controversies, law, true crime

Alex Murdaugh is now officially a murderer…

I haven’t really been keeping up with Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial, which has been going on for the past six weeks. I don’t know why I haven’t been following it. I spent three years in South Carolina, and he’s a descendent of a legal dynasty in the Low Country. Today’s featured photo is a screen grab from the moment when Murdaugh heard the verdict. Below is a video I listened to a few days ago, about Murdaugh’s life in jail. He’s in for more of the same for the rest of his life.

Good luck, Mr. Murdaugh… lots of people are going to want to buy your sneakers in prison, too.

I did happen to catch some of Murdaugh’s attorney’s closing statements yesterday. I was really grateful not to be on the jury, because the lawyer just kept yammering on about reasonable doubt. Those poor folks had to take six weeks out of their lives to attend Alex Murdaugh’s trial. As I was listening to a few minutes of this man’s closing speech, I suddenly felt like I used to feel as a kid when I was forced to go to church.

I mean, it was good that the lawyer thanked the jury for their service. He mentioned that they’d had to leave their homes, their families, their jobs, and some even missed out on vacations for the duration of the murder trial. You’d think he’d have a little more respect for the jurors’ time. Yes, he needed to impress upon them the importance of being absolutely sure that the man was guilty before they cast a guilty vote. But I think most of those people are smart enough to hear him say that without endless pontificating.

I’m not surprised that Mr. Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son. He faces sentencing today. That means at least thirty years in prison, or the rest of his life. Given that he’s 54 years old, I’d say he won’t be getting out of prison regardless of what the sentence is. That’s not enough for some people. I read that Mr. Murdaugh will not be facing the death penalty, and that really pisses off some folks. I read some rather appalling comments about how Murdaugh won’t get death because he’s a rich, white man. That might be true, but I don’t really think racism is a reason to promote capital punishment.

I wouldn’t cheer for anyone to get a death sentence, no matter who they are, or what their race is. I think capital punishment should be reserved for truly guilty people who are extremely dangerous to other human beings and would definitely kill again if they were ever free. When I think of people who should be put to death, I think of folks like Timothy McVeigh, who blew up a building and likely wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. Or John Allen Muhammad, the Beltway Sniper, who coerced a 17 year old kid to help him murder random people across multiple states. I’m thinking of people who are truly hateful monsters who kill indiscriminately.

The vast majority of murderers don’t randomly kill people simply for sport. There’s usually some connection to the victim. It’s not like they just go out and kill someone because they feel like it. They have a more specific “reason” to kill. I think people who get off on killing are much more dangerous than those who feel like they somehow had to do it. I’m not saying those who somehow felt like they had to commit murder are better or more moral… just that they’re probably less dangerous. I think most executions should be done purely for public safety. They should be reserved for the most callous, irredeemable, monstrous criminals.

Not long ago, I read and reviewed a book about a murder case in my home state of Virginia. It involved two teenagers who decided they wanted to know what it was like to kill someone. They had a list of people who were candidates for killing. If someone crossed them, even if the potential victim was unaware that they did so, they were at risk of being murdered. But if the victim made amends, somehow, before the deed was done, they’d be crossed off the list. That kind of random thinking, to me, makes someone more dangerous and worthier of capital punishment. Crazily enough, the subjects of that book have both been paroled.

I really don’t like the death penalty, though. Even for truly dangerous people, I get skeeved out by the idea of people deliberately executing other people. I was very happy when Virginia outlawed capital punishment two years ago, particularly since Virginia had some pretty wacko rules regarding evidence. In another book I recently read, I learned about how if evidence wasn’t presented in a very short timeframe, it couldn’t be considered, even if the evidence might exonerate someone. That, to me, is sheer craziness. If there is the slightest chance a person might be innocent, he or she should not be a candidate for execution. That’s my opinion, anyway.

The longer I live outside of the United States, the more weirded out I get by the bizarre opinions of some of my compatriots. Some of them are absolutely gleeful when a person gets sentenced to death, or sent away to rot in prison for the rest of their lives. Personally, I find the idea of lifetime imprisonment or execution sad, even if the person really deserves the punishment. I don’t like to see lives wasted. Likewise, some people get angry when a person doesn’t get the death penalty. It never occurs to them how easy it is to get arrested in the United States, nor do they seem to care that sometimes innocent people end up on death row. Once someone is executed, they can’t be brought back to life.

Of course, a lot of these folks also conflate the death penalty with abortion. They are all for executing already born people who have a concept of life and death, and they are all for forcing women to be pregnant. Both ideas strike me as brutal and barbaric. But then, to me there’s a big difference between someone who has already been born and someone who is still in utero.

