Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis

Archive for the 'my life' Category

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018
Puppy Outing

We had our first jaunt out to the park today. Crowley’s shots are finally fully active, so we can do that without worrying about Parvo. They boys had never been and were absolutely entranced. Trying to look at and smell everything, running back and forth like Tigger on speed. They made me run with them in sandals, which is not wise for me, given the enormous and horrible black eye I gave myself while running in Birkenstocks a few years back. I tripped and landed on my face and while I didn’t break my orbital bone, it was awful and I still have a bruise on the bone that hurts. Also, I never did get my foot surgery so the right foot is still unhappy with me walking on it, much less running.

So anyhow, the puppies wanted to run exuberantly. I ran with them. I stopped far sooner than they wanted, but they weren’t unhappy because there were other things to sniff and see and hear and nose and touch. They came home, ate dinner, and then fell into a coma. Once they were rested, they began the evening parkour/MMA event, which still proceeds apace. Pictures of the boys below, sans Voodoo, who is annoyed with them. He has taken to lying beside me on the couch and eyeing the shenanigans with great irritation. I can hear him saying, “Get off my lawn!”

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018
Murder Trial Parts 3 and 4

Previously I talked about attending a murder trial. If you haven’t read parts one and two, I’ll give you the links to those pages.

Part I

Part II

What follows are the next two parts.

Murder Trial Part III

In Part I and Part II, I talked about things I’d learned and the initial testimony of the coroner, first cops on the scene, and the investigating detective.

Now a cybernetics and forensic sound detective was called to the stand. A lot of time was spent establishing in credentials. He had degrees in his field and he’d trained with the FBI and CIA, plus taken a lot of post graduate classes. He knew his stuff.

The reason he was called was because of Sparky’s phone, that as I said before, was found on the counter. It was an iPhone, and at first the police couldn’t get into it. About a week after the murder (and I’m calling it that because he was convicted), a member of her family produced the code and unlocked it.

That’s when they discovered the recording.

Now, this was interesting for me because I hadn’t heard any of the opening statements earlier that day, and so I had no context for the recording. I’m fairly certain the prosecution laid out its narrative of what happened in the opening, as did the defense, and so I think the jury must have had some context.

The detective was questioned about how he worked with the phone and how he took the recording off it. He talked about putting it into a Faraday Box so that it couldn’t transmit or receive any transmissions, and then went into technical detail about how he processed the phone.

Eventually, they got to the recording, which they proceeded to play. I’ll tell you more about that soon. Then there was an attempt to present an “enhanced” recording, which the defense objected to (they didn’t object at all to the recording’s initial presentation). Their argument was essentially that the enhancement would prejudice the jury (the jury had been removed from the courtroom for this objection argument). The prosecution argued that this was no different from photographs with arrows and explanations provided by investigating detectives.

The reason that they wanted the enhanced recording was because certain things on the recording could not be heard on the courtroom’s sound system. What the detective said was that in his sound room, with high end speakers and no exterior sounds, things could be heard that couldn’t be heard on the court speakers without pushing the gain and things like that. Basically, he was amplifying certain sound waves to make them more audible.

The judge ruled in favor of the prosecution. The jury came back in and then the enhanced recording was played. I’ll admit I didn’t hear a lot of what had been enhanced, but here’s the sequence.
One thing that wasn’t clear at the beginning was how much of the beginning of the recording had been cut that we didn’t hear. We learned that later. But I’ll get to that soon.

So first we hear a knock on the door. No one answers. Then the door opens and we hear footsteps. Maybe six or seven. Then we hear two quick shots and a gasping sound, and then the body hits the floor along with the phone. Then six more shots.

Then there are sounds and the phone is picked up. There’s swearing and the sounds of numbers being punched into the phone and then the cabinet getting kicked or the counter getting hit. After that, there are several minutes of walking through the house and more sounds near the phone, and more muttering and swearing. And then finally he calls the police.

