Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Prison Reform Legislation Provides Early Release Opportunities For Any Offender Over Age 50, Even Those Serving LWOP For Mass Murder

This bill was voted down click here to see post about the vote.


This has become an urgent call! This bill will hit the floor next week. Even if you are not from Illinois, these violent offenders may be free to walk the streets, and who knows, they could move to your neighborhood. Susan Murphy Milano has compiled an easy to read list of phone numbers for the State Legislators who will vote on this bill and added some helpful suggestions for what to say. Just click here to go to Susan's blog. Katfishponders has placed these calls and encourages you to do so as well.


Many states across our country are holding public policy discussions to reform their criminal justice systems - and rightly so, many reforms are needed - among them, victims rights! These discussions may include legislation that would retroactively change the sentence of violent and serious offenders. Do you know if your state has legislation on the table to make retroactive changes in sentencing?

Katfishponders recently became aware that in Illinois there is a Bill called HOUSE BILL 45 (HB45) that has passed committee and is heading for full floor vote in Illinois House.
HB 45 that would provide early release opportunities for any offender over age 50, even if he is serving life without parole for mass murder.

Since 1978 Illinois has not used indeterminate sentencing (parole) in our prisons, our prison system uses determinate sentencing. This massive reform, widely supported by both the offender and victim community alike, and widely supported by the entire law enforcement and most of the legal community, took much of the politics and randomness out of prisoners' sentences by eliminating parole.

Parole was a wildly discriminatory system, never applied consistently, and very subject to human error and politics. Now under determinate sentencing all prisoners except murderers are eligible to earn up to half off their sentences but ONLY measured objectively by their own good behavior - not some politically appointed board. Every day they are good, they earn a day off their sentence. (Some serious non murder cases like aggravated rape can only earn 15% off and murders as of 1993 can not earn any time off.)

Now that the full House could vote on it anytime we are urging all those who support victims and do not wish to see them tortured 25 years after they received legal finality in their cases, to contact members of the Illinois House and tell them not to vote for murderers. Tell them you want them to vote no for House Bill 45.

IllinoisVictims.org note just a FEW of the significant concerns with Housebill 45:

HB 45 would undo determinate sentencing and truth in sentencing in Illinois

Life without Parole sentences would be meaningless

Victims families no longer have any legal finality to the nightmare trauma of life after a murder in their families

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board is NOT a parole board and not qualified in its construct, personnel, or enabling statutes to evaluate prisoners for risk to public safety, or a change in their sentence, essentially taking on the job of the original court of law that tried, convicted and sentenced them.

Public safety is at risk

Prison sentences are proposed to be retroactively changed by the legislature and a politically appointed board in this process - completely abandoning the lengthy judicial and due process given each case.


Synopsis of House Bill 45 As Introduced Amends the Unified Code of Corrections.

Provides that a committed person who is at least 50 years of age and who has served at least 25 consecutive years of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility and is serving a sentence other than death may petition the Prisoner Review Board for an elderly sentence adjustment.

Provides that the Prisoner Review Board may not order the release of the committed person if the Prisoner Review Board finds that the committed person poses a threat to public safety.

Provides that if the Prisoner Review Board determines that a committed person is eligible for an elderly sentence adjustment and determines that the committed person should receive a sentence adjustment, the Prisoner Review Board shall set the conditions for the committed person's release from prison before the expiration of the committed person's sentence.

Provides that the Prisoner Review Board when adjusting a sentence shall require 10 hours of community service for each year served in prison and require electronic monitoring for at least 6 months.

Provides that a petition for sentencing adjustment shall be submitted only once unless the Prisoner Review Board decides unusual circumstances warrant another hearing.

Provides for notification of the families of victims if a petition for elderly sentence adjustment is filed.

Provides that the Department of Corrections shall develop a pilot program patterned after the Impact of Crime on Victims Class (ICVC), including the Restorative Justice segment, used by the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Provides that the pilot program shall be implemented in one maximum security prison for women and one maximum security prison for men.

Provides that the ICVC shall be made available to prisoners eligible for elderly sentence adjustment on a voluntary basis.

Katfishponders encourages it's readers to contact their Illinois House Representatives if not all House Members and encourage them to vote NO for House Bill 45. Click here for a complete listing of contact information for Illinois House members.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

2 Kidnappings, 2 States, 2 Very Different Outcomes Part 1

It's no wonder it's so frustrating when children go missing to try and figure out what has really happened....things are often not what they seem. The 2 cases reported in part 1 and part 2 (located right below this entry) illustrate the conundrum faced by those assigned the task of solving these cases.


Eighteen month old Emma Leigh Barker was first reported missing by a man who called police around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19. He said his sister, Stacey Barker, woke up partially clothed at the Park-n-Ride in Palmdale, California and discovered her toddler was missing, sheriff's officials said. He also said the 23-year-old mother had been injured.

