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Archive for 'mystery'

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, October 26th, 2017
Book reviews

I’m so behind on book reviews, but here are three to start getting caught up.

I’m in the mood lately for lighter fare, though I’m also loaded up with mysteries, so we’ll see if I go there soon. Anyhow, first books first. I received these from Netgalley, so you know.

This first is actually a paranormal mystery: Hide and Seek by Allie Harrison. (FYI–the publisher is the same as some of my books). It’s available now.

Here’s the back of the book blurb:

Can she stop a killer before he takes over her thoughts?

As a child, Tess Fairmont learned the horror of her psychic gift—the ability to not only see, but experience the last moments of a murder victim’s life when she grasps their hand. Now, as an adult, Tess has learned to live with the curse of her ability and does what she can to help the Chicago PD solve murder cases.

But when she uses her talent to help stop a serial killer, she finds there are things more terrifying than her visions . . . like a serial killer who can connect with her psychically. She soon finds the only place she is safe is in the arms of the medical examiner, Dr. Michael Adams.

Until the killer makes her his next physical target and forces her to play a deadly game of hide and seek.

 

I really liked the premise of this book and Tess’ talent is really unique engaging. This is a romance as much as a mystery, and I enjoyed both sides of the story, though Michael comes off a little as too good to be true. The killer is creepy and his interactions with Tess become increasingly tense and scary. I do wish there’d been a little bit more obvious connection between the killer and the victims, but the backstory did fit and made sense, plus since Tess is a random element to his story, it works. All in all, it’s a fun read (well, also creepy) and I recommend it.

4/5 stars

Next is a cozy mystery with a CORGI! Can you guess why I requested to review the book? I mean, a corgi. Anyhow, this book is Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth Duncan, available in November 2017.

Description:

The show ruthlessly goes on as costume designer-turned-amateur sleuth Charlotte Fairfax investigates the death of a disagreeable director in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery. Costume designer Charlotte Fairfax has another murder on her hands as she prepares for the latest performance of the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company,Much Ado About Nothing. The company’s steady growth enables them to cast star British actress Audrey Ashley, who arrives on scene to play the lead role of Beatrice. But things immediately get more complicated when Audrey insists the company replace the current director with new, up and coming British director Edmund Albright. Edmund plans to change the popular romantic comedy, which alienates several people associated with the production. And the list of people he upsets only grows: the laid off former director, the hotel owner’s secretary, and even Audrey herself. Just as Edmund’s plans are about to come to fruition, his body is discovered on his sofa, holding a gun in his hand. His death is quickly ruled a suicide but Charlotte thinks otherwise. Why would Edmund, on the brink of greatness, kill himself? And in such an American way? With a whole cast of characters to investigate, Charlotte is determined to unmask each one before it’s final curtain call on the whole production in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery,Much Ado About Murder.

 

First, I read this a couple months ago so I’m a little fuzzy on the details, except the corgi is Rupert and very cute. Anyhow the setting for the book is a lot of fun and I really like that Charlotte is not a young thing. The relationships between the characters are real and quirky and I really felt like I was there at the inn and theater. I’m afraid I figured out the murderer a long way in advance, but that’s okay because it was more about the process and the characters than the whodunnit for me. I enjoyed this book too (if I’m honest, I find myself putting down a lot of books I don’t care for these days, but I don’t write about them because my reason for not liking them is more about where my head is right now than the books).

Anyhow, if you like cozies, this book is for you. It’s good. 4/5 stars.

I finished The Christmas Holiday today. Yes, I’m in the mood for Christmas stories. I’m fond of romances and sap and Christmas stories tend to be full of both. Maybe I should explain that a little. By sap, I mean heartwarming, with friends and family and of course, an HEA.

The Christmas Holiday by Maxine Morrey is available now, and is a fun book. It’s got a British flair, which I enjoyed. Plus it had exotic elements as the characters travel to a variety of places.

But before I say more, the description:

Fall in love this winter on a romantic trip around the world ending in a fairy-tale winter wedding!

As winter comes to London, journalist Mia Walker is desperately hoping for her big break as a travel writer, dreaming of exotic locations and sun-soaked beaches. When she’s invited to write a romantic travel piece that ends in a huge winter wedding in London, she jumps at the chance. The only trouble is, the photographer is renowned adventure-junkie Hunter Scott, who Mia last saw five years ago when she ended their engagement.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and Mia knows she’d be mad to say no – even if it does mean spending weeks travelling round the world with the one man she never wanted to see again! But as the wedding approaches, and the magic of Christmas begins to take hold, Mia can’t help looking out for mistletoe – and wishing she hadn’t cancelled her own engagement after all…

I wasn’t sure at first how much I was going to like this book I liked Mia, but some of her bickering with Hunter seemed to go on far too long and seemed a little juvenile on occasion. But then Morrey seemed to settle in to the story more, and I really enjoyed the romance. This is not steamy at all, for those of you who want to know. There are kisses, but everything else is off the page.

I enjoyed the interactions between Liv and Sandy a lot, and between those two and our unhappy couple, Hunter and Mia. This book was a slow build and the solutions and sorting out the problems didn’t come quickly. It felt very real because of that, and yet I didn’t get bored for that slower pacing. I will say that at first I thought that the whole problem between them could have been solved long ago with a conversation, but as things developed, it became clear that a conversation wouldn’t have really done enough. Both needed to grow up some, and both needed to learn some life lessons of their own.

I definitely liked this book and I recommend it if you’re looking for a relationship read, with the emphasis on relationship. 4/5 stars.

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Friday, February 10th, 2017
Book Review: Dark, Witch, and Creamy by H.Y. Hanna

Book provided by NetGalley

Dark, Witch, and Creamy is a fun little contemporary fantasy with the beginnings of romance in it. Here’s the back of the cover blurb:

A witch, a kitty and dark chocolate magic…
Caitlyn is used to being the ugly duckling in her glamorous showbiz family… until the day she learns that she was adopted as an abandoned baby. Now, her search for answers takes her to the tiny English village of Tillyhenge where a man has been murdered by witchcraft – and where a mysterious shop selling enchanted chocolates is home to the “local witch”…

Soon Caitlyn finds herself fending off a toothless old vampire, rescuing an adorable kitten and meeting handsome aristocrat Lord James Fitzroy… not to mention discovering that she herself might have magical blood in her veins!

When she’s dragged into the murder investigation and realises that dark magic is involved, Caitlyn is forced to choose. Can she embrace her witchy powers in time to solve the mystery and save those she loves?

I enjoyed this book. It’s sort of on the cozy side of the mystery continuum, with fun and colorful characters and of course, chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I enjoyed Caitlyn and Widow Mags quite a bit, though I wish a little more about Caitlyn’s background had come to light. I also had some questions about Viktor and I hope those get answered in the future. I thought the magic elements were charming. My major complaint about the book is that while the bad guy is identified, the story seems a little unfinished (trying not to spoil it here). There is another book in the series that I think I’ll probably pick up. All in all, the book is fun and worth reading.

4 out of 5 stars

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