Jason sounds panicky, though when he’s walking through the house he seems very calm. He says he’s killed his wife, that she wasn’t supposed to be there, that she attacked him with a knife. The operator talks to him and he claims he’s checking her pulse and she’s not breathing. He says he shot her eight times. The operator tells him to go outside and wait for the police to arrive, and we can hear the sirens, and then voices signaling the arrival of the police. What’s interesting is that we can hear the operator talking to dispatch and the dispatch talking to the officers. It was kind of surreal.

So that was the recording and the main evidence. As I think I mentioned at the beginning of all this, the reason I was at the trial was because my husband had been called by the prosecution to testify. I couldn’t be there for that, as he wasn’t called that day, and I couldn’t come back the next day.

But he’d been talking to Jason about Sparky and the difficulties in their marriage, and then at one point Jason (my husband thought jokingly and still does), asked a fellow hispanic employee if he knew any gang members. This is what they prosecution wanted to ask about. The implication being that Jason was looking to hire a hitman.

Next time . . . The defense story and my problems with their narrative.

Murder Part IV

All right, so last time I talked about the recording and the murder. Now I want to talk about the defense story of what happened and why I had such issues with it.

I read this in the paper, so I don’t have the details I might have if I’d been there, and I wish I could have been.
So what the story of the defense is as follows . . . .

It was Valentine’s Day. Jason and his girlfriend (who, in soap opera style, was the maid-of-honor at their wedding, and in news that doesn’t matter, her boyfriend was Jason’s former best friend), had decided to take his young kids to a Valentine’s breakfast at McDonalds before he went to work. However he had a bout of IBS and sent them without him and then called into work and said he couldn’t go.

He says that Sparky shows up after his kids are gone and they get into a huge fight and she threatens him, grabbing the bread knife to do it, and then storms out with it. Fearing she’ll return, he goes to get his pistol out of the gun safe which is why he has it. He claims that she returns a short time later, comes in with the knife and attacks him, and then he shoots her.

I had a number of problems with his story. First, I found it very hard to believe that he and his girlfriend would be taking the kids to McDonalds before school and before Jason left for work. Here’s why. He began work at 7 a.m., so he had to leave an hour early to get there. That means he had to get his two kids, ages somewhere between 6-10, out of bed and to eat before that. As a parent, I found that very difficult to believe.

Then there was his timeline. He didn’t text in to say he wasn’t going to be at work until after 7 (something my husband’s boss was called to testify about). So he knew he wasn’t going to work as early as six when he’d have had to depart, but doesn’t text his boss until after he was supposed to be there. Incidentally, the murder happened around 7 a.m.

Then there was the recording. She walks in and goes a few steps and there’s gunshots. No talking of any kind, no fight, no sounds of her attacking him with a knife.

Why was her phone on the counter? She was holding it as she walked in from the sound of things on the recording. You could hear it hit the floor when she fell. And along the same lines, why was the knife so loose in her hand when the backpacks in the other were so tight they had to pry out of her hand?

But there were a few other things that I haven’t mentioned. She’d made a habit of coming to pick up the kids before school when he wasn’t home, even though she wasn’t supposed to. I don’t know if that was a legal agreement or not. Apparently this made Jason very angry.

He’d switched vehicles with his dad the night before, saying he needed his dad’s truck. He left his car at his dad’s house. That meant Sparky had no idea he was home because the car wasn’t there.

But the big kicker was that this wasn’t the only recording. She’d recorded 12 other visits prior to this and the prosecutor played the first minutes of each time. They were the same. She knocked on the door and either walked in, walked down the hallway and talked to her kids and their grandfather—Jason’s father—(who seemed to always be happy to see her), or he answered the door and let her in.

Twelve times. Then on number thirteen, she walks in and gets shot. If she was planning to attack him with a knife, why carry the backpacks? She expected obviously her kids to be there, which suggests she wasn’t planning on a fight. Second, why record if she was about to commit a major crime like assault or murder? Makes no sense.

