True Crime

Update: New Spingola Files Book Now Available

If you own a Kindle, an i-Phone, an i-Pad, an Android, a Mac or a PC, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You is now available for purchase exclusively at Amazon.com.  Simply download the Kindle app to any of these devices and click this link:

 http://www.amazon.com/Best-Spingola-Files-Vol-ebook/dp/B00AGZTALE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1354678740&sr=1-1&keywords=spingola+files

Readers will get my take on a killer drifter, the details of the homicide investigation of two young Milwaukee girls, the guilty verdict of Drew Peterson, an examination of the emerging American surveillance state, as well as 36 additional articles of criminal justice import.

Within 24 hours after the book’s release, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You debuted at #5 on Amazon.com’s criminal procedure list and ranked #15 on Amazon’s list of “hot new releases.”

Kindle gift cards are available at Amazon.com. Give the gift of reading this Christmas!

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, is available at Amazon.com

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, please visit:

www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

© Steven Spingola,Wales, WI, 2012


Coming Soon: Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II–Here’s Looking at You

The holidays are right around the corner. One of the gifts that keeps-on giving is an electronic book reader, such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire. For those who prefer the i-Pad or i-Phone, a Kindle app is available for free.

If you are fortunate enough land such a stocking-stuffer, be sure to checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, an e-book, available exclusively at Amazon.com, set for release early next month. 

This is the second of the Best of the Spingola Files book series.  In Volume II, I take a look at some puzzling cold case homicides, walk readers through the Drew Peterson investigation, and detail some of the equipment and techniques utilized by the post 9/11 American surveillance state.

For more information on these and other interesting books, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com/books.html

 


String of Eau Claire Crimes Pits Perception Against Reality

To view this article, please checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, available exclusively at Amazon.com in December of 2012.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, is available at Amazon.com

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation. 

For more information, please visit:

www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012


Police Blotter: Gangsters, Shootings, and Defective Chinese Products

To view this article, checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You coming to Amazon.com in December 2012.

www.badgerwordsmith.com/books.html

© Steven Spingola,Wales, WI, 2012


Drew Peterson Case: Will the Guilty Verdict Stand?

To view this article, checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You coming to Amazon.com in December 2012.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at Amazon.com.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit

www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

or

www.badgerwordsmith.com/books.html

© Steven Spingola,Wales, WI, 2012


Don’t Blame “the Gun” in Trayvon’s Death; Blame the Hucksters

Like a spectator at a gladiator fight in the Roman coliseum, I have sat back and watched the finger-pointing unfold in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. 

With his budget shot down 414-0 in the House of Representatives, his approval numbers in free fall, and a portion of his health care legislation of the verge of being ruled unconstitutional, President Obama wasted little time weighing in on Martin’s tragic death, even though the federal government arguably has no jurisdiction in the matter.  

And, of course, the usual suspects—Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton—could hardly resist jumping into the fray. Jackson would rather talk about an unjustifiable intervention by a self-declared neighborhood watch captain than a love child.[1]  While Sharpton—damaged goods in the minds of many after the Tawana Brawley debacle—is always on the lookout for ways to raise his profile.[2]

It is, however, the recent remarks of Bill Cosby—a celebrity whose candid comments regarding bigotry and personal responsibility have opened a dialogue on race relations—that are, unpredictably, off base. 

Yesterday, Washington Times columnist Deborah Simmons noted that Cosby believes that “the gun” was the impetus for Trayvon Martin’s death.

“We’ve got to get the gun out of the hands of people who are supposed to be on neighborhood watch,” Cosby told Simmons.[3]

True, guns do not belong in the hands of some people. Individuals convicted of felonies and/or domestic violence, those abusing drugs, and persons suffering from mental health issues are ticking time bombs when a firearm is figured-in to the equation.  

Yet if Cosby had taken the time to research the background of the shooter, he might conclude that, had the system done its job, “the gun,” at least lawfully, would not be an issue.

