Friday, December 3, 2010

Adam Walsh

Press Conference 
The Walsh family suffered for more than two decades with the knowledge that their son's case might never be solved. Twenty-seven years is a long time to live with that type of heartache. A pain compounded by the family memories that they missed: school plays, graduations, marriage, grandchildren. While nothing can alleviate their pain, the Walsh family did receive some closure yesterday when Florida police officially named the person responsible for six-year-old Adam Walsh's death.
Yesterday's events resolved a horrific incident that was set in motion on July 27, 1981, when Adam's mother, Reve Walsh, took him on a shopping trip to Sears in Hollywood, Florida. In the store, Adam asked his mother if he could watch some children play video games while she finished her shopping. She agreed, and he stayed behind while she searched for a new lamp.
Reve was not gone long, but when she returned to the video game section, Adam was nowhere to be found. Frightened, she asked a store clerk to page her son over the intercom. Seconds turned into minutes, but there was no sign of Adam. He had disappeared.
The events leading to Adam's disappearance remain unclear. According to some reports, the group of children that Adam was with was thrown out of the store for arguing over a game and Adam was mistakenly asked to leave with them. Investigators believe that Adam went outside, where he was abducted near the store entrance.
The case continued without viable clues or evidence until August 10, 1981, when Adam's severed head was found in a drainage canal in Vero Beach, Florida. The location was roughly 120 miles from the site of Adam's abduction. To date, the rest of his remains have never been found.
Five days later, on August 15, 1981, Adam's parents had an empty-casket funeral for their son.
Rather than dwell on their sorrow, Reve and her husband, John Walsh, established the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children on August 19, 1981. Two months later, the couple testified before Congress on behalf of the Missing Children Act and the Missing Children's Assistance Act. As a result of their efforts, both of these bills were passed.
The first break in Adam's case came in October 1983, when suspected serial killer, Ottis Toole, confessed to the brutal slaying. However, despite having provided investigators with an accurate description of the crime, police were unwilling to name him as the killer. Several key pieces of evidence, including blood-stained carpeting from Toole's car and the car itself were lost by police, leaving them with little evidence to tie him to the crime. Toole eventually recanted his confession.
Despite the reluctance by police to charge Toole in his son's death, John Walsh remained convinced that Toole was responsible. According to Walsh, there were other items found at Toole's home which suggested that he was involved with the crime, including a pair of green shorts and a sandal that were similar to what Adam was wearing the day he disappeared.
As the case continued, Walsh became a well-known advocate for missing children. In 1988, he was selected as the host of the FOX television show America's Most Wanted, a program that profiles fugitives who are wanted by law enforcement for a variety of crimes. To date, the program has assisted in the capture of over one thousand criminals.
In September 1996, Ottis Toole died of liver disease while serving a life sentence for a series of other crimes. Toole's niece contacted John Walsh and told him that her uncle had made a startling deathbed confession, detailing the events of Adam's murder. Nevertheless, authorities were skeptical about the confession. Toole and his alleged partner, convicted serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, had confessed to hundreds of homicides over the years, many of which had been proven false.
Adam's murder made headlines again in January 2007, when theories surfaced that convicted serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer could have been responsible for the child's death. Two witnesses had allegedly claimed to have seen a man matching Dahmer's description at the mall the day Adam was abducted. Investigators examined a possible link, but were unable to come up with one. John Walsh himself issued a statement following the publication of the theory, stating that there was no credible information to suggest that Dahmer had anything to do with his son's murder.
Over the years, the Walsh family lost much of their hope that Adam's murder would be solved. However, on December 16, 2008, Hollywood Police Chief Chadwick E. Wagner held a press conference about the case.
"I am here today to discuss and bring some closure to the Adam Walsh abduction and homicide investigation that began over 27 years ago," Wagner said. "Consistent with the opinions of investigators past and present, I agreed with the ultimate conclusion of this independent investigation, that Ottis Toole was the perpetrator of this crime. As we know, Ottis Toole is deceased and formal, legal action is not possible, nor is it something that the Walsh family is seeking. However, in the interest of justice, the Hollywood Police Department is announcing today that it is our determination and conclusion that Ottis Toole was the abductor and murderer of Adam Walsh. If Ottis Toole was alive today, he would be arrested for the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh on July 27, 1981."
John and Reve Walsh, with their daughter, Meghan, were present at the press conference. Following Wagner's announcement, John Walsh made his own statement to the media.
"For 27 years, we've been asking who can take a 6-year-old boy and murder and decapitate him. We needed to know. We needed to know," Walsh said. "The not knowing has been a torture, but that journey's over."
While his own personal journey for justice has ended, Walsh made it clear that his work as an advocate for missing children is far from over.
"We're still going to be the parents of a murdered child for the rest of our lives [but] we're still going to try to change laws and change the way police do business."

