Kim Jong-Nam: The Game Show Assassination

Written by C.W.S.

When two young women approached the half-brother of the North Korean dictator at the shopping concourse at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia, one distracted him while the other sprayed something into his face. Kim Jong-Nam felt dizzy after and went to an information desk for help. He died on the way to the hospital on February 13th.

Kim Jong-Nam

Kim Jong-Nam

Police official Fadzil Ahmat initially told Reuters that “The deceased ... felt like someone grabbed or held his face from behind. We don’t know if there was a cloth or needles. The receptionist said someone grabbed his face, he felt dizzy.”

Reports are now coming out that the woman sprayed Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother in the face with a fast-acting toxin. So how did a 25-year-old woman find herself at the center of a high-profile assassination? Police are now stating that Siti Aisyah believed that she was taking part in a game show called “Just For Laughs.

The photo of the other yet unnamed woman that is being shown in news reports was captured on CCTV during the assassination. It is pixilated and bright, showing the woman in a white sweater with the letters LOL printed in large black letters. Apparently, the women had been taking part in a game where they convinced men to close their eyes and then sprayed them with water.

"Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong-Nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer," Indonesia's national police chief, Tito Karnavian said. "She was not aware that it was an assassination attempt by alleged foreign agents."

Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-Il and Kim Jong-Un

Relatives of Aisyah also came out to say that she believed that she was traveling to China to appear in a comedy film. Aisyah’s mother, Benah, stated that it was “impossible” that her daughter was an assassin: “My daughter is not like that, she is just a country girl.”

The assassination has launched a great deal of speculation into who, exactly, is responsible. Many believe that the North Korean government organized the hit, due to the reigning family’s complicated relationship to Jong-Nam. Jong-Nam was a public critic of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as it is known internally.

Although Jong-Nam was the eldest son of previous dictator Kim Jong-Il, it was clear early on to the family that Jong-Nam lacked the particular leadership skills they felt were necessary. Born in 1971 to Jong-Il and actress Song Hye-rim, it is speculated that the dictator at the time and Jong-Il’s father, Kim Il-sung, disapproved of his son’s relationship with Song, who was still married and had children when they began their relationship. Because of this, Jong-Nam was kept out of school and essentially hidden away. Nonetheless, his father doted on Jong-Nam, even sleeping in a bed with him. In 1979, Jong-Nam left North Korea to study outside the country, and apparently his father was so upset that he got drunk and wept.

In 2001, Jong-Nam was caught using a fake passport to enter Japan, claiming he wanted to visit Disneyland in Tokyo. It is thought that this embarrassed Jong-Il, costing Jong-Nam succession to his father’s position. Jong-Il died in 2011, allowing Jong-Nam’s younger brother access to his position as Dear Leader. Then, in 2012, Jong-Nam wrote a book in which he criticized his family’s control of North Korea, and stated his belief that his younger brother lacked leadership skills, further pushing him out of favor.

Jong-Nam gained a reputation as a playboy and jet-setter, but was living with his wife and two children in Macau on the south of China at the time of his death.

The Malaysian government has not agreed to release the body or autopsy reports to North Korea until a DNA sample is provided from one of Jong-Nam’s relatives. “So far no family member or next of kin has come to identify or claim the body,” Abdul Samah Mat said. “We need a DNA sample of a family member to match the profile of the dead person. North Korea has submitted a request to claim the body but before we release the body we have to identify who the body belongs to.”

North Korean boarder 

North Korean boarder 

Any form of media not sanctioned by the North Korean government is strictly forbidden in the state, including the internet in general. The 25 million citizens of North Korea are kept almost completely in the dark about affairs outside, and the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam is no exception. As of February 17th, the country is still unaware of the events that happened on the 13th.

Now South Korea has announced that it will try to get this information in by loudspeaker, a tactic used in the past to counter propaganda. "We are considering providing information about the killing of Kim Jong Nam into North Korea via loudspeaker broadcast," a South Korean military officer told NBC News. The loudspeakers are so powerful that they can be heard for six miles.

So far, five people have been arrested in connection with the assassination. "We believe the North Korean regime is behind this incident, considering five suspects are North Koreans," Jeong Joon-hee, spokesman at South Korea's Unification Ministry, said on Sunday. At this time, officials cannot be certain who is to blame for the attack.

Predicting a Killer: Do Three Childhood Traits Really Point to Future Violence?

Written by C.W.S.

Wouldn’t it be useful if we could identify violent criminals before they harm their first victim? Wouldn’t be incredible if we could observe certain behaviors as serious red-flags and figure out a way to treat children who seem to be at the highest risk for future violent behavior? It’s almost as if we could answer the most terrifying problem we have as human beings: how do we stop those who seek to harm us in the most brutal ways? 

Most of those interested in true crime are familiar with a certain three childhood behaviors that immediately spark concern in amateur forensic psychologists. These three behaviors when happening together are known as the MacDonald Triad. What the MacDonald Triad attempts to do is to predict future sadistic behaviors by identifying certain traits that show in childhood and adolescence. There are three that forensic psychiatrist J. M. Macdonald wrote about in his 1963 paper, "The Threat to Kill:" arson, and bed-wetting, and animal cruelty. In his paper, he wrote about his study of 100 patients who had threatened to kill someone. He found that his patients that exhibited signs of aggression and psychosis were more likely to have a history of the three aforementioned behaviors. In 1966, Daniel Hellman and Nathan Blackman published a study that supported the MacDonald Triad. Of the 84 prisoners they worked with, they found that three-quarters of the 31 most violent offenders all possessed a history of the behaviors.

This triad has blended into the canon of true crime, and many of us have taken it as a psychological fact. So what are we talking about when we talk about the MacDonald Triad?

Arson

According to a 2004 paper by Singer and Hensley, fire starting is an early attempt at releasing anger and aggression. Because some studied serial killers experienced prolonged episodes of humiliation and shaming in childhood, it is proposed that they sought a way to release the negative emotions and rebalance themselves. The study also concluded that arson is not a good predictor of future violence.

