New reality program “Missing Billions” to air on CNBC

A new reality show pitting teams of contestants against one another to see who can lose the most money to waste, fraud and corruption will have its premiere on CNBC.  Dubbed “Missing Billions,” the show is inspired by news stories of rampant fraud and financial mismanagement across multiple sectors from government, the military, banking, finance and nonprofit organizations.

“The recent FTX scandal shows what’s possible when you put a group of enterprising young people in an apartment together and give them access to billions of dollars.  The level of corruption and fraud is astounding.  I mean, the company’s founder Sam Bankman Fried loaned himself a billion dollars in walking around money.  Leave it to those nutty young people to do something so daring, so nakedly corrupt and stupid,” said the show’s creator Lanny Milken. 

Missing Billions’ producers say they will not just limit the pool of contestants to private sector shysters.  Teams from government and the public sector will be called upon to put their talent for fraud and abuse on display as well.

“There is a potential emerging scandal coming out of the Pentagon over possible mismanagement of billions in military aid to Ukraine.  Of course, we’re all aware of the Pentagon’s ability to disappear billions of dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Congressional appropriators and the military are unmatched when it comes to shoveling dough into a black hole.  We would be remiss not to showcase their talents on our show,” Milken said.

Missing Billions also plans to feature bad actors from the world of charities and nonprofits. 

“Probably the hottest growth area for financial fraud is the nonprofit sector.  It was recently revealed that 47 people in Minnesota were charged in a fraud scheme to steal $250 million from a federal program that provides meals to low-income children.  Much of the misappropriation of funds involved a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future.  Overall, the Department of Justice is investigating more than $8 billion dollars in suspected pandemic fraud.  Turns out even the do-gooders are do-badders,” Milken said.

Missing Billions will feature all the secret schemes, dirty tricks and classic corruption.  “All will be revealed,” Milken promises.  “A wise man once said, ‘You don’t know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.’”

Sam Bankman Fried turkey is a Thanksgiving holiday hit

Disgraced crypto crusader Sam Bankman Fried, who currently finds himself a prisoner in his plush polyamorous penthouse pleasuredome, is not finished improving the lives of countless Americans.

In one of his last acts of elective altruism, SBF donated a million turkeys to food banks across the country so needy Americans could enjoy a proper turkey dinner courtesy of the crypto kingpin.   

As a show of appreciation, Americans are forgoing the oven, opting instead for the deep-fried succulent goodness of a Sam Bankman Fried turkey.

It is reported that prior to his downfall, SBF personally oversaw the slaughter of a million turkeys.  “This is going to make so many people so happy,” SBF is reported to have remarked. 

Sources are now reporting that the billion dollar personal loan SBF gave himself out of his company’s coffers was done to fund this massive turkey giveaway.

If true, these actions would seem to confirm the New York Times reporting that far from being an amoral, narcissistic scam artist, SBF was simply a young man too kind and generous for his own good. 

Media, politicians and celebrities all agog over new SBF token Lucky Charms

Undeterred by his current circumstances, scambolic crypto wunderkind SBF wasted no time jumping back onto the crypto carousel promoting his latest crypto investing token Lucky Charms.  Speaking from their polyamorous penthouse pleasuredome in the Bahamas, the former FTX gang made the announcement live on CNBC.

“We’ve got several different investment tokens to choose from, each representing ascending levels of risk and exposure.  There’s Orange Stars, Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons, Green Clovers and, of course, Blue Diamonds,” SBF announced to much adoration and fanfare on CNBC’s CryptoBox.  “We would encourage everyone to jump into the Blue Diamonds as soon as possible.  There’s a limited supply and we expect the value to increase rapidly.”

In addition to promoting the virtues of generating wealth out of thin air, SBF continued to be mindful of the reason he got into this business in the first place.  “Look, we’re always going to put our mission of elective altruism front and center in everything we do.  I mean, I could elect to make you rich, or I could elect to make myself rich.  So don’t just selfishly assume that I’m putting your interests front and center.  Think about somebody else for a change, like me.”

