Posts tagged “Eau Claire

Retired Police Captain Reviews “Psychic Reprieve” — Mitchell Nevin’s Wisconsin-Based Crime Novel

psy cover

Mitchell Nevin’s new novel, Psychic Reprieve: Deception & Reality, weaves a story of three men who had the misfortune of being convicted of felony crimes, but the good fortune of ending up as cellmates in a federal minimum security prison camp, where they became close friends.  One was Raunold Choquet, aka: “R.C.,” who had lived with his grandparents in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, after his mother’s murder. R.C. had a promising future as the closer for the Milwaukee State college baseball team.  His other cellmates included a former Chicago police sergeant (Gannon Burke) and a small-time identity thief (Luigi Fabriano), who forged identification papers in St Paul.

A college baseball team hazing prank goes bad, which results with R.C. being charged with a federal offense and imprisoned because of the political nature of the crime.  After a beating by a group of other inmates, R.C. develops that ability to see into the future, which leads to the successful clearances of several major crimes, including the arrest of a serial killer.  The manner in which Mitchell Nevin injects these “visions” reminds me of the old television series from the late 50s/early 60s—The Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond.

Gannon Burke, having been convicted of a public corruption charges, and Luigi befriend R.C.  After their release from prison, the trio develops a scheme to profit from R.C.’s clairvoyant powers while working in at Drina’s Pasta Palace, an Italian restaurant in downtown Eau Claire.

As in his first book, The Cozen Protocol, Mitchell Nevin worked his knowledge of internal police operations; criminal investigations, high-tech government surveillance, and the politics of a prosecution into the story in a way that is informative as well as entertaining.  In Psychic Reprieve: Deception & Reality, Nevin again melds his familiarity of law enforcement procedures into a fictional story, which makes it easy for the reader to form a mental picture and enjoy the plot. The perspectives of each of the main characters, as well as the way in which the author sets-up their encounters with law enforcement and other antagonists, is interesting to say the least.

Psychic Reprieve has several scenes that occur in Milwaukee.  A few of the hazing pranks initiated by the players on the Milwaukee State baseball team are good for a few laughs.  Some of those who have served on the MPD in the past might recognize these events.  Other major portions of the novel occur in Eau Claire, including one scene where a mano-a-mano showdown takes place during a gentlemen’s bet between R.C. and the power hitting first basemen of the Eau Claire Rail Splitters.  The bet, set-up by the crew at the Pasta Palace,  is to determine if the stellar pitcher can get the college conference player out in one at bat.

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, I would give Psychic Reprieve and “8” for the following reasons:  perhaps the best fictional books I have ever read were those by the late Vince Flynn. Hence, his work product is the standard by which I compare other novels when rendering an opinion.  Psychic Reprieve—filled with witty one-liners—had a different type of plot and focus than I expected, and that gave the novel a twist that I found very interesting.

Checkout Psychic Reprieve at


Glenn D. Frankovis, a retired Milwaukee Police Department captain and district commander (1975-2004), is the author of a soon-to-be released book involving urban policing strategies.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

DWD Strikes Again; an FBI Official’s Parchment Shredder; the Police and the Paranormal

Sadly and yet predictably, the body of 24-year-old Nick Wilcox—a Milwaukee resident last seen alive celebrating New Year’s at a pub on Old World Third Street—came to the surface of the Milwaukee River on Thursday.  Two Milwaukee police officers observed the young man’s body floating in the river adjacent to Pierre Marquette Park.

In my new book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I & II, I spent a chapter, entitled “Leaving for College? Take Some Common Sense Along, too,” discussing the risks involved with binge drinking from the standpoint of personal protection. I understand that the last people a teenager or someone in their early 20s wants to listen to is their parents. As such, encourage your child to take the advice of a former homicide detective—one who has scraped human remains off of sidewalks and tavern floors.

