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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Andrew Urdiales

A young Andrew Urdiales

As is usually the case with serial killers, Andrew Urdiales was described as a loner, and as someone "who had difficulty engaging in small talk". When he graduated from Thornbridge High School in Doloton, Ill., in 1982, he was given the graduating senior label of "social outcast." By all accounts, he had few friends, and joined the U.S. Marine Corps a short time after completing high school. Over the next eight years he was stationed at Camp Pendleton and other locales in southern California.

During his stint in the Marines, Urdiales claimed to have fallen in love with a 15-year-old girl whom he had gotten pregnant. He said that marriage had been out of the question because he had been fearful of the girl's parents and what the Marine Corps might have done to him, in a judicial or disciplinary sense because of the girl's age. As a result, they had both agreed that the girl would get an abortion.
"I loved her and still love her," Urdiales later told a psychiatry professor at Yale University. "But the law and the state of California and the righteous and the Marine Corps might not see it that way."
According to court records there was significant evidence of mental illness on both sides of Urdiales' family, that he had been sexually abused by relatives, and that he had been physically and emotionally abused by his parents.
Urdiales received several promotions while in the Marines but was later demoted when those under his leadership refused to obey his orders.  He received an honorable discharge in 1991 and moved back to Chicago to live with his parents. Urdiales would return to California in September 1992 for a short visit and again in March 1995.  Each visit would leave behind victims.
Robbin Brandley, 23
January 18, 1986 at approximately 10:30 p.m., a security guard making rounds at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., spotted a figure lying on one of the student parking lots.  As it was dark he thought perhaps it was a mannequin that a student may have left there as a prank. So he simply drove past.  Having second thoughts, he turned around and drove back to check it out.
Upon exiting his vehicle, the guard noticed that the figure lying on the pavement next to a Chevrolet Citation and lying in a pool of blood wasn't a mannequin at all. It was the dead body of a young woman.
Soon two students on the way to their cars happened upon the grisly scene and recognized the young woman as that of Robbin Brandley, 23, a communications major who had left a recital and after party in the fine-arts building just minutes earlier.  Brandley had been wearing a long print dress with flower designs, but it had been pulled up above her stomach, revealing bikini underwear and knee-high stockings. A purse, later determined to be Brandley's, lay on the pavement nearby. The asphalt around her body was wet with her blood.
Among the first law enforcement officials to arrive at the scene was Detective Michael Stephany of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Stephany observed immediately that Brandley had been stabbed numerous times, mostly in her neck, chest and back. He also noted that she had sustained cuts to her hands, which he theorized were defensive wounds. It would later be determined that the victim was stabbed at least 41 times.  The killer left no evidence.  No DNA, fingerprints, hair, or clothing fibers were found at the crime scene. This murder would remain a mystery for the next 11 years.
(Andrew Urdiales tells his recollection of the events of that night.)
When Urdiales made his confession to the arresting detectives, and led them through significant details of each of the killings, he claimed that college student Robbin Brandley was his first murder victim. Urdiales remembers that while Stationed at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, he had become upset regarding relationships with some of the people on the base and decided that he wanted to rob someone. He had armed himself with a "big old hunting knife," about 11 inches long, and driven to Saddleback College where he had waited in a darkened parking lot for a victim. He explained that the victim "could have been anybody," and that the victim he had chosen had been "just a random female." The victim had turned out to be Robbin Brandley.
After he saw her, he crept up behind her and placed his hand over her mouth, demanding her purse. After she had given it to him, he had begun stabbing her in the back. When she had fallen to the pavement, Urdiales began stabbing her in the chest. At one point the knife had become stuck in her ribs, and, in order for him to remove it, he had had to place his foot on her body to brace it while he struggled to extract the knife. When he had finished, Urdiales said, he had left the young woman there to die.
With blood on his hands, jacket and jeans, Urdiales said, he had known he had to get back on the base undetected. He subsequently rubbed grease from his car's engine on his hands and clothes to conceal the blood, and told military police at the guard station at the base's entrance that his car had broken down and that he'd had to make repairs.
Urdiales told the detectives that he had later picked up a prostitute in Hollywood, with whom he'd had sex, and that he was carrying the same knife that he'd used to kill Brandley. That prostitute, he said, "was lucky."
Julie McGhee, 29
July 17, 1988Julie McGhee, 29 and a prostitute, disappeared after being picked up by an unknown male in the Cathedral City area of Riverside County. Her remains, stripped of identification, were later found in a remote desert area. Identifying her body was made more difficult by the mutilation of her body by coyotes and possibly other animals. Cartridge cases for a .45-caliber handgun were found near McGhee's body. McGhee's slaying was initially investigated as a single, isolated homicide.
(Andrew Urdiales tells his recollection of the events of that night.)
According to court records that detailed his confession, Urdiales said that he had killed Julie McGhee, in Cathedral City, Calif., near Palm Springs, and that she had been his second murder victim. He described how he had picked up McGhee in an area frequented by prostitutes, and had driven her to a remote construction site, out in the desert, where they had had sex. A short time later he had told McGhee to get out of his car, after which he had shot her in the head. He claimed that he had not felt anything after committing the murder. He commented about how "quiet and peaceful" it had been in the desert where he had shot McGhee. Afterward, he said, he had driven to a bar where he had drunk "some beers and watched the girls dance."
Mary Ann Wells, 31
September 25, 1988. Another prostitute, Mary Ann Wells, 31, was picked up by someone in nearby San Diego County and driven to a deserted industrial complex within the City of San Diego. Her body was found later, shot once in the head. As in McGhee's death, a cartridge case was left behind at the scene of Wells' murder. A condom found at the scene had Wells DNA on it, as well as DNA from another person—believed to be the killer's—but this discovery lead nowhere in the days prior to dependable DNA testing/matching. 
(Andrew Urdiales tells his recollection of the events of that night.)
Andrew Uridales stated to police, that he had picked up Mary Ann Wells and had driven her to an industrial area in San Diego where they had had sex. Afterward, he said, he had shot her in the head and taken back the $40 he had paid her.  He then dumped her body in an alley where it was later found, along with the condom he had left behind.
Tammie Erwin, 18
April 16, 1989, another prostitute, Tammie Erwin, 20, was picked up and driven to a remote area near Palm Springs where she was shot three times and her body dumped. Again investigators found cartridge cases near the body. At about this point  investigators were beginning to see a possible link between the deaths. 
(Andrew Urdiales tells his recollection of the events of that night.)
Andrew Urdiales said he had paid Tammie Erwin for sex on at least one prior occasion.  This particular day he picked up Tammie Erwin and had driven her to a vacant lot near Palm Springs where she performed oral sex on him. Urdiales said that he did not recall having argued with Erwin as he had argued with some of his other victims, but he did remember shooting her as she had stood outside his truck as he prepared to leave. He had been inside the pickup when he shot her, and, as she had stood there holding her head, he shot her a second time, which brought her to the ground. Before he had driven off, he said, he had shot her a third time.
Investigators from Riverside and San Diego counties began comparing notes. They realized that they had a serial killer on their hands: ballistics tests showed that the cartridge cases from the McGhee, Wells, and Erwin murders scenes all matched. Each of the women had been killed with the same gun, but they lacked, at this point, both the weapon and a suspect to whom they could link it.
Unlike the prostitute killings, there was no link between the prostitute shootings and the murder of Robbin Brandley. Brandley wasn't a prostitute; she was a college student. Brandley also had not been shot; she had been repeatedly stabbed. For the next three and a half years there were no additional murders that police could attribute to the same killer.  It appeared that as quickly as he had surfaced, so had he vanished.  Hope was slim to none of ever finding this killer.
Jennifer Asbenson, 19
September 27, 1992.  Jennifer Asbenson, 19, a nursing assistant in Palm Springs, worked the night shift at a home for disabled children. On this particular night before heading to the bus stop to catch the bus that would drop her off near her place of employment, she stopped into a store to make a quick purchase.  However, when she returned to the bus stop she was just in time to see the last bus that headed her direction, pull away from the bus stop without her. Now she had no way to get to work.  A few minutes later a man pulled up in a car and asked her if she needed a ride. As he didn't appear threatening she accepted the ride. She said that she "didn't feel any sense of fear," and thought that he "was so nice and so charming." He dropped her off for work in time for her shift, which ran from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.
September 28, 1992. The next morning when Jennifer got off work, the man was waiting outside the children's home. She told police, as well as reporters, that she was not frightened by the man and accepted a ride home from him. She felt that if the man were dangerous, he had had every opportunity to have shown that the night before. 
However, this ride would turn out to be a much different ride than the one before. He almost immediately put a knife to her throat, tied her hands behind her back and then drove her into the desert. When they arrived at a remote location, Jennifer's nightmare truly began. 
He cut off her shorts and bra, and shoved her underwear into her mouth. He then forced her to perform sexual acts, and attempted to rape her but was unable to perform the task. He strangled her until she passed out and then he revived her. He kept screaming for her to say she loved him and when she complied with his request, he would hit her about the head screaming for her to "say it like you mean it" before again choking her into unconsciousness.  Eventually he opened the car door and told her to get out, but maintained a hold on her by yanking on her hair.  At one point, he yelled for her to walk ahead of him.  Jennifer saw an opportunity and bolted.  The next thing she knew he had grabbed her by the hair of her head and was dragging her, half naked, on the ground back to the car.  He then forced her into the car's trunk and drove away.
Jennifer was absolutely convinced that she was going to die.  She states that in her panic to live, she was able to miraculously get her hands free from their bonds.  She then desperately searched for the trunk's release mechanism. Working in the dark with her heart pounding, she popped the trunk open.  Then she felt the car slow down and knew that he must have seen the trunk pop open through his rear view mirror so she quickly grabbed it and pulled it shut again.  The car regained its original speed.  She then waited for a few more minutes, again popped the trunk open and jumped out onto the road. 
As she ran half naked down the road, she ventured a look behind her and saw Andrew running after her carrying a machete.  Just as she turned a small bend in the road, she saw a truck, stood in its path and frantically waved her hands for it to stop. The truck was carrying two Marines.  When her abductor saw the two Marines helping her, he fled. The Marines drove her to safety and she reported her terrifying ordeal to the police.
While physically, Jennifer was going to be just fine, emotionally this ordeal had taken a heavy toll on her.  For much of the next 6 years, Jennifer would opt to live in hospitals rather than face a world with Andrew Urdiales roaming free in it.  She stated that a hospital setting was the only place where she felt safe.
Thankfully today Jennifer Asbenson is thriving.  She works with victims of similar crimes.
However, Andrew wasn't going to stop just because one girl got away.....
(Andrew Urdiales tells his recollection of the events of that night.)
Andrew Urdiales said that after having offered Asbenson a ride to work that fateful September evening in 1992, he had asked her for her telephone number, and she had given him one. Problem was, he said, it had been a fake number and when he tried to call her but discovered the number she had given him was not the correct number, he grew angry.  He said that while waiting for her to get off work so he could offer to take her to breakfast and give her a ride home, he had begun "feeling upset about the number or something...something was just kind of building up, you know. Tension." He made his offer to give her a ride home and she accepted.
While they were driving, Urdiales said he had reached over and grabbed Asbenson by her hair and showed her a gun, after which she had become "pretty much submissive from that part forward." He forced her to turn around and tied her hands behind her back.
"I think," he said, "before we started moving after I tied her hands up, I reached over and I kissed her. I just put my lips on her mouth and then I just started, you know, I was trying to make out with her."
At some point, Urdiales said he forced Asbenson to perform oral sex on him. But Urdiales failed to attain an erection, both when he forced Asbenson—who feared for her life—to perform oral sex and when he attempted to rape her after cutting off her clothes and undergarments. Livid, Urdiales began to choke Asbenson.
"She kept kicking and...her saliva was coming out of her mouth...her face was turning blue and then red," Urdiales said. "It was just a battle for awhile."
After his hand had become tired from choking her, Urdiales said, he had forced Asbenson out of the car and threatened her so that she would make another oral sex attempt. Failing again in that regard, he said, he had forced Asbenson into the trunk of his car and had driven off. When Asbenson had escaped, he said, his first thought had been to shoot her, but he had driven away instead because of the presence of too many other vehicles on the roadway.
"So that was the last time I saw her," Urdiales told the detectives. "I don't know if somebody else picked her up and finished what I started."

