law, true crime

A mom is too young to watch an execution…

For a long time, I’ve disliked the “tiered adulthood” system we have in the United States. I remember when I was a young woman, many states made it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink a beer. I thought it was crazy at the time. After all, in most cases, an 18 year old is considered an adult. An 18 year old can, for instance, sign up for the military and fight, kill, or die for their country. 18 year olds are allowed to vote, although some Republicans would like to change that after the most recent midterm elections. An 18 year old who commits capital murder can be sentenced to death, if he or she is in a death penalty state. And there have been many 18 year olds who have gotten married, had children, or both.

The list of things an 18 year old can legally do in the United States is pretty long. They are, by and large, truly considered members of the majority. I can even understand why the law exists that forbids people under 21 from legally drinking alcohol, given that the United States has such a poor public transportation system in so many areas, and people who are as young as 16 years old are allowed to drive by themselves. Medical studies have shown that a person’s brain and judgment haven’t fully developed until they are about 25 years old. Therefore, a person who is 21 might be less likely to drive drunk… although judging by the many videos that exist on YouTube, I can see that plenty of middle aged and older people still haven’t gotten the message.

Same thing goes for tobacco consumption. Since December 20, 2019, the minimum age at which it’s legal for a person to purchase or possess tobacco products is now 21 in all 50 states. That probably makes sense, since it might deter young people, whose brains are still developing, from picking up a dirty, nasty, expensive, and unhealthy habit, and dying too young of lung cancer. On the other hand, the smoking habit is a money maker for tobacco states, and it also helps cull the human race. Seriously… this was a topic we discussed when I was earning my master’s degree in public health. When many more people smoked, they tended to die younger, which helped ease the burden of our aging population somewhat. Now that smoking is less popular, people are living longer. Of course, not everyone who smokes like a chimney dies young, and when those people get sick, they really get sick. It costs more to take care of them. But then, everybody dies, right? And who needs another “nanny law”? Believe it or not, Trump was the president who signed the “Tobacco 21” legislation, making the minimum age for tobacco consumption a federal law. That was one thing he did right, I guess.

But a person can still do some pretty major stuff when they turn 18. In many cases, an 18 year old is considered a legal adult, and a full fledged member of the majority. That’s why I was puzzled yesterday, when I read about 19 year old Corionsa “Khorry” Ramey, a young mom from Missouri who was just denied the right to attend her father’s execution.

Ramey was just two years old when her father, 37 year old Kevin Johnson, went to prison after he was convicted of first degree murder. In 2005, Johnson was found guilty of killing Kirkwood, Missouri, 43 year old police sergeant and married father of three, William McEntee. For that crime, Johnson is scheduled to pay the ultimate penalty— execution by lethal injection at 6pm tonight at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Missouri.

Even though he’s been in prison for most of Ramey’s life, Kevin Johnson has somehow managed to be an involved parent to his daughter. Throughout the years, Ramey and Johnson have kept in touch through letters, phone calls, emails, and regular visits. They have developed a close bond, and Johnson requested that Ramey be one of the five people permitted to witness his execution. Nevertheless, because Ramey is only 19, she is barred from witnessing her father’s execution. Missouri law prohibits people under age 21 from attending executions. Federal Judge Brian Wimes refused to make an exception for Ramey, who is, by most accounts, a legal adult. Ramey is also the mother of a newborn son. Mr. Johnson did get to meet his grandson last month.

In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), attorneys argued that the state law violated Ms. Ramey’s constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The complaint ACLU attorneys filed on Ms. Ramey’s behalf requested the court to stop the state from executing Johnson unless Ramey was permitted to attend as a witness. I suppose it’s possible that the ACLU lawsuit was one tactic used to prevent the state from executing Mr. Johnson. Johnson’s attorneys have also tried to stop tonight’s execution. They don’t deny that Johnson is guilty of murdering Sergeant McEntee, but have argued that racial discrimination played a part in the prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of Kevin Johnson.

The aspect of this case that really gave me pause, though, was reading that Ms. Ramey’s mother was killed when Ramey was just four years old, and that she had witnessed her mother’s death. While I’m certain that state ordered execution is a horrible thing to witness, the argument that Ramey is “too young” to see it is kind of ridiculous, as she’s already seen her mother die when she was a small child. Granted, the law is for everyone to follow, and it wouldn’t be right to ignore it in just one special case. But why set the minimum age at 21, if an 18 year old is an adult in most aspects of life in the United States? If Ramey were so inclined, she could join the military and see her comrades die in battle. She could be convicted of a capital crime herself and be executed at an age younger than 21. Why is 21 considered the “magic age” for witnessing something like this?

According to KOMU.com, Mr. Johnson was himself just 19 years old when he killed Sergeant McEntee. On July 5, 2005, police officers, including McEntee, were investigating a vehicle that was believed to belong to Johnson. Johnson had outstanding misdemeanor warrants and was believed to have violated his probation for assaulting his girlfriend. The police had come to his home to serve a warrant for his arrest. Johnson had seen the police officers approaching, and woke his 12 year old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long. He told the boy, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, to go next door to their grandmother’s house. Bam Bam ran to their grandmother’s house, but then collapsed and suffered a seizure. McEntee had allegedly held back Bam Bam’s mom, as the boy convulsed; he later died at a hospital. Johnson blamed McEntee for his brother’s death.

