With the current situation involving the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and with Russia’s cyberattacks on other countries, it should not be surprising to anyone that Russian spies live and work within the U.S.

Elena Branson, also known as Elena Chernykh, is one of those Russian spies.

Branson was born in the Soviet Union, emigrated to the U.S. at 30, and less than a decade later became an American citizen. Then, ten years later, or so, she began her work as a spy for the Soviet Union and Vladimir Putin.

Some of Branson’s duties as a spy included spreading and promoting pro-Kremlin propaganda for the purpose of networking Russian citizens with prominent Americans, arrange meetings between Moscow officials and U.S. politicians, help Russian nationals apply for visas to enter the United States under false pretenses. She even founded and operated a Russian propaganda center in New York City, called the Russian Center New York.

Elena Branson/Elena Chernykh corresponded directly with Putin and other Kremlin officials. In 2020, she was questioned by the FBI, and shortly after meeting with federal law enforcement she fled the U.S. and is currently hiding somewhere in Russia. The U.S. filed numerous federal charges against her, and if she’s found, tried, and convicted, she faces up to 35 years in prison.

Read the criminal complaint below. Click the arrows at the lower left of the document to advance to the next page, or to go to previous pages.

united_states_v_elena_branson_complaint_22_mag_2178_1

Spy v. Spy

The spy business has been around for a long time, thousands of years. Egyptian surveillance operations sought foreign intelligence about the political and military strength and weaknesses of Greece and Rome.  Early Greeks used deception and spying to help formulate surprise attacks on their enemies. Sun Tzu of China wrote The Art of War, which contained text dedicated to the use of spies on the battlefield and for private assignments.

The Roman Empire engaged in espionage, as did the Catholic Church and the Crusades, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Cold War and WWII atomic spies, the Verona Project, undercover police, police informants, labor spies, covert agents, double agents, corporate espionage, wiretaps, Amazon Alexa, social media data mining, and the list goes on and on.

Spies, spies, everywhere you look … spies, and things were no different in 1863 when a tough, determined woman who stood barely of five-feet-tall became a spy for the Union Army. This courageous woman was, of course, Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman was born as Araminta Ross, around 1822, at the Anthony Thompson plantation on Harrisville Road in Dorchester County, Maryland. Harrisville Road, little more than a good stone’s throw from Cambridge, Maryland, is nestled between the waterways of Church Creek, Blackwater River, Little Choptank River, Fishing Creek, and the larger Choptank River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

Araminta, called “Minty by her parents, was one of about 40 people enslaved by Anthony Thompson. Araminta’s mother, Harriet (“Rit”) Green, worked as a cook in the Thompson plantation’s main house. Her father, Benjamin Ross, served as a timber worker. At the age of five, Araminta was rented out as a nursemaid. At seven she was again rented out, this time as a muskrat trapper. Later, while she toiled as a field hand, she changed her name to from Araminta to Harriet to honor her mother.

In 1840 Harriet’s father was set free; however, she and her mother and siblings were to remain as slaves. In that same year, Harriet married John Tubman, a free Black man. Their marriage, though, was troublesome. That, and learning her two brothers were about to be sold, gave Harriet cause to plan an escape to Pennsylvania by way of the Underground Railroad, and to take her siblings with her. This, helping slaves reach their freedom, was a role Harriet Tubman would repeat many times.

Harriot (far left) with family and friends

Harriet: Spy and Cunning Military Leader

In 1861, in the early stages of the Civil War, Harriet was recruited to help fugitive slaves at Fort Monroe, a Union military installation where she served in a variety of roles, such as cooking, and as a nurse, using her vast knowledge of herbal remedies to heal both slaves and soldiers. She also assisted with laundry duties.

Two years later, in 1863, Harriet, a woman who could not read nor write, took charge of a highly dangerous spying and scouting network for the Union Army, providing vital information to Union leaders about Confederate Army troops and troop movements.

She partnered with Colonel James Montgomery, the commander of the Second South Carolina Volunteers, a Black regiment, to plan a raid along the Combahee River. Their mission was to rescue enslaved people and recruit the freed men into the Union Army. Then they’d demolish some of the flushest rice plantations in the area.

Montgomery and Tubman, on the federal ship the John Adams, led two other gunboats out of the St. Helena Sound in South Carolina towards the Combahee River. To safely navigate the waters and to avoid being blown to bits by enemy cannon fire, the ship captains and their crews relied on the intelligence gathered by Tubman and her eight top scouts.

Tubman led a charge of 150 men in a raid that freed 700 slaves from the grasp of rebel soldiers. Soldiers from both Montgomery’s gunboat and Tubman’s then went to work burning plantations, fields and crops, mills, granaries and manors, and they used gunfire from their boats to demolish a vital pontoon bridge used by the Confederacy.

As a direct result of Tubman’s skill and bravery, the mission was a success.

Harriet Tubman was never paid for her services.


Long Wharf’s History of Slavery, and Freedom

  • Some members of my family made their living fishing and crabbing in the waters around where Harriet Tubman was born and lived.
  • One of my uncles owned a house that Harriet Tubman used as part of her Underground Railroad.
  • When times were hard, like Harriet Tubman, my grandfather and great-grandfather trapped and cooked muskrats. Not a pleasant sight to see in a pot on the stove.
  • The Choptank River was a commercial artery used to ship timber, tobacco, and farm products. It was also a route used to transport captive Africans who were unloaded at Long Wharf, in Cambridge. From there the slaves were shipped to southern plantations. On the other hand, the Choptank River, as part of the Underground Railroad, was used by escaping slaves who  followed it northward into Delaware, and freedom.
  • Long Wharf Park is located at the end of High Street, a historic brick-paved street lined with magnificent homes from back “in the day.” Today, the street ends at a large picturesque marina for boats of any size, including naval vessels.
Long Wharf was used both by slave traders and by slaves who followed the Choptank River to their freedom

Long Wharf, Cambridge, Md.

  • Many of my fondest memories are of the summers I spent with with my grandparents who lived in the area. Nearly every day we were out on the Choptank’s salty water, fishing and crabbing ,or swimming. We’d also try our luck at catching fish in Church Creek, Blackwater River, Little Choptank River, and Fishing Creek, near Harriet Tubman’s birthplace. I carried on the tradition by taking our daughter there, starting when she was quite young. One day, as we stood on Long Wharf, taking in the sights and smells of the Choptank, a large group of seagulls flew in and landed near Ellen’s tiny little girl feet. She quickly turned toward me with excitement in her eyes and exclaimed, “Look at all the penguins, Daddy!” I never forget that as long as I live, and will always smile at her sweet innocense when I do.

Still, you can’t take a step around there without sensing the presence of Harriet Tubman and her story. And what a story it is.


This week, The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center in Church Creek, Maryland (Stop #13 on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway) launches the “Tubman 200 Celebration.”

The celebration includes a livestream video on Friday, March 11, 2022, that’s open to all:

FRIDAY, MARCH 11

7 p.m. – Virtual Premier of “Rooted Wisdom: Nature’s Role in the Underground Railroad”
This film chronicles the experiences of freedom seekers’ journeys through the wilderness. The documentary film will stream live on Friday, March 11 at 7 p.m at naturesrole.org. The virtual event is free and open to all, though registration is encouraged at bit.ly/RootedWisdomPremiere. A panel discussion with historians and filmmakers will follow. Register online to attend on the website at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rooted-wisdom-natures-role-in-the-underground-railroad-virtual-premiere-tickets-253263025527

I’ve already reserved our spot for the livestream.