Denise Maney, 32
March 11, 1995. A nearly three year gap had occurred after the kidnapping, rape and attempted murder of Jennifer Asbenson.  In March of 1995, Urdiales returned to Palm Springs for a vacation.  While there he picked up prostitute Denise Maney in the same area where he had previously picked up McGhee and Erwin. 
(Andrew Urdiales tells his recollection of the events of that night.)
Urdiales described how he had driven Maney into the desert, eventually turning off onto a deserted side road where he stopped and ordered her to take off her clothes and perform oral sex on him. He said that after getting "tired" of the oral sex, he had grabbed Maney by her hair and forced her to go to the front of his car and lie face down on the ground. He tied her hands behind her back and forced her to perform fellatio again. Because he "wasn't really feeling satisfied," he then forced her onto her knees and abused her anally with his fingers, causing her to scream from the pain.
"And that went on for awhile," he said. "I just kept doing that to her." Tired of abusing Maney, Urdiales forced her to walk toward the desert. At one point they stopped, she turned around, and he forced the gun into her mouth.
"And then it went off," he related. He said it blew off the back of Maney's head. "Then she fell and she was still...gurgling...making a lot of noises."
Urdiales recounts that he had gotten back in his car and started to drive away, but stopped and returned to where Maney lay dying.
"I didn't really think," he said. "I just kind of like wiped clean my hand...and I stopped, turned around and I went back to her."
He said that by this time, he had become "angry" and "very upset," and took out his knife. As he detailed what happened next, he began using both the singular pronoun "I" and the plural pronoun "we," prompting some people, including Robbin Brandley's relatives, to later question whether he may have been assisted by another person in carrying out his gruesome crimes.
"We took the knife out and we went back where she was lying...we just started stabbing for some reason," he told the cops, according to court records. "Just on the body several times, in the chest maybe, stomach...I remember I made a slashing motion by the throat...then we went back to the car. And I—we—we picked up her clothes. Then we were driving, we just started driving."
Laura Uylaki, 25
April 14, 1996.  A Cook County, Ill., prostitute was picked up off a street and driven to the Wolf Lake area straddling the Hammond, Ind., and Chicago border. At some point Laura Uylaki was shot twice in the head with a .38-caliber revolver.  Then her killer threw her nude body into Wolf Lake where it was later found on the Chicago side. Police theorized that the killer had taken the victim's clothing and other items to hamper their efforts in identifying her. 
(Andrew Urdiales tells his recollection of the events of that night.)
According to court records, he stated that he had met Laura Uylaki sometime during the winter of 1995, and that they had gone out on dates a few times. He said that they'd had sex on two occasions at Wolf Lake, using a sleeping bag Urdiales said he kept in the back of his truck. It had been in April 1996, he said, that he picked up Uylaki and they again went to Wolf Lake. Along the way, an argument broke out between them. When they arrived at Wolf Lake, Urdiales took his .38-caliber revolver, which was loaded, from beneath the driver's seat and was "showing it to Laura" when it went off and shot a hole in the roof of his pickup.
"Laura got mad and all hell broke loose," Urdiales told the detectives questioning him.
Urdiales said that Uylaki had attempted to grab his gun, and had broken his left index finger during the struggle. Unable to gain control of the situation, Uylaki had jumped out of the truck and had tried to run away. Following her, he had fired a couple of rounds in Uylaki's direction as he ran after her.  At some point, she fell to the ground.  Urdiales went over to her and discovered that she was dead. It was then that he had made the decision to toss her body into the lake.  He further stated that prior to throwing her body in the lake, he had undressed her and taken her clothes with him. On the drive back to Chicago, he said, he had thrown the clothes out of the truck from the passenger side.
Cassandra Corum, 21
July 14, 1996. The nude body of prostitute Cassandra "Cassie" Corum, 21, was found floating in the Vermillion River in Livingston County, Ill., near the town of Pontiac. Duct tape had been placed over her mouth, and she had shot been once in the head. An autopsy later showed that she had also been stabbed seven times in the chest and head. Her wrists had been handcuffed, and duct tape had also been used to bind her ankles. Corum had disappeared from a bar in Hammond, Ind., after having been seen talking with a man, and had left with him in his pickup truck.
(Andrew Urdiales tells his recollection of the events of that night.)
Urdiales said that he had known Cassandra Corum for about two years before killing her.  The night of her murder, Cassandra and Urdiales had met at a bar in Hammond, Ind.  At some point, the couple had driven to Wolf Lake to have sex. 
Urdiales remembers that Corum had said something that angered him—he couldn't remember what—resulting in him striking Corum in the face several times with his hand and fist. Urdiales' anger, the cops noted, seemed to be a recurring theme. Frightened by his violence, Corum panicked and had begun to fight back, which is what had prompted him to handcuff her hands behind her back. Urdiales had then removed her clothing, and described Corum as seeming "numb with anxiety and fear" and "passive and submissive." He had then bound her feet with duct tape and placed duct tape over her mouth. He said that as he drove south on Interstate 55 with a terrified, bound and naked woman lying on the front seat of his truck, he had been "still pissed off" about whatever Corum had said.
He decided to exit the interstate after driving for about two hours as he was beginning to get tired. Eventually he crossed a bridge that led to a small park where he finally stopped.  He said that he grabbed the gun from beneath his seat and then he and Corum had gotten out of the truck.  Once they had reached the back of the truck Corum had turned to face Urdiales, as if she had planned to say something.  Urdiales shot her.  Even after she had fallen to the ground, Urdiales said, he was still angry with her and so he took out his knife and stabbed her "a few times."   He then threw her body into the river from the nearby bridge.  On the drive home, he tossed her clothing out the truck windows.  He stated that he had not felt any sympathy for Cassandra Corum.
"She was just a whore," he said.
Lynn Huber, 22
August 2, 1996. Only a few yards from the location where Laura Uylaki's body had been found, the nude body of Lynn Huber, 22, of Chicago, was found floating in Wolf Lake. As with most of the other victims, Huber had been a prostitute, and the killer had left none of the victim's clothing or identification near the murder scene.
(Andrew Urdiales tells his recollection of the events of that night.)
Urdiales said he met Lynn Huber during the summer of 1996 in Chicago where she had been working as a prostitute. As with Uylaki, Urdiales said that he and Huber had had sex on two occasions. On an evening in late July or early August 1996, Urdiales said that he had seen Huber carrying a large garbage bag, and that he had stopped and offered her a ride which she accepted.  He said that he had driven into an alley so he could have sex with Huber. He claimed she had begun arguing with him and started "acting kind of ditzy" before trying to get out of the truck. Urdiales said that he had grabbed her and had shot her in the head with the gun he kept under the driver's seat.
Urdiales said that after he'd killed her, he placed her body in the bed of the truck and drove to Wolf Lake.  He remember that while he was removing Lynn Huber's clothing, he pricked his finger with a needle. He said that pricking his finger had made him angry, prompting him to take a knife and stab the body repeatedly. He said that he had stabbed Huber "a lot of times" in the back, and afterward had shot her again. He then took her nude body and threw it in the lake.  The garbage bag that Huber had been carrying was still in his truck so after he looked through the contents to discover it only contained clothing, he donated not only the bag of clothing but the clothes that Ms. Huber had been wearing to the Salvation Army because Huber "won't need them anymore."