Those are just my opinions. After I saw the death house at the Virginia State Penitentiary, my mind was forever changed about capital punishment. I used to be all for it, because I was so divorced from the people who might face it. Then I actually saw Virginia’s electric chair, and realized that a lot of people died in that chair. Most of them had friends and family who once cared about them in some way. Executions don’t just punish offenders. They also punish people who love the offenders.

I’ll admit, though, that I likely have this level of compassion because I haven’t been victimized by a violent criminal. Maybe being a victim would make me feel differently about this subject. It’s not like I haven’t changed my mind before… and I will admit that reading some stories about violent crimes make me angry enough to wish death on the perpetrators. I remember reading a horrifying story a few years ago about a lovely elderly North Carolina couple who were robbed, tied up, and left to die when the perpetrators set their house on fire. The husband escaped, but the wife succumbed in the fire. I was pretty enraged by that story. I don’t think I would shed any tears if the men who did that were executed… but I also don’t think I would vote for them to get the death penalty… if that makes any sense.

I’m grateful to live in a country that, for the most part, is pretty safe and clean. Violent crime is fairly rare in Germany, at least when compared to my homeland. And there’s no death penalty here, so violent criminals don’t get a platform. I’m sure some of my relatives would say I’ve gone “soft” and liberal on them… But, to me, capital punishment is just another way of promoting loss.

Anyway, I do think it would be appropriate for Mr. Murdaugh to spend the rest of his days in confinement. I don’t think he has a hope in hell of ever being free again, and I think that’s a fitting punishment for him. I don’t need to see him strapped to a gurney and given an overdose of drugs. I can understand, though, that a lot of people will disagree with me. We’ll see what happens today, when he gets sentenced.

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book reviews, true crime

A review of Click Click Click: From the Say My Name Series, by Karen DeVanie and Anne Varner…

A couple of days ago, an old college friend of mine sent me a private message on Facebook. Initially, I was a little concerned, because the message began with the words “Click Click Click,” and an unfamiliar link. I was afraid she’d been hacked. It turned out my friend had sent a link to Amazon.com, where a book titled Click Click Click: From the Say My Name Series was for sale.

This book, written by sisters Anne Varner and Karen DeVanie of the Sugar Coated Murder podcast, is a “true crime” account of a notorious murder that happened in my friend’s hometown in February 1990. I have written about this murder a couple of times in this blog. My old friend wanted my opinion of the book. She wrote that she found the writing “amateurish”. She hoped I could offer an unbiased opinion, since I’m not from her hometown and don’t know the people involved.

I already had big plans to start reading Prince Harry’s book, Spare. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been hitting my two links about the murder of seventeen year old Raymond Trent Whitley, perpetrated by Whitley’s classmates, Frederick “West” Greene and Michael Jervey. Click Click Click, only consists of 133 pages and promised to be a fast read. I told my friend, who had also been a high school classmate of Trent’s, Mike’s, and West’s in tiny Franklin, Virginia, that I would read the book and write a review. True to my word, I’m now working on the review, as the book was a very quick and easy read. I’m sad to say, my friend was right about the writing.

First thing’s first…

I am not from Franklin, Virginia. Although I am from Virginia, I have never so much as visited Franklin. I don’t have a connection to the city or this case, other than knowing my friend, and meeting West Greene once, when my friend brought him to visit our alma mater, Longwood College (now Longwood University). At the time, West was a cadet at Virginia Military Institute, the military college my father, uncle, and several cousins attended. The fact that he went to VMI is probably the main reason I remembered West Greene. I remember my friend really liked West. Indeed, he’d seemed like a nice enough person when I briefly met him that one time.

It later came out that West, and his friend, Mike Jervey, had murdered their classmate, Trent Whitley, over an insult. My old friend was devastated when she heard about it. I remember her on the verge of tears, saying over and over again, “How could he do that?” She was absolutely gutted.

In 2013, I randomly decided to write a blog post called “Crime blasts from the past“. It was a post about several cases from my youth that I recalled. I remembered West Greene and wrote about him, never dreaming that my old friend would find the post and comment. Then, we hooked up on Facebook, and she told me more about how this case had affected her hometown, a place where “everyone knows everyone else’s business.”

Now, Jervey and Greene are out of prison, which has rattled many people from Franklin.. That’s probably why I keep getting hits on my blog posts about this case. Obviously, there was interest in a book to be written about Trent Whitley’s murder so long ago. Enter Anne Varner and Karen DeVanie, two sisters who happen to originally come from Franklin, Virginia and run a true crime podcast that marries murder with their love of baking sweets.

What happened?