Already, celebrities and politicians are lining up to secure a sweet slice of the crypto cake.  Former President Bill Clinton took a break from billionaire island hopping to attend the penthouse announcement.  “I think what these kids are doing is just wonderful.  Hey, but watch out for that one over there.  She’s a vicious little viper,” Clinton said, gesturing at Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison.

Apparently unaware of the live announcement taking place, a hopped up Klaus Schwabb was seen wandering around in a bathrobe in the background, “As you can see, this is truly a global initiative,” said SBF.

Two currents in Delphi investigation yet to merge

Two Indiana waterways, Deer Creek and the Wabash River, merge at a location southwest of downtown Delphi.  Each identifies a separate current of information known to the public about the police investigation into the murders of Abigail Williams and Liberty German of Delphi.  The Wabash flows through Peru within blocks of the home where Kegan Kline lived at the time of the murders.  Deer Creek is part of the crime scene, of course, and flows beneath the Monon High Bridge where, authorities contend, Richard Allen pursued and confronted the girls back in February of 2017.  Deer Creek empties into the Wabash River at Delphi, but will the two currents of the investigation ever merge?

According to WISH-TV, Richard Allen “told a state conservation officer he was in the area on the day of the killings, but his report may have been considered unfounded, a police source tells I-Team 8.

“Allen, a 50-year-old resident of Delphi, went to the conservation officer right after the teens’ murders on Feb. 13, 2017, and said he was on the Monon High Bridge that afternoon but didn’t see the two girls, the source says.

“Williams and German were dropped off near the bridge on the day of the murders. Their bodies were found the next day.

“Allen’s statement was forgotten until recently when Indiana State Police became frustrated with the status of the Delphi investigation and asked a group of investigators to look over files related to the case.

“Investigators believe Allen is the man on the bridge in the cellphone video and in sketches released by police, the source tells I-Team 8.”

This new revelation would seem to indicate that investigators stumbled upon the Richard Allen lead independent of any information they received from Kegan Kline.  Taken on its own without additional context, the information appears to indicate that Richard Allen acted alone.

However, the WISH-TV reporting goes on to verify another bit of speculative info related to the Wabash River branch of the investigation.

“The police source also confirms that the recent five-week state police search of the Wabash River in Peru was connected to the Delphi investigation.

“It was initiated after Kegan Kline told police they would find a cell phone and weapon in the river, the source tells I-Team 8.

“Kline, 28, a figure linked to the Delphi murders who has not been charged in the case, revealed that information while being questioned about the deaths of Libby and Abby.

“That evidence was never found and Kline is known for lying to investigators.”

While it is certainly possible that the Wabash River/Kegan Kline current of the investigation is entirely bogus, and Kline is just a big fat lying piece of excrement who has been misleading investigators for months, why then would we continue to see Kline’s trial postponed due to his ongoing negotiations with prosecutors?  Could it be that the current negotiations are related only to his child-porn-related charges?  

Perhaps, but there is another possibility which may hold the key to whether these two investigative streams will ever merge.  Regarding the sealing of the probable cause affidavit, Dr. Jody Maderia of the IU School of Law in Bloomington told WISH-TV, “There may be other individuals that they are seeking to apprehend and there could be details they don’t want getting out in the public to control the quality of that investigation.” 

Additionally, Allen was charged with what is commonly referred to as “felony murder,” indicating that he could be charged with other felony crimes, or he could have participated in the commission of a felony during which someone else committed the murders.  While bits of information emerge that on their own seem to point to Allen’s sole culpability, a wider context still allows for the possibility that Kegan Kline may somehow be involved.  Only when more of the pieces are in place will we learn if the two investigative currents merge like Deer Creek into the Wabash River, or diverge into a Kegan Kline initiated morass of bullshit and lies.

Predator in the park Part 6

The day before Kenneth Munson was scheduled to go on trial on June 17, 2003, prosecutors met to discuss a potential plea agreement.  Munson, who had already admitted involvement in the crime, had waived his request for a speedy trial and began working with prosecutors on a deal.  In the meantime, Hugh Munson, who Joseph McCormick identified as the driver of the dark blue or black Camaro tied to Peggy Sue’s kidnapping and slaying, was released by investigators after he passed a polygraph examination.  “We thought there wasn’t enough evidence to keep him,” said Hancock County Sheriff Nick Gulling.  “At this point, we don’t feel that witness testimony was credible.”  

