It’s no secret that many children of incarcerated parents are practically pre-destined to follow those same paths to a life of crime, followed by time spent in prisons and jails.

If memory serves, these kids are five or six times more likely to commit crimes than other kids their own age.

What’s it like to live as a member of one of those families? Well, let’s take a peek into the life of the Atwood family—Vernon and Vernon, Jr. Carly Atwater, Vernon’s wife and mother of Vernon, Jr., left many years ago. Couldn’t take the drinking and abuse.

So …

It had been nearly three years since Vernon Atwater had last seen his oldest son, Vernon, Jr.

December 14th, a day he would never forget, started when the judge, the Honorable James T. Williams, found Junior guilty of murder and sentenced him to twenty-five years in the penitentiary. Sheriffs’ deputies immediately handcuffed the newly convicted man and led him from the courtroom through a set of heavy wooden doors at the rear of the room.

Two hours later, Vernon stood outside on the sidewalk, pulling a few drags on a Lucky Strike, watching as two burly deputies helped his boy into an unmarked car to take him to the state prison in Rocky Creek.

Vernon spent the rest of the day in his grassless backyard, sitting in an old rickety kitchen chair drinking cheap beer and wondering what he’d done that caused Junior to do the things he did.

Vernon felt guilty for not driving to “The Creek” to see Junior, but something had always come up—overtime at the mill, the truck needed new brakes, the roof needed replacing. Those things took time and before he knew it weeks had turned into months and months into years.

Needless to say, Vernon was more than a little nervous about seeing Junior. Three years was a long time. His heart pounded and thumped against the inside of his chest as the car turned from the main highway onto the narrow blacktop leading to the penitentiary.

The sight of the gleaming razor wire atop the double fences caused his throat to tighten. He hoped his boy was all right. He’d heard every horrible prison story there was to tell. But Junior was tough. He’d never allow anyone to do him harm. Of that he was firmly convinced. Still …

Hundreds of men behind the fences were engaged in all sorts of activities. They paused from their weight-lifting, jogging, handball, bocce ball, and basketball, trying to get a glimpse inside the passing vehicle.

He wondered how his son was going to react to seeing him today. He wondered if anyone had even told him he was coming.

At least this visit would be a long one.

Two six packs of beer. An argument over a stupid football game. One thing led to another and out came the hunting knife. A few months later Vernon found himself standing in the same upstairs courtroom, in the very spot where Vernon, Jr. once stood, facing Judge James. T. Williams.

Judge Williams, by the way, remembered Vernon, Jr’s case and made a point to mention it during the tongue-lashing he delivered to the elder Vernon during a lengthly and fiery pre-sentencing statement.

Vernon tried to be strong but his knees nearly buckled when he heard the judge hand down his sentence—twenty-five years to life.

It’s really true, Vernon thought as the unmarked sheriff’s car pulled into the prison sally port, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The apple doesn’t fall far

Red Folders - Arkansas Executions

When someone commits a crime and is subsequently arrested for the offense, they instantly become a part of the “system.” They’re reduced to a case number and a few papers inside a file folder, like those seen above and below.

Red Folders - Arkansas ExecutionsEach of the red folders contains the file of a criminal case. They’re brief excerpts of a person’s life. A point in time when they decided to break the law. Sometimes, the things these people did are the same as things everyday people have done but were not caught (possession of small amounts of marijuana, for example).

Many of these “red folder people” are currently sitting in jail waiting for their day in court. Perhaps they’re locked inside a cell because they couldn’t raise the cash needed to meet bond requirements. Or, perhaps a judge felt they were a flight risk so she ordered them held under no bond status until trial.

Others, though, are out and about, working, playing, and tending to everyday wants and needs while the wheels of justice churn slowly toward their trial dates. Soon they’ll know their fates. Some will receive probation. Some will have charges dropped in exchange for performing community serve, and some will be sentenced to serve time in prison or a county jail. Others will simply go free with either time served or by having been found innocent of all charges.

One thing will remain a constant during the process, and beyond, and that’s the case number assigned to the red folder. It will remain attached to the offender’s case from day one until the record ceases to exist, if that point in time ever arrives.

Inside the vault in a courthouse complex.

Inside the vault in a courthouse complex.

Meanwhile, there’s this …

A short walk down red-folder-row in this particular courthouse records complex took me to a large walk-in safe/vault, much like what you’d expect to see inside a bank. This vault, however, contained something quite different than bundles of currency and sacks of gold coins.

Instead of mounds of cash, this steel- and concrete-clad room held a meager collection of office supplies and five neatly stacked columns of bankers boxes.

What, you might ask, is so important about twenty-eight bankers boxes that they’re all lined up like a row of soldiers standing at attention inside a locked bank-type vault? Well …

Arkansas Executions

Those twenty-boxes contain the files of active death penalty or potential death penalty cases.

Yes, those cardboard boxes you see pictured are all that’s standing between life and death for several men and women. They contain the details of each case—the words and evidence that could convict, or on appeal, change the outcome from death to life in prison.

Some whose case notes are stored inside the boxes would go on to accept plea deals to spare them from an appointment with “the needle.” Others are no longer in the system. Their day has come and gone.  A few still await “the end.”

I can’t begin to describe the feeling I experienced the moment I crossed the threshold of the vault. Eerie to say the least, and I suppose it was so because I’d personally witnessed the execution of a prisoner back in the 1980s.

Executions are Gruesome

To this day, I still picture images of serial killer Timothy Spencer sitting in the electric chair at Greenville Correctional Center, the facility that houses Virginia’s execution chamber.

That night, mere moments after Spencer’s gaze met mine, executioner Jerry Givens flipped the switch and the odor of burning hair and flesh filled the execution chamber. Spencer’s body surged and swelled and pushed against the restraints that bound him tightly to “Old Sparky.” Fluids spewed from behind the leather mask covering his face. His joints were frozen in place by the intense heat and burning. Sandbags were used to help straighten those joints once the body was cool enough to touch.

The prison doctor had to wait several minutes to allow Spencer’s body to cool enough to allow the use of a stethoscope to check for signs of life. That’s right. Too hot to touch without burning the doctor’s hands.

Me? I didn’t need a medical device to tell me the man was dead. What I’d seen, heard, and smelled was all the proof I needed. It was indeed a gruesome way to die. Gruesome. Gruesome. Gruesome.

Last week, Arkansas executed four prisoners. Witnesses said about three minutes into the process the condemned man jerked and coughed for about twenty seconds. Some described the execution as gruesome and called for an investigation.

