Coroner Provides Perspective on the Casey Anthony Verdict, Michael Jackson Death, and Other Mind-Bending Cases

If you’re wondering whether Casey Anthony might qualify as a subclinical psychopath, Cyril Wecht makes a stunning case for it in his recent book, From Crime Scene to Courtroom. I was pleased to see that, like me, he compares her detailed deceptions to the slight-of-mind performed by “Verbal” Kint in The Usual Suspects. Casey Anthony told so many lies after her daughter Caylee went missing that people online made “top ten” lists. Few people know that this dubious talent was not just a response to an extreme circumstance; it was her style. Wecht, one of the world’s leading forensic pathologists, recounts Casey’s history of prevarication in detail, so you’ll get the story in its forceful entirety rather than the piecemeal fashion that news media have offered.

They’re closer than they appear: do you know a serial killer?

The high-ranking associates of Colonel Russell Williams never realized that this man, who’d flown royalty to their destinations and supervised Canada’s largest air force base, was a serial killer. Williams had passed every test and evaluation during his outstanding twenty-three-year career, revealing nothing that would raise a red flag. Williams’ Chief Warrant Officer, his right-hand man and close friend, was the first to hear in 2010 that Williams had confessed to several home invasions, rapes, and murders. He was stunned. He had to rethink everything he thought he knew about the man.

New last-meal rule on Texas death row gives him the blues

Texas has gone and messed with a time-honored part of Death Row reporting.

Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston, got steamed when he read about the final meal of the despicable Lawrence Brewer, executed last week for the racist murder of a black Texan named James Byrd Jr.

Elastic Jack (The Ripper) is long gone, but the parade of suspects marches on

As the anniversary of Jack the Ripper’s official first murder passes (August 31), we have yet two more attempts to nail down his identity. A retired murder squad detective offers a German merchant named Carl Feigenbaum, while the investigation of a recovered skull in 2009 resurrects documentary interest in Frederick Deeming. Thanks to plenty of ambiguity and investigative holes, the case of Jack the Ripper sufficiently elastic to accommodate a few more ideas. Still definitively unidentified, the killer of between four and nine women from 1887-1890ish (depending on whom you read) has been tagged variously as a lunatic, physician, magician, prince, minister, herbalist, cook, sailor, artist, and med student, to name a few. Advocates strenuously promote their favorite candidate, and while feeling right is not the same as being right, some spend millions to make their point. Often, a suspect can be transformed into Saucy Jack only by distorting the facts. Just as often, there are logical leaps over canyons of missing information. Still, guessing Jack’s identity never fails to entertain.

A bittersweet deal for the West Memphis Three

Eighteen years after they were imprisoned for stunningly flimsy reasons, the West Memphis Three are free. Yet what should be a day of sweet celebration has a sour aftertaste. They’re free but not exonerated and a system that railroaded them is off the hook. To end their ordeal, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols accepted a plea arrangement that still holds them accountable. As Baldwin angrily stated at a press conference, it’s not justice. Not for them, not for the victims.

Oh sure, blame it on the vampires again

In a mash-up of genres, Lyle Monroe Bensley, 19, was arrested this week for assaulting a woman in her home. He’d forced his way into her apartment, dressed in just tattoos and boxers. As he growled, bit and hit her, he dragged her outside, but she escaped. Bensley was still in the parking lot when police arrived. He hissed at them and tried to run. When apprehended, he told them he was a 500-year-old vampire and asked to be restrained, because he needed to feed and he didn’t want to kill them. (It sounds like he threw some werewolf movies into the mix.) He awaits a psychiatric evaluation in jail.

Suck it up vampires, zombies and werewolves are eating your lunch–for now

In Our Vampires, Ourselves, Nina Auerback stated that because vampire are immortal, they are free to change incessantly. I think it’s the other way around. Because the vampire is such a malleable image and can address many primal fears, it’s managed to survive in our cultural imagination for centuries. Every decade, it grabs us again.

True crime writers and afficionados – check out the must-see forensic resource

Maybe you’re a crime writer seeking details about a case, or a judge who wants to see what happened in a prior Daubert decision.  Maybe a cop learning to detect cybercrime in New Jersey, or an attorney who needs a refresher on entomology.  Perhaps you’re just curious about virtual autopsies or a career in forensic science.  No matter what angle interests you, there’s a Website on which you’ll probably find what you need.

Read Cranioklepty for the inside scoop on skull stalkers and necroprenuers

Last year, a book landed on my desk that demanded to be read: Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius, by Colin Dickey. Anyone who knows true crime has probably heard about body snatchers, those infamous nineteenth-century midnight requisition crews who advanced the cause of medicine. In addition, anyone who pays attention to the news knows that there are body collectors – people like Anthony Sowell, a recently convicted serial killer who prefers the decomposed for company. He’s not alone. Some people also find comfort in possessing skulls. This book examines the thievery of body parts during the nineteenth century as a dubiously noble art: it’s about the people who watched where deceased men of genius were buried in order to grab their valuable skulls.

You might not be safe in your own home

In twelve years as a sex-crimes prosecutor (and a couple years as a novelist), I’ve gotten used to hearing stories of crime and horror. A few weeks ago, I saw a case that gave me shivers: United States v. Jason Scott.