According to Click Click Click, back in 1988, 16 year old Michael Jervey was in a bad way. His father had not been well, and in spite of visits to doctors, the cause of illness was elusive. Mr. Jervey finally went to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, where he received a cancer diagnosis. Mike’s father spent a few weeks hospitalized. He never made it out again. Mike blamed his mother for not telling him about his dad’s illness. Her reticence caused Mike to lose precious time with his dad before he died. The young man was angry and reclusive, until he paired up with West Greene, a popular classmate whose father had been a prison warden.

West Greene and Mike Jervey reportedly became obsessed with the idea of killing someone. Based on Click Click Click, the two had an unwritten “list” of people who had crossed them and could be candidates for killing. They would strike names from the list if a person unlucky enough to be on it sincerely apologized. If they didn’t, they were “fair game” for murder. Say someone made a joke at the boys’ expense, or somehow embarrassed them in another way. They might end up on the list. But if they somehow made amends, they would be safe… at least until the next perceived slight.

Supposedly, no one else was any the wiser that these two guys were planning violence, but my friend tells me that actually, there were a few people who knew about the plot. Evidently, no one chose to do anything about it, or take the warning signs seriously. Then, on February 23, 1990, Jervey and Greene lured Whitley to a construction area and shot him in the head.

Varner and DeVanie include graphic details about Whitley’s brain matter splattered all over Jervey’s pants, and the blood stains in the trunk of his car. They had wrapped Trent Whitley in a stolen tarp and used the car, a gift from Jervey’s mother, to take Whitley’s body to Jervey’s family’s farm. That was where Greene and Jervey buried him in a shallow grave. For two years, no one knew what had happened to Trent Whitley. It wasn’t until Jervey had an attack of conscience and confessed, that the authorities finally found his body. Then, Trent finally got a proper burial.

My thoughts on the book…

I think Click Click Click could have been a much better book than it is. It appears that Mike Jervey contacted the sisters after they did a podcast about “his case”. More than once, they write about the email. Below is a screenshot.

Yikes!

Apple describes the sisters’ podcast as “comedy”, and it gets very good ratings. At this writing, Sugar Coated Murder scores a 4.9 rating out of 5 stars. Personally, I have a hard time with the idea that murders can be considered comical, but I will admit I haven’t listened to their podcast. I got the sense that Varner and DeVanie tried to frame their book the way they do their podcast. I don’t follow Sugar Coated Murder, so I was confused.

The book starts in a dramatic way, as if it were more of a novel than a true crime book. Honestly, at first, I felt like I was reading the script for a very watered down Lifetime movie version of a true crime case. I have nothing against using an evocative style in a true crime book, but it wasn’t immediately clear to me who these women are, and what their connection to Franklin is.

The sisters mention their “momma”, and the locals in Franklin, writing in the first person plural, as if they’re part of the story… which they kind of are, since they’re from Franklin. They write about their “daddy’s” pharmacy, the paper mill, the community college, other crimes from the past, and how Franklin is a little town where everyone knows each other. Those details aren’t totally useless, but the sisters initially failed to connect them to the crime story.

Because I am not familiar with the sisters’ podcast, I was confused about why “they” were in the story, initially writing as if they were directly involved. Especially since they wrote that they’d left Franklin by the time this crime occurred. I was expecting a book only about the crime, not the authors’ personal connections to Franklin. Now I think they were simply explaining that they’re from the tiny community, and what life is like there.

As the book continued, it became more obviously about Mike Jervey, and it seemed to be mostly from his perspective. Mike Jervey’s perspective is valuable, of course, but it’s just one perspective. My friend assures me that Trent Whitley was no angel, but he certainly didn’t deserve to be murdered. Other than a somewhat sympathetic description of Whitley’s yearbook photo and graduation cap and gown, I didn’t get a sense that the sisters gave his perspective much thought. Trent Whitley was the victim, but the book really seemed to more about Mike Jervey. I didn’t understand why I, as a reader, should have sympathy for Mike, other than the fact that he lost his father at a young age.

Other issues…

Although the book credits Michelle Morrow as the editor of Click Click Click, I spotted a number of proofreading errors. Below is a screenshot of one that immediately comes to mind.

Do you see what I see? This bit was about an unrelated crime, as someone tried to steal the STEEL cash register in the authors’ father’s pharmacy. Not sure what it really had to do with Trent Whitley’s murder.

Later, they refer to the South as “the south”. The South is a specific region, making it a proper noun. Proper nouns are typically capitalized. But then they refer to a “Southern” county, capitalizing the adjective, when it should have been styled lower case. There are numerous little glitches like this, even though this book supposedly had an editor.

The authors also refer to Frederick West Greene as “Fred”, rather than “West”. I happen to know that “West” was the name he went by in school. I don’t know if there was a specific reason for using the different name, but based on the Amazon reviews, I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

But… I did learn some new things about this case…

First off, Trent Whitley was born June 19, 1972, which is the day before I was born. He was born in Franklin, which is a mere hour’s drive from my birthplace. Like me, he was a Gemini, a fact the sisters mention.

Secondly, I liked that the sisters wrote about the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, popularly known as The Body Farm, a term coined by crime fiction novelist, Patricia Cornwell. After Jervey confessed to the crime, he told investigators where to find Trent Whitley’s body. They weren’t able to find it based only on Jervey’s description. They contacted an expert at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, who told them to consult a botanist– a person who is an expert on plants. The investigators contacted a botany professor at the local community college, who spotted differences in the vegetation on Jervey’s family’s farm. With the professor’s help, investigators found Trent Whitley’s body, and his family was able to properly and respectfully lay him to rest. I wish the sisters had commented more about that process.

And finally, Discovery Plus contacted the sisters about presenting this case on television. They were excited about the prospect of going on TV, but the deal never came to fruition. After reading this oddly titled book, I think I can understand why the show never happened.

Again… maybe I should listen to their podcast. Their storytelling abilities might come across better in that medium than it does in this book.

Anyway…

Based on the number of people who continually hit my blog posts about this case, I have a feeling that Karen DeVanie and Anne Varner will sell a lot of books. Obviously, Trent Whitley’s murder is still interesting to many people. I probably would not have read this book if not for my old friend’s request for my opinions. However, I can see that people who are from Franklin, especially, want to know more about this trio of young men whose lives were tragically and irrevocably altered (or ended) by a violent, gruesome true crime.

I do think this book could be much better than it is. It really needs better editing. I also think the sisters should have collected many more facts about the case and presented more of them, rather than endless minutiae about life in Franklin. “Comedy podcasts” about murders, combined with baking sweets, seems like a bizarre concept that wouldn’t appeal to me. But… I also admit I haven’t listened to the podcast. I might change my mind if I ever did take the time to listen to it. It’s hard to imagine that I’d want to do that, though.

I’ve written about true crime cases myself. Some people related to victims have left me angry or distraught comments. None of my posts were “comedic” in nature. I wonder how a “comedy” podcast comes across to family members of murder victims. I guess people have conceived stranger podcast concepts than that. In any case, I don’t think I would recommend Click Click Click, except to those who want to read all there is available about Trent Whitley’s murder. But, at least it’s not a super expensive title on Kindle.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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blog news, condescending twatbags, music, true crime

It’s the last Friday of 2022… so how about a few thoughts on the year?

I wasn’t going to share the featured photo, until I realized that it was dated December 24, 2021, which was a week before Betty White died… Eerie! I’d say that kind of sums up a lot of 2022.

Wow… here we are again at Friday! And it’s the very last Friday of 2022, too. Every year, I’m left amazed anew, when I realize how quickly time passes. The older I get, the faster it seems to go. As I’m sitting here thinking about what I would like to write about today, I decided to look at what I wrote about last year. I see that on December 30, 2021, I wrote one of my most popular blog posts– one I wrote about a 2008 French documentary titled America’s Broken Dream. For some reason, a lot of people have hit that post since I wrote it a year ago. I’ve even gotten some comments from people who aren’t regular readers. A couple of people also asked me to update the post with new information, which I haven’t really done.

I don’t really have any insider information about the documentary, or the people who were featured in it, including Amber and Daniel Carter, a young couple with two small children who seemed to be climbing out of poverty when Daniel got arrested for killing his neighbor. When I wrote that post, I was just inspired by my immediate thoughts, after randomly stumbling on the documentary while messing around on YouTube. A lot of people are still intrigued by America’s Broken Dream, but I’ve pretty much moved on, for now. I will keep allowing comments until the comments close automatically, but I don’t have anything to add at this point. Maybe sometime in the future, I’ll be compelled to read more about Amber and Daniel Carter, and find out more about what became of them. They definitely have a story, and people are very interested. But, as I’ve unfortunately discovered, sometimes writing about true crime can lead to unpleasant interactions with people. I’d like to minimize those, if I can.

In August of this year, I decided to disable the Facebook page I used to run for this blog. I had been wanting to do it for awhile, but held off because I knew some readers used it to follow me. It also provided a way for people to contact me privately. I had some concerns about the page, though, because it was so public and difficult to monitor. I thought about circumventing that problem by converting the page into a group, but decided I didn’t want to do that, either. I already run two Facebook groups and I’ve mostly found the experience to be rather thankless and unsatisfying. If I’m honest, I think I’d like to discontinue my wine group, because half the time, it leads to drama and negative interactions with strangers who don’t appreciate what I do. The page was less work to administrate, but it was also a lot less secure. I knew the former tenant from our last home was watching it clandestinely, as a way of monitoring my activities. I don’t worry about her anymore, as the issue that prompted her to surveil me is now resolved… and also, I discovered that, for some reason, she decided to end her life.

So the former tenant stopped being an issue of concern… but then in August, I got a very irate private message from a family member of a true crime victim I had originally written about in 2014. The post was based on newspaper articles from several papers, and comments from a family member who messaged me when I originally wrote about it, in 2014. The irate correspondent apparently saw the repost and didn’t notice the original date of the article, which had been up for YEARS, and actually got little traffic. This person decided to send me a nastygram through the Facebook page, complete with legal threats. For the record, I was not at all worried about her threats. I use Statcounter, which allows me to see how long someone spends on my blog. I could see (and I documented) that she spent about two minutes, missed a lot of details, and was apparently unaware of a number of logistical issues that would have made her legal threats pretty hard to carry out. And if she was really that upset about the content of that post, she would have noticed and contacted me much sooner than eight years after I wrote it.

Nevertheless, even though I was pretty pissed off by her message and did not have to comply with her demands, I decided that the blog post she was upset about wasn’t that important, as no one but her and her associates were even reading it. So I’ve made it private, for now. I also blocked her on Facebook. Then I dismantled the Facebook page for this blog, because I’m not here to take abuse from random people who are upset by my opinions and just want to privately send me offensive comments. My mental health matters too, people. I am a real person, and I deserve to be addressed with basic respect, like anyone does. I will happily hear complaints from people, but I expect to be approached with civility. Those who can’t do that are not welcome here, and will be banned.

Recently, I revisited the post I wrote about that incident. It occurred to me that the poster must have also tried to find the now defunct “contact form page”, which I also disabled for similar reasons. I only got one or two rude responses on that page, but I found that the contact page was problematic because people were leaving comments on posts without identifying them. There were times when I literally didn’t know what they writing about. If they had simply responded to the post in question, it would have been more useful to everyone.

The irate woman who wrote to me a few months ago had hastily identified which post had gotten her so rattled (after eight years of it being online… REALLY?). She must have been looking for the contact form, found my explanatory post about why I no longer have one, and found the Facebook page instead. Well, she can take a bow, because her abusive rant caused me to permanently ax the Facebook page, too. I can’t say I miss it, or the weird messages it used to attract from everyone from unhinged anti-vaxxers to obnoxious Trump supporters. I would always see them right after I woke up, which is not a pleasant way to start the day. Now, if you want to address something I’ve written, you can do it publicly, so everyone can see your comments and share in the response.

Like I said, I’m not here to take abuse from random people. I have a right to express my opinions, as long as they aren’t defamatory, malicious, or deliberately presenting false information as the truth. And this is my space– which I pay for– so I will run it the way I wish. I think of my blog space in the same way most of you would govern your own homes. You wouldn’t put up with abuse from a guest in your home. I don’t put up with it on my blog. This person also wrote, with evident disgust, that I just do this “for the money”, which really made me laugh. I don’t make money from doing this. I have made some ad revenue, but it’s not even enough to pay for the subscription to WordPress. So, if anyone ever does want to try to sue me to get some of the “big bucks” I supposedly make from sharing my opinions, they’re gonna be disappointed on MANY levels. Below is what I’ve made on WordPress so far… since I started hosting ads in July 2021.

And on the less visited travel blog, where I’ve hosted ads from the beginning (July 2019), I’ve made a whopping $7.25. It takes $100 to cash out, so I might make money there after I’m dead.

True crime posts do generate a lot of interest, though. I find crime interesting to write about, as they usually involve ordinary people who do extraordinary things. When I use the word “extraordinary”, I mean “out of the ordinary” or “unusual”. I’m not using that word in the normally positive way. Sometimes, I notice people repeatedly hitting posts I’ve written about, and it’s a little creepy. Lately, I’ve noticed my posts about Frederick West Greene are getting a lot of hits. I’m glad I don’t live in the United States– for many reasons, really, but especially because it creeps me out that he’s no longer in prison (as far as I know).

My post about Betty White and misattributing quotes to her was also a big winner this year. I had written about her in late December 2021, not knowing that she would die on New Year’s Eve. A few days later, I wrote a post about how people were “honoring” her by sharing a funny comment that she never made. That post consistently gets hits and the odd share, although no one has commented on it yet. I think it’s one of my better ones, even though I’ve gotten some shit from people for having issues with misattributed quotes, too. One guy got so angry about a post I wrote that he blocked me on Facebook and complained to all his friends, who later hit the post repeatedly and generated some AdShare pennies. Thanks, guys.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a blogger, it’s that people aren’t always going to like what you do. But if all I ever did was write things about hearts and flowers, this blog would be very boring, both for me as a writer, and for you as a reader. Besides, that’s just really not me. I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of person. I think if I were that kind of person, I would probably be a lot more miserable than I actually am. Because it wouldn’t be natural for me to be so cheery and positive. It’s not in my DNA. Seriously… read some of my posts, and you know I come from a long line of the miserable… but talented. We’ve got lots of funny, talented, artistic people in my family. Lots of attractive people, too. Too bad I didn’t get the gene for being thin and athletic. SIGH.

2022 has been interesting. I would say it hasn’t been as bad as last year. At least most of the stupid pandemic restrictions went away, although I haven’t been traveling more or even going out much, hence my low earnings on the travel blog. That’s mostly because of our dog, Arran, who has cancer and will likely be leaving us sometime in the new year. I am trying to prepare for his exit, because I know it will hurt. But I also know that once he’s gone, there will be new opportunities… for travel, for making new human friends (which often happens when one adopts a pet), for new canine teachers, and for new overall wisdom. Death is just something that simply happens to everyone, at some point. It hurts, but it’s a necessary part of life. Arran has taught us a lot, and continues to teach us everyday. I think one of the best lessons I’ve learned from him was reiterated yesterday, when Bill came home from work. You can see, he taught Noyzi, too… And I think he’ll tell us when he’s done teaching and ready to move on to the next place in the universe.

Arran reminds us that it’s important to appreciate and welcome those we love back to the pack when they come home…

Well, it’s probably time I finished this post and got on with the day. Got to practice guitar, walk the dogs, and work on reading my next book, so I can review it for the interested. Maybe I’ll even record another song. An old high school friend heard a Pat Benatar cover I did the other day… a B.B. King from her one “blues” album, True Love, which she released in 1991. It hasn’t gotten many hits yet, but she said I have a knack for the blues. I believe her, because she was originally a music major at my alma mater before she transferred out and became a therapist. She’s right. I do have a knack for singing the blues… both literally, and in this blog. So I guess 2023 will bring more of the same. I hope a few of you will stay tuned for that. Maybe I’ll make more big bucks from blogging in 2023.

ETA: I forgot to mention, just a couple of weeks ago, I got the most hits I’ve ever gotten in one day when someone on Reddit shared a true crime post I wrote in November 2020 about Jessica Wiseman. It wasn’t even a particularly newsy post, but I probably made $5 because about four thousand people hit it in one day. I grew up near where Wiseman and her boyfriend murdered her parents. She was a juvenile, so she only spent a few years in juvenile hall. Her boyfriend, who was older, but apparently the less guilty of the pair, wound up being executed. I remembered the case and wrote about it, and it got noticed… which is especially notable to me, because it’s definitely not my best work. ūüėČ

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true crime

An update on an old true crime story…

In October 2013, when Bill and I were still living in Texas, I spontaneously wrote a blog entry about a memory from my days at Longwood University (then Longwood College). I reposted that entry in 2020, and it still frequently gets hits. When I look on Google, I see that my post is at the top of search results about Frederick West Greene, a man who, along with a “friend”, murdered a classmate over an insult, buried him, and didn’t tell a soul what happened until a couple of years had passed. I wouldn’t have known anything about Greene if not for a chance encounter when I was in college in the spring of 1992.

A friend of mine introduced me to her cute male friend from her high school in tiny Franklin, Virginia. His name was West, and he was a cadet at Virginia Military Institute, which was at that time still an all male college. My dad was a VMI graduate, as was my uncle and several of my cousins. Several family members worked at VMI back in the day, too, although no one does now. That may be why I paid particular attention to my friend’s friend. I recall that she really seemed to like West very much.

On August 14, 1992, then 20 year old Greene was arrested and charged with capital murder, robbery, and use of a firearm. Greene and his friend, Michael Jervey, fatally shot their 17 year old classmate Trent Whitley, then buried him on a farm owned by Jervey’s parents. For two years, no one knew what happened to Whitley. But Mr. Jervey eventually confessed to the crime. Two days later, Greene was arrested.

I remember my friend talking about it. She was in utter shock and disbelief, as the gruesome details about her former friend and classmate came out to the public. I remember her saying, her voice filled with anguish, “How could he do that?” I didn’t know it at the time, but she had spent a lot of time alone with this man who was a murderer. There’s no doubt in my mind that she realized he was capable of anything. I’m sure it made her blood run cold to think about it. It’s entirely possible that she could have been one of his victims, under certain circumstances.

Below is a newspaper clipping from VMI’s student newspaper about Greene’s arrest when it happened.

Wow… the years have passed so fast…

I am not close to the case involving Greene. I’m not from Franklin. I just happened to know one of West’s high school classmates, who went to college with me. I have a mind that stows memories very efficiently, and I like to write about things that happened long ago. Maybe it’s my way of preserving the past. My days at Longwood were pretty good, most of the time. I still have many friends from that time in my life, and I even still talk to some of my old professors. I find true crime a fascinating subject, too. That’s really the only reason I brought up West Greene on my blog. I’m glad I wrote that post, since it got me back in touch with my old classmate. We’re still in touch now, even though she eschews Facebook (good for her). She does follow this case closely, because she still lives near Franklin, and many people there know the families and victim involved in this crime.