Spencer, like the men executed in Arkansas, is dead. His demise was what I, someone who’s seen more than his fair share of death, would describe as gruesome. I said it above and again here. Gruesome. Can’t stress the point enough.

Twenty seconds of movement and moaning … well, I suppose it’s all relative.

So choose your own synonym. They all describe what I saw—grim, ghastly, frightful, horrid, horrifying, grisly, dire, awful, shocking, appalling, repulsive, repugnant, revolting, and/or sickening. Your pick. They all fit.


~

The following is list of the inmates currently on death row in Arkansas.

Gruesome awaits.

May God have mercy on their souls.

No.       Name                                Date of Birth    Race/Sex   Date of Sentence      County

SK911  Coulter, Roger                   12/01/1959      W/M         10/27/1989               Ashley

SK915  Ward, Bruce Earl               12/24/1956      W/M         10/18/1990               Pulaski

SK920  Davis, Don W.                    11/23/1962      W/M         03/06/1992               Benton

SK922  Greene,Jack G                   03/13/1955      W/M         10/15/1992               Johnson

SK925  Dansby, Ray                       03/03/1960      B/M           06/11/1993               Union

SK926  Nooner, Terrick T.             03/17/1971      B/M           09/28/1993               Pulaski

SK927  Reams, Kenneth                12/21/1974      B/M           12/16/1993               Jefferson

SK929  Sasser, Andrew                 10/21/1964      B/M           03/03/1994               Miller

SK933  Johnson, Stacey E.             11/26/1969      B/M           09/23/1994               Sevier

SK934  Kemp, Timothy W.            08/04/1960      W/M         12/02/1994               Pulaski

SK939  Rankin, Roderick L.            11/18/1975      B/M           02/13/1996               Jefferson

SK941  Jackson, Alvin                    06/30/1970      B/M           06/20/1996               Jefferson

SK946  McGehee, Jason F.            07/04/1976      W/M         01/08/1998               Boone

SK956  Roberts, Karl D.                 03/06/1968      W/M         05/24/2000               Polk

SK960  Isom, Kenneth                   06/03/1967      B/M           03/28/2001               Drew

SK961  Anderson, Justin                03/21/1981      B/M           01/31/2002               Lafayette

SK964  Thessing, Billy                   09/11/1968      W/M         09/10/2004               Pulaski

SK965  Thomas, Mickey D.            09/25/1974      B/M           09/28/2005               Pike

SK966  Springs, Thomas               06/25/1962      B/M           11/24/2005               Sebastian

SK968  Sales, Derek                      01/08/1961      B/M           05/17/2007               Ashley

SK971  Decay, Gregory                  07/11/1985      B/M           04/24/2008               Washington

SK972  Marcyniuk, Zachariah        05/21/1979      W/M         12/12/2008               Washington

SK973  Lacy, Brandon E.                01/01/1979      W/M         05/13/2009               Benton

SK976  Lard, Jerry D.                     03/13/1974      W/M         07/28/2012               Greene

SK977  Holland, Robert                 11/28/1968      W/M         10/04/1991               Union

SK979  Johnson, Latavious            10/31/1981      B/M           11/04/2014               Lee

SK980  Gay, Randy W.                  09/01/1958      W/M         03/19/2015               Garland

SK981  Holly, Zachary D.               10/08/1984      W/M         05/27/2015               Benton

SK982  Torres, Mauricio A.           12/24/1969      H/M           11/15/2016               Benton

14 White Males
14 Black Males
  1 Hispanic Male
29 Total

Mr. X: Federal Prison - The Ins And Outs Of It

Mr. X is a former business professional who committed a crime that landed him in federal prison. He’s out now and has agreed to share his story with the readers of The Graveyard Shift.

Part One

GYS: Thanks for taking the time to share what must have been a difficult time for you and your family. I’ll dive right in. What were the circumstances that ultimately led to your arrest?

X: It’s embarrassing to have to tell it. I’ll start by saying I was ill at the time. I had a mental problem, I guess you’d call it. My doctor gave me all sorts of drugs that were supposed to help me, but didn’t. They just screwed up my wiring—my thought processes. Anyway, to this day I still say I would have never done anything wrong had it not been for the assortment of antidepressants and pain pills. Still, I did what I did and I accept the responsibility for it. I wish I could change it, but I can’t.

GYS: And what was your crime?

X: I bought some cocaine to sell. I needed money. You see, I couldn’t hold down a job and my wife was struggling to make ends meet. The medicine and depression wouldn’t let me think properly. Either I’d get fired, or I’d quit for some crazy, unjustified reason. All I had on my mind was the feeling those little pills offered. At the time, I think I’d have married a bottle of Hydrocodone. I loved the stuff that much.

GYS: How long did your life of crime last?

X: I didn’t make a very good criminal. My entire crime spree lasted about a week. I bought the cocaine to sell, but chickened out. I couldn’t sell it. But someone who was involved in the transaction was already in trouble with the police and told them about me to help themselves out of their own jam.

GYS: Tell us about the arrest.

X: As it turns out, the person who told on me was an informant for a federal task force, so, needless to say, I was surprised when my house was raided by a team of FBI agents along with state and local police. There must have been fifteen or twenty officers involved in the raid of my home. All for a little less than $100 worth of cocaine.

GYS: Seriously, that’s all you had?

X: Yes, sir. $100 worth.

GYS: What were your charges?

X: Possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) with the intent to distribute, and obstruction of justice. The obstruction charge was later dropped. I think the feds automatically add that one to make you confess.

GYS: Why do you say that about the obstruction charge?

X: Well, they threatened to arrest everyone in my family—my wife, kids, and mother—if I didn’t confess. And if I didn’t admit to the crime then they’d let the obstruction charge stand, and that’s a minimum of a ten-year sentence. I had no choice at the time. Plus, they applied this pressure prior to my talking to an attorney, which I understand is perfectly legal. But let me again stress that I was indeed guilty.

GYS: So what happened next?

X: Gosh, it’s all a blur. Let’s see. I was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car, driven to a remote jail about two hours away, fingerprinted, strip searched, de-loused, and placed in a jail cell. It was a real shock to me. I’d never even had a traffic ticket.

Oh, my family had no idea where I was, or what had happened. They were away when the raid took place—at work and in school.

This was also the time when I learned that I was a drug addict. Withdrawal symptoms set in while I was in the jail cell. The next couple of days were pure hell, for many reasons.

My only contact with humans was through a small slot in the middle of a steel door. I begged for help, but that door wasn’t opened again for three days. I did see a couple of hands twice a day when they shoved a food tray through the slot. But the person wasn’t allowed to talk to me.