Brianna Denison

On the morning of Jan. 20, 2008, college sophomore Brianna Denison, 19, was abducted from a friend's house near the University of Nevada's Reno campus. According to police, the teen had been sleeping in the living room at the time of the incident.
Roughly one month later, on Feb. 15, 2008, Brianna's body was found near an industrial complex south of Reno. An autopsy revealed that she had been sexually assaulted and strangled. Evidence found at the scene -- two pair of intertwined women's panties – led police to suspect that they were dealing with a cold and calculating killer, who enjoyed taunting the authorities. The panties ultimately revealed DNA from an unknown man and woman, suggesting the killer could have taken them from another victim who was unknown to police.
The case continued until Nov. 26, 2008, when police received a tip that led them to James Michael Biela, 27, a resident of Sparks, Nev. Police say that DNA obtained from Biela links him to Brianna's murder, as well as at least two other sexually motivated attacks that occurred near the Reno campus between October and December 2007.
James Michael Biela
As a result of the DNA tests, Biela was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, murder and sexual assault. He has been incarcerated at the Washoe County Jail, where he is currently being held without bond.
James Michael Biela is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Shackled California Teen

A disturbing case of alleged child abuse and torture came to light in Tracy, Calif., on Dec. 01, 2008, when a half-naked and emaciated 17-year-old boy managed to escape from a residence where he reportedly had been held captive for roughly one year.
According to police, the boy ran into In-Shape City gym at about 4 p.m. Monday and asked an employee to hide him. Witnesses say that the boy, who was covered in soot, urine and feces, was carrying a chain that was padlocked to his ankle.
Schumacher's in court
The boy was initially confused about where he was and how he got there; however, he eventually told investigators that he ran away from a Sacramento foster home in 2007 to look for his biological family. The boy was reported missing; at some point he made his way from Sacramento to Tracy, a 70-mile journey, and allegedly ended up being held captive in a tract home less than a block from the gym.
Based upon the boy's initial statement and his poor physical condition, police went to the house the boy identified as the place where he had been held. They took into custody a married couple identified as 34-year-old Michael Luther Schumacher and 30-year-old Kelly Layne Lau-Schumacher. At that time, the couple's four children, ages 1, 3, 9 and 11, were placed in the custody of Child Protective Services.
According to Robinson, a search of the home revealed evidence that further supports the boy's statement to police. As a result, Schumacher and his wife were booked into San Joaquin County Jail on suspicion of felony conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, torture, kidnapping, false imprisonment by
violence and child beating. Both are being held in lieu of nearly $1.2 million in bail.
In the days following the Schumacher's arrest, investigators took two more suspects into custody on similar charges. The third suspect, 43-year-old Caren Ramirez, had become the teen's legal guardian approximately four years ago, when child-welfare officials took him away from his father. Not long thereafter, a warrant was issued for Ramirez, for assaulting and abusing the boy, and he was placed into a Sacramento foster home. According to Sacramento County court records, Ramirez was convicted in 2007 on one felony count of inflicting corporal injury on a child. Police say Ramirez also has three outstanding warrants for her arrest in the same county.
The fourth suspect has been identified as Anthony Waiters, 29, a neighbor of the first three suspects. Waiters was booked into jail on suspicion of six felonies, including conspiracy, torture, false imprisonment, child beating and child endangerment. Due to a court-ordered gag order, the details of Waiters' alleged involvement remain unknown.
All four suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Kelly Currin Morris

On the morning of Sept. 4, 2008, firefighters with the Stem and Providence fire departments in North Carolina responded to a house fire at 3220 Tump Wilkins Road. The house and much of its contents were destroyed; however, firefighters were able to determine that the residents, 34-year-old William "Scott" Morris and his wife, 28-year-old Kelly Currin Morris, were not home when the fire broke out.
Scott was allegedly at his towing business in Creedmoor, and the couple's two young children, ages 8 and 5, were in school at the time of the incident. It was initially believed that Kelly was at work; however, investigators soon learned that she never showed up that morning.
Roughly two hours later, Kelly's car, a burgundy 2005 Honda Accord, was found abandoned in an undeveloped subdivision, less than a mile from her home.
When questioned by police, Scott Morris told them that he had not seen his wife since the previous night, when she went out to look for a family pet. Scott told police that he went to bed shortly thereafter, and when he awoke the following morning Kelly's vehicle was gone. He told police that he went about his day, assuming that she had left for work.
Kelly Currin Morris
When police questioned Scott's father, they learned that he had been at the Morris home that night – after the time Scott told police he went to bed – watching his grandchildren so that Scott could go look for his wife. Scott allegedly told his father that he suspected she was out cheating on him. It remains unclear where Scott went that night or what time he returned home.
On Sept. 12, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted forensic tests at the scene of the fire, which, according to police, revealed it was the work of an arsonist. Following that revelation, investigators named William Morris a person of interest in the fire and in his wife's disappearance.
Since that time, search teams, led by Kelly's father, Pat Currin, have spent every day searching wooded areas, mine shafts, wells, lakes, ponds and other areas of interest, looking for any sign of Kelly or evidence related to the case. Pat has made a vow not to give up until his daughter is found.
Meanwhile, investigators are continuing their own investigation, looking for any clue that might suggest what happened to Kelly.
The family of Kelly Currin Morris is offering a $30,000 reward for information on her whereabouts. Anyone with information is urged to call the Granville County Sheriff's Office at 919-693-3213.
William "Scott" Morris maintains his innocence in the fire and the disappearance of his wife.