Later that same evening, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to investigate unrelated reports of fireworks being shot off. At that point, McEntee encountered Johnson again, and Johnson was enraged over the sudden death of his little brother. He pulled out a gun and shot McEntee several times, which resulted in the police officer’s death. Years later, in an interview, Johnson took responsibility for the murder and admitted that he couldn’t blame McEntee for his brother’s untimely demise.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned the fact that medical research has shown that human brains are incompletely developed until around age 25 or so. Johnson’s lawyers argued that at age 19, Johnson’s brain and sense of judgment weren’t fully developed when he murdered McEntee. They also mention racism, which I’m sad to say, is still a very real thing.

Personally, I am against the death penalty in most cases. I think it’s an appropriate penalty when a person is clearly so unhinged that they will pose a danger if they are ever free again. The recent case of Darrell Brooks comes to mind; I watched and listened to him in court, and noticed that he had absolutely no remorse for killing six innocent people in a Wisconsin Christmas parade last year. He’s an example of a person whom I believe would not be reformed by prison and would think nothing of killing again if he felt provoked. Mr. Brooks was recently sentenced to six life sentences for murdering those people at the parade. Kevin Johnson committed his crime in a red state, where many people preach about the sanctity of life for the unborn, but have no compunction about allowing the state to kill already born people. Most already born people, of course, know what an execution is, and they often have family members and friends who will also suffer when they are executed.

I absolutely agree that Mr. Johnson needs to be punished for his crimes. I am glad to see that he took responsibility for what he did, and has been doing what he can to foster a relationship with his daughter. While I disagree that the death penalty is a the right punishment for most murder cases, I understand that Johnson killed a cop in a very red state, and very red states often penalize cop killers with the death penalty. I do think, however, that if the state is going to execute a man for a crime he committed when he was 19, the state should allow legal adults– that includes people over age 18, which Khorry Ramey is– to witness executions. And while an execution is not something I would ever want to witness myself, I can’t speak for everybody. Obviously, Khorry Ramey thinks she’s old enough and can handle it. Since she’s an adult and a parent herself, the court ought to take her wishes into consideration.

And… let’s not even get into the crazy irony that is regular life in the USA right now, when any idiot can carry a gun into a Walmart and murder people in cold blood. Our legal system is completed whacked.

Standard
bad TV, movies, narcissists, true crime

I just watched Secrets of a Gold Digger Killer…

About fifteen years ago, when Bill and I were still living in my native state of Virginia, I read a true crime book by Kathryn Casey. The title of the book was She Wanted it All: A True Story of Sex, Murder, and a Texas Millionaire. At the time that I read the book, Bill was serving a deployment in Iraq. As worried as I was about him, I was also freaked out about his ex wife, who had done some extreme things in the previous year to mess up Bill’s relationship with his daughters. In so many ways, Celeste Beard Johnson’s story reminded me of Ex, only there wasn’t a murder involved.

I reviewed Kathryn Casey’s book on Epinions.com, noting that the story of Celeste Beard Johnson reminded me a lot of my husband’s ex wife, and the drama she was visiting on us at the time. I got nightmares after reading that book. You can find my review here; when Epinions.com died, I managed to save some of my old reviews and have put them on my blog.

Last week, I noticed that a lot of people were reading my review of She Wanted It All. I am Facebook friends with Kathryn Casey, and she had posted about how Celeste’s daughters, Jennifer and Kristina, had done an interview for 20/20. I wasn’t able to watch the show because I live in Germany, and I wasn’t home when it aired, anyway. Maybe I’ll see if I can find it on YouTube or iTunes.

Anyway, when I noticed I was getting a bunch of hits on that old book review from the spring of 2007, I did some Internet sleuthing and discovered that last year, Lifetime put out a made for TV movie about Celeste’s story. The movie, Secrets of a Gold Digger Killer (2021), stars Julie Benz, whom I knew from Desperate Housewives. Julie Benz and I are about the same age, but she’s still very attractive. I liked her in other things I’ve seen her in, so I downloaded the movie and watched it yesterday.

One thing it’s important to remember, of course, is that a made for TV movie is really a movie that’s based on a true story. It also requires condensing a story so that it fits in a short timeframe. Celeste Beard’s story is a hell of a lot more complicated than the way it was portrayed in the made for TV movie. I think Julie Benz was a good choice to play Celeste, but the story is a bit watered down, as it would be. What’s kind of sad about it, though, is that Lifetime’s treatment of it is actually kind of campy. That’s too bad, because I think there are a lot of women like Celeste in the world… toxic, money grifting, narcissistic assholes who are not much better than vampires.

The official trailer for the movie… At this writing, someone has also uploaded the whole thing, so you don’t have to pay iTunes to see it.