Someone, a federal agent, finally came to get me on the third day. He took me to a federal courthouse for a bond hearing. My family was there, but I wasn’t allowed to speak to them. I don’t know how they knew to be there. I was denied bond. Why, I don’t know—this was a first offense, and a $100 dollar offense on top of that. So I was hauled back to the jail cell.

On the ride back, shackled like Charles Manson—handcuffs, waist and leg chains—I realized just how lovely trees, flowers, and the sky really are, even though I was seeing them through a steel screen. I also realized how important my family was. I’d taken a lot of things for granted in my life.

I wound up back at the jail, which I learned also doubled as a holding facility for federal prisoners. I was there for two more weeks until my wife scraped together enough money—$25,000—to retain an attorney to represent me. She had to borrow against the equity in our home. Federal court is really expensive. The attorney managed to get another bond hearing and I was released on my own PR, but I wasn’t allowed to go home with my family. I had to stay with a relative in another city because the prosecutor said I was a threat to my community. For $100 worth of drugs that I never took or sold!

Anyway, I remained there until I went to court.

~

Part Two

Jail Cell

 

Mr. X received a sentence of 37 months, to be served in federal prison, followed by a transition period in a federal halfway house, and 3 years supervised probation.

GYS: You mentioned a couple trips you took while incarcerated. I think the readers would be quite interested in those details. Tell us about the first one, please.

Mr. X: I’m sure you’re referring to my transfer from one prison to another, right?

GYS: Yes. I know you went on other excursions during your time in, but this is one that’s the most interesting, and it’s one our readers probably won’t expect.

Mr. X: Well, the first trip occurred after I’d been in about a year. My counselor called me to his office and said they’d figured my custody status wrong. Originally, they’d housed me in a minimum security prison—one with double fences, guard towers, armed perimeter patrols, and razor wire—but I was actually eligible to serve my time in a camp. He then asked if I’d like to transfer. My response was an immediate yes, if he could find one near my family. Who wouldn’t want to go to a camp? I mean, to go from hell on earth to a place with no fences, no razor wire, better food, better jobs, less guards, and better visiting opportunities. That was an easy decision. A no-brainer.

The arrangements were made in a matter of days. I was going to a camp near my home that’s run by a private security company. At the time, I was in a prison nowhere near my wife because she’d been transferred for work since I was first incarcerated.

I was, however, concerned and apprehensive about the transfer. Those trips can be awful. They chain you up and place you in the back of a hot van, or bus, and haul you to a jet that’s parked in some hidden spot. Then you fly to Oklahoma where you may sit for months before you finally take off for the new place. You may also get shuttled around from county jail to county jail. During that time, you don’t get visits, commissary, work, mail, etc., because no one knows where you are from one day to the next, for months at a time.

Well, that’s what I was expecting, but one of the guys I hung around with a bit—he fancied himself as sort of a jailhouse lawyer—said he’d read that you could apply for a furlough transfer. He went on to explain that it was possible, with the warden’s permission, to actually walk out the gate, hop on public transportation, and make the trip, unescorted.

I figured I had nothing to lose so the next night I approached the warden outside the dining hall and asked him about it. Well, without blinking an eye he said, “Fill out the application and get your plane ticket.”

I was stunned, but that’s what I did (my family made the arrangements). The day of my trip arrived and I still couldn’t believe they were going to let me walk out the gate. At 9 a.m. sharp, though, I was summoned to the main office. It was like a dream. I walked from the office to the front entrance where a guard asked me a few questions and then opened the gates. I walked outside to hugs from family members. They drove me to the airport where I enjoyed a nice meal and a flight across country. The couple seated beside me were pleasant, and I enjoyed a nice conversation with them—about nothing really, but it was wonderful to talk about things other than appeals and how to smuggle an extra dessert from the dining hall. I often wonder how they’d have reacted if they’d known I was a federal prisoner.

We landed at a large airport where I was met by my wife—she was my ride to the camp. We planned the trip so that we’d have a little time together. So we stopped by the house for some much needed “quality” time before making the three-hour trip to the prison camp. I’ll skip those details.

Later, I arrived at the camp with my bags in hand, kissed my wife goodbye, and went inside the office building (no fences, no guards outside, and no gates). A guard at the desk checked me in like I was at a motel. She then told me which building I’d be assigned to and pointed in that direction. I went through the rear door and made my way across a well-manicured lawn and stepped into a nicely air-conditioned building. No yelling, no loud TV’s, and absolutely no guards. Not one. It was like I’d been re-born. I was a new man with a glimmer of hope for my future.

GYS: Your next trip was a bit different, yes?

Mr. X: It sure was. After I’d been in a while I heard about inmates being granted furloughs—weekend trips to their homes to spend time with their family. The purpose of the furlough is supposed to help prisoners gradually become accustomed to outside life with their families. Well, I applied for one and it was approved. I went home for three days during the Christmas holidays, and it was wonderful.

My wife picked me up in the prison parking lot and we spent three glorious days together, at home, before I had to return to the camp. I was walking on air when I got back.

I’d also gone on short day trips, like to trim roses in the town parks, or to the warden’s Ruritan Club to spruce up the grounds. They were nice outings to break up your time and to see some real people, but they were nothing like my time with my family, at home. Still, seeing people and cars and trees and flowers and freedom … well, any time outside the camp grounds was like a dream.

*This article is a repeat post.

 

It was over two decades ago, in this very month, April, when I stood beside my unmarked Crown Vic in the parking lot of the state police area headquarters, waiting for a ride to a state prison. The evening was warm. The sky clear. And the surrounding trees were filled with new spring leaves. Crickets chirped and mosquitos zeroed in on my face and arms.

Knowing rules prevented me from wearing my pistol inside the correctional institution, I’d placed it inside the small lockbox mounted in the trunk and double-checked to be sure the steel container was secure before closing the lid. I had a bit of time to spare so I walked behind the small red brick building to have a look at an armored vehicle parked there out of sight of the public. I’d seen the truck a zillion times before, but it was something I could use to slow the million thoughts zipping about inside my mind.

I’d have gone inside the office to shoot the breeze, but it was after hours and the administrative staff had gone home for the day, and the troopers working the roads were doing just that…patrolling the highways. It was just me and my imagination, hanging out together, waiting to watch a man die.

After a few laps around the headquarters, an unmarked white van arrived to deliver me to the prison. The driver, a corrections lieutenant, told me to hop in and off we went. I’d return a changed man just a few hours later.