November 14, 1996.  Officer Warren Fryer with the Hammond, Indiana police stopped a man driving a pickup truck after observing that the driver was parked outside a suspected crack house on the 800 block of Becker Street with a prostitute known to the police. Officer Fryer called for backup and waited for additional police to arrive before moving on the suspicious person. As the officers approached the pickup the driver, Andrew Urdiales, 31, was "cooperative." During their conversation Urdiales told the officer that he had served in the Marines.  At some point, Officer Fryer noticed a revolver inside the pickup and alerted his fellow officers.
The revolver was a snub-nosed, chrome-plated .38 special and was fully loaded. Since Urdiales did not have a permit for the gun, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and the revolver was confiscated.
The police noticed that the vehicle  was "spotlessly clean" both inside and out. Rolls of duct tape were also found inside the vehicle.
Urdiales was soon released on the concealed weapon charge, but was later convicted of a misdemeanor for the unauthorized possession of a handgun.
April 1, 1997. On this date a call came into the Hammond Police Department and as luck would have it, the call was routed to Officer Fryer.  It was a disturbance call about a man and a woman fighting at a motel, then known as the American Inn, at 4000 Calumet Avenue in Hammond. According to police, Urdiales told an officer that the woman, a prostitute, had stolen something from him. The prostitute, however, also known to the police, told Fryer that Urdiales was "kind of kinky" and that the altercation arose because Urdiales had wanted to take the woman to Wolf Lake, handcuff her in the back of his pickup and have sex with her. Fryer told the prostitute, "Geez...don't do that. We're finding girls up there dead."
A police report about the incident was written and filed, but no one was arrested in this incident. Later, Officer Fryer ran a computer check on Urdiales.  The results included the November 1996 incident involving the unauthorized possession of a handgun. At that time, Officer Fryer wrote a supplemental report that included all of the information he knew about Urdiales to date and forwarded it to the detective division. Because Officer Fryer had made the Wolf Lake connection to the murdered prostitutes, copies of the reports were in turn forwarded to homicide detectives with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) with the hope that the information might be useful to them. Following their review of the documents, CPD Detective Don McGrath asked Hammond police for Urdiales' confiscated revolver.
Once Detective McGrath received the revolver he took it to a gun expert. The ballistics test results showed that it was the same gun that had been used to kill Laura Uylaki, Cassandra Corum, and Lynn Huber. McGrath now knew for certain that he had a serial killer on his hands.
April 22, 1997.  Detective McGrath and his partner, Detective Raymond Krakausky, began a stakeout in an alley near the home belonging to the parents of Andrew Urdiales which is where Urdiales had lived following his discharge from the Marine Corps years earlier. It was a working-class neighborhood where lined with bungalows.  Not long into their stakeout,  Urdiales came out out the house to go to his job as a security guard at a downtown Chicago Eddie Bauer store. The two detectives walked up to Urdiales and told him that they needed to speak with him about the incident in November 1996 in which his gun had been confiscated. Calmly Urdiales told them that it was his understanding that the matter had been resolved.  Detectives McGrath and Krakausky insisted there were still some outstanding issues pertaining to the .38-caliber revolver.  Finally, Urdiales agreed to accompany the two detectives to their offices.
Urdiales told the detectives that he had purchased the revolver about five years earlier in Calumet City for $300. When asked if it had ever been out of his possession, he said that it had not and stated that it had been under his exclusive control until it had been confiscated by Hammond police officers. 
The detectives informed Urdiales that they were investigating some murders involving a .38-caliber gun.  They showed Urdiales photos of Huber, Uylaki and Corum. Initially Urdiales denied ever seeing the three women, but when McGrath told him that the bullets used in their murders matched his gun, he paused for a moment and then responded that he guessed he would not be going to work that day. He took off his security badge, loosened his tie, and began untying his shoe laces. He then provided the detectives with details of his murders of Uylaki, Corum, and Huber. He then admitted that there were "some matters" that police in California "might be interested in." Until that moment, none of the police in any of the jurisdictions had connected the dots that would lead them to believe that the murders in Illinois and California were at all related.
 Urdiales went to trial in Cook County, Ill., in 2002 for the murders of Laura Uylaki and Lynn Huber and was convicted of first-degree murder in both cases. He was sentenced to death. However, Governor George Ryan commuted all Illinois death sentences prior to leaving office in 2003, resulting in Urdiales being resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In 2004, Urdiales was convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying of Cassandra Corum, and again received a death sentence. He is currently on death row in Illinois, but has appealed his death sentence. He will eventually be extradited to California to face charges in the murders of Robbin Brandley, Julie McGhee, Mary Ann Wells, Tammie Erwin, and Denise Maney after the evidentiary segment of his appeal in Illinois has concluded.
In July 2009, under a state law that allows for multiple murders connected to one another to be prosecuted together, prosecutors in California agreed to consolidate the five California murder cases into one, with Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy of the Orange County District Attorney's Office prosecuting the case.
Detective Don McGrath, testifying at Urdiales' sentencing for the murder of Corum, recalled that Urdiales had told him as he escorted Urdiales back to lock-up on one occasion that he was happy that he had been caught.
"'Well, you know, I'm kind of glad in a way that you caught me,'" McGrath quoted Urdiales. "'I was starting to get the urge again.'"
It's my personal opinion that serial killers are the same as wild animals.  Some wild animals can be taken in a babies and with the right amount of love, discipline and training can become the best pets in the world.  While others no matter how much you love them, discipline them or attempt to train them - they will always be wild.  Those are the animal equivalent of a serial killer.  A person who is a hunter by very nature and who kills for no other reason than to kill - not for food - not in self defense - not in defense of another - just for the thrill of killing.  
Nearly every serial killer has an excuse for their behavior.  Bad childhood. Sexually abused. Physically abused.  Or my personal favorite "no one ever loved me".  Maybe because serial killers are technically human, they have a need, or sense that they should have a need, to offer an explanation for their actions.   Or maybe they just want something to say that might spare them the death penalty when they come to trial.
However, there is absolutely no excuse in the world that when offered would make me think, "Oh!  Well, in that case, you should be immediately set free!"
But that's just me.
(I'd like to acknowledge the following resources which contributed to the making of this article.)
CBS News
The Capistrano Dispatch
Orange County Weekly
Orange County District Attorney's Office
Chicago Tribune
Los Angeles Times
State of Illinois Supreme Court
True TV