When deputies arrived at the scene, Barker told them that she and her daughter had been at Lancaster City Park when she was attacked and blacked out, said Lt. Vince Carter of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Palmdale station. Barker told deputies she remembered putting her daughter in the carseat before she was attacked, but the next thing she is aware of is waking up six hours later at the Park-n-Ride with injuries, and her daughter missing. The distance between the park in Lancaster and the Palmdale site is about nine miles. Detectives said Barker had injuries consistent with a struggle, including bruises on her head and was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Initially, the investigation into this case was treated as a disappearance by the sheriff's department, and Barker's initial interviews with detectives Thursday morning were handled by the Sheriff's Department's Major Crimes Bureau. The story that Barker allegedly told detectives about being struck in the back of the head and getting knocked unconscious was different from the version of events she gave to deputies from the Palmdale station who initially responded to her location.

During the early hours of the investigation, deputies, assisted by bloodhounds, went from car to car at the park-and-ride lot in hopes of finding the toddler or information. About 9 a.m. Thursday, several pieces of clothing were found behind a bush in a dirt area behind a fence, and were later identified as the woman's, authorities said.

Through the course of questioning, the mother's story continued to change until Stacey Barker admitted that her daughter died as a result of an accident and that she panicked and dumped her daughter's body out of fear she would be blamed, authorities said. She also admitted that she took off most of her own clothes and injured herself just before she was discovered by police in a Park and Ride lot. Officials said that at 11 a.m. Thursday morning, Barker directed investigators to where she left her daughter's body, in some tall weeds in the vicinity of Roxford Street and El Dorado Avenue, off Interstate 5.

Once the girl's body was found, the case was transferred to the Homicide Bureau, which has now taken over all aspects of the investigation. Officials said the mother was not being detained, but the case would be presented to the district attorney's office. Sheriff's Lt. Pat Nelson said Barker was not a suspect, but added: "That may change as circumstances develop."

Sheriff's officials have not yet said what sort of accident Stacey Barker said killed her daughter.
Coroner officials said an autopsy was conducted on Friday, but the cause of death has not yet been determined. "It is still being investigated," said Assistant Coroner Chief Ed Winter.

On Tuesday, March 24, hundreds of friends and family and a scattered crowd of local residents gathered at the Joshua Memorial Park & Mortuary to say their final goodbyes to 18-month-old Emma. Sitting in the middle of Susan and Gary Barker at the memorial park, 23-year-old Stacey Barker was holding her parents' hands with her eyes filled with tears.

Bedded in a white plush coffin, people paid their last tribute to the little girl in the chapel. Many family members also wore a yellow-beaded ribbon with a red ladybug on their clothes in a show of affection and respect. Family and friends will forever remember Emma Leigh Barker as "a princess and a little girl who always had a smile on her face."

Link to part 2




Antelope Valley Press Sphere: Related Content

2 Kidnappings, 2 States, 2 Very Different Outcomes Part 2

Meanwhile that same Tuesday, March 24, that Emma Leigh Barker was being laid to rest a much different story was being played out in Plant City, Florida.

An Amber alert was issued Tuesday morning for a two-month-old Florida girl. Authorities say Sandra Cruz-Francisco, a Hispanic girl with black hair and brown eyes, was last seen in Plant City on Monday around 3 p.m..

Plant City Police Department Captain Darrell Wilson said that Sandra's mother contacted authorities after a woman at the Plant City Health Department falsely identified herself as Janet, an agent working for a federal immigration agency. The woman allegedly told family members to give her the baby. If they did not cooperate, the woman threatened deportation, Sandra was never returned to the family and police were contacted at about 9 p.m. Monday, Wilson said.

At 1:48 p.m. Tuesday, an anonymous call was placed to 911 stating someone was standing at the corner of 60th Avenue West and 34th Street West in Bradenton who had information on the missing baby, according to the sheriff's office. When deputies arrived, Amalia Pereira Tabata, 43, was holding Sandra in her arms and told them the baby was the missing girl. Witnesses at the strip mall said Tabata was immediately placed in the back of a patrol car and paramedics were paged to check out the baby.

Tabata was led out a back door of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Crimes Against Children division in handcuffs Tuesday evening. Tabata, who is married to Pittsburgh Pirates' farm system outfielder Jose Tabata, said she was innocent when asked by a reporter in Spanish.

Pittsburgh Pirates' president Frank Coonelly issued a statement stating an "immediate family member" of 20-year-old Jose Tabata was questioned in connection to Sandra's abduction.
"This is an extremely serious matter and we have given the matter our full attention," he said. "While we have received very little information at this point in the investigation, we have received no indication that Jose is believed to have had any involvement in the matter."

Tabata, who has several listed aliases, has a previous arson conviction in Hillsborough County for which she was incarcerated for almost three years, according to the Department of Corrections Web site. She also has been previously arrested for fraud and theft, Wilson said.

Tabata faces charges of false imprisonment and interfering with child custody. She remains in the Manatee County jail and will be transported to the Hillsborough County jail in the next couple days.

There appears to have been no prior relationship between Tabata and the Cruz-Francisco family, Wilson said. It's unclear why the baby was taken.
"We don't know. Investigators have yet to learn why she took the child," said Wilson as Tabata was being interviewed.

"What we want is to let everybody know how well the Amber Alert works. Putting that information out got the public calling in with some good information, which led to the recovery of Sandra," said Captain Darrell Wilson of the Plant City Police Department. The child was taken away from her mother around 3:00pm Monday and in less than 24 hours police were announcing the child was found safe.

katfish here again. It was nice to report a happy ending for a change. Nothing has been reported as to the immigration status of Sandra's family after this event. No doubt Tabata didn't count on the family reporting Sandra's abduction (for fear of deportation). Good to see they love their baby more than their own welfare.