Timothy Wilson Spencer began his deadly crime spree in 1984, when he raped and killed a woman named Carol Hamm in Arlington, Virginia. Spencer also killed Dr. Susan Hellams, Debby Davis, and Diane Cho, all of Richmond, Virginia. A month later, Spencer returned to Arlington to rape and murder Susan Tucker.

spencer.jpg

Spencer walked into the death chamber on his own that night, unassisted by prison staff. He was shorter and a bit more wiry than most people picture when thinking of a brutal serial killer. His head was shaved and one pant leg of his prison blues was cut short for easy access for attaching one of the connections (the negative post, I surmised). His skin was smooth and was the color of milk chocolate. Dots of perspiration peppered his forehead and bare scalp.

After glancing around the brightly lit surroundings, Spencer took a seat in the oak chair nicknamed “Old Sparky,” as are a few of those instruments of justifiable homicide, and calmly allowed the death squad to carry out their business of fastening straps, belts, and electrodes. His arms and legs were securely fixed to the chair. He looked on, seemingly uninterested in what they were doing, as if he’d just settled in to watch TV, or a movie.

I sat directly in front of the cold-blooded killer, mere feet away, separated only by a partial wall of glass. His gaze met mine and that’s where his focus remained for the next minute or so. His face was expressionless. No sign of sadness, regret, or fear.

I wanted to ask him if he was sorry for what he’d done. I wanted to know why he’d killed those women. What drove him to take human lives so callously?

When asked if he had any final words to say, Spencer opened his mouth to say something, but didn’t. Whatever that thought had been, well, he took it with him to his grave. Officers then placed a leather mask over Spencer’s face.

The squad’s final task was to place a metal, colander-like hat on Spencer’s head. The cap was lined with a brine-soaked sponge that serves as an excellent conductor of electricity.

Seconds later, the lethal dose of electricity was introduced, causing the murderer’s body to swell and lurch forward against the restraints that held him tightly to the chair.

Suddenly, his body slumped into the chair. The burst of electricity was over. However, after a brief pause, a second burst of electricity was delivered to the killer’s body. Again, his body swelled, but this time smoke began to rise from Spencer’s head and leg. A sound similar to bacon frying could be heard over the hum of the electricity. Fluids rushed from behind the leather mask. The unmistakable pungent odor of burning flesh filled the room.

The electricity was again switched off and Spencer’s body relaxed.

He was dead and it was one of the most brutal ways to die one could ever imagine, and believe me I’ve witnessed far more than my than my fair share of death.

Fast forward to April 11, 2016, a date just shy of the twenty-second anniversary of Spencer’s execution. On Monday, Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe rejected a bill that would have mandated using the electric chair as the default method of execution in the absence of drugs used for lethal injections.

This is big news since more and more drug companies are refusing to supply states with drugs if their purpose for obtaining them is to kill people.

The Va. governor is Catholic and says he’s against the death penalty, but as governor it’s his duty to set aside personal beliefs and follow the law. So, he has now proposed a bill that would allow drug companies to remain anonymous if they supply the state/Commonwealth with the necessary drugs to carry out state executions. The information would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and from discovery in civil proceedings, without a high threshold of just cause.

I once sat in Old Sparky and the feeling was surreal, having the same view of the surroundings as did some of the most evil people who ever walked this planet. It was a bizarre experience to say the least. Some things you never, ever forget. Entering the execution chamber to sit in “the chair” was one of those things.

Here’s a brief video that was filmed in the execution chamber in Virginia. This, my friends, is the stuff that could cause Stephen King to wake up screaming. Remember, the video is real, shot in a real place, where real people have been executed. I’ve stood in the same spots as the officers in the film, and I’ve sat in that very chair. But the lights were burning brightly in the chamber and the “juice” was most definitely not connected to the chair when I sat. LIGHTS ON, CHAIR OFF. I made certain that officials understood those two very important details before I took a seat.

Howdy neighbor: sexual predator

 

Fraisure Earl Smith was released from custody this week after serving time for assault with intent to commit rape. Smith, now 51, committed five sexual assaults over a span of 15 years.

In 2007, Smith was convicted for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl (Smith claims he’s not a pedophile, but I’m betting he’d have a hard time convincing the mother of the 17-year-old girl that his claim is just). This, the latest case, was the one that finally landed him in a California state prison. And, as a 1996 law provided, Smith was eventually transferred to Coalinga State Hospital for followup care and treatment prior to his release back into society.

Smith’s timetable of repeat offenses—a violent sexual assault every five years during a period of fifteen years, and these are the one’s known to law enforcement—is a strong indicator of serial behavior. In other words, reoffending is definitely an option on his table, and violence and sexual assault are both in his arsenal. Needless to say, this man is dangerous. Although, Smith says he’s not. “I am not presently aroused by deviant sexual fantasies or urges….” Smith wrote in a recent declaration.

As Smith’s release date drew near (he’s now been legally deemed safe for release), officials from Liberty Healthcare, a company hired by the state to handle sex predator releases, agreed to find suitable housing for him. After an exhaustive search for housing in cities in four counties, courts and other officials were unable to secure a permanent residence for Smith. Locations were limited since sexual offenders are not permitted to live near schools, day care facilities, or other places where children may frequent. In all, 4,108 placement possibilities were looked at, but for one reason or another, none were approved.

The latest single family home that was approved but later rejected due to the outrage of nearby residents, was a house with a pool in a well-to-do neighborhood. By the way, since Smith is still under supervision of county and state authorities, his housing costs are covered by taxpayers. The monthly rent on the above-mentioned home was $3,000 per month. But, citizens banded together and forced the courts to reconsider. Now, however, without a home for Smith to, well, call home, he has been released from the mental health facility as a transient and will reside in a local Motel 6, still at taxpayer expense. Rules/law requires that he move every 5 days.

Smith is currently living in a motel where guests and their children stay when passing through the area. And those children, wives, and mothers will walk the hallways and parking lot, and they’ll wear their bathing suits while enjoying the hotel pool. All this while Fraisure Smith, a violent sexual predator, possibly watches and waits to be aroused by, in his own words, “deviant sexual fantasies or urges.”

I know, Smith and other violent sexual predators have to live somewhere when they’re released, but my past experiences with these guys tells me to keep a watchful eye on them. Sorry if this offends anyone, but that’s the way it is. Believe me, I’ve seen what can happen and it’s horrible.

Things you should know about sexual predators.

1. Grooming – Predators often “groom” children and other potential victims in order to gain their trust, hoping for access to alone time with them.

