Sunday, June 29, 2014

Far from mindless.........

"This new technology is shedding all kinds of light on their behavior that's been going on for millions of years." stated Toby Daly-Engel, a University of West Florida shark biology and genetics researcher.

The private research group Ocearch has been capturing and tagging Great White Sharks in the waters off Cape Cod MA for the past few years so that scientists can have a better idea of their actual movements.  the Great White is not an endangered species yet but it is considered to be a protected one.  Oceanrch tagged four Great Whites during 2012 and 2013 with a satellite pop-up tag that will record the depth of water the shark is in, water temperatures and location it is in.  That tag is combined with an acoustic tag that will be tracked by receivers along the east coast.

Three of the Great Whites have added huge amounts of information for scientists to analyze in the past year.  Katharine and Betsy have been moving down the east coast of the US.  Katharine, a 14 foot long, 2,300 pound shark has been leading the way down the coast.  She is named by Cat products fans after Katharine Lee Bates, who is a native of Massachusetts and writer of the song "America the Beautiful."  Betsy is smaller of the two at 12 1/2 feet long, weighing in at 1,400 pounds and seems to be following Katharine down the coast at a slower rate.  Scientists know where both sharks are because when they surface from the depths, the tags they carry will automatically download the information they have.

They were both tagged in August of 2013 and have since traveled about 5,000 miles around the tip of Florida.  The guess is that they will both be near Texas in the next month.  Katharine seems to surface more often and the public can track where she is through the Ocearch website.  Betsy on the other hand disappeared from tracking for quite a time earlier this year but she has again been tracked through her tags.  Both of these sharks are following fish along the coast, much like Genie and Mary Lee, also caught in the waters off Cape Cod.

A study released in 2011 had reported that there were only 219 Great Whites left in two Eastern North Pacific locations but a new study released in 2014 now puts there numbers at around 2,000 in these locations.Very little is actually known about Great Whites in the Atlantic and scientists are eager to discover more about where they mate, give birth and travel to feeding.  The newly tagged sharks are going to give them plenty of data for analysis.

The program also managed to catch and tag Lydia near the Mayport Poles surfing area in Jacksonville FL who turned out to be a 14 1/2 long, 2,000 pound female Great White.  She has become the first to be captured and tagged off the southeastern US coast.  She has also spun the heads of scientists with her path of travel.  She has become the first Great White to cross the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to England.  She has traveled 19,400 miles in the past year after being tagged and surprised scientists by traveling 313 miles in one 72 hour stretch.  Recent data has shown that Lydia seems to be turning away from England now and scientists speculate as to whether she is headed for the Mediterranean Sea to give birth.

When she had been caught and tagged, scientists believed that she was not pregnant, so they will wait to see if they were wrong.  Great Whites typically have a gestation of 11 months and give birth to anywhere from 2 to 12 pups.  They will keep a close eye on Lydia to see if she really is going to give birth and hopefully they will learn even more about the habits of these sharks.

It is hoped that the sharks that have been tagged, which number close to 50 of different species will be able to give scientists a much better understanding of what their life really consists of.  The genetic material that has been collected as well should help them to follow breeding patterns and family trees for the sharks they have tagged already.  The oceans are vast and largely uncharted, so these projects will help in our understanding of our world and it's dwindling resources.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Welcome to Latta, SC............

"I went from being ecstatic, overwhelmed, not able to speak to crushed again," Crystal Moore said.

The current firestorm that developed in the past week in the small town of Latta SC began some say, when Mayor Earl Bullard had won an uncontested election for the office of mayor.  The word around town was that Bullard did nor take too kindly to gays and lesbians.  Police Chief Crystal Moore, the town's first woman and the first openly gay chief was warned to watch her back.  The town council even went so far as to pass a vote of confidence for Moore during it's February meeting.

The Bullard hammer fell on April 15 2014 when Bullard called Chief Moore into hus office after she had finished with a meeting she was helping mediate.  When she had stepped into his office, he handed her a pile of seven reprimands and told her to read each of them out loud.  Moore states that they related to policy or to an investigation she was doing and that a few were laughable.  She did read them and then told Bullard that she wanted to speak to her lawyer before doing anything.  Mayor Bullard then told her that she had to sign off on them before leaving the office or she would be fired.  Moore refused and Bullard fired her on the spot, asking for her badge.

Bullard has not publicly explained the reason behind his firing of Moore but has stated that it had nothing to do with her sexual orientation and personnel policy prevents him saying anything more.  It certainly is strange that a person who has served the small town of 1,400 residents for over 20 years would suddenly start breaking the rules by the bucketful.  It could be that Bullard was enjoying the greater power he had to make decisions in town than the council or it truly is a case of firing her because he personally didn't like gays or lesbians.