And, if you’re in the area, the other weekend events are:

SATURDAY, MARCH 12

10 a.m. – Opening ceremony featuring a living history interpretation by Millicent Sparks

11 a.m. – “The Discovery of the Ben Ross Homesite”
Hear from Dr. Julie Schablitsky of the Maryland Department of Transportation about the successful effort to locate and excavate the homesite of Ben Ross. The artifacts are on display for the first time at the Visitor Center for the entire month of March.

12 p.m. – “Foraging Freedom: Experiencing the Natural World of the Underground Railroad”
Join an interactive walking tour with historian Anthony Cohen through the Legacy Garden and adjacent Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Participants should expect to be on their feet and are encouraged to wear comfortable all-weather shoes.

1 p.m. – “Jubilee Voices at Harriet’s House”
Hear the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices during the Tubman 200th festivities. Jubilee Voices is an ensemble that is committed to the preservation of African American history and traditions through songs and storytelling.

2 p.m. – “The Education of Harriet Ross Tubman”
Kate Clifford Larson, a Tubman biographer, discusses the free and enslaved people who helped raise, protect, nurture, and educate Minty to become the woman we know as Harriet Tubman.

3 p.m. – “‘Designing a New Place to Experience History: An Exploration of the Architects”
Listen to Chris Elcock, associate principal of the architecture firm GWWO Inc., as he explains the design process behind creating the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center

SUNDAY, MARCH 13

10 a.m. – “Meet Harriet Tubman”
Living history interpreter Millicent Sparks performs as Tubman and shares her monumental life with audience members.

11 a.m. – “The Hidden Chesapeake Through Harriet Tubman’s Eyes”
Kate Clifford Larson, a Tubman biographer, shares about some of the places around the Chesapeake Bay that bear witness to the histories, memories, and legacies of the Underground Railroad and its most famous conductor.

12 p.m. – “The Chronicles of Adam”
A powerful and inspirational first-person historical interpretation of an enslaved man by the name of Adam.

1 p.m. – “The Legacy Hour”
Hear from community members and enjoy musical selections from Renna McKinney as we honor the lives of Donald Pinder and Herschel Johnson. During the second half hour, become inspired by Tina Wyatt, great, great, great grandniece of Harriet Tubman as she shares “A Letter to Soph.”

2 p.m. – “The Legacy of Slavery in Maryland”
Chris Haley of the Maryland State Archives presents a general overview of slavery in Maryland, which will include examples of records specifically related to the state and to counties of the Eastern Shore and how both the enslaved and free were affected by the ‘peculiar institution.’

3 p.m. – “Freedom Bound”
Join public historian and historical interpreter Marvin-Alonzo Greer in this family-friendly program with interactive songs and stories.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of Commerce, National Park Service, and other federal, state, and local partners will continue to celebrate and highlight aspects of Tubman’s story throughout the year.

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center, which has just reached its 5th year of operation, has hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors from 70 countries and territories and all 50 states. This state-of-the-art, green facility is managed in partnership with the National Park Service.

*Event schedule above – The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center



WRITERS’ POLICE ACADEMY

 

 

Writers’ Police Academy
June 2-5, 2022
Green Bay, WI

EXCITING DEAL FOR YOU AND A FRIEND!

 

Would you like to receive a $50 bonus from Writers’ Police Academy, AND free registration to a special WPA Online seminar?
The seminar, taught by Dr. Katherine Ramsland, is “Behavioral Clues at Crime Scenes,” and covers staging, profiling, character development, and more!
Details about this incredible opportunity to be announced very soon.

Last week I wrote about twenty-two-year-old Justine Johnson of Iosco County, Michigan, who told police investigators the fictional cartoon character SpongeBob ordered her to kill her daughter Sutton Mosser. Police did indeed find the remains of almost-two-year-old Sutton.

This week, on February 15, 2022, it was Satan himself—the grand adversary of man, the prince of darkness, the head of the fallen angels—who Tasha L. Haefs, according to a Kansas City police dispatcher, claimed was trying to attack her.

As they approached the front of Haefs’ home, responding officers heard a woman’s voice coming from inside. She was singing. They also witnessed a blood trail leading from the sidewalk to the front door. When they knocked the singing grew louder.

One officer managed to get a peek inside the home and what he observed was nothing short of scene in a horror film—a child’s severed head near the threshold. Fearing that other children may be in imminent danger, officers forced their way inside, where they found Tasha Haefs in the kitchen, with what appeared to be blood on her hands and feet. They also saw, in plain view, two knives, also with apparent blood on them. The woman, who had cuts and scratches on her hands and a puncture wound to her right thigh, was immediately taken into custody.

As is standard practice, officers conducted a sweep of the home, looking for other victims and/or potential suspects. During the sweep they witnessed the knives, a bloody screwdriver, and the body and severed head of Haefs’ six-year-old son. A decapitated dog was found in the basement, as was a knife covered with possible blood and tissue.

When they were certain the house was clear, officers backed out and secured the home while investigators completed the process of obtaining a search warrant.

Haefs admitted to police that she’d killed and decapitated her son in the bathtub.

I wish I could say with confidence that this will be the last unthinkable and horrendous crime committed by a parent against a child; however and unfortunately, we all know better. Sigh …


Click to read more about familicide and attempted familicide


I’ve included a copy of the completed Complaint Warrant Requested form pertaining to this case. Within the document you’ll read the officer’s actual description of details that support the probable cause needed to obtain warrants. I think you may find this information helpful at some point during your future writing. I’ve hidden or deleted contact information and a few other details.

 

COMPLAINT WARRANT REQUESTED

Count I. Murder 1st Degree (565.020-001Y20200902.0)

The Prosecuting Attorney of the County of Jackson, State of Missouri, upon information and belief, charges that the defendant, in violation of Section 565.020, RSMo, committed the class A felony of murder in the first degree punishable upon conviction under Section 565.020, RSMo, in that on or about February 15, 2022, in the County of Jackson, State of Missouri, the defendant after deliberation, knowingly caused the death of  ******* by unknown means, and that the defendant was eighteen years of age or older at the time of the offense.

Count II. Armed Criminal Action (571.015-001Y20205299.)

The Prosecuting Attorney of the County of Jackson, State of Missouri, upon information and belief, charges that the defendant, in violation of Section 571.015, RSMo, committed the felony of armed criminal action, punishable upon conviction under Section 571.015.1, RSMo, in that on or about February 15, 2022, in the County of Jackson, State of Missouri, the defendant committed the felony of murder in the first degree charged in Count I, all allegations of which are incorporated herein by reference, and the defendant committed the foregoing felony of murder in the first degree by, with and through, the knowing use, assistance and aid of a dangerous instrument.page1image1228588384 page1image1228588672

State vs. Tasha Haefs

The facts that form the basis for this information and belief are contained in the statement(s) of facts filed contemporaneously herewith, made a part hereof, and submitted as a basis upon which this court may find the existence of probable cause.

Wherefore, the Prosecuting Attorney prays that an arrest warrant be issued as provided by law.

