documentaries, law, money, Police, true crime, YouTube

America really ain’t so great, is it? A French documentary leads me down another path of true crime discovery…

There are so many things I could write about this morning. Like, for instance, I read that Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend and fellow sex pest, has been convicted. She was facing six charges, and was convicted of five of them, including: sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. She now faces up to 65 years in prison. Her sentencing date has not yet been announced, and her attorneys vow to appeal. That’s what they all say, of course…

I don’t take any particular delight when anyone gets convicted of a crime and faces a long stint in prison, but I do think justice has been served in this case, just as I did when Josh Duggar was found guilty. People who endanger others, particularly when there’s violence or coercion involved, and particularly when the crimes involve preying on vulnerable people, should go to prison. They should be removed from society so that law abiding citizens are less at risk. But, of course, that’s not saying a whole lot in the United States these days.

Anyway, suffice to say, I think it’s right that Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty. I think she should be treated humanely, as I hope all prisoners are, but I believe it’s correct to send her to prison for what she did. I hope Donald Trump is next.

MOVING ON…

Yesterday afternoon, I watched America’s Broken Dream, a 2012 French documentary that was posted on YouTube. The documentary, which was presented in English, was about homeless people in the United States as of about ten years ago. It was a bit depressing, on many levels, to watch it, especially given what has happened since 2012. Several families were interviewed– people who were homeless or “half homeless”, living in cheap motels. All of the stories were compelling, although it was the last family that really caught my attention.

This was a sad, but interesting, documentary done by the French filmmakers, Java Films. There is also a French version.

Toward the end of this documentary, a young couple with two adorable little daughters is profiled. The mom, Amber Carter, is in California with her girls, presumably because California, as a “blue” state, offers better social safety nets for poor people. Dad, Daniel Carter, is in Kentucky, working manual jobs to support his young family.

At one point, Daniel comes to California to see his wife and their little girls. I am struck by how much he seems to love the kids, and his wife. Amber is shown trying to fill out job applications, but finds it impossible because she has two tiny kids to look after. I was wondering what she would do with the girls if she did get hired. I know from my days as a MSW student that decent child care is not cheap, always available, or widely accessible to everyone.

It looked like things might be improving for the young family. I had some hope that they might recover. But then Daniel Carter is arrested in Kentucky for striking and killing his neighbor, a man named Christopher Mitchell, with a hatchet. Carter maintains that Mitchell was drunk and had attacked him. He claims that he hit the guy in the head with a hatchet in self-defense.

Carter did plead guilty to fleeing and evading the police, and resisting arrest. But somehow, there wasn’t enough evidence to try Carter for the murder of Christopher Mitchell. He was released after serving 135 days in jail, time he was already credited for when he faced the judge. Another blog, titled Liar Catchers, has this article about Daniel Carter. Christopher Mitchell’s family was “furious” that Carter got away with killing their relative, especially since it wasn’t the first time he had killed someone.

I don’t believe it was mentioned in the documentary that Daniel Carter also did some time as a juvenile in Florida for killing his Uncle Jack Carter with a knife, back in the early 00s. Carter spent 19 months locked up in jail, but was later acquitted of first degree murder charges stemming from the July 2002 stabbing death of his uncle. In that case, Carter also claimed self-defense, as his uncle reportedly had come to his home to help discipline him. Daniel Carter, who was fifteen years old at the time, claimed his uncle had gone into a rage, and he had stabbed him with a rusty knife to protect himself. Jack Carter was stabbed ten times, with one wound to the neck that proved to be fatal.

Many people found it hard to believe that Carter got off in that case, too. One witness said that she’d never seen Jack Carter behave in a violent way and people were shocked that Carter wasn’t convicted. I’m sure that prior case could not be considered when Daniel Carter fatally wounded another man in Kentucky, but it does seem eerie that he killed two men in similar ways and got away with it both times.

I found the below 2015 post on Pensacola’s Community Bulletin Board:

Public Service Announcement

This is Daniel Carter. Pensacola natives might remember him as the boy who murdered his Uncle Jack Carter back in 2002. Though he stabbed his uncle over 10 times with a machete, cutting his throat and nearly severing one of his arms in the process, he was found not guilty of the crime. Why? I’ll never know. Jack’s sister, (Daniel’s mother), had called Jack over to the house that night to help her discipline Daniel, a troubled teen, whom she was unable to control. After the brutal murder of Jack Carter, members of the community, led by his mother Cindy, rallied around Daniel, who was only 15 at the time. Community members even held a fundraiser for Daniel’s defense at Bamboo Willie’s. They got him a renowned child advocacy attorney, who went on to paint a picture of a poor, abused teen, who feared for his life when he took a machete and stabbed his uncle over 10 times that night. When Daniel was release from jail after the trial, people rejoiced that he had won his freedom back. After all, poor Daniel didn’t mean to kill his uncle when he stabbed him repeatedly.  

Let’s fast forward to 2012. Daniel now lives in Kentucky. And in Kentucky, after a dispute with his landlord, (who apparently had a pointed stick in his hand), Daniel proceeded to take a hatchet, (yes, a HATCHET) and plant in right in the center of his landlord’s forehead, killing him. Believe it or not, Daniel was released from jail. Self defense again. In any case, the reason I am posting this is because Daniel is a Pensacola native, and I have no idea where he is now, but it’s defintely possible that he could be back here. If you ever happen to see him and have a disagreement with him, I would advise you to RUN. Whatever you do, DO NOT confront this man. He obvioulsy has a temper, and his history shows he is very dangerous!  

On a side note, the last time I saw Jack was about a week before he passed away. I hadn’t seen him in a while, so we exchanged hugs, and sat down to catch up over a drink. He was beaming. Smiling ear to ear. He told me he was in love. He told me he never thought “this kind of happiness was possible”. And he told me that for the first time in a long time, he was excited about the future, not just going through the motions of the day to day routine. He was happy to be alive ❤

And a few days later, he was gone.  
Rest in Peace, Jack.  
You are not forgotten.

One woman commented that she had been married to Daniel Carter. She wrote that he had conned her and her mother, and he was a very violent person. She expressed gratitude that they didn’t manage to have children together. I guess she must have been married to him before he was married to Amber, the woman who was portrayed as his wife in the documentary, as well as the mother to his two adorable little girls. If you click on the link directly above, you can read the comments about Daniel Carter and people who know him.

I didn’t know anything at all about this couple or the true crimes that were connected with them when I was watching the documentary. From what I could see on the video, Amber Carter was a good and attentive mom, even though she and her girls were living in their old car. It’s certainly not a crime to be poor. I was also struck by Daniel. He seemed to be a friendly, charismatic person. I could see how he charmed people, as he was well-spoken and seemed to work hard, and loved his daughters very much.

It just goes to show you that friendly, charming, well-spoken people really can be hiding monstrous characteristics under the surface. In the documentary, his boss says that Daniel Carter has an “amazing work ethic” and that his little girls are all he talks about. To hear him tell it, Daniel is a fine young man and dedicated provider to his family. I truly enjoyed watching him interact with his daughters, who really seemed to love him. He seemed to love them right back. I was genuinely saddened when the announcer in the documentary talked about Daniel’s arrest. The Carters seemed like they might somehow make it– or, at least it seemed like they were trying to get out of the hole they were in.

I got curious about Amber Carter, so I looked her up. Sadly, it appears that she might also have some serious legal problems. In September 2021, a woman named Amber Carter, who roughly matches the age and description of the Amber Carter in the documentary, was wanted by the police in Jones County, Mississippi. She was accused of “giving birth to a child who tested positive for methamphetamine” and was to face one count of felony child abuse. According to this article, Amber Carter was captured about a week after the news reported about her. She is, at this writing, listed on the inmate roster in Jones County, Mississippi.

As I was searching for more information about the recent charges against Amber Carter, I also ran across another item from May 2018, which appeared to involve the same woman– again, for giving birth to a baby who tested positive for cocaine and meth. If this is the same Amber, that means she’s had at least two more children who have been born into deplorable circumstances and are likely in foster care now.

A screen shot of a news brief about Amber Carter. Sure looks like the same person.

While it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if the Amber Carter who was wanted in Mississippi is the same Amber Carter in the documentary, it does make me sad that it could be, and probably is, her. The Amber in the documentary genuinely seemed to be a good mom, although it could be she was only like that when the cameras were rolling. I suppose I can understand how a person in the situation Amber and the other people profiled in the documentary might fall into drug abuse, but it really does seem like a terrible shame.

Although there seems to be an age discrepancy between the documentary Amber and the Amber in the above mug shot, I do think they are one and the same. The documentary was released in 2012, but 2008 was when the recession was really bad. I think it’s very likely that the footage was filmed in the years prior to 2012, and if that’s the case, then the ages for Amber in the documentary and Amber in the mug shot line up perfectly. Also, there is a very strong physical resemblance.

After I finished watching the documentary, I happened across a guest opinion essay in The New York Times about a woman who had once owned a home and horses. She was raised in Palo Alto, California by successful parents, and went to college and studied journalism. Lori Teresa Yearwood once had it all– including her own business. But a series of misfortunes and subsequent mental health challenges plunged her into homelessness. She spent two years on the streets, where she was sexually assaulted multiple times.

Yearwood went to several hospitals via ambulance after the assaults. She was so traumatized that she couldn’t speak, so hospital administrators did not know she was homeless– or, so they claim. As she was getting back on her feet again, with the help of Utah-based non-profit organization, Journey of Hope and an accountant she knew from her days as a business owner, Yearwood discovered just how outrageously expensive being homeless is. People don’t realize that homeless people often incur debts because they get arrested and fined. Yearwood also had huge hospital and ambulance bills, due to visiting the facilities after she was assaulted and locked in a storage shed for two days.

Fortunately, once she was functioning again, Yearwood was able to advocate for herself. She’s now back to working as a reporter. She got the huge medical bills dismissed, after she explained to the hospital administrators that she would be reporting about how they treated her. From the opinion piece, Yearwood wrote:

A public relations official responded that while in the hospital’s care, I refused to speak, so staff members didn’t know I was homeless. I explained that I had not refused to speak; I had been traumatized and had gone essentially mute for two years. By this time in my renewed journalism career, I had obtained my medical records, so I showed the hospital administrators some of the doctors’ notes about me. The next email from the hospital was swift: “Upon reviewing your account, we have decided to honor your claim of being homeless at the time of service and wrote off the remaining balance.”

I asked the hospital administrators if they were going to respond to the harm they had caused by ruining my credit: the stress and sleepless nights, the fact that I could no longer qualify for low interest rates on mortgages. The spokesman apologized but said, “All I can do is make it right going forward.”

Lori Teresa Yearwood is one of the lucky ones. I know it’s hard to climb out of poverty. I remember when Bill and I were first married, we weren’t impoverished, but it sure felt that way. I seriously thought we’d never get out of debt. It took years to do it, but I had my eye on the prize, and we were very fortunate in many ways. Moving to Germany, for instance, was a great move for our finances. But not everyone can do what we did… and many people are burdened by having children to raise.

I look at Amber Carter and I suspect that years of living as she was depicted in the America’s Broken Dream documentary wore her down on many levels. I’m sure that using drugs and having unprotected sex were two escapes for her that made life temporarily more pleasant. But those decisions ultimately made her personal situation much worse, and they also made things worse for her innocent children. She joins so many Americans who are incarcerated, and will find it so much harder to function once they are released.

As for Yearwood, I think she makes an excellent point that Americans need to pay more attention to treating mental health issues. Yearwood was doing great until the 2008 recession hit, she had credit problems that led to foreclosure, the Oregon house she was renting burned down, her dog died, and then, in 2014, she had a mental health breakdown that made it impossible to continue operating her business. When she was slowly recovering in 2017, she was fortunate enough to run into people who coaxed her toward rejoining society. She writes:

Nonprofit employees who work with the homeless should be trained in how to interact with people who have experienced trauma. Otherwise, they may inadvertently shame their clients for being hesitant to return to an economic system that has already penalized and punished them. A classic symptom of trauma is avoiding the source of that trauma.

As I was emerging from homelessness, I trusted very few people. I needed what advocates call a soft handoff. I would never have considered going to a group trying to help me unless someone I trusted had referred me and would go with me. My initial soft handoff was arranged by Shannon Cox, a former police officer and the founder of Journey of Hope. She took me to lunch and drove me to the hospitals to pick up all the records that I had no idea I was going to need to later protect myself financially.

Now, Yearwood is able to advocate for herself and others, but if not for people who cared enough to help her, she might still be on the street. She might still be at risk of sexual assault and falling into illegal drug use to escape the despair. Maybe she might be in a position similar to Amber Carter’s, although thankfully, there probably wouldn’t be any innocent children involved.

The America’s Broken Dream documentary also profiles other families– people who had jobs and homes, and their children, who were forced to live in cheap motels and worry about being picked up by child protective services. I might have to see if any of those people managed to pull themselves out of homelessness. I know it’s hard, though, because as Yearwood points out, it’s very expensive to be poor. A lot of people have no idea. And there but by the grace of God go any of us, unfortunately.

Documentaries like America’s Broken Dream scare the hell out of me, and make me so grateful for what I have… and for Bill, who works so hard to provide for us. But, I swear, every time I read a news article about financial ruin– something that Bill has already survived when he was with his ex wife– I want to start another bank account. It really is hard getting by in America if you don’t have the right skills, enough support, and luck.

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Duggars, narcissists, true crime

“It is finished.” Jury does the Lord’s work and finds Josh Duggar guilty!

I had kind of a busy day yesterday, although I was keeping an eye on the news. I had a feeling we’d finally get the verdict in Josh Duggar’s federal court case. I knew he was going to be found guilty, but there were some people who were a bit nervous, since the jury was taking some time to come to a decision. And, although my gut feelings are usually pretty accurate, there’s always a chance for surprises.

There were no surprises yesterday. Josh Duggar is now a convicted sex offender. In a few months, he will get his sentence and be off to prison, likely somewhere far from Arkansas. Below is his mugshot, which is bizarre looking. Who smiles for a mug shot taken under such shameful circumstances?

I stand by my assertion that this man is a psychopath.

Like many people, I’ve been following the Duggar Family News Facebook page, as well as the private group that is associated with it. Some people are saying that Josh is smiling because he’s being like the Paul the Apostle. It was explained that Josh’s children are being taught that their father is being persecuted. I don’t know much about the story of Paul, but one thing I do remember hearing is that Paul was famously misogynistic. Given the way Josh reportedly treats women, perhaps the moniker fits somewhat. In any case, I’m sure that Josh’s older children, who know their father and will miss him, have to be told something about why he’s not going to be home with them anymore. Or… maybe Josh is out of his mind.

I first became aware of Josh’s conviction because of a friend. Although I had been paying attention to the news yesterday, I turned my attention away from it for awhile to watch Call the Midwife. When I checked Facebook again, I noticed I was tagged in a news article. It was just the first tag. I probably ought to stop following the Duggars. I think people who follow them contribute to Jim Bob Duggar’s delusions of grandeur. The truth is, that family isn’t any more blessed than any other family is, in spite of all of the “blessings” God supposedly sent them, courtesy of Michelle Duggar’s hyperactive womb fertilized by a man who no doubt encouraged his eldest son to go down a very dark road.

Josh will spend the next few months locked up in county jail. It will suck a lot for him. According to Jessica Kent, a former convict who now has a very popular YouTube channel, being locked up in county jail sucks because there’s nothing to do, and inmates are generally locked down most of the time. Jessica even did time in Arkansas, so she has a concept of what it’s like where Josh is, although she was arrested in Fort Smith, while Josh is in Fayetteville. An interesting side note– my husband, Bill, lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas at the end of his first marriage. That’s why he was a member of the Arkansas National Guard.

In any case, it was early evening when I found out about Josh’s fate, but Josh was locked up at about noon his time. He’s currently spending his first night as a convicted sex offender, and in a matter of months, he will probably leave Arkansas for a federal prison in a location where his deviant sexual proclivities and the security risks associated with them can be dealt with appropriately. Before he gets his assignment, he will probably be taken to another facility, where he will be classified.

I don’t know too much about that process, but I do remember reading a book called Fish by T.J. Parsell, in which the process of being classified was described as very unpleasant. Parsell’s situation was not like Josh’s. His story is about being a boy in a man’s prison. I read that book in the spring of 2009, when we lived in Germany the first time. I remember being very affected by that story, as Parsell was not a sex offender. Instead, he was a victim of a brutal prison rape that occurred after he was drugged by other inmates.

I think my opinions about prisoners changed when I read that book. On the other hand, I do think Josh Duggar’s conviction was entirely appropriate. I don’t wish for him to be harmed by other prisoners… but I won’t be surprised if it happens. Child molesters are definitely at the bottom of the totem pole in a prison environment. And the fact that Josh comes from a relatively wealthy family and was a reality TV star may make him especially attractive to other inmates.

I just read an interesting 2017 era article titled “Where do federal sex offenders go to prison?” It was written by Zachary Margulis Ohnuma about Anthony Weiner, a former Congressman who was convicted and sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for sexting with a 15 year old. The author of the article points out that the sex offender treatment offered in prison may put Josh Duggar in even more jeopardy. He writes:

While it is true that BOP offers sex offender treatment in prison, experiences vary — and the Fifth Amendment right to silence does not carry a lot of weight. Inmates in sex offender programs are surrounded by other sex offenders. They are pushed by counsellors to admit to doing more than they admitted to in court. After all, the philosophy goes, not everyone gets caught for every crime they ever committed. While sex offender treatment has been shown, as a general matter, to be effective, the programs offered in prison are akin to the food on offer there — not something you would want to partake of unless it was absolutely necessary.

I would imagine that Josh will go to a prison where he can get treatment. I don’t know if he will be forced to accept treatment. In any case, having looked at the official Web site for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, it does not appear that Arkansas offers any facilities that provide treatment for sex offenders. There are two facilities in Texas and one in Illinois that have sex offender treatment programs. Those would be the closest to Arkansas. I don’t know what that will mean for Josh’s wife, Anna, and their seven children. My guess is that they’ll stay in Arkansas, but one never knows.

Anna has been incredibly loyal to Josh, in spite of his many obvious shortcomings. That loyalty may end up working against her. As it stands now, it’s possible that Anna could soon face charges herself, especially if it’s discovered that she turned a blind eye toward any abuse perpetrated by Josh toward the children. I suspect that her children will be interviewed by child protective services, if that hasn’t yet happened. Those kids have already had to cope with their father being forced out of the home and their mother spending most of her time with him, instead of them. I’m sure that CPS will want to know a lot more about how the children are doing, now that their father is a convicted sex offender.

I can’t help thinking about how bizarre all of this must be for the children in the Duggar family. I don’t just mean Josh’s children, but also his brothers and sisters and their children. The cognitive dissonance must be incredible. Josh has done some terrible things and has brought shame to his family. But his parents are “praying” for him, and did all they could to help him, while they cast out one of his victims. And Jim Bob is still campaigning to be elected to the Arkansas Senate. I think if Jim Bob is elected, I will lose all hope for humanity in Arkansas.

I get the impression that Jim Bob sort of runs a cult with a cult. Yesterday, I wrote a book review about a woman who was raised in Bill Gothard’s cult– the same one the Duggars are in. Being raised in Gothard’s ATI and IBLP is bad enough. But I think the Duggar family goes further than that. I think Jim Bob is the head of his own cult, where there are many “alternative facts” and “alternative realities” that everyone within the sphere must adhere to. Jim Bob clearly has his own versions of events. In fact, he clearly lies when the situation suits him, even though that goes against Biblical principles. He tells his children to tell the truth and repent, but those rules don’t apply to Jim Bob.

Anyone within Jim Bob Duggar’s sphere has to do what he wants them to do. Those who can’t or won’t follow his rules and devote themselves to him will soon find themselves cast out of the family circle. What Jim Bob is doing is nothing unusual among narcissists. I’ve seen my husband’s ex wife do the same thing to her family members. Anyone who won’t adhere to her fantasy world gets cast out because people who speak the truth and see things clearly are a threat to her power. I think Jim Bob runs his family and church like that.

This wasn’t the guy I saw, but you get the idea.

Years ago, I wrote a blog post about an experience I had when I was in college, back in the early 1990s. I remember a hypnotist came to our school and put on a very entertaining show. Volunteers were brought up on stage and the hypnotist would put them under, then make them do hilarious things. Along with the volunteers, there were also spotters who were tasked with helping the hypnotist. Anyone participating who didn’t fall under his spell was escorted off stage. This was because those who didn’t fall under hypnosis threatened the act. I don’t think it’s that much different when it comes to people like Jim Bob and Ex. Those who don’t fall under the spell need to be escorted out so they don’t “ruin” the illusion for others.

I think Jill Dillard used to be among the biggest believers in Jim Bob’s “mini cult”. But she has been deprogrammed by her husband, Derick. Jill and Derick have been ostracized by the family, even though Jill is one of Josh’s victims. If anything, Jim Bob should have been protecting her and the rest of his daughters from his deviant son. But, instead of being supportive and loving of Jill, Jim Bob has made her and her family unwelcome. In the long run, this is probably a better thing for Jill, but it still means she’s lost her family of origin. She serves as an example to others, keeping them “in line” by showing them that if they disobey, they will be ostracized. The same thing goes for “cousin Amy”, who has also spoken out against Jim Bob. The minute she did that, she was cast out of the fold.

Jim Bob rewards his followers with homes, jobs, and money. But the minute the see the truth and speak it– the minute they think for themselves and act accordingly– they have to be escorted out, much like those resistant people from the hypnotist’s show. What they may not understand is that there are people outside of that cult system who can and will help them. They don’t have to cling to the bad situation. They can make the courageous choice to escape, once they are over 18. A few of Jim Bob’s children have made that choice, but some of the others are still firmly entrenched. No matter what, as long as there is breath in Jim Bob’s body, he will always see his children as his possessions– even the ones he’s cast out of the family circle. If there’s anything I have learned about narcissistic parents, it’s that they almost never let anyone go completely.

We’ll see what the future holds. One thing is for certain, though. Josh Duggar’s days as a free man are over. He’s going away, and probably for a long time. His children will surely be safer without him around, but it’s still a hard thing for them. No matter what, he’s still their father, and they will always have a connection to him. I think if anyone needs and deserves prayers, it’s the children who have been harmed by Josh… or any other pervert who preys on the innocent.

The sad thing is, as horrible and disgusting as Josh Duggar’s actions are, there are still people who are much worse than he is. Bill and I were talking about this over breakfast. I think Larry Nassar is worse. I can think of some much lesser known people I think are worse, or have committed worse crimes. For instance, Brian and Shannon Gore, who were from my hometown, committed absolutely heinous child abuse that resulted in one child’s death and another’s permanent damage to her health. So… I try to keep that in mind as I gaze at Josh Duggar’s strangely happy looking visage in his mug shot. But this prison experience will probably be just the beginning for the horrors of Josh Duggar’s life from now on. Maybe God will have mercy on him… but I doubt his fellow inmates will.

Below is a link to Fish, the book I mentioned up post. If you purchase through the link, I will get a small commission from Amazon. I will warn that the book is not for the faint of heart.

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ethics, healthcare, law, poor judgment, tragedies, true crime

The right to “bear arms”, versus the right to “bare arms”…

Special thanks to a witty commenter on The Washington Post for the inspiration for this post’s title… and special thanks to Wikipedia user Cimmerian pastor for use of today’s featured photo– a woman with “bare arms” enjoying her right to “bear arms” in the Czech Republic.

I actually started to write this post yesterday morning, just after I posted my rerun blog about Gene Wilder, but a friend came up from Stuttgart and wanted to visit the Christmas market in Wiesbaden, so I never got around to finishing. Now that it’s Monday, I can go back to my regularly scheduled programming… 😉

On this peaceful morning, I’m sitting here thinking about items from the news. There have been a few interesting stories this week. Of course, in the United States, there are several high profile legal proceedings going on involving Josh Duggar and Ghislaine Maxwell, and now, Michigan parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, who bought their fifteen year old son, Ethan, a pistol for Christmas.

Ethan won’t get another chance to play with his new Christmas toy… This is a screenshot of Ethan’s Instagram page before it was deleted.

On November 26, Ethan Crumbley posted a picture of the gun on Instagram. He captioned the photo with “Just got my new beauty today. SIG SAUER 9mm”, finishing with a heart-eyes emoji. Ethan’s mother, Jennifer Crumbley, also posted about the gun, and took him to a shooting range last weekend.

One week ago, a teacher at Oxford High School, in Oxford, Michigan, where Ethan is a sophomore student, noticed Ethan searching on his phone for ammunition for his new weapon. The teacher reported the discovery to school officials, who then notified Jennifer Crumbley about her son’s strange Web searches. Crumbley didn’t respond to the call from school officials, but she did send Ethan a text that read, “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught…”

On Tuesday of last week, the day of the school shooting, another teacher noticed Ethan had a drawing that showed a semiautomatic handgun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” There was another drawing of a bullet with the words “Blood Everywhere” written above it, and a “laughing” emoji below it. Also found on the note is the statement, “My life is useless” and “The world is dead.”

School officials contacted Ethan’s parents again, but they declined to take him out of school. For some reason, Ethan was instead allowed to go back to class. Later on Tuesday, Ethan then proceeded to use his new Christmas present to perpetrate the latest school shooting.

Ethan Crumbley is now a suspected school shooter, allegedly responsible for the deaths of four students. His parents have also been arrested; James and Jennifer Crumbley are now in jail, each with $500,000 bonds. They were apprehended after a manhunt, and were found hiding in a building in Detroit, Michigan. According to CNN, all three of the Crumbleys are on suicide watch, even though none have indicated that they plan to harm themselves.

My friend Alex wrote about the Crumbleys crumbling Christmas season on his blog. Alex wrote:

When I read in various articles that Jennifer Crumbley had written an open letter to then-President Donald Trump in her now-deleted blog thanking him for protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights a few years ago, I was not surprised. The Crumbleys embody everything that is wrong with the American right: a mixture of anger, victimhood, entitlement, and disregard for laws and public safety.

As I read Alex’s comment about how the Crumbleys praised Trump for “protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights”, I was suddenly reminded of another story I read last week… that of an unnamed man in Italy who used a fake arm when he went to get his COVID vaccine. The nurse noticed that the skin was a different color and texture, even though it looked pretty lifelike. The guy, who is in his 50s, was unsuccessful in his plan to get the shot injected in a fake arm, thus sparing himself the vaccine. He is supposedly a dentist in Italy who has been suspended from his job, as all healthcare workers in Italy are required to be vaccinated.

In Italy, vaccine mandates are making it a lot harder to work or otherwise live a “normal” life. People are getting creative in their ploys to avoid getting “jabbed”, yet they still want to live as if they had done their civic duty. Germany, like Italy, and a lot of other European nations, is also making it harder to live normally without getting vaccinated. I think it won’t be long before COVID unvaccinated people find themselves deprived of liberty, much like recalcitrant tuberculosis patients are.

And then it occurred to me… the Crumbleys have abused the “right to bear arms” in the United States. And the unnamed guy in Italy who tried to use a fake arm to fool the health workers, abused the “right to bare arms” in Italy. Isn’t that clever?

I suspect Jennifer and James Crumbley are in deep legal shit right now, in part, because Kyle Rittenhouse just got acquitted of murder. Many people felt Rittenhouse’s mother should have been prosecuted for her son’s role in killing two people and wounding another man at a demonstration. Of course, it appears that the Crumbleys were even more negligent in keeping their minor son away from deadly weapons than Kyle Rittenhouse’s mom was.

I have a feeling that the Rittenhouse verdict is going to cause new laws to be passed, making parents responsible if their minor children get ahold of weapons and and kill or injure others. I do think that if that does become the case, though, the minors involved should be tried as minors, rather than adults. If parents are going to be held responsible for not protecting the public from their minor children, then it doesn’t seem right to me that the “child” would also be tried as an adult. On the other hand, it does appear to me that there’s something very wrong with Ethan Crumbley, and he probably needs mental health treatment. That could be true for his parents, too, but it does appear to me that they were very negligent. And now, it looks like they’re going to be headed to prison on the family plan, much like Travis and Greg McMichael are.

As for the guy in Italy with the fake silicone arm, I think he, and most of his anti-vaxxer sympathizers, ought to be ashamed of themselves. We’re not going to get past COVID-19 until people start thinking of others and get the vaccine. Aside from that, if you’re not going to get vaccinated, have some fucking integrity and don’t try to pull a fast one on already exhausted fellow healthcare workers. They’ve been through enough since this plague began last year. Have the decency to stay home. Oh… and grow the fuck up, too!

I will probably get my booster after the New Year. Bill got me an appointment for January 5th. But maybe I’ll be able to get one even sooner than that. I don’t look forward to the achy fallout, but I will be glad to be boosted, because I am so tired of the COVID rigamarole. This shit needs to end, already.

I will probably write yet another rant, at some point soon, about how Republicans are now trying to ban abortions… but they sure do like their guns. And I haven’t seen a whole lot of “good guys with guns” showing up to save students who just want to get educated so they can enjoy life… you know, that thing that Republican “pro-lifers” are so hellbent on protecting? As George Carlin famously said of Republicans, “If you’re pre-born, you’re fine. If you’re pre-school, you’re fucked!”