Cruelty to Animals

This is probably the most famous trait that people assume will predict violent behavior. The reason that psychologists believe that children and adolescents torture and kill small animals is also because of humiliation at home. Children cannot fight against their abusers, so they take their anger out on animals that are vulnerable to them. Psychologists Wright and Hensley studied five cases of serial murderers in 2003 and found that these animal kills are almost like practice for future violence—the methods employed to harm the animals are often similar to the methods that criminals use on their human victims. Another study conducted in 2003 with 45 incarcerated violent male offenders found that 56% openly admitted to past animal cruelty. It also indicated that more often than not, the children who harmed animals were also victims of parental abuse.

Bedwetting

Bedwetting, also know as enuresis is the "unintentional bed-wetting during sleep, persistent after the age of five.” Many children may wet the bed, but in the context of the MacDonald Triad, a child older than five must wet the bed while sleeping at least twice a week for a three-month period.

Forensic psychologists call the idea that bedwetting has anything to do with future violent behavior a destructive myth. Though chronic bedwetting is sometimes considered another sign of a child’s distress, researchers have not found a solid link between enuresis and abuse.

Psychological fact or urban myth?

So, how accurate is this hypothesis? MacDonald himself began to question his own theory in his 1968 book Homicidal Threats, claiming he could find no true statistical link between the triad and future violent tendencies. Researchers agree—they question whether two small studies can warrant a legitimate theory. 

More recent studies and analyses seem to show little correlation. Some go as far as to call the triad of behaviors an “urban legend.” Nonetheless, it has found its way into forensic psychology classes and even into Law and Order: SVU.

In 2009, Kori Ryan submitted a master thesis study which to date is the most extensive review and analysis of violent criminal data from the last half of a century, and she found little to prove that the MacDonald Triad has any predictive value.

It’s not that these behaviors aren’t signs for concern. They are—but less so for potential future victims and more so for the child exhibiting them. The behaviors described in the MacDonald Triad are more likely to show that a child may be experiencing severe abuse. The correlation to violent criminal behavior may be that many who do commit violent crimes have a history of childhood abuse and neglect. Forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland claims that some violent criminals may exhibit one of the traits of the triad, but rarely do they possess all three. “Together or alone, the triad behaviors can indicate a stressed child with poor coping mechanisms or a developmental disability,” Ramsland wrote for Psychology Today.

Psychologists worry that the MacDonald Triad’s popularity may cause more distress and stigmatization for children that are labeled as a future threat through behaviors that actually signal abuse of the child.

Ramsland continued to say “…Such a child needs guidance and attention. However, until we design and carry out better empirical studies than we've seen thus far, researchers and media agencies should refrain from stating that the triad identifies a future serial killer.”

 

Truth for Emmett Till

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Written by C.W.S.

Warning: Includes graphic racial language and violence

The woman whose testimony led to the acquittal of two white men in the brutal 1955 murder of a 14-year-old black teenager, Emmett Till, has admitted on record that she fabricated her story. This infamous case, which contributed to the growing Civil Rights Movement, has been detailed in a new book called The Blood of Emmett Till, which includes an interview that took place ten years ago with Carolyn Bryant, the woman who claimed that Emmett sexually harassed her.  

When Emmett left his home in Chicago to visit some relatives the town of Money, Mississippi, he was traveling into a state that one week before saw black activist Lamar Smith shot dead for political organizing in Brookhaven. He was traveling into a state where 500 black folks had been murdered since the late 1800s, and though these acts of violence had slowed, the tone of the area was still one of intensive segregation and intimidation. Interracial relationships, and even the implication of sexual contact between black and white folks, held severe legal consequences for black men.

Emmett Till

Emmett Till

Emmett was known as a sharp dresser and was often the center of attention. After meeting his mother’s 64-year-old uncle Mose Wright and hearing about the South, Emmett decided he wanted to see the Mississippi Delta area. His mother warned him that race relations were different in the South than they were in the North, and that he needed to be careful about how he acted around white folks. He told her he understood.

On Sunday, August 24th, Emmett and some local boys skipped church and went over to Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market, owned by Roy and Carolyn Bryant, both in their 20s. There the boys bought candy from Carolyn Bryant, who was in the store alone. Later, Carolyn Bryant would testify under oath that Emmett had sexually harassed her, first grabbing her hand while she was stocking a shelf, saying "How about a date, baby?"

In her story, Emmett then followed her toward the front of the store and grabbed her around the waist, saying "What's the matter baby, can't you take it?" He allegedly told her, "You needn't be afraid of me, baby,” and told her, "I've been with white women before.” One of Emmett’s friends then apparently grabbed him by the arm and led him outside, while Carolyn Bryant ran outside and grabbed a pistol from her car. Then she said that Emmett let out a “wolf whistle” at her while fleeing the scene.

When Carolyn’s husband Roy Bryant returned from a shrimping trip on August 27th, she allegedly let him know what had happened in the store, and he began aggressively questioning black folks in his store and around the neighborhood until he was able to discover that Emmett was staying with Mose Wright. In the early morning hours of August 28th, Roy and Carolyn Bryant, along with Roy’s half brother J. W. Milam, drove to Mose’s. Armed with a pistol and carrying a flashlight, Milam and Bryant pushed into the house, threatened Mose and his wife with the pistol, and found Emmett sleeping in a bed with his cousin. They forced him at gun point to put on his clothes, and then forced him toward the vehicle. Carolyn Bryant confirmed that this was indeed the young boy that had harassed her.

Emmett and his mother, Mamie

Emmett and his mother, Mamie

Emmett was tied up and put into the back of the pickup. After dropping off Carol, the two men picked up two black men, Henry Lee Loggins and Leroy Too Tight Collins, who worked for Bryant. They were forced to participate in the brutality that followed. Till was pistol-whipped in the truck and knocked unconscious.

In a barn in Drew, Mississippi, the four men brutalized Emmett, while several witnesses overheard. In an interview with Look magazine the next year, the men would claim that they had only wanted to beat up Emmett to scare him, but that when he claimed that he was as good as a white man, and spoke about having sexual encounters with white women, they decided he needed to be killed:

“Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I'm no bully; I never hurt a n----- in my life. I like n------ in their place—I know how to work 'em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, n------ are gonna stay in their place."