JEAN PETERS BAKER

Prosecuting Attorney Jackson County, Missouri by,

/s/ John G. Gromowsky

John G. Gromowsky (#50700) Assistant Prosecuting Attorney 415 East 12th Street
Floor 7M

Kansas City, MO 64106

page2image1215789872

WITNESSES:

  1. DET Bonita Y. Cannon, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106
  2. DET Zakary K. Glidewell, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106
  3. DET Sean P. Martin, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106
  4. DET James H. Price, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106
  5. DET Ilinca E. Rusnac, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106

6. *XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

7. *XXXX Derek M. Sanders, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106

8. DET Nathan S. VanVickle, 1125 Locust, Kansas City, MO 64106

 

Date: 02/16/2022

CRN:

PROBABLE CAUSE STATEMENT FORM

page3image1231501280 page3image1231501568

I, Detective Zakary Glidewell, #5549, Kansas City Missouri Police Department (Name and identify law enforcement officer, or person having information as probable cause.)

knowing that false statements on this form are punishable by law, state that the facts contained herein are true.page3image1231533936

I have probable cause to believe that on 02/15/2022 at 7312 Indiana Avenue in Kansas City, (Jackson County) Missouri Haefs, Tasha L. (W/F XXXXXX) committed one or more criminal offense(s).

The facts supporting this belief are as follows:

On 02-15-2022 at 2345 hours, uniformed officers of the Kansas City Missouri Police department were dispatched to 7312 Indiana Ave, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri on a reported disturbance.

Upon arrival officers observed apparent blood on the front steps of the residence as well as apparent blood and hair on the front door of the aforementioned residence. Officers were able to determine the residence was occupied by a female however, she refused to answer the door. During the course of the contact officers learned that multiple children were known to reside in the residence and had not been seen for a few days. Officers while attempting to make contact with the female occupant observed what appeared to be the severed head of a deceased person near the threshold of the residence.

Officers fearing for the safety of any children remaining inside the residence forced entry under exigent circumstances and took the female occupant (Suspect) into custody without incident. A protective sweep of the residence was conducted. During the course of the protective sweep officers located the decapitated body of a young child near the front door of the residence. The female suspect had apparent blood on her person and two knives with apparent blood on them were observed in plain view throughout the residence. No other children were located in the residence. Officers then exited and secured the residence. Detectives from the Kansas City Homicide Unit were notified from the scene.

Detectives applied for and obtained a search warrant for 7312 Indiana Ave Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri 64132 in regard. During the execution of the search warrant detectives located the decapitated body of a young child near the interior threshold of the residence. A knife, knife handle, and a screwdriver with apparent blood and tissue were located on the dining room table. An additional knife with apparent blood and tissue was located in the basement of the residence. The Kansas City Missouri Crime Scene Unit was notified and responded to the scene.

Form 50 P.D. (Rev. 9-2008)

Page 1 of 2

PROBABLE CAUSE STATEMENT FORM

The female suspect who was ultimately identified as Tasha Haefs (W/F XXXXXXX) was transported to police headquarters. Haefs was contacted by detectives on the 7th floor of police headquarters. Haefs was offered food and water and allowed access to restroom facilities. Haefs was advised of her Miranda Rights which she waived and agreed to speak with detectives about the incident.

Haefs provided a detailed formal statement to detectives. Haefs identified the victim as B/M XXXXX her biological child. During the course of the interview Haefs admitted to killing the victim in the bathtub and decapitating the victim.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner has ruled the “Manner of Death” to be Homicide. Haefs was placed on a 24 hour investigative hold and transported to a KCPD Detention facility.

Printed Name Detective Zakary Glidewell #5549 Signature /s/Detective Zakary Glidewell #5549

 

If only the title of this blog piece were as ridiculous as it sounds. Unfortunately, it is not.

Twenty-two-year-old Justine Johnson of Iosco County, Michigan told police investigators she had received and carried out orders from the fictional cartoon character SpongeBob, who commanded her to kill her daughter Sutton Mosser.

SpongeBob, according to Johnson, said she would die if she didn’t obey his demand. Sutton Mosser, the child, would have turned three just two days after her mother brutally stabbed her to death.

During an interview, Johnson told investigators that she didn’t remember exactly what happened to her daughter Sutton. But she did recall experiencing hallucinations due to a lack of sleep combined with heroin withdrawal. She told police that she’d not been sleeping well for approximately two weeks, and a few days prior to the murder she’d left her mother’s house walking and passed out in a graveyard.

Child Protective Services investigator Ryan Eberline interviewed Justine Johnson in jail after her arrest. He later testified that it was Johnson’s belief, through the TV, that she’d received specific instructions from SpongeBob to take her daughter’s life or “they” would kill her. SpongeBob, she said, was saying those things directly to her. At the time, Johnson said “she was hallucinating, was afraid for her life, and that she’d lost her mind.”

The child’s body was discovered when Johnson’s brother arrived home from work and saw a small foot protruding from a garbage bag outside the home. He reported his finding to police who found the remains of Sutton Mosser. Her body, dressed only in a pink and white disposable diaper, was wrapped in bedding and then placed inside the garbage bag.

Johnson was later located by police and arrested.

Justine Johnson is currently being held in jail without bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 28, 2022.


Since most of you are accomplished writers of crime fiction in some form or another, and many of you have backgrounds in journalism, I’d like to offer the follow paragraph for your review.  Not to take away from the extreme horror of this case, but as a learning tool. It’s from a news source reporting the SpongeBob murder.

Please, read it carefully. I did not make this up. I copied and pasted directly from the article. Yes, this was in a national well-known news publication and was written by someone who actually received money for writing it, a journalist whose credentials read – “a multimedia journalist with more than 10 years of experience in broadcast, digital and print production.”

From the article written by the veteran journalist …

“Officers found Johnson hours after the discovery of her daughter’s body walking along railroad tracks. She told officers she did not want to talk about her child’s death, the affidavit states.”

That’s a line for a novel written by Stephen King or Dean Koontz, not one for real news.

I’m still shaking my head.


Writers’ Police Academy Registration to Reopen Very Soon!

After a week off to repair a severe break in our registration system, we’re pleased to say those fixes are nearly complete and the sign-up process will be back online in a couple of days—hopefully, Thursday or Friday. So stay tuned. We’ve also planned a nice bonus as our way of saying thanks for your patience and understanding during this situation, a first in the 14 years the WPA has been in operation.

Bonus details TBA soon!

Please tell all your friends and ask them to tell their friends!

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

A well-written book engages a reader’s emotions, as well as each of their five senses—touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. To do so, writers must call upon their own experiences to breathe life into their characters, setting, and actions.

Crime writers, the folks who take their fans into shootouts, car crashes, explosions, police pursuits, fights, courtroom trials, homicide investigations and crime scenes, and other situations that are highly atypical for the average person, face the reality of not having the background and know-how to draw upon as a resource.

Therefore, because they have no personal experience, writers of crime fiction have only a small handful of “so-so” available options to help with crafting those scenes. And, typically, their research tools are limited to relying on the word of another, read about it, or watch a video.

The results of this type of research often comes across on the page as being “flat,” as if something important is missing. For example, characters lack the knowledge of living cops and robbers, making them not quite up to par with their multi-layered real-life counterparts. Scenes are unbelievable and lack the depth that comes with having “been there, done that.” Dialog suffers because the author doesn’t quite understand the lingo and how and when to use it, other than hearing a television character speak.

The list of potential pitfalls is far too long for the writers who’ve never been involved in a shootout with an armed robber, or investigated a string of murders committed by a serial killer, applied handcuffs to the wrists of a criminal suspect, booked a subject into jail, driven a patrol car on an emergency vehicle training course, been in a deadly force situation where they had to decide whether to shoot someone, or not, fired a gun, tossed a flash-bang into an armed suspect’s home before “going in,” or ripped apart a vehicle using special power equipment.