As for the comparison of Emma and Sandra's cases other than the fact they began with reports of an abducted child and were resolved quickly, they had nothing in common. LE really has their hands full when it comes to solving these cases, there are so many variables, think Caylee Anthony, Haleigh Cummings and Jessica Lunsford just to name a few. Kudos to LE for the job they do for us.
wftv Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Media Loves Drama, The Drama Unfolds, But Will It Help Haleigh Cummings Be Found? UPDATED

update: 3/19 revisions and additions
It is terrifying when a child goes missing and horrific that someone would harm a child, even more so when that person is someone entrusted with the child’s care. In the case of Haleigh Cummings we don't yet know what has happened to her, but below is a summary of what we do know so far.

Five weeks ago today, Tuesday, February 11, the short life of Caylee Anthony, 2, was memorialized in Orlando, Florida. Caylee gripped the hearts and attention of the world when the disturbing news was released not only that Caylee was missing, but that she had been gone for a month before the police were notified. In Caylee’s case her mother, Casey Anthony, 22, has been charged with first degree murder.

But this story isn’t about Caylee or Casey, except for the fact that just as Caylee’s memorial was getting under way in Orlando, 70 miles north in Satsuma, Florida, an Amber Alert was being issued for another little girl who was reported missing early that morning. I remember hoping when I heard that the Amber Alert was issued for 5 year old Haleigh Cummings that this case would be different from Caylee‘s case, not only with a quicker resolution but with a happy ending. That remains to be seen, and it is not looking good.

Ronald Cummings, 25, said he received a phone call from his live in girlfriend, Misty Croslin, 17, as he pulled in his driveway, when arriving home from work in the early morning hours, telling him that his daughter Haleigh was missing. A 911 call was made at about 3:30 Tuesday morning by Haleigh’s father and his girlfriend.

Croslin reported that she had put Haleigh to bed at 8 p.m. Monday along with Haleigh’s 3 year old brother Ronald Jr. and joined them in the bedroom at about 10 p.m.. There have been conflicting reports as to who was in what bed, but it appears that Haleigh was in a small bed by herself and Croslin and Jr. were in the bigger bed. When Croslin got up at approximately 3 a.m. to use the restroom she noticed the kitchen light was on and the back door was open. She returned to the bedroom and found that Haleigh was missing.

Within 1 hour of the 911 call, the FL Department of Law Enforcement activated the Child Abduction Regional Team. Searching began by over 100 officers from county, state and federal law enforcement by helicopters, bloodhounds, ATV riders and ground searchers conducted grid searches of the wooded area and boats, divers searched the nearby St. Johns River.
The FBI dispatched 16 federal agents to assist local authorities. They were trying to rule out roughly 44 sex offenders who live within a 5-mile radius of the Cummings home. Haleigh's disappearance was being treated as an abduction, according to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office. Texas Equusearch also came to Satsuma and assisted in the search. While LE worked on accounting for the whereabouts of the known sexual offenders in the area and did ground searches we learned more about Haleigh’s family.

Haleigh and her brother, known as Junior, have been in their father’s custody since Haleigh was 2 years old and Junior was about 6 months old. Haleigh’s mother Crystal Sheffield, 23, lives about 100 miles away from Satsuma. She and her family came to Satsuma to be close to the search site and wait for any word about Haleigh. They set up a camp site down the road from Ronald Cummings trailer. According to Sheffield's mother, Marie Griffis, her daughter and Cummings split up about three years ago. Crystal and Ronald had never married and while there was a custody dispute, it appeared they had worked it out. Haleigh and Junior have had visitation with their mother every other weekend.

When this story broke, many people commented that the Anthonys should take note of Haleigh’s family’s behavior. Their behavior was what you expect from a family whose child had gone missing. Not only had Haleigh’s disappearance been reported immediately, her family had cooperated with the investigation and had taken lie detector tests to assist the investigation. Haleigh’s parents and grandmothers had also made emotional pleas for whoever had Haleigh to return her and sent Haleigh messages that they love her.

After the police had accounted for the sexual offenders in the area and a six day ground search had turned up nothing, Putnam County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Rick Ryan said, that other than a couple of select areas, they were suspending the search and focusing more on the investigation and processing the 500 leads that had came in.

After two days, it was reported that 1,200 tips had poured into a Crimestoppers hot line. For the first time late Tuesday, investigators released information about one of those tips: that Haleigh's father's girlfriend, 17-year-old Misty Croslin, may not have been at home the night Haleigh disappeared. Misty denied this allegation and reported that she voluntarily went through more questioning and another lie detector test (which she said she was told she passed). It should be noted that Ronald’s family supported her wholeheartedly and said they didn’t believe she left the kids.

During the first week of the search for Haleigh, tensions seemed apparent between her mother and father‘s families. They held separate candlelight vigils each night, and there were some comments made questioning Ron and Misty’s account of Haleigh’s disappearance. Marie Griffis, Haleigh’s maternal grandmother, issued an apology to Ronald Cummings and his girlfriend, Misty Croslin, for raising suspicions with the media concerning the couple’s possible involvement in the 5-year old’s disappearance. That Saturday night both sides came together for a prayer service, putting their differences aside for the sake of Haleigh. That didn't last for long.