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kevin Lee Green - Wrongfully Convicted

September 30, 1979 is a date that I doubt Kevin Lee Green will ever be able to forget.  That's the day his life would change forever.

In 1979, Kevin Green was a 21 year old Corporal in the Marine Corps and lived with his pregnant 20 year old wife, Dianne in Tuston, California.

By all accounts, including Kevin's, he and Dianne Green had a rocky marriage.  The police had been called to their apartment on more than one occasion to settle their arguments which sometimes led to physical contact.  But according to Kevin, at the time of this horrific event, he and Dianne were trying to work their problems out.  Dianne was nearly term with her pregnancy and they were hopeful of a happier future.

In the early morning hours on this date, Kevin decided to make a run to the local Jack in the Box to get something to eat.  He states he went to the one across the street but that the drive through was backed up so  he elected to go to another location that was about 15 minutes away for his food.  Both sides have speculated on this decision.  Both sides have their own views on this.  Kevin says the one across the street was busy so he opted to go to the other one where he might be waited on quicker.  Dianne and the prosecutors took the view that he wanted to be able to say he was gone long enough for a stranger to have entered his apartment and brutally attack his wife.

From the very beginning, Kevin has stated that when he walked out of their first floor apartment, he noticed a black man in the parking lot and when he returned, the same black man was about to enter a van parked in their parking lot.  When Kevin walked past this man, he ducked his head down so Kevin wouldn't be able to see his face.

When Kevin entered their apartment, he found Dianne in their bedroom.  She had been raped, strangled and viciously hit in the head with a round object.  Kevin thought initially that she had been shot in the head but it would be discovered later that she had in fact been hit in the head with a wooden object such as a table leg with the bolt used to attach the leg to the table making the round wound to Dianne's head that first led Kevin to believe she had been shot.

Kevin called police and an ambulance and stayed with Dianne.  Several hours after arriving at the hospital, the baby girl Dianne had been carrying died and the decision to perform an emergency C-Section was made although the doctor's feared Dianne might not make it through the surgery.  She lapsed into a coma and Kevin stayed with her.

Eventually Dianne woke from her coma but her brain was damaged to the point that she had no memories of the event.  She had forgotten how to speak and needed constant care and rehabilitation.

Kevin and Dianne moved into her parents home until she could recover.

From the very beginning the police zeroed in on Kevin to the exclusion of all others.  When Dianne was attacked, there were other very similar attacks in the area.  All women lived in ground floor apartments.  All women were beaten about the head.  All women had been raped. All but one had died.  Yet the police still focused their entire attention on Kevin.

The doctors had warned Kevin and Dianne's parents to allow Dianne to form her own memories of that night.  They strongly warned them that if they helped her at all, their suggestions would become a part of Dianne's memory.  That she would incorporate those suggestions into her newly formed memory and it would be as real as if she had actually remembered the event.

No one knows for sure, but it has always been my belief that one or both of her parents planted memories into Dianne's head.  Maybe they didn't mean to - maybe they were just both so convinced that Kevin was guilty that they didn't see the harm in planting those memories.  They may have been so afraid that if her memory never returned, Kevin might walk way unscathed that they felt it would be the lessor of two evils for them to help their daughter form a new memory than to allow Kevin to walk around free.

While I do not subscribe to the following theory, Dianne's parents may have been completely innocent of malice.  They may have simply answered her questions and when Dianne put all those answers together, she formed a new memory.  Questions like "Did Kevin ever hit me?"  "Is Kevin the violent type?"  "Were we happy as a married couple?"  I'm sure Dianne had tons of questions.

Whichever of the above scenarios are factual, Dianne did eventually form a memory of that night and she called the police to tell them.

She states that she and Kevin violently argued earlier in the evening.  He wanted sex and she did not.  So according to her "new" memory, he beat her, raped her and then beat her some more.  That was all the police needed to hear.

Kevin was tried and convicted of second degree murder for the death of their unborn child, the attempted murder on Dianne Green and assault with a deadly weapon for the attack.  On November 7, 1980 he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Kevin Green would sit in prison from November 1980 until October 1996.  16 years for a crime he didn't commit.

Kevin could have gotten out of prison well before 1996.  The problem?  He steadfastly refused to admit his guilt and show remorse to the parole board for something he didn't do.

The prosecutions case was built upon the witness testimony of a woman who had major brain damage and at best a faulty and highly suggestible memory. Then there were the police reports from earlier domestic disturbances, interviews with neighbors who had heard them fighting and semen recovered from Dianne Green that matched Kevin Green's blood type. Remember back in 1979/1980 DNA was just a twinkle in its daddy's eye so blood type was the best they could do.  Unfortunately for Kevin, type O is a very common blood type.

As stated earlier in this piece, during the same time that Dianne Green was attacked there were a series of other very similar attacks in this area.  The attacks had begun about 10 months before Dianne Green's attack and there were 20 in all.  The police had dubbed him the "Bedroom Basher".

1996 DNA was just beginning to be used as a tool to detectives.  Cold case detectives gathered the evidence from the 20 attacks and sent DNA off for testing.  Against all odds, a match is found.  A convicted Sex Offender named Gerald Parker who is set to be paroled in a month from prison.  Detectives have to move fast if they want to get to him before he gets released.

They set up an interview with him and they bring their 20 cases with them.  Parker isn't interested in speaking about any of the cases.  Until they get to the Kevin & Dianne Green case.  It seems that Parker was a Marine himself and it has always bothered him that he found out that he had done this to a fellow Marine.