Google tells me that Greene’s father, Frederick West Greene, Jr., died January 18, 2019. Greene’s father, who went by the name Fred, was himself employed as a warden at one of Virginia’s many prisons. He was living in Brevard, North Carolina when he passed.

Recently, my friend let me know that Mr. Greene was recently released from prison on parole. I see from a cursory Google search, Greene was granted release on May 11, 2019. Although Greene was sentenced to a long prison stint, and Virginia abolished parole consideration for felonies committed in 1995 or later, Greene’s crimes were committed before 1995. Virginia now requires felons to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, but parole is still granted in some situations. He now lives in Brunswick, North Carolina, and on January 4, 2022, was charged with assault by strangulation. His mugshot appears here. It appears that Greene still has some violent tendencies. It surprises me that Greene was allowed out of prison in Virginia, and that he is evidently still free in North Carolina after allegedly committing a violent crime. How is this not a violation of Greene’s parole?

I’ve learned from watching Jessica Kent’s excellent YouTube videos about her prison experiences that ex-cons have to adhere to strict conditions to stay out of prison. She has said on more than one occasion that if she messes up, she can easily land right back in the pokey. Jessica Kent actually comes across as a pretty good person, even though she’s been in prison. How is it that she has to walk a straight and narrow path, but that evidently doesn’t apply to every felon? I mean, Jessica didn’t kill anyone. West Greene did. But apparently, he’s out. I can’t explain it, but I will be watching to see what happens.

I would like to write more, but there isn’t a lot about this case open right now. Since I live in Europe, I have to use a VPN to access the old articles from my hometown paper, the Daily Press, and I don’t have a VPN set up on this computer. Suffice to say, I was surprised Greene was released. My friend says it’s possible he got out for compassionate reasons, as evidently his mother was very ill. Generally speaking, I am for humane treatment of people in prison. I think we have too many incarcerated people in the United States. But… I do draw the line at violent criminals who are unrepentant and liable to reoffend. I don’t know the circumstances of Greene’s recent arrest, but it does appear that he was arrested for being violent. I pray for the safety of those around him.

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true crime

Repost: Crime blasts from the past…

Here’s one more true crime repost for good measure. It originally appeared on October 30, 2013 and is reposted as/is.

In early June 1992, I was about to turn 20 years old.  I worked at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia and was a rising junior at college.  I remember being shocked like so many other people in my community when a suicidal fifteen year old girl, her boyfriend, and another boy decided that they were going to kill her family and take off for California. 

Jennifer Kszepka was supposedly angry with her father, 42 year old Jerome Kszepka, because he didn’t approve of her boyfriend, Dominic Hendrix.  So, on the evening of June 7, 1992, they murdered him and Jennifer’s sister, 21 year old Ranae.  When Jennifer’s mother, Sieglinde, came home to the murder scene, they tried to kill her, too.  Their weapon jammed, so Michael Gaumer, a mutual friend of the teen couple’s, clubbed Sieglinde Kszepka on the head with a metal pipe, fracturing her skull.  Sieglinde Kszepka ultimately survived the attack.  But her husband and older daughter had been murdered by her younger daughter‚Ķ  what a horrible thing to have to live with.

Jennifer Kszepka could have faced the death penalty, but she ended up getting life plus 90 years in prison.  Parole in Virginia was abolished in 1995, but Kszepka and her male friends committed their crimes prior to then.  Consequently, all three are eligible to be considered for parole.  Kszepka just had a hearing and was denied parole.  The next time she will be considered will be in 2016 (ETA: in 2021, Jennifer Kszepka remains in prison).

I remember all too well when this happened.  I had only recently graduated from the high school where Kszepka and her partners in crime attended.  My boss at Busch Gardens had known Ranae Kszepka, because she had once worked at Busch Gardens.  I remember reading the newspaper every day as Kszepka and her friends drove her mother’s car west.  They hoped to get to California and made it as far as Eureka, Nevada, where they were stopped for a routine traffic violation.  Their identities were discovered and they were shipped back to Virginia to face their crimes.

Jennifer Kszepka is incarcerated at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, which is the same place where Erin McCay George is imprisoned.  I note that both Jennifer Kszepka and Erin McCay George are involved with dog training‚Ķ or at least they were ten years ago.  It appears that she has tried to straighten up and fly right.