I find it difficult to believe that this wasn’t a premeditated murder. He got his kids out of the house. He made sure his car wasn’t there to warn Sparky. He lay in wait with his gun in the kitchen behind the refrigerator so he could shoot her as soon as she came out of the hallway. From the recording, she didn’t see him. He shot her before she knew he was there.

Clearly he wasn’t expecting the recording. He wasn’t expecting that his several minutes before the call to 911 would be heard by anybody, nor that he’d only checked her vitals to see how she was when he called. And no, I don’t think he actually checked her vitals.

I do wonder if I’d actually heard the defense and heard him on the stand, if I would have believed him. But I don’t know how he would have explained away the problems I see.

So that’s it. The whole part of the trial I saw and what I learned about later from reading the paper about his testimony.

This is a link to one of the accounts that includes a summary of his testimony.

 

 

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018
Asking for Money

Hi Everybody. I’m here to ask for money. My daughter is starting High School and joining the Competitive Marching Band. They get to go do a lot of competitions and for the first time in the school’s history, they are going to the Grand Nationals in Indianapolis. This means each student has to raise $2000. We’re doing what we can to participate in fundraisers and do our own, but I’m reaching out to all of you to see if you’ve might be able to scrape some pocket change out of the couch. Any little thing helps and it’s tax deductible. If you’re part of a business that might want to sponsor her, we will give you a picture and thank you note to post in your business. And I thank anybody who contributes in advance (I won’t know who you are or if you do, so let me know if you want to and I will send you a picture and thank you as well).

If you are able to, send the money through Paypal to: westsalemband@gmail.com with a notation that it’s for Sydney Francis. If you’d prefer to send it in, I’m attaching a screenshot of the form with the address. And again, thanks so much if you can offer anything. This is really an amazing opportunity for her.

And if you’d rather send through snail mail:

This is a video of last year’s band performing:

 

Sunday, July 29th, 2018
Murder Trial Part II

If you haven’t read part one and you want to, click here

I left off last time having talked about the procedure of the courtroom and what I’d learned. Now I’ll move on to the evidence.

The first person on the stand that I got to see was the assistant coroner. She got asked a lot of questions about her experience and her qualifications to testify, and then the questions turned to the body. They showed pictures of the body on a monitor, which was facing the jury so I couldn’t see it that well.

It was already established that Jason had emptied the magazine of his automatic pistol into Sparky. I can’t tell you what caliber, but I believe it was probably a .9 mm or a .45. I believe he fired eight shots total.

According to the coroner’s testimony, the first bullet went into her left shoulder at an angle. That’s the shot that killed her, going to her heart. After that, she was shot seven more times in the back.

After discussing the wounds and the likely order of them and which killed Sparky, it was time to move on to the cops who first on the scene. Jason was waiting outside for them. They secured him, and went inside. They found Sparky facedown sort of slumped up against the back of the couch.

The prosecutor now had one of the detectives lay up against the Judge’s stand (I don’t really know what that’s called) to demonstrate to the jury. The cop adjusted the detective until the scene imitated how he’d found Sparky.

Next he was asked about her body. In one hand she was clutching two children’s backpacks so tight that they had to be pried from her hand, and her other hand she held the knife that Jason claimed she tried to kill him with. The knife released easily from her fingers, which were loose on the handle. Her phone was found on the counter.

Then the prosecutor asked about the brass ejected from the gun. My understanding of the layout is this: A short hallway led from the front door to a room that was open concept. On the left was the kitchen with an island and the refrigerator was on the left as you walked in, blocking the immediate view of the kitchen. On the right was a pony wall with a computer set up in front of it, and directly ahead was the living room area with the couch where Sparky’s body was found.

Brass was found on the keyboard, on top of the fridge, and then littered around the kitchen floor.