Parker remembered everything about that night and that crime.  And he told the police everything he remembered.  Apparently the only thing in Parker's life that he cherished was the fact that he had been a Marine.  It was the only good thing he had ever done.

Because of the new DNA evidence and Parker's confession, Kevin Green was released.  Eventually he would be paid $100 for each day he served in prison.

The bulk of his nightmare was over.  Now he had to deal with a wrongful death suit that his now ex-wife Dianne had filed and won while he was in prison.  She had won a multi-million dollar judgment from him.  Kevin had to hire an attorney and fight to have that judgment overturned.  The court over turned the judgment and suggested Kevin settle out of court with Dianne.  Which he did.  Personally, I would never have given her a dime.  But apparently Kevin was a better man.  He has said that while he was a victim in this situation it was nothing compared to the damage Dianne suffered during this ordeal.  He has repeatedly excused her attitude, opinions and actions over the years.  He feels she has every right to be angry, frustrated and bitter.

Kevin said one of the first things he did when released was to visit his infant daughter's grave.  He said he felt he had to go there and tell her in person that he was out of prison and that he didn't kill her - that Gerald Parker had done it.

To this day, while Dianne will admit that maybe Kevin didn't strike the proverbial "final" blow, he had indeed beaten and raped her that night and in her mind he deserved everything that he got.  She vehemently states that at the least had he not left the door unlocked perhaps none of this would have happened to her.

When I watched footage of both Kevin and Dianne, it was difficult to watch Dianne.  She was so full of bitterness, anger and revenge while Kevin was forgiving, kind and understanding.

Would I have reacted to this situation like Kevin or Dianne?  I'm not sure.  I would like to say Kevin but I don't know.  I guess none of us do until we go through it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rich & Beautiful - a Texas Murder

In 1981 Farrah Fawcett did a made for TV movie called "Murder in Texas".  I remember watching it and loving every second of it!  Today's post will be about this murder mystery that still has folks talking in Houston over 40 years later.

This story has so many twists, turns and characters that it makes your head spin.  Forgive me - and feel free to correct me - should I overlook, skip or miss something.

Joan Robinson Hill was the only child of Ashton "Ash" Robinson, a very influential and rich Texas oil man and his socialite wife, Rhea Robinson.  Joan was beautiful, smart and quite the catch in the Houston social circuit.  She was an accomplished equestrian who often preferred the company of her horses to that of humans.  The fact that she was a very spoiled child is not in dispute.

At some point in the 1950's, Joan met John Robert Hill, a handsome plastic surgeon and they married in the late 1950's producing a son named Robert Ashton"Boot" Hill.

John Hill was certainly not born into Houston high society.  Or any other high society for that matter.  He had worked his way through college and then medical school.  He was, by all accounts, a very gifted and dedicated pianist.  Joan's father was never a fan of the man or the marriage and evidence would suggest that the feeling was mutual.

"On Tuesday, March 18, 1969, Joan Hill, a 38-year-old Houston, Texas, socialite, became violently ill for no readily apparent reason. Her husband, Dr. John Hill, at first indifferent, later drove her at a leisurely pace several miles to a hospital in which he had a financial interest, passing many other medical facilities on the way. When checked by admitting physicians, Joan's blood pressure was dangerously low, 60/40. Attempts to stabilize her failed and the next morning she died. The cause of death was uncertain. Some thought pancreatitis; others opted for hepatitis."

(Read more: John Hill Trial: 1971 - Motive: Failed Divorce, Outburst Leads To Mistrial, Retrial Unnecessary - Joan, Robinson, Kurth, and Death - JRank Articles

Ash Robinson would have his daughter's body exhumed twice in order to have private autopsies performed at his expense.  A total of 3 autopsies were performed.  All of them with varying results and conjectures.

It is now believed by many in the medical field, that Joan may well have died from Toxic Shock Syndrome.  However, in 1969 with the medical professionals unable to agree with a final diagnosis and TSS not even a known condition, the death looked mighty suspicious to a wealthy and powerful father grieving over the loss of his only child.  Especially since Ash Robinson hadn't wanted his daughter to marry John Hill to begin with. Another red flag was the fact that John Hill had a mistress and wanted to divorce Joan so he could marry his mistress.  However, Dr. Hill was bound by a pre-nup which clearly stated that should they divorce - he gets whatever he brought into the marriage, but nothing more.  

All the classic signs for murder were there.  Husband who came from nothing but had grown to love the "good life" and would do anything not to give it up.  Wife who thought they could "work it out" and refused to give her husband a divorce so he could marry his mistress, Ann Kurth.  Ann had issued an ultimatum.  "Marry me or leave me alone".  And the icing on the cake?  If he divorced Joan - he got nothing.  If she died - he got everything.

When John and Joan Hill bought the house at 1561 Kirby Drive in Houston, it had its own checkered past (and future).  The Hill's bought the house in 1966 for $80,000 and Robert Hill spent an additional $100,000 just on creating a music room for his piano. 

It was not, and reportedly had never, been a "happy house".  The previous owner died from cancer in the very room where Joan lay dying from her mysterious illness.  The owners before them, had all been embroiled in messy divorces and/or depression with some reporting they were on the brink of suicide when they sold the house.  As for the Hill's, according to Robert, they were a happy couple until about a year after they moved into the house on Kirby Drive.  Their troubles began when John started his affair and ended with both of their deaths.  Both deaths either began or ended in this house.

Connie Hill, John Hill's wife at the time of his death, and his son with Joan continued to live in the house after John's death until the middle 1980's.  At that time, Connie Hill remarried and Robert left for college so they sold the home to an attorney.  As near as I can tell, it has been sold at least twice since then.  All times to attorneys.

Within weeks after Joan's death, Robert Hill married Ann Kurth and moved her into the house at Kirby Drive.

Ann would later testify at John's trial that one night in a drunken rage, he admitted to her that he had regularly injected Joan with her own urine killing her.  She testified that he also admitted to her that he had also killed both his father and brother.

If he did indeed kill her by injecting her with her own urine, it would certainly explain why none of the autopsies were conclusive.  It would also explain why no known foreign toxins were found to suggest a poison.  I'm sure in 2011, doctors would be able to detect and possibly suspect this method of poisoning, but in 1969, they could not.  Our urine is nothing more than natural toxins that our body is disposing of in order to prevent our being poisoned.  If you take those concentrated toxins and reintroduce them into your body, you are in effect being poisoned to death quite naturally by toxins that are not foreign and thereby undetectable.  At least in 1969 medical standards.  

Joan languished completely bedridden for nearly a week before she was finally brought to a hospital and died.  She had been exhibiting flu-like symptoms for a week prior to becoming bedridden.  During this time, she told her father and others who inquired about her health that her husband was taking excellent care of her.  He was taking daily urine samples for testing and was injecting her twice daily with a vitamin cocktail that should make her feel much better soon.  However, that was not the case.

Other sources state that Dr. Hill had taken feces samples from very sick patients and had put them into a petri dish creating a deadly bacteria which he then injected into pastries which he fed to his wife.  At the trial, Ann Kurth-Hill testified that one day when she was at the apartment which John kept for his "second life", she had seen 3 petri dishes  in the bathroom.  When she asked John about them, he brusquely informed her that it was "just an experiment that he was working on."

Ash Robinson dedicated his time and considerable resources and influences to the goal of proving Dr. Hill murdered Joan.  He made daily calls to the prosecutor's office, the attorney General's office, Congressman and noted physicians.  He had Joan's body exhumed on at least two occasions for private autopsies.  He had the house and occupants on Kirby Drive under surveillance and even had a private investigator digging into John's past and family.

He had a stroke of luck when Ann decided to come forward with John's alleged drunken confession.  After only 9 months of marriage, John Hill had unceremoniously dumped Ms. Kurth and she was not happy about it.  He was finally able to convince the prosecutors to charge John Hill with the murder of his daughter.

