Archive for the 'True Crime' Category

Murder and the secrets of the universe

From The New York Times:

It’s “Amadeus” meets “Da Vinci Code” meets “Hamlet,” featuring a deadly struggle for the secret of the universe between Tycho, the swashbuckling Danish nobleman with a gold-and-silver prosthetic nose, and the not-yet-famous Johannes Kepler, his frail, jealous German assistant. The story also includes an international hit man, hired after a Danish prince becomes king and suspects Brahe of sleeping with his mother (and maybe being his father!).

For comic relief, there’s a beer-drinking pet elk wandering around Tycho’s castle, as well as a jester named Jepp, a dwarf who sits under Tycho’s table and is believed to be clairvoyant.

Naturally, the scientists analyzing Brahe’s remains are steering clear of all this gossip, including the claim that Brahe had an affair with the Danish queen that helped inspire “Hamlet.” The archaeologist leading the team cautions that even if they confirm suspicions that Brahe was poisoned by mercury, that wouldn’t necessarily prove he was murdered, much less identify the killer.

Who knew astronomy could be so exciting?

The Thanatos Archive

Happy New Year! Today we have a ghoulish visual treat for those of you who feel like you’re dead (or simply wish that you were) this fine New Year’s Day: an online archive of Victorian mourning photos and medical imagery to be found at Definitely one to add to the “Curious Exhibits” section of the blogroll…

Yes, it’s a paid site, but the proprietor maintains a Twitter account (which is how I found him – or, rather, he found me through my Twitter account – go figure) and a Flickr site along with a free preview collection of images.

Woman escapes vampires, but caught by deputies

I get emails:

Last night my shift had a wild vehicle pursuit. The chase went for over 25 miles, all over the western half of Washington County. The suspect car evaded at least one attempt at a spike strip by MSP, however one of my Deputies nailed the tires along I-70. The car came to a stop after that. Here’s where it gets interesting.

The driver turned out to be a crazed totally INSANE 55 year old female from Washington D.C. who stated she would not stop because she was running from VAMPIRES. Honest to god, true story. She’s presently in the hospital and will be going to jail after that.

At least she escaped the vampire. In a followup email, I learned the vampires were not captured.


There are times when you realize that no matter how horrific the movie monster, reality is worse.

The Appalachian Trail killer

The Washington Post has a two-part series on the Appalachian Trail killer. For those of us who hiked the AT in the ’80s, Randall Smith’s crimes are remembered well.

Blood on the Mountain:

High on the mountain, the sun has to fight its way down through the thick forest. The light takes on a spectral elegance, as if yellow diamonds are falling to the ground.

The two campers loved so much about the mountain. How it gave to its visitors, how generous it seemed: There’s another deer; listen to that owl; the trout are running.

But a murderer was in these woods, too. And he brought darkness to the light.

Lonely, dark and deep:

DISMAL CREEK, Giles County, Va. All manner of animals feast in the deep woods along this lovely stretch of mountains. There are bear and deer. Poisonous snakes and fish shimmering in the creeks. Dreams are hatched beside campfires and the stars seem almost close enough to grasp.

But sometimes, man feasts here as well.

And the killer was hungry.

‘Lynchings in Congo as penis theft panic hits capital’

That’s the actual headline to this Reuters story:

Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men’s penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.

Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur.

Rumours of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo’s sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.

Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure.

“You just have to be accused of that, and people come after you. We’ve had a number of attempted lynchings. … You see them covered in marks after being beaten,” Kinshasa’s police chief, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Police arrested the accused sorcerers and their victims in an effort to avoid the sort of bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 suspected penis snatchers were beaten to death by angry mobs. The 27 men have since been released.

“I’m tempted to say it’s one huge joke,” Oleko said.

“But when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it’s become tiny or that they’ve become impotent. To that I tell them, ‘How do you know if you haven’t gone home and tried it’,” he said.

Now *there’s* a headline you won’t read every day:

Vampire Hotel Bomber Dies in Bolivian Prison

No, really. I mean it. Yes, it reads like something William S. Burroughs would have written; still, it really happened.

The Doe Network: Naming the dead through crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a buzzword in information technology circles used to describe work usually conducted by professionals that has been sourced to a general audience for completion. The phrase can cover everything from’s Mechanical Turk (a marketplace for problem-solving), to’s organizing efforts, to Netflix’s competition to redesign their recommendation system.

The Doe Network is crowdsourcing applied to a subject a little closer to the interests of our readers – the Doe Network has crowdsourced cold cases:

The unnamed dead are everywhere — buried in unmarked graves, tagged in county morgues, dumped in rivers and under bridges, interred in potter’s fields and all manner of makeshift tombs. There are more than 40,000 unnamed bodies in the U.S., according to national law enforcement reports, and about 100,000 people formally listed as missing.

The premise of the Doe Network is simple. If the correct information — dental records, DNA, police reports, photographs — is properly entered into the right databases, many of the unidentified can be matched with the missing. Law enforcement agencies and medical examiners offices simply don’t have the time or manpower. Using the Internet and other tools, volunteers can do the job.

And so, in the suburbs of Chicago, bank executive Barbara Lamacki spends her nights searching for clues that might identify toddler Johnny “Dupage” Doe, whose body was wrapped in a blue laundry bag and dumped in the woods of rural Dupage County, Ill., in 2005.

The Doe Network, in their own words:

The Doe Network is a volunteer organization devoted to assisting Law Enforcement in solving cold cases concerning Unexplained Disappearances and Unidentified Victims from North America, Australia and Europe. It is our mission to give the nameless back their names and return the missing to their families. We hope to accomplish this mission in three ways; by giving the cases exposure on our website, by having our volunteers search for clues on these cases as well as making possible matches between missing and unidentified persons and lastly through attempting to get media exposure for these cases that need and deserve it.

A good idea that deserves more publicity.

‘Bodysnatching mastermind pleads guilty’

harmonyfb in the comments is right, you don’t see a headline like that everyday. From Associated Press:

NEW YORK (March 19) – The mastermind of a scheme to plunder corpses from funeral homes and sell them for millions of dollars pleaded guilty in a deal that could send him to prison for the next five decades.

Michael Mastromarino, a 44-year-old former oral surgeon, confessed to the judge Tuesday that he carried out the scheme from 2001 to 2005. He will face between 18 years and 54 years and will have to forfeit $4.68 million.

He faced a long list of charges, including enterprise corruption, body stealing, grand larceny and forgery.

The plea comes more than two years after the gruesome scandal broke, with evidence that corpses were being hacked up without permission or proper screening for diseases and sold for dental implants, knee and hip replacements and other procedures around the country. The looted bodies included that of “Masterpiece Theatre” host Alistair Cooke.

Corpse found packed with dry ice

This story is rather weird:

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A man who was found with a woman’s body packed in dry ice in his hotel room told a newspaper that her death may have been in some way connected to religion.

”Everything that happened was for religious reasons,” Stephen David Royds told The Orange County Register on Sunday.

Royds spoke to the newspaper in a brief interview from jail. He repeated the statement four times but did not elaborate.

Detectives found the body of Monique Felicia Trepp, 33, fully clothed inside a large Rubbermaid container late Thursday after arresting Royds at the Fairmont Newport Beach for investigation of selling and possessing cocaine, police Sgt. Evan Sailor said.

The strangest part, to my thinking, is that authorities do not believe it was a homicide at this time. For some reason, packing the body in a Rubbermaid container would seem less bizarre to me if it was a murder.

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