The defense then asked whether the officer had made a mistake by removing the knife from the scene before the detective arrived and whether he thought the officer thought he’d tampered with the scene (there were no pictures of the knife in her hand).

Next is was the investigating detective’s turn. He was sworn in and asked about his report being correct and all that stuff I mentioned in my first post. He was then asked what he saw when he came on scene. I don’t remember if the body had been removed by then or not. I want to say no.

But the prosector focused a lot on the knife. The knife block with all the knives was produced, and then the knife that Sparky was supposed to have attacked Jason with. The last was a serrated breadknife with a very sharp inch-long or more point. It was established that these knives belonged to Jason. The defense queried about the fact that the knife was dirty, and indicated that before Sparky was supposed to have grabbed it, it had been used for cutting bread and so was on the island, not in the block.

This last was important because to get to the block, she’d have had to cross the kitchen, reach under the cabinet to the back of the block to get the knife. On the island, it was much more accessible to her.

Next they showed a video of the house interior and exterior. This, apparently, is common protocol in a murder investigation. Everything is filmed to establish where things were and where they weren’t. The body had been removed by this time. As he walked through the house and filmed, the detective indicated where certain pieces of furniture were and where rooms were. One thing they made a point of was that the gun safe was in another room.

So at this point, they dismissed the detective and called another detective, specializing in forensic sound and cybernetics. This is where I learned that Sparky had recorded her murder.

Next time: The recording.

Monday, July 16th, 2018
Murder Trial Part 1

I had occasion to attend a portion of a murder trial a couple months ago. My husband had to testify, called by the prosecution. More on that later.

A man was on trial for murdering his estranged wife on February 14, 2017. I remember that date because my husband had his wisdom teeth out that day, and we got the news the next morning just before I headed out for the Rainforest Writers Village, a writing retreat.

Why did we get the news? The accused (now convicted), named Jason, was a former coworker of my husband’s and they’d been talking about his situation over the previous months. Jason was in the middle of a bitter divorce with two young children in the middle (both under 10, I believe). He was frequently upset with his wife who he claimed was abusing the kids. He talked to my husband fairly regularly about it. My husband told him to document everything, and to work with the police and his lawyer. Jason claimed that her parents were willing to testify on his behalf in a custodial hearing, and he claimed that his wife’s boyfriend’s ex-wife was also concerned that Sparky (the murder victim) was abusing her kid and was talking to the police.

So we were feeling pretty sympathetic to his situation, given this information.

And then he killed her. Read the rest of this entry »

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018
It’s been a hard few weeks

It’s been tough at the Francis house for the last month or so. First there was a situation with my daughter at school. That’s ongoing but hopefully working out. Then one of our corgi boys died. We took him to the vet because he wasn’t feeling so good, and turned out his entire stomach and chest were full of cancer. We had to put him to sleep and it was horrible. I did not take it very well, I can tell you. But then we got a miniature blue heeler puppy. My husband really wanted him and we hoped Voodoo would like him. Voodoo has never been alone in his life: Viggo was his littermate. But Voodoo hates him. I’m hoping he gets over that. We also plan to get another corgi puppy in a few weeks. A great nephew of Viggo and Voodoo. He may be good company for Merlin (mini-blue heeler). His name will be Crowley. (Sensing a theme?)

And then, just when we thought things were evening out . . . . A couple days ago my husband fell down the stairs in the house and broke five ribs in six places. He’s in a lot of pain, as you might guess. It will be four to six weeks at least before he heals.

So things have been difficult here, though I’ve tried to keep writing and doing my work. It’s slow going.

Sweet Viggo. I miss him so much.

Voodoo

But I will leave you with some dog pics because of course you want to see them.

Merlin

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018
What Diana Doesn’t Understand

Viggo studiously not paying any attention to the tugging of the war.