As just a simple country blogger here with no legal expertise, I’m baffled as to why the sheriff would publicly undermine the credibility of potential witnesses that could be called upon to aid in the prosecution of someone for the murder of Peggy Sue Altes.  They’ve already made a deal with McCormick for his testimony.  Even if Gulling thought McCormick’s story lacked credibility, why wouldn’t he just keep his mouth shut about it?  Why is he providing ammunition for a possible defense and sewing seeds of doubt for a future jury to chew on?  And, if McCormick’s story lacked credibility, why then did prosecutors give him such a sweet deal, especially when they had him dead to rights with the DNA?

Remarkably, as prosecutors prepared for trial, Joseph Mark McCormick was serving the final months of his sentence for child molestation.  Due to good behavior, McCormick only had to serve three years of his six year sentence, and he had already been given time served for his pretrial stretch in the Hancock County Jail.  That meant, at the time of his sentencing, he had only a little over a year left to serve.  The man whose DNA proved he raped an 11-year-old girl, along with his own testimony tying him to a kidnapping and a murder, served a mere three years in prison.   

On August 21, 2003, Kenneth Wayne Munson testified at a bond hearing for William T. Beever.  Beever’s attorney, Larry Amick, confronted Munson with an array of statements and testimony Munson had given to investigators and the courts over the years.  Munson had variously given statements omitting mention of William Beever and testimony identifying Beever as the assailant of Peggy Sue.  Munson also testified in McCormick’s bond hearing that his brother, Hugh Munson, was involved in the crime, but at this bond hearing denied his brother’s involvement.  Despite Munson’s conflicting testimonies, Joseph McCormick’s testimony corroborated the account that William Beever delivered Peggy Sue’s fatal stab wounds, and that Hugh Munson was involved with the crime, whether or not he was present at the time of the murder.  Ken Munson’s story that Beever committed the murder is cited also by Judge Hamilton in his decision freeing Jerry Watkins.  This is not a new version of events, invented to garner a plea deal, but one that had been mostly consistent over the years, and McCormick’s testimony confirmed it.       

On Thursday, September 18, 2003, Kenneth Wayne Munson agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal confinement resulting in serious bodily injury of a child.  Although he faced a potential 20 year sentence, Munson got six years.  With good behavior and time served, he would be out in as little as three years.  This is a man who admitted in court to pushing Peggy Sue to the ground and stabbing her.  But, of course, Hancock County prosecutors were playing the long game, right?  They were strategically building a case against William Beever, the man who actually delivered the fatal stab wounds, and they were going to use the testimony of McCormick and Munson to secure that conviction.  

In February of 2004, prosecutors sought a delay in the trial of William Beever because new evidence had surfaced strengthening their contention that William Beever delivered the fatal stab wounds that lead to the death of Peggy Sue Altes.  “We had some things that came out of statements (from Beever’s defense),” Hancock County Prosecutor Larry Gossett told the Daily Reporter.  “You think a case this old would be done, but new things keep coming up.”  At the time, this seemed like a very positive development.  The prosecution had two witnesses who confessed to their own involvement in the crime, and were serving prison sentences, ready to testify to Beever’s participation.  Now they had this new information.  After twenty years, the table was set to finally convict the actual perpetrator for the brutal murder of Peggy Sue Altes.  Next to the scarcity of evidence and lack of reliable witness testimony in the Jerry Watkins case, this prosecution must have seemed bullet proof. 