Each of the above actions invoke the senses of anyone who’s present when they occur. If you’re not a law enforcement officer or other first responder whose job regularly requires involvement in those activities, it’s simply not possible to properly and accurately write those types of scenes in a manner that activates each of the senses.

How could a writer possibly describe the scent of gunpowder if they’ve not smelled it in person. Sure, they could read about it and then use someone else’s words in their work. But if that person’s description was inaccurate, then the story of the writer who used the secondhand information will also suffer the wrath of readers who know better.

A great example is the writer who describes detecting the scent of gunpowder in this way. “The detective knew the murder occurred recently because the odor of cordite lingered in the air.” 

We’ve all read this description time and time again, right? The author who writes this, I’m sad to say, doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about because cordite hasn’t been used in ammunition since its production ceased in England at the end of World War II, nearly 80-years ago.

No one will smell cordite at a crime scene or anywhere else unless, of course, the 100-year-old shooter used ammo he had leftover from his service during the Battle of Nuremberg in February of 1945.

So what’s a writers to do to solve this dilemma, you ask? Easy, no-brainer answer—attend the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy.

Attending the hands-on sessions at the Writers’ Police Academy is the best and ONLY means you have to experience those things in real-life, in real time, short of signing up to work as a law enforcement officer. There is no substitute for this one of a kind event, anywhere on our planet.

Here’s a preview of some of the 2022 exciting hands-on training sessions and classes taught by top experts.

Arrest and Booking – This session is the real deal. Once you arrive at the jail with a criminal suspect, you’ll take the subject out of the squad car, through the booking process, and finally to a cell, an unforgettable moment that’s punctuated by the sound of a steel door clanging shut behind them. This session includes use of the academy onsite booking area and actual holding cells.

Court Process – Taught by a sitting Wisconsin judge, this course covers the legal implications of bad decisions, from an initial appearance to motions hearings and ultimately a trial. Experience what it’s like to testify in court, recalling incidents, responding to legal questions, and more. Learn how your testimony affects and influences a jury.

Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVOC) – Hop in one of our patrol cars and buckle up, because during this exciting session you’ll maneuver the police vehicle through our Emergency Vehicle Operator Course on 26 acres of a closed training facility.

Firearms – Attendees delve into the types of weapons that officers use in their everyday duties. Learn the fundamentals of a Glock pistol and AR15 rifle. Become familiar with sight picture, sight alignment, stance, grip, and trigger control. Fire force on force ammunition on the indoor pistol range.

Tribal Policing – The United States has 574 federally recognized tribes in 35 states. The course guides attendees through the unique aspects of policing on tribal land. Some of the WPA’s academy facilities are situated on Oneida tribal land.

Use of Force Virtual Reality simulator – A heart-pounding, eye-opening, and extremely realistic session where you must decide, within a fraction of a second, whether to use deadly force. Experience how quickly situations unfold for officers. Once the headset is on, you’re there, in the thick of the action and it’s up to you to make the split second decisions.

Vehicle Extraction – Attendees use the Jaws of Life and see how these unique tools can lift vehicles and cut through virtually anything.

Vehicle Contacts – Law enforcement officers stop more than 32 million people per year. Traffic stops involve lots of moving parts, thoughts, tactics, and crimes. They can be, and often are, one of the most dangerous aspects of police work. This session will take you beyond the basics. Be prepared for … well, anything!

Forced Entry/Room Clearing – You and your team are dispatched to a location (our full-scale forced entry structure) where potentially armed and dangerous suspects are hiding. Upon arrival, you and your partners must enter to clear the building.

Participants experience first-hand the heart-pounding, adrenaline rush of “what if.” What if someone is truly in the building? What if they don’t belong there, and what if they have a weapon? What if they’re a wanted person who’s threatened to kill all police officers who try to capture them? Where are they hiding?

*Explosive devices will be used during this session; therefore, participants will be required to wear protective gear during this thrilling hands-on exercise.

Body Cameras – We’ve all seen police seen body camera footage—some good and some not so good.  These cameras have become a game changer for law enforcement and, in addition to merely recording in real time, have capabilities that are nothing short of amazing.

Defense and Arrest Tactics – Participants learn and perform techniques officers use to control behavior of cooperative and uncooperative suspects.

K-9 Operations – Everyone loves dogs, well, everyone except criminals! Spend some time with a K-9 officer and their K-9. Learn the ins and outs, from drug searches to tracking suspects. Bring your questions and cameras (please, no videos allowed) because these four-legged cops are anxious to show off, just for you! This session shows police dogs doing what they do best. Session may be outdoors, weather permitting.

Cops Doing Counterterrorism: Life In the Joint Terrorism Task Force – In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, state and local government officials around the country were faced with a sobering reality: the job of preventing and responding to terrorism was not solely the responsibility of the federal government.  Moreover, the work of the 9/11 Commission revealed the problems of depending on select agencies with classified investigations: sharing the previously un-shareable with local partners was a necessary part of the solution. But should John McClaine be entrusted with exceptionally sensitive national security information?  Which Jack has the need and the right to know?  Bauer? Ryan? Reacher? Black? Sparrow? Retired Acting Assistant Chief Alan Hardwick discusses his experience transitioning from parking tickets and domestic disturbances to briefing the nation’s leaders on secret operations, along with the impact on local investigators who never dreamed they’d be in the middle of a secret war not only for their country, but for their own lives.

Armed in America – Retired ATF Special Agent Rick McMahan discusses the legal commerce and the misuse of firearms. The presentation touches upon the historical events that have been impetus to the nation’s guns laws. We will dispel some of the errors and myths about firearm laws, including why the most repeated line on TV crime shows and in books is completely wrong— “The gun was registered to the suspect.” The presentation examines legal definitions of various types of firearms, criminal schemes, and motives (i.e. firearms trafficking and theft), criminal manufacture and distribution of firearms (such as “ghost guns”), as well as restricted types of weapons. In addition, the class will explore firearms evidence forensically and how firearms are investigative tools for law enforcement.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent – Has your main character been dropped into the middle of an old investigation and quickly discovers much is wrong? Has a crime been solved, the accused are convicted and the real bad guys walk free among us, with society none the wiser? Join former NYPD Detective Marco Conelli as he takes you through the course of a real investigation that instantly carved its place in the New York news as well as the law journals of America.

The Spingola Files: An Evening With Steven Spingola – A captivating session presented by author Steven Spingola, a nationally renowned death investigator who was heavily involved in the high-profile case of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Known to his colleagues as “the sleuth with the proof,” Spingola is an investigator and on-air personality for Cold Justice, a popular Oxygen Channel true crime program.

Conversations With The B.T.K. Killer, Dennis Rader – This class, taught by Dr. Katherine Ramsland, focuses on the immersive process of interviewing a serial killer, the challenges of the prison system for such work, and the experience of co-producing the documentary. After hundreds of hours spent inside the mind of this serial killer, in the context of many other killers Dr. Ramsland studied, she offers multiple insights for crime and mystery writing.

Touch a Truck – A variety of public safety vehicles and equipment for attendees to view and explore. Officers and firefighters will be on hand to explain the functions of vehicles and tools used by first-responders. Q&A and demo. Indoor event.

Live, Action-Packed Scenario – this adrenaline-pumping, dramatic, and riveting event unfolds in realtime!


Writers’ Police Academy Registration Opens Tuesday,

February 1st at Noon EST 

Guest of Honor – International Bestselling Author Robert Dugoni

~

The action is real. The instructors are real. The knowledge gained is phenomenal. 

The Writers’ Police Academy experience is invaluable. 

*Images above are from past Writers’ Police Academy events. Raise your hand if you see someone you know. I see Lisa Gardner, Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, and …

 

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

 

Today, I’m featuring three podcasts that will take you behind the scenes of real-world law enforcement. Each session is a goldmine of information for crime fiction writers—dialog, slang, emotions, first-hand accountings of life or death situations, actual radio transmissions during “shots-fired” incidents, and much, much more. This post, “Firefights and a Massacre: Real-World Horror,” is the real deal told by the professionals who were there, in the field, during some of the most intense situations imaginable.

I’ve posted these podcasts so that you may use these real-life encounters to help elevate the realism in your stories.

I must warn you, though, that some of the language used may be offensive to some people. Some of the content may not be considered politically correct, some comments a bit inapprropriate, and some dialog may simply rub you the wrong way. But it is what it is—real. So please, if you’re willing and able to set aside those things for a short while, this is a fantastic learning opportunity. If not, this may not be the blog post for you; therefore, now would be a good time to click over to a different article.

And yes, people were killed during these incidents, both officers and offenders.

If you’re still with me, please listen carefully to the audio, not only to the big picture but to the small tidbits of information that could help you build the layers of your fictional characters (speech, tone, excitement levels, anxiety). Believe me, these podcasts are filled with tons of detail—not gore, but incredible elements of procedure, personality, intense emotions, fact, intuition, police training and special gear, insight, and more.

Remember, I’m just a messenger whose doing my best to help writers achieve their goals of writing excellent books. This is not me talking.


The Protectors Podcast™ is hosted by Dr. Jason Piccolo, a 21-year federal agent, and military veteran.

Miami Shootout, with Ed Mireles Jr., FBI Agent (ret)

Ed Mireles Jr., retired FBI, joined The Protectors Podcast ™ to talk about his career, including his recovery from being seriously wounded in one of the most famous shootouts in U.S. history.

Listen here.

You can read about Agent Mireles in his book FBI Miami Firefight: Five Minutes that Changed the Bureau, by Edmundo and Elizabeth Mireles.

“One hundred and fifty shots fired. In five minutes two bank robbers and two FBI agents were dead, Five other agents were wounded, three critically. This incident would change FBI and law enforcement training, tactics and weaponry forever.” ~ book excerpt, edmireles.com


STOP THE KILLING is an in-depth look into the case files of former head of the FBI’s Active Shooter program Katherine Schweit. katherineschweit.com

THE SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MASSACRE

A crime that shocked the world and was the catalyst for the FBI’s active shooter program.

Listen here.

To learn more, read Katherine Schweit’s book, Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis.


Police K9 Radio is hosted by Gregg Tawney and Rich Hartman, veteran K-9 handlers and trainers.

Ryan Frank – Critical Incident

Ryan Frank details an on-duty shooting in which he and his wife were shot. Ryan talks about his training and mindset that helped keep him and his wife alive.


Books by former special agent Dr. Jason Piccolo, host of The Protectors Podcast™

click here

The much-anticipated day has arrived. Yes, The 2022 Writers’ Police Academy Website is LIVE, and it’s your first look at the exciting lineup of hands-on training classes available at the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy. As always, we’ve assembled an incredibly outstanding group of top instructors and presenters who’re anxious to share with you their extensive knowledge and expertise. Classes offered at the WPA (Writers’ Police Academy) include actual training that’s offered in a police basic training academy, and in advanced level classes attended by in-service law enforcement officers and other veteran first responders.

These special training sessions are offered to you ONLY at the Writers’ Police Academy.

Fox Cities Exhibition Center

We’ve expanded our facilities this year to include not only the renowned Public Safety Training Academy at NWTC and all it offers—the Universal Driving Facility (UDF), Tactical House, Burn Tower, Jail Facility, Firing Range, and more—we’ve also reserved the entire Fox Cities Exhibition Center in Appleton, Wi., which will house an INDOOR display of various law enforcement and firefighting vehicles and equipment. You’ll have the opportunity to explore these vehicles and equipment, and law enforcement and firefighting experts will be on hand to answer your questions. All nighttime, Sunday morning activities, and registration/check-in will take place at the exhibition center, including the banquet, a meet and mingle with live entertainment, special presentations, and more. The exhibition center is owned by the city of Appleton, but is attached to our official event hotel, Red Lion Paper Valley Hotel, through a sky-walk.

We have gone beyond over the top to ensure that your experience is one you’ll not soon forget, if ever! We wanted to make the return to in-person training something quite special.

Due to the action-based nature of some of sessions, and for your safety and ours, we’ve slightly reduced the number of available spots at the event. This is to allow an appropriate instructor to student ration. You will need to act quickly to reserve your spot once registration opens.

The level of excitement will be high. There will be firearms, explosions, barking K-9s, gunfire, door-kicking, handcuffing, jail cell doors slamming, and patrol vehicles zipping through a closed driving course. You will be in the thick of it all. It will be loud. It will be and adrenaline-pumping weekend of heart-pounding, titillating, and absolutely electrifying FUN! Oh, and you’ll learn tons of information for your books along the way.

Also new this year, and it’s a real bonus, is the addition of WPA attendees earning continuing education credit and a certificate from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

As I mentioned, the 2022 lineup of presenters and speakers is stellar, beginning with the 2022 Guest of Honor, Robert Dugoni.

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington Postand #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite police series set in Seattle, which has sold more than 8 million books worldwide. He is also the author of The Charles Jenkins espionage series, the David Sloane legal thriller series, and  several stand-alone novels including The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and the literary novels, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell – Suspense Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year, for which Dugoni’s narration won an AudioFile Earphones Award and the critically acclaimed, The World Played Chess; as well as the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Several of his novels have been optioned for movies and television series. Dugoni is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and a three-time winner of the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He has also been a finalist for many other awards including the International Thriller Award, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, the Silver Falchion Award for mystery, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award.

 

Robert Dugoni’s books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than thirty languages.


Next up are two fabulous, renowned special guest experts, Dr. Katherine Ramsland and Steven Spingola, whose captivating presentations will have you on the edges of your seats.

Dr. Katherine Ramsland 

Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 crime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,500 articles and 69 books, including The Forensic Science of CSI, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, she was co-executive producer for the Wolf Entertainment/A&E documentary based on the years she spent talking with Rader. Dr. Ramsland consults on death investigations, pens a blog for Psychology Today, and is writing a fiction series based on a female forensic psychologist.

Dr. Ramland’s presentation – Conversations with the B.T.K. Killer, Dennis Rader

*Dr. Ramsland has been with the WPA for many years.


Steven Spingola

Known to his colleagues as “the sleuth with the proof,” Steven Spingola is as an investigator for Cold Justice, a popular Oxygen Channel true crime program. During a 2014 episode in Vigo County, Indiana, Spingola and another investigator obtained a confession in a decades-old cold case. During an intense interrogation, suspect Clint Mackey broke down and stated, “I went back, grabbed the knife and killed her.

Steven Spingola is an investigator with a national reputation for excellence. He is a 2001 graduate of the FBI National Academy, and he holds two master’s degrees. Steven is a death investigation expert, a police-related shooting reconstruction specialist, and is formally trained as a criminal investigative analyst (profiling).

Prior to his retirement as a lieutenant of detectives with the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), Spingola supervised all major categories of criminal investigations, including stints in the Homicide Unit, Vice Control Division, Sensitive Crimes Unit, and Violent Crimes Division. He further served as the lead investigator for the Critical Incident Unit, a group that probes police related shootings, use-of-force incidents, and other significant events. As a detective, Spingola spent several years conducting death investigations for a homicide unit with one of the highest clearance rates in the country.

Steve has authored several books: Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes 1 & 2; Predators of the Parkway: A Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders and Staggered Paths: Strange Deaths in the Badger State.

Steven Spingola’s – The Spingola Files: An Evening with Steven Spingola


In addition are the 30 professionals who host and teach hands-on workshops and other sessions (not all are pictured).


And, three of our loyal and longtime special guest presenters …

Marco Conelli

Writer, Retired NYPD Detective

A twenty year veteran detective of the NYPD, Marco Conelli’s diverse career is highlighted by his work as an undercover where he was plugged into many investigations for the Organized Crime Control Bureau.


Rick McMahan

Detective, Kentucky Attorney General’s Office

Rick McMahan spent over a quarter of a century as a Special Agent for the ATF. During his career, Rick investigated a wide range of crimes from violent militant extremists to outlaw motorcycle gangs to murder for hire plots. Currently, he serves as a Detective for the Kentucky Attorney General’s office.


Joe LeFevre

Joe LeFevre is a full-time police academy instructor in WI. His instructional focus is on investigations, forensic skills, and officer fitness/wellness. Prior to teaching Joe was a police officer, and had spent a few years involved with a volunteer fire department.


Due to the action-based nature of some of sessions, and for your safety and ours, we’ve reduced the number of spots at the event. This is to allow an appropriate instructor to student ration. You will need to act quickly to reserve your spot once registration opens.

Registration to the unique and thrilling Writers’ Police Academy opens February 1, 2022.

Please take a moment to visit the website to explore the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy, THE event of the year!

writerspoliceacademy.com


We are actively seeking sponsors for this event. If you’d like to support the Writers’ Police Academy as one of our treasured sponsors, please visit  the “Become a Sponsor” page on the WPA website by clicking here. Or, feel free to contact me (Lee Lofland) at lofland32@msn.com. Please type WPA Sponsorship in the subject line of your message.

WPA sponsorships are wonderful means to advertise you and work, or product. Sponsor generosity helps the WPA continue from year to year at an affordable rate for all. Without our wonderful sponsors the WPA could not continue. I thank you all so very much!

Over forty years ago I’d made the entry in my notebook. I found my handwriting to be a bit difficult to read on some of the yellowing pages—the result of quickly-written memos then, and failing eyesight today. But I was able to make out the basics, and there was enough there to take me back to the time when I wore the brown over khaki uniform of a deputy sheriff.

Flipping through the pages of my log, one particular entry caught my eye. It was a Friday night during an unusually cool  for October. According to my notes, the skies were clear and brightly lit by a near full moon. The gas tank in my take-home car was full (as always, I’d filled it at the end of my shift the preceding morning) and the speedometer had just tripped 80,000 miles. The lights and siren were both in working order.

I’d signed on at 2342 hours that night, and in my mind I can still hear the dispatcher’s voice as she acknowledged my radio message. She spoke in a drawl that prompted a craving for mint juleps and an urge to plant a magnolia tree in my front yard.

It’s no secret that I was not born a southerner. In fact, before “the conversion,” I was such a Yankee that one of my relatives owned a house that was once used by Harriett Tubman as a stop on her vast Underground Railroad network. We lived nearby, where people didn’t say things like,  “Y’all” or “finer’n frog hair, or “fixin’ to” (going to).

“I’m fixin’ to head over to the Piggly Wiggly to pick up some chittlins’ for Sunday lunch. Y’all want anything?”

As a child born north of “the line”, the switch to the South was a major change. Everything was different, including schools and how they conducted business. Classes in our new southern location began each day with a child reading from the Bible, followed by a man’s deep but southern-twangy voice spewing from the wall-mounted speaker as he led us in prayer. We didn’t do that in my former northern school.

The thing about the South that stuck with me the most, though, was to see peanuts, tobacco, and cotton in their natural habitats—not nuts in jars or bags, tobacco rolled into cigarettes, or “cotton” as a word printed on the labels of my school clothes.

Okay, back to my notes. It hadn’t rained in nearly three weeks and the local farmers and their field hands had been hard at work for several days, picking cotton. They’d loaded large farm trailers to the point of overflowing, like giant pillows on wheels. But no matter how hard they tried, there was simply no way possible to gather every single piece of cotton, leaving lots of it scattered about in the fields. And, of course, it didn’t take long at all for the wind to blow the scraps of freshly picked raw cotton everywhere, sending it into trees, ditches, bushes, and roadways. The landscape looked as if it had been dusted by a light snowfall. You couldn’t spit in any direction without hitting a wad of the future shirts, pants, sheets, and stuffing for aspirin bottles.

Virginia cotton

At night, while on patrol, we often used our spotlights to scan fields and paths looking for illegal night hunters, or stolen cars and farm equipment that were sometimes abandoned in out of the way locations. Another target for our spotlights in those days were farmer’s fertilizer storage tanks that contained anhydrous ammonia. Farmers used the fertilizer to spray crops. Makers of methamphetamine stole it from farmers and farm supply companies to produce meth.

Meth makers siphoned the deadly liquid gas from the tanks and later used it and other hazardous ingredients, such as paint thinner, engine starter fluid, the innards of certain types of batteries, and ephedrine separated from its binding agent found in over-the-counter cold medicine, to manufacture the dangerous and illegal drug. This process required no heat since the chemical reaction was so volatile, and it is the reason clandestine meth labs notoriously and suddenly explode.


The method of making meth using anhydrous ammonia is sometimes called the “Nazi cook,” named after the meth distributed to German soldiers by Nazi leaders during World War II. For more, click here.


So yeah, that was a thing back then and it was a big reason we kept on eye on farms. And, of course, there were the people who stole livestock, such as pigs. Ah, the glamorous life of a deputy sheriff in the rural South.

In addition to highlighting stolen cars and fertilizer tanks, and the occasional “parking” teenage couples or pair of adulterers, the shining of a bright spotlight across the fields at night, the car-mounted devices also illuminated scores of wildlife—deer, foxes, raccoons, ‘possums, coyotes, and even an occasional black bear. And, on the night referenced in my spiral notebook, the light also showcased a woman’s body lying between two unpicked rows of cotton.

She was young, mid to late 30’s. Fully clothed with the exception of her bare feet. There were no shoes at the scene. Approximately 5’ 5″ tall. 150 lbs – 160 lbs, or so. Round face. Skin the color of Vermont maple syrup. Her eyes were open and without focus, and aimed toward the sky into infinity. Pupils fixed, and dilated. A bullet wound to her forehead, just above her left eye, and another near her right eyebrow, told me to save my CPR skills for another day.

Small clumps of loose cotton dotted the area around the body. Some were the brilliant white of summertime clouds. Others, the ones that clung to her wounds, were rusty red and mostly saturated with the victim’s drying blood.

Three sets of footprints entered the field—large boots, small tennis shoes, and a set ending with bare toes. Only two sets headed out. The toes remained.

The victim had two small children at home. A neighbor was called to sit with them while their father went out searching for his wife who’d called earlier to say the church meeting was running a bit longer than she’d expected. No, no need to pick her up. Wanda was at the meeting and would bring her home.

Twenty minutes later, after the husband left his children in the care of the sitter, Wanda called and asked the neighbor if she could please speak to the man’s wife. No, there was no church meeting that night.

The man knew, deep in his heart, that there was no meeting at the church and he where exactly where to look for his cheating wife.

The victim’s lover, a cotton farmer, escaped the gunfire.

There was no DNA. No fingerprints. No cell phone calls to trace, and no bullet casings.

Just a pair of womens shoes found five hours later, in the farmer’s truck. And a revolver containing four bullets in his jealous wife’s car.

If I’d kept a tally over the years I could’ve added another hash mark to the “life taken” column, and five to the “lives ruined” section.

My last notations on the page that night were four short lines that read …

“Murder warrant issued”

“17 gallons of gas, no oil”

“10-42 (off duty) – 0815”

“Sunny and warmer – a good day to pick cotton”

Before we dive headfirst into the real meat of this article, let’s first begin with a bit of background regarding the crimes of burglary and robbery. Otherwise, those of you who use social media sites and/or watching TV news and crime dramas as your main sources of research, well, you may not know that burglary and robbery are not the same. Not even close.

Here’s a great example of how the media often mixes up the two crimes.

The headline:

“British Olympian says medals were stolen from her home in robbery.”

I read the article hoping I’d learn how and why armed and dangerous bad guys forcibly robbed the unfortunate female athlete at gunpoint in her own home. But that’s not what happened. The headline was inaccurate, likely due to an ill-informed writer and/or editor.

The public typically assumes when they read or hear something in the news, it must be fact because, well, it’s the news, and not fiction. When the media passes along bad information, unsuspecting everyday people could believe it to be true and then repeat it in conversation and/or in writings. And this is one way those faux facts make it into books. The best means to prevent using this type of misinformation, of course, is to conduct honest to goodness research.

Back to the news story about the runner’s “home robbed at gunpoint.”

The first line of the first paragraph of the news story immediately contradicted the headline, saying the distance runner received the news that her home had been ransacked while she was away. 

“A British Olympian distance runner said Wednesday thieves ‘ransacked’ her home and stole some of her medals and jewelry.” According to the BBC, she said a family member went to check on her dog and found the home “trashed.”

The runner, Eilish McColgan, later said she was upset and angry when she learned that her home had been the target of a burglary.

She’d not been robbed. She was not at home when the crook broke into her home and took her belongings. Unlike the news reporter, Eilish McColgan knew the difference between burglary and robbery.

The fact that she was not at home is very important detail that affects how the criminal would be charged, if caught.


Burglary is a property crime.

In a property crime, a victim’s property is stolen or destroyed, without the use or threat of force against the victim. Property crimes include burglary and theft as well as vandalism and arson. – National Institute of Justice


Burglary as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary

“The breaking and entering the house of another in the night-time, with intent to commit a felony therein, whether the felony be actually committed or not.”

In Virginia, where I served as law enforcement officer/detective, the law governing burglary states:

§ 18.2-89. Burglary; how punished.

If any person break and enter the dwelling house of another in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony or any larceny therein, he shall be guilty of burglary, punishable as a Class 3 felony; provided, however, that if such person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.
 
§ 18.2-90. Entering dwelling house, etc., with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson; penalty.

If any person in the nighttime enters without breaking or in the daytime breaks and enters or enters and conceals himself in a dwelling house or an adjoining, occupied outhouse or in the nighttime enters without breaking or at any time breaks and enters or enters and conceals himself in any building permanently affixed to realty, or any ship, vessel or river craft or any railroad car, or any automobile, truck or trailer, if such automobile, truck or trailer is used as a dwelling or place of human habitation, with intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson in violation of §§ 18.2-77, 18.2-79 or § 18.2-80, he shall be deemed guilty of statutory burglary, which offense shall be a Class 3 felony. However, if such person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

VA Code § 18.2-91

If any person commits any of the acts mentioned in § 18.2-90 with intent to commit larceny, or any felony other than murder, rape, robbery or arson in violation of §§ 18.2-77, 18.2-79 or § 18.2-80, or if any person commits any of the acts mentioned in § 18.2-89 or § 18.2-90 with intent to commit assault and battery, he shall be guilty of statutory burglary, punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than one or more than twenty years or, in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, be confined in jail for a period not exceeding twelve months or fined not more than $2,500, either or both. However, if the person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

§ 18.2-92. Breaking and entering dwelling house with intent to commit other misdemeanor.

If any person break and enter a dwelling house while said dwelling is occupied, either in the day or nighttime, with the intent to commit any misdemeanor except assault and battery or trespass, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. However, if the person was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of such entry, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

Clear as mud, right?

Notice that I highlighted a brief portion of a sentence above in red, and three specific words in blue—with intent to commit larceny or any felony other than murder, rape, robbery or arson …” I did so to emphasize that robbery is not a portion of, or related to the basic crime of burglary. It is a completely separate offense.


Burglary and Robbery are not the same!


Okay, still confused when I say that robbery and burglary are not the same crime? You ask, how could this be the case when so many TV and print news reports and fictional television shows time and time again tell us that Ms. or Mr. Crime Victim’s house was robbed?

An inanimate object cannot be robbed

Typically, burglary involves the breaking and entering the house of another, and only a burglar, or burglars, are involved. There’s no force, threat, or intimidation used against a resident during the taking of an item or items from a victim, because the victims are not present. For example, you and your spouse are out for the evening when Joe I. Stealem enters your home through a downstairs window and swipes a carton of orange juice from your refrigerator.

Author Lawrence Block expertly captures the essence of a professional burglar, and he does so quite nicely with his character Bernie Rhodenbarr. Keep in mind, though, that Rhodenbarr is not the average residential burglar encountered on a weekly basis by patrol officers in your town.

Now, on to robbery.


Violent Crimes.

In a violent crime, a victim is harmed by or threatened with violence. Violent crimes include rape and sexual assault, robbery, assault and murder. – National Institute of Justice.


Black’s Law definition of Robbery.

“Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property In the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.”

Traveling back to Virginia, we see that robbery there is defined as:

Virginia Code § 18.2-58. How punished.

Okay, you’ve written your first, or maybe your thirty-first, shoot-’em-up, cut-’em-up cereal serial killer novel. You’re proud of the book and of all your hard work. After all, your sister’s husband’s best friend’s mother’s uncle who used to be a security guard at the mall says the bad guy in your latest book is so realistic that he makes Gacy and Bundy look like Cub Scouts. Now that’s an expert opinion, for sure!

But, did you do your homework? Are you sure you’ve written the character properly? Or, did you get your information from Dexter reruns?

Before you send the manuscript off to your editor, let’s take a moment to have a quick look at our mini serial killer checklist. You know, just to make certain your details are sound.

Number One – All serial killers absolutely LOVE Jodie Foster …

Oops, wrong list.

Hang on a second … it’s here, somewhere. I saw it just a moment ago…

Messy Desk

Ah, yes. Here we go…

Serial Killer Fact Checker

1. For the most part, serial killers are NOT loners. They don’t hang out in dark alleys hoping a potential victim will soon pass by. In fact, serial killers normally live everyday lives, working steady jobs and hanging out with everyday people.

2. Sex is NOT the only motivator behind serial killings. Greed, anger, money, the thrill of the kill, and wanting attention could all be considered as motivation for serial killings.

3. Serial killers are generally NOT wanderers who travel the highways and byways searching for their victims. Instead, they normally choose to stay within a comfortable region that’s relatively close to the center of their world (home, work, etc.).


4. Serial killers are generally NOT the super-smart geniuses we sometimes see on TV and in film. They’re also NOT always insane as defined by law. Sure, they’re usually psychopathic, but not “Elvis-lives-in-my-refrigerator-behind-the-cheesecake” crazy.

5. Serial killers can and often do stop killing. There’s no serial killer handbook rule stating they must find and kill a new victim every day for the rest of their lives.

6. Not all serial killers are white males.

7. Serial killers, as a rule, do NOT want to get caught. Instead, they become complacent and careless, and sometimes cocky, making it easier to be caught by police.

8. Not all serial killers are alike. There is no standard. Each serial killer has his/her own motivation and personality.

9. Serial killers are NOT limited to any specific race, age group, or gender.

10. Serial killers may have multiple motivations.

Finally, to help with your research

 

 

“A serial killer murders at least two people in distinctly separate incidents, with a psychological rest period between, which could be considered a time of predatory preparation. He, she, or they also choose the murder activity, such as stabbing, strangulation, shooting, or bombing, and may move around to different places or lure successive victims to a single locale. They view victims as objects needed for their ultimate goals, and manifest as addictive quality to their behavior, so that choosing murder is a satisfying act rather than merely a reaction or instrumental goal.”  Dr. Katherine Ramsland


*Jodie Foster image by Alan Light (background removed)


Full details coming soon!

 

 

“Hollow point bullets are designed to hit the animal they’re being shot at, let’s say a deer for example, and explode inside that body, correct?” – Prosecutor Thomas Binger, during questioning of defendant Kyle Rittenhouse in a Kenosha County, Wi. courtroom.

Rittenhouse replied, “No, I don’t think so.”

Rittenhouse, on trial for murder, was absolutely correct. Hollow point ammunition does not explode.


Prosecutor Binger’s hollow point blunder is the perfect example of someone who hasn’t done their homework before sharing their lack of knowledge with the world.

Unfortunately, this massively incorrect statement was most likely absorbed into the brains of many folks who’re following the trial, and a number of them will repeat it as fact merely because it was spoken by someone, a prosecutor, who should know better. Then the snowball effect begins, with more and more people repeating the untruth until it eventually makes it way into everyday conversation, the media and, well, crime fiction.

I’m addressing this topic only because I don’t want to see Binder’s error wind up in your books. Of course, the fact that Binder used false information in a real-life murder trial is far more than concerning than to see it appear on page 102 of Sally Sue’s next thriller. Perhaps, though, Binder picked up the morsel of untruth from a novel written by someone who didn’t care to do their homework before settling in to write. You know, the same writers who have their characters smell the odor of cordite when entering a fresh shooting scene. Hmm …


Say NO to cordite! Click here to see why.


Before discussing hollow point rounds, it’s important to understand full metal jacket and hollow point bullets (the actual projectiles).

Jacketed bullets – lead bullets that are encased either partially or completely in copper or a similar alloy. The term “full metal jacket” (FMJ) refers to complete jacketing of a bullet. The entire bullet is encased inside a jacket.

Jacketed bullets

A FMJ round typically punches straight through through soft tissue, a through-and-through wound, and that’s because its hard jacket usually doesn’t allow the bullet to deform and expand. The FMJ bullet typically retains it sleek design as it passes through the body. However, the fired FMJ bullet could become misshapen if hits something hard, such as steel or concrete, and sometimes bone.

Wounds Caused by FMJ Rounds

Soft tissues are elastic and pliable and tend to close around a wound, attempting to retain the tissue’s original form. Therefore, both entrance and exit wounds are much smaller than the explosive and cavernous destruction that TV and film would have us believe. In fact, even 9mm FMJ rounds often leave behind wounds not much larger than those caused by rounds fired from a .22 pistol. Actually, even the more substantial and plumper .45 rounds often leave wounds smaller than the diameter of the bullet, after tissues begin to shrink once the round passes through. The same is so regarding the the wound cavity where the bullet travels through the body on its way to and out the opposite side. Therefore, for a FMJ round to kill or fully incapacitate, well, it usually must strike a vital organ or blood vessel. Thus, a shooter must be accurate with their shots.

Now for the “scoop” on hollow point ammunition.

Hollow Point Ammunition

Hollow points “mushroom” upon impact with tissue or other material/surfaces

Hollow point ammunition is designed to expand, or mushroom, when it strikes soft tissue. Expand, NOT explode.  The void at the tip is the key. Upon impact, it fills with matter, and that action combined with the forward motion of the round causes the lead surrounding the void to peel back and away, sort of like peeling a banana at 1,000 feet per second, or so.

As a result, the expansion of the bullet forces the round to quickly lose velocity while creating a much wider wound channel, thus a greater chance of it remaining inside the body, the opposite effect of an FMJ round. Therefore, hollow point ammunition reduces the risk of accidental collateral damage—a round passing through a body and traveling on to strike other people when firing in self defense or defense of others), or animals, buildings, and other people when hunting.


Hollow point rounds are an excellent ammo choice for law enforcement and for civilian self-defense.


 

 

Like the rounds pictured above, many hollow point bullets are jacketed, which allows for smoother feeding into a semi-automatic and automatic weapons. Jacketing also reduces “lead shaving” and damage to gun barrels. Jacketing hollow point ammunition also aids in penetrating targets, as well as helping the bullet expand in a uniform manner.


Lead shaving – deposits of lead are “shaved” from a bullet as it leaves the chamber and barrel. Deposits are often left in the bore of a firearm which can alter the shape of a bullet and/or the lands and grooves of a barrel. Sometimes the shaving is so egregious that tiny bits of hot lead blows outward onto the face, arms, and hands of the shooter. Occurs mostly with revolvers.

The first firearm I was issued by a sheriff’s office, a Ruger .357, shaved lead horribly. So much so that it peppered my face and hands with tons of hot lead each time I pulled its trigger. In fact, after firing between 40 -60 rounds the lead build-up around the chamber and cylinder was so great that the cylinder could not rotate. The revolver was, at that point, totally useless. It would not fire until it was thoroughly cleaned and the lead deposits scraped away. Needless to say, I plead my case with the boss and was issued a new weapon.


Many jacketed hollow point bullets have factory-cut notches/thin grooves/fault lines cut into the outer copper jacket, around the tips of the bullets. These cuts are purposeful weak points help that ensure that expansion and mushrooming occurs as it should.

 

 

So no, hollow point rounds do not explode.

FYI – Prosecutor Binder’s questions about this type of ammo was a bit puzzling since it had previously been confirmed that the ammunition fired from Rittenhouse’s weapon were full metal jacketed rounds, not hollow points. Just one of many head-scratching moments during a bizarre trial.


*This post is about ammunition only. I merely used an ill-informed prosecutor’s inaccurate question/statement as fodder for an article that could benefit writers of fiction, or fact. I am in no way offering an opinion of Rittenhouse’s guilt, innocence, or any combination thereof. So please, let’s avoid discussion about the case and trial, race, politics, etc.