Tips continued to come in over the next week but for the first time since 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings disappeared nearly two weeks before, there was no official update on the investigation to the media. Even so, deputies were visible in the neighborhood as they continued to whittle through the now more than 1,600 leads they had received. Unlike the Caylee Anthony case, LE in this case have remained tight lipped. It seems as though the media attention slowed down a bit as well.

One thing that has became apparent after following this case is the media only seems to stay actively involved in a case if it has drama. While the circumstances of Haleigh’s story are much different and have a long way to go before it could be considered as bizarre as the Anthony case, the more time that passes and Haleigh isn’t found, the crazier this story seems to get. I will touch on this more later on, but it does bring to question the quality of some of the things being reported.

What seemed a promising development in this case was Misty’s revelation that she has a cousin from Tennessee named “Joe” who had “attempted to mess with her” when she was younger and had recently visited the area. . Ronald Cumming‘s mother, Teresa Neves said the cousin and Haleigh's dad, Ronald Cummings, got into a fight about a gun during that visit. She also said the cousin left town the same day Haleigh disappeared. Ronald Cummings denies that fight ever happened."There was no fight with no cousin over a gun," said Ronald Cummings. Hmmm???
Could this "Joe" have something to do with Haleigh's disappearance? The police say they have interviewed him and don't think he is involved , but they are not ruling anyone out as a suspect.

Next there was a reported sighting of a girl thought to be Haleigh, in Croslin's cousin's home state- Tennessee. The Knoxville Police department said they received a call from someone who thought they spotted Haleigh at a Carrabba's restaurant parking lot. The caller said she was with a white man and white woman and they looked like they were trying to shield the girl's face. Knoxville police responded, but never found anyone matching the description.

Can you feel the drama building ? If not, hold on….enter Geraldo Rivera. The case is coming into the third week when Rivera visits Satsuma and reports he may have turned up something alarming about this case. He claims two members of Crystal Sheffield's family told him there is a history of physical abuse with Haleigh and her family. Crystal also told Rivera that her son Junior told her that a black man dressed in black with squeaky shoes took his sister.

Rivera confronted Ronald Cummings about those allegations at the camp the Cummings family has set up near the trailer where Haleigh was last seen. When Rivera continued pressing Cummings with allegations that he hit Sheffield when she was pregnant with Haleigh, used/sold illegal drugs and told someone (allegedly Crystal’s fiancé who is also her step-brother?) he was "75 percent sure" he knew who took Haleigh, the property owners told Rivera to leave and Putnam County deputies were called. Rivera was issued a warning that he would be charged with trespassing if he returned, according to the Putnam County incident report. Ronald calls Rivera's allegations mud slinging and said this is not what is going to bring Haleigh home.

While katfishponders disagrees with the sensational approach that Geraldo Rivera took with this case, it did seem to give the national media something to talk about and therefore kept Haleigh’s case in the public eye. Go figure. Not saying that tough questions shouldn’t be asked, but Geraldo?

A development during the third week of the search for Haleigh that drew media attention was when several teams of dogs specially trained to find human remains began searching in the area around the Putnam County mobile home park where Haleigh disappeared. Three different cadaver dogs alerted on a large trash receptacle in the neighborhood and investigators began a painstaking searching of it. After about six hours of scouring through the dumpster, police said they found nothing that could be linked to the missing girl. Thank goodness! Police said they weren’t following any specific tip, just trying to be sure they had left no stone unturned.

After the confrontation with Geraldo, Ronald Cummings stayed away from the media but he did draw some attention when he had a large tattoo of Haleigh done on his leg. He said it was done as a tribute to Haleigh. His avoidance of the media didn't last for long.....
Ronald Cummings proposed to his 17 year old girlfriend (of 6 mths.) Misty and 3 days later they got married. The day after the wedding, Misty and Ronald flew to New York for an exclusive interview on the Today show. The couple said they decided to marry because it was what Haleigh wanted. Ronald also said he didn’t think people should be paying attention to what he is doing with his private life because it takes attention away from Haleigh. Well…duh? Did they really think this wouldn't draw attention, especially given the fact pictures were released to the media of the proposal and the Today show was invited to tape the wedding? Many have questioned this decision to marry, is it related to the child custody issue, wth?
During the 4th week of the search for Haleigh , the missing 5-year-old's family shared a home video of the girl with the public and the Nancy Grace show featured a tour of the trailer that allowed the public to see the physical setup of the trailer, the sleeping arrangements, location of the restrooms and the doors. It seems the families are doing whatever they can to keep Haleigh’s story out there.

Last week on HLN, Nancy Grace also featured a family law attorney, Kim Picazio, representing Crystal Sheffield. Picazio said she first took on the case pro bono to help Sheffield deal with the media. She said she then learned about some allegations about the stability and safety of Haleigh and her brother's home and hinted there may be a challenge for custody of Junior in the near future.

