Archive for April, 2010

Max & the Mob

To read this article, purchase The Best of the Spingola Files, coming to Amazon.com’s Kindle store in January 2012.

Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department Homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010


Common Sense Policing and Newark

In many of our nation’s cities, homicides rates are falling.  Some attribute the decrease in the murder rate to policing strategies; others cite demographic changes and/or improved trauma care.

In an amazing turn of events, Newark, New Jersey, recently experienced a homicide free month — the city’s first since 1966.  For decades, Newark’s reputation as playground for the criminal element undermined any serious efforts at re-gentrification. 

Visitors to Newark note that hotels and other amenities are contained within the security of airport’s fence.  “For the most part,” one traveler recently explained, “people don’t leave the airport at Newark unless they visit the city [New York].”

But Newark isn’t alone.  In 2009, Washington, D.C., once known as the District of Death, saw a 25 percent decrease in homicides.  Milwaukee recorded 72 homicides in 2009, down over 57 percent from 1991. 

Glenn Frankovis is a retired Milwaukee Police Department captain with a history of implementing policing strategies that reduce violent crime rates.  At the end of 2002, his first full year as the commander at District Three, homicides decreased over 48 percent.  “Violent crime is committed primarily by thugs,” Frankovis notes. “You see, it’s kind of hard for thugs to do their dirty work if they are in jail.”

Frankovis notes that political leaders in Newark turned things around when they brought in Police Director Garry McCarthy, a “transplant” from New York City. Newark now employs a “Broken Windows Theory/Quality of Life Policy,” similar to the strategy Frankovis used to drive down crime in Milwaukee’s troubled Metcalfe Park neighborhood. 

As is the case in Newark, Frankovis is a believer in decentralized policing; whereby, district commanders are afforded the resources to form a “strike force” of officers “capable of using neighborhood intelligence” to “arrest the drug dealers/users and others intimidating the good people” in various hotspots.  Given the latitude and the resources required to get the job done, the chief-of-police then holds these commanders’ feet-to-the-fire.

Demographic trends also play a large role in crime reduction.  Criminologists often claim that men between the ages of 16 to 24 are the core group of violent criminal offenders.  The number of individuals in this demographic is declining.  On April 6, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reported that, in 2008, the U.S. birthrate declined two percent.  Moreover, the birth rate among teenaged mothers — whose offspring make-up a disproportionate number of offenders — also decreased two percent.

The good news on the crime front is that efficient and effective policing strategies, coupled with a decrease in teen birth rates, will probably make our nation’s streets safer for years to come.

After all, if Newark — a city once considered beyond hope — can reduce its homicide rate, other cities can, too.

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Steven Spingola is a retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Blue Ridge Parkway Shooting Update

The man charged with the bizarre Blue Ridge Parkway shootings of two people is undergoing drug treatment for cancer. 

According to the news magazine The Hook, the co-owner of the business employing Ralph Leon Jackson, age 56, describes the accused gunman as “nice guy” and “a good worker.”  Barbara Lambert, of Delmar’s Auto Repair, further notes that Jackson is suffering from advanced prostate cancer and undergoes chemotherapy treatment, which may result in noticeable weight loss. 

As I noted in an earlier posting, the similarities between Jackson and a 1996 composite drawing of the alleged Route 29 stalker are striking.  In the composite sketch, the suspect appears more robust with thicker hair. 

According to the Web site chemocare.com :

“…weight loss after chemotherapy is associated with side effects of chemo that can sometimes interfere with your ability to eat or drink and affect your ability to maintain your healthy weight.  Chemotherapy weight loss may occur as a result of: poor appetite, eating less, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and dehydration.”

Moreover, the subsequent dismissal of the federal indictment against Darrell Rice revealed the presence of DNA belonging to another individual at an associated crime scene. Investigators will now compare Jackson’s DNA against the person of interest.

Hopes of an expeditious resolution to other investigations are apparently premature.  While Jackson initially cooperated with detectives, he has now exercised his Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel. 

Nonetheless, investigators from the Virginia State Police are likely scouring Department of Transportation records in an effort to ascertain what vehicles Jackson owned or operated in the mid-1990s.  The suspect’s occupation may complicate matters.  As a mechanic, Jackson probably had access to vehicles he serviced, both at his place of employment and while doing work on the side.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010


A Break in the Case?