While many of us think that discrimination involving a person's sexual orientation is not allowed by law in the US, you had better think twice.  Twenty nine of our fifty states still allow an employee to be legally fired because of their sexual orientation, be it gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender etc.  The states that still allow this are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.  That would make it technically possible for Bullard to fire Moore.

"This is the first time it has been this public.  I'd tried living a quiet decent life and do what I'm supposed to," Moore said.

The vendetta that Moore believes may be the real reason for her being fired is backed up by a recording that Councilman Jared Taylor had made and has since released.  He stated that he had made the recording for his own protection in case Bullard tried to claim that Taylor held the same beliefs as him.  The full text that was released definitely points to Bullard's real feelings about those who are not the same as him.  The following is the part of Taylor's recording that has been released to the media:

 "I would much rather have ... and I will say this to anybody's face ... somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.
Because that ain't the damn way it's supposed to be. You know ... you got people out there -- I'm telling you buddy -- I don't agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don't say anything because that is the way they want to live, but I am not going to let my child be around.
I'm not going to let two women stand up there and hold hands and let my child be aware of it. And I'm not going to see them do it with two men neither.
I'm not going to do it. Because that ain't the way the world works.
Now, all these people showering down and saying 'Oh it's a different lifestyle they can have it.' Ok, fine and dandy, but I don't have to look at it and I don't want my child around it." stated by Bullard on the phone.
The town grievance committee has reviewed the evidence and came to a conclusion that supported no further action but many residents still believe that her firing was personal.  The town council chose to pass a motion that would change the structure of the town government from a mayor strong/weak council to the reverse.  That would mean that the mayor would not have the overriding power to hire and fire,  Instead, the mayor would have only one vote of seven on those matters.  The motion was put to a public referendum that passed by almost a two thirds margin.
On June 23, Mayor Bullard met with Freddie Davis from Florence at a local McDonald's restaurant to hire him as the new police chief. Bullard had 60 days from the original firing of Moore before he could hire a new police chief and this date is just beyond the limit.  It would seem that he had to sneak along like a character in a bad spy thriller to put someone else in place before he lost the power to do so.

Not much is known about Freddie Davis other than he may be from the Florence SC area.  The newly appointed Police Chief Freddie Davis has stated that he is happy to be hired on and that he had no comment as to the controversy surrounding Moore and Bullard.  Maybe he hadn't kept up with the local news regarding the dispute, I can understand that but the tip-off that something was fishy in Latta was signing your hiring contract at a fast food restaurant and you aren't being hired as a fry expert there.

"Earlier I stated, that the wife and I prayed about it and that's the reason I'm here.  If it's the will of the Lord for me to move on and her get her job back then that's what will happen," stated Davis

Bullard signed the contract with Davis on the 23rd of the month but did not announce it until 9:30 am on the 25th.  When he was asked how the recent votes and change of power will affect Davis, Bullard stated that he did not feel that it should botherDavis at all.  This would be because Bullard knows of the clause that was in the contract Davis signed.  The clause states that if the town of Latta changes the form of government they currently have and another person is hired or chosen as Chief of Police, the employee named will be able to continue working at the contracted rate of compensation.  

In other more plain words.........Bullard went behind everyone's back to hire someone from 25 miles away, who somehow did not know what was going on in Latta, in the last remaining days of his grip on power in town......... and then custom wrote the contract to guarantee Davis would still get paid whatever amount was on the contract, no matter what job he eventually ends up doing in town.  The whole contract stinks worse than a septic system in mid August and while the town is supporting Moore, they may now also be faced with a legal battle or pay-off to remove Davis from office.

Crystal Moore has said that she is ready to get back on the job, a job that a majority of residents want her back doing.  Moore began her career in law enforcement in 1989 by working as a dispatcher during her senior year of high school.  She took a full-time job as a dispatcher after she finished a school-to-work program and by the time she was 21, she had earned her badge.  She had begun the path to her lifelong dream of becoming a police chief by becoming the second woman in uniform in the area.

Alan Brigman, the mayor then states that he wasn't sure if the town was ready for a female cop but he gave her a chance anyways.  Moore knew that the town was comfortable with her when in 1999, the local schools had asked her to be the school resource officer in the wake of the Columbine shootings.  She continued to rise through the ranks without reprimand by any mayor and in 2012, she moved up to chief.

The current dispute centers around the validity of the reprimands she received and the mayor's method of firing her.  Councilwoman Lutherine Williams stated that they had looked at every avenue to get rid of Bullard and they found that there were too many hurdles for them to jump. The town of Latta believes in Moore and the job that she has done for more than 20 years and that is good to see I think.

