mental health, modern problems, true crime

Americans are both awesome and awful people…

There has been quite an interesting array of news stories lately. Last night, I read a truly heartwarming story about a young man in Alabama who showed up to work the morning shift at a Waffle House on his graduation day. He’d had the day scheduled off, but his mom had to work and couldn’t take him to the ceremony, and he is not in touch with his dad. So he went to work, instead.

The 18 year old, whose name is Timothy Harrison, wanted to walk across the stage to get that diploma he’d worked so hard to earn. But since there was no way to make it happen, he resigned himself to going to work and making some money, instead. Timothy’s boss, Cedric Hampton, wasn’t having it. He and the assistant manager, as well as other co-workers and a couple of customers banded together to see to it that Timothy could have that rite of passage experience that is so important for so many.

By the time I’d finished reading this uplifting story, I had tears welling in my eyes. I was truly moved to read this story about good people doing great things. Americans love to help an underdog, and they are capable of great support and largesse for people who have a good story. Timothy Harrison’s story was so good that he also got a full scholarship from Lawson State Community College, whose faculty members got wind of his work ethic. Now, instead of following his plan continuing to wait tables at the Waffle House and, perhaps, later joining the military (which isn’t actually a bad plan for many people), Harrison will be going to college to study business and computer science.

As you know, I have nothing against people who join the military. It’s a great career for plenty of folks, my husband included. BUT– it’s not for everyone… and thanks to the kindness of Timothy Harrison’s “Waffle House work family”, Harrison will have another choice that could potentially change his life’s course forever. And that change could have significant ripple effects for other people in Timothy’s life. Thinking about that made me feel great and hopeful for the future.

But then I woke up this morning and read another sad and senseless story about violence over face masks… I was reminded that Americans can be awesome. They can also be awful!

Although a lot of people are ditching the masks as COVID-19 infections are waning among the vaccinated, not all areas are yet finished with the mask requirements. Such is the case in Decatur, Georgia, where Victor Lee Tucker, age 30, had stopped to pick up groceries at a Big Bear Supermarket. Mr. Tucker was not properly wearing a mask when he approached the cashier (now identified by police as Laquitta Willis, 41) to pay for his items. Tucker and the cashier got into an argument about how he was wearing his mask (according to the Washington Post, Tucker was wearing a mask, but not correctly). He got pissed off and left without buying the items. But then he immediately came back and shot the cashier, killing her.

Tucker also shot 54 year old Danny Jordan, the off duty police officer who was moonlighting as a security guard at the store. Fortunately, Jordan was wearing a bulletproof vest, which probably saved his life. Another cashier was slightly wounded by a bullet that grazed her. She was treated at the scene, while the cashier and Tucker, who was shot by the guard, were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. Tucker is listed in stable condition. Deputy Jordan, who was shot twice, went to Atlanta Medical Center, where he is also listed in stable condition.

I have not made it a secret that I despise the face masks. I think that while they are helpful in preventing the spread of virus particles, they also cause a lot of problems for many people. For that reason, it’s my hope that they go away soon. Too many people are being inconvenienced by the masks, but more troublingly, people are also DYING over enforcing their use. Imagine trying to avoid getting COVID-19 and dying anyway because you asked someone to wear a mask properly and they shot you! Edited to add, June 16th– the indoor mask mandate was in effect in Decatur, Georgia on Monday, when Willis was killed. It’s due to expire next week.

But people definitely shouldn’t be killing and dying over the face mask issue. Of course Tucker was absolutely wrong to kill the cashier over something so utterly stupid. He probably shot her because he felt the need to “protect his freedoms”. Maybe he felt like the mask was oppressive and was finally fed up with being “oppressed”. Maybe that was why he felt justified in killing an innocent person. But that was an erroneous notion on his part. And now, he will lose his freedom and be forced to wear a prison uniform and, it’s very likely, a face mask, along with all the other stuff prisoners are forced to wear.

In all seriousness, it does make me sad to think about Tucker going to prison over this. He’s a 30 year old man, who had his whole life ahead of him. I don’t know what kind of a person he is when he isn’t losing his cool and blowing hourly wage earning cashiers away over face mask rage. I’d like to hope he’s not all bad, as I don’t think most people are all bad. But it’s hard to understand why someone would be so unhinged that he’d just callously snuff out some innocent lady’s life because of a face mask. It’s tragic and ridiculous on so many levels.

Personally, I think if I were in the States, I wouldn’t confront anyone over the masks. It’s just not worth it. Our culture is so strange– people are encouraged to be “nice”, and we hate confrontations and conflict. And yet, so many of us are carrying weapons! And so many are apparently on the edge of insanity! Would Tucker have killed anyone two years ago, before COVID-19 face mask requirements was a thing? I honestly think that the risk of getting the virus may be lower than the risk of being shot in some parts of the USA. There have been so many stories about people killing and dying over face masks! It’s crazy! It baffles me that so many Americans seem to enjoy busting people over the masks. The New York Times called it a “new American pastime.” I think I’d be too scared to say anything to someone about the masks. I’d rather just get away from them.

I don’t know if the cashier was required to enforce the mask policy or she just decided to on her own. I would certainly never say that she shouldn’t feel free to enforce the mask requirements in a private business. BUT… there is a real danger in doing so, as her story, as well as so many others, have shown. I hope there will come a day soon when the mask requirements go away so this particular issue won’t be something people continue to die over.

And that makes me think of something else… does it seem to you like America has gotten way more extreme? It seems like fewer people are moderate nowadays. I feel like I run into more extremely “woke” people and extremely conservative people than I used to. I still tend to be pretty middle of the road– leaning a bit more left lately, but not extremely so. But the past five years, which I have not spent in the States, make me a little scared to go back home. I feel like today’s America is not the America I knew.

According to the Washington Post, 2020 was the deadliest year for shootings and, so far, 2021 is even worse. Within the first five months of 2021, 8100 people in the United States lost their lives to gun violence. Much of the violence seems to come from frustration and anger over the pandemic situation and all of the problems that are affiliated with it. The Washington Post reports that the violence started to edge upwards from April 2020, when the virus started to become a real problem. I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to “normal”… but it sure is sad to me that a deadly virus killed so many people and so many citizens are also dying because of gun violence… or they’re being hit and run, like my old friend Matt was last month. The week Matt died, another person was also killed in a hit and run in the same area. It’s also a problem on the rise, perhaps caused by very angry people who have no regard for other people.

Well… at least I was able to start this post with a feel good story. I wish Timothy Harrison much luck as he embarks on what could be a very bright future. I hope he avoids gun violence and the virus. I hope he goes to school and sets the world on fire as he puts his promising work ethic to the test in a tough world. I, for one, would not want to be young again for anything! But I have high hopes for Harrison and his Waffle House family. His story, coupled with the cashier’s story, really show how awesome and awful Americans can be.

true crime

Joyce McKinney is back in the news again…

I was going to spend today finishing up my latest travel series, but I’ve found that it’s best to give people a slight break between posts. People seem to like my regular blog posts more than my travel posts, anyway, unless they happen to be about certain topics. So here’s today’s second provocative blog post…

Here she is with her dog… one of the cloned pups?

Some readers may remember that years ago, I reviewed a book entitled Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon. I originally wrote my review of that book back in 2010, which was during a time when I was reading a lot of books about Mormonism and writing a lot of book reviews. Joyce McKinney was also the subject of a documentary called Tabloid, which documented her very bizarre life, which started as a beauty queen in North Carolina who eventually converted to Mormonism.

A documentary about Joyce McKinney… She was supposedly brilliant in high school, won beauty pageants, and had advanced degrees.

Back in the late 1970s, Joyce Bernann McKinney, then known as Joy, moved to Utah to study theater at Brigham Young University. While she was there, she had a fling with a young Mormon man named Kirk Anderson, who was about to go on his mission. McKinney became obsessed with Anderson and eventually followed him to his mission in England. With the help of a man she’d hired, McKinney kidnapped Anderson, chained him to a bed, and repeatedly raped him in an attempt to get pregnant. Anderson was eventually able to escape and McKinney fled England before she could be put in prison for the year to which she was sentenced. I happened to be living in England when this was going on, but I was much too young to know about this story.

McKinney was also reportedly obsessed with Wayne Osmond. She tried many times to get access to him. Fortunately, Mother Osmond was on the case and put the kibosh on McKinney’s attempts to get her hooks in Osmond.

Fast forward to 2008. A woman calling herself Bernann McKinney was in the news for cloning her pit bull, Booger. She paid thousands of dollars in Seoul, South Korea, to get a little of five cloned puppies. It turned out Bernann McKinney and Joy McKinney are one and the same people.

Joyce McKinney is in the news yet again, for another bizarre and ultimately sad reason. On June 21st of this year, McKinney, who is now 68 years old, homeless, and has been living in her car in Southern California, was arrested in the death of Gennady Bolotsky on June 17th. Bolotsky, who was a 91 year old Holocaust survivor and immigrant from Ukraine, had been walking his dog when McKinney hit him with her roach infested 2006 GMC Sierra pickup truck. Bolotsky died, and now McKinney is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, hit and run, and vehicular manslaughter. People in her neighborhood had called about her repeatedly, because she had a bad habit of defecating on the sidewalk in front of their businesses and in the street.

I became aware of this latest story when a Facebook friend, Mike Norton, who is known for publishing videos of the LDS church’s “secret temple rituals” posted it. He claims McKinney had been harassing him, but it looks like she may now go to prison. McKinney also tried to sue Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris for “portraying her as a prostitute” in the documentary, Tabloid. She reportedly attended the movie in disguise, then would jump up at the end proclaiming, “I’m Joyce McKinney!”

I have no doubt in my mind that Joyce McKinney suffers from mental illness. It’s crazy that she was never held accountable for what she did to Kirk Anderson. On the other hand, I must admit she’s a fascinating character. My review of Delano’s book about her case made a whopping $54 of income share on in just one month. To put this in perspective, Epinions’ income share for book reviews at that time usually amounted to pennies. $54 was a HUGE amount of money to make for a single book review, particularly in just 30 days. Most reviews never came close to making that much in the entire 11 years I wrote on the site. I do admit to missing Epinions, if only because it was fun getting paid for writing my opinions, even if the site itself was wonky and dysfunctional.

Anyway… I hope Joyce McKinney gets justice or, at least some much needed help. She now refers to the LDS church as a “cult”. I can’t disagree with her assessment of the church as a cult, although it obviously attracted her, back in the day. And as I have observed before, Mormonism seems to attract the weird. If you weren’t born into it, you’ll probably join because you’re troubled, unhappy, or looking for help. Joyce McKinney obviously needs assistance.