“Charged with resisting arrest without violence,” in July 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported, “he [Zimmerman] avoided conviction by entering a pretrial-diversion program, something common for first-time offenders.”[4]

Zimmerman’s former girlfriend also filed a domestic violence injunction against him. Zimmerman countered with his own injunction, although it appears the police did not investigate.[5]

Had the system done its job by placing Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, on an extended period of probation for the incident outside a central Florida night spot, the court, in all likelihood, would have prohibited him from possessing firearms while serving his sentence.

Ironically, Jackson and Sharpton continually take the criminal justice system to task for its treatment of minority offenders—often times encouraging prosecutors to send those charged with acts of violence, such as fighting with law enforcement officers, into diversion programs.  

In the Zimmerman’s case, it appears that a Florida prosecutor bought-in to the charlatanism of the Jackson/Sharpton school of justice—the ugly results of which are now in plan view for all to see. 

Unfortunately, Bill Cosby chooses to blame “the gun” instead of Jackson and Sharpton—the hucksters of criminal justice diversion, who then go on to incite the populous when those sentenced to the same diversion programs they advocate for predictably reoffend.   

Some might call it a conspiracy of sorts, while others, rightfully, the revolving door of ignorance and the politics of self-pity.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at Amazon.com.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012 


 


[1] “Jesse Jackson Confesses to Love Child,” www.guradian.co.uk.  January 18, 2001.  7 April 2012.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/jan/18/2

[2] Kennedy, H. “Rev. Al Shrapton: I Won’t Apologize for Handling of Tawana Brawley Case.” www.articles.dailynews.com.  May 19, 2011.  7 April 2012.  http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-05-19/local/29579330_1_tawana-brawley-group-of-white-men-racial-tensions

[3] Simmons, D. “Simmons: Bill Cosby Weighs in on Trayvon Martin Case.” www.washingtontimes.com. April 7, 2012.  8 April 2012.  http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/apr/7/simmons-bill-cosby-weighs-trayvon-martin-case/

[4] Muskal, M. “Trayvon Martin Case: George Zimmerman, Mystery Gunman.” www.latimes.com.  March 23, 2012.  8 April 2012.  http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-george-zimmerman-20120323,0,6326075.story

[5] Sieczkowski, C. “Who is George Zimmerman? Florida Shooter has Checkered Past of ‘Vigilantism’ and Domestic Violence.” www.ibtimes.com.  March 23, 2012. 8 April 2012.  http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/318716/20120323/george-zimmerman-florida-shooting-trayvon-martin.htm


Seattle Missing Child Case Like a Bad Episode of Law & Order

An ongoing investigation in the state of Washington rings similar to the infamous disappearance of Caylee Anthony. 

Police in a Seattle suburb are on the lookout for two-year-old Sky Metalwala. The boy’s mother, Julia Biryukova, 30, of nearby Redmond, told investigators that her son went missing on November 6 after her car stalled. As she left to get gas in nearby Bellevue, Biryukova told police she left the toddler inside her unlocked vehicle while her four-year-old-daughter and she walked to town for gas. When Biryukova allegedly returned an hour later, the child was gone. 

Detectives later conducted an examination of Biryukova’s vehicle and determined that the Acura Integra was not low on fuel.  Police believe the car could have driven significantly further with the amount of fuel in the tank. 

For just over a week now, searchers checked the area adjacent to Biryukova’s residence and the surrounding area where her vehicle supposedly stalled. 

Then, yesterday, based on tips generated by members of the public, investigators expanded the geographical nature of the search. 

One area investigators continue to scour is Watershed Park, located in the Houghton area of Kirkland—a secluded wooded-preserve complete with hiking trails. Mountain bikers and hikers frequent this 73-acre park, known for its natural green spaces and upland forest.   

“We believe there’s something suspicious afoot here,” Bellevue Police Major Mike Johnson told The Seattle Times. “The story doesn’t add up.”

Considering that Julia Biryukova and her “estranged husband” had just completed a heated custody battle involving their son just a week before he went missing, Maj. Johnson’s quote is probably an understatement. 

So where will investigators turn next?