The seven reprimands that Moore had refused to immediately sign have been revealed as such: 

 1. Running background checks without properly signed authorization
2. Failure to report to supervisor about problems in other departments
3. Using office/position to seek revenge against another for personal affront
4. Questioning authority of supervisor
5. Questioning authority of mayor to look at job applications for potential employees
6. Failure to maintain order, contributing to disorder at council meetings
7. Contacting news media to help bring about disorder and disruption to the town of Latta

Councilwoman Williams states that 6 is basically a crock because maintaining order is the mayor's job and the police will only step in when he requests it.  She states that number 7 stems from a Feb 25 memo that Bullard sent to all town employees that public comments about a controversy or situation won't be tolerated or acceptable.  She goes on to state that numbers 2 and 3 are unclear as to what their reason is.  Williams believes that numbers 1, 4 and 5 refer to the disputes between Bullard and Moore of recent employee hiring.  Early on, Bullard gave Moore permission to hire two officers but when she tried to hire a third, who was a woman, Bullard insisted that he had to interview that person.  
Moore had later questioned Bullard's decision to hire Vontray Sellers from nearby Dillon to become the new Director of Parks and Recreation without running a background check on him.  Lt Cartwright did run a background check and Moore investigated Sellers.  It was found that he was driving a town owned vehicle with a suspended license.  
The suspension stems from an incident at 1:30 am on June 30 2013, when Sellers, then Dillon Parks and Recreation Athletic  Program Coordinator, crashed his car into a ditch and then walked away from the scene.  He was found by police as he walked out of the women's bathroom at the Parks and Rec Department, smelling of alcohol.  He excuse was that he had heard on the scanner that the fire department had been dispatched to a town park and he had hoped to catch vandals by heading over there.  On his way over, he had lost control of the vehicle and some acquaintances that were with him spilled their alcohol on the seats.  
He quickly amended that by stating that he had taken morphine for his pancreatitis, drank a fifth of booze and then headed over to a local bootlegger to try and get two pints of brandy.  Sellers failed the field sobriety test, was hauled off to jail where he quickly fell asleep drooling and later refused a breathalyzer test.  He was initially charged with DUI but later plead guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving.  My guess is that Bullard felt much safer hiring someone with his history to drive a town owned vehicle and put the town in legal danger, than keep a loyal and competent who did not fit his view of sexual orientation.
Moore has stated that most everyone in town has known of her orientation for years and she and her partner Kristi Isgett are often seen in town together.  She does say that she believes that there is a time and place for showing affection........... something that should be observed by couples of any age when they are in public.  I am not surprised that there are people such as Mayor Bullard who have the discriminating views that he has today.  I am very glad though to see how a small town in a state that one would "expect" to discriminate, has rallied their support behind Chrystal Moore, the person and Chief of Police, based on the job she has done and not her orientation.  I do hope to read soon that she is back on the job that she dreamed of since high school.
Maybe the attitude of the residents of Latta SC will show other people and towns to look beyond the "label" and judge a person for who they are.

*** Update June 29 2014:

The town council in Latta SC reinstated Chrystal Moore as their police chief Friday at a specially called meeting that was held just 12 hours after they received the power to vote under their new power structure.  The vote was 6-0 since Bullard did not choose to attend and exercise his vote.

Moore will begin work again on Monday June 30 at the job she has loved all of her life.  There was the "small" issue of what to do with Davis who Bullard had hired and tried to slip under the door into the job,  The town council voted to send him a letter of termination stating that his recent employment was illegal.  It seems that the original contract needed to have the town seal on it to make it official and Bullard must have forgotten to have that done when he was out at McDonald's hiring Davis.  It may seem like a minor thing but it certainly saves the town from having to pay Davis for two years while he did "nothing."

The Friday meeting was held in the town community center because the town hall was still sealed with evidence tape and awaiting an investigation by the State's Law Enforcement division.  The council believes that some type of suspicious activity happened there this week and they now have to request that the investigation be made.  There is no word as to what they believe may have happened there.

In the end though...................... a town has stood up for Moore for the person she is and the job she done all these years and has not given into one person's beliefs about sexual orientation.  As for Bullard..........Hang 'em high since he wants to run his town like the old west.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What have I done?

"I think it is impossible for this to have been intentional." stated witness Leonard Madden.

On June 18 2014, Cooper Harris, 22 months old, was found dead in his father's car.  Justin Ross Harris, 33, has been charged with first degree cruelty to a child and felony murder and is being held without bond in Cobb County GA.  The firestorm of public outcry had then begun to sweep across social media and blogs.

There was a large part of the public who felt that the police had gone too far in charging a distraught father with murder when he had only been a part of very tragic circumstances.  It is possible and has happened before for a parent to accidentally leave their child strapped in a car seat. A petition began on asking that the murder charges against Harris be dropped and on, more than $18,000 had been raised towards his legal fees.  New evidence has been emerging that could show that thousands of people jumped on the Harris bandwagon far too soon.