In April of 2004, a week before the trial of William T. Beever was scheduled to begin, the Hancock County Prosecutor Larry Gossett moved to drop the charges.  Prosecutors cited the need for more time to investigate.  Additionally, prosecutors were up against an April 28 deadline to bring the case to trial or the charges would be permanently dismissed.  The move to drop charges now bought them another year to investigate and refile at a later date.  Of course, prosecutors would never bring William Beever to trial for his involvement in the slaying of Peggy Sue Altes.  He would, however, be convicted for raping an 11-year-old Marion County boy and be sentenced to a 70 year prison term where he would eventually die while incarcerated.  Reportedly, Beever had threatened to kill the boy if he ever told.  But the boy, knowing Beever was securely behind bars in the Altes case, gathered up the courage to tell his story.  In the end, this brave boy did what prosecutors in Hancock County were either incapable or unwilling to do.  His courage put a very dangerous man behind bars and brought about a small measure of justice for Peggy Sue and her family over Peggy Sue’s murder.

On Veterans Day, November 12, 1984, a little girl had the day off school and desired only to spend it playing with friends.  She went to Porter Park and played with some young boys she met there.  Most likely, they talked about school and kids they each knew and teachers they disliked.  They flew high on the swings, watching their feet stretch towards the sky.  No doubt, they occasionally released their grip on the chain and felt themselves float free of their seat on the swing.  There Margaret “Peggy Sue” Altes let go and drifted weightless in the air above Porter Park, laughing, gleefully shrieking, and hovering over a bare patch in the grass where she would eventually, in due time, come to land.

“There are days when it is all I can do to hold it all together,” Myrlene Altes told the Daily Reporter in November of 2004.  “You don’t forget a child or something like this.  They say that God knows what happened.  They will have to stand before God and take his punishment.”

Sources:

The Indianapolis Star

The Indianapolis News

The Daily Reporter (Greenfield, Indiana)

Watkins v. Miller, Southern District of Indiana (2000)

Nearly two weeks separates search of Delphi suspect’s home and arrest

According to Fox59, “50-year-old Richard Allen was arrested and taken into custody at the Indiana State Police’s post in West Lafayette on Wednesday, October 26. He was formally charged with two counts of murder two days later on October 28.”

On Monday night, HLN’s Barbara MacDonald reported that Delphi suspect Richard Matthew Allen’s home and property was searched by investigators on Thursday, October 13.  

What prompted investigators to knock on Richard Allen’s door that mid-October day, and can the nearly two week gap between the search and his arrest shed any light on how Allen ended up on their radar?  If the account MacDonald gleaned from Allen’s neighbors is accurate, it would appear that Richard Allen may have only become a suspect that morning, and investigators, most likely, had not yet acquired much evidence against him prior to arriving at his home that day.  

MacDonald reported neighbors “noticed a lot of activity outside his house, a lot of cars that appeared to them to be unmarked law enforcement vehicles, a lot of men not in law enforcement uniforms, but in suits and khaki pants, all arriving at the house just before noon.  They asked Richard and his wife to exit the home and to remain outside of the home throughout the day.  They weren’t allowed back into the home until around 11:00 p.m. that night.  During that time, Richard stood outside.  His wife sat in a van.  He stood outside that van for several hours.  One of the photos shows that, that we’ve exclusively obtained.  Another photo shows him sitting in the van with his wife, with the passenger door open for another several hours.  At some point, as it was starting to get dark out, these neighbors noticed that the Carroll County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tony Liggett arrived.  He had a piece of paper with him.  He showed it to Richard Allen.  At that point a tow truck arrived and started taking the car away…one that he (Allen) routinely used.  They began a search inside the house and also in the yard using some sort of a device, perhaps like a metal detector or something like that, to search a flower bed and an area around a shed.  They did dig around the shed and some small areas.  They took a lot of photos in the shed….Officers came out of the house carrying several bundles of cloth, dark cloth, perhaps clothing, a Macy’s shopping bag, a shoe box, and a stack of books.  At this point we don’t know what any of that means for the investigation.”  

If the above account is accurate, and investigators are removing the Allen’s from their home while a search warrant is being obtained, it would seem likely that Richard Allen only became a suspect that very morning.  Why would they not have arrived there with a warrant in hand unless this was a spontaneous event?  Also, if they’d had conclusive evidence pointing to Allen, why would they not have arrested him the day of the search?  Whatever evidence or information led to his arrest, it likely was obtained during the search and required an additional thirteen days of examination before authorities felt confident enough to arrest Allen.

