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Category: Blog Posts

Another Forensic Genealogy Success

Forensic Genealogy, along with Familial DNA are two great tools that continue to enhance DNA evidence in more and more powerful ways.   Cases that are decades old and ice-cold are being solved at a breakneck pace because of the emergence of these two tools.

My friend Seth Augenstein at Forensic Magazine reports on the latest case to be cleared because of this technology.  A 1999 rape and murder.

You can read his article here.

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Seaport Books

I had a great time at Seaport Books in LaConner, Washington on August 17th.

There was a great turnout for the event.  My new friends who own the store were gracious hosts.

If you’re ever in LaConner, stop by the store.

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Why do serial killers try to confess to crimes they didn’t commit?

Another great blog post by Katherine Ramsland.  Why do serial killers try to confess to more murders than they actually commit?

Dewayne Lee Harris, a serial killer I investigated, (whose case is detailed in my book), tried to confess to murders he clearly didn’t commit.  (He didn’t know enough about the murders, as opposed to the ones he did commit, where he could detail the minutia of the crime).  Was he just trying to be more of a badass than he was?

I think so.

Katherine Ramsland addresses that issue in this blog post for Psychology Today.

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When I transferred from Sex Crimes to Homicide in 1994, one of the old-dog detectives there was John Boatman. “Boats”, as he was known around the office.
I didn’t know John well, but he was an old-school detective with a natural scowl. When you first meet him, you think he’s a crochety old coot. As it ends up, nothing could have been further from the truth.
He resembled Anthony Hopkins, and had a smile like he’d just enjoyed some fava beans with a nice Chianti.
He’s handled some of the most notorious murders in Seattle, like the Wah-Mee Murders, where fourteen people were bound and shot in the head in a Chinatown gambling den. Unfortunately for the killers, one survived and told the story of what happened.
Another case was the International Cannery Union murders in Pioneer Square, where the Filipino victims were gunned down in an attempt to control the cannery workers in Seattle. The state proffered at trial that the killings had been ordered by Ferdinand Marcos himself.
At on point in the trial, Boats was sitting at the prosecution table, next to old-school defense attorney Anthony Savage as the state put forth the theory. John looked at Savage and said, “You and I are the only ones in here that don’t believe that bullshit.”
John was very good to me and helped me in my early days in Homicide. He was quick witted, but a bit challenged when it came to technology. He could barely operate a remote control on a TV.
When we transitioned from typewriters to computers in the late 90’s, he really struggled. One day when he was away from his desk, I installed a spoof program on his desktop. When he touched any key, it would go to blue screen, and then start a countdown from 30 seconds, with the message: “Hard drive will be erased. Enter any 17-digit prime number to cancel. I went back to my desk to wait.
About ten minutes later, I heard a wail across the office: “HOLY SHIT!”
I ran to his desk, feigning concern, but couldn’t keep a straight face. He soon realized he’d been had and laughed as hard as I did.
John developed Atrial Fibrillation. He told me about being at the doctor and having to be defibrillated while completely conscious. “I rode the lightning!” he said.
He was tough as nails.
He lived on Inglewood Golf Course. One summer afternoon, he walked up to me.
“I need you to come with me.”
We drove to his house where a Pro-Am golf tournament was being played. We watched as Arnold Palmer made the turn at his house, and was teeing off at the next hole, a par 3.
Palmer shanked his drive into the woods.
I looked at Boatman, “Holy shit. I can golf as good as Arnold Palmer.”
He loved watching his kids play sports.
My sons where heavy into high school sports and we talked about it all the time.
“Enjoy it while you can,” he said. “When it’s over, you’ll really miss it.
I got word this morning, that John Boatman died last night after a battle with cancer.
A legend passes.
RIP buddy.

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Arrest Made in Child Murder More Than 30 Years Later.

Tenacious detectives in Fort Wayne, Indiana made an arrest in the cold-case murder of a beautiful little girl.

When detectives picked the suspect up and asked if he knew why they were there, he said, “April Tinsley.”

It seems apparent he’s been expecting this; especially with all the arrests being made around the country in cold cases.

Hopefully all the bastards that commit crimes like this lie awake at night, dreading the knock on their door.

The news article on this case is here.

The Affidavit at the bottom of the article details the steps detectives took to clear the case, and the suspect’s admissions of the horrible things he did to this poor little girl.

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39 Year Old Infant Murder Charged

I’ve investigated a lot of child murders over the years, including the murder of infants.  The problem comes when the child is passively suffocated.  It leaves no physiological signs, and in 1979, (and still sometimes today) is lumped into the SIDS category.

What people don’t understand about SIDS is it’s not a disease that can be diagnosed with tests or physical signs.  It’s  the result of a lack of a finding.  Often times it becomes a catch-all dumping ground for infant death.

Most cases that are ruled as SIDS are the result of accidental suffocation, where the child is overlaid by an adult, or stuck between a mattress and a wall or other object.  It’s clear from the scene investigation.  Some pathologists don’t want parents to blame themselves and rule SIDS to spare them that blame.

The problem is, people are then in fear that this “boogey man” named SIDS will take their child, when instead, it should foster education about safe sleep practices for new parents.

When there is no sign of accidental suffocation,  the detective must do a thorough investigation to find out what happened.

Several years ago, a nine-month-old baby died in a flea-bag motel in Seattle, where she was under the care of her “father”.  (He ended up not being her father).  We didn’t respond to dead baby cases then unless homicide was suspected. Seattle PD goes to all now, regardless of the apparent cause.

The first red flag was the age of the baby.  Nine-month-old children can roll, turn their head, etc.   They’re generally to old too be ruled SIDS, but that’s what happened in this case.

The “father” was a transient, so it took me several months to find him.

I brought him in for an interview where he confessed to suffocating the little girl.

He pled guilty.

Here’s a link to the story of the 1979 case here.

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Another Big Cold-Case Arrest

Another big arrest announced today by the Tacoma Police Department.  Twelve-year-old Michella Welch was found murdered in Puget Park in Tacoma in March of 1986.

The suspect, believed to be a man in his 60’s, was arrested locally.

This case tugged at the heartstrings of everyone involved, along with the murder of Jennifer Bastian, another little girl who was found murdered in Point Defiance Park.  For years, detectives believed they may have been committed by the same person. DNA tests more recently proved that samples collected came from two different males.

This case highlights that any case can be solved with persistent work by detectives.  Never give up.

Here is a link to the story reported in the Tacoma News Tribune.

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Upcoming Event

I’ll be at Seaport Books, (106 1st St., La Conner, WA) on Thursday, August 16th for an “Author Event”.  The link to their website with the details are here.

If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi.