Archive

Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Investigators Burst Balloon Boy Bubble

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi Heene, may have not been expecting quite the media storm that they have received since announcing that their 6-year-old son floated off in their home-made helium balloon.  Instead of the positive media frenzy that the reality TV couple was hoping for; they are now facing the very REAL possibility of jail time.

In a recent article published by the Associated Press (AP), investigators have determined that the so-called ‘balloon boy parents’ acted alone when they fabricated a story about their son floating off in a runaway balloon. It turns out that the couple did this all in an effort to gain publicity.

TSK! TSK!

Apparently, the TV couple loved the limelight so much that they decided to take matters into their own hands and get the entire family (not to mention much of the Larimer County law enforcement, National Guard and even the FAA) involved in the search for their son.

As some may recall; on October 15, 2009, the Heenes made a frantic phone call to police in which they stated that their 6-year-old son, Falcon, had floated away from their Fort Collins home in a UFO-shaped helium balloon that Richard Heene had built in his backyard. What ensued was approximately a 50-mile chase to try to rescue Falcon out of what looked like a flimsy looking structure resembling a Jiffy Pop flying saucer. In the meantime, millions of Americans stopped what they were doing and stood transfixed to their television sets as live coverage poured in to record the unfolding media sensation.

In the end, Falcon was found not in the runaway balloon; but, rather, he was found hiding in a box in the attic of his parents house. When asked why he didn’t respond when he heard local authorities or his parents calling his name while they searched the house for him, little Falcon dropped the bomb by saying,

You guys said, that, um, we did this for the show…

GOTCHA’!

On November 13, 2009, Richard Heene pleaded guilty to a felony count of falsely influencing the sheriff while his wife, Mayumi Heene, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of knowingly filing a false report with police. Now, the couple not only faces jail time, they also face having to pay a substantial amount of restitution regarding the incident. Some approximate numbers that the couple may be looking at:

  • Appx. $16k for the two National Guard helicopters used to track the makeshift aircraft
  • Appx. $8,500 in damages to the field where the craft landed
  • Appx. $11k by the FAA for launching an unauthorized aircraft

In addition, approximately $8,000 was spent by the Larimer County police department in overtime alone in the search for Falcon; and another $13,500 was spent by law enforcement agencies from nearby communities (including the U.S. Forest Service)- all of whom were helping in the search for Falcon. [source]

Prior to the balloon boy hoax, Mayumi Heene and her husband, Richard, twice starred on the reality TV show, Wife Swap. Below is a video chronology of events leading up to the Heenes’ current ‘reality’ situation:

Falcon Heene Disappears in Home-made Balloon:


Falcon Found Safe, Not in Balloon, but At Home


Falcon Drops a Bomb..


For more information about criminal investigations, contacCat’s Eye P.I. today at 919.878.9988.

10 Bodies Later, Police Face Tough Questions in Sowell Case

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

After serving 15 years in jail for the rape of a 21 year-old female back in 1989, it seems that Anthony Sowell didn’t learn anything when he was released from prison in 2005 except how to kill innocent victims.  And now, after finding ten bodies and one skull in Sowell’s Cleveland home, questions are being raised not at Sowell but at police.

After being released from prison in 2005, Sowell moved into a 3-story house in southeast Cleveland, which he shared with his mother.  A registered sex offender, Sowell was required to check in regularly at the sheriff’s office, and while officers didn’t have the right to enter Sowell’s house, they would occasionally stop by to make sure that he was there.  If you could get past the awful stench that permeated throughout the entire neighborhood, things seemed otherwise quiet and relatively normal…that is, until a woman went to police in late September 2009 to report that she had been raped by Sowell in his home.  Ironically, the last time that police had stopped by to “check up” on Sowell was just hours before the rape was reported.

When police went back with a search warrant and entered Sowell’s home on October 29th, they were surprised to discover six decomposing bodies.  According to Lieutenant Thomas Stacho, one body was found in a shallow grave in the backyard, one body was found in the basement, two bodies were found in a third floor living room, and two bodies were located in an upstairs crawl space.  All of the bodies were identified as black females who had been strangled to death. Police located Sowell approximately one mile from his home on October 31st and immediately arrested him.