Harris is a graduate of Central High School in Tuscaloosa AL and both graduated from the University of Alabama and was employed by the university.  He received a Bachelor's degree in Information Management Systems, is currently employed as a web designer for Home Depot and lives in Marietta GA with his wife.  According to the initial reports, Harris left for work that morning and was supposed to drop Cooper off at his daycare between 8:30 and 9 am.  Evidently, Harris forgot to drop his son off before going into the corporate office where he worked.  He left for the day and drove approximately two miles towards home before pulling his Hyundai Tuscon into a busy Ackers Mill Rd shopping plaza.  It was there that he was witnessed pulling Cooper from his car seat and screaming "What have I done?" numerous times.

"I've been in law enforcement for 34 years.  What I know about this case shocks my conscious as a police officer, a father and a grandfather." stated Cobb County Police Sgt Dana Pierce.

The witnesses report differing perceptions of Harris's behavior after he removed his son from the car.  Some definitely believe that he was a distraught father who just discovered the accidental death of his son while others felt that he seemed to be putting on a dramatic show for the gathering crowd.  It has been reported that Harris at some point did not want to see what the medical team was doing for his son and he also had to be placed in the back of a police car at the scene.

Police have also have conducted a search of The office that he worked at but have not revealed if they have seized anything that could be related to the case.  They may be trying to establish proof that Harris did not leave the office at any time during the day or if there may be information available on on-site cameras, if they exist at that building.  All that has been said currently is that they do not completely believe his version of the events and his statement that he did not know at any point during the day, that Cooper had been left in his car.

Many questions have arisen in the public forums so far, first is that many believe that it was an unfortunate accident.  Others state that it is not possible for a parent to forget that they have left their child strapped in a car seat in the car.  It is entirely possible for a loving and caring parent to "forget" that they have left a child in the car.  David Diamond, a professor of molecular physiology at the University of South Florida and a consultant at a Tampa veteran's hospital has researched the cause and effect of memory loss.  His research involves how stress, emotions and memory can adversely affect someone's performance of everyday routines.  His research shows how someone could leave their child in a car accidentally and not know that they had done it or even be able to find the point in their morning routine where they had gone wrong.  Many times cases like this can be attributed to a change of the person's routine, such as having a different parent dropping the child off for day care instead of the one who normally does.

Some of the blame for these accidents happening has also been placed on the new standard of requiring a child to be in the back seat, out of view and with infants, requiring that the child face away from the parent.  In that position, it is difficult for a driver to see if the car seat is empty or if the child is still there.  I can easily see how an infant could be overlooked even by a parent glancing into the rear view mirror but in the case of a child as old as Cooper, he would be very visible and most likely, active in the backseat during the morning drive.

Why didn't anyone see or hear him after he was left in the car?  When I first saw the news broadcasts, I wondered how a child left in a parking lot of a very busy store could manage to go unnoticed for hours.  He wasn't left in a parking lot in front of a store..... Harris worked in an office building and I can understand why it may be that no one noticed Conner.  If most of the people working there had the same hours as Harris did, the parking lot may not have had much foot traffic through it for most of the day.  Police have questioned whether Cooper had even been in the car for the 7 hours they were first led to believe.  I would think though that a child as old as 22 months would have made some kind of noise that others could have heard if they were walking by.

The question has also been raised as to whether Harris should be allowed to attend Cooper's funeral which is planned for Saturday.  The legal system in the US states that you are innocent until proven guilty and Harris has not been proven guilty yet.  His son's funeral is not something that can be given back to him if the charges against him are not proven to be true.  I do think that he should be allowed private time before the funeral to see his son but I don't believe that he should be allowed to intrude on the funeral ceremony and have the possibility of causing a scene in public.  At this point though, there has been no request from Harris to attend Cooper's funeral, which could mean several things.  He may not wish to attend because he is "punishing" himself or that he feels he shouldn't attend.

There has been no public statements from his wife Leanna Harris either about Cooper's death or her husband's arrest.  The speculation is that she may know something about the circumstances surrounding her husband's claim to knowing nothing about Cooper being left in his car for the entire day.  She would also know if there had been problems with her husband, their marriage or how her husband felt about Cooper.  The police will certainly investigate all possibilities and her lack of any public statement lends credit right now to belief of law enforcement that Harris may not be telling the whole truth.

The police are also waiting for the results of the autopsy to try and clarify the timeline of what may have happened that day as well as what killed Cooper.  It is still too early to know what really happened to Cooper.  It may be harsh to charge Harris as severely as the police have but they have that option when faced with the facts they have.  How would people feel if they had gone the opposite route and not charged Harris only to find out later that they evidence pointed to his guilt on such serious charges.  I am sure there would be many people upset that the police had let a "monster" walk free.  For the moment though, let the police do their job and in time, we should have a much clearer picture of what really did happen that day.

*** Update June 25 2014:

The police have a new warrant for Justin Harris and it reveals more information as to what the police believe happened during the day that Harris left his son Cooper to die.  The new warrant has down graded the charge of first degree cruelty to children to second degree which may mean that they have not found information to prove that he had intent.

It does reveal that Harris drove past his office in the morning to take Cooper into a Chick-fil-A restaurant for breakfast before work.  He then placed Cooper back in his car seat, which reports state, was in the middle of the backseat and facing rearward.  Harris then drove back less than a mile to his office and went in, leaving Cooper strapped in the car seat.  Police have also revealed that they have evidence that Harris returned to his car during his lunch break, opened the driver's side door, placed something inside the car and then returned to work in the corporate office.  Harris then left work at 4:16 pm with Cooper still in the car and later pulled into the shopping center to scream for help when he discovered his son in the car seat.

This differs significantly from the initial reports but it doesn't rule out the possibility of a stressed father rushing to work and forgetting his son in the car.  To me, it makes it a lot more difficult to forget Cooper was there.because he physically took his son in and out of a car seat for breakfast.  There has been no location released as to where the daycare was located that Cooper was supposed to be dropped off at.

As more details are released about Harris and the events of the morning, it becomes more difficult to believe the claim that he had just forgot his son.

*** Update June 26 2014:

More details of what the police believe happened on the day that Harris left his son Cooper in the car have emerged.  The autopsy report has been released and Cooper did indeed die of hyperthermia, intense heat exhaustion and it also states that the manner of death was homicide.  It reveals also that Harris and Cooper ate breakfast at the Vinings Chick-fil-A that morning.  He then placed Cooper back in his car seat to drive approximately one mile to work.  He did not stop along the way to leave Cooper at the day care that is located at the Home Depot Corporate office which is about two miles from the "Treehouse" Home Depot office where he was working.

Fox 5 news received information from a law enforcement source stating that police had seized Harris's work computer and they had found evidence that Cooper's death may have been premeditated.  There has been no confirmation as to when the search of his computer was done and what specifically police may have found to lead to the belief that it had been planned.

"The chain of events that occurred in this case does not point towards simple negligence and evidence will be presented to support this allegation," stated Chief of Police John R Houser.

Police are still interviewing eyewitnesses that were in the shopping plaza when Harris pulled in.  Witness Edward Cockerham, 49, stated that Harris initially told people standing by that Cooper had just started choking in the car before he had drove in.  He went to state that he felt that Harris was acting or over reacting to the situation.  Another witness, bartender Artyika Eastland, 25, had just gone out to her car to charge her phone when she saw Harris drive in and frantically jump out.  She went on to say that he put Cooper on the ground and was doing CPR on him but when another person approached to assist, he stood up and did not participate anymore.  Ms Eastland said that she felt there was something else wrong the baby then because his color was grey/blue and he didn't lie flat on the ground but instead, he had his legs in the air.

By 4:58 pm, Cooper had been pronounced dead at the scene and Harris was handcuffed and sitting in a police car.  Ms Eastland stated that she could see Harris talking with a detective calmly, then burst into tears, alternating it through the interview.  She also stated that she observed Harris looking around to observe the scene but he did was more interested in who the police were talking to than what was happening with his son.  By 5 pm, Harris was driven away from the scene by police and he had stopped cooperating with them.

While there has a national debate as to whether parents who have accidentally left a child in a car to die should be charged, it is beginning to look as though the police have gotten their charges correct in the case of Harris.

Cooper will be buried Saturday in a private service in Tuscaloosa AL.

*** Update June 29 2014:

Saturday morning in Tuscaloosa AL, Cooper Harris was laid to rest in a private funeral that Justin Harris did not attend.  He did listen to the service by phone and told the 200 who did attend by speaker phone, "Thank you for everything,  I'm sorry that I can't be there."

His wife Leanna stated during the service that "Ross is, was and will be a great daddy."  She added that she is not angry with him over her son's death.  Those attending the funeral gave Harris a standing ovation after he spoke and many spoke well of him as a person.  The funeral and burial did have a heavy police presence due to the national media attention.

Police state that they did not bar Harris from attending the services.  They state that he had not made an official request to attend but his lawyer stated that he had been informed by the police that Harris would not be allowed attend regardless of the reasons.  Cooper's family had made a request for a flash drive that contained pictures of Cooper to show at the funeral but that was denied because police stated that they needed to protect the integrity of the evidence.

The search for evidence and answers continues though.  Police had released information about the warrants they have already served and they include a search of Harris's home, cellphone, car and computer.  He had told police that he had recently done computer searches for how long it took an animal and a person to die in a hot car because he was concerned that it may happen to him.  It is now reported that police will release information about 11 other warrants that had been applied for and it may shed even more light as what their theory is.

According to the official warrants:

On 06/18/14 at 1624 hrs Pct 3 officers responded to 2955 Akers Mill Rd, Atlanta GA regarding a person down call. When the officers arrived on scene they discovered that Cooper Harris 08-02-12 was deceased. The CAP unit was contacted and responded to the scene regarding a homicide investigation. Justin Harris, the deceased subject's father was witnessed pulling into the parking lot of Uncle Maddio's Pizza, 2955 Akers Mill Rd in a 2011 Hyundai Tucson, GA tag.... The vehicle came to a sudden stop. Justin quickly exited the vehicle, opened the driver side passenger door and pulled his child, Cooper Harris out of the vehicle. Justin was witnessed yelling "Oh my god what have I done". He then began doing CPR on the child. When someone came to assist Justin he stopped providing medical attention to the child and started making calls on his cell phone. EMS responded to the scene. It was obvious that the child was deceased. Justin stated that he went to work that morning and forgot to drop the child off at day care. Justin left his residence, took the child to Chic-fil-A in Vinings and then went to work. The child was left in the vehicle since approximately 0930 hrs this morning until he was discovered by Justin at around 1620 hrs when he was driving to meet up with some friends. The temperature was in the 90's for most of the day. During an interview with Justin, He stated that he recently researched, through the internet, child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur. Justin stated that he was fearful that this could happen

The warrant for his home computer was for a laptop, computer towers, Google chrome cast internet searcher and other electronic devices.  The warrant for his home was for papers, writings, documents, photographs, evidence of child neglect, child abuse and photograph the residence.  The warrant for his cellphone was yo allow the police to  physically examine, document, have the storage devices forensically imaged or copied (if necessary), and later examined for evidence of these crimes.  The warrant for the Harris home was for trace evidence including but not limited to latent impressions, hairs, fibers, fingerprints, blood, or DNA, a child car seat, cell phones, photograph the vehicle, take measurements of the vehicle, computers, electronic communication devices, any electronic data storage devices located inside the vehicle, any paperwork and or writings related to the crime of Homicide and Cruelty to Children.

The family has not spoken publicly and had requested that they be left alone to deal with the unfolding events privately.  They had been assisted with the funeral costs by a Home Depot fund that gave them a ten thousand dollar grant.

Not surprisingly, the online petition site that was trying to get the charges dropped against Harris........ has been shut down.  Harris is next expected to be seen at his probable cause hearing on July 3 2014

*** Update July 3 2014:

Explosive testimony has emerged at the probable cause hearing for Harris today.  It has been revealed that:

·         *The turn he had to make to drop Cooper off at the Little Apron Day Care was about 30 seconds from the Chick-fil-A that they had just eaten breakfast at.
·         *Harris had been “sexting” with six women throughout the day while he was at work and Cooper was left in the car.  Police have spoken to at least two of the women involved and they have confirmed that he had sent pictures to them of his erect penis to them and they had sent pictures of their exposed breasts to him.  At least one of the women was under 18 years of age.
·        * Evidence has been given that Harris accessed postings that included living child-free, videos of people dying, how to survive in prison, effects of leaving a child or pet in a hot car and a video on how to prevent leaving a child in a hot car.
·         Harris went out to lunch with co workers and afterwards, had one drop him off at his car so that he could place the light bulbs he had purchased in the front seat.
·         *Testimony was given that Harris had previously cheated on his wife and she had knowledge of this, as well as evidence that he had met at least one woman he had chatted with months prior to that day.
·         *There was a $2,000 and $25,000 life insurance policies on Cooper Harris.
·        * It was reported that Cooper was too large for the car seat and his head would be very visible above the back of the seat.  This is important because Harris did not have a back up camera on his car, so when he backed into the space at work, he would have had to use the rear view mirror and should have seen Cooper.
·        * Harris was witnessed making a phone call immediately after someone else took over giving CPR to Cooper.  He told police that he had not reached anyone with the call but police state that the call lasted at least six minutes and it was to the day care to alert his wife of the situation.
·         *Harris had made plans with friends to see a movie that night for 5 pm and he was headed in that direction when he pulled into the plaza.
·         *Harris had evidently searched on-line what the age of consent was in GA.  It is reported that one of the women he was talking to that day was 16 years old.
·        * He showed no emotion when testimony was given about the condition of Cooper when he was removed from the car or when his “sexting” was revealed.  He was seen wiping his face with a tissue when a witness described the scene at the shopping plaza.
·         *Harris had not called 911 and when an officer observed him on the phone, she asked him to hang up.  At that point, Harris is described as refusing to, shouted “Fuck you” to the officer, had the phone taken away from him and was handcuffed.
·         *Harris had received a group email from the day care that day.
·         *Harris’s wife Leanna arrived at the day care to pick up Cooper and they informed her that Cooper had never been dropped off.  It is stated that she said “Ross must have left him in the car.”  The day care was reported to have tried to convince her that there could be many other reasons as to why Cooper had not been dropped off but she stuck to her statement about Harris.
·         *It is reported that Harris quickly got into his car after work and drove off in seconds without rolling down any windows.  Police stated that the car still had a very noticeable decomposition smell even after 1 ½ hours after he had pulled into the plaza.
·         *Harris is considered a flight risk because of his law enforcement experience as a dispatcher and that he has no family in the state except for his wife.

Harris has been denied bail and will be held until trial, where he could face the death penalty.

It is very difficult to listen to police testimony of Harris’s activities during the day his son died and believe that he is just a parent who accidentally forgot his child in the car.  I also wonder what type of office would allow employees to the time to exchange nude pictures and chat when they are being paid to work.  Perhaps the most telling...... Harris evidently had inquired with others as to how to get the insurance money within days of Cooper's death. It was also revealed that Harris was always the one who dropped Cooper off at day care, so this was not an interruption of his normal routine, something that can lead to children being accidentally left in cars.

So far, police have not charged his wife with any crimes, though she had also stated to police that she had made internet searches about children in hot cars, reportedly asked Harris what he had told police and if he had "told them too much" and did not seem to show much emotion in court to the revelations of her husband's "sexting" or the condition when he was removed from the car.

*** Update July 7 2014:

New information has been released about the additional warrants that had been served on Harris.  They include a DVD, an external hard drive, a 2 gigabyte memory card and a 32 GB thumb drive.  Police also want the medical records for both Harris and Cooper to establish if they had any medical conditions and what their health would have been at the time of Cooper's death.

It had been revealed that messages between the Harris's show that they may have had financial problems at the time.  It was also discovered that the Harris's had purchased a larger, forward facing car seat for Cooper six weeks prior to his death but switched back to the older car seat a couple of weeks before his death.  It was revealed that Cooper had been placed in the car seat and the straps had been set at the lowest setting for a small child.  Harris was fully aware of the specifications of the car seat when asked about it by police.

Harris may also face additional charges in relation to his "sexting" such as felony exploitation of a minor and misdemeanor sexual contact with a minor.  One of the women he had been chatting with and exchanging explicit pictures with was 16 years old at the time.  One source states that the Harris's phones show that they texted numerous times a day with each other, every day.  On the day of Cooper's death though, they did not talk to each other at all.

All of these things are fairly routine or innocent if taken individually.......... grouped together though, it seems to present a stomach churning conclusion that still has to be proven in court.

*** Update July 8 2014:

Police may well be looking more closely at Harris's wife Leanna as a possible accomplice.  While it is common for police to closely examine parents and relatives so that they can eliminate them if need be, there seems to be much for police to be concerned with.  Her demeanor while she was in court was more than odd.  She showed little emotion and was seen chewing gum and occasionally putting her head down.  It has been reported that even her mother in law questioned Leanna as to why she wasn't crying for Cooper.

The initial release of the funeral service had placed a positive spin on her feelings about Cooper and her husband.  What has since been released is more that jaw dropping.  it has been reported that she stated that she was happy that Cooper would miss some of the sadness in life like losing his grandparents and his parents.  She went on to say that she was glad that he would miss some of life's let downs such as his first heartbreak.

It was the part that came right before her claim that she wasn't angry with her husband that has heads spinning.........

"I miss him with all my heart.  Would I bring him back?  No.  To bring him back into this broken world would be selfish," she stated.

Those are not the words I would expect to hear from a mother who had loved this child and was looking forward to a life with him.

*** Update July 11 2014:

The toxicology reports show that Cooper was not drugged while he was dying in the hot car.  Sadly, this does not help prove that Harris deliberately meant for Cooper to die and not suffer.  Harris has reportedly been moved to the mental health wing of the prison.  This may be a move to protect him from the other inmates or it may also be one step towards building a case of mental defect as the reason behind Cooper's death.  Home Depot has reported that they have fired Harris from his job there yesterday.

It has been revealed as well that Harris had a twitter account and oddly...... his wife was not listed as someone he wanted to have access to his postings.  Police are still investigating what, if any part she may have had in Cooper's death.  Speculation has stated that she may be suffering from postpartum depression and that could have led to her agreeing with any plans Harris may have had.  It has also been reported that she has hired herself, her own defense attorney.  So far.......... she has not been charged with any crime but police are leaving no stone unturned in their investigation.

It has also been announced that those people who donated to Harris's defense fund through Paypal and used the will be getting refunds of what they donated.  At least we will know that the money won't be going towards a cause many probably don't believe in anymore and it won't just be sitting in an account somewhere as well.