2. Predators also groom others, not just their intended victims. The purpose of this type of grooming is to “prove” they are not a risk. For example, see Smith’s quote above about no longer having urges or fantasies. This is a classic sign of grooming.

3. Signs of grooming

a) the adult shows an exaggerated interest in a child.

b) an adult buys gifts for a child.

c) the adult finds ways to be alone with a child.

d) an adult displays a fixation on a particular child.

e) the adult “accidentally” walks in a child when they’re bathing, using the restroom, or changing.

f) tickling

g) wrestling with children

h) playing “doctor”

i) taking photos of children, especially when they’re in various stages of undress or wearing swim suits, dance costumes, etc.

j) lots of hugging, kissing, and touching.

 

What to do when a sexual offender moves into your neighborhood?

Here’s a handy Tip Sheet from Stop It Now!

 

What are the warnings signs of possible sexual abuse in children?

Again we turn to Stop It Now! for a Tip Sheet.

 

Warning Signs That Might Suggest Someone Is Sexually Abusing a Child

To see the list of warning signs, please click here.

So, for now Fraisure Smith is a guest of a California Motel 6 hotel. Next week, well who knows. Maybe he or another just like him will be your new neighbor. Please be mindful of the activities and whereabouts of your children. You never know…

 UPDATE!

Ironically, this announcement came a few hours after I published this article. What a coincidence…or was it?

From KRON news in San Francisco.

“After obtaining further details from Motel 6, it appears that Motel 6 did not know that they had rented a room to Mr. Smith, the recently released sexually violent predator. Once they confirmed that he was staying there, they acted immediately to evict him,” Vallejo City Manager Daniel E. Keen said.

“Details provided by Motel 6 confirm that Liberty Healthcare Corporation, the contractor hired by the State to provide services to Smith, concealed Mr. Smith’s identity in order to obtain two rooms at the motel,” Vallejo police Cpt. John Whitney said in a press release.

Two Liberty employees gave their names and did not disclose the identity of Smith, police said.

Smith has been placed on the no-rent list.

Total Chaos: 6000 drug offenders

 

Chaos because 6,000 non-violent drug offenders were released at once from federal prisons? Well, that’s probably a bit extreme considering over 10,000 inmates are already being released back into society each month. That’s over 650,000 former offenders each year who return to walk and talk and work and mingle among us. The horror of it all, right?

Some of that horror is totally justified, and how so you ask? For starters, nearly two-thirds of of those 650,000 former prisoners are rearrested within three years of their release. I know, chances of finding jobs, housing, and education for those folks are slim or none. Still, according to Justice Department stats, 4,000 of the 6,000 newly released federal inmates will most likely wind up back in prison. By the way, this 6,000 is in addition to the 69 men and women granted clemency by the president.

But, 6,000 is not the final total. The Sentencing Commission estimates a second round of releases to take place in the fall of 2016 will set free nearly 9,000 additional federal prisoners.

Police officials are extremely concerned, and most likely at least some of their fears are justified. There are no real programs in place to handle the sudden release of so many prisoners. There’s a significant lack of housing opportunities, job training, and a near absence of medical treatment, including mental health care and access to needed medications. Basically, there is no real safety net in place to catch these people when they fall, and the odds are so heavily stacked against convicted felons that a tumble for most is practically inevitible.

The additional number of inmates is expected to further burden strained probation departments. Officers who supervise the inmates on probation can barely handle the caseloads that are already dumped in their laps by the handfuls (prisoners are typically released under the supervision of a probation officer unless a court order states otherwise). Likewise, police officers will bear the brunt of dealing with those who choose to return to a criminal lifestyle. Add these new crimes and criminals to those already on the streets and, well, there’s just not enough officers to go around. And that’s the concern of many chiefs and sheriffs.

Let’s revisit the opening line of this article. Will this mass release of prisoners cause chaos in our streets? It’s doubtful that the average citizen will notice the effects. Well, unless they happen to be on the receiving end of the B&E’s, robberies, car thefts, etc. committed by the newly-released as they embark on their journeys back through the current catch and release system.

But chaos? Honestly, I can’t imagine things will be any different than what we’re already seeing on the evening news and across various social media sources. If that’s chaos, then it is what it is and will be what it will be. Besides, the situation—prison overcrowding, mass releases, mandatory minimums, etc.—should certainly be of more concern to citizens than, well, #It’sJustACup. But that’s just my opinion, something I rarely offer on this site.

 

Investigator G. Nome decides that current clues are not related to the true meaning of Christmas, so he moves on.

 

 

Prisons and jails in this country are a big business. A huge business, actually. In fact, well over 2 million people are currently incarcerated in the 5,000 prisons and jails across the U.S.. Obviously, 2 million people is a huge number of folks who must eat, wear clothing of some type, use hygiene products, etc., and those same 2 million people are unable to run out to the nearest mall or restaurant when a need arises. Besides, it’s the government’s responsibility to see to it that an inmate’s basic needs are met. Therefore, a plethora of businesses cater specifically to the prison industry.

For example, there are numerous companies specializing in inmate telephone equipment, ID cards and wristbands, commissary items, food service, condiments (mustard, ketchup, etc.), clothing, bedding, vehicles, security equipment, ATM kiosks (for visitors who wish to deposit funds to an inmate’s account), laundry equipment and supplies, and much, much more. Soooo much more.

The Bob Barker Company is a large well-known company that manufactures and/or sells products to the corrections industry. Items carried and sold include, for example, bedding, clothing, personal hygiene supplies, furniture, electronics (see-through TV’s, radios, watches, etc.), janitorial supplies, shoes, and suicide prevention items—protective helmets, jumpsuits and smocks, and more. They also sell board games, e-cigarettes, and electronic readers preloaded with approved books. Their list of goods and items is extremely long.

Bob Barker Company is a huge, extremely successful business that depends solely upon incarcerated men and women for its income. However, there’s a unique twist to this particular company’s business plan. They run a nonprofit, the BBC Foundation, that’s in place solely to help reduce recidivism. Yes, they actually try their best to prevent prisoners, the very people whom they depend upon to generate income, from returning to a life of incarceration.

Each year, the Bob Barker Company sets aside 10% of their profits to help support two commitments—local nonprofits and church ministries in their communities, and the BBC Foundation. They’ve set aside a $5 million endowment to help reach their support goals. In addition, BBC has awarded over $1 million to community-based projects.

Recidivism

Over 9.25 million people are incarcerated throughout the world, a number that’s approximately equal to the population of the state of North Carolina. The U.S. has nearly 25% of the world’s prison population despite having only 5% of the world’s population. In other words, prison is a big business in the U.S.