Meredith Emerson

On New Year's Day 2008, 24-year-old Meredith Emerson left her home with her faithful dog, Ella, a black Labrador.  With Ella following closely alongside her, Meredith set out on a day-long hike in the rugged mountains of the Chattahoochee National Forest, located some 90 miles north of Atlanta.
When Meredith failed to return home later that evening, her friends and relatives became worried and reported her missing.  Search efforts comprised of 15 search and rescue teams, including canine teams and helicopters, failed to find the missing woman despite combing a nearly 400-square-mile area. Meredith’s dog, Ella, was later found wandering around outside a grocery store some 40 miles from where her car had been discovered.
A break in the case finally came on Jan. 4, when police picked up a toothless, unshaven 61-year-old man named Gary Michael Hilton at a convenience store outside Atlanta. Hilton had reportedly been seen with Meredith several times on New Year’s Day. The police subsequently served a search warrant on Hilton’s 2001 Chevrolet Astro van and a Dumpster outside the convenience store where he was taken into custody.  They found three bloodstained fleece tops and a bloodstained car seatbelt inside the Dumpster, and noted that a rear seatbelt was missing from Hilton’s van.  It was obvious that he had attempted to vacuum and wash down areas of the vehicle’s interior.
Only hours after being charged with kidnapping with intent to cause bodily injury or harm and having his bail request denied Hilton, in a surprise move, told the police the location where Meredith’s body would be found.  He led the cops to a wooded area where investigators found Meredith’s decapitated body, miles from where she had last been seen on the hiking trail.
In an unusually fast confession, after reaching an agreement with prosecutors to not seek the death penalty in his case, Hilton said that even though he knew from the outset that he would eventually kill her he had initially kidnapped her to obtain her credit cards and personal identification numbers (PIN) so that he could obtain cash.  However, Meredith had given him incorrect PIN numbers and he eventually, apparently in frustration, beat her to death with a tire iron.  He said that he had cut off her head to make it more difficult for investigators to identify her remains.

Gary Michael Hilton
On Thursday, Jan. 31, exactly 30 days after Meredith disappeared, Hilton pleaded guilty to the young woman’s murder in what was described as a frustrated robbery attempt.  The judge immediately sentenced Hilton to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 30 years, citing his age and the fact that he would most assuredly die in prison.
Hilton is now being investigated in other unsolved cases, including the kidnapping and death of a Florida nurse whose body was found Dec. 19, 2007, and the case of John Bryant and his wife, Irene, both in their 80s, who failed to return from an October 2007 hiking trip in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Eve Carson

On March 5, 2008, the body of 21-year-old college student Eve Marie Carson was found at the intersection of Hillcrest Circle and Hillcrest Drive in Chapel Hill, N.C. Eve had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including a shotgun blast to the head. The victim's car was later found at a location roughly one mile from the location of her body.
Investigators soon learned that someone had used Eve's bank card to withdraw money from her account. An image of the suspect was released to the public and, shortly thereafter, investigators arrested 17-year-old Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. and 21-year-old Demario James Atwater.
On March 11, 2008, both men were charged with first-degree murder. Four months later, in July 2008, police filed additional charges against the two men, including first-degree kidnapping, armed robbery, felonious larceny and felonious possession of stolen goods. Atwater was charged with two additional counts, including possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
In October 2008, Atwater was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges involving the carjacking of Eve Carson.
Demario Atwater and Laurence Lovette
The Orange County District Attorney recently announced that he is planning to seek the death penalty against Atwater on the murder and kidnapping charges. Because of his age at the time of the murder, co-defendant Laurence Lovette is not eligible for the death penalty.
The two men's trials are set to begin in November 2009.

Anne Pressly

Anne Pressly, a news anchor for KATV Channel 7 in Little Rock, Ark., was brutally attacked in her home in October 2008. She never regained consciousness, and died less than a week later.
According to police, they were called to Anne's home on the morning of Oct. 20, after her mother found her in her bed, beaten and unresponsive. Upon being transported to a local hospital, doctors determined that Anna had been raped. Her left hand was broken and her face was beaten so badly that she was unrecognizable.
During a search of her home, investigators discovered that Anne's laptop, purse and credit cards were missing. Later that same day, her credit card company reported that her card had been used at a gas station not far from her home.

Pressly Home and Curtis Vance

Just five days after the attack, on Oct. 25, Anne Pressly died as a result of her injuries. That same day, her parents released a statement to the media, which read in part:
"It was our hope, as was yours, that Anne would overcome the injuries inflicted upon her in the brutal attack at her home. We were with her in her last moments, and although our hearts are broken, we are at the same time comforted by our faith knowing that Anne is now with our Heavenly Father."
On Nov. 26, 2008, police named Curtis Lavelle Vance, 28, a suspect in Anne's murder. He was subsequently arrested that same day. Investigators say that Vance's DNA connects him to Anne's murder, as well as to the April 2008 rape of an eastern Arkansas school teacher.
Vance has been charged with rape and residential burglary in connection with the April incident, and he faces capital murder charges in Anne's death.
If convicted, Vance could face the death penalty.