At the beginning of the movie, Celeste (Benz) is shown flirting with an older man at an Austin, Texas country club, serving him vodka tonics. The lonely old man, Steven Beard, is a wealthy Austin area television mogul. He’s loaded with money, but since his wife died, he has no one to share his good fortune with. Celeste zeroes in on him, putting on the charm, batting her eyes, and quickly convincing him to fall in love with her and let her and her two daughters, Jennifer and Kristina, move in with him. The movie doesn’t explain this, but Jennifer and Kristina are twins, and products of Celeste’s first marriage to Craig Bratcher. She alienated the girls from their father, and they even wound up in foster care a few times, when she couldn’t foist them off on family. Bratcher eventually committed suicide, as Celeste drained her subsequent husbands of money and other resources. When she married Beard, Celeste insisted that he adopt her daughters, although in the film, it looks as if adopting them was Steven’s idea.

She would marry twice more before making Steven Beard her fourth husband. At the beginning of their relationship, Beard was very kind and generous, and he was patient and understanding when Celeste would spend his money recklessly. When he finally got fed up with her crazy spending habits, Beard brought up the “D” word. Celeste responded by threatening suicide, which led to her being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. There, she met Tracey Tarlton, who was an openly lesbian woman with anger issues and a history of depression. She and Celeste became buddies, and later, had a relationship.

Tracey Tarlton is played by Justine Warrington, who gives the character an almost comic treatment. She confesses to Celeste that she got in trouble for hitting an ex lover’s husband with her truck. When Celeste asks her if she really did that, Tracey says, with a conspiratorial giggle, “No… but I thought about it.” It was at that point that I realized how tasteless this adaptation of Beard’s story really is. Lifetime turned it into a salacious tale, seeming to miss that a man who had friends and family members who loved him was killed for Celeste’s selfish agenda.

Celeste talks Tracey into killing Steven Beard. She convinces her that he’s an abusive man who will leave her destitute and alone if they get a divorce. Tracey got it into her head that if Steven Beard was out of the way, she and Celeste could be together and live happily ever after. But after Steven died, Celeste took up with her fifth husband. That was when the real life Tracey spoke up. The movie makes it appear that the girls had talked her into confessing what really happened. Celeste had signed a prenuptial agreement that would have given her $500,000 in the case of divorce. But if Steven died, she’d get half of his fortune, as the other half would go to Steven’s daughter from his first marriage, a woman named Becky (Patricia Harras) who was older than Celeste. In real life, Celeste was 38 years younger than Steven Beard. Julie Benz is clearly older than the real life Celeste was when this was happening in the early 90s. The actors portrayed Celeste and Steven were too close in age.

One thing I noticed was the detective– Detective Rolands– who seems to pronounce the name so that it sounds like “Rawlins”, which made me think that’s a common name for cops and detectives on TV. Every time he referred to himself by name and flashed a snarky look at Celeste, I was reminded of cheesy 70s and 80s era cop shows.

I didn’t think the acting in this movie was particularly good, either. I remember thinking Julie Benz was so beautiful when she was on Desperate Housewives. I thought she was a good actress, too. In this film, she was all gushy and unconvincing. I came away with the idea that she did this movie strictly for the money. It’s not that I really expected a whole lot better from Lifetime TV. Most of the newest movies I’ve seen made by them are pretty terrible on every level, from the quality of acting, to the veracity of the stories presented, to the way certain things are presented, like crime investigations. They bear little resemblance to the truth and aren’t plausible. Some of it probably has to do with the budget and needing attractive people to star. I’m also sure some people like vapid, shallow, forgettable movies rather than detailed stories.

There was a time when they made movies that were of decent quality, but the ones I’ve seen recently have been disappointing. I saw one they made with Judd Nelson in it. I like Judd Nelson as an actor– I grew up in the 80s, after all. But that movie, Girl in the Basement (2021), which was loosely based on the Josef Fritzl story, was also very campy, salacious, and poorly acted. And both of these movies, made for Lifetime TV, barely scratched the surface of the complexity of the stories. In better hands, this could have been a very compelling movie. I would hope it would have been handled with more respect, too. Lifetime treats it almost like it should be a funny story. There’s nothing funny about what Celeste Beard did to Steven Beard, his daughter, or her daughters, who– thankfully– are much better people than she is.

When I reviewed Kathryn Casey’s book, She Wanted it All, my husband was very estranged from his daughters. As time passed, one of his daughters reconnected and has shown us that, like Jennifer and Kristina Beard, she’s a much better caliber of person than her mother is. Sadly, like Jennifer and Kristina, my husband’s daughters were basically turned into servants, serving their mother’s narcissism and need to take everything from everyone close to her. But when I first read about Celeste Beard, I literally had nightmares, because she reminded me so much of Ex. This movie is laughable and silly… just as Ex has become to me… even if she’s still not a laughing matter to her poor daughter, who still takes her seriously, because she’s still her mother, even if she is a lying, narcissistic twit.

I feel like this true crime story should have been treated with a lot more seriousness and respect. If you are truly interested in this story, I would definitely recommend taking the time to read Kathryn Casey’s book. It’s very comprehensive and well-written, and you’ll get the real story, rather than this appalling bullshit that attempts to turn a tragedy into a comedy show. It’s really not funny, and shouldn’t have been turned into a campy Lifetime TV story.

Celeste Beard is currently serving a life sentence, although she will be eligible for parole in 2042. Tracey Tarleton was released from prison in 2011 and has completed her parole. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Standard
controversies, healthcare, language, law

“Abortion” is technically not defined as a dirty word.

