Ms Magazine: Maryland Slaps Domestic Victims in Face

Maryland Slaps Domestic Victims in Face

March 9, 2010 by Elizabeth Black · 14 Comments

Please comment and Forward on!


A bill that would have made it easier for domestic violence victims to obtain protective orders against their abusers has failed in the Maryland House Judiciary Committee. According to The Washington Post , “H.B. 700 would have brought Maryland into conformance with the practices of every other state in the country.”

The bill would have replaced the current Maryland standard that victims must offer “clear and convincing evidence” in order to gain a protective order, rather than a “preponderance of the evidence.” Maryland, the Post pointed out, is the only state using this higher standard.

The failure of the Maryland House to lower the standard–and thus better protect the abused, who are generally women–is a slap in the face to all who have suffered at the hands of partners and can’t get the help they need.

Protective orders can be lifesavers; the lack of them can be deadly. Take the case of Mark Anthony Castillo.  The Montgomery County, Maryland, man drowned his three children in a hotel bathroom after his wife was not given a protective order despite his threats against the children.

Want to let Maryland legislators know how you feel about their decision? Here’s a list of those who voted againstand for this important and necessary bill:

Against making it easier to obtain a protective order:

Curtis S. Anderson (D-Baltimore), Benjamin S. Barnes (D-Prince George’s), Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore), Frank M. Conaway Jr. (D-Baltimore), Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel), William J. Frank (R-Baltimore County), J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore County), Kevin Kelly (D-Allegany), Gerron S. Levi (D-Prince George’s), Tony McConkey (R-Anne Arundel), Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s), Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore), Todd L. Schuler (D-Baltimore County), Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery) and Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil)


Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery), Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery), Susan C. Lee (D-Montgomery), Susan McComas (R-Harford), Kriselda Valderrama (D-Prince George’s) and Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/meggganhope/ / CC BY 2.0

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  • Sandra Bullock Marriage Trouble: What Happens If She Divorces?

  • Jesse James and Michelle McGee Twitter: Sandra Bullock Moves Out

  • Sandra Bullock Husband: Jesse James Cheating with Michelle McGee

    • Jesse James has three children from previous marriages – daughter Chandler and son Jesse Jr. with first wife Karla James and daughter Sunny with second wife Janine Lindemulder. Although Bullock did not officially adopt any of James’ children, she has said that she treats the children as her own.

      “My love and my want for their future and their happiness, for their homework to be done and for them to know how smart and beautiful they are is no less than if I’d had a child on my own.”

      Source: people.com

      James has also said previously that his children “love and adore” Bullock.

      In October of 2009, James’ second wife Janine Lindemulder was jailed for six months over tax evasion charges. Lindemulder sought to regain custody of her daughter Sunny. She failed, with James winning full custody rights. Bullock was reportedly very involved in the process.

      Now, that Bullock’s marriage is in trouble, it is not clear how the family will go about their children. People Magazine reports that James was seen escorting his children to school on Thursday morning while still wearing his wedding ring. There was no Sandra Bullock in sight. The actress has reportedly left family home in Los Angeles in the wake of cheating allegations.

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      Dr. Phil & Action Alert! Kathleen Russel with Katie Tagle The Crisis in Family Courts

      Lets hope dr fool dont f^&*  this one up-

      CJE Web Header 600


      CJE's own Kathleen Russell has been invited to appear on the Dr. Phil Show!
      She will be speaking about the growing crisis in our family courts, and will appear alongside Katie Tagle and others. Tagle's 9-month-old child was killed by his father after three judges denied the boy protection, even after the dad threatened in writing to kill their son.
      This is a great opportunity to make sure Dr. Phil takes the crisis in our family courts seriously!
      We encourage anyone who can make it to LA this Wednesday to COME TO THE DR. PHIL SHOW TAPING & SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!
      To RSVP and claim your FREE admission, call either: Elaine at 323-956-3334 or Jason at 323-956-8497 this Monday between 10AM - 4PM. Be sure to tell them that you heard about the taping from CJE!
      DATE OF TAPING: Wednesday, March 24
      LOCATION: Provided Upon RSVP (Hollywood)
      TIME: Arrive at the studio no later than 8:00AM -- taping will begin at 9:30AM and you will be free to leave by around 11:00AM.
      Check the

      CJE website for more information - we'll keep you updated as we firm up the details.


      Nearly 100 people gather to protest Judge Lemkau
      - Victorville Daily Press 3/8/10
      Rebellion in the California Court System
      - ABC7 News 2/25/10
      For more information, contact CJE at 415-256-9606, or at info@centerforjudicialexcellence.org


      Please plan to join us in Sacramento to support Whistleblower Protection in the California Courts.
      Hearing Date TBD - likely early April
      Assembly Judiciary Committee Hearing - AB 1749 (Whistleblower Protection)
      Since 2001, court employees in the state of California have been exempt from Whistleblower Protection -- meaning they could lose their jobs if they report wrongdoing. AB 1749 -- authored by Assemblymembers Bonnie Lowenthal and Audra Strickland -- proposes to expand Whistleblower Protection to judicial employees.

      Remember to check CJE's website often for updates about this hearing and other great opportunities to get involved! 



      California Protective Parents Association
      and Incest Survivors Speakers' Bureau invite you to the

      16th Annual Northern California Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Conference

      What Happens When Children Report Sex Abuse 

      April 9-10, 2010

      Friday, April 9th (Film Festival

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      A hasty Marriage in Domestic Violence Court makes a Mockery of the Law (MD) - of course


      Another Judge who must go.


      Cupid on the bench

      Our view: A hasty marriage in domestic violence court makes a mockery of the law

      March 19, 2010

      Judges are required to make all sorts of decisions from the bench, many of which have life-altering consequences for the parties before them. But rarely are judges tempted to play the role of Cupid in domestic disputes. That crosses a line where jurists should fear to tread.

      Yet Baltimore County Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. apparently felt no compunction about wading into matters of the heart where his court had no business. Confronted with a domestic violence case in which the alleged perpetrator sought to evade conviction by marrying his victim, the judge was only too happy to oblige. Not only did he briefly postpone the trial so the defendant could get a marriage license, he presided over the nuptials himself in chambers a few hours later.

      You probably can guess what happened next. When the trial resumed, the bride - for reasons we may never know - invoked her spousal privilege and refused to testify against her husband. As a result, the charges were dropped and the groom left the courthouse a free man.

      There's a good reason the law in Maryland - as well as many other states - allows prosecutors to press charges in cases of suspected domestic abuse even when the apparent victim doesn't want them to. Victims are often in no condition physically or emotionally to confront their abusers in court. They may fear retaliation, or they may continue to believe promises that the abuser will change, no matter how many times they're broken.

      We have no way of knowing the emotional state of the woman in this case, but it's at least possible that she may have felt intimidated by the mere presence of her alleged abuser in court and fearful of what he might do if her testimony sent him to jail. It's likely he had already pressured her not to testify. Judge Russell's offer of a quick marriage to solve her dilemma may only have increased the pressure on her to remain silent.

      How could the judge not realize such an extraordinary intervention from the bench was bound to color the victim's perception of what kind of justice she could expect from the court, or that it flew in the face of the crucial protections the law was intended to provide? Judges may see themselves as possessed of the wisdom of Solomon, but it's precisely in cases such as this that the law should act as a check on judicial overreaching.

      Clearly that did not happen in this case. The defendant's request for a postponement so he could obtain a marriage license should immediately have set off alarm bells for Judge Russell. But instead, he leapt to the defense of the alleged abuser and crudely joked afterward that he had "sentenced" him to "life married to her." In fact, she may be the one serving the sentence.

      County Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn was right to immediately reassign Judge Russell to paperwork duty on civil cases after learning of the incident, but the matter cannot be allowed to end there. Judge Russell showed appallingly poor judgment and insensitivity in this case, rendering it almost impossible to imagine him ever serving as a fair arbiter of justice in cases of domestic abuse. Advocates for battered women were right to question whether he has the temperament to be a judge at all. At the very least, the public needs to know he will never be presiding over domestic violence cases again.

      Readers respond

      Judge Russell shouldn't have authority over any civil cases, on paper or not, after this incident.


      Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

      Related stories

      From the Baltimore Sun

        Bad judgment

          From other Baltimore sources

            Judge, Lawyer ’Surprised’ By Interest In Marriage Case|wbaltv.com

            Judge Who Married Abuse Suspect, Victim Reassigned|wbaltv.com

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            Reproductive Rights, Parental Rights, and Family Violence: A Dangerous Intersection

            Parenting News Network


            By Joan Dawson

            March 17, 2010 - 1:27pm

            Joan Dawson's blog | Printer-friendly version | Login or register to post comments | ShareThis

            Joan Dawson's picture

            This article was updated at 1:44 pm EST to insert a missing paragraph.

            When do reproductive rights end? Do they end at birth? Do they continue throughout a child’s life? Do reproductive rights extend to parental rights? These are questions we are just starting to ask. And finding the answer can be, in many cases, the difference between life and death.

            Most agree that women have a right to control their own bodies. However, recent research shows that some men sabotage women’s use of birth control and some use coercion to get a woman pregnant. Abusive men use these tactics to control women. And in cases where a woman then has children in an abusive setting, what are the woman’s reproductive rights and how do these intersect with her parental rights? Surely, charges of “failure to protect” can be used against her if she or the child is harmed. But what happens when women flee such relationships or try to deny abusive parents access to their children? Does either the judicial system or society support her in her efforts to protect her children? Do we believe her? Provide her with protection? Deny abusers access to children?

            We are actually witnessing an erosion of protections of women and children in abusive relationships. In this article, I examine the ways in which policies that reflect social biases painting women as “vindictive” liars, combine with the efforts of both alleged abusers to fight to regain control of their wives and children and fathers’ rights proponents  are harming women and children trying to escape abuse.

            Approximately 100,000 contested child custody cases occur each year in the U.S. Two-thirds of these involve domestic violence, committed overwhelmingly (90 percent) by fathers, according to Harvard’s Jay Silverman, in a forward to the book Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody. Research finds that men who assault their wives are also likely to abuse their children. While we are likely to believe that the protective parent would gain custody, this is not often the case. In contested custody cases, men who seek custody get it up to 84 percent of the time. The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence estimates that approximately 58,000 children a year go into unsupervised, joint or sole custody with an abusive parent. What’s a mother to do to protect herself and her child?

            Failure to protect

            In a recent case our judicial system was tested and failed. Katie Tagle sought a restraining order on Jan. 21, 2010 against her ex-boyfriendStephen Garcia to stop him from having unsupervised visitation with their nine-month-old child. She told the judge Garcia threatened to kill the infant. The judge thought she was lying. The court transcript records Judge Robert Lemkau as saying, “One of you is lying…” And later, “Mr. Garcia claims it’s total fabrication on your part.” Garcia also referred to it as “little stunts and games” that “she used” to deny him access to his son. Even when she mentions the evidence of the threats, he says, “Well, ma’am, there’s a real dispute about whether that’s even true or not.” And finally, “My suspicion is that you’re lying…” (said twice). He denied her the order (as did two other judges). Garcia took their son that day and drove off into the mountains. Ten days later they were both found dead.

            If this were only an isolated case, it might end there. But it’s not.

            Within two weeks of the Garcia-Tagle case, on February 8, 20-year-oldNicholas Bacon shot his nine-month-old son and then himself. Bacon had joint custody. 

            Shortly after these two cases, 34-year-old Jesus Roman Fuentes shot his four-year-old son during a court-ordered visitation. The boy died at the hospital. The father, who had also shot himself, died this past week.

            And following on these three cases, Mark Resch shot his seven-year-old son during a scheduled visitation and then committed suicide. The apparent motive was revenge against his estranged wife. In this case, the wife sought two orders of protection and police removed a gun from the household. Evidently, the family court judge still believed this man was a safe parent.

            Mark A. Guenther was charged in the murder of his 18-month-old daughter this month. According to a commenter named Brokenhearten, who posted acomment on the news article:

            Her mother tried and tried to get something done so that she did not have to go see her father. She had DFS out to his house, they found nothing...She filed for an order of protection on a couple different occassions...they were dismissed...She refused to let her see her dad until her back was up to the wall...the court systems had tied her hands and she had no other choices but to let her sweet baby go to her dads house and hope that everything was ok...

            Once again, parental rights trumped safety and the system meant to protect children ignored the dangers identified by the mother.

            Family court and fathers’ rights = A deadly combination

            Historically, battered women have had problems retaining custody of their children. Mainly this was due to how they present; in a word, poorly. They cry, they’re frightened, they appear anxious and even hostile. Now add to this mix the Fathers’ Rights movement, a group referred to as anti-feminist, backlash and even, the “Abusers’ Lobby” and you have what amounts to a catastrophe, if not a deadly combination, for women and children. (In contrast, positive parenting or responsible fatherhood groups often work as allies with women.)

            The Fathers’ rights movement (along with many Men’s rights activists), has introduced policies such as “friendly parent” policies, joint custody, punishment for false allegations and various syndromes to family courts across the country (as well as in many Western countries and in India). Most of these policies seem beneficial on the surface -- but have hidden dangers lurking underneath.

            In today’s courts with friendly parent policies, a battered woman will look anything but friendly. So who gets custody? The one who appears most likely to share parenting responsibilities. Often enough, the batterer.

            Joint custody is another policy that sounds fair in principle, but experts warn it is not ideal for couples with high conflict. Family court is, however, known to be “the place” for couples with moderate-to-high conflict. Most couples (roughly 85 percent) resolve parenting plans themselves. Those that can’t, and often enough those with some prior history of abuse or control, go to family court. Fathers’ rights groups would like to see family courts enforce presumptive or mandated shared custody. Experts in domestic violence would not.

            Domestic violence experts also cringe at the idea of punishing false allegations, something the fathers’ rights groups actively promote. Since accusations of abuse can be difficult to prove – with evidence and witnesses – this can serve to punish parents for alleging abuse. Punishment deters reporting. Parents can be fined, jailed or denied custody if the judge doesn’t believe their accusation. Domestic violence expert Barry Goldstein says, "Research has established that fathers in contested custody cases are 16 times more likely than mothers to make false allegations. It is not that men are more dishonest, but 90 percent of contested custody cases involve abusive fathers seeking custody to pressure their partner to return or punish her for leaving. Although fathers are more likely to make false charges, courts are more likely to believe them.”

            Parental alienation (PA) or parental alienation syndrome (PAS), the idea that a parent poisons the mind of the child(ren), is another idea introduced within the last two decades by fathers rights groups. Developed by Dr. Richard Gardner, PAS is highly controversial. Proponents claim parents (mostly mothers) turn their children against the other parent. Opponents claim PAS can mask child abuse. Indeed, research by Jay Silverman found 54 percent of cases with documented abuse were in favor of abusers. PAS was used in nearly every case.

            In many of the cases I’ve cited, had the women tried to deny the fathers access to the children, they could’ve been countered with “alienation” or the judge could’ve immediately transferred custody over to the more “friendly” parent.

            In a case stemming from November, for example, Danielle Horvat fled with her three-and-a-half-year-old boy, Garrett Aguilar on a day that she had a dispute with the boy’s father, David Aguilar. She stopped at one domestic violence shelter. Despite the fact that police did not investigate her claims of abuse, the court immediately transferred custody over to the father, as they often do when parents flee.

            The incredible lightness of domestic violence

            Thanks to the aid of the Internet, (mostly) men that make claims of being falsely accused or alienated find support, encouragement and targets for their anger -- which is aimed at their exes, or women in general and feminists in particular. Individuals and groups that promote studies referring to domestic violence as 50-50 or “mutual” also find supporters within this crowd. Many of these claims are based on studies that rely on self-reportage or pick up common couple violence. Their limitations include using self-report; not picking up severe violence or homicide; not putting violence into context (was it used for self-defense?); and not including violence during separation (the most dangerous time for a woman). What the promotion of these studies has done is introduce the element of doubt. If you combine this with women’s low credibility (due to societal bias and the biases of the legal system), you have danger.

            Take the case of Timothy Frazier. In May 2009, Frazier convinced police his ex-girlfriend Candice Dempsey was a threat to their 21-month-old son. While Frazier made it very clear to police he did not have custody, police readily handed his son over to him. Two weeks later, both were found dead.

            Even when the woman is believed, it is not often the father will have his parental rights terminated. Last year, Octavious Dupree Gilmore punched his ex-girlfriend in the head and threatened to kill her, their two kids and himself.  The Gaston Gazette reported him as saying, “"...(I)f I can't have you, nobody can," Gilmore allegedly told her. "I'll kill you, the kids, then myself." He was charged but later released. According to the article, he was told to "have no contact with the accuser outside of their child custody agreement," (emphasis mine). Despite an assault and death threats, the judge believed this man to be a safe parent.

            In another case, charges of domestic violence were not given much weight, as they were not placed in context of the abuser’s history. Craig Alan Wall, Sr. was a suspect in his 5-week-old son’s death. He violated a protection order when he went to his son’s memorial. The prosecutor never mentioned that Wall was a suspect in his son’s case or that he had served a 14-year prison sentence for armed robbery. The judge released Wall on $1,000 bail. Two days later, he stabbed his ex-girlfriend (the child’s mother) to death. She was 29 and left behind a 6-year-old son.

            Fathers rights do not trump women and children’s safety

            In many of these cases, the women are doing what they are “supposed to do:” reporting domestic violence, filing orders of protection, using shelters, and so on. And yet, despite jumping all the hoops set up for them, in many of these cases, the system is failing them. The women in question are not finding justice for themselves or their children. As a result, we find women who feel forced to stay with an abuser or forced to share parenting rather than not be able to protect her children at all. These women are not “failing to protect,” but the judicial system is failing to protect them and their children from further harm, abuse and death. (For citations to research on women losing custody, see www.leadershipcouncil.org) [Note: organizations like Justice for Children do report men experiencing similar situations, but overwhelmingly we witness women facing this type of bias and injustice in family court.]

            Many of the fathers rights guys think their reproductive rights extend to their parental rights. This should also be the case for women -- and, indeed, many mothers’ rights groups have sprung up in defense of these rights. So the question remains: When do our reproductive rights end? How can we we prevent women from losing custody of the very children they bear? How can we help them protect themselves and their children from harm? How can we help women receive justice in a judicial system that may not believe their claims and may actually punish them for making abuse allegations?  Fathers do have rights, no doubt, but their rights do not trump women and children’s safety. That is the balance -- the justice -- that we must seek -- and it’s a matter of life and death that we do so soon.

            Joan Dawson's blog | Printer-friendly version | Login or register to post comments |ShareThis

            . . . . .


            Please login or register to post comments...

            Thank You, Joan

            I've been trying to find a way to merge reproductive rights, maternal health care, and domestic violence/what's occuring in the family court system so that women could know the entire spectrum of what they are up against.  We have so many women that join these men's groups and they just don't have a clue what they are getting into.  I am so tired.

            Submitted by randijames on March 18, 2010 - 3:27pm.

            Excellent post

            I have seldom seen these issues connected in such an articulate and well-documented fashion. Kudos to Joan Dawson for a job well done!

            Submitted by silverside on March 18, 2010 - 3:31pm.

            Great Piece

            Unfortunately, the family court process is commonly used by abusers to continue abusing their partners. I really appreciate your analysis of this being an extension of reproductive coercion and control. Abusers who impregnate their partners against their will don't want a child, they want a pawn. And they will use that child in an attempt to regain power after a victim leaves.

            Several states have passed exemptions from the friendly parent provision in cases where one parent is acting in good faith to protect a child from witnessing DV or being a victim. The problem with carving out exemption for DV, however, is that the burden is then on the victim to prove it. Many victims don't have documentation of the abuse, and as you demonstrated with the examples above, the judicial backlash has been strong. Of course, including the exemption is better than not, so I strongly support it.

            One of the most frightening aspects of the fathers' rights movement is how successful they are at spin. Their response to cases where divorced or separated fathers kill their children and themselves is that the court system drives them to it.

            Submitted by ack on March 18, 2010 - 3:55pm.

            This was a fabulous article.

            This was a fabulous article. Not long ago, I was a resident at a women's shelter, and the stories the other women there told me about child custody battles and courts were just awful. It's good to see a break-down of the policies that lead to these terrible court decisions so that we have a better understanding of how to fight back. Still, it's very discouraging that we have these problems at all.

            Submitted by MechaShiva on March 18, 2010 - 3:58pm.

            I don't know where to even start

            Your article is so slanted and biased I am not sure even where to start. I guess I would like you to post some supporting documentation proving your points, rather than using anecdotal incidents.

            How many fathers total get sole custody of children? What percentage of child murders and abuse are perpetrated by the biological father (not stepfather?) What percentage of child murders are perpetrated by the biological mother? How many women do exactly what you accuse men-cheat or tamper with birth control to get pregnant? What are the motivations to lie about PAS vs outright abuse-who has the most support to do so, and the most to gain and how many are successful?  What percentage of domestic violence situations are mutually violent?  If mutual violence occurs, then should the kids go into foster care, since violent parents are likely to abuse kids? Are there cases where women kill their own kids to get back at their husbands?

            What you are talking about here is trumping the rights of all innocent men (any man who has not been convicted of a crime by definition in the US btw) to preemptively keep fathers from their kids based on accusations alone. It is irrelevant if these accusations are occasionally true-that is sad, but it has to stand. Our country was built on basic principles of law which say you cannot punish someone for something without proving them guilty. What you propose is not only against the law, it is directly unconstitutional. Every person is innocent until proven guilty. What you propose is something out of Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany. Do you really want the government to have that sort of power? WHat happens when you are the person they decide to expel next?

            I hate to see stories where one parents kills the child out of retribution or spite. It is just as often women I hear about doing this, yet I would not support preemptively taking kids away from mothers on the unsubstantiated accusation of the father, either. There MUST be checks and balances.

            Women and children are not one entity, they are separate people. A solid and factual arguement could be made that men and children are more likely to be abused than women; lumping the two together is a cheap way to bolster stats.  Reproductive rights for the mother  ends the moment that child is no longer inside the body of the mother; then they become two separate people.

            I really hope you are willing to provide documentation for your accusations. I am interested to see what you find to my questions above.


            Submitted by JenK on March 18, 2010 - 5:08pm.

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            Baltimore Judge Marries Accused Abuser to Victim During Trial to Avoid Testimony







            Judge Marries Alleged Victim, Puts Her on Stand Minutes Later

            Wood and his betrothed were excused for the 25 minute drive to the Towson court to get a marriage license and were married back in Russell's chambers a short time later.

            Once the trial reconvened, his new bride was immediately put on the witness stand.

            "She invokes her marital privilege so there's no evidence in the case. And the judge finds him not guilty," Ryan said.

            Whether anyone files a complaint against Russell remains to be seen. A spokesman for the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities said complaints against any judge are confidential until that judge is publicly charged.

            There are no public actions on record for Russell.

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            Cedar Hill couple's deaths may be murder-suicide


            07:10 AM CDT on Thursday, March 18, 2010

            JON NIELSEN / The Dallas Morning News

            A man and woman were found dead Wednesday morning in an apparent murder-suicide at their home, a city spokesman said.

            Friends hadn't heard from the husband in several days and went to check on him at the couple's home in the 1500 block of Sharon Drive about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. They called police after finding the bodies of the two, who had been married about four years. The DallasCounty medical examiner's office identified the couple as Jerry and Amy Mayfield of Cedar Hill.

            City spokesman Corky Brown said detectives found Amy Mayfield, 37, wrapped in a sheet in the garage of the home near Kingswood Park, west of State Highway 67. Jerry Mayfield, 45, was found in his car parked in the garage. Both appeared to have died from gunshot wounds, Brown said.

            He said it's unclear when the slayings occurred, but the husband had left notes and e-mails for detectives detailing their deaths.

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            Sunriver deaths were murder-suicide, police say


            Last modified: March 17. 2010 5:16PM PST

            Deschutes County investigators say a Sunriver man strangled his wife and son then hanged himself last week in what authorities are now calling a murder-suicide case.

            Joachim Steffan killed his wife, Dagmar, and 7-year-old son, Pascal, then left their bodies in the bedroom of the home on Hermosa Lane. Investigators say he also cut the throats of the family’s two cats and a dog and left the animals’ bodies in the house as well.

            Detectives found three suicide letters in the home and determined that e-mails had been sent to family in Germany that also talked about the suicide, according to assistant Deschutes County district attorney Darryl Nakahira.

            Authorities are still waiting for toxicological results to come back and the investigation remains open. But, he said, investigators have determined that the deaths were a murder-suicide.

            -- The Bulletin


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            Divorced dad/convicted serial killer wants to see his kids again


            B.C.-born man was the 'Happy Face Killer'


            Keith Hunter Jesperson, 54, grew up in Chilliwack; he says he'd like to come back but for four life prison terms

            By Glenda Luymes, Canwest News ServiceMarch 14, 2010

            He is serving four consecutive life sentences for killing women he met at truck stops and blue-collar bars on roads across the United States.

            But if Keith Hunter Jesperson ever gets out of prison, he plans to come home to Canada.

            Many troubled years separate the boy who grew up on an acreage near Chilliwack from the man who lured women to his plum-coloured Peterbilt truck and murdered them.

            It was Jan. 21, 1990 -- a dismal, grey day in Portland, Ore., according to prison interviews with Jesperson by journalist and true-crime author Jack Olsen.

            The 35-year-old divorced father of three was taking a break from his job as a long-haul trucker after getting too many driving tickets. He was frustrated, broke and bored. He visited a tavern to shoot pool.

            Outside, he met 23-year-old Taunja Bennett and invited her home. They had sex. Something enraged him, and he beat her before strangling her to death.

            That night Jesperson drove to the Columbia River Gorge where he dumped her body into a ravine. No one saw him.

            Bennett's body was found by a cyclist the next morning.

            A 57-year-old grandmother named Laverne Pavlinac confessed, saying she held Bennett while her boyfriend John Sosnovske killed her.

            The woman, who hoped to get out of an abusive relationship with her confession, led investigators to the place the body was found -- she later said she had read newspaper accounts of where the body was found and said she peeked at the odometer in the police car to lead them to it.

            The couple went to jail. Two years after Bennett's death, Jesperson killed again.

            He seemed to enjoy getting away with murder, taunting police with notes scribbled in bathroom stalls at rest stops in Montana and Oregon.

            He wrote letters to newspapers and courthouses. All were signed with a happy face, earning him the nickname The Happy Face Killer.

            In interviews with Olsen, Jesperson described a total of eight murders. The confessions are contained in the author's 2002 book I: The Creation of a Serial Killer.

            He would eventually receive four life sentences -- the last one coming just two months ago in California.

            The killer has shown he feels remorse only for himself.

            "My night times in prison are spent dreaming of seeing my kids one more time," he told Olsen. "Would I escape if I was let out by accident? Damn right I would. Back to Canada, to Chilliwack. I should have gone there 30 years ago."

            Jesperson was born on April 6, 1955, a middle child with two sisters and two brothers. He was a big kid, quiet, sometimes a little slow.

            In interviews with Olsen, Jesperson talked about being teased by other kids. He recalled swimming in nearby Cultus Lake with a classmate who tried to drown him by holding his head underwater.

            He described finding excitement in animal abuse -- torturing and killing gophers, crows and cats. He claimed to have started small fires.

            The killer claimed his relationship with his father was also twisted.