In Oshkosh, La Crosse, and Milwaukee, highly intoxicated men, for whatever reason, are drawn to bodies of water like aluminum to magnets.  There are three easy steps young people can take to make sure that, after a rough night on the town, they wake-up in a safe environment.

Although DWD (drowning while drunk) tends of be a male phenomenon, women, if over served, sometimes become sexual victims.  Having had candid conversations with a handful of coppers who routinely patrol Milwaukee’s Water Street, sober men—too cheap to pay a cover or buy a drink—often stand outside nightclubs at bar time waiting to take advantage of the alcohol-fueled inhibitions of inebriated women.

When planning a night out, it is important to come-up with a plan to ensure the safety of those you care about. This is serious business, so take my advice, and read the tips I provide in Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I & 2, available now at

Is the FBI Being Wronged by the Bill of Rights?

In a free society, judicial oversight ensures that government agents have a legitimate basis to believe criminal activity is occurring before seizing personal papers, eavesdropping on private communications, or intruding in private domiciles. Probable cause—the quantum of evidence that would lead a reasonable peace officer to believe that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or might be committed—is a relatively low burden to meet.

This burden of proof, however, is apparently not low enough for the FBI.  At an American Bar Association luncheon, the FBI’s general counsel, Andrew Weissman, told those in attendance that the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) limits agents’ abilities to conduct surveillance of some Web-based communications, such as Google’s g-mail.

“We’re making the ability to intercept communications with a court order increasingly obsolete,” Weissman said, while lamenting that “criminals” make use of some Internet applications to communicate. He noted that a “top priority this year” for the FBI is congressional approval or an executive action that permits federal law enforcement to conduct surveillance of World-Wide Web password accessible accounts without a court order.

No doubt, Constitutional protections sometimes make gathering evidence more difficult, which is precisely why the founding father’s ratified the Fourth Amendment. If the FBI believes that the activities of those involved in criminal activity merit a significant threat to public safety, then its agents should conduct the necessary due diligence and seek judicial orders.

In 2008, congress approved several amendments to the 1978 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“Specifically, the new legislation dramatically expands the government’s ability to wiretap without meaningful judicial oversight, by redefining “oversight” so that the feds can drag their feet on getting authorization almost indefinitely,” noted ARS Technica reporter Timothy Lee. “It also gives the feds unprecedented new latitude in selecting eavesdropping targets, latitude that could be used to collect information on non-terrorist-related activities like P2P copyright infringement and online gambling. In short, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 opens up loopholes so large that the feds could drive a truck loaded down with purloined civil liberties through it.”

And what would discourage federal law enforcement from continually asking congress and/or the President to incrementally chip away at the privacy protections of Americans, since lawmakers have winked-and-nodded at virtually every request to marginalize the Fourth Amendment since 2001?

‘Gimme, gimme, gimme,’ continues to be the mantra of law enforcement officials as they seek to curtail the civil liberties of Americans in the name of public safety.  It is time for an adult in the room to stand-up, draw a line in the sand, and tell these officials that, if they can’t get the job done the way others have managed to do so since 1791 (the year the Bill of Rights were ratified), then it is time to step aside.

Soon-to-be Released Novel Focuses on the Paranormal and the Police

Recently, I was asked to review a substantial portion of the manuscript for Mitchell Nevin’s soon-to-be released novel, which explores the intersection where law enforcement and the paranormal meet.  Most detectives are extremely skeptical of psychics, although a handful insist that those with ‘special abilities’ have proved helpful. Nevin’s new novel is based primarily in Milwaukee, Chicago, Eau Claire and the Twin Cities, although several other towns gain mention. The plot is concise, free-flowing, and well researched.

According to my publisher, the new novel is still a work in progress.  If readers have had any experiences with psychics—good, bad or indifferent—please visit and feel free to comment, as the author is still interested in gathering input.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Spingola Files Print Edition Only Book Now Available


In the past, I have fielded emails from a number of people who prefer traditional books to Kindle or Nook e-readers. Many have asked when the “Best of the Spingola Files” book series would be made available in paper.