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Duggars, law, LDS, mental health, religion, true crime

Strict religions often destroy people and their families…

It’s the first day of December 2021, which means that Josh Duggar is FINALLY in court, answering to federal charges that he received and possessed child pornography. Although cameras and recording devices are not allowed in court, this trial promises to be a spectacle of the highest order. Josh Duggar, as many people know, is the eldest child of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. The Duggar family is extremely well-known for being fundamentalist Christians. For years, they made a lot of money promoting their beliefs on reality television with their show, 19 Kids and Counting. They were famous for having extremely strict and conservative Christian– specifically Baptist– religious beliefs.

Many people admired them, and fully believed in the wholesome image they projected. Some people went as far as to try to emulate the Duggars. Ma and Pa Duggar were often asked to speak about their beliefs, selling them to people who were looking for a way to survive our turbulent times. Their image of closeness, coupled with strict morality and behavioral guidelines, were very appealing to the masses. It helped that most of the children were bright, articulate, and attractive, and came across well on TV. They made their strict lifestyles seem normal and desirable, as if they had a blueprint to God’s favor.

In 2011, before the shit hit the fan, I can remember being admonished by a high school friend when I criticized the Duggars on social media. In fact, my old friend pretty much quit communicating with me when I didn’t react with shame following her public chastisement. She indignantly wrote that she “loved” the Duggars. But then the skeletons started falling out of the closet. I don’t know how my friend feels about the Duggars now, or even if she remembers that she once criticized me for criticizing them. Knowing her for as long as I have, I suspect she doesn’t “love” them, or their image, as much as she did in 2011. The Duggars are certainly no longer that shining beacon of hope and prosperity that they once were. They’ve been tarnished by the worst kind of scandal, and it’s been perpetrated by the eldest child– the one who was supposedly “golden” and promoted as the straightest arrow in Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s quiver.

Here it comes… this may score the Duggars their highest ratings yet.

In May 2015, In Touch magazine published damning reports of how Josh Duggar molested four of his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teenager in the early 2000s. Suddenly, the world heard about how Josh, who had grown up on television, and had a highly visible job promoting conservative “Christian family values”, was not the paragon of virtue he purported to be. Later, there were reports about how Josh had cheated on his wife, Anna, and met with a sex worker, with whom he was accused of having “violent sex”. Then it came out that Josh had a paid account with Ashley Madison, a Web site that is notorious for providing married people with the easy means of having affairs.

This aged terribly… Josh is such a scumbag.

What is so sad to me is that even though he did these horrible things, his sisters were basically forced to defend him. And, in fact, in their belief system, the girls were basically told that they were at fault for tempting their brother (and other males). They didn’t get any real help in recovering from the abuse. Instead, they were told to cover up and “keep sweet”. Meanwhile, their brother got away with what he was doing… at least until that bombshell dropped in 2015. And it’s only gotten worse as the years passed. He’s probably about to face a reckoning… God willing, anyway. 😉

Even with all of this proof of how “not Christ-like” Josh is, people still championed him. They fell for the image, rather than reality.

I think the below video is about when Jill started to separate from her toxic family. While I don’t necessarily agree with some of the things her husband, Derick Dillard, has said, I do think he’s done a lot to help her become healthier. She’s reportedly gone to counseling and, just this morning, it’s been reported that she may be called to testify against her brother in court. I pray she tells the whole truth.

The beginning of the end, back in 2015.

None of these stories are those one would expect of someone who is a strict Christian, as Josh was supposedly raised to be. I remember how, before all of this bad stuff came to light, the Duggar parents would proudly tell everyone about their “strict” Christian values. We all heard about how they didn’t allow their children access to television or the Internet. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were held up to be excellent parents. However, it’s pretty clear that they’ve failed spectacularly on many levels, in spite of their religious beliefs. And now, a lot of innocent people are paying the price.

Having observed this phenomenon, and having known some so-called “religious” people who have turned out to be total dirtbags, I am now convinced that strict, controlling religions can really damage, or even destroy, families. I have seen how charismatic people get in power and start to believe they are above the law. They invoke “God’s favor” to explain why they can and should be allowed to do terrible things. The people who are involved in the strict religious groups somehow accept and even cling to those beliefs, even when it puts them in danger and makes them miserable. And then it comes out that the so-called “leaders” are about as far from Christlike as a person can get.

Please note– I am not referring to mainstream religions that aren’t “culty” and controlling. I don’t think that most mainstream churches are that damaging. I base that on my own experiences growing up going to church. I mean the churches that dictate everything from how you will spend your free time to what kind of underwear you’re allowed to wear. Those religions don’t work well. The Duggars are just one example of how they can really fuck up an otherwise nice family. The Turpins are another egregious example. Later in this post, I will share an example of a non-famous family that has been damaged by religion and the bad behaviors promoted in the name of religion.

I grew up at a time when almost everyone I knew attended a church of some sort. I was raised mainstream Presbyterian, which is a fairly benign and undemanding denomination. We went to church on Sundays and my parents were very involved in the music programs. Mom was an organist and usually didn’t work at the church that my dad and I attended (my sisters had all moved out of the house). But I didn’t grow up with any strict religious rules or anything, and I wasn’t subjected to “worthiness” interviews with a pastor. No one ever asked me about my sexual habits or anything else that is super private like that. We didn’t even say “grace” at the table.

At some point during my young adulthood, people started becoming more polarized about religion. I noticed many people became very devout. A lot of megachurches started popping up, and people like Joel Osteen became extremely popular. Shows like 19 Kids and Counting were on television, promoting strict religious beliefs. On the other hand, I also noticed a lot more people identifying as atheists. And I noticed that while many people were going to church more often than ever, a lot of people had also completely abandoned religion.

Then I married my husband, who was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when we met. When Bill and I first encountered each other, he claimed to be a “true believer”. Later, I found out that he actually wasn’t a TBM, but was going through the motions in an attempt to save his marriage to his ex wife. Ex supposedly was, at that time, devout. Or, she claimed to be, anyway. One thing is for certain, though. She used the church to hurt other people. I have noticed that Ex isn’t the only one who’s done this, either. I have known many high-conflict types who have invoked religion as excuses as to why they should be allowed to act like perfect assholes or, in the case of Josh Duggar and others, do illegal and immoral things. After all, Jesus always forgives, right?

A couple of days ago, I ran across a heartbreaking video by a YouTube personality called Exmo Lex. A few months ago, Exmo Lex, who is a former Mormon, posted a video about how her in-laws were calling her a “jezebel” behind her back. I watched that video when she posted it, although I’m not sure if I wrote about it. I happened to see it while we were in the Schwarzwald, so I’m not sure if I ever got around blogging about this. However, I do remember seeing this video and feeling terrible for Exmo Lex. She was describing a very toxic situation that was partially caused by religion.

Exmo Lex talks about her in-laws were calling her a “jezebel”. She and her husband were afraid that her in-laws were indoctrinating their children.

Exmo Lex indicates that she thought her in-laws were respecting the boundaries she and her husband set. They don’t want their kids indoctrinated or influenced by Mormonism, which is a strict religion. To me, that sounds very reasonable, but I also know that true believing Mormons are often very convinced that they alone have the “truth”. And when someone decides to break ranks because they no longer believe, or are unwilling to submit to “authority”, families can go on the attack. The battles can become very toxic and even illegal in a hurry, and as Exmo Lex points out, sometimes they aren’t above using children to further their agendas. In the video below, you can hear Exmo Lex talk about the aftermath of the decision she and her husband made to leave Mormonism and be public about their choices.

This video shocked me more than it probably should have. It’s not like I haven’t heard similar stories from people who have decided to go their own way from a strict religion. I think if I were Exmo Lex, I would get a restraining order, pronto. I hope she’s taking good notes, in case her in-laws try to get custody of her children, or something. Jeez!

So often, we hear about how “lovely” religious families are. They are promoted as close and loving, having each other’s backs. We see them well-scrubbed, singing pretty songs about religious faith, Jesus Christ, and God’s love. But then it turns out that religious people are as fallible as anyone is. That’s because everyone sins. But some religious people turn out to be the worst sinners of all– and they leave a lot of heartbroken, damaged, people in their wakes. Many times, people who have been hurt by religion are left with nothing, not even their so-called loving families.

I have heard and read so many sad stories of people who grew up in very strict religious families or belief systems. More often than not, rather than providing safety, comfort, and security with the knowledge that someone always has their back, people in these families are actually members of a mini-cult. They must engage in group thinking, and anyone who deviates from it is cast out. This is not what I would call loving or “Christlike” behavior. This is toxic control, and it’s very harmful.

I have written so many posts about this phenomenon, and I have learned that even when the belief systems are “different”, the mechanics of the highly controlling groups are surprisingly similar. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have different beliefs than Mormons do. But if you take a close look at the way their groups operate, you see that a lot of their control tactics are the same. Ditto for groups like the Cooperites of Gloriavale, The Way, the Children of God, and others. The groups all have that thing in common– once a person has seen beyond the smoke and mirrors and wants out, they are ostracized. Why? Because the rebels are a threat to the group’s power and resources. Those who won’t toe the line are treated as if they have a disease that can spread and kill everyone… or, at least kill the belief system, which a source of power, and often, money.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with believing in God or going to church, or following any other religion. It’s when religion turns into fanaticism or cultism with strict controls and legalism that I think problems arise. That’s when we start seeing supposedly “loving” parents turning on their own children, kicking them out of the family circle, and defending abusers instead of protecting victims. I would also argue that a lot of abusers started out as victims. I think Josh Duggar was a victim before he started hurting others. If he could have gotten some real help from someone other than Jim Bob Duggar’s fucked up fundie friends who are not any better than Josh is, maybe some of this tragic shitshow that is now commencing could have been avoided. Or, at least, it might not have been on such a public stage. Imagine how hard this is for his children, and all of the other innocent people who will be affected. Meanwhile, the public will revel in watching this legal drama unfold.

Jim Bob Duggar wearing a rare “sheepish” expression. The shit is hitting the fan.

I have to admit, I will also be watching to see how Josh’s case progresses. I am as interested as anyone is. It’s not because I delight in seeing his family humiliated, though… well, maybe I don’t mind seeing Jim Bob humiliated. I think it’s long overdue. I think Jim Bob is about as far from a decent Christian as a person can get. He hides behind the Christian facade, but it’s really about power and money for him, and his “reputation”. It’s certainly not about following Christ.

I do hope some good will come out of this latest chapter of the Duggar family saga. And I also hope that Exmo Lex and her husband are able to heal from the rift they’re experiencing. I think people should be loved for who they are, and allowed to follow their own beliefs, as long as no one else is harmed. I don’t think it’s harmful to grow up outside of religion or any other kind of extreme indoctrination. Maybe if more people were allowed to evolve naturally and authentically, we’d have fewer people hurting others.

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law, racism, true crime

Chasing and finally catching justice for Ahmaud Arbery…

I remember being horrified as I first read about Ahmaud Arbery’s last moments on this planet. The 25 year old Black man was out running in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. He was unarmed, and made the unfortunate decision to pass through Satilla Shores, where he would eventually encounter the three White men who ended his life. Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, chased Arbery in their vehicles. Unlike Arbery, two of his pursuers were armed. The two McMichaels had weapons and rode in a vehicle together as they chased the young man who was out for a run. Bryan brought his camera, which he used to video the confrontation. In light of what happened yesterday, I’m sure Bryan wishes he’d left the camera at home.

Gregory McMichael, a former police officer in Brunswick, had initiated the chase when he saw Ahmaud Arbery run past his house. He had wrongly suspected Arbery of burglary or theft in Satilla Shores and decided to take it upon himself to make a “citizen’s arrest”, bringing along a .357 Magnum pistol revolver. Travis joined his father, toting a shotgun. Bryan inexplicably decided independently to join in the chase, but hadn’t known if Arbery had done anything illegal.

Although Arbery had, on several occasions, entered an under-construction house with no doors in the neighborhood, there was never any evidence of theft, according to security camera footage. Travis McMichael had made a call to 911 about a week and a half before Arbery’s final run. He reported that Arbery was breaking into the unfinished house. Moreover, according to The Toronto Star, Arbery’s relatives were known to local law enforcement.