After months of badgering, intercessions from noted lawmakers and persistence on the part of Ash Robinson, the prosecutors dug around until they found a Texas law that allowed them to use the extremely rare charge of "murder by omission," in effect, killing someone by deliberate neglect.

The trial began in February, 1971 and lasted 11 days before a mistrial was declared.   Of course, Ann Kurth-Hill testified.  One of the Hill's neighbors, Vann Maxwell, also testified that shortly before Joan became ill, she had told Vann that she was intending to file for divorce. 

 John Hill had filed for divorce in December, 1968 but had withdrawn his petition when it came to light that he would not only risk losing everything in a contested divorce but also his reputation and personal medical practice might severely suffer if it became public knowledge that he had participated in an affair.  He instead elected to enact a "reconciliation" with his wife.

The Defense attorneys had thought it highly inappropriate that Ann Kurth-Hill was allowed to testify at the murder trial of her ex-husband.  However, the presiding Judge decided to allow it with the condition that he could stop her testimony at any time.  

The main thrust of Kurth's testimony was given over to a vivid account of an incident in which, she said, Hill had attempted to kill her. It came just one month into their marriage. They were out driving when, Kurth claimed, Hill deliberately smashed her side of the car into a bridge.

"What happened next?" asked Prosecutor McMaster.

"He pulled a syringe from his pocket and … tried to get it into me." Kurth said that she managed to knock the syringe from Hill's hand, but that he then produced another hypodermic needle.

"And what did he do with that one, if anything?" queried MeMaster.

Kurth, who several times had to be admonished by the judge for her overly theatrical presentation, crescendoed, "He tried to get that syringe into me!"

Here the prosecutor speculated. "Was he attempting to treat you? Or harm you? Do you know?"

"Yes, I knew." Kurth hesitated, as if unsure what to say next, then blurted out, "Because he told me how he had killed Joan with a needle."

Defense attorney Haynes leapt to his feet, demanding a mistrial on grounds that the defense had not been given an opportunity to prepare themselves against a direct accusation of murder. (This was the first that Haynes had heard of any syringes). Judge Hooey, plainly worried by this turn of events, at first denied the request but did order a recess. During the adjournment, however, Hooey had second thoughts. The tenuous legal precedent by which Kurth had been allowed to testify, and then her foolhardy outburst, convinced him that if he allowed the trial to continue there were clear and palpable grounds for appeal. Accordingly, 11 days into the hearing, he granted the mistrial.

Interestingly enough, the jurors, when polled afterward, indicated that they were inclined to believe John Hill innocent. Ann Kurth's story hadn't impressed them at all.

Read more: John Hill Trial: 1971 - Outburst Leads To Mistrial - Kurth, Judge, Hooey, and Haynes - JRank Articles

The retrial was set and reset 3 times.  However, before the trial could begin, John Hill, now married for a third time to Connie (I can find no information as to her maiden name) was gunned down in the foyer of his house in what has always been believed to be a contract killing.  Of course, Ash Robinson was always the name that came up whenever anyone mentioned this.  Although no one ever officially linked Ash to the murder of John Hill, it should be noted that following this latest death in his family, Boot Hill cut all ties to Ash Robinson.  Rumor is rampant that Boot believed his grandfather had hired someone to murder John Hill.  Proof that these rumors were valid is the fact that in 1977 both Connie and Boot Hill brought a civil suit against Ash Robinson for the wrongful death of John Hill.

Ultimately, 3 people were arrested for the murder of John Hill.  Bobby Vandiver and girlfriend Marcia McKittrick admitted complicity, but claimed that they had been hired by a notorious Houston brothel madam, Lilla Paulus. When Vandiver was shot by police in an unrelated incident, McKittrick, promised a 10-year sentence, agreed to testify against Paulus. Additional testimony was provided by Paulus' own daughter. She told the court of overhearing her mother say, "Ash Robinson is looking for somebody to kill John Hill." Eventually Paulus was convicted and sentenced to 35 years imprisonment in 1975.

When the wrongful death civil suit was finally brought to trial after a nearly 10 year battle, Lilla Paulus' daughter declined to testify, leaving Marcia McKittrick as the main witness against Robinson. A polygraph examination indicated that she was being truthful in saying that Robinson had caused the death of John Hill. A similar test suggested that Robinson was being truthful when he said he hadn't. Given this welter of confusion, the jury acquitted Robinson of collusion in the death of his son-in-law, and the suit was quashed.

The movie that I watched back in the 1980's left no doubt in anyone's mind that John Hill had murdered his wife.  It further showed Ann Kurth as a victim in this story.  However, after researching the matter, I am of the conclusion that while John Hill may indeed have poisoned his wife, Ann Kurth was certainly no victim.

Did John Hill murder his wife or did he just seize an opportunity when it presented itself to him?  Perhaps John didn't murder his wife.  Perhaps she became sick with something that would lead to her death if left untreated and John simply elected not to get her medical treatment but to allow whatever ailment she had to consume her.  Then he is left a widow with their minor son to care for.  For a man desperate to get out of a marriage, this must have seemed to be a win-win situation for him.

As for the other players in this story, no one seems certain of Connie Hill's whereabouts but one thing is fairly obvious.  She apparently was a good person who believed in her husband's innocence and took care of Boot until he was an adult.

Robert Ashton "Boot" Hill supposedly went on to graduate law school becoming a criminal prosecutor.  Later he became Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office.

So is this story an unsolved mystery where the murderer gets away scott free, then the grieving father hires someone to murder him?  Or is this a case of a greedy doctor who wanted to marry his mistress without losing any of "his" worldly possessions and seizes upon an opportunity to become a widower when his wife contracts toxic shock syndrome?

Either way, it doesn't bode well for the character of Dr. John Hill.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Memphis Murder Mystery