            In a telephone interview last week from Yakima, Wash., the now-elderly Jesperson said his son blames him for being a tough father.

            "Keith is a different person. I'm ashamed of what he did, but he's paying the price," he said.

            The elder Jesperson was a popular figure in Chilliwack. At 28, he became an alderman.

            In Olsen's book, Jesperson characterized his father as an abusive alcoholic and blamed him for turning him into a cold-blooded killer.

            He was 12 when the family moved to Washington.

            "I didn't want to leave Canada," he told Olsen. "I knew every tree in our woods, every ripple in our creek . . . Chilliwack was the greenest place on earth."

            Melissa Moore's family life was marked by fear. When she was six years old, she found kittens in the family's cellar.

            "I pretended I was their mom," she recalled. "My dad asked if he could see them. I knew he had bad intentions, but I had no control. He hung them by their tails on the clothesline."

            Keith Jesperson had met Moore's mother, Rose Pernick, 10 years earlier at a hamburger drive-thru. He was running a Washington state trailer park with his father after a bad fall in high-school gym class ended his dream of becoming an RCMP officer.

            They married and had three kids, including Melissa.

            It's unclear if police in B.C. have investigated Jesperson in connection with any unsolved homicides. RCMP Cpl. Annie Linteau said police on both sides of the border share information, but could not comment on specific cases.

            Jesperson was finally arrested in 1995 for killing his girlfriend, Julie Winningham -- his only victim who was not a stranger.

            After discovering he was under investigation, he confessed to a sheriff. He also wrote a letter to his brother, admitting a total of eight murders, including the murder of Taunja Bennett.

            That confession led to the release of Laverne Pavlinac and John Sosnovske, who had recanted their confessions. They spent four years in prison for Bennett's murder.

            Jesperson received his fourth life sentence in a California courtroom two months ago. The case was straightforward.

            Jesperson, his hair now grey, pleaded guilty to murder.

            The judge handed him a life sentence, his fourth, meaning Jesperson will be over 125 years old before he's eligible for parole. The 54-year-old convict returned to the Oregon prison where he will someday die.

            The woman he was killed was identified in court documents as "Jane Doe aka Claudia."

            Her body was found on August 30, 1992 in the California desert. Most of what is known about her -- even her name -- comes from Jesperson himself in a letter to an Oregon newspaper.

            Those who might remember Claudia do not know she received justice, or that she deserved it.

            Her childhood, her history -- even her identity -- remain a mystery.


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            Maryland NEWS FLASH - Two dead in Carroll County murder-suicide

            NEWS FLASH -

            Wednesday, 17 March 2010 02:39


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            By Kevin Dayhoff

            (Hampstead, MD)  – Maryland State Police were called to the scene of an apparent murder-suicide in the late-morning hours of Tuesday just outside Hampstead in northern Carroll County that left two men dead.

            A 911 call came in to the Carroll County Emergency Operations Center shortly after 11 a.m. “from a woman in the 1200 block of Allview Drive," according to police. "She told the dispatcher that her ex-husband had just come into her home and shot her fiancĂ© before shooting himself.”

            When police arrived they found two deceased males in a first-floor family room at the rear of the house, according to Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. 

            A subsequent investigation indicates that one of the males, identified as Michael L. Swift III, 45, of the 3600 block of Benson Avenue in Halethorpe, is alleged to have used a shotgun to shoot his way through a sliding glass door in the back of the house.

            At that point, police believe that Swift shot Zaidan S. “Steve” Asid, 51, and then turned the gun on himself.  A .12-gauge shotgun was still in Swift's possession when police arrived. 

            The police investigation revealed that the woman who had made the 911 call is apparently Swift's former wife -- and was engaged to Asid. (Investigative Voice will not identify her because she is the victim of domestic violence.)

            Police indicate that she was in her residence at the time of the shooting, although no one else besides Asid was there. She was taken for a medical examination but found to be apparently unharmed physically. 

            The deceased were transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for autopsies as the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit spent the rest of the afternoon investigating the scene.

            Police said the investigation is ongoing. Check back with Investigative Voice for more details as they develop.

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