Gregory McMichael did have a past with Arbery, as McMichael had been an investigator for Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office from 1995 until his retirement in May 2019. When he was in high school, Arbery was sentenced to five years probation as a first offender on charges of carrying a weapon on campus and several counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. He was convicted of probation violation in 2018 after he was charged with shoplifting. McMichael had been involved with the case, and was instrumental in getting Arbery’s probation revoked.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, had asked that the Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney, Roger Barnhill, recuse himself from the case. This was because Barnhill’s son was a prosecutor who had worked with Gregory McMichael in a previous court case involving Ahmaud Arbery. It was very fortunate that Cooper Jones had made that request, particularly since she hadn’t known that McMichael and Barnhill had any ties to her son’s legal past. She simply hadn’t wanted Barnhill on the case because his son worked for the Brunswick district attorney’s office. If Barnhill hadn’t recused himself, Cooper Jones’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, said, “the case would’ve been no billed to a grand jury and the McMichaels would’ve gotten away with murder.”

Barnhill had written in his letter of recusal that Arbery and his family had been in trouble with the law in Brunswick, and that his older brother was incarcerated. One of Arbery’s cousins also had a past with the police department. To those revelations, attorney Lee Merritt said:

“This speaks to the wider issue of mass incarceration. If Black people have any kind of criminal record, somehow that justifies their murder.”

But talk to some people in the community, and they will swear up and down that a person with a rap sheet deserves to be killed if they’re caught doing something illegal. Especially if the person with a rap sheet is not White. Sure enough, it took 74 days before the three men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud Arbery were finally arrested and charged with murder. The local prosecutor was friends with Gregory McMichael and did not want to bring charges against the men. So yes, the men were brought to justice, but it could have easily gone the other way.

Justice is served.

The trial took place in Brunswick, but every Brunswick Judicial Circuit Judge recused themselves from the case. Consequently, Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley presided over the trial. Yesterday, I watched as Judge Walmsley read the verdicts for the three men who claimed “self-defense” when they decided to pursue and kill Ahmaud Arbery. I’m not sure why these guys thought Arbery didn’t have the right to defend himself when he was confronted by three men, two of whom had weapons.

Travis McMichael was pronounced guilty of all charges. Gregory McMichael was pronounced guilty of all but one charge of malice murder. William “Roddie” Bryan was pronounced guilty of felony murder (3 counts), aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony (1 count each). These were just the charges brought against them by the state of Georgia. There are still federal charges pending against the three men.

Not a happy day for these guys. They will probably not see the light of day as free men again. Bryan looks like he’s about to burst into tears as the judge announces the verdict.

I am impressed by Judge Walmsley. He handled this case very soberly, professionally, and fairly. I think his conduct starkly contrasts that of Judge Bruce Schroeder, who was reportedly more brash and quirky in the way he ran Kyle Rittenhouse’s recent trial in Wisconsin. The result of Rittenhouse’s trial was much less lauded by the public, as Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges. Of course, these two cases have to do with race relations, but they aren’t really that similar. It still surprised me that Ahmaud Arbery’s case in Georgia seemed to end much more fairly than Kyle Rittenhouse’s case did in Wisconsin. Personally, I think Rittenhouse was acquitted because the prosecutor was too ambitious about the level of charges against Rittenhouse. I do think Rittenhouse should have gotten some prison time.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I have no doubt that Ahmaud Arbery’s family is giving thanks that the men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud will have to pay for their crimes. Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, let out a celebratory whoop when the first guilty verdict was read. He now says that he and his family can move forward. Maybe this is a sign of some progress in our country.

This video was key evidence that got three men convicted. It was recorded by William “Roddie” Bryan, who probably wishes he’d minded his own business on that February day last year.

I don’t take any delight in seeing people locked up in prison, but I do think prison is necessary and just for violent crimes, especially those done out of hate. There is no excuse for the way these men hunted down Arbery and killed him. I do have some compassion for the loved ones of the incarcerated, even though I do think they belong in prison. Prison is tough on families, and Gregory McMichael’s wife is going to see her husband and her son go away, probably for the rest of their lives. I’m sure that is heartbreaking for her. But I also think that justice is finally being done. The McMichaels and Mr. Bryan should not have taken the law into their own hands.

If anything good has come out of this incident, it’s that some very old and bad laws have now been stricken from Georgia’s books. According to The New York Times:

…the trial of [Arbery’s] accused killers also brought up issues of policing — although in this case, it involved questions about private citizens and their rights to detain people who they believe to be breaking the law.

Those rights in Georgia were spelled out in a controversial Civil War-era statute that was significantly weakened by state lawmakers in direct response to the outrage over the Arbery killing. Lawmakers also passed Georgia’s first-ever hate crimes law as a result of the incident.

All of that set up a remarkable kind of trial in which the defendants claimed they were not guilty based in part on an old law that their actions helped to dismantle. At the same time, they were not charged under the new Georgia hate crimes law., though all three have also been indicted under the federal hate crimes statute.

Maybe the new legislation against hate crimes will mean that Ahmaud Arbery’s death won’t be entirely in vain.

Incidentally, Bill and I have been to Brunswick, Georgia. We went there in October 2009 to pick up my car, which was brand new and had just been shipped from Germany. I remember it to be a very weird town, mainly due to the strange taxi driver who picked us up at the tiny airport there. He was an old guy who drove like a maniac and scared the wits out of Bill. Bill ended up complaining about the dude at the hotel where we stayed– an Embassy Suites that was connected to the mall, which apparently didn’t even have an ATM.

The manager of the hotel actually refunded the cost of our stay because Bill noticed that the hotel had a shuttle and it wasn’t mentioned on their Web site. He had If we had known the hotel had a shuttle, we could have been spared the wacko taxi ride with the sketchy guy who had to be paid in cash and drove us to a bank. We never went back to Brunswick, although the beach area was kind of appealing. I think if we ship our cars next time we move to the States, we’ll have them delivered in Charleston. It may cost more, but it’ll be a lot less weird.

Happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate. I think our holiday will mostly be a normal day, albeit with Bill off. He just vacuumed for me, which is a real treat.

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