I’ve recently discovered that I don’t understand the rules of tug-o-war with the dog. I’m not the only one. Viggo doesn’t understand the rules either. Or maybe he doesn’t understand the point of the game. Either way, when Voodoo decides he’s up for a game, Viggo just sort of stares with a kind of vacant look of confusion and then puts his head down and goes back to sleep.

Voodoo grabs his squeaky toy (I’ve learned the game is only fun if the toy squeaks–who knew?) and then invites me (orders/invites–it’s a fine line) to yank on it while he holds on to the other side. I shake it back and forth and pull, and he just sort of hangs on and leans back. He’ll keep it up forever. What I don’t get is why we are doing it. Why is it fun?

Voodoo wondering why I would write about him and wondering when I’ll be free for another game.

Is there a winner? If so, how do we know? On occasion, he’ll let go so I can throw it and he can chase down the hall after it and bring it back, and then we begin the tugging process again. Mind you, he doesn’t play fetch outside, nor does he fetch anything but his squeaky tug-o-war toy.

I have to admit that I don’t last long in the game. Maybe that’s how you win. You just have to not get bored and keep holding on. Voodoo is a master of the game. He can hold on forever and he never gets bored.

I have noticed that I am the opponent of choice. He won’t play with the kids much at all, though he will play with my husband on occasion. But if he does play with my husband, I have to be in the room and I have to be watching. Otherwise he’s over it.

 

 

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018
Crazy

That is, I’m feeling crazy. I’ve had so much going on. My husband has been looking for a job and having a bunch of interviews. We’re getting work done at the house again. I’m close to deadline and behind. I’ve been teaching. And mothering. And running errands and trying to figure out why my ocular migraines are getting worse. I wish I knew someone who had them too so I could talk about it.

I’m still losing weight. I don’t remember the last time I was at this weight. It’s been super hot (for the time of year–up in the 80s) and I’m soooooo glad I’ve bought shorts. I’ll be heading off to RT (Romantic Times Booklovers Convention) in May, and from there I’m heading up to Miscon, and then home. I’m not sure where all my time is disappearing to, but I’m working hard to stay on track. Anyhow, what’s crazy is how much my fingers are shrinking. I didn’t really expect them to shrink so much.

I’ve got a huge pile of clothes that don’t fit anymore, and I”m not sure what to do with them. I could donate them, but I’m trying to figure out how to give them to someone who might actually need them. Not sure what the best venue for that is.I’m also trying to figure out what clothes that are still in my closet that are too big, but I’m not sure I should get rid of. I don’t wear a lot of fancier stuff any more. Mostly I”m super casual. Some of the shirts that I’m trying to figure out are the kind I can wear over other things–like jackets, but shirts. They still look good, but I’m trying really hard not to hang onto the stuff I don’t need, or that I won’t wear much.

I also am woefully behind on getting my newsletter out and doing some updates to the website. I’ve got to get on both of those.

I have been doing some sketching. I used to draw a lot when I was younger, and then I kind of stopped. I’m doing animals, and working off pictures from online. I’m working toward being able to do a corgi, and I’d like to do some mythological creatures.

My tennis elbow is better. Not knitting yet, but I’m getting closer. I think.

I’ve got a bunch of tomatoes and peppers started in my kitchen. I’ve got some grow lights and a heating mat and things are progressing nicely. Now I just have to get out into the garden. And I have to spray my roses with Neem oil to stop the black spot. I’m hoping it will work. My plants have a fair big infestation.

When we moved here, I managed to mostly get over my whole: keep everything that’s still good because it’s too good to get rid of attitude. Then we moved and now I”m back to keeping more stuff than I should. So I’m trying to get rid of things. I’m hoping to do a garage sale. I hate doing them, but it would make it easier to get rid of stuff. And maybe get some money back. But mostly get rid of stuff.

Now I have a corgi pointedly rolling on his back and waving his paws in the air. It’s bedtime and he wants to go.

 

Friday, January 26th, 2018
Things that are going on

A lot has been happening recently, some good, some bad. I want to thank those of you who’ve contacted me with such positive encouragement on my books. I love you so much.