It seems doubtful that DNA led to Richard Matthew Allen.  If this was the case, then they probably would have arrived at his home with a search warrant and possibly an arrest warrant in hand.  It seems more likely that some tip or cyber discovery resulted in the identification or location of his home.  While there is yet no known linkage between Allen and Kegan Kline, does anyone honestly believe that this guy was not a consumer of online pornography?  If the killings were the realization of some fantasy, like many experts speculate, then it would be almost a cosmic certainty that the suspect Richard Allen was immersed in a world of online child sexual abuse material.  And if that’s true, could Richard Allen, or his online profile, have ended up in the orbit of Kegan Kline?  Was Richard Allen just a profile or an anonymous acquaintance of Kegan Kline’s before he became known by name to authorities on October 13?

Whatever prompted investigators to rush to the suspect’s home on October 13, it would be the granddaddy of all coincidences if one of the victims was in social media communication with a child predator in the morning and then was pursued and ultimately murdered by another child predator in an unrelated incident that afternoon.  It is heartening to see law enforcement continuing to investigate until they are certain that all involved are apprehended and justice can prevail for Libby, Abby, and their families.

Predator in the park Part 5

With a murder trial looming, Joseph Mark McCormick in March of 2003 secured an extraordinary deal with prosecutors in the Peggy Sue Altes murder case.  Agreeing to plead guilty to child molesting, McCormick saw the murder charges against him dropped in exchange for his cooperation and testimony against others involved in the crime.  The man whose DNA connected him to the crime would not only not face trial for murder, but was sentenced to a mere six years in prison followed by 14 years of probation.  Surely the proffer of such a sweetheart deal to the one man tied to the crime by physical evidence must have been made with the full confidence that his testimony would secure convictions against those responsible for the murder.  How could officials let a man off with only six years for raping an eleven year old girl unless they were absolutely certain that the worst monster of all was going to spend the rest of his life behind bars?

Days after McCormick’s plea, additional men were arrested for the murder of Peggy Sue Altes.  As a result of McCormick’s cooperation, the brothers Hugh Perry Munson, 44, and Kenneth Wayne Munson, 41, along with William L. Beever, 46, were charged March 14, 2004, with murder, felony murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  Kenneth Munson, who had been cooperating with investigators, was already being held in Marion County on a theft charge.  Hugh Munson, who was living in Florida at the time, waived extradition and was transferred to Hancock County.  William Beever was a resident of Danville, Indiana.  These three individuals were not unfamiliar to Hancock County investigators.  According to reporting by Paul Bird of the Indianapolis Star, these men were on investigators’ radar back in 1984 as their names appeared in police notes from the time.  Failure by prosecutors to disclose investigator’s suspicions of these individuals to Jerry Watkins’ defense attorneys was one of the reasons his conviction was overturned.  According to U.S. District Judge David Hamilton’s decision, “The notes on the Munsons and Beevers reflect a confusing and sordid account of drug use, knives, violence, and adult men having sex with underage girls.”  

Even as the three suspects sat in jail charged with murder, Hancock County Sheriff Nick Gulling continued to downplay how much information they had on these men at the time of the original investigation.  “We had pieces of evidence from several different sources but no real link between many of the pieces,” Gulling told the Greenfield Daily Reporter.  Gulling discounted the story of the 7-year-old boy at Porter Park who saw Peggy Sue forced into a black or dark blue Camaro at about 2:30 the afternoon she disappeared.  “The description of the car that the 7-year-old witness gave us didn’t fit a vehicle that anyone knew anything about at the time, and the description of the man with whom she was seen didn’t sound like any of the guys we were being told about.”  As for William Beever, Hugh Munson and Kenneth Munson, Gulling dismissed their significance as suspects.  “None of them had any motive.  They were just people that were mentioned who were in the park or lived in the neighborhood.”