In 1970, the entire U.S. prison population was 338,000. It is currently over 2.3 million.

The likelihood of Americans landing in prison?

Men – 1 in 9

Women – 1 in 56

The United States currently has over 7 million people under some form of correctional supervision. Of the 7 million…

21% are in prison

10% are in jail

12% on parole

56% on probation

 

In 2011, one in every 107 U.S. adult citizens was incarcerated in prison or jail. A staggering 1 in every 34 adults were on probation or parole or other form of correctional supervision.

50% of those people housed in jails have not yet been convicted of a crime.

The U.S. spends approximately $48.5 billion per year on corrections. That figure equals to somewhere around $5.5 million per hour or, $92,000 per minute.

60% of all released inmates return within 3 years. Why? Well, I think we should look at some of the factors that may play a role in their lives of crime. First…

1. 56% of all inmates grew up in a single parent home (or guardian).

2. 1 in 9 of all inmates has lived in a foster home.

3. As children, many were physically or sexually abused.

4. Approximately 20% are illiterate. 40% are functionally illiterate.

5. 40% do not have a high school diploma or GED. 17% have an 8th grade education or less. Actually, the average inmate has a 10th grade education, yet only 3% of the prison population is offered an opportunity to  attend educational classes.

6. A whopping 60% of all inmates report they were using drugs at the time of their arrest. 36% say the same about alcohol use at the time of their arrest. 74% say they were using either or both at the time of their arrest.

*Those of you who have a copy of my book on police procedure may recall the title of chapter 11, Drugs, Not Money, Are the Root of All Evil.

 

7. 16% of all prisoners have a significant mental illness. 40% have mental problems.

8. Over 50% were on probation or parole at the time of arrest.

9. 44% have served time in the past.

10. 55% of incarcerated males have minor children at home. 65% of incarcerated women have minor children at home.

11. Children with incarcerated parents are 5 times more likely to be arrested/incarcerated.

12. 96% of all prisoners will someday be released back into society.

The Bob Barker Foundation’s mission (per the company website) is to develop and support programs that help incarcerated individuals successfully reenter society and stay out for life.

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It’s extremely difficult for former prisoners to become productive members of society. They’re branded for life with a record that follows them forever, and a criminal record will absolutely prevent most of them from securing decent employment. Sure, some will never change no matter how many programs are in place to help them. But, there are others who simply made a mistake, for whatever reason, and would never, ever do anything that would land them back in prison. However, their choices are slim. There are no second chances. Their “debt to society” is never repaid.

In some areas, convicted felons may NOT, work as movers or barbers, or hold public office. Felons may not hold certain licenses, such as a license to work as an electrician. Public housing is not available to them, nor are education grants/loans available for those convicted of most drug crimes.

So, yeah, avoiding a return trip to prison is a tough hurdle to overcome. Perhaps, having a goal to work toward, such as erasing the record of one-time offenders (for non-violent offenses) after ten years of squeaky clean behavior and contributing to the community, would go a long way toward reducing recidivism.

After all, many people are in jail or have criminal records because they were caught and arrested for doing the exact same things our current president admitted to doing (drug use) but was never caught by authorities. His message… I’m the president of the U.S. and I’ve broken the law several times, but didn’t get caught so I’m good to go. You, though, were nabbed doing the same thing so you now can never hold public office or work as a barber (even though the felon trained and worked as a barber while serving time in prison). And, to continue to punish you for the rest of your life (for something he, too, did and openly discusses), we’re not going to allow you to get an education or to have a place to live.

#everybodydeservesasecondchance

*Resources – Bob Barker Company and Bureau of Justice Statistics.

*This post is not an endorsement for Bob Barker Company or its affiliates. 

 

Many of you will be spending this weekend at the beach or at the mall. Maybe you’ll be doing yard work, or simply relaxing while watching TV or reading a book. However, not everyone is enjoying the sun and sand or quiet time. Instead, there are thousands upon thousands of people who’re on the road, traveling to the various jails and prisons across the country in order to visit a loved one or close friend who’s incarcerated.

Sometimes, these weekend jaunts to see inmates are long-distance trips—four or five hours or more—one way—and they often require a stay at a hotel, meals on the road, a missed day at work, and a number of other costly inconveniences.

A visit to a jail, or prison, can be a stressful experience. It’s certainly not as simple as going to a friend’s home to sit on a couch for a couple of hours, laughing and joking about the good old days. Not at all.

So what’s it really like to visit a jail inmate? Here’s a short video that explains the visiting process and procedure at the Chatham County jail in Savannah, Georgia.

*Remember, no two jails or prisons operate in the same manner. Rules and regulations vary greatly. The video is merely an example of how one sheriff chooses to run his jail. However, the goals are all the same…security.

A prisoners journey: Part 2

 

Inmate J.L. Bird, #12345-678, had always enjoyed living in California. The scenery was absolutely to die for, and the Mexican cuisine was, without a doubt, the best in the country. Somehow, though, the view didn’t quite seem the same when seeing it through windows covered in heavy metal mesh.

The Marshal had been driving about two hours when Bird reached into his paper sack and pulled out one of the boiled eggs. He gave it a couple of gentle whacks against the aluminum seat back in front of him and then began the tedious process of picking away the shell one small fleck at a time. After a quick inspection to be certain he’d removed all traces of the outer covering, he devoured the egg in two bites. The second one, though, he decided to savor, nibbling at it and letting his tongue enjoy the creamy texture of the yolk. Besides, who knew when the next meal would come.

The inmate seated next to him on his left, a man whose exposed flesh was mostly covered in jailhouse tats, slept soundly. His shaved head lolled from shoulder to shoulder depending on the direction of curves and varying depths of potholes. A bluish-black cobra adorned the back of his head, and the words “You Die” were inked across his forehead in large block letters.

The man directly in front of him wore his hair in long dreadlocks that he’d gathered into ponytail by using a series of bright pink rubber bands. Next to him sat the fattest man Bird had ever seen in prison khaki. His breathing was loud and wheezy and each exhale produced a faint whistle. His nerdish-cut greasy hair was the perfect compliment to the three-day growth of deep black whiskers covering his cheeks and upper neck.

Bird passed the time by thinking about how wonderful it would be to stand outside in the midst of the almond orchard they’d just passed. Or to feel the sunshine on his arms and face while tending to the dairy cows at the massive farm he’d seen back near Barstow.

After traveling through a very long stretch of nothingness followed by desert as far as the eye could see, the driver finally slowed and turned left into what appeared to be an abandoned airport. She pulled over next to a dilapidated tin shed and asked if any of the prisoners needed to use the restroom.

Bird waited his turn as the Marshals let them out two at a time to expel their water right there on the asphalt. The female marshal was nice enough to look the other way while her male partner stood watch over the tinklers.

Twelve men later, and a nice-sized S-shaped river that disappeared beneath the van, the side door was closed and padlocked, and the driver headed straight for a cracked runway with tall, dry weeds sprouting through the jagged openings. She hooked a left after passing a series of rundown metal buildings of varying sizes. And that’s when Bird first saw the menagerie of sheriff’s vans and buses, prison vehicles, and an array of heavily-armed officers from various agencies. A couple of snipers stood on roof of an old hanger, and several sunglass-wearing BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons) officers stood on the asphalt pavement. They each held a long gun of some sort—pump shotgun or military-style rifle. Those guys were not there to play games. No sir.

“Where are we?” Bird asked the female Marshal.

“My guess would be an airport,” she said, and looked to her partner who politely chuckled at her weak attempt at humor.

“How about this, then,” Bird said. “Where are we going?”

“You know we can’t tell you that, Bird,” said the male Marshal. “Obviously, you’re going to take a little trip. So just sit there and be quiet. You’ll find out where you’re going when you get there.”

Bird leaned back in his seat. Fat Guy was fidgeting in his seat and sweating profusely, and his breathing whistles had grown louder and higher-pitched, almost to the point of “only dogs can hear.” He toyed with the black box mounted between his cuffs. Bird wondered what he’d done to warrant the added security.

Movement on the runway caught Bird’s eye. The officers outside began to assemble into a somewhat orderly formation. They were also watching the sky. Something was about to happen…and it did. A dot appeared above the horizon and, within a matter of seconds, it grew into a large passenger jet.

The plane made its approach and touched down smoothly, stirring up clouds of dust and sending a half-dozen tumbleweeds rolling off into the desert. The massive unmarked jet came to a stop in front of the officers. The roar from its engines was uncomfortably loud.

A rear stairway lowered to the ground and a handful of jump-boot-wearing marshals filed out. They spoke with the group of ground transport Marshals, deputies, and other officers, and then motioned to the driver in control of Bird’s van, who eased the vehicle forward until it was within a few yards of the plane. She and her partner opened the side door to the van and told the prisoners to step outside and line up, single file. A second door on the jet opened. This one was on the side, and a set of stairs lowered until it, too, touched the pavement.

As the buses and vans unloaded their human cargo, a steady stream of t-shirt and khaki-wearing prisoners made their way down the jet’s side stairs. As soon as their blue-shoed feet hit the pavement they were whisked away by the officers who were there to take them to their new home for the next 5-10 years, or longer. Some, like Bird, were on their way to court where they’d testify against co-defendants or to listen as their court-appointed attorneys pleaded for sentence reductions or new trials, or for whatever legal business warranted a flight on the Marshals’ mass transit system.

After comparing papers and photo ID’s, Bird’s group was loaded into the jet via the rear stairway, where Marshals guided them into seats that had seen their better days many years ago.

The interior of the plane was hot and the little moveable air nozzles either didn’t work or were missing. The seat trays had been removed and the carpeting was stained and sticky. Many years of accumulated artificial fruit juice, piss, and vomit, Bird surmised. The aroma of pine cleaner did nothing to hide the stench. He wondered how the Marshals stood being cooped up inside the funky-smelling jet day in and day out.

Within a few minutes they were taxiing down the runway, headed for who knew where. As soon as they reached their cruising altitude the pilot made a brief announcement. “You must remain in your seats at all times. You may not stand for any reason. You may not use the restroom during the flight. The air marshals on board are not flight attendants. They are here to insure my safety and yours. You will follow their instructions at all times. If you have any questions, please hold them until we land. Until then, thank you for flying Con Air. Enjoy your flight.” Only the Marshals laughed at the pilot’s attempt at comedy.

Bird closed his eyes, hoping to sleep the day away. But the nose-whistling fat guy wasn’t about to let that happen. He stood and began screaming some sort of gibberish about being terrified of flying and that he was going to kill the pilot. Well, it took all of four minutes and five air Marshals, a Taser, and a few well-placed blows to the head, shoulders, and lower back to silence that nonsense.

Bird closed his eyes again, hoping the steady hum of the jet engines would help him sleep and send him to freedom, if only for a few hours. Soon he was dreaming of life on the outside. Ah, to be at the coast once again…

 

Next up…Oklahoma City, good food, and the nightly all-nude girlie shows—for prisoners’ eyes only.

I looked into the eyes of a serial killer

Have you ever sat looking into the eyes of a serial killer, watching for some sign of remorse for his crimes, wondering if he would take back what he’d done, if he could? Have you ever smelled the burning flesh of a condemned killer as 1,800 volts of electricity ripped through his body? No? Well, I have.

Timothy Wilson Spencer began his deadly crime spree in 1984, when he raped and killed a woman named Carol Hamm in Arlington, Virginia. Spencer also killed Dr. Susan Hellams, Debby Davis, and Diane Cho, all of Richmond, Virginia. A month later, Spencer returned to Arlington to rape and murder Susan Tucker.

spencer.jpg

Timothy W. Spencer, The Southside Strangler

Other women in the area were killed by someone who committed those murders in a very similar manner. Was there a copycat killer who was never caught? Or, did Spencer kill those women too? We’ll probably never learn the truth.

Spencer was, however, later tried, convicted, and sentenced to die for the aforementioned murders. I requested to serve as a witness to his execution. I figured if I had the power to arrest and charge someone with capital murder, then I needed to see a death penalty case through to the end.

On the evening of Spencer’s execution, corrections officials met me at a state police area headquarters. I left my unmarked Chevrolet Caprice there and they drove me to the prison. We passed through the sally port and then through a couple of interior gates, stopping outside the building where death row inmates await their turn to die.

Once inside, I was led to a room where other witnesses waited for a briefing about what to expect. Then we, in single file, were led to where we’d soon watch a condemned man be put to death.

The room where I and other witnesses sat waiting was inside the death house at Virginia’s Greensville Correctional Center. At the time, the execution chamber was pretty much a bare room, with the exception of Old Sparky, the state’s electric chair, an instrument of death that, ironically, was built by prison inmates.

 

Old Sparky, Virginia’s electric chair, was built by inmates.

State executions in Virginia are carried out at Greensville Correctional Center.