There has been a lot of accusations back and forth between Ronald and Crystal and I had left most of them out figuring that surely LE and Children’s Services are paying attention to this “stuff” and will address those things that have merit. At the time these accusations didn't seem to have anything to do with finding Haleigh but now that is not so clear.
Since I originally posted this entry a few days ago Ronald and his mother, and Crystal and her lawyer have made appearances on HLN slinging mud at each other to the extent this entry seems incomplete without addressing them somewhat. It was mentioned earlier in this entry that as more time passes things get crazier....they also get more confusing.
Let me explain.... about Haleigh's mother...on the one hand, over 3 years ago Crystal lost custody of her kids, according to her because she didn't know of a court date, didn't have a drivers license to take Haleigh to 12 doctor's appointments or to work, unfair treatment from the court and oh yea, admitted drug use. Coming into this case Crystal was $4,000 behind on child support payments and was charged with contempt of court the day before Haleigh went missing.
On the other hand, if Crystal does truly feel that her son is in jeopardy, and this is not just an "opportunity" to get the custody back, then she must take action. When asked by Nancy Grace, why wait until now to bring this up, Crystal says that she has reported abuse to children's services many times since she lost custody of the kids, but to no avail.
Crystal's lawyer, Kim Picazio, says there have been additional reports of abuse from the community since she arrived. Crystal has released some pictures showing bruises, etc. to an Internet reporter named Art Harris, whose site goes under the mantel The Bald Truth, that she plans to use in her custody fight. Katfishponders has some reservations about the validity of these pictures showing child abuse, but look for yourself.
Another interesting (and dramatic)twist to this case is a private investigator who has involved himself in this case. He goes by the name "Cobra". He couldn't talk about any specific leads he's working. But he says one thing is for sure, we can expect a break in Haleigh's case very soon. Cobra says he's investigating the case free of charge. And he says he will stay in Putnam County until he's confident the case is closed. No offense Cobra but at this point at katfishponders you are being given the same weight given a certain bounty hunter who rode in to save the day in Caylee's case.
About Haleigh's dad and his girlfriend.... they deny all of the allegations coming from Crystal and her attorney. There is no doubt that Ronald Cummings has a temper, during the 911 calls he was heard calling Misty his "dumb bitch girlfriend". Granted he was upset, his daughter was being reported missing while in her care. Haleigh has also missed a lot of school. It should be noted that Haleigh suffers from Turner's Syndrome, that may have something to do with her absences.
There has also been much said about inconsistencies from Misty related to the timeline of the night Haleigh disappeared. Because she is the last person to see Haleigh, LE has done over 30 hours of interviews with Misty, if they feel she has lied, they will get to the bottom of it. LE has said that Misty is key to solving Haleigh's disappearance. Art Harris also did an interview with Misty Croslin that can be seen at The Bald Truth site as well. Misty told Harris she doesn't need a lawyer.
Today the law office of Kimball & Snider has agreed to represent Ronald Cummings as a pro bono client.The release refers to Cummings as a victim in need of legal advice. Cummings' lawyers will take over responsibility for assisting Cummings with police cooperation, coordinating media attention and handling a potential custody battle with Sheffield. The news release describes Sheffield's lawyer's abuse allegations as "unsubstantiated" and said that Cummings sees the claims as a "cheap shot and publicity stunt that detracts from the search for Haleigh."
In the mean time as all of the drama unfolds we are entering the 6th week that Haleigh has been missing. According to sheriff's department spokesman Capt. Dick Schauland, "There is nothing new, really, to report. We are continuing to follow up on leads."
Where is Haleigh? Children do not just vanish! Someone knows something. Because LE are holding this investigation close to the vest we are left to wonder....are they just waiting for someone to slip up somehow?

Haleigh Cummings is described as three feet tall, 39 pounds, with blonde hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 386-329-0808 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS. There is a $35,000 reward.
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Sunday, March 8, 2009

More On Holly Sheley's Attempt To Collect Reward For Her Husbands Capture.

While at the case management hearing for accused spree killer Nicholas Sheley last week I heard that the Sauk-Valley News had printed a transcript of the letter Holly Gaul Sheley had written to the paper seeking half of the 25,000 reward for her husband's capture.

After hearing that some citizens who reported Sheley's location to the police when he was arrested in Granite City last July had received a reward, Mrs. Sheley decided she deserved it more than than they did and seems to resent they were lauded as heros. Katfishponders recommends reading the article (includes link to transcript)written by Tara Becker for Sauk Valley News at this link.

Katfishponders did a report here on these folks from Granite City, IL who were honored by the FBI and were also rewarded $5000 each. Holly Sheley had the nerve to say these people weren't heros....well katfishponders couldn't disagree more. These two were not only good citizens in reporting to police EXACTLY where Nicholas Sheley was, they were heros because they did so at great risk to themselves, knowing he was already accused of bludgeoning eight people to death.

A report was also done here earlier about Holly Sheley's suggestion that she was entitled to part of the reward. Normally I wouldn't give more exposure to the likes of Holly Sheley, but I know there are many who are reading this from all over the country and wanted to give you the opportunity to voice your opinion about this situation. Many family members of the victims read this blog and I'm sure would like to hear what people think about this.