The men shot Emmett in the back of his head and then threw his body over the Black Bayou Bridge in Glendora into the Tallahatchie River, his body weighed down with a 70lb fan from a cotton gin.

Soon after, Bryant and Milam were arrested for kidnapping after admitting to police that they had taken Emmett from Mose’s yard, but said they released him in front of Bryant's store. Three days later Emmett’s body was found by two boys who were fishing. Emmett’s head was so badly disfigured it was unrecognizable.

Mamie at Emmett's funeral

Mamie at Emmett's funeral

Newspapers began to report on the story, and op-eds began to run about Emmett’s murder: "Now is the time for every citizen who loves the state of Mississippi to 'Stand up and be counted' before hoodlum white trash brings us to destruction." Articles claimed that it was not black folks that were a danger to society, but the white men that made up organizations like White Citizens' Councils that encouraged violence against minorities.

Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, chose to have an open casket funeral. She wanted the world to be forced to bare witness to the true horror of her son's brutal murder. When the image of Emmett's disfigured face was published on the cover of Jet Magazine, it helped rally some of the public into organizing for equal rights. It also helped lead to the indictment of Bryant and Milam for murder.

During jury selection, both black folks and women were barred from participating. It took an all-white, all-male jury less than an hour to come back with a not-guilty verdict for murderers. A jury member was quoted as saying: “We wouldn't have taken so long if we hadn't stopped to drink pop.”

In the same interview with Look Magazine quoted above, Bryant and Milam freely admitted to killing Emmett and were given $3,000 for the interview. They knew they would be protected from being tried a second time because of double jeopardy laws. The two men have since died.

Now, author Timothy B. Tyson is experiencing both praise and anger for his newly released book that revealed Carolyn Bryant’s confession. It has been ten years since he met with her and she told him the truth. She told him that Emmett made no sexual comments toward her, and did not touch her. Carolyn Bryant told him, "Nothing that boy did could justify what happened to him." 

When asked to recall what really happened the day that Emmett came into the store, Carolyn Bryant said, “Honestly, I'd like to tell you, but I can't remember. It was more than 50 years ago.” She also said she felt “tender sorrow” for Mamie Till, who worked her whole life as an activist for civil rights and died in 2003.

J. W. Milam, his wife Juanita, and Roy and Carolyn Bryant at the courthouse

J. W. Milam, his wife Juanita, and Roy and Carolyn Bryant at the courthouse

Mamie’s cousin Airickca Gordon-Taylor, who is also a spokesperson for the family, was angered by the fact that the author never bothered to tell the family of the confession. She also said of the revelation: “There are people who have died in the last 10 years whose lives were very impacted by what happened in 1955....that disturbs me.” She also stated “‘We are all upset about Timothy Tyson waiting 10 years. It was a marketing strategy and all of this is just publicity for his book. No one should buy this book.”

Emmett’s cousin Wheeler Parker, one of the boys who was present at the time of the kidnapping, had this to say about Carolyn Bryant: “My family thinks she’s trying to make money but being a preacher, I think she is trying to find a way to go heaven now.”

Whatever the motivation, the public now finally knows the truth that many suspected all along. Emmett Till was entirely innocent of even the smallest wrong-doing, and through systemic racism he was brutally murdered and his murderers died free men. Airickca Gordon-Taylor hopes to keep the memory of Mamie alive through her own activism, saying: “Mamie Till dedicated her life to working with young people. I am going to continue to keep her legacy and to do what Mamie Till would have wanted us to do….I am going to continue to educate people who don’t know the story.”

What Happens to the Bodies of Famous Serial Killers After They Die?

Written by C.W.S.

Most people don’t consider the fact that although they have committed the most heinous crimes imaginable, serial killers still leave their own bodies behind when they die. They don’t just disappear, nor are they simply disposed of completely without a trace. Just like everyone else, serial killers are cremated, have gravesites, and even leave behind family members that cared for them. But unlike regular folks, the infamous nature of these people leads to interesting circumstances around their deaths. Sometimes their bodies even become a way to figure out how to prevent the horrifying behaviors that these killers have exhibited.

Ted Bundy

Convicted of the murders of three women, Bundy admitted to killing at least 30 others across seven states between 1974 and 1978. The charismatic Bundy was known for his good looks and his sadistic treatment of his victims. He received three death sentences in two separate trials.

Bundy was executed in the electric chair in Florida in 1989. His body was cremated, and in compliance with his will, his ashes were scattered in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. The remains of at least four of his victims were discovered in this location. 

 

 

Jeffery Dahmer

Dahmer was arrested in 1991 when police found body parts in his apartment. He was convicted of the murders of 16 men and boys. Known for his cannibalistic tendencies, Dahmer was sentenced to sixteen life sentences.

After his death in 1994 by a lethal beating from a fellow inmate, his body was cremated—all except for his brain. The state pathologist's office held the brain in formaldehyde at the request of his mother, who wanted it to be studied by scientists to determine if there could be any link between her son’s biology and the crimes he committed. His father desired for the brain to be cremated, as was his son's wish. A judge ruled in favor of cremation, and the ashes were split between his parents.

 

 

John Wayne Gacy Jr.

Gacy, also known as the Killer Clown, was convicted of 33 murders of young men and teenagers that he lured into his Norwood Park, Illinois home and then disposed of their bodies in the crawlspace. He received the nickname because of the photos of him performing as his alter ego, Pogo the Clown, at children’s birthday parties and charity events. He received 12 death sentences for the murders and was executed by lethal injection in 1994.

Though nothing is known for certain about his remains, it has been reported that his body was cremated and the ashes were given to his family, but just like Dahmer, they kept his brain intact. Psychiatrist Helen Morrison, who acted as a witness for the defense during Gacy’s trial, claimed that Gacy was legally insane at the time of the murders. The jury rejected the insanity defense, but Gacy’s brain was removed before his cremation and given to Morrison to study, who reportedly keeps it in her basement.