I now have an answer.

Yesterday, my Wisconsin-based publisher, Badger Wordsmith, released Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II—a combined, print edition only book—currently for sale at Create Space and, within a week, at

“Rick Sandoval, a highly regarded, second generation Milwaukee police officer, penned the book’s Forward,” an excerpt from a news release at CBS News reports. “Retired Milwaukee PD captains Mike Massa and Glenn Frankovis, attorney Kelly McAndrews, and nationally known liberty activist Kaye Beach, provided endorsements of “Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & 2…”

On the pages of this book I discuss about 40 matters of criminal justice import, including:

· The strangulation slayings of several women on Milwaukee’s north side

· The suspicious deaths of almost a dozen men in the hard-drinking college town of Lacrosse

· A recent uptick in violent offenses in the city of Eau Claire

· A brief history of La Costra Nostra operatives in Milwaukee and Madison

· A critique of the police investigation into the murder of UW-Madison co-ed Brittany Zimmermann

· The intrusive technologies of America’s post-9/11 surveillance state.


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, please visit:

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

The Wonderful World of Book Publishing

Whether it is teaching, criminal investigations, academic administration, or probing complex cases of financial fraud, publishing is admittedly one of the more difficult endeavors that I have undertaken.

In early December, my latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, went live at  To be successful in the book business, an author must engage in endless self-promotion—the goal of which is making a writer’s name into a brand synonymous with a particular theme.

Prior to taking the writing plunge, I rarely, if ever, felt the need to toot my own horn. Instead, I preferred to have my body of work speak for itself. In the book world, however, where writers delving into the genre of crime have thousands of competitors, authors are always on the lookout for methods to improve their marketing platforms.

One of the ways to do so is assisting other authors, many of whom are struggling to reach the next rung on the publishing ladder.

Last October, Arcadia Books released Wisconsin author Gavin Schmitt’s book Milwaukee Mafia.  I was privileged to have an opportunity to write the forward for this interesting pictorial of Brew City wise guys (see the below link):

On Thursday, a young woman from my publishing company requested that I take a look at an outline and the first three chapters of a manuscript for a yet-to-be-named novel by Mitchell Nevin.

In the past, I’ve spoken highly of Nevin’s first book, The Cozen Protocol, and its Milwaukee-based theme that explores the political fallout from an ongoing gang war and the Milwaukee Police Department’s subsequent response. In Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, I noted that Mitchell Nevin is a pseudonym for the actual author.  On this blog, many current or former Milwaukee coppers later chimed-in to speculate about the author’s actual identity.

I later discussed The Cozen Protocol and the mystery behind the author with WUWM’s Stephanie Lecci.

After reading the outline for Nevin’s new book—scheduled for release sometime this fall—I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that this novel will become an Amazon best seller.

Since I promised my publisher that I would keep the cards to Nevin’s latest work close to my vest, I will disclose only this much: that four of the main characters weaved into the plot are a Milwaukee area baseball pitcher; a Chicago PD sergeant gone, well, just kind of bad; a Hispanic cook, and a personable white collar criminal of Italian lineage.  The venue is America’s heartland, as portions of the novel occur in Milwaukee, Chicago, the Twin Cities, Platteville, Eau Claire, the Minnesota towns of Red Wing and Albert Lea, and Minot, North Dakota.

In other words, Nevin’s new novel probably won’t play well with the elites on east and west coasts, where the lives of those of us residing in fly over country are considered too mundane and culturally unfulfilling (or, as one of my long retired old-school sergeants used to say, “We’ve got a lot fewer goofs living here”).

If you’re a reader into the oddities of the criminal justice system, psychic phenomena, solid dialog, and good cop-bad cop, Nevin’s still unnamed book has all the markings of a great read.

So mark your calendars.