Here is a copy of the transcript of the letter Holly Gaul Sheley wrote to the Newspapers editor Richard Bird, verbatim:

February 12, 09

Dear Mr. Bird,

I am Holly Sheley the wife of Nicholas Sheley. When I read the article about some people being honored in the capture of my husband and the Chicago FBI was giving them a reward of $5,000 each I was quite disturbed because my husband and I had a great deal of turning himself in.
Nick was right when he said he played a part in his capture - and I have an article that you guys wrote about either the FBI or an Investigator had leaked that a relative of Nick had turned him in. That relative was me. I was told that at first if was to be given to the ones who lead to my husbands capture then the FBI told me it was wrong its to whomever leads to the capture and conviction of my husband. There sure hasnt been any convictions so I am entitled to at least half of the $25,000 reward they had for my husband.

Here is my story:

On June 30 around 4:30 p.m. 2 investigators showed up to where I was staying said they found 4 more bodies. After they confirmed that I knew who those people were the Investigators told me that I had (underlined) to go with them until my husband was caught. I had to leave my children with family members and the investigators had confinscated 2 phones (cell phones) from my friends because the investigators knew Nick called me everyday. I was Nicks peace he trusted me. The negotiators had me put this ear plug in my ear everytime there was a private or unknown call on these phones and made (underlined) me record every phone call I had with my husband.

On June 30 when the entire Town of Sterling and Rock Falls went crazy saying there was sightings of my husband and the city spent over $40,000 that night going to those service calls – The negotiators (FBI Agents) city police, state police, and the Investigators knew Nick was in St. Louis, Mo because Nick called me earlier from someones cell phone which the FBI got the number from U.S. cellular and tracked the number to a guy in St. Louis, Mo.

The police knew where Nick was that entire time but continued going to all those service calls on June 30 because they did not want to lead the media on that the FBI and police knew of Nicks wherabouts. I was with 2 FBI agents, a field officer, a state officer and at least 1 investigator at all times. They kept me in a hotel in Rock Falls I was secluded from everyone. I was not even allowed to talk to family. They held me against my will until my husband was found.

I had to do whatever it took to keep my husband alive. I would beg him to call his Attorney Mertes everyday and turn him self in just as long as he did not come back to Whiteside. I was threatened that if Nick came here and he was caught they would shoot him. And for the sake of my children I did not want our 6 children to see their father in a casket just because the embarrasment the police and Spencer had on them for the way the entire situation was handled.

On July 1st Nick called me around 12:30 p.m. and I had finally talked him into calling his att. Mertes to turn himself in. Nick called me back around 3 pm and told me to get the family together because he was comming home. He explained that Mertes and 2 FBI Agents were comming to get him that is why he called Mertes from a land line cause he knew they could trace the # back. He said there was time because Mertes and the agents still had a couple of hours before they would get there. Nick didnt know the agents and Mertes was going to fly there in 20 min to get him but the Granite City had their praises because they actually thought they were the "REAL HEREOES" in this situation.

If I did not cooperate with them I was gonna get arrested so I believe that a great portion of that $25,000 reward money belongs to Nick and I 6 children whose lives have also dramatically changed because they no longer have a father around to do all the things a father should do. People dont understand that even though they're loved ones are dead and gone in the flesh forever our children suffer more than I or Nick does. The money I rightfully should have will go directly to our 6 children in a trust fund so I know that they will have something even though their father is accused of killing 8 people. Our children are not to blame here and people want to lay judgement on others but the only person that can judge is GOD and if you are a Christian you know what I am talking about. God says "NO sin greater than another." Read the Ten Commandments and every person here on Earth has committed at least one of those sins. So please for my children judge yourself first before you judge others.

These people in Granite City are not the true heros here. It was all myself (Holly Sheley) (Att. Mertes) and Nick himself. I have all articles on what has been written and if I do not get what is righfully mine it won't be just in our local paper how crooked the system is but it will be Nation.
Remember I don't have a gag order. I will tell me story.

katfish here again. Usually katfishponders wouldn't criticize the family of an accused, but it is so offensive that someone would degrade those who behaved as good citizens and then ask for a reward for help that wasn't even voluntary. Something Holly Sheley left out is that her children are also without their mother because she is spending a couple months in the county jail for a DUI. I also don't normally ask readers for comments (although they are always welcome) here at katfishponders, but I really would like to show support to the families of the 8 victims in this case. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Case Management Hearing for Nicholas Sheley Case- Tentative Trial Dates Set, But Where Will The Trial Be Held?

Today, Tuesday, March 3, at 1:15 p.m., there is a Case Management Hearing at the Knox County Courthouse in Galesburg, IL in the murder case of accused spree killer, Nicholas Sheley. Sheley is charged with killing Ronald Randall,65, of Galesburg last June. If convicted, Sheley will face the death penalty.

For readers not familiar with the Sheley case, he is accused of killing 6 people in Illinois and 2 in Missouri. After the trial here in Knox County, Sheley will head over to Whiteside County, IL to be tried and then down to Festus, MO, near St. Louis for the final trial related to this alleged killing spree. On the right hand side of the page here at katfishponders is a section entitled Labels, if your click on Nicholas Sheley your will see all of the entries related to Sheley in chronological order from most recent down.