That last quote bears repeating:  “None of them had any motive.  They were just people that were mentioned who were in the park or lived in the neighborhood.”  Again, investigator’s notes on these three men reflected “a confusing and sordid account of drug use, knives, violence, and adult men having sex with underage girls.”  I realize I’m Monday morning quarterbacking here, but I fail to see how Jerry Watkins had a stronger motive than these three losers.  Peggy Sue was raped.  How is the cover up of that crime not as strong a motive as the Jerry Watkins’ molestation motive?   Yes, Jerry Watkins could be tied directly to Peggy Sue.  But he could also be excluded as her rapist because his blood type did not match that of her attacker. Also he passed a polygraph and had a solid alibi.   So, if it’s true that these men were known around the neighborhood, known to have frequented Porter Park, and known to have sex with underage girls, then why wouldn’t these guys rank near the top of the list of suspects?  How does the word of witnesses and neighborhood residents count for less than a jailhouse snitch? 

Joseph Mark McCormick testified at a bond hearing for the three accused men on Wednesday, June 4, 2003.  His version of events matched what he’d told police and remained consistent under questioning from defense attorneys.  According to McCormick, he began the day by driving a friend to work and then visited an old girlfriend’s house to use drugs.  “We ran out of dope there, and I knew I had some at home, so I drove back,” McCormick told the court.  When he arrived home, there was a light blue van parked near his house.  McCormick testified that Kenneth Munson and William Beever were inside the van with Peggy Sue.  “They said the van wouldn’t run and wanted to use my phone to get somebody over there that could get it running.”  McCormick told the court the three men had sex with Peggy Sue at his home.  They then made plans to purchase more beer and “go out to the country to party when we could get the van running.”  After repairs were made, McCormick drove the van, which belonged to Kenneth Munson, and followed another car around the eastside of Indianapolis and into Hancock County.  “It was a black or dark blue Camaro or Firebird.  I really can’t remember, but I followed it all around the area,” McCormick testified.  According to McCormick, in addition to himself, the occupants of the van included Peggy Sue, Kenneth Munson, and the brothers William and Kenneth Beever.  At some point, the dark blue or black car disappeared and Kenneth Munson directed McCormick to a location along Jacobi Road in Hancock County.  “It was after we got to the scene that Kenny told me that they were going to kill Peggy,” McCormick told the court.  “They told me they were going to kill her because she had sex with us and was getting ready to go to court to talk about having sex with some other guy.”  McCormick testified that the dark blue or black car driven by Hugh Munson arrived at the scene just before Peggy Sue was stabbed, first by Kenneth Munson, then by William Beever.      

In many respects, the story told by Joseph McCormick matches the one told by Kenneth Munson.  Both accounts mention the dark Camaro, which is corroborated by the 7-year-old Porter Park witness.  Both accounts mention the van and driving around the eastside of Indianapolis before ending up in Hancock County.  McCormick talks about buying more beer and Munson says they went to the liquor store.  It’s hardly a surprise that Munson’s story leaves out the part where he participates in the rape and later the stabbing of Peggy Sue.  However, Munson does implicate someone other than McCormick as the individual who delivered the fatal knife wounds.  According to Judge Hamilton’s decision in the Jerry Watkins appeal, Ken Munson points the finger at William Beever as the one who fatally stabbed Peggy Sue.  While Munson also gave contradictory accounts to the police, McCormick’s testimony corroborates Munson’s assertion that William Beever was the individual who committed the fatal stabbing.

This testimony is occurring nearly 20 years after the crime.  Details are bound to become fuzzy and less relevant ones fade away altogether.  It is not surprising that McCormick and Munson’s stories don’t cleanly align, and it’s even less surprising that Munson tries to downplay his culpability.  But each of Munson’s retellings reveals more of his involvement and brings his story closer to the actual events of that day in 1984.  Joseph McCormick’s testimony largely matches Munson’s, but places “Kenny” right at the center of events.  It won’t be long, however, before Kenneth Munson puts himself there as well.