The atmosphere that night was nothing short of surreal. No one spoke. No one coughed. Nothing. Not a sound as we waited for the door at the rear of “the chamber” to open. After an eternity passed, it did. A couple of prison officials entered first, and then Spencer walked into the chamber surrounded by members of the prison’s death squad (specially trained corrections officers).

I later learned that Spencer had walked the eight short steps to the chamber from a death watch cell, and he’d done so on his own without assistance from members of the squad. Sometimes the squad is forced to physically deliver the condemned prisoner to the execution chamber. I cannot fathom what sort mindset it takes to make that short and very final walk. Spencer seemed prepared for what was to come, and he’d made his peace with it.

Spencer was shorter and a bit more wiry than most people picture when thinking of a brutal serial killer. His head was shaved and one pant leg of his prison blues was cut short for easy access for attaching one of the connections (the negative post, I surmised). His skin was smooth and was the color of milk chocolate. Dots of perspiration were scattered across his forehead and bare scalp.

Spencer scanned the brightly lit room, looking from side to side, taking in the faces of the witnesses. I wondered if the blonde woman beside me reminded him of either of his victims. Perhaps, the lady in the back row who sat glaring at the condemned killer was the mother of one of the women Spencer had so brutally raped and murdered.

After glancing around the brightly lit surroundings, Spencer took a seat in the oak chair and calmly allowed the death squad to carry out their business of fastening straps, belts, and electrodes. His arms and legs were securely fixed to the chair. He looked on, seemingly uninterested in what they were doing, as if he’d just settled in to watch TV, or a movie.

I sat directly in front of the cold-blooded killer, mere feet away, separated only by a partial wall of glass. His gaze met mine and that’s where his focus remained for the next minute or so. His face was expressionless. No sign of sadness, regret, or fear.

The squad’s final task was to place a metal, colander-like hat on Spencer’s head. The cap was lined with a brine-soaked sponge that serves as an excellent conductor of electricity.

I wondered if Spencer felt the presence of the former killers who’d died in the chair before him—Morris Mason, Michael Smith, Ricky Boggs, Alton Wayne, Albert Clozza, Derrick Peterson, Willie Jones, Wilbert Evans, Charles Stamper, and Roger Coleman, to name a few.

Morris Mason had raped his 71-year-old neighbor. Then he’d hit her in the head with an ax, nailed her to a chair, set her house on fire, and then left her to die.

Alton Wayne stabbed an elderly woman with a butcher knife, bit her repeatedly, and then dragged her nude body to a bathtub where he doused it with bleach.

A prison chaplain once described Wilbert Evans’ execution as brutal. “Blood was pouring down onto his shirt and his body was making the sound of a pressure cooker ready to blow.” The preacher had also said, “I detest what goes on here.”

I wondered if Spencer felt any of those vibes coming from the chair. And I wondered if he’d heard that his muscles would contract, causing his body to lunge forward. That the heat would literally make his blood boil. That the electrode contact points were going to burn his skin. Did he know that his joints were going to fuse, leaving him in a sitting position? Had anyone told him that later someone would have to use sandbags to straighten out his body? Had he wondered why they’d replaced the metal buttons buttons on his clothes with Velcro? Did they tell him that the buttons would have melted?

For the previous twenty-four hours, Spencer had seen the flurry of activity inside the death house. He’d heard the death squad practicing and testing the chair. He’d seen them rehearsing their take-down techniques in case he decided to resist while they escorted him to the chamber. He watched them swing their batons at a make-believe prisoner. He saw their glances and he heard their mutterings.

Was he thinking about what he’d done?

I wanted to ask him if he was sorry for what he’d done. I wanted to know why he’d killed those women. What drove him to take human lives so callously?

The warden asked Spencer if he cared to say any final words—a time when many condemned murderers ask for forgiveness and offer an apology to family members of the people they’d murdered. Spencer opened his mouth to say something, but stopped, offering no apology and showing no remorse. Whatever he’d been about to say, well, he took it with him to his grave.

He made eye contact with me again. And believe me, this time it was a chilling experience to look into the eyes of a serial killer just mere seconds before he himself was killed. All the way to the end, he kept his gaze on me.

In those remaining seconds everyone’s thoughts were on the red telephone hanging on the wall at the rear of the chamber—the direct line to the governor. Spencer’s last hope to live beyond the next few seconds. It did not ring.

The warden nodded to the executioner, who, by the way, remained behind a wall inside the chamber and out of our view. Spencer must have sensed what was coming and, while looking directly into my eyes, turned both thumbs upward. A last second display of his arrogance. A death squad member placed a leather mask over Spencer’s face, then he and the rest of the team left the room. The remaining officials stepped back, away from the chair.

Seconds later, the lethal dose of electricity was introduced, causing the murderer’s body to swell and lurch forward against the restraints that held him tightly to the chair.

Suddenly, his body slumped into the chair. The burst of electricity was over. However, after a brief pause, the executioner sent a second burst to the killer’s body. Again, his body swelled, but this time smoke began to rise from Spencer’s head and leg. A sound similar to bacon frying could be heard over the hum of the electricity. Fluids rushed from behind the leather mask. The unmistakable pungent odor of burning flesh filled the room.

The electricity was again switched off and Spencer’s body relaxed.

It was over and an eerie calm filled the chamber. The woman beside me cried softly. I realized that I’d been holding my breath and exhaled, slowly. No one moved for five long minutes. I later learned that this wait-time was to allow the body to cool down. The hot flesh would have burned anyone who touched it.

The prison doctor slowly walked to the chair where he placed a stethoscope against Spencer’s chest, listening for a heartbeat. A few seconds passed before the doctor looked up and said, “Warden, this man has expired.”

That was it. Timothy Spencer, one of the worse serial killers in America was dead, finally.

Timothy Spencer was put to death on April 27, 1994 at 11:13 pm.


Unusual facts about Spencer’s case:

– Spencer raped and killed all five of his victims while living at a Richmond, Virginia halfway house after his release from a three-year prison sentence for burglary. He committed the murders on the weekends during times when he had signed out of the facility.

– Spencer was the first person in the U.S. executed for a conviction based on DNA evidence.

– David Vasquez, a mentally handicapped man, falsely confessed to murdering one of the victims in the Spencer case after intense interrogation by police detectives. He was later convicted of the crime and served five years in prison before DNA testing proved his innocence. It was learned that Vasquez didn’t understand the questions he’d been asked and merely told the officers what he thought they wanted to hear.

– Spencer used neck ligatures to strangle each of the victims to death, fashioning them in such a way that the more the victims struggled, the more they choked.

– Patricia Cornwell’s first book, Post Mortem, was based on the Spencer murders.