I entered the courthouse at about 1:10. Normally I slide straight through the metal detectors, but today I had to stop and get scanned. I got a new watch for Christmas, and that tripped me up. An old friend of mine is working the scanner…he told me, “they are up on second floor.” So I head up the two flights of stairs to the large courtroom. When I reached the courtroom right at 1:15 the only people in there was one bailiff, the clerk and 2 of the victim’s family.

Today’s hearing was originally scheduled as a conference so there may not be too many in attendance. Right after I take a seat behind Ronald Randall’s sisters and say hello, we notice a guy take a seat in the back on the defense side. He is the jail administrator, that means Sheley is in the building. Sheley is brought in through the basement and up the only elevator to the second floor where he is held until court starts.

Knox County is very cautious about security with Sheley, he is always accompanied by a number of Sheriff Department employees. I look over my shoulder and notice the Sheriff, David Clague sitting behind me…stealth… I didn’t see or hear him come in. LOL! Two bailiffs move the long wooden defense table to angle away from the gallery. As I said, they are cautious with Sheley, moving the table makes room for the Deputies guarding Sheley, but also puts a little extra room between him and the gallery.

At about 1:20 several people come in. Two of Ronald Randall’s friends come sit in my row, at about the same time 5 or 6 people sit in the second row on the defense side. One girl is the administrative assistant to the Public Defender and with her is a girl I have previously identified as possibly the sister of Jeremy Karlin, but she might be his assistant. There are a couple of people with them who I don’t recognize, they may be courthouse employees or connected to the defense in some way. There are two accredited press in the courtroom today . Here comes Shirley Pringle, victims rights advocate for Knox County, she sits with the victim’s family in the front row. Following Shirley are the attorneys who go to their respective tables.

At 1:30 Sheley is brought in. He is fully shackled and wearing the jailhouse orange garb. He doesn’t really look around today, just acknowledges his attorneys and sits down. It looks like Sheley has gained a little weight, wonder if it’s that wonderful jailhouse food or just the lack of access to Meth, probably both. He has his hair spiked up. I also notice that he no longer carries the big jumble of paperwork. I suppose now that he has decided to allow the lawyers to do their job, he doesn‘t need it.

Ninth Circuit Court Judge James Stewart enters and court is called to order. Stewart has the parties identify themselves for the record. At the prosecution table is States Attorney, John Pepmeyer and Assistant Attorney General Michael Atterberry. At the defense table is court appointed co-counsel Jeremy Karlin, Public Defender James Harrell and John Hanlon. Today is the first day that I have seen Hanlon enter his appearance with the court, although he was present at the last hearing. He originally was appointed to counsel Sheley regarding his desire to represent himself…hmmm….I guess we will find out why he is still here later.

Judge Stewart says this is a case management hearing. He tells the defense he has a letter from a Donald Kraven in Springfield representing WGIL addressing a return of subpoena issued by the defense. The defense had previously subpoenaed approximately 80 media organizations in preparation for a motion questioning whether Sheley can get a fair trial because of pretrial publicity. Karlin gets up and gets the letter from the judge.

John Pepmeyer tells the court he has some housekeeping, he has received a couple forensic lab reports regarding consumptive DNA testing from the Rockford Forensic Science Laboratory. Pepmeyer states that as far as he knows all DNA testing has been concluded.

Judge Stewart says the only motion before the court today is a defense discovery motion.. Karlin says he has a couple things, he says something about discovery and then says he anticipates filing a motion to change venue within the next 30 days. He also plans to address the constitutionality of the death penalty in IL within the next 30 days. I think it is Karlin who next states hearing dates need to be set for 3 things- briefing schedule. I’m sorry my notes get a little vague here but next I have Atterberry saying no need to brief evidentiary. He continues perhaps a trial date could be set with deadlines for discovery, evidentiary, pretrial hearings and motions.

Judge Stewart asks about the motion to change venue? Karlin says Sheley can’t get a fair trial due to pretrial publicity….and then says the state agrees evidentiary not necessary. Atterberry says the state agrees, but wants to see the motion first.

Pepmeyer suggests the possible trial dates be between May and August 2010 for realistic discussion. This would allow the court to work backwards to schedule hearings and set appropriate deadlines to keep things on schedule. Stewart asks if the defense agrees? Karlin says May does provide some problem for he and Harrell. I didn’t write it down but he makes reference to wives schedules and school…then adds Atterberry has….
Judge repeats do we all agree to order between May and August? Pepmeyer says May and October. Karlin says again…September and October…..Atterberry chimes in he would like to avoid the summer months. His kids play baseball…then says Pepmeyer may agree. Pepmeyer says for him it won’t be an issue for another 2 years. (His child is younger) So the judge once again says, do we agree to May through October? Karlin says he guesses so. Stewart says the deadline for filing pretrial motions will be March 30, 2010.

Katfishponders was a little surprised by this exchange about personal schedules when we are talking about a death penalty case. After speaking with blogging buddies who have much more trial experience, we came to the conclusion this does happen every where but in a small town where the attorneys know each other it is done in a more casual manner. For example in the Phil Spector retrial, last spring Judge Fidler wanted to start the trial in the summer but defense attorney Doran Weinberg wanted to take vacation in August and eventually the trial didn‘t start until fall.

My notes show that Harrell says something here, but I didn’t get what he said, it grabbed my attention though and I notice at some point Harrell and Hanlon had switched spots and Harrell was kind of huddled in with Sheley.