Sources:

The Indianapolis Star

The Indianapolis News

The Daily Reporter (Greenfield, Indiana)

Watkins v. Miller, Southern District of Indiana (2000)

Slow explosions

I’m standing in my backyard while a torrent of orange and yellow leaves drift down all around me and pile up at my feet.  The scene is reminiscent of that moment at the end of a political convention when the nominee accepts their party’s nomination and a gusher of confetti and balloons is loosed from the hall’s rafters while the crowd goes nuts and Fleetwood Mac sings “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”  Only no one’s cheering and I’m not pretending to point at people in the crowd and act surprised to see them.  Actually, I do point at a squirrel and give him a thumbs up.  

A wise man named Tomberg once described an acorn as a “constructive atomic bomb.”  The oak itself is “the result of the slow explosion or the blossoming out of this ‘bomb.’”  If that’s the case, then I’m standing beneath a mushroom cloud.  This particular explosion came not from an acorn, but one of those helicopter seedlings that flew its mission generations ago, and detonated in this spot where the “slow explosion” of this mighty maple tree has been ongoing for, most likely, in excess of a century.  

The fallout continues.  Orange and yellow splotches combine with red from another explosion nearby to overwhelm the gray sky.  These are creative explosions.  Through the years, the maple I’m standing beneath has been home to quite a number of squirrels and a few woodpeckers.  It’s like a multi-family high rise.  Earlier this year, I discovered dozens of small bundles of twigs and leaves scattered about beneath the tree.  These were not dead parts that had broken away and fallen to the ground.  Some creature, undoubtedly engaged in a major renovation project, had cut away these leafy twigs to make room high in the canopy for its expanding living space.

Despite the hours of work ahead of me, for which at this moment Fleetwood Mac should be erupting in song and my family should be rhythmically clapping along in appreciation, it’s hard not to become disoriented in the brilliant twisting colors and the gentle murmuring of the wind.  When the moment pulls you away from yourself and surrounds you with its grace and beauty, everything’s ecstatic.  In this instant, I am a slow, silent explosion, imperceptibly unfolding. 

And then the mournful wail of a distant leaf blower breaks in and obliterates the moment.  Cursed leaf blower!  Then it’s just me, my rake, my tarp and quite a mess to clean up.

Predator in the park Part 4

With a confidential informant in sheriff’s custody revealing details of what happened on November 12, 1984, and a suspect, Joseph Mark McCormick, whose DNA implicated him in the rape and murder of Peggy Sue Altes, investigators finally began to let go of the idea that Jerry Watkins was in any way involved in the killing.  However, from the benefit of hindsight, one has to wonder if the damage was already done.  With Hancock County authorities so sure that Jerry Watkins was the guy, and their failure to pursue anyone else during the fourteen years Watkins sat in prison, how could investigators now be perceived as credible as they began to turn their attention to other suspects?  

According to the confidential informant, several men, including himself and McCormick, were participants in the crime.  After Peggy Sue was kidnapped from Porter Park, she was transferred from a car to a van that was driven by McCormick.  After driving around, the van ends up in the Hancock County field where the murder took place and where Peggy Sue’s body would eventually be discovered.  Initially the informant attempted to distance himself from the worst aspects of the crime.  “(The informant) at first said that he and another man were dropped off at a culvert near the scene but later said he actually went there and saw what happened.  He still has nightmares about it,” Captain Jim Bradbury testified at a bond hearing. 

Naturally, McCormick’s defense attorney John Davis highlighted the confusing and constantly shifting narrative of events offered by investigators.  “I am just trying to figure out what they say happened,” Davis said, playing the simple country lawyer for reporters.  “Their informant has told seven different stories of what happened….I’m just trying to make some sense of it all.”  Even as investigators were finally starting to put the puzzle together, it was clear they were going to face an uphill battle after they’d previously worked tirelessly to ignore the truth for so long. 