 

Aileen Wuornos

Wuornos, who was convicted of killing seven men by shooting them point blank between 1989 and 1990, claimed self-defense and stated that all the men had either raped her or attempted to rape her during her time as a sex worker. Regardless, she was found guilty and sentenced to death for six of the murders, and her sentence was carried out by lethal injection in 2002.

After her death, Wuornos’ body was cremated and given to her childhood friend Dawn Botkins. Botkins spread Wuornos’ ashes at the base of a tree in her home state of Michigan. Wuornos’ had requested that Natalie Merchant’s song “Carnival” be played during her funeral. Interestingly, the song was also played during the credits of Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, a 2003 documentary film by Nick Broomfield. 

 

Ed Gein

Though technically not a serial killer, Ed Gein’s legacy has inspired horror movies like Silence of the Lambs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Psycho. Most famous for both his unhealthy relationship with his mother and his propensity for exhuming graves and creating household items out of human body parts (human skin lamp shades, nipple belts, skull bowls), Gein was also guilty of the murders of at least two women, Mary Hogan and Bernice Worden, and possibly his brother. He was found unfit to stand trial and was sent to a mental health facility.

Gein died in July of 1984, at the Mendota Mental Health Institute at the age of 77 from secondary lung cancer. He was buried at the Plainfield cemetery with his other deceased family members. Over time, people chipped away pieces of the gravestone for souvenirs and the full stone was stolen in 2000. Found near Seattle, it now resides in storage at the Waushara County Sheriff’s office. Gein’s grave remains unmarked, but is between his parents' and brother’s grave sites.

It's certainly strange that these people who have grown to almost mythic proportions, that become our physical symbols of evil, leave behind a body just like any regular human being. And that’s the thing—these people are people. They had loved ones, sometimes; they had childhoods and jobs and relationships. Whether their bodies are simply cremated or buried, marked modestly with graves that will be picked apart by a darker kind of tourist, or studied by doctors who believe they might be able to find a link between violent behavior and brain chemistry, they remain in our imaginations like ghosts that will never leave.

 

The Unsolved Tylenol Murders of 1982: The Unabomber Theory

Written by C.W.S.

While I was not born yet and don’t personally remember the Chicago Tylenol Murders of 1982, I do feel like I have experienced some of the anxiety that has never gone away. Back then, bottles of pills did not have tamper-proof seals, just a cotton ball stuffed inside. My parents and grandparents often express concerns I don’t really have, concerns about the proper sealing of products, tampering, the fear that someone could have done the unthinkable: attempted to kill unknown persons through a drug that is supposed to make people feel better. When I heard about the murders, the fears suddenly made sense. It was an episode of the My Favorite Murder podcast that not only brought the crime to my attention, but also a theory behind it that was so compelling, I wanted to investigate further. Could the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski have been responsible for this act of domestic terrorism? 

What happened in 1982?

It was September 29th in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, and 12-year-old Mary Kellerman had just taken an Extra-Strength Tylenol, given to her by her parents. She had woken up that morning to a common cold—but hours later Mary would die in the hospital.

The same day, a 27-year-old postal worker by the name of Adam Janus of Lisle, Illinois, also died mysteriously, followed by his 25-year-old brother Stanley, and Stanley’s 19-year-old wife, Theresa. They had all taken Tylenol from the same bottle, but no one had figured this out yet, including investigators who were at a loss as to what was going on. 

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The next person to die would be Mary McFarland, 31 of Elmhurst, Illinois. Her brother was quoted as saying, "she went in the back room and took I don't know how many Tylenol — at least one, obviously — and within minutes she was on the floor." Paula Prince, a 35-year-old flight attendant from Chicago and Mary Reiner, a 27-year-old mother of Winfield, Illinois were the next victims. 

It was a nurse named Helen Jensen was the first to guess at the link to the Tylenol, but people would not believe her: "I said, 'This is the cause.' And of course nobody would believe me. And I stamped my feet. They said, 'Oh, no — it couldn't be. It couldn't be.'" 

When investigators did figure out the link, they tested capsules from the bottles and found them to be laced with potassium cyanide. They were so potent, in fact, that a single capsule could have provided thousands of fatal doses. 

As the investigation continued, investigators found that the laced capsules had come from multiple different stores in the Chicago area, and also came from different packaging plants. They figured out that someone had gone to several drug stores and taken bottles, laced the pills with cyanide, and returned them personally to the shelves. 

James William Lewis

James William Lewis

Warnings were broadcast on all news channels and police even drove through Chicago neighborhoods with loudspeakers, warning the public not to consume any Tylenol. A massive recall was soon underway by Johnson and Johnson, costing the company millions of dollars. Hospitals were suddenly crowded with people concerned they could have ingested the poison. 

The prime suspect in the murders was James William Lewis from New York City. He sent a letter to Johnson and Johnson demanding one million dollars to stop more deaths from happening. There was no evidence linking him to the murders, so he was tried and convicted of extortion. No suspect has ever been charged with the murders.

Who was Ted Kaczynski?

Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber because of the many homemade bombs he sent to various universities and airlines, was a reclusive mathematician who lived in a one-room cabin he build for himself in rural Montana. Considered a genius at a young age, Kaczynski entered Harvard at 16 on a scholarship. He earned a doctorate from the University of Michigan and took a teaching position at Berkley. He would last only two years before moving to the Montana cabin alone, where he grew his own food and began constructing an anti-technology, anti-government philosophy.

Starting in 1978, and lasting over the course of twenty years, he killed three people and injured 23 more with his strange brand of homemade explosive devices that were often constructed from wood and opened by random people. In 1995, Kaczynski sent a 35,000-word manifesto to various news outlets, saying he would blow up a plane if his manifesto was not published. It was this move by Kaczynski that would finally see him caught—his sister-in-law recognized the letter as having possibly been written by him, and she and Ted’s brother David went to the FBI. 

Kaczynski was convicted in January 1998 and is currently serving life in prison.