Here are the facts. In the very early hours of July 19th, 2010, Lorenzen Wright was shot at least 12 times. July 28th his body was found in a wooded area off a road in southeast Memphis which was a regular short cut route that Lorenzen used whenever he was going to his mother's house. It is also a fact that Lorenzen's mother filed a missing person report with the police on July 22. However these are about the only absolute facts surrounding this case. Rumor, innuendo and conjecture have elevated this case to a new high and throughout it all the one name that is constantly bandied about in all of the rumors is that of Lorenzen's ex-wife, Sherra Wright.
If you poll the people who actually knew Lorenzen Wright the one common thread would be the fact that he loved his 6 children above all else. If you poll the general public about what they know of Lorenzen, you won't hear that he was a druggie or a dog fighter or a woman beater. You will hear that he loved his kids, he loved his parents, he loved his hometown of Memphis, TN and he loved basketball. You might also hear that since an injury to his hand which prevented him from playing his beloved sport, he has fallen on some hard times financially.
Lorenzen Wright didn't come from a drug and/or alcohol addicted family. He came from a hard working middle class family who tried to stay as far away from crime as possible. Lorenzen's father was a coach at a local school. During a game a fight broke out and Mr. Wright broke it up and threw the offender out of the gym. The offender came back with a gun and shot Mr. Wright. His injuries left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Still, it was Mr. Wright who coached Lorenzen and helped him develop the amazing skills at the game that would eventually get him to the professional level.
I don't know how or when Lorenzen and Sherra Wright met, fell in love and married. What I do know is that they separated for good around September or October, 2009 and their divorce was final sometime in late January or early February 2010. Lorenzen was ordered to pay well over $20,000 a month in child support for his 6 children with Sherra. According to Sherra's divorce attorney (Gail Mathis) the one and only payment he made was in November, 2009. She does, however, admit that Lorenzen has been giving Sherra money here and there since that time but had not actually been paying the full amount every month as ordered by the Court. At time of his death it was rumored that he had a job playing with an European team and was to leave for Europe after the summer to begin training. Things were beginning to look up for Lorenzen.
He had all of his children for most of the summer at his home in Atlanta this year. His oldest daughter had a beauty contest that she couldn't miss so he asked his best friend and room mate, Michael Gipson, to drive his kids back to Memphis so his daughter could attend the pageant and then he had planned to fly into Memphis a few days later to pick them up again and head back to Atlanta. Michael reported that Lorenzen delayed him from leaving Atlanta with the kids for nearly half an hour because Lorenzen insisted on kissing each of the kids goodbye and chatting with them before they left. He also stated that during their drive back to Memphis, Lorenzen kept the cellphone ringing as he kept checking in on them to make sure everything was okay.
Now we are into the unknown area. This part of the "story" gets muddled with rumor and conjecture. It has been said by several sources that when Lorenzen came to Memphis to pick up his kids he had his new girlfriend, Alexis Bradley, with him. It has been said that he dropped her off at his mother's house and then went over to his ex-wife's house the night of his murder. Reliable sources state that it was Lorenzen's intention to pick the children up at 8:00 a.m. on July 20th and then drive back to Atlanta.
So why would he go to Sherra's house the night before? Rumor has it, she called him and talked him into coming over late in the evening so they could talk while the kids were asleep.
Sherra's story about this final night of Lorenzen's life changes every time she tells it. She first says Lorenzen arrived around 11:00 p.m., they talked until around 2:00 a.m. and then he left but she didn't know what he was driving. Then he arrived around 11:00 p.m. with another man whom she did not know and they chatted until around 3:30 or so and then he left but she didn't see what he was driving. Next, it was he came over around 11:00 p.m. and they had sex and she went to sleep and sometime while she was sleeping, he left but still she didn't know what he was driving. Note: The 911 call that Lorenzen made as he was being murdered came into the call center shortly before midnight.
I have seen Sherra Wright's house in Collierville, TN (a suburb of Memphis). It is one of those newer homes that is shaped in an "L" with the double garage sticking out from the body of the house in the front. In order to park in the driveway or the garage, one would have to drive past the windows on the entire front of the house and park directly in front of the front door. I'm talking maybe 2 feet from the entrance to the house.
Sherra moved into this house after she and Lorenzen separated. She and Lorenzen had been having a rather difficult divorce. Am I to believe that Lorenzen had a key to her house? Am I to believe that he didn't pull up and park in front of the door and then ring the doorbell? If he did, then when she opened the door, not only would she see Lorenzen but she would see the vehicle he was in as well as anyone who might have been sitting in that vehicle waiting on him. It would be impossible not to. Also, since in every story, she has him arriving after the kids are in bed, she would have been the only person to answer the door.
Whichever story you believe, there's two common catches with all of them. First she never mentions that he was driving her van while he was in town and secondly she never states in any of her stories that she and Lorenzen decided to postpone him coming the next morning at 8:00 a.m. to pick up the kids. So why is it when he didn't show she didn't start making some phone calls to try to find him? I only have 2 kids but I know that when they were young and their father was supposed to come get them at 8:00 a.m. if he didn't get there by 8:30 a.m., I was on the phone to him, his mother, his father, his best friend, anyone and everyone who might be able to tell me where he was and why he wasn't at my house to get his kids as promised! Yet, she didn't do any of this.
His mother, finally filed a missing persons report on the 22nd of July. Rumor has it, Sherra told Mr. Wright that Lorenzen had gone to Europe on a vacation so is that what she did? She simply told the kids and Lorenzens friends/family that he had changed his mind? Also, this part of the story makes me believe that he didn't have Alexis with him because if he had, the whole "he changed his mind and decided to go to Europe on vacation" thing would have lasted a minute instead of lasting 3 days because it is highly doubtful that anyone would believe he just flew to Europe leaving Alexis stranded at his mother's house.
Let's get to the other reasons as to why Sherra is in the proverbial hot seat in this case.
The druglords and death threats. Once Lorenzen was listed as a missing person, Sherra suddenly remembers a weird thing happening. She tells the police that approximately 6 weeks prior to his disappearance, 3 large black men come to her door demanding to know where Lorenzen is. According to Sherra, Lorenzen owed these druglords LOTS of money for fronting drugs to Lorenzen.
She stated to the police that they identified themselves to her as druglords and that they carried guns on their persons. She further adds drama to the story by stating that they threatened her children if she told anyone that they had come by. Really. I think most normal mothers having experienced this would have packed her kids up in the van and headed to the police station. At a minimum, a normal mother would have called his parents and told them that the kids had been threatened. But did she do that? Did she tell anyone about this? Nope. Or at least not until after Lorenzen became a missing person. According to Sherra the only people she told were Lorenzen and her divorce attorney.
Missing person report. Why is it Lorenzen's mother was the one to file the missing person report? One would think that the mother of his children would be the first to realize something was amiss when he neither came to pick the kids up at the arranged time or even to call. Also why would Sherra even try to talk his mother out of filing a police report? She tried every trick in the book to keep anyone from filing a report. Everything from he went on vacation to he was suicidal and just wanted to be alone.
Sherra's new boyfriend. Many people have surmised that Sherra had him killed because he had moved on with his romantic life and found a younger prettier girlfriend. I doubt that. I think this was all about the money. Besides Sherra had a boyfriend. And apparently the boyfriend and Lorenzen had not gotten along well. There is a story about when Lorenzen came at the beginning of the summer to get his children, the boyfriend was there and a few words were exchanged. The boyfriend allegedly went outside and scratched Lorenzens car at which time Lorenzen soundly decked the guy. Bit of bad blood there?
The Barber. First it is reported that while the police were investigating Lorenzen as a missing person, his barber contacts them to tell them that during the time frame that Lorenzen is thought to be missing, he had come into the barbershop to get his hair cut. He was in the company of another man whom the barber refused to identify but would say was of a questionable character. Now Lorenzen was last seen on a Tuesday and the barber insisted Lorenzen came into his shop that following Saturday right at opening when there were no other customers in the shop. Conveniently, once Lorenzens body was found and identified the barber changed his story to say it was before he went missing. His bad. I can see where a person might get a Saturday confused with a Monday. Can't you?? The rumor mill has it that Mr. Barberman was close friends with Sherra's new boyfriend. It also states that Mr. Barberman is DEEP in financial troubles not only with his business but because he apparently has multiple children with multiple women and is into multiple child support payments totaling a hefty monthly amount.
Neighbors. More than one neighbor reported to the police that they heard, on numerous occasions, Sherra either outside in the front yard or walking up and down the street, screaming into her cellphone to Lorenzen about money issues. "Where's my check?" type of calls. One neighbor reports that on one occasion she and Sherra were going to their mailboxes at the same time and when Sherra apparently didn't find a check in hers, she whipped out her cellphone and called Lorenzen. The conversation that followed was loud, abusive and threatening.
Another neighbor reported that on the night Lorenzen was killed, she saw Sherra with two black men holding a rather animated conversation in her front yard very late at night.
The fire-pit. Yet another neighbor stated that around 4:00 a.m. the night Lorenzen was killed, she peered over the privacy fence that separated their houses to see Sherra dropping objects into her fire-pit. She stated the flame was so tall that initially she thought Sherra's house might be on fire. This was one of the hottest nights of the entire year so why would Sherra even entertain starting a fire in her pit if she wasn't trying to destroy evidence? Also, why at 4:00 a.m. for any reason?? A source close to the investigation tells me that when the police searched the fire-pit behind Sherra's house, they did find a melted cellphone but have not positively identified it as having belonged to Lorenzen.
The guns. Apparently Lorenzen and Sherra had 3 guns between them. Lorenzen had 2 and Sherra had 1. Lorenzen's guns are accounted for. Sherra's gun has somehow mysteriously disappeared.
Suicide Theory. When Lorenzen was considered a missing person, Sherra apparently tried to convince his mother and other friends/family that it was possible that Lorenzen had committed suicide. I would say 12 bullets to the head is a bit of a suicide overkill.
Insurance. A source very close to the family has told me that although Lorenzen was having financial difficulties he made sure that his extremely large insurance policy was always paid on time. His children were the sole beneficiaries of that policy. Let's see now. Sherra is not getting her fat check regularly and her fat lifestyle is about to suffer because of it. She has to berate Lorenzen on a regular basis to get any money at all. Lorenzen has a big policy that will give her children a few million if Lorenzen dies. Solution to problem here??
The former personal assistant. Wendy Wilson at one time was a personal assistant to Lorenzen. Apparently the difficulties between Sherra and Lorenzen dated back some years. Lorenzen had made it a habit to record all calls in or out with Sherra and he had given the tapes to Wendy for safe keeping. When Wendy listened to the tapes, she told Lorenzen and his parents that they should go to the police because Sherra had made numerous threats on them. When Lorenzen didn't go to the police, Wendy did. She filed a police report. After Lorenzen's body was found, Wendy went public with the tapes and again went to the police about them.
However, her good deed did not go unpunished. According to, She has filed a lawsuit against three people, Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins, blogger and radio host Thaddeus Matthews and attorney Gail Mathes. According to Wendy, Thaddeus Matthews gave her personal cellphone number out on both his blog and his radio show which resulted in hundreds of calls to it that were harassing and threatening in nature. It would appear that Sherra has formed a bit of a retaliation group in Memphis. They use smear and fear tactics to back down those who might hold a piece of the puzzle IF that piece doesn't bode well for Sherra.