Another case I remember from the 90s involved a guy named Frederick West Greene.  A friend of mine from college had grown up in tiny Franklin, Virginia.  She had a cute male friend named West who attended Virginia Military Institute.  My friend had the hots for this guy and was positively giddy when he visited her at our college.

Later, it came out that he and a friend had murdered a classmate over an insult.  They killed the young man and buried him, leaving his family and friends to wonder what happened to him for about two years.  I remember how distraught my friend was over finding out that this cute, popular, handsome friend of hers was actually a murderer.  She was very upset and kept asking, “How could he do that?” 

I was reminded of West a few weeks ago and started looking for more information about his case.  I had to do some digging before I found an old article about him and his friend and the terrible crime they committed.  I imagine that they are now about to be eligible for parole.  Actually, Michael M. Jervey, who was the accomplice in this case, may already be out of prison. 

I remember back in July 1993, a woman I knew when we were both little kids living on Mildenhall Air Force Base in England was murdered.  Her name was Lisa N. Bryant, and she had grown up to be a remarkable young woman with a bright future.  A graduate of Princeton University and a 2nd lieutenant in the Army, Bryant was about to go on her first assignment to Germany when fate put her in the path of her murderer, SGT 1st class Ervin Graves, a ROTC instructor who was staying in the same dormitory at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  Graves apparently meant to rape Bryant but, when she struggled, he shot her.

Lisa Bryant is in a photo taken at my fifth birthday party in the base housing at Mildenhall where we lived at the time.  After England, we both moved to Fairfax County in Virginia and I saw her one last time at her birthday party in the Burke area of Fairfax.  Had we stayed in Fairfax, I would have gone to the same high school she attended and excelled at. 

My mom called me at school to tell me about an article she’d read about it in¬†People Magazine¬†several months after the murder. ¬†I remembered what she’d looked like when we were kids and was shocked that at age 21, her life had been callously snuffed out.

It’s always creepy and unnerving when you realize how close true crime is to you‚Ķ  

And here are the original comments from this post.

Mary Beth DooleyMarch 21, 2014 at 11:18 PM

I think I am the friend from college you spoke of in your blog. I am guessing you went to Longwood. Mike is out of prison & married. I believe he is living in Franklin. I don’t live there anymore so I only hear the gossip every now & then. West will not see a chance at parole for at least another 20 to 30 years. He was sentenced to Life + 45 years. He is serving his time in a federal prison because his father was a warden with the Virginia Bureau of Prisons. There is a far darker story that was never told in the press. There really should be a book written. Not sure who this is, but would love reconnect. I am happy to say my choice in men got exponentially better! You can email me at the3dooleys@gmail.com if you woildblijr.

  1. knottyMarch 22, 2014 at 8:28 PMHi Mary Beth! Glad to “see” you on my blog!

    Thanks for the update about West and that case. Sometimes I remember things and go looking for information. I remember meeting West and being really shocked when it turned out he was a killer. I’m sure my shock was nothing compared to yours!

Terry Mandy TeagueApril 9, 2016 at 5:58 AM

The Kszepkas are my family. To this day it still haunts all of us. By no means do we wish to have Jennifer or these guys that was involved the ability to see the outside world. I dont want that little bitch anywhere near my family. They can rot in there. My Aunt is doing well and has moved on as best as anyone could surviving this. Jennifer was a spoiled kid that threw a temper tantrums and has mental issues. She was supposed to be receiving help when this all occured. They all needed the death penalty. No reason to waste tax payers money on this, I dont even think the word “TRASH” fits it. Thank you.

  1. knottyApril 9, 2016 at 8:55 AMThanks for the comment. Given that the death penalty costs taxpayers much more money than life in prison does, I think it’s probably better from a fiscal standpoint that she got a prison sentence. It really is sad when someone so young screws up so badly that they spend most of their lives in prison.  

UnknownJanuary 12, 2019 at 9:29 AM

The case you speak about from the 90s where West and the other young man killed another student I remember very well. I knew the father of the victim for many years. As some one else stated there was a lot more to the story than was ever told to the public. I still live only 15 mins grfr Franklin and only about 10mins from where they buried his body. You can Google Trent Whitney Franklin VA to get a short version of what happened but there was a lot more to it. The reason Michael came forward was because West was planning to kill a girl he was dating and had threatened to kill Michael if he didn’t help him. I didn’t know either of the guys but from what I’ve been told Michael really did have a hard time with the first muder and he knew the girl West wanted help killing and he couldn’t go through with it so he turned it all in. There is much more to this story. If you would like feel free to contact me at mayopulley@gmail.com please put something in the subject to catch my attention such as Trent Whitney etc

UnknownJanuary 12, 2019 at 9:31 AM

If you’re interested in more information on the West guy from Franklin that killed another student contact me @ mayopulley@gmail.com lot more to it

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