In the interim, I will keep plugging away at this writing and publishing thing.  Sometimes, as I explained in a recent Facebook post, writing a book is like banging your head against a wall—it feels good when you stop.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

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

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013

Circumstantial Evidence, Homicide, and the Wrongfully Accused


                Brian Dorian                                                                                              

  In Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, I profiled the case of the so-called “honey-bee shooter”—a lone gunman who murdered one man and shot another. Based on a physical description of the shooter and his vehicle, authorities in Will County, Illinois, later arrested Lynwood Police Officer Brian Dorian. A few days later, prosecutors charged Dorian with the homicide of a 45-year-old construction worker in rural Beecher.

The case against Dorian was circumstantial. At the time, I warned readers that “misidentifications are the primary cause for wrongful convictions.” Charges against Dorian were later dropped after a forensic examination of Dorian’s computer indicated that he was logged-in to a password accessible Web site at the time of one of the shootings.

Some, however, including “Louis 31,” who posted a comment on the Spingola Files Web site, insisted that the circumstantial evidence strongly implicated Dorian.

“Anybody could have been on the computer,” Louis 31 wrote. “Same truck, same clothes, got new tires the day after, 2nd sketch looks exactly like him [Brian Dorian], cell phone ping in cedar lake (about four miles from where the shooting occurred) from his phone. Pulled over in Scherillville, IN about 12 miles from the shooting in Indiana.”

Challenging Louis 31’s claims, I pointed out that Dorian—a police officer at the time of these shootings—would possess significant knowledge of the methods used by law enforcement to gather evidence. Why, I asked, would Dorian leave his cellular telephone on to ping off a tower during an unprovoked, thought out attack and go on a shooting spree in a vehicle that detective’s might easily identify as his own? Regardless of the circumstantial evidence, the case against Dorian didn’t pass the smell test.

And, sure enough, after spending more than a week in a Joliet jail and having his named dragged through the mud, the cloud of suspicion surrounding Dorian’s involvement in these shootings came to an end almost a month later when an armed man attempted to rob an L.A. Tan Salon in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park.  A customer, who entered the business during the commission of the crime, disarmed the would-be robber, and then shot the perpetrator—later identified as a 48-year-old rural Rankin, Illinois, man. The deceased, Gary Amaya, matched the physical description of the honey-bee shooter.  Amaya also drove a blue truck, consistent with the description of the vehicle leaving the homicide scene. Ballistics proved that the firearm recovered from the Orland Park salon matched the gun used in the honey-bee shootings.

“Circumstantial evidence has mistakenly convicted innocent people of serious crimes,” I noted at the time. “Over the course of the past year, reports abound of persons released from prison due to DNA testing.”

The 12-year anniversary of an unsolved homicide in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, bears a strong similarity to the pursuit of Brian Dorian, although, in this instance, the individual who committed the homicide(s) likely remains at-large.

On February 26, 2000, the body of 38-year-old Kathy Thompson was discovered on Laurel Avenue, not far from downtown Eau Claire. News and legal sources note that Thompson was strangled with a ligature—most likely a belt; her shirt and bra were pulled over her head exposing her breasts. Her sweater was located just a few feet from her head. Based on evidence at the scene, detectives believe that Thompson’s body was dumped after the woman was strangled to death at another location.

Thompson’s remains were found less than three hours after she was released from an Eau Claire jail at 3 a.m. She, along with her new husband, had been arrested after a bloody domestic brouhaha. Thompson’s husband—still behind bars during the commission of her murder—was obviously excluded as a suspect. Eau Claire detectives then focused their attention on those who might have an axe to grind with victim.  In short order, they found an individual with a plausible motive, 57-year-old former cop Evan Zimmerman.


                      Evan Zimmerman

A chronic alcoholic, investigators learned—to no surprise—that Zimmerman was highly intoxicated during the time period when Thompson went missing. Eau Claire detectives spent nearly a year attempting to debunk Zimmerman’s explanation for his whereabouts and believed a jury would see through the inconsistencies in his alibi. Moreover, one key witness, while under hypnosis, described a white van with a woman inside moving through the area that matched a vehicle owned by Zimmerman.