The van and his personal possessions. Lorenzen was using Sherra's van while he was in town. Neighbors reported seeing him drive up in her van. They reported seeing him leave in the van a few minutes later. Then in the morning, the van's still there?? Hmmm. Sherra reported to the police that she didn't know what vehicle he was driving or if he was in some other person's car with them. Also, Lorenzen's wallet was found at Sherra's house along with another of his cellphones.
Box of drugs and cash. The day before they found Lorenzen's body Sherra told the police that on the night of his murder he came to her house with a box filled with drugs and cash. He took it with him when he left. My sources tell me that the box did indeed exist but it was filled only with drugs (no cash) and that it belonged to SHERRA. Lorenzen was taking it to dispose of it because he didn't want drugs in his house around his children. A box filled with drugs would be one reason to kill someone don't you think? Sherra needed to get that box filled with drugs and would probably do whatever necessary to get it back. Especially if the drugs were on consignment. Very bad things happen to people who take the drugs and never bring the money to their supplier. Or maybe the drugs belonged either to the boyfriend or Mr. Barberman? Either way, it would not be a happy ending if Sherra allowed the drugs to be destroyed by Lorenzen. Another absurdity to this story is the assertion by Sherra that Lorenzen brought the box filled with cash and drugs into her house and showed it to her. From what I've been able to gather, they weren't exactly close best friends at the time of his death.
The night Lorenzen died a 911 call was made from his cellphone a little before midnight. The operator heard a man utter an expletive and then heard at least 10 gunshots before the call was disconnected. When they found Lorenzens body they did not find the cellphone with it. What they did find was his very expensive jewelry/watch still on his body and a large amount of cash still in his pocket.
Custody fight. Let's assume for a second for the sake of argument that Sherra, Mr. Barberman and Sherra's boyfriend were the culprits in this murder. Lorenzen is lured to Sherra's house (he told his mother before he left her house that he was headed over to Sherra's so this part of the story is undoubtedly true). He fights with her about money and he tells her he is going back to his mother's house and will see her in the morning. Rumor has it that Lorenzen had planned to take the children back to Atlanta and was then going to file for full custody of them. The rumor states that Sherra had fallen into a very rough crowd and was using drugs on a regular basis. It was Lorenzen's plan to get the kids to Atlanta, file for custody in Georgia and then cut all ties with Sherra. This particular rumor holds a lot of weight with me because it is coming to me from friends of the Wright family.
What if during their heated argument, Lorenzen let that fly? What if he told her to have the kids stuff ready tomorrow because they are coming with me to Georgia and I'm going to get full custody of them? People tell things they never should when they are mad. This could easily have happened. Then he storms out of the house. She calls boyfriend and Mr. Barberman. Or perhaps she didn't have to call them. Perhaps they were at her house the whole time? Boyfriend and Mr. Barberman get in their car and chase after Lorenzen. Doesn't matter if they are chasing him because he has the box of drugs or has threatened to take the kids (thus effectively ending any cash cow they had) or a combination of both.
They catch up to him on the shortcut he always used to get to his mothers house and they convince him to pull over. Men do stupid stuff in the heat of the moment. A woman would never pull over on that isolated stretch of road. There are no houses or businesses on that strip of road at all. It is narrow and heavily wooded on both sides. Men however, are convinced that they can handle themselves and since he had already taken the boyfriend down a notch once in a fight, what was to convince him this fight wouldn't end the same way? He probably didn't even realize that Mr. Barberman was in the car with the boyfriend.
Lorenzen stops the car and leaps out of it and heads back to boyfriends car intent on having it out with him. Then he sees boyfriend isn't alone AND boyfriend has a gun - Sherra's gun. Lorenzen calls 911 on his cellphone and before he could cry for help, boyfriend unloads the gun on his head and then they drag him out of the road and beyond the treeline to a field where they take his cellphone, one of them drives Sherra's van and they go back to Sherra's house where the neighbor gets a look at the three of them having a very animated discussion in the front yard. After they leave, Sherra starts a fire in her fire-pit and burns the cellphone and probably their bloodied shirts.
She then has to "cover her tracks" so she tells the kids and Mr. Wright that Lorenzen changed his mind and decided at the last minute to go to Europe for a little vacation. She starts talking about the druglords and how Lorenzen didn't pay his child support. She tried to convince people that it was Lorenzen not her, who was involved in illegal activity and hooked on drugs. She implies that perhaps he went off to commit suicide? She smeared his character and reputation as much as she could to shove the focus off of her and onto Lorenzen. After the police search her home, she gets a criminal attorney and refuses to cooperate any further with the police to find the killer of her children's father. Within weeks of his death, she moves closer to Lorenzen's mother's house supposedly so she could help her cope with her grief.
Memphis has had its fair share of murder mysteries during its long history. This one, at least to me, is really no mystery. People always say don't listen to rumors. I'm here to say rumors and old wives tales usually have their origin in some grain of truth. You just have to take all of them and sit them next to the facts that are known and the next thing you know, a truth will emerge. Like that old saying "where's there's smoke there's fire".
Sherra, the boyfriend and Mr. Barberman may all be completely innocent of any involvement in this murder. However, they still should not sleep too soundly. There are hundreds of people sitting in Prisons all over our country who have been convicted of murder where the only evidence at trial was circumstantial. There are people sitting in prison convicted of murder without a body. This trio of characters needs to be extremely proactive in assisting the police in whatever way humanly possible to find the real killer if in fact they are innocent.
The Memphis Police Department has an 80% solve rate on their murders. That's pretty impressive considering the shear volume they deal with every year. The Memphis District Attorney's office has a 95% conviction rate. These are numbers that this trio needs to take very seriously if they want to spend the rest of their lives as free citizens.
But that's just me.


(As of December 16, 2017)    Another arrest.  This time the arrestee is none other than Lorenzen Wright's ex-wife, Sherra Robinson Wright.  She was arrested in her California home where she had been living with her brother after running through the entire $1M life insurance payout on her husband.  At last count, which was 10 months after Lorenzen's death, she had exactly $5.03 left.  Link below.  The link contains a video which offers far more information than the written article.

(As of December 7, 2017)  An arrest has been made.  The bond had been set at $1M but has since been revoked.  The man charged, Billy R. Turner, was a Deacon in the same church that Sherra Wright attended.  This man has a LONG rap sheet dating back to the early 90's.  An anonymous source, directed the police to a small lake in northern Mississippi where the murder weapon was found and from that they traced the crime back to Turner.  The article I have pasted, lists him simply as indicted but he has since been formally charged and arraigned.  He bonded out but his bond as since been revoked and as such he is now sitting in jail awaiting his trial.

Another article regarding Turner's arrest: