Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It was the coffee made me do it!

RHYS: It’s True Crime Tuesday again and I was going to feature two crimes stemming from seemingly the most trivial of domestic incidents. Then on today's news I heard that a man who strangled his wife claimed that caffeine made him so hyper that he didn't know what he was doing. Yeah, right.

And the crimes I’m featuring this week (thanks to Hank who supplied them for me) reveal the difference between real life and the crimes we create for our books. Take a look at the following:

JACKSON, Ky. - For months, Stanley Neace had shown increasing hostility to his neighbors in rural eastern Kentucky, to the point his landlord started eviction proceedings. Then he snapped over how his wife cooked his eggs, and killed her and four others with a shotgun before shooting himself.
Neighbors in the roadside mobile home park said Neace stormed across several lawns in his pajamas on Saturday and fired dozens of shots from a 12-gauge pump shotgun. When the rampage ended, Neace and his wife lay dead, along with the gunman’s stepdaughter and three neighbors.
Trooper Jody Sims of the Kentucky State Police said Neace, 47, killed the five people in two mobile homes, then went to his home and turned the gun on himself. Investigators were still working Sunday to piece together exactly what happened during the rampage, Breathitt County Sheriff Ray Clemons said.
The state medical examiner’s office in Frankfort was expected to perform autopsies on all six who died.
Neighbor Steve Smith saw the shootings from the window of his mobile home. When he walked outside, Smith said Neace took a shot at him but missed.
"He chased his wife around that Jeep shooting at her," Smith said, pointing to a SUV parked outside his mobile home. "I heard her screaming and running."
Sims said that when state police arrived about an hour after the gunfire began, they heard a single gunshot and found Neace’s body on the porch in the unincorporated community of Mount Carmel in Breathitt County, which is home to about 16,000 people.
Sherri Anne Robinson, a relative of two of the victims, said witnesses to the shootings told her that Neace became enraged when his wife did not cook his breakfast to his liking.
"She tried to run to tell my family and he shot them too because they found out about it," she said.
The victims were identified as the gunman’s wife, Sandra Neace, 54; her daughter Sandra R. Strong, 28; and neighbors Dennis Turner, 31; Teresa Fugate, 30; and Tammy Kilborn, 40.
The names of the victims were provided by Kentucky State Police, while Robinson described their relationships. Fugate is Robinson’s sister, Turner is her cousin and Kilborn was a witness who happened to step onto the porch of another mobile home when she heard the commotion.
Robinson said Fugate was shot in front of her 7-year-old daughter.
"Her daughter said, ’Please, please don’t shoot me,’ and he said, ’All right, you can leave,’ and she ran out," said Robinson, who spoke to her niece after the shootings. "She went and told her neighbors, and the neighbors called the law."
Robinson said Neace had never appeared threatening to her, but that he was known to have a violent history. Sims could not confirm that Neace had a criminal record.
County prosecutor Brendon Miller said his dealings with Neace came on nonviolent issues involving child support and he was in Miller’s office a month ago regarding a traffic ticket.
Sims said when police arrived at the mobile home park about 90 miles southeast of Lexington, they heard a single gunshot, then found Neace’s body on his porch. They found victims in two other mobile homes.

And continuing with this theme!! From maybe ten years ago:
Rosenthal found guilty of murder
Jury rejects argument for insanity
By The Associated Press
CAMBRIDGE -- Financial analyst Richard Rosenthal was found guilty yesterday of first-degree murder in the slaying of his wife, whose heart and lungs were impaled on a stake after she complained that he had burned their ziti dinner.
The jury found that Mr. Rosenthal, 40, had fatally beaten his wife, 34-year-old Laura Jane Rosenthal, with a rock in the back yard of their Framingham home on Aug. 28, 1995, and then eviscerated her.
He was immediately sentenced under state law to life imprisonment without parole.

Mr. Rosenthal stood impassively when the verdict and sentence were read. His lawyer, Norman Zalkind, said that he remained emotionless when he was taken from the courtroom.
"How can he react?" said Mr. Zalkind. "He's mentally ill. He doesn't get it."

RHYS: So what’s the message we get from this—watch your cooking skills?
For me it’s that in our books we strive to create a just motive for killing, revealing character under stress that would lead the reader to suspect a certain person. But it’s quite obvious that in real life murder is often random and petty. Obviously a badly cooked egg or ziti don’t turn someone into a murderer. They were the last domino in a long line waiting to fall. But it does show us that domestic violence is the most frequent sort of crime and it’s petty and nasty and more common than we suspect and perhaps we don’t write about it enough.


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  2. Yes, Rhys, I think that's so wise. It doesn't have to be an apocalyptically enormous thing. It often is just--someone having a bad day.

  3. Just another reason I've stopped cooking. It never ceases to amaze me how many little dust-ups and kerfluffles my darling husband and I have over food, which usually end with my saying through gritted teeth..."Just pick a place, honey."

    Happily it's never come to anything more than that.

  4. Guess I'd better keep working on my cooking skills. Luckily my husband likes cheese. Can you imagine if he didn't? Edam and Weep, baby!


  5. This brings a whole new meaning to the comment "I'd kill for a [insert favorite food]"

    Is it just me, or does it seem like people are just whipping out the deadly weapons over every little thing? Scary.

  6. yes, Ramona--What would you do for a Klondike Bar? :-)

  7. I'm a darn good cookie and mostly I enjoy it. Occasionally, when I don't we order in or go out, but discuss what to get...sometimes longer than it would take me to cook a meal.

    I've always had a rule in my house. You don't like the way I cook it--cook it yourself.

    The only time I can remember Hubby even getting upset about a meal was chicken gumbo soup I made with corn in it. The (grown) kids still talk about the time Dad pushed his plate across the table hard enough to splash the soup out yelling “You don’t put corn in soup!” No clue about the why since he likes corn. I can’t remember what he ended up eating either. I guess like Hank said, "He must have been having a bad day."

    We've been married 43 years and I think this happened maybe 25 years ago...mid-life crisis? This is a guy who’ll eats burnt cookies rather than toss them out or cook the rare meat in the microwave if it isn’t done enough to suit him.

  8. Uh-oh, Pat, that means I shouldn't send you the corn chowder recipe?

    There are ways in which some serious crimes like murder can seem logical, and ways in which they never can -- ultimately, it always seems a little crazy. But behind the stories of murder over eggs scrambled instead of basted or burned ziti is usually a story of a violent or abusive relationship and a long history of the inexplicable. A neighbor or relative often says ‘we never saw it coming,’ and that may be true, but it seems like in hindsight, the clues are there.

    I’m reminded of the line “truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense.”

    Leslie Budewitz

  9. Leslie, Send ME the corn chowder recipe! My husband has been de-fanged.

  10. I once wrote an Evan book in which the murders were to escape from being trapped in abusive relationships in what everyone else thought was a perfect marriage. So I guess art does occasionally imitate life.
    Oh--and my husband does most of the cooking....

  11. My husband has turned in to Mario Batalli and The Ace of Cake's since he retired. Had I known this would happen, I'd had them bump out the wall 3 feet when we renovated. He makes homemade pasta and Italian cheese cake. I won't even mention the weight issues to this.

    No one warned me about tripping over a retired man all time--size 13 feet in a 2 x 4 kitchen. I swear everytime I need to get in the kitchen, he's there. I could kill him off, but then I'd I have to trip over his 6 ft body in a 2 x 4 kitchen. LOL

    Or..and the corn chowder recipe--forget about it (sorry, couldn't resist, I'm a Jersey Girl)--since that time I've discovered I'm allergic to corn. Really, took doctors years to fine that out. Thanks for the offer, Leslie and Hallie.

  12. Okay, I'm not cooking any more... although it took my husband a year before he told me he liked whole milk, not the 2% I'd been buying...

    But seriously...I read this and thought WTF>>>
    ...Sims said that when state police arrived about an hour after the gunfire began...

    It took an hour before state police arrived? Maybe this is in the boonies... but an hour? They are lucky that the gunman got tired of reloading or the entire trailer park would have been gone.