Only one key piece of evidence linked Zimmerman to Thompson: a hair belonging to Thompson found in a hairbrush inside Zimmerman’s van.  However, since Zimmerman and Thompson once dated and shared the van, finding Thompson’s hair would not necessarily include or exclude Zimmerman as a suspect.

The shaky circumstantial evidence aside, Zimmerman was charged and a jury later convicted him of murdering Thompson.

Soon afterwards, the Wisconsin Innocence Project began scrutinizing the evidence used to convict Zimmerman.  Investigators alleged that Zimmerman used a phone cord as a ligature to strangle Thompson, although Milwaukee County Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen, who examined the ligature wounds, noted that marks on Thompson’s neck were likely made by a belt buckle. Zimmerman also owned a dog that he frequently transported in his van. While dog hair was found throughout Zimmerman’s van, not a single such hair was discovered on Thompson’s sweater. DNA located at the crime scene—from cigarette butts, hairs, and from Thompson’s fingernails did not belong to Zimmerman.

After examining the evidence, an appeals court vacated Zimmerman’s conviction. Absent the testimony of a key witness, prosecutors declined to retry the case.  A short time thereafter, the freed Zimmerman died of cancer.

Yet if Evan Zimmerman did not murder Kathy Thompson, then her killer—a person whose DNA is not a match for samples maintained in state or federal databases—remained at-large.  If so, a possibility exists that Thompson’s killer might be linked to the January 2001 homicide of Angelina Wall.

Wall left her job at McDonald’s on Hastings Way, less than a half-mile from the Laurel Avenue location where Thompson’s body was discovered, en route to her residence on Birch Street. Wall’s body was discovered near Highway J in Fall Creek, about 10 miles southeast of the McDonald’s.  

This table, contained within a brief filed on Zimmerman’s behalf by the Wisconsin Innocence Project, highlights the similarities between the two cases:

Thompson Homicide                                                                   Wall Homicide

Last seen 2:30-3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, February 26, 2000. Last seen 2:30-3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, January 6, 2001.
Last seen walking home alone. Last seen walking home alone.
Lived in north-central Eau Claire Lived in north-central Eau Claire
Ligature strangulation (likely a belt) Source suggests ligature strangulation (belt possible)
Body discovered dumped along city street in plain view, miles from her home. Body discovered dumped along rural road in plain view, miles from her home.
Body discovered about 5:45 a.m., meaning perpetrator had at most three hours to commit the crime. Body discovered about 5:45 a.m., meaning perpetrator had at most three hours to commit the crime.
Body partially undressed. Body partially undressed.
A few personal items, but not all valuables, were missing. A few personal items, but not all valuables, were missing.

 According to this brief, specific details from the Wall homicide, which remain under seal, contain even more similarities.

As to possible theories, absent a review of specific police reports, it is difficult to accurately speculate. Using my background in criminal investigative analysis (i.e. profiling), however, a hunch says that both of these homicides were crimes of opportunity. The suspect is probably an individual who had fantasized about sexual domination and control. Since the Thompson and Wall homicides occurred on a Saturday morning after bar time, the suspect probably has the ability to suppress his homicidal thoughts until he is under the influence of alcohol.  The killer(s) probably patronized nearby taverns prior to the attacks and feels comfortable in the north-central area of Eau Claire.  Since strangulation, even with a ligature, requires some strength, the suspect probably works with his hands.  He may have been in the area for a relatively short period of time laying cable or a working a detailed construction project. Since it is apparent that the suspect’s DNA has no match in CODIS—the national DNA databank—he is likely deceased, severely disabled, or simply stopped consuming alcohol.

Homicide investigations are typically more complex when the crimes are perpetrated by strangers. The timelines of the investigations, DNA evidence, and the use of criminal investigative analysis when appropriate, can produce a handful of suspects for detectives to evaluate and still exclude the innocent.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is available at

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

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013