Local police agencies will bring in trained cadaver dogs to search Watershed Park and other relevant areas. Besides tips from the public, information provided from a high-tech, smart-phone computer forensics device, known as The Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED 2.0), will likely be used to search Biryukova’s cellular telephone. This Big Brother technology will bypass a cellular telephone’s pass code and then retrieve geo-tagged photos, the owner’s list of contacts, deleted or undeleted text messages, GPS locations, and a list of all incoming and outgoing calls. 

Sadly, as each day passes, the likelihood that Sky Metalwala is still alive decreases exponentially. While the twists-and-turns of a high-profile investigation become fodder for the press, it is important to reflect on the plight of the victim. Children place the ultimate trust in their parents to care for their needs.  Even wild animals attend to and fiercely defend the lives of their young.  Each year in the U.S., though, this bond is broken about 1,000 times, as young child become homicide victims at the hands or a parent or guardian.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

 © Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


When Keystone Cops Attach

So, facetiously, what caused the Wisconsin Capitol Police to, FINALLY, put up the crime scene tape in the Capitol rotunda on July 25? Was it threats to the lives of lawmakers? Was it staffers of elected representatives once again being party to the crime of criminal trespass?  Was it protestors vandalizing the historic building’s expensive marble?  Not a chance.  When it comes to these actual events, the Capitol Police appear to don their blinders, even if video captures the perpetrators committing criminal offenses.

Yet the Capitol Police did affect an actual felony arrest this week—the crime: the popping of a protestor’s balloon. 

Go ahead, laugh, but one can imagine Chief Tubbs and his investigators chalking-out the balloon as it tumbled to the marble floor.  ‘We need to expand the scene,’ one of the investigators shouts to a police officer in uniform.  ‘There may be DNA left behind from the cutting instrument.’

Even though this incident sounds like a goofy skit from Saturday Night Live, the Capitol Police actually took a man into custody and referred the alleged perpetrator to the Dane County DA’s office for the felony change of recklessly endangering safety.  Now, Ron Blair, a facilities manager at the Capitol, is on leave from his job with state government. The Capitol Police allege that Blair, in an attempt to pop the balloon, waived a sharp object. 

Ironically, late last March, the Dane County District Attorney’s office finally got around to charging Katherine R. Windels of Cross Plains. According the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Windels sent an e-mail to 15 lawmakers that read, in part: “Atten: Death Threat!!!! Bomb!!!” and “Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks.

“I hope you have a good time in hell,” Windels allegedly wrote, explaining that she would end the lives of targeted lawmakers via bombings and by “putting a nice little bullet in your head.”

Charged with a serious felony, the Dane County DA’s office refused to have Windels arrested. Instead, officials permitted her to stroll into intake court to answer a summons. 

Politics, I am sure, had nothing to do with the way either of these investigations proceeded, right?

This balloon popping incident, at best, merits a civil forfeiture disorderly conduct citation, which will then allow Chief Tubbs’  forensic investigators to remove the crime scene tape before the Dane County Coroner orders an autopsy.

A Note to Law Enforcement Vendors: Canadian Border Police Need 21st Century Drug Testing Kits

For Americans spending a portion of their summers hiking and fishing in Canada, here is a post it note: leave the 5W-30 at home.

Janet Goodin, a 66-year-old grandmother from Warroad, Minnesota, found that out the hard way in April. 

Looking to drop a few greenbacks at a Canadian bingo hall just a hop, skip, and jump over the border in the Manitoba town of Sprague, Goodin stopped to pay a required duty.  Taking an apparent page out of the TSA’s policy manual, agents from the Canadian Border Services flagged Goodin for additional screening. 

“So I got up there and they pulled me over for a search,” Goodin told Minnesota Public Radio.  “I was just concerned for being late for bingo. I wasn’t concerned for anything else.”

Little did Goodin know that the cargo secreted in her vehicle might land her a role in the Canadian version of Midnight Express.

A border agent found a canning jar inside of Goodin’s vehicle, which, like most of us, she shares with other family members. The agent asked the grandmother what was inside the receptacle, but Goodin did not know.  The agent took the bottle for preliminary drug testing, which, the agent claimed, came back positive for heroin.