Theory about Kaczynski

Ted Kaczynski

Ted Kaczynski

Much of the suspicions of Kaczynski’s guilt in the poisoning reads like conspiracy theory. However, back in 2011, the FBI began looking into the theory that he could have been responsible. They attempted to retrieve DNA from the incarcerated Kaczynski, who is currently his sentence in Florence, Colorado. Authorities did not announce why they wanted his DNA in connection with the case.

It is yet unknown if they received the sample from Kaczynski voluntarily, but they were preparing to get a court order if necessary. In a hand-written letter to the FBI, Kaczynski stated that he was innocent of the crimes: “I have never even possessed any potassium cyanide.” The FBI officially transferred the investigation back to the local authorities in 2013. 

The deaths associated with the Tylenol poisonings all happened near Kaczynski’s parent’s home in Lombard, Chicago, 20 minutes from the area where the pills were linked. Online sleuths have even constructed a map of the locations of the re-shelved pills, and Kaczynski’s parents' house is directly in the center. They have also constructed a timeline that could place Kaczynski in Lombard at the time of the poisonings. 

Online conspiracy theorists find the “wood” link to be one of the most interesting pieces of possible evidence. It is true that Kaczynski had a “signature,” choosing several of his victims because of their names or their associations to wood or trees, and also included twigs and sprigs inside his often wooden-made bombs. The most notable example is Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines, who was from Lake Forest. 

Kaczynski even used a fake return address of Frederick Benjamin Isaac Wood, 549 Wood Street, Woodlake California. 

Photo of suspect

Photo of suspect

Theorist point out that Robert Wood Johnson and James Wood Johnson were the founders of Johnson and Johnson. They also point to the locations of the tainted products: Woodfield Shopping Center, Elk Grove Village.

The one photo that authorities were able to capture of the possible Tylenol poisoner shows a grainy, bearded man watching Paula Prince purchase the tainted drugs. Though it was not determined whether this was certainly the person responsible, FBI serial killer profiler John Douglas did state that the FBI considered the person in the video to be a prime suspect. At the time, they thought the person was James William Lewis, who also had a bushy beard. Theorists believe the man in the photo could also be Kaczynski. 

It’s true that Kaczynski’s bombs had a randomness to them, and an apathy toward who, exactly, became a victim. His manifesto stated a hatred for all people, and that all people were his enemy. One theorist I read pointed to this passage from the manifesto, Section 145: "Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy, then gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness." 

Why JonBenét’s Brother is Suing CBS for $750 Million

Written by C.W.S. 

The 1996 murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey is something that almost everyone is familiar with. Even those that were too young to truly grasp what had happened to the little girl would see her airbrushed glamor photo on the cover of tabloid magazines in line at the grocery store. The sensational nature of the case caught the nation’s attention as did the strange, and some say suspect, behavior of JonBenét’s parents, John and the late Patsy Ramsey. The couple has long been suspected in the murder by the media and the public, though no charges have ever been filed against them. In September, though, CBS premiered their docuseries The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, and pointed the finger at a new member of the Ramsey family: JonBenét’s then nine-year-old brother Burke. 

Dr. Phil show lays groundwork

 It is difficult to imagine that a nine-year-old boy could have anything to do with the murder of his younger sister. However, after Burke’s September interview on Dr. Phil, people seem to be having an easier time believing it. In his first interview ever, Burke Ramsey, the only other person besides his parents certainly present in the Ramsey house when JonBenét was murdered, appeared awkward and emotionless, smiling strangely as he recounted his experience 20 years ago.

Burke Ramsey on Dr. Phil

Burke Ramsey on Dr. Phil

Even before the interview premiered, Dr. Phil mentioned Burke’s behavior to the press: “People are going to be very interested in his demeanor, and they’re going to find his demeanor atypical. He might be talking about some pretty dark aspects of this story and smiling while he’s talking about that … my impression is he’s socially awkward.”

Burke, who has stayed away from the spotlight, is now 29-years-old and working remotely as a software engineer. Burke went on to tell the story of his mother waking him up in the night, hysterical and searching for JonBenét. Burke said that after she left the room he stayed in bed, stating: “I guess I kind of like to avoid conflict or, I don’t know, I guess I just felt safer there. I’m not the worried type. I guess part of me doesn’t want to know what’s going on.”

Burke spoke about the 20-years-worth of allegations against himself and his parents: “I know people think I did it; that my parents did it.” Burke has his own idea of who the killer is, telling Dr. Phil it was “probably some pedophile in the pageant audience.”

When asked why he was choosing to speak out now, Burke told Dr. Phil “…it’s the 20th anniversary and apparently still a lot of tension around it, I guess I kind of wanted to make it about remembering her and not just another news story.”

Dr. Phil also said of Burke’s decision: "His thinking was, 'If that's going to happen, I want to control the narrative.’”

CBS presents their theory

In their two part documentary series led by Retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente and former Scotland Yard criminal behavior expert Laura Richards, CBS laid down their controversial theory that nine-year-old Burke had accidentally killed his sister in a fit of rage. A panel of experts, including forensic scientists, FBI agents, pathologists, conversed together about such key pieces of evidence as the 911 call, the ransom note, the broken basement window, DNA found on JonBenet’s underwear, and the Ramsey’s television interviews, going as far as recreating at a new location the entire Ramsey household as it was the night of the crime.

CBS's Panel of Experts

CBS's Panel of Experts

The theory purported that after a Christmas dinner out, John had put a sleeping JonBenét into bed while Patsy prepared a snack of pineapple and tea for Burke. When Patsy awoke JonBenét to use the bathroom, she went downstairs where Burke was eating and stole a piece of his pineapple, which would explain the undigested piece that was found in her stomach. Burke, who the series claimed once hit JonBenét in the face with a golf club, grabbed a heavy flashlight and hit her over the head with its handle. All but one of the experts agreed that it was most likely not an intentional murder, but a fit of rage that was subsequently covered up by his parents, who did not want to lose both of their children.

In a bizarre attempt to prove that a young boy had the strength to cause the trauma to the skull that killed JonBenét, CBS had a ten-year-old boy hit a fake skull wearing a blonde wig to see if he could use the force needed to inflict similar injuries as JonBenét incurred, and was able to.

