoid facing justice [i.e. to ‘give society the finger’ and go out on his/her own terms, thereby depriving society of the opportunity to pass judgment on and punish him/her], 2)  The murderer, driven by rage (possibly but not necessarily psychotic rage), kills the victim(s) on impulse, and then commits suicide because of overwhelming guilt feelings and/or because he/she realizes that his/her life is ruined (he/she will be caught, tried, imprisoned, etc.), or 3)  The murderer, driven by psychosis (e.g. a fantasy about taking his/her loved one(s) to a ‘better place’), premeditates his/her actions, kills the victim(s), and then commits suicide to ‘join’ the victim(s) in death.”  I need to know more about her mental-health history, her relationship history, and her religious beliefs about what happens in the afterlife, but my initial impression is that this looks likes it actually may be a combination of (2) and (3), wherein the “mother” may have flown into a psychotic rage, not at the children, but at her significant other, and killed herself and the children both to punish the significant other (indirectly, by depriving him of a life with her and the children) and to take the children with her to some “better place.”  We can only hope that the mother’s significant other (what are the chances?) or another family member (probably more likely) is sane enough to look after the surviving child and help him grow up as healthily as possible amid a predictable series of trauma residuals such as maternal psychosis/abandonment and survivor guilt, and if not, that there’s a couple in the foster system who are overflowing with empathy, patience, and wisdom for this child.

Remember Joran van der Sloot, the creep who allegedly killed Natalee Holloway in Aruba and then another young woman, Stephany Flores, in Peru?  Well, if you do, you won’t be surprised to hear that he’s been accused in a stabbing incident, which he reportedly denies, in the Peruvian prison where he’s awaiting trial.  I’ve said many times that van der Sloot would continue hurting people until he was literally caged.  Looks like it may take even more than that.  Van der Sloot is expected to plead “violent emotion,” essentially “temporary insanity,” at trial which, if believed by the Peruvian court, could result in him serving a sentence as short as 3-5 years.  I wouldn’t put it past van der Sloot to be violent for no apparent reason in the prison precisely to bolster a claim that he’s not in control of his violent impulses.  If that strategy worked, it’s still possible that he’d be extradited from Peru to the U.S. afterward, where he’d face trial for allegedly extorting money from the Holloway family in exchange for the location of Holloway’s remains (which he’s never revealed).

And finally, Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo reportedly was dragged from the steps of her home into some nearby woods last week by a man in camouflage and hasn’t been seen since.  Bobo’s brother reportedly saw part of the alleged abduction from inside of the house but did not immediately attempt to intervene because he thought that the man was Bobo’s boyfriend.  Authorities are now saying that neither the brother nor the boyfriend is suspected of having any involvement in the woman’s disappearance.  I don’t really have much to add at this point, other than to just note that this man and Bobo almost certainly had prior contact.  So, while searchers on-scene keep combing the area for a trail of evidence to follow, investigators off-scene should be combing equally-systematically through Bobo’s recent contacts with men, however seemingly insignificant.

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