The Canadian Border Service then arrested and stripped searched Goodin.  A magistrate set her bail at $5,000 and a $15,000 surety, requiring her daughters to back the note with the titles of their American properties.  However, a judge refused to accept the titles as collateral, which meant Goodin, living primarily on a fixed income, remained a guest at a Canadian jail for the next 12 days.

But when the suspected heroin was sent to a Canadian crime lab, a chemist discovered the brownish substance to be dirty motor oil.   

The response from the Canadian Border Services: ah, well, never mind. 

“Whenever the CBSA becomes aware of erroneous field tests, we will review that case and determine appropriate next steps and where appropriate, take corrective action,” spokeswoman Lisa White told the Winnipeg Free Press.

Of course, Canadian authorities did drop the charges against Goodin. Nonetheless, the experience has understandably left a bad taste in her mouth. 

“Two weeks out of somebody else’s life might not seem so long,” Goodin is quoted in the Winnipeg newspaper, “but when you get to be my age and you see the end coming, every day counts.”

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. 

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

 © Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


Farwell Avenue Fait Accompli

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

Seven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


Freedom Didn’t Come Cheap for Former Saukville Copper

To view this article, checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You coming to Amazon.com in December 2012.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.

If your organization is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files presentation The Psychology of Homicide.  For more information, visit http://www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


Note in Murder Victim’s Belongings Continues to Spur Controversy

To view this article, please checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I & II available now at Amazon.com.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in or Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler and Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


SF to Take Investigative Team on the Road this Fall

Coming this autumn, the Spingola Files (SF) team of investigative journalists, including yours truly, will once again take to the road.  With the assistance of other dedicated law enforcement veterans, SF will explore an area traversed by one of America’s most infamous killers.

As mid-October approaches, check the Spingola Files Web site for more information. 

In accordance with the other parties involved, the location and the details of this search will remain under raps until the operation is complete.  Nonetheless, I expect this road trip will shed some fascinating insight into the mind of a demented killer.

On another note, I want to thank those who have purchased a copy of Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders, which rose as high as #3 on Amazon.com’s list of hot new releases. The proceeds from the sales of the article underwrite the costs of the Spingola Files Web site when our staff takes to the road.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department Homicide Detective and the author of two magazine exposes – The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler and Predators on the Parkway, listed above.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Psychology of Homicide Presentation Now Available Nationally

To view this article, please checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, available exclusively at Amazon.com in December of 2012.

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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.

For information pertaining to Steven Spingola’s background, click the “About” box on the upper right hand portion of this Web page.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


The Mysterious Whereabouts of Ralph Leon Jackson

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.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Route 29 Linkage?

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, June 6, 2010 — After leaving the Shenandoah National Park, the Spingola Files (SF) traveled to the college town of Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia. 

But before venturing into town, SF visited the periphery of Anchorage Farms, where David Bass, the owner of the 720 acre property discovered the body of Morgan Harrington in late January. 

The property of Anchorage Farms begins approximately 60 feet from the center late of Route 29.  The entrance to the property is gated, although, at the time we visited, this gate was pulled open.  I sincerely doubt that an individual, having just committed a homicide, would risk entering the dump site from this location.

That being said, the area of the farm where Morgan’s body was located is easily accessible from the Blandemar Estates subdivision.  Saying the Blandemar area is an atypical subdivision is an understatement.  This is very upscale development. By my estimation, the lots are five acre parcels.  In the area near Waldemar Drive, only two homes are visible, one of which is under construction and probably didn’t exist at the time of the murder.  Another large home sits at the intersection of Blandemar and Waldemar Drives; however, trees surrounding this residence might obstruct the view of its occupants.

I believe the Morgan’s killer probably parked his vehicle on Waldemar Drive — possibly in front of the home currently under construction — threw Morgan Harrington’s body over his shoulder and walked onto the Anchorage Farms property. 