They also spoke with former Boulder County officers who claimed that District Attorney Alex Hunter had not wanted the Ramsey’s to be indicted, even though a grand jury had voted to indict them.

CBS used a 10-year-old boy to demonstrate how Burke could have killed JonBenét by striking her with a flashlight

CBS used a 10-year-old boy to demonstrate how Burke could have killed JonBenét by striking her with a flashlight

"The parents of the child, they have money," said former member of the Boulder County police department, Gretchen Smith. "The district attorney's office and some of administration did not want to hear that an affluent member of the community was guilty of a crime like this ... I don't think they wanted to solve this crime, and if they had to go down a different path that might not have been the truth, I think they were willing to do that."

Criticism of docuseries

In an article published after the premier of the docuseries, Amelia McDonell-Parry of Rolling Stone slammed CBS, saying, “A complete reinvestigation is what CBS's The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey promised, but the only thing they delivered was a witch hunt that culminated in naming Burke Ramsey, JonBenét's then nine-year-old brother, as her killer, and implicating John and Patsy Ramsey in a cover-up.”

The article also took issue with Dr. Henry Lee’s example of how easily touch DNA is transferred, accounting for the male DNA that was found on JonBenét’s underwear, but did not match anyone in the family. The claim that it could have simply been the DNA of the manufacturer was convincing, but McDonell-Parry had this to say: “What if the DNA suddenly matched a child molester who had never worked in a factory that manufactured little girls' underwear and had no reason to have ever come into contact with JonBenét, her new underwear or any of her other belongings that the DNA might have transferred from? Touch DNA alone is not a reason to convict, but it shouldn't be ignored as an investigatory lead.”

The Ramsey Family

The Ramsey Family

McDonell-Parry also criticized the subjective opinions of the “experts” about Burke’s demeanor during the interviews with a child psychologist 20 years ago, where he uttered the words in regards to JonBenét’s murder: “I'm basically just going on with my life, you know?" 

She wonders the use of such a documentary series: “Even if this theory had been proven back in 1996, at age nine, Burke would have been too young to be legally prosecuted in Colorado, and he certainly couldn't be held responsible for any horrendous cover-up instigated by his parents. To unleash a witch hunt on him now without rock solid proof of guilt is a cruel ratings ploy.”

Burke sues CBS

In October of 2016, Burke filed a $150 million lawsuit against forensic pathologist Dr. Warner Spitz. “Defendant Spitz is a publicity seeker with a history of interjecting himself in high profile cases in an effort to make money, exaggerate his resume and claim a level of expertise that he does not possess or deserve,” the suit states. Dr. Spitz was the only expert on the CBS panel that claimed Burke could have killed JonBenét on purpose, not as an accident of rage.

CBS stated, simply: “CBS stands by the broadcast and will do so in court.”

Burke and JonBenét Ramsey

Burke and JonBenét Ramsey

Burke then filed a second lawsuit against CBS, production company Critical Content LLC, as well as the individuals who lent their expertise as part of the panel on The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey to “redress the permanent damage” to Burke’s “reputation resulting from defendants’ false accusation that he killed his sister, JonBenét Ramsey.” The suit claims that the production ignored evidence that cleared the Ramsey family, therefore purposefully damaging Burke’s reputation.

Delaware Law School Dean Rod Smolla gave his opinion of the lawsuit to PEOPLE magazine: “What will matter is what is revealed during the discovery process. Burke Ramsey has to prove the story is false, so the burden of proof is on him to show that he did not murder his sister, and that’s not impossible. He can assemble his evidence, and a jury could find it believable. He just has to show that CBS was negligent in asserting he was involved. He will have to demonstrate people who viewed that show came away with the impression that he was the one who did it.”

The suit states that the panel of experts was actually a hand crafted group that shared former Boulder Districts Attorney Investigator James Kolmar’s theory of Burke’s guilt was presented in his self-published book called “Foreign Faction.”

The suit also presents evidence to the contrary of the claims made in the documentary, including male DNA found under JonBenét’s fingernails, blood on her underwear, and the official cause of death being strangulation from the garrote.

It is unclear when and how the suit will be settled.

Most likely, we will never know what really happened to JonBenét Ramsey. Many claim that if Burke is responsible, the public has a right to know the truth, and others claim that implicating a man who would have been nine at the time of the murder is useless and harmful. Whether Burke will be granted compensation for the claims made by CBS remains to be seen, but it appears he is ready to fight to clear his name. 

Is Charles Manson Immortal?

Written by C.W.S.

According to journalist Daniel Simone, Charles Manson believes himself to be immortal. The news of his recent hospitalization for possible intestinal bleeding is putting his belief to the test. Some believe this may be the end of the infamous criminal whose contribution to the unfathomably brutal murders of nine prominent people in the Beverly Hills community has grown into mythic proportions. But perhaps, even if Manson does die, in some ways he’s right. His hospitalization was front-page news. Television series, documentaries, podcasts, books, and articles about Manson continue to pour into our consciousness. Manson is known for the murderous spell he placed upon a group of impressionable young hippies, but maybe we were put under a version of this spell ourselves.

There are two camps in the great Manson debate: those that believe prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s story and those who find Manson’s own story more believable. The competing accounts of what led to the murders differ incredibly, but hold the same base events. Vincent Bugliosi’s is based in the book he published in 1974 called Helter Skelter after he successfully prosecuted Manson and several members of “The Family.” And Manson’s version is based on the book, Manson in his Own Words that was dictated from prison to Nuel Emmons by Manson himself and was published in 1988. Really there are three camps, including those that believe the real story falls somewhere in the middle of the other two.

Bugliosi’s story centers around the race war that Manson and his friends wanted to incite, all coming from information they believed was hand placed for them inside the lyrics of The Beatles’ White Album. Manson’s account centers on out-of-control drug use and crime, several misunderstandings, and a subsequent harebrained scheme to save one of their own. There is no need to argue which account is legitimate; it doesn’t really matter. The ends of this crime have no justification. They have no reason behind them that would make the senseless deaths understandable. It’s a terrible tragedy either way; it just depends on how you want the story to go.