A possible major break has occurred in the Colonial Parkway/Route 29 stalker investigations.

On April 7, the Augusta County (Virginia) Sheriff’s Department apprehended Ralph Leon Jackson, age 56, at his home on Howardsville Turnpike.  On the evening of April 5, authorities allege Jackson shot two people, with no apparent motive, at a scenic overlook on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. 

As the couple, 18-year-old high school senior Christina Floyd and WNRN operations manager Timothy Davis, 27, took in the sights; Jackson allegedly fired at least three shotgun blasts.  One of the rounds struck Davis, who tumbled 150 feet down a cliff.  Investigators believe Floyd wrestled the shotgun away from the shooter.  

The news magazine The Hook, reports that Jackson had “no known connection to the victims whom he began shooting from his vehicle, a burgundy Kia Sephia.”

Jackson, a life-long area resident, made admissions linking him to the shootings. 

Considering that nearly 14 years have eclipsed, a composite sketch of the Route 29 stalker — a man responsible for the 1996 death of Alicia Reynolds — looks similar to Jackson. 

To view a booking photo of Jackson visit:

http://www.newsleader.com/article/20100409/NEWS01/4090331/1002/news01

To view a 1996 composite sketch of the Route 29 stalker, created from witnesses’ descriptions, visit: 

http://www.wtopnews.com/index.php?nid=25&sid=714427

The Colonial Parkway murders began in 1986.  A jogger discovered Cathy Thomas’ vehicle — a white Honda — on an embankment along the York River south of the Cheatham Annex.  The suspect(s) strangled Ms. Thomas and Becky Dowski with ropes and then slit their throats. Over the course of the next four years, two other couples were found murdered and another couple, still missing, is presumed dead.

The Route 29 stalker used the ruse of potential car trouble to encourage women to pull to the side the road.  From January 17 to March 2, 1986, the suspect made at least 23 contacts with female motorists.  Most of the women ignored the suspect’s demands to pullover.  In two instances, those who accepted assistance left the suspect’s vehicle unscathed.  The suspect attacked another woman, Carmelita Shomo, who managed to exit the vehicle.  In open court, Shomo identified Darrell Rice as her abductor.  A fourth woman, Alicia Reynolds, accepted a ride.  A man walking his dog discovered her body on May 7, 1986, near a rural road in Culpeper County. 

Convicted of the attempted abduction of Ms. Shomo, the federal government indicted Rice for other crimes, but when DNA for another individual was located, federal prosecutors dismissed these charges.

Jackson’s arrest has the potential to tie many of the loose ends, especially if he cooperates. 

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


The Wackos of Westboro

Worse than the murder itself it’s not; however, it’s a close second. 

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church—known in some circles as ‘the wackos of Westboro’—plan to demonstrate in Blacksburg, Virginia tomorrow claiming the violent homicide of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington is a curse from God.  The young woman was as last seen alive thumbing for a ride outside a Metallica concert, held on the University of Virginia campus, on October 17, 2009.  Her body was discovered on January 26, 2010, on a 720 acre farm in nearby Albemarle County.

This is the same Westboro Baptist Church that recently caught the ire of many Americans for protesting adjacent to the funeral of a U.S. serviceman killed in the line of duty.   The group claimed the young U.S. Marine died as a result of God’s wrath towards America’s pro-homosexual agenda.

“We’ve already had our daughter abducted, raped, and murdered,” Morgan’s mother, Gil Harrington, recently told NBC Channel 12, “and now we have this postmortem attack.”

According to WDBJ Channel 7, the Westboro Baptist Church informed city administrators that it plans to picket outside a Jewish Community Center, along Blacksburg’s Main Street, and in front of a middle school. 

Dan Harrington, Morgan’s father, plans to be present but will not engage the protesters.  “They [members of the Westboro Baptist Church] plan to be at Virginia Tech tomorrow to protest a number of things, including the fact Morgan Harrington’s death was deserved, and, again, how would any family feel when you hear those types of comments made?”

Like all Americans, members of the Westboro Baptist Church are entitled to their free speech rights.  Sane and compassionate individuals throughout the nation, however, will stand arm-in-arm and pray for the Harringtons as the family deals with the tragic death of their daughter.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Did Dahmer Do It?

To read this article, purchase The Best of the Spingola Files, coming to Amazon.com’s Kindle store in January 2012.

Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

Copyright, Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010