Good morning, folks. It’s just after 8:00 AM on a warm Tuesday here in Deutschland, and I’ve already done my housework for the day, having gotten up three hours ago. The sun rises very early at this time of year in Germany, and it sets very late in the evening. Consequently, I often need an afternoon nap, because I don’t sleep long during the night.

I don’t really want to write about abortion today. It’s a topic I’m a little tired of at the moment. However, abortion is what everybody seems to be talking about right now. I have some comments I’d like to make in a place where I’m not going to hurt people’s feelings, get into pissing matches with the deliberately obtuse, or otherwise get mired in a bunch of Internet noise. My blog is a place where comments are generally respectful and reasonable. I think abortion is an important topic that deserves that much gravity.

Yesterday, I ran across an interesting Tik Tok/Facebook video by Mama Doctor Jones, a board certified OB-GYN from Texas who is currently working in New Zealand. In the video, Dr. Jones talked about what constitutes an abortion, and what the treatments are for certain medical conditions that occur during pregnancy. She made the video in response to comments by Live Action, a right wing, anti-abortion propaganda machine.

A screenshot from Mama Doctor Joneses’ video. Notice the emotional language. But, in fact, all of these conditions require terminating the pregnancy, which is precisely what abortion is.

Live Action had put out this comment regarding “abortion”, obviously likening abortion to the negative image that many people have of it. The people at Live Action obviously consider the medical procedure that abortion is as “murder”. Abortion isn’t murder, though. Abortion simply refers to the termination of a pregnancy that doesn’t result in a live birth. Moreover, in spite of how Live Action spins it, abortion is a treatment for a number of legitimate medical issues that come up in pregnancy. In fact, a miscarriage is technically called “spontaneous abortion” in medical parlance. Abortion is not a dirty word, but that group, and others who want to limit a person’s ability to terminate a pregnancy, wants to make it so.

I don’t see anything “dirty” about these definitions.

Above is a screenshot of Dictionary.com’s definition of abortion. Nowhere in that definition do I see a single definition that depicts the vile description of abortion that is being put out by Live Action. Abortion simply refers to ending a pregnancy, for whatever reason. There are different techniques used to achieve an abortion, depending on the circumstances. Under the above definition, abortion might involve taking a pill, removing the contents of the uterus, removing a body part, or actually going through labor and delivery. It depends on the case, and the time during pregnancy at which the abortion occurs.

The problem is, the term “abortion” has taken on so much emotional baggage that people automatically think of it as sinful and wrong. That baggage is causing a lot of people pain, as medical conditions that happen during pregnancy and require that the pregnancy be terminated are technically abortions. People don’t want to think of a necessary termination as an “abortion”. The term “abortion” has a nasty connotation that conjures up images of someone who got careless and wants to end a pregnancy out of convenience or shame. Groups like Live Action liken abortion to murder. But abortion isn’t really murder, either. See below.

Notice the first definition. In that meaning of the word “murder”, it’s specified that murder is the “killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law.” At this point, abortion is still legal in many places, but I don’t know of a place anywhere on the planet where it’s legal for somewhere to kill another person with premeditation or malice. I also know that sometimes people have abortions because that developing human being is causing severe physical or mental health problems that threatens the life of the already born person. In that case, an abortion is less like murder and more like self-defense.

One could also argue that a developing fetus simply has the potential to become a human being, but hasn’t yet reached that designation. It all depends on when life actually begins. People also have varying opinions on when that happens. We haven’t yet decided if life begins at conception, or at birth. The federal government seems to think life begins at birth, but religious people and hyper-conservative people want to say it begins at fertilization. A consensus has yet to be reached. See below.

I have some dear people in my life who have had to end pregnancies for health reasons. These are women that I know would probably never voluntarily opt to have an abortion. I write “probably”, because a lot of us think we know what we would do in a given situation, but we don’t actually know until it happens to us. For instance, I feel pretty certain that if I were a rape or incest victim, I would want to have an abortion. But I also know for a fact that I have a pretty serious aversion to seeing doctors. I was traumatized by an OB-GYN when I was 22 years old, and that has made me very reluctant to seek medical care unless I absolutely have to have it. To be honest, at this point, even if I have to have medical care, I still might not seek it. I haven’t seen a medical doctor since 2010. Going to see physicians causes me great anxiety.

I also suffer from depression a lot of the time, and that often makes me feel worthless. The state of the world right now adds to my depression, and makes me think it would be better to be dead. So I can’t say for certain that I would seek an abortion if I got pregnant due to rape (which I know I wouldn’t at this point in time). I probably would want one… because my healthy mental days are usually more plentiful than my unhealthy days, and I’m sure I would not want to raise my rapist’s baby. I also know that I would not want to give a baby up for adoption. But I say that as someone who has never experienced forced intercourse with a man, and has never even been close to being pregnant. I would probably feel emotionally shattered if I were ever raped, and that would affect my self-esteem. So, to be frank, I can’t say for certain I would have an abortion. I only know how I feel right now, which is that I would probably want one.

The people in my life who have had to end their pregnancies for medical reasons desperately wanted to have their babies. They would never choose to have what we think of is an “abortion”. They needed medical care for an emergency situation that involved terminating a pregnancy. Technically, they DID have an abortion, as defined by the medical establishment, but it was not the kind of abortion one might have at Planned Parenthood. And they don’t want to think of their procedures in that way. I can totally understand that. But I also think that it might be helpful if we stopped thinking of abortion as something dirty and sleazy. Sometimes, it’s a necessary, life saving, medical procedure, and like all medical procedures, it really should be private business, with no emotional baggage attached by other people’s opinions.

Personally, I think any person who wants to have an abortion should have one, for ANY reason. It’s not up to me or anyone else to judge whether or not their reasons are valid. People who are pregnant against their wills are not going to be motivated to take care of themselves the way they should. I think it’s a lot crueler to force people to gestate– crueler for the pregnant person AND the developing fetus. Because choices that pregnant people make will affect that developing fetus, and it’s possible that the person born after such a pregnancy will have to live their whole lives with the choices made by the person who birthed them. We don’t have the ability to force pregnant people to take care of themselves, and I don’t think that’s what most Americans would want to see happen. That would put us on a very slippery slope into a dystopian nightmare culture.

I like Mama Doctor Jones because she makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen her respond very logically to people who come at her with emotional comments full of shame and judgment. See below.

I totally agree with Mama Doctor Jones that allowing abortions in “some situations” is hypocritical. If we’re going to assign personhood to developing embryos, then almost no reason for abortion should be acceptable. Allowing it in certain circumstances, but not others, is problematic if we’re calling embryos people. The embryos are “innocent”, right? But forcing women to have babies conceived in the commission of a crime seems cruel to many. I think forcing women to have babies they don’t want to have is cruel. It doesn’t matter how or why they got pregnant. If abortion is okay in one situation, it should be okay in all situations. And before anyone brings up abortions that happen later in pregnancy, let me just say that those abortions are very rare, and usually occur due to a catastrophic medical issue. I highly doubt that women, as a rule, decide to terminate a pregnancy after the first trimester unless they have a damned good reason. They certainly don’t do that for convenience.

Darynidia’s comment is especially good… Why is it that so many people who want to deny women the right to choose, also have no problem suggesting suicide to already born people?
Yes. She sums up my feelings nicely.

So… these are my thoughts on the word “abortion”. I really don’t think of it as a “dirty word”. It’s not defined as a dirty word in the dictionary or by medical professionals. Some members of the public have made it a dirty word by implying that people who seek them are careless, immoral, heartless, cruel, unChristian, slutty, or whatever else. It ain’t necessarily so. Your aunt who had to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons technically did have an abortion. That procedure saved her life. Your sister who had a miscarriage technically experienced a “spontaneous abortion”. That doesn’t make her a bad person. Your high school friend who got pregnant after having unprotected sex went to a clinic to have an abortion. She’s still a decent person, worthy of respect and understanding. Maybe that procedure saved her life. Either way, it’s no one else’s business but hers.

The people behind Live Action deliberately use shaming language to push their agenda and make people feel bad for exercising self-determination. I would trust a board certified physician like Dr. Danielle Jones, OB-GYN over them anyday. I say that as someone who does not trust doctors, as a general rule. And I do not follow the word of any organization that gets into bed with so-called conservative leaders like Donald Trump and his ilk. This is a man who brags about molesting women and has probably funded and/or caused a few abortions himself. Abortion isn’t a dirty word in any sense, and people should stop attaching so much shame to it. It’s a neutral word that has been burdened with the dogmatic agenda of religious and political groups, who simply want to control women and maintain their power.

Standard
book reviews, true crime

A review of Through the Glass, by Shannon Moroney… a woman’s life temporarily shattered by her ex husband’s violent crimes

When it comes to reading books, sometimes my eyes are bigger than my will to use them for reading. There was a time when I could read several books in a month. But now, as I get older, and my eyesight gets worse, it’s a struggle to finish a book in a matter of weeks. I keep trying, though, and I keep buying virtual books from Amazon, which may sit in my queue for years before I ever get around to reading them. Such is the case regarding Canadian author Shannon Moroney’s 2011 book, Through the Glass, which Amazon tells me I bought in 2018.

I don’t remember why I bought Through the Glass. It might have been a suggestive sell when I bought something else. I might have read a salacious Daily Mail article that prompted me to download it. Who knows, at this point? I’m actually glad I read it just recently, though, because I think this case out of Canada is timely, given that this week, convicted sex offender, Josh Duggar, will finally be sentenced to prison for his crimes against children.

Like many people, I look forward to seeing Duggar get his due. However, even though think his wife, Anna, was somewhat complicit in Josh Duggar’s crimes, I also have some empathy for her situation. She’s a woman in a fundamentalist Christian cult, raised to submit to her husband in all matters. With seven young children, and not much to fall back on, she seems pretty stuck. There’s also no doubt in my mind that Anna has been repeatedly victimized by Josh. As I read Shannon Moroney’s story, I couldn’t help but think of Anna, although Anna is undoubtedly in a worse situation than Shannon Moroney was. Shannon at least had a career to fall back on, and no children to support.

Who is Shannon Moroney, and why has she written a book?

In October 2005, 30 year old teacher and school guidance counselor, Shannon Moroney, married Jason Staples, the man she once thought was the love of her life. The two had met at a Kingston, Ontario soup kitchen three years earlier, where Shannon had brought some of her students to work. Jason was the head chef at the soup kitchen, and everybody loved him. He was always friendly and kind, and he had an amazing talent for art. Shannon was taken with him soon after meeting him; he seemed like the perfect guy. But there was just one thing that gave her pause. Jason Staples was a convicted murderer who was out on parole, having spent ten years in prison.

In 1988, just a few months after his 18th birthday, Jason Staples and his roommate, a 38 year old woman, had a brutal argument. The argument ended with the woman’s violent murder at Jason’s hands. Jason’s first victim was someone Jason’s very mentally ill mother and her abusive boyfriend had found, just before they moved away without him. The living situation obviously wasn’t good, though he tried to leave it before he finally snapped in what was originally deemed “adolescent rage”.

Jason later pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was given a sentence of Life-10. That meant he would spend ten years in prison, then be released on parole, which he would be on for the rest of his life, provided he did not reoffend. Jason had been a model prisoner, and the authorities believed his youth and good behavior made him a good risk for rehabilitation.

By the time Shannon met Jason, he’d already been out of prison for five years, and was doing well in the community. Jason had convinced many people that his dark impulses were in the past, and he was worthy of the second chance he was given. He even had plans to go back to school and earn a degree in art, hoping to make the most of the rest of his life. Shannon had checked out everything Jason told her about his past, and spoke to his parole officer and psychologist. She also examined his official records. Everything seemed to check out fine.

Just one month after their wedding, Shannon was writing thank you notes for wedding gifts and wondering if she was pregnant. She was staying in a Toronto area hotel for a work related trip. There was a knock at the door. When she opened it, her life changed forever. She had expected the knock to be from a colleague wanting to have breakfast. But it was a police officer, who handed her his card and said:

“I’m here about your husband,” the officer said. “Are you Jason Staples’s wife?”

Shannon nodded affirmatively, that she was Jason’s wife… of just one month. The officer told Shannon that Jason was arrested the night before, charged with sexual assault. The cop did not know many of the details of the crime, since he was a Toronto based officer, and Jason and Shannon lived in Peterborough, which was also where Jason committed his crimes. But the officer did know that Jason had called 911 himself, turned himself in, and gave a full confession to raping two women and confining them in the home he shared with Shannon. She was in total shock as she gathered her things and left the hotel room to go home, where she would face the horrifying truth. The beautiful life she had planned, to include having children, advancing in her career, and loving a man who had seemed to overcome his horrific past, had all evaporated.

Jason had kidnapped and raped two women who had come into the health food store where he worked part time. The first victim, a 46 year old woman, came into the store and Jason suddenly accosted her, held her at knife point, and sexually assaulted her. He confined her in the store’s basement. Then, a few minutes later, the second victim, who was much younger, entered the store. Jason held her at knife point, but she fought back, Jason then choked her into unconsciousness, and took her to the basement, where he sexually assaulted her. He bound both women with duct tape, then rented a van, and brought the two women to the home he shared with Shannon.

The two women bravely tried to rehumanize Jason, attempting to talk him down from his terrifying rage. Jason would switch back and forth, from monster to human. By 9:00 that evening, Jason had decided to kill himself. He procured some rope and a ladder. The women continued talking to him, trying to bring him back to his senses. Finally, at about 10:00, Jason spoke to Shannon on the phone. She was unaware that there were two bound women in her home, both of whom had been brutally raped by her husband. After the phone call, Jason went to a pay phone and called 911. He told the police who he was and what he’d done, then asked them to go to his house and help the women. Then he continued trying to formulate a suicide plan as he waited for the police to arrive. After 25 minutes, the police still hadn’t come; apparently, they thought his first call was a prank! So Jason called again. After the second call, the cops finally came. Jason ended his confession at the jailhouse, begging “Just put me away.”

As the investigation continued, Shannon learned that not only had Jason kidnapped and raped two women, but he had also installed cameras in their home, and recorded Shannon during private moments in the bathroom. So, Shannon was also one of Jason’s victims. However, because Shannon was Jason’s wife, many people assumed she was somehow complicit in his crimes. When Shannon asked if there was anything she could do to help the women who were raped, she was told that they “didn’t need to hear from Jason’s arena.” Shannon was left to pick up the pieces after Jason’s crimes, and she quickly found out that there was no support for people in her position.

Soon, it became clear to Shannon Moroney that even though she’d had nothing to do with Jason’s criminal behavior, and was in fact a victim herself, many people were going to judge her. She would not be entitled to any assistance from victim’s advocacy groups. Though she didn’t outright lose her job at her school, she was told that she would be transferred to a different school. Her principal went as far as to ban her from even setting foot in the school, claiming that her presence there would traumatize other people.

Jason was held in protective custody, for his own safety. He had lawyers to protect his rights. No one seemed to understand that Shannon needed help and protection, too. Everyone seemed to expect her to quickly divorce Jason and move on, even though Shannon still saw the human part of him and loved him. She suffered on all levels, from professionally to medically, and few people seemed to have any empathy for her situation. She was caught in the crossfire, being associated with someone who had committed horrific crimes. And very few people seemed to understand that she was as much of a victim as the two women who were sexually assaulted by her husband. Jason never gave any indication that he needed help. She’d thought he was okay, as had everyone involved with granting him parole.

As she spoke to Jason, through the glass partition at the jail, she learned about the tragedies in his life that had led him to where he was. Jason was adopted at three months old, and raised by a woman who sexually abused him. His adoptive father died when he was very young, and his mother took up with a man who abused her, and Jason. On the night of his crimes, Jason had also overdosed on some over-the-counter substances– caffeine pills and ephedra.

Shannon Moroney is interviewed about Jason’s crimes. She appears in many YouTube videos.

Picking up the pieces…

Slowly, Shannon Moroney put her life back together. She didn’t immediately divorce Jason, although many people seemed to think she should just quickly dump him and disassociate from him. She visited him in jail, and later, prison. At the same time, she tried to figure out how to move on from the legal fiasco that enveloped her. The process of rebuilding led her to change careers, and she earned a master’s degree at East Anglia University, in Norwich, England. Jason’s crimes and the aftermath of them made her want to do victim’s advocacy, and she eventually left teaching and counseling, and became an author and public speaker. After divorcing Jason, Shannon found love again and remarried. She now appears to be thriving, but as this book illustrates, it was a tough road to get where she is today.

My thoughts

Through the Glass is a fascinating book on many levels. As an American living in Germany, I’m always interested in seeing how other countries operate. Canada has a very different legal and penal system than the United States does, so that aspect of the story alone, was fascinating for me. Canada also has a very different healthcare system than the United States does. Shannon seemed to have a lot of support from her family doctor, a woman called Sue, who would actually come to Shannon’s home to see her and went to the jail to see Jason. I can’t imagine something like that happening in the United States.

The Canadian system seems a lot more humane than the US system does, although there were plenty of inhumane aspects of Shannon’s story. While she describes a lot of insensitivity toward her situation from friends and colleagues, overall, I think the Canadian people were more understanding toward her than Americans would be. It seems to me that Americans are very quick to judge, and judge harshly, and declare people guilty by association. By Shannon’s descriptions, at least her countrymen tried to understand her ordeal on some level. They would try to put on a pretense of kindness, even if they weren’t very helpful to her, as she navigated the horrific mess left to her in the wake of Jason’s crimes.

At one point, while he was being assessed, Jason was sent to a psychiatric facility, and Shannon describes visiting him there. It was a lot more welcoming than the prison was, and Jason was treated as a patient, rather than an inmate. I found myself agreeing with Shannon’s comments about how warehousing people in prisons isn’t very helpful to society, even though Jason obviously is a danger to others and probably should be kept away from society. Still, she seems to believe that prisoners should be treated with humanity. On that point, I totally agree with her, especially since most incarcerated people will eventually get out of prison. It serves society to see to it that they have the best chance at success when they are released.

On the other hand, I’m sure I’m among a lot of readers who have trouble reconciling how long she stayed married to Jason, especially when it was clear that he would not be leaving prison for a very long time, if ever. I can understand having basic empathy for other human beings, but Jason’s crimes were truly horrific and disgusting. One woman died, and two others were left with terrible memories of being brutalized by a madman. Sometimes, Shannon seemed overly empathic toward Jason, trying to paint him as a really good man who was just misunderstood. I was glad to read when she finally divorced him, even though he has some redeeming qualities. When it comes down to it, though, Jason can’t be rehabilitated enough to be in public again.

It occurs to me that Shannon Moroney has something in common with Elizabeth Smart, in that she’s turned a horrific tragedy in her life into a way to help others. That’s admirable.

Overall

I think most people would find Shannon Moroney’s story interesting. However, some readers might be disgusted by what seems like a lack of empathy for the victims, since she does show empathy for Jason. Personally, I believe Shannon when she claims that she does have empathy for Jason’s victims. I also appreciated that she was honest about her conflicted feelings for her ex husband, Jason Staples. I think it was good that she stated her true feelings, rather than just expressing what people wanted to hear from her. But, knowing what I know about the public at large, and the black and white thinking that a lot of people have, I know some readers won’t see it the way I do. We often expect people to feel the way we think they should feel, when life isn’t always that simple.

Anyway, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this book, that has been waiting for be read for years. As we await Josh Duggar’s upcoming prison sentence, I will try to have some empathy for his wife, Anna, and the mess she’s in right now. It’s easy for us to see that Anna should leave Josh, but we don’t see life from her perspective. It’s not always so simple. Shannon Moroney’s story really drives home that truism, at least for me.

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

Standard
true crime

What was Vicky White thinking when she broke Casey White out of jail? I sure don’t know…

Happy Thursday, everybody. I’m in a pretty good mood today, because Bill and I had a great time at the Keb’ Mo’ show in Mainz last night. I have already written about our experience, so anyone who is curious can pop over to my travel blog and have a look. We had fabulous seats, and Keb’ Mo’ was super entertaining, playing all of the songs I hoped to hear, as well as a few that I need to revisit! The show was supposed to happen on November 16, 2020, which was our 20th wedding anniversary. Of course, we all know what happened in 2020, and that show would go on to be rescheduled three times! Keb’ Mo’ even came out with another album before he had a chance to do last night’s show, which did include some of the newest material. Anyway, it was a great time. I’m not even too perturbed that our upstairs toilet is still kind of “deadlined” until the plumber can get here to fix the flusher.

So now, I’m trying to figure out what today’s post will be about. A couple of days ago, I mentioned the now late Vicky White, a 56 year old former corrections officer from Alabama, who broke her “boyfriend”, 38 year old Casey White, out of jail and absconded with him to Indiana. I enjoy writing about true crime, and this case has “movie of the week” written all over it. I mean, here was a lady who had worked at the jail for years, was second in command, and was highly regarded by her colleagues. And yet, for some reason, she decided to retire several years before she would have turned 60, which is when she could have retired with benefits. She was to retire on her last day of work. She also sold her house for $90,000, which was well below market value. What the hell was she thinking? What caused a respected corrections officer to become a fugitive in her final days of life?

Friend and fellow blogger, Alex Diaz-Granados, commented that he’d like to read my “take” on this bizarre case. At this point, though, like everybody else, I can only make assumptions.

I remember when the story first hit the news. At first, people wondered if maybe Vicky White had been overpowered or manipulated in some way by Casey White (no relation), who is 6’9″ tall. Vicky White, who had been the assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County, in Alabama, had told other staffers at the jail that she was going to take Casey White to a mental health evaluation. After that, she said she had intended to seek medical care for herself. When the Whites didn’t return to the jail, some checking was done, and it turned out that the mental health evaluation story was bogus, and Vicky had also lied about going to see a doctor. They also realized that Vicky White had violated policy by traveling alone with the inmate. Naturally, that led investigators to believe that she was complicit in helping Casey White escape the jail and stay on the run for eleven days. Later, investigators said that video footage had proven that the escape was well-planned, although I’m not sure if White planned anything beyond getting Casey White out of jail.

Vicky White right before her death.

In the time following the escape, more research shows that Vicky White had used disguises, forged her name, and used aliases. She and Casey White spent eight whole days in Evansville, Indiana before they were finally confronted by the authorities and led then on a high speed car chase that ended with an accident. White’s final call to 911 has been made available to the press. On May 9, 2022, she shot herself in the head with a handgun before police were able to arrest her. Casey White had asked officers to “help his wife”, although they were not married to each other. Then we hear an officer saying they needed to clear “some of this shit out of the way”. Vicky White still had the gun in her hand after she shot herself with it. She was still breathing at the scene, but later died at a local hospital.

Bodycam footage of the efforts to save Vicky White. I guess she preferred death to what awaited her in the court system.

Thinking about this case, it makes me wonder what in the world had recently happened in her life to cause Vicky White’s life to go off the skids like this. She made some very strange and troubling decisions in her last days on the planet. Having spent so many years in her criminal justice career, I wonder if the realization that she’d made such a huge mistake caused her to implode the way she did. But I really wonder how it was that she came to be in a relationship with Casey White in the first place. In his case, I almost feel like maybe he was hoping a cop would kill him. I guess I can understand that, as it’s definitely not ideal to be incarcerated. And now, thanks to this escape, life for Casey White will probably be sheer hell from now on. I read the police chief in Alabama said White would be cuffed and shackled 24/7 in his cell, and he would definitely have a lot more guards watching his every move. He is now in a state prison, about 100 miles south of the jail from which he had escaped with Vicky White, who had apparently begun a secret relationship with him when he spent time, intermittently, at the jail where she worked for pre-trial hearings. Casey White had initially been locked up for stabbing and killing Connie Ridgeway in 2015. Now, the authorities will add escape charges to his rap sheet.

I feel for the people who worked with Vicky White. No doubt, they had many good memories of working with her, and didn’t want to see her go down this path, or end her life in the way she did. I also feel for Vicky’s family, especially her mother. I guess that Vicky felt she couldn’t face her family, friends, and former colleagues. She probably felt disgraced, and this situation may have seemed hopeless. This year, she was voted “Corrections Employee of the Year”, and it was not the first time she had achieved that honor.

I suspect that Vicky White’s final actions will make things much harder for her former colleagues, too. It will be harder for people to trust each other. And it will make it harder for prisoners, too, who will probably be treated worse.

It surprises me that none of her co-workers saw or said anything about this supposed relationship Vicky White had with Casey White. Didn’t they notice anything? Below is another video, posted two days before they were found in Indiana. Supposedly, Vicky had a “double life”.

Two days later, they were caught, and Vicky White made a tragic and irreversible decision.

One inmate in the above video said that it was “chaotic” in the jail, and she wasn’t surprised Vicky was able to break Casey out of there. It makes me wonder if people who worked there just ignored policies as a matter of course. Someone in the video mentioned that Vicky was divorced, but still lived with her ex husband, who died in January of this year of Parkinson’s Disease. Another person, a former co-worker, says she had a “dark side”, and didn’t resemble the sunny blonde in the photos that were released. He also felt that she knew exactly what she was doing, and had planned this for a long time.

I guess time will reveal whatever can be gleaned from the information that comes up in the wake of this situation. We’ll never really know what motivated Vicky White to take these steps that led to her death. But at least Casey is back behind bars. I’ll be watching to see what else comes from this story. I’m sure someone will write a book. Dr. Todd Grande has already made a video about it.

Todd Grande looks at this case.

Standard