I’m 8 weeks post op, and I feel pretty good. I’ve lost a fair bit of weight since last May (which is when the process began–presurgery stuff). I’m feeling pretty good when I go out and walk. More energetic. I want to get on my elliptical, but my tennis (knitters) elbow is giving me trouble and so I haven’t gotten on it recently. I’ve tried resting it, icing it, heating it, using different bands and elbow supports, but nothing is really working. Yet. I’m doing some muscle exercises and hoping they are helping.

I start teaching online in an MFA program for creative writing program at SNHU in a couple of weeks. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been wanting to get back to teaching and I really like the SNHU program and their approach to online learning. I’m excited to be a part of the program.

It’s been raining something fierce here. For days. This is good, since we’ve not had the usual rain in November and December. Some of the storms have had pretty incredible winds and that makes me so happy that we cut down the tree we had out front next to the house. It was my favorite tree–big and leafy. But the big limbs coming out from the trunk had cracks in them and once we had it cut down, we discovered that two of them were rotted pretty well through, which means these storms we’ve just had would likely have brought them down on the house.

In the meantime, my son was invited to join the honors society at the college he’s attending as part of his Early College High School program (he’s a junior in HS but taking a full load of classes on the college campus). My daughter has been doing super well in her classes and making me really proud of all her progress. She’s always felt like she’s not as smart as her brother, not understanding that

he’s three plus years older than she is, and therefore of course he knows more things because he’s farther along in school. I think/hope she’s finally looking at herself and feeling strong in her abilities. She’s very smart, but now she’s hopefully starting to believe that herself.

The corgi boys are doing well. They are spoiled (more spoiled?) and enjoying forcing me to do their bidding. I’m such a sucker. This is a little selfie of them and me. Voodoo (whiter face) is trying hard to keep Viggo off me (he doesn’t like to share), but Viggo has flung himself down on top of Voodoo and is inching up onto me. Voodoo is very jealous. I think of it as Viggo’s revenge for Voodoo not playing more games with him. Viggo loves to play run and chase and Voodoo always quits before Viggo’s ready.

In a few weeks I get to go to the Rainforest Writers Retreat, which is near Lake Quinault in Washington, and it’s a lovely chance to focus on writing, be in nature, and enjoy the company of other writers. It’s one of the prettiest places on earth. It’s in the middle of a rainforest and the cabin where I’ll be staying with my roomie has a fireplace and right outside is a babbling brook. I love to open the window and just listen to the sounds of the water.

 

Saturday, January 6th, 2018
Five and a half weeks post surgery report

I eat too much. It’s really hard to connect the visual of how much I can eat with the actuality of what I can eat. So I end up feeling a little bit sick and too full and I’m working on that. Other than that, I’m down about 25 lbs since surgery, almost 50 since May. I feel good. Energy is up. I have recently had some intestinal issues which I am not sharing here, but I’m figuring those out and hopefully all will be good soon.

I’m looking forward to my next blood test results. I don’t know when that will be, but I really want to see how my A1C numbers are, as well as some of the others.

One of the keys of post surgery life it to make sure I get enough protein and water each day. So far I’m nailing those numbers, usually getting more water. So this makes me happy. And I’m getting my vitamins as required. So basically, the upshot at this point is so far so good. I just got cleared to lift more than 10lbs, which is really good. Though I still am working on curing the tennis elbow. It’s getting slowly better. I bought a nighttime elbow splint that I started wearing last night and that should help.

In the meantime, I’ve begun work on the next Horngate book. It’s a Horngate world story, so it’s set in the world, but at this point doesn’t include the characters from the first books. That also means that people coming in to the story with this book will hopefully feel situated. I do want to bring the characters over, or else write a further about those characters. I’m not really thrilled with the beginning, but that’s because I’m info-dumping and I’ll have to clean it up later. But right now I just need to get a skeleton down.