At McCormick’s bond hearing in late September of 2001, another member of the murderous crew responsible for the brutal slaying of Peggy Sue Altes emerged from the shadows when former confidential informant Kenneth Wayne Munson took the stand.  Munson testified that on the afternoon of November 12, 1984, he visited the home of a friend on the southeast side of Indianapolis.  After smoking some marijuana, he, the friend and several other men went to a local liquor store in a van driven by Joseph McCormick.  However, the men did not purchase any alcohol, but drove to nearby Porter Park instead.  There they met with another group of people who had already grabbed Peggy Sue and were holding her in a Camaro.  “They had her in the back seat of their car and they pulled the car up to the side of the van and shoved her from the car into the van,” Munson testified.  Once in the van, Peggy Sue was bound with cloth and sat on a milk crate between the front seats.  Munson sat in the back on the floor of the van as McCormick drove to a park on Prospect Street.  Most likely, the park Munson referred to is Paul Ruster Park at 11300 Prospect Street, near the Marion County/Hancock County line.  According to Munson’s testimony, it was at this park where McCormick raped the girl.  “I pleaded for the girl.  I tried to get him to stop but (another man) stuck a gun in my face and told me to shut up and don’t cause no trouble….I saw your client rape that baby,” an emotional Munson told defense attorney John Davis.  The man who threatened Munson with a gun was the friend Munson visited that afternoon.  Munson testified that he was bound with duct tape.  The van continued to the Hancock County field where Munson was able to free himself from the duct tape as McCormick again raped Peggy Sue and another man attempted to.  According to Munson’s testimony, McCormick then held the girl while another man stabbed Peggy Sue.  Munson testified that as many as five men were in the field when the crime occurred and that McCormick threatened him after the crime.  “Joe wanted to shoot me.  I ran and hid for two days.”     

Investigators believed Munson’s story because he was able to provide a description of the vehicles and weapons used in the commision of the crime.  Additionally, a year earlier, Munson was able to retrace the route taken by the abductors and lead investigators to the location of the crime scene.  “He was pretty shaken up about being there,” Indianapolis Police Department Lt. Louis Christ testified at the hearing.  “There was a small deer at the corner of Jacobi Road and the lane when we drove up that day and (Munson) started to tear up.  We stood there for a while and he just cried.  He wasn’t saying much that day.”

There seems to be little doubt that Ken Munson was a witness to the horrible events of that day back in 1984.  Even if he fudged a few facts in an attempt to limit his culpability in the crime, he clearly knew things only a participant would know, and the DNA evidence against McCormick backed up his story.  Despite his career as a criminal, Ken Munson seemed genuinely affected and remorseful over the events of that day, and willingly gave his testimony even though he surely knew that he was implicating himself in serious criminality that would land him back in prison.  However, as the murder trial of Joseph Mark McCormick approached, he too would have a few things to say about the bloody crime and the vicious men involved, things that would implicate others and reveal Ken Munson to be less the unfortunate witness and more the willing participant.

Sources:

The Indianapolis Star

The Indianapolis News

The Daily Reporter (Greenfield, Indiana)

Watkins v. Miller, Southern District of Indiana (2000)

Environmental activists spend eleven days glued to sculpture when museum patrons and staff mistake them for part of the exhibit

A group of environmental activists are recovering in the hospital today after spending nearly two weeks glued to a sculpture without access to food and water.  

Members of Earth’s Best Friend were rushed to the emergency room suffering from dehydration when it was discovered that they were not actually part of an art installation at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C.  

After gluing themselves to an exhibit entitled Bedtime For Capitalism, protesters set about imploring patrons to question whether wealth was more important than the planet and people.

“I just thought it was part of the installation,” said Arthur Whitfield, a security guard for the museum.  “I mean, they were quite convincing.  They poured motor oil over each other and stuck dollar bills to themselves.  Museum goers were literally taking out their wallets and sticking bills onto the protesters.” 

According to statements from witnesses, even days later when protesters began to beg for help, saying they were dying, instead of offering aid, patrons merely commented on how powerful the exhibit was.  

“People were in tears,” said Whitfield.  “That’s how moving the piece had become for them.”

Apparently, it wasn’t until museum officials contacted Bedtime For Capitalism’s creator to notify her of all the acclaim the piece was receiving that officials learned the protesters were not actually part of the exhibit.

However, contract negotiations are currently underway between the artist and protesters for a satisfactory sum to get the kids back on their feet and back into the exhibit.