Without a doubt, this is a case that reading the police reports would likely answer several questions, although I believe that the suspect is very familiar with the area.  Why drive ten miles and then pick this particular spot to dispose of a body?  Why not choose other areas that are more isolated and closer to the John Paul Jones Arena?  My guess is the suspect felt comfortable in the vicinity of Anchorage Farms and is likely aware that this particular sector of the property would not be checked for some period of time.

SF then visited Charlottesville proper.  On the Copeley Road bridge — at the spot where Morgan Harrington was observed hitching for a ride — a make-shift memorial stands just above a set of railroad tracks. Today, this area was home to the NCAA baseball regional.  Pedestrian and vehicular track was particularly heavy.  On the evening of the Metallica concert, my guess is many more people were present. 

Looking at other open investigations, the Morgan Harrington case has some similarities to the 1996 homicide of Alicia Showalter Reynolds, which was initiated on Virginia’s Route 29—a major arterial highway located only a few blocks from the Copeley Road bridge.  Showalter Reynolds’ credit card was located on Clay Street in Culpepper the day she was abducted.  Her parka was located on Route 626, although her body wasn’t discovered until May 17, 1996.  Harrington’s purse and cell phone were found in a parking lot near the UVA athletic fields shortly after her disappearance.  Her Pantera t-shirt was discarded and located two days later near the West Lawn apartments.  In both instances, the killer disposed of the property of the victims, almost as if he hoped they would be located.

Certainly, the method of operation originally developed by the Route 29 stalker (i.e. pulling alongside female motorist and encouraging them to stop due to car trouble) would no longer be effective.  The proliferation and use of cellular telephones would require the perpetrator to alter his MO.

NEXT: check back tomorrow as SF will post an update regarding the search for Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey.

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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.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010


Cadaver Dog Hit Brings Hope to Victims’ Families

YORKTOWN, VA, June 5, 2010 — At approximately 1:15 p.m., cadaver dog searchers from K-9 Alert Search and Rescue “hit” on a location along the Colonial Parkway in an area not covered by the original permits obtained by the victims’ families.

Several searchers present on the Colonial Parkway, as well as other members of the news media, have asked about the meaning of a “hit.”  Cadaver dogs are trained to search for human remains only.  As such, they instinctively bypass the remains of animals. 

During today’s Colonial Parkway search, after the first successful hit, handlers separately brought two additional cadaver dogs to the location in question.  These dogs also detected human remains.  

“I’ve never seen three dogs independently hit on a location where human remains weren’t found,” one of the searchers told SF. 

But just whose remains lay just off the historic parkway?

Jonathan Connolly, a CRM Specialist for the Colonial National Historic Park, is responsible for the Colonial Parkway’s compliance with federal preservation laws.  He also has a background in archeology.  In 2007 and 2008, the William & Mary Center for Archeological Research conducted an extensive excavation project along the entire route of the Colonial Parkway.  Those involved dug holes every 15 meters along the scenic parkway no further than 250 feet from the road’s center line and did not recover any human remains. The area of today’s cadaver dog hits is only yards from the parameters of the 2007 and 2008 William & Mary dig.  

“I’ve checked the area against our records,” Connelly told SF, “and I don’t believe the area where the dogs hit is one where historical remains are located.”

Connolly further noted that the area on the banks of the York River, now known as the Colonial Parkway, was once home to native American Indians and then, since the early 1600s, European settlers.  A plantation was once located near this area; however, after examining the ground near the cadaver dogs’ hit, Connelly believes the location is not the grave of slave.  He noted that the burial grounds of slaves tend to rise six to eight inches above the surface.  The location of the cadaver dog hit is level to the ground. 

When SF left the scene at approximately 3:30 p.m., an agent from the FBI was standing by.  My understanding is an FBI evidence response team is en route to explore the area of the hit.

“In most instances,” said Connolly, “we cannot just dig up remains.  Since this is a criminal matter, they [the FBI] can.”

Are the purported remains located beneath the surface just off the Colonial Parkway those of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey? Only time and further examination will tell.

Yet the members of the Call and Hailey families present during the search are hopeful this new discovery will bring them closure.

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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.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010


NPS Gives a Little Ground, Literally

YORKTOWN, VA, June 5, 2010 — As the search for the remains of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey continues, it appears that the National Park Service (NPS) has had a change of heart.  NPS Ranger Steve Williams, who, also was the victim of an unfortunate rear-end car accident, gave consent to the families to search an additional area of the Colonial Parkway. 

The area set to be searched, is virgin territory, so to speak, as investigators have yet to comb this particular segment of the scenic parkway. 

Reading between the lines, I believe the presence of the FBI agent investigating four of the eight Colonial Parkway homicides may have played a role.  After all, common sense dictates that the cadaver dogs should visit unexplored grids. 

Before proceeding further, the weather in historic Yorktown, which abuts the beautiful and wide York River to the east, is a bit steamy.  The temperature is 93 degrees at noon.  The sticky humidity is cause for searchers to frequently hydrant.  The ticks in the Colonial Parkway are as persistent as mosquitoes after a rainy, Wisconsin summer afternoon. 

Yesterday, while the Spingola Files (SF) visited the crime scene near I-64 in New Kent County — where hunters discovered the remains of the Lauer/Phelps homicides — ticks permeated the clothes of searchers  In fact, this morning, one of the dog-handlers jokingly mentioned Virginia doesn’t have state bird just a state insect — the tick.

Hopefully, a search of this new area turns up that bread crumb of information needed to point searchers in the right direction.

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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.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Let the Search Begin — Well, Kind of

YORKTOWN, VA, June 5, 2010 — Not far from historical Yorktown, a search is underway for the remains of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey, a couple who had left an April 10, 1988, party about 15 miles from the Colonial Parkway but were never seen alive again.

A park ranger and Call’s father later observed Keith’s 1982 Toyota abandon on the Colonial Parkway.  Investigators later observed the couple’s clothing piled, as if they were dropped, on the rear seat.

Today’s organized, private search — conducted with very little expense to taxpayers — is being hindered by bureaucrats being bureaucrats.  National Park Service Ranger Steve Williams explained that the families permit allows cadaver dog-handlers to search only two limited areas of the Colonial Parkway.  “This is a historical park with sensitive areas,” Williams explained to SF. 

During the Spingola Files’ (SF) visit, SF spoke with sources that presented various theories  — some of which overlap — pertaining to these complex investigations. However, the National Park Service (NSP) is unwilling to show some flexibility, prohibiting a search of any additional areas under their jurisdiction.  Six cadaver dogs and their handlers from K-9 Alert Search and Rescue (www.k9alert.org) made extensive preparations to handle a detailed hunt for the remains of Call and Hailey, but the rules-are-rules bureaucrats have put a damper on the overall operation. 

About an hour ago, Burt Drummond, search and rescue organizer, held a briefing for the families, volunteers and members of the media.  Updates on the search are forth coming. 

On another note, the families of Colonial Parkway murder victims held a get-together last night at the Ocean Breeze Restaurant.  SF would like to thank the families for their hospitality.  The restaurant’s staff did a wonderful job hosting the private event.  During the meeting, I discussed the cases with family members, all of whom are looking for closure.

Prior to the meeting, I spoke with Channel 12’s Tara Morgan regarding SF’s efforts:

http://www.nbc12.com/Global/story.asp?S=12599000

Check this site throughout the day, as I will post updates regarding the search.

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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.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI 2010


Boots on the Ground

As promised, the Spingola Files (SF) has arrived in Virginia to report back to our readers regarding the Colonial Parkway homicides.

Tonight, SF will speak with a long-time investigator regarding the unsolved cases of these four couples that occurred between 1986 and 1989 along the scenic Colonial Parkway.

The stifling humidity aside, SF has a full itinerary.  In an investigative journalist’s role, SF will revisit the crime scenes, speak to tipsters, and explore decades-old information. 

Vist this site frequently for more information. 

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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.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Taking the Sense Out of Sensitivity

The late Tip O’Neill once a said, “All politics is local.”  If the former Speaker of the House was correct, then the residents of central Virginia need to contact their congressional representatives and US Senators to politely ask why the National Park Service is throwing-up a bureaucratic roadblock to the search for Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey — two probable victims of a serial killer that roamed Virginia’s Colonial Parkway.

On April 9, 1988, Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey went on their first date.  The next day, a park ranger discovered Call’s abandoned 1982 Toyota Celica on the Colonial Parkway.  The couple literally disappeared off the face of the Earth, although investigators suspect they became victims of a killer targeting couples in so-called lover’s lane areas. 

As readers of this Web site know, the Spingola Files (SF)  — at the request of the victims’ families — is set to visit Virginia’s Colonial Parkway early next month.  SF was looking forward to assisting the June 5 search for Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey, along with dozens of other volunteers, including Kim Bidwell and her cadaver dog-handler associates.

Today, Jen Phelps, the sister-in-law of Colonial Parkway murder victim Annamaria Phelps, along with other victims’ family members, received word that the National Park Service (NPS) would limit the search to just 15 persons.  The reason: the NPS is concerned that the search may interfere with the pleasure the park may otherwise provide to visitors.

To read more about this breaking story visit: http://www.wtkr.com/news/wtkr-search-off-cp,0,5422028.story

Obviously, this is a case of bureaucrats being bureaucrats. Why any governmental body would prohibit an organized search — one conducted by volunteers and costing taxpayers nothing — is beyond logical reasoning. 

Below is the contact information for Virginia’s two U.S. Senators:

Senator Mark Warner, (202) 224-2023

Senator James Webb, (202) 224-4024

I encourage readers of this Web site to contact these two gentlemen and request that the National Park Service show some sensitivity and compassion for the Call and Hailey families. This valuable search should go on as scheduled June 5, even if it takes some behind the scenes political maneuvering to overrule the rationale of the rules-are-rules bureaucrats at the NPS.

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Steve 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.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010


Prowler on the Parkway

In Virginia, a killer — more likely a handful of killers — are at large.  From 1986 to 1989, at least eight people became homicide victims on or near the Colonial Parkway.  Within hours after a passerby found the first victims, Cathy Thomas and Becky Dowski, inside a white Honda, investigators told family members that they believed the suspect was either a law enforcement officer or a police impersonator. The perpetrator bound Thomas and Dowski before slitting one of the women’s throats with enough force to cause partial decapitation.

While some believe the Colonial Parkway murders ended in 1989, and that the suspect is either dead or currently incarcerated, the May 1996 homicides of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams in a remote area of Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park are strikingly similar.  The two hikers were found bound and gagged with their throats slit.

In fact, the remains of David Knobling, Robin Edwards, Daniel Lauer, Annamaria Phelps, Alicia Reynolds, and Morgan Harrington, have dotted the Virginia country side.  The bodies of another couple — Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey — have yet to be located. All of these investigations remain open.  

Over the course of the past month or so, I have had the privilege to communicate with some of the victims’ family members.  This dialog caused me to do more research and dig a little deeper.  These brutal, unsolved homicides are extremely troubling. A good possibility exists that more than one killer is fulfilling his violent fantasies and remains at large to commit yet another heinous offense.

Last night, Virginia’s WAVY Channel 10 broke the news of my upcoming visit to the Richmond area. 

http://www.wavy.com/dpp/news/local_news/agent-volunteers-to-revisit-parkway-case

While the report claims the Spingola Files is conducting an “independent investigation” from the FBI, I will not be acting in a law enforcement or private investigative capacity.  Instead, I am exploring these cases from the perspective of an investigative journalist.  Hopefully, my coverage of these events will call out volunteers to assist in the search of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey, cause a person with relevant information to come forward, or somehow uncover a small piece of the puzzle needed to unlock the anonymity of the killer(s).  

Visit this Web site for updates on the Spingola Files visit to Virginia in early June.  I plan on posting information — in some cases live — as I speak with those involved in these complex investigations.

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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


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


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