According to Powell Caesar, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office, the bodies that were found could have been dead for a matter of months or possibly years.  It will take them time to figure out the identities of some of the victims due to how badly decomposed the bodies are.  Additionally, since the first six bodies were discovered, an additional four have also been found, leading investigators to believe that the total count of victims may not be over just yet.

The bigger question on everyone’s minds, however, is “How is it that police didn’t do something about this earlier, especially when neighbors in the area had been complaining about a foul odor?”

Records show that city councilman, Zack Reed had called the city health department back in 2007 after a resident in Sowell’s neighborhood told him about an odor that “smelled like a dead body”.  For a while, residents thought that the abhorrent odor was coming from a local sausage and head cheese factory named Ray’s Sausage.  Renee Cash, whose family has owned Ray’s Sausage for over 50 years, said that the smell was even offensive to them.  Suspecting that perhaps they were the cause of the odor, they had both their sewer lines and grease traps replaced.  But the smell was still there.

Too Little; Too Late?

The recent charges against Sowell come after years of complaints about Sowell’s frequent attacks on women.  The owner of a local business located just across the street from Sowell’s house, Fawcett Bess, claims that he found Mr. Sowell in the bushes just outside of his home, naked and standing over a woman who was bloodied, beaten and also naked.  Mr. Bess called 911, and an ambulance came to take the woman away.  However, when police showed up over an hour later, they never interviewed Sowell.

The lack of investigation into Sowell is quickly taking center stage as more bodies are being discovered and more questions are being left unanswered.  Had it not been for the recent rape accusation, would police have ever discovered the bodies in Sowell’s home? How many more people would’ve had to die?  Records indicate that it took several weeks to assign an officer to the case involving the woman who accused Sowell of raping her.  Why did it take so long for police to catch on to what was going on?  And more importantly, if police were “checking in” on Sowell all along, occasionally stopping by his home, how could they have missed the unmistakable smell of decomposing bodies? Shouldn’t it have served as a warning that something was amiss?

For more information about criminal investigations, contact Cat’s Eye P.I. today at 919.878.9988.

Lack of Surveillance to Blame for Gang Rape of 15-Year Old?

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

If you saw a young girl being brutally beaten and raped before your eyes, would you reach out to help in some way, or would you simply stand there and watch?  It seems that more people would rather stand by and watch; at least, this was the case in the recent report that is sending shockwaves around the country.

According to recent news reports, a 15-year old girl was attending her homecoming dance at Richmond High School when she was robbed, brutally beaten and raped by at least a dozen or more people.  What makes the situation even more horrifying is the fact that there were supposedly a total of 20 or so people who either participated in the rape or who watched as the rape took place and did NOTHING.

So, what caused the rape to take place?  Supposedly, the 15-year old (whose name is being withheld) left the homecoming dance around 9:30 p.m. to be picked up by her father.  However, on the way out from the dance, a friend asked her to walk with [them] to the other side of the school property into a dimly lit alley.  Once on the other side of the school building, the girl was met by a bunch of [students] who may or may not have had alcohol.  Just outside of the school, the girl was then robbed, and brutally beaten and raped for over two hours.  The girl only received medical attention when she was found laying unconscious on school property.  Currently, she is recovering in a hospital and does not have any life-threatening injuries.  But many people- especially parents are outraged over this incident.  How could a 15-year-0ld student have been raped on school property for over two hours without any faculty members knowing about it?

The Bystander Effect

According to some criminology and psychology experts, one of the reasons why witnesses may have done nothing to stop the rape of this young woman is due to something called the ‘bystander effect’.  According to Drew Carberry, a director at the National Council on Crime Prevention:

If you are in a crowd and you look and see that everyone is doing nothing, then nothing becomes the norm. [source]

Additionally, Carberry states that witnesses are less likely to report a crime because they reinforce this notion that reporting the crime isn’t necessary.  The other possibility is that witnesses within the group may think that someone else has already taken the opportunity to report the crime.  Responsibility becomes diffused among the group and almost ceases to exist.

So, where were the school officials when all of this was taking place?

No one seems to know.  What we do know is that in January of 2010, surveillance cameras were scheduled to be installed on the school property, specifically in the very area where the rape took place.

In the meantime, rumors are swirling that people were coming out of the dance when they heard that a rape was taking place.  So, can the people who stood by and did nothing actually be charged with a crime? It’s not as easy as you would think.  In order to be charged for a crime, you would have to prove that the bystanders somehow aided and abetted those involved in the rape, robbery and beating of the 15-year-old girl, either by restraining the victim or by participating in some other way such as blocking her path to prevent her from leaving, etc.

Arrests & Suspects

As part of an ongoing investigation to determine exactly who was involved in this heinous crime, investigators are offering a $20,000 reward to anyone who comes forward with information that will aid in the arrest and conviction of those involved in the 2.5 hour sexual assault that the female victim had to endure.  So far, the Richmond Police Department has arrested five people involved in the gang rape, but these aren’t the only people responsible for this crime.

It has been said that the victim could bring a civil suit against the school because, legally, the school has an obligation to protect its students by providing adequate security.  That being said, most of us are still reeling from this horrific event as we are left asking the question: “How could a 15-year-old-student be raped and beaten for 2.5 hours go in a public place without anyone saying anything or calling the police?”  Perhaps, in time, we will know the answer.

For more information about criminal investigations, contact Cat’s Eye P.I. today at 919.878.9988.

Investigator Tries to Find Justice for Murdered Police Officer

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

The trial for murdered police officer, Richard May of the East Palo Alto Police Department has just gotten underway.  Officer May was killed on Saturday, January 7, 2006 when he responded to a report of a disturbance at the Villa Taqueria located at the intersection of Cooley and University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA.  At the time that Officer May responded to the call, he had been conducting a ride-along with, then 16 year-old Explorer, Marco Marquez.

According to various reports, 38 year-old Officer May chased the main suspect (later identified as 26 year-old defendant Alberto Alvarez), who had tried to flee the scene.  When Alvarez finally turned around, he had a gun in his hand and subsequently shot Officer May, fatally injuring him.  Marquez, who had remained in the police car and was uninjured, was the first person to call and report the shooting.  Officer May had served with the East Palo Alto Police Department for 18 months and had over 10 years of experience as a police officer.

Now 19 years-old, Marquez is being questioned about his knowledge of what he witnessed that fateful day.  This information is crucial to this case as the defendant, Alberto Alvarez, faces the death penalty if the jury convicts him of first degree murder of a police officer.  Recently, however, there has been controversy over information that Marquez had told investigators.

In interviews taken from the night of the shooting, Marquez had informed investigators that he actually saw Alvarez fire the first shot and at one point witnessed Officer May pointing his gun at the defendant.  However, recently, Marquez testified that the first shot rang out as Marquez ducked down in the police car after seeing Alvarez with an object in his hand.  He told the court that he saw Officer May put his hand on his gun, but he never actually saw the 38 year-old officer actually pull his weapon from his holster [source].

Today, Alvarez remains in custody without the possibility of bail. He is the first person to face execution in San Mateo County since Scott Peterson’s 2004 trial for the murder of his pregnant wife, Laci.

For more information about criminal investigations, contact Cat’s Eye P.I. today at 919.878.9988.

Intense Search for Missing Florida Girl Results in Tragic End

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment

According to recent news reports posted only hours ago, authorities in Orange Park, Florida recovered the body of missing 7-year-old Somer Thompson.  Thompson was a north Florida girl who disappeared while walking home from school.

Thompson’s body was discovered in a Georgia landfill near the Florida state line after local detectives followed some garbage trucks that were leaving Thompson’s neighborhood.  Detectives soon made the gruesome discovery after they first spotted Thompson’s legs and partially covered body immersed under a conglomeration of garbage.  Identification of the body was determined based on clothing and a birthmark that matched Thompson’s.

According to Clay County Sheriff, Rick Beseler, following the discovery of Thompson’s body, more than 70 registered sex offenders in the area have been interviewed.  What is, perhaps, more disturbing is the fact that Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show that there are more than 160 sex offenders who live within a five-mile radius of the Thompsons’ home.

The murder of Somer Thompson has come as a tragic shock for the community she lived in. And as more details on this case emerge, it is the hope of many that police will find the killer soon before anyone else gets hurt.

For one family, it is already too late.

When it came time to break the news to Somer’s mother, Diena Thompson, that her daughter’s body had been found, Beseler was quoted as saying:

I had to make one of the hardest calls I’ve ever had to make in my career last night. [source]

For more information about criminal investigations, contact Cat’s Eye P.I. today at 919.878.9988.


Do You Have Tickets to the Gun Show? Mayor Bloomberg Does.

October 9, 2009 Leave a comment

What has happened is that these so-called ‘private sellers’ are using gun shows to run profitable businesses while criminals and traffickers are using the private sellers to buy guns anonymously and easily..no questions asked… [source]

New York City mayor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is working overtime to expose the loophole hidden in gun shows.  The mayor was quick to point out that he is NOT trying to violate the 2nd Amendment or people’s right to bear arms.  Rather, he is trying to expose the inherent dangers that could possibly stem from private, unlicensed gun dealers selling deadly weapons to people who haven’t passed background checks.

The Investigation

Mayor Bloomberg put together this wide-ranging sting operation, hiring a team of 40 private investigators from an outside firm to purchase weapons at seven different gun shows.  Investigators attempted 33 purchases from 30 private gun sellers, and after the private investigators audibly stated to the sellers that they couldn’t pass a background check, the majority of sellers still proceeded with the gun sales 22 times. The result? Investigators discovered that 74% of the dealers at each of the gun shows were selling weapons to people who they knew couldn’t pass a background check.

Advocates of tighter gun control argue that this loophole in gun shows makes it that much easier for criminals to acquire guns.  It also makes it more difficult for police to trace the origin of the weapons if they are used in crimes.

The sting operations took place from May 2009 to August 2009 at seven gun shows held in Tennessee, Ohio and Nevada and cost NYC taxpayers approximately $1.5 million.  What is perhaps the most surprising is that the aforementioned states are among many states that allow private, unlicensed gun dealers to sell weapons at gun shows without first conducting background checks.  However, nine states (including New York) have passed laws to close the loophole, requiring background checks on purchases made at gun shows.  And according to one article that was published recently:

The Bloomberg administration went ahead with the investigation despite a Department of Justice warning in 2007 that came after the city conducted a similar sting in 2006 to catch straw purchases, which is when someone fills out the paperwork and buys a firearm for another person.

The city has no legal authority over the dealers and is using its findings to make a point about the unregulated sales of so-called “occasional dealers.” A copy of the report is being sent to every member of Congress and the findings will be shared the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In the meantime, the National Rifle Association (NRA) claims that Mayor Bloomberg’s sting operation was nothing more than a publicity stunt.  What do you think?

For more information about criminal investigations, contact Cat’s Eye P.I. today at 919.878.9988.

Private Investigators’ Interrogation Leads to Questions About School Policy & Safety of Children

October 5, 2009 Leave a comment

If a couple of policemen walked into a school and asked to speak to a student, would you have a problem with it?  What if the persons wanting to speak with the student were not policemen but, instead, were private investigators?

According to a recent article published by 9News.com, a couple of private investigators from CSI Consulting and Investigations were looking for a missing child involved in a civil custody case.  Donning custom-made badges and baseball caps that read “CSI,” investigators showed up at Shaffer Elementary School and  showed a picture of the missing child to school principal, Gina Rivas.  After some time, Rivas volunteered the name of a student whom she felt most resembled the one on the missing child flyer.

Investigators wound up interviewing 8-year-old student, Lily Findley, about the missing child and the custody case.   So, what was the problem then?  Apparently, the principal never asked the investigators for any identification, relying solely on appearances and trusting that they were some sort of law enforcement officials.  However, John Sampson, one of the private investigators and owner of CSI Consulting and Investigations, was quoted as saying that the principal was informed right up front that the investigators were from a private investigators company. Sampson further stated that sheriff’s deputies as well as the little girl’s parents were not involved at all until Sampson insisted that they be present.

The article goes on to state:

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Jim Shires said authorities were first notified of the situation at the school by the private investigators. Deputies called the Findleys, he said.

“We were told by school staff that they thought these gentlemen, these private investigators were police,” said Shires. “We do not believe any police impersonation took place.” [source]

While there may have been no harm done, this incident raises many questions about the judgment (or lack thereof) that school officials exercise as well as the possible ease with which someone might impersonate a government official in order to manipulate children…or possibly kidnap them.  What do you think about this situation?  Do you think that the principal is wholly to blame?

For more information about criminal investigations, contact Cat’s Eye P.I. today at 919.878.9988.