Judge Stewart says something about the change of venue motion and Karlin states they will file that motion in the next couple weeks and the motion addressing the constitutionality of the death penalty in IL in the next 30 days. (For those who aren’t familiar with IL law, there has been a moratorium on the death penalty since 2000.) Stewart says if both motions are filed by Monday, April 6 the state will have 30 days to file authorities (written arguments) by May 6. A hearing is set for May 29 at 9:30 a.m. on the change of venue and constitutionality of death penalty motions.
Stewart then asks the defense if they will have a motion for additional discovery prior to May 29? Atterberry says he believes discovery has all been tendered but needs whittled down. It depends on the information in discovery from defense, and says he will file a motion.

Stewart asks what the state needs to be ready for trial? Atterberry says a list of all experts and depositions of experts. Karlin says for proper litigation case he suggests January 1 2010 for disclosure of experts and depositions within 90 days of that, March 30. I missed something the judge said because next I have Atterberry saying he shares the court’s concern and wants disclosure of experts from defense December 1 and the state can disclose their experts by November 1 and suggests 90 days for depositions from both sides.

Stewart then sets dates for future case management conferences. The dates set were as follows:
May 5 @ 1:30 p.m.
July 7 @ 1:30 p.m.
September 1 @ 1:30 p.m.
September 8 @ 1:30 p.m.
Stewart also says that at the September 1 hearing he would like both sides to submit questionnaires for jury, voir dire questions, and they will discuss jury composition such as how many prospective jurors will be called 300? 500?

Michael Atterberry reminds about the May 29 hearing at 9:30 a.m.

Karlin asks for time to discuss something with their client (Sheley). Judge Stewart says no, we are in the middle of a hearing. He then asks the state did they have an issue with Hanlon’s intervention of hearing and either Pepmeyer or Atterberry said their office is dealing with Hanlon’s on that so not now.
And guess what folks….court is recessed!

A lot of dates were set today but katfishponders can't help but wonder if the change of venue motion is granted are these all moot? just a thought. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hanna Mack, Will this child receive full justice?

As you can see from Hanna Mack's picture, she was a lovely child. Hanna was like any other six year old girl. She enjoyed jumping rope, playing hopscotch and riding her pink and purple bicycle. In 2007, Hanna had just started the first grade at Blooming Grove Elementary School. According to her grandmother, she was excited about school because she loved books and could see her new friends every day.

A few months before school started, Hanna had moved to Navarro Mills, TX. with her mother, Dana Mack, and her two older sisters (12 and 14). Her mom met a boyfriend named Kevin Wayne Anders,32, and allowed him to move in with them.

Hopefully, nothing that you hear from here on out will sound like the life of any other six year old child.

When Dana Mack went to bed the night of September 9, 2007, she saw her youngest daughter, Hanna, sleeping on the living room couch at about 1 a.m. in the morning. Less than seven hours later, Dana Mack would find Hanna's half-naked dead body hanging from the rafters of her family's garage. That Monday morning, Sept. 10, 2007, when Hanna should have been getting ready for school, police were scouring her home trying to find clues to her murder. Medical examiners determined that Hanna had been beaten, raped and then hung.

While going through a computer taken from the Mack home, criminal investigators found the presence of child pornography. On Sept. 13 Kevin Wayne Anders was arrested for possession of child pornography. For several weeks Anders was the primary suspect in Hanna's murder; however, on Sept. 26 DNA evidence came back which pointed to Shaun Earl Arender,19, and he was charged with Hanna's murder.

Katfishponders first heard of Hanna's story several weeks ago while reading at the JurorThirteen Blog. JurorThirteen has followed this story from the start and do have a thread open for discussion of this case on their message boards.

On February 13, 2009, Shaun Earl Arender gave his confession in open court as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole by District Judge James Lagomarsino. Under questioning by District Attorney R. Lowell Thompson, Arender placed the blame on the former live-in boyfriend of Hanna's mother, Kevin Wayne Anders, claiming he was just going along with the sexual assault of the first-grader when she died.

Katfishponders won't go into the details here but you can follow the links listed below or for the most comprehensive coverage in one stop, just follow the embedded link above to JurorThirteen (where it says followed this story), the testimony is on the lower part of the page. On the stand, Arender unraveled a sickening tale of people on the edge of society, and the consequences for the vulnerable children in their midst.

Arender’s lawyers, Kerri Anderson Donica, Mark Griffith and Monica Bishop met with Arender after the hearing, then Griffith and Bishop held a short press conference outside the jail. Griffith said he hopes that Anders is indicted on capital murder charges, adding that his client is ready to testify against Anders.

Kevin Wayne Anders remains in jail, charged with possession of child pornography, in lieu of a $100,000 bond. He has not yet been charged in connection with the Mack murder. Investigators are still working on that case, Thompson said.

Dana Mack’s other two daughters were removed from her custody after Hanna’s murder. They’re now in foster care and doing well, said Marissa Gonzales with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Their mother is allowed regular visits.

Hopefully, readers with children will take from this post the lesson that Dana Mack learned the hard way....the choices that you make for yourself may affect your children for the rest of their life....that is....if it doesn't cost them their life.

pysih.com Sphere: Related Content