Manson easily became the boogieman of the early 1970s. It was one of the final nails in the coffin of the hippy movement, a movement created on ideas of peace and love that felt as if it was on the slow track to drug addiction and darkness. It was similar to the narrative The Family experienced, no matter which camp you fall in.

Is there any other criminal serving a life sentence that has a following comparable to Charles Manson? It’s easy to write off Manson’s past and current followers as maniac weirdoes who are hell bent on committing evil acts. But here’s the thing: the people following him are not talking about murdering the rich, they are not talking about inciting the race war, they are not talking about hidden messages in rock songs made just for them—they are just talking about saving the earth. It was the same with the young followers of a still-free Charlie: they saw in him a beacon of peace, environmentalism, and self-awareness that would help lead to a better world.

Manson’s followers’ website is an unpolished blog that posts his quotes from prison and gives updates of his life behind bars. Manson speaks often of ATWA, which stands for Air Trees Water Animals:

"One Air, one Water, one Life, one Knowing...One Mind, one Time, one Forever, one Always in the Hallways of MyMe"

"There is only Air = All - Trees = the Water = Way - Animals-Zoo = Alive.

All The Way Alive is one life-form on Earth. One god, and everything and everyone serving and working as hard and as fast

as they can to make up for hundreds of years of lies, covering it up with wars and greed.

There is only one god, and there is no other god but God, and ATWA is witness."

-Charles Manson-

Charles Manson with Star Burton

Charles Manson with Star Burton

This is the kind of sophomoric deep green poetics that reel in young people who want to make a difference in a world that feels, and certainly is, out of their control. Take, for example, Manson’s fiancé, Star Burton. Star, a 28-year-old woman who first read Manson’s ecological writings when she was 15, agreed to marry Manson in 2014, though their marriage license expired before they went through with the union. Star had this to say about the marriage: “I’ll tell you straight up, Charlie and I are going to get married. When that will be, we don’t know. But I take it very seriously. Charlie is my husband. People can think I’m crazy. But they don’t know. This is what’s right for me. This is what I was born for.”

Star also helps run the Release Charles Manson Now blog. In one post, she writes: “thousands of people around the world understand that Manson has been illegally tried,” and also calls Manson “an honourable man, with much insight and wisdom that is recognised by a great number of people of all ages and cultures.”

Mansondirect.com is full of poems and quotes from Manson and others, mostly about ecological issues. The news of Manson’s hospitalization was addressed by one of Manson’s most dedicated followers, known as Gray Wolf, on January 4th:

 

How is Charlie doing? He is doing as well as you.

Why can't you call him? Why can't you call and ask Charlie how he is doing? Why can't you ask the doctor how Manson is doing?

Why can't you interview Charlie right now?

Well, I know how he is doing. He is as well as the air, he is as sick as the water.

Your water. Your air.

He is doing as well as the Tiger, as well as the Elephant and the White Rhino.

Why don't you call Africa and ask how you are doing?

Manson is as well as the California Redwood Tree.

How well are you? How capable are you? How capable are we? Can we save ourselves?

Thanks for checking in on the Soul.

Thanks for checking in on your Soul.

Thanks for checking in on our last chance to survive.

Members of The Manson Family

Members of The Manson Family

This kind of rhetoric of is attractive. Who doesn’t want to preserve our world for future generations? Who doesn’t want things to get better? What person still possessing even a shred of humanity doesn’t love the redwoods, the tiger? It is easy for young people, especially those prone to the idealism that can make great artists, great journalists, great leaders, to be manipulated into the belief that they are part of something bigger, something that might save a world that seems bleak to every generation’s counterculture as they approach an adulthood that is far from the dreams they had for it.

Those who defend Manson will say that Manson never actually murdered anyone, which is technically true. They will also say that he did not orchestrate the murders, and that The Manson Family acted on their own accord without his brand of mind-control. They will say that Charlie is a prophet of sorts, persecuted for his political opinions. The problem is that the lifestyle that Manson created for these women, some who were still underage, ended with a brutality beyond comprehension. So is that really a path any young person should want to reimagine? There are many other heroes to follow who are working toward the goals that Manson and his followers are still apparently looking to fulfill.

Whether Manson was the evil mastermind of media reports, or a philosophical con man with a life that spiraled out of his control will mostly likely never be known. But we know what did happen: many innocent people died. “I strongly suspect that his ‘magical powers’ were nothing more or less than the ability to utter basic truisms to the right person at the right time,” Bugliosi writes in Helter Skelter.

Current photograph of Charles Manson

Current photograph of Charles Manson

Most of us are not on Mansondirect.com pining over the wisdom of convicted murderer Charles Manson, but many of us continue to follow the story of this man’s life. Perhaps it is a fable for the modern seeker to never let our ideas grow larger than our humanity. Members of all types of faith communities have committed violence that breaks through the basic tenants of whatever belief system they are subscribed to. Whether it is be due to fear or greed, hatred or otherwise, it happens, and it happens all the time.

This is in no way a justification. There isn’t one. These same systems of faith that have produced violent outliers have produced many more people who practice quietly and without hatred. The Manson Family cast a shadow on a counterculture that began as a simple belief in the idea of peace. At its closing we have Charles Manson and his followers, dead-brained from long-term drug use, lost and clinging to something that made them feel greater than themselves. We have a group that committed to excess the very sin they wanted to erase from the world: violence. It happens all the time, and perhaps it was Manson that gave it an easy, wild face. 

Catching Up With Robert Durst

Written by C.W.S.

HBO’s The Jinx: Life and Deaths of Robert Durst captured arguably some of the most shocking moments in documentary film, moments that would go on to implicate the quirky son of New York real estate royalty in the murder of writer Susan Berman. The Jinx was the story of Robert Durst and his relation to three people either missing or dead. It was a story that gripped viewers by their guts and made them feel Durst’s anxiety, his fear, his visceral reaction to being faced with irrefutable evidence. Durst would go on to make what many call a confession to not only Susan’s murder, but also the murders of his missing (presumed dead) first wife and his former neighbor. Durst seemed to forget his microphone was still on and mumbled to himself in the bathroom. His words? “There it is. You’re caught. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.” 

Susan Berman with Robert Durst

Susan Berman with Robert Durst

The same day that the final episode of the segment aired, March 14, 2015, Durst was arrested for Susan’s murder in New Orleans while possessing five ounces of marijuana, an illegal .38-caliber revolver, and over $40,000 in cash. He is currently serving a seven-year sentence for firearm charges.

Director Andrew Jarecki was apparently working along side police for two years prior to premier of The Jinx. In a statement from prosecutors, they explained: “The Jinx’s final episode...was about to become public and [Durst] was about to hear for the first time this extremely damning evidence. Preventing defendant’s flight, holding him accountable for his past actions, and protecting society from the danger he posed, were of the utmost importance.” They also stated that because Durst had access to a great deal of money and because he had a history of fleeing law enforcement and even donning disguises (Durst once hid out in Galvaston Texas, disguised as a mute woman), they needed to make sure he wouldn’t disappear before they could apprehend him.

Durst’s reasons for participating in a documentary that would ultimately (allegedly) prove his guilt are difficult to figure out. Going against the advice of his lawyers, Durst gave many personal interviews with filmmakers and gave them unlimited access to his personal records and information.

"I wanted them to see the whole thing," Durst said. "That they would see me as an acceptable human being, as opposed to all this other stuff."

In a 2015 interview with prosecutors that was recently filed, Durst claimed that the reason he agreed to do the documentary is that he was high on methamphetamine for the duration of production. “It should have been obvious. I think the reason I did it had to be because I was swooped, speeding,” Durst said.  

Clearly it was not just the final episode that made The Jinx a masterpiece of documentary film. It was Durst’s unique personality: his candor, his humor, his strange charm. Though sometimes off-putting, Durst’s eccentricities were also engaging, and the film brought about a feeling of getting to know, and even like a wacky character. It also gave viewers a sense of why he was able to get away with so much for so many years.

Born into a wealthy New York family, Durst’s father Seymour was heir to the Durst Organization, a real estate company founded by Seymour’s father in 1927. Robert Durst claims he saw his mother, Bernice Herstein, commit suicide from jumping from their roof when his father led him to the window to watch. He was seven-years-old at the time, though his brother Douglas denied the claim that their mother committed suicide at all, saying instead that she fell from the roof. It was Douglas that was eventually given the position of running the family real estate business in the 1990s. This led to Robert’s estrangement from the family.

Douglas and Robert were always fiercely competitive. Douglas claimed that Robert had been stalking him, and said that The Jinx, which led to his brother's arrest, helped him to feel safe again: "I no longer am looking over my shoulder. I'm very grateful to The Jinx for having brought this about," he said.

Robert Durst with his missing wife Kathleen McCormack

Robert Durst with his missing wife Kathleen McCormack

Other odd behaviors by Durst like urinating on a candy rack in a Texas CVS and stealing a sandwich from a Pennsylvania grocery while disguised as a woman were also described in The Jinx, as were the mysterious disappearances of seven Alaska Malamutes that Durst owned in the early 1980s, all named Igor. Durst was once recorded on tape saying he wanted to “Igor” Douglas. Douglas said of the missing animals: "In retrospect, I now believe he was practicing killing and disposing [of] his wife with those dogs."

After his arrest in 2015, Durst later pled not guilty to the 2000 murder of Susan Berman, his former best friend who prosecutors believe possessed knowledge of his involvement in the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack. Durst was questioned by police when, in 1982, Kathleen disappeared from their home in Westchester County, New York. He was never charged, and Kathleen’s body has never been found. The Jinx showed interviews with friends of Kathleen that claimed Durst had turned abusive leading up to her disappearance, and that she had sought a $250,000 divorce settlement.

Susan Berman was found dead in her Los Angeles home, a single bullet in the back of her head. Police received a mysterious letter in the mail that gave simply the word "Cadaver" and Susan's address, the same letter that filmmakers would use to implicate Durst fifteen years later. The similarities in handwriting and the misspelling of "Beverley Hills" found on an old letter to Susan Berman were presented to Durst on-screen. 

Durst was also able to maneuver his way out of a murder charge in 2001, where he admitted to killing his elderly neighbor and dismembering his body, all, he claimed, in self-defense. Morris Black’s body parts were found floating in Galveston Bay, and Durst was arrested soon after. He made the bail of $300,000, and then missed his first court date. The defense argued that Durst and Black had fought over the pistol that Durst kept hidden in his residence, and during the struggle the pistol was discharged, hitting Black in the face and killing him. Durst claimed he dismembered and hid the body parts because he was already on the run from other charges.  Since there was not enough forensic evidence to counter Durst’s claims, a jury acquitted him of murder, He was sentenced to three years for bond jumping and evidence tampering.

The judge who presided over the Morris Black case, Susan Criss, later said of Durst: "You could see that this person knew what they were doing and that it was not a first time. The body was cut perfectly like a surgeon who knew how to use this tool on this bone and a certain kind of tool on that muscle. It looked like not a first-time job. That was pretty scary.”

According to Durst, because of throat cancer that led to the removal of his esophagus as well as fluid on the brain from Hydrocephalus, he only has five years left to live. He was confined to a wheelchair after a spinal fusion surgery Louisiana earlier this year, and entered the courtroom in early November to make the not guilty plea, saying hoarsely, “I am not guilty, I did not kill Susan Berman.”

According to a prosecutor John Lewin, Durst is still a danger despite his frailty. Lewin believes that because of Durst’s wealth and his alleged murder of a past witness, witness testimony should be recorded before the trial begins. Durst’s lawyer thinks it’s “hyperbole” that a wheelchair bound man could pose a threat to witnesses.

"Bob Durst didn't kill Susan Berman and he doesn't know who did,” stated Durst’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin. “He's eager to get to trial to prove it." The murder trial of Susan Berman is expected to start in late 2017.