Update August 13 2014:

"Because I saw how he treasured our little boy for 22 months, I know without a doubt he would never knowingly allowed any harm to come to our son,." stated Leanna Harris.

The Cobb County District Attorney's office sent Leanna Harris a routine crime victim impact questionnaire recently and she has returned it after answering the questions it had.  Her attorney has used the fact that she received it as "proof" that she is considered a victim and not a suspect in Cooper's death but Cobb County stated that they send one to anyone who has been involved closely with a crime.  They are required by the Crime Victim's Bill of Rights to send one to all victims or next of kin as a standard procedure.

She stated that she has not been able to grieve properly and this has her living a tortured existence now.  She has moved from the couple's home in Georgia, back to Alabama.  She goes on to state that she has had to transfer her job as a dietitian there as well as losing a consulting job that she had held for four years.  She added that she has had to delay going back to work because of the media hounding her.

Leanna's public release of the information as well as her even answering the questionnaire may have looked like a chance to gain public sympathy but it may also be used to see where she stands in the case.  It doesn't seem to do much in shining a better light on her actions following Cooper's death even though she states that she is undergoing counseling for grief and depression, something she thinks she will need all of her life.  She still stays in regular contact with her husband through video conferencing, now that she is out of state.  I think it will take a lot more to convince the public that she had nothing to do with Cooper's death.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beyond the evil.........

It began late in the evening of July 22, 2007 and ended tragically on the morning of July 23 2007.  In less than 24 hours, William Petit lost his family and two daughters lost their fathers.  The trial for Steven Hayes, one of the alleged killers began on Sept 13 2010 and on Oct 5 2010, he had been found guilty of 16 of the 17 charges he had faced.  Hayes had offered to plead guilty in exchange for life without parole before the trial had begun but that plea had been denied.  Instead, Hayes was sentenced to death.  Joshua Komisarjevsky went on trial on Sept 19 2011 and on Oct 13 2011, he was found guilty of all 17 charges he had faced.  Komisarjevsky had also tried to plead in exchange for life without parole before trial, which was denied and he also was sentenced to death.

The Petit home invasion and murders was a brutal crime and the two trials only served to expose the brutality that had been perpetrated upon the Petit family.  William was the only one to have survived the horror of the pair and it had to be terrible to learn through the trials, just what had happened to his family both before and after he had managed to escape his burning home that day.

"To this day I don't know why it happened.  I just wanted money.  That's all I was looking for," stated Steven Hayes in an interview with the New Haven Register in 2013.   

Hayes states that both he and Komisarjevsky had planned to just leave the house after he had returned with Jennifer Hawke-Petit, William's wife and the $15,000 he had forced her to withdraw from the bank.  When he returned, Komisarjevsky told him that he had sexually assaulted 11 year old Michaela, the Petit's younger daughter.  He then claimed that he started to lose it, which was then made worse by his spotting an unmarked police car outside the house.  That is when he states that he snapped.

Hayes states that he doesn't know he was thinking and what he did after he "snapped" was very unlike him.  He has not wanted to discuss the actual crime but had admitted to sexually assaulting Jennifer.  Both Hayes and Komisarjevsky blame each other for the escalation that culminated with them setting the house on fire and escaping only to crash into police cars parked nearby.  Hayes has expressed his remorse for the horrific crimes and has stated that he wishes that the sentence was carried out quickly.  Unfortunately, Connecticut has only managed to execute Michael Ross in 2005, the first since 1960.  Connecticut currently has only 10 people on death row at the Northern Correctional Institute in Somers, including Robert Breton who has been there since Oct 27 1989.

Komisarjevsky evidently did not have the misgivings or remorse that Haynes now claims.  When his trial began, William and other family members were prepared for some of the grisly testimony that would be presented and chose to leave the courtroom rather than listen to it again.  His confession to police was even more shocking to listen to as his describes the details without pausing or mumbling with his monotone voice.

He began by giving a very detailed description of what he had done to William Petit.  He told the police how they had gone into the basement and gotten a baseball bat which he would use on William.  Komisarjevsky then stood behind Petit for 15-29 minutes, not wanting to hit him while Hayes watched out the window and kept motioning for him to hit Wtlliam and get it over with.  He went on to describe finally hitting him and when he heard William scream, hit just kept hitting him until he backed off near the couch and quieted down.

Throughout his confession, Komisarjevsky blamed Hayes for instigating the mounting horror.  He claimed that he was stunned and perplexed by Hayes's suggestion that they take all the occupants of the house with them in their cars and leave the house burning behind them.  Shortly afterwards, he claims that Hayes started ranting and raving about DNA and his using Hayes's name in front of the victims.  Komisarjevsky stated that he didn't understand what Hayes's problem was about DNA since he himself had been wearing gloves the whole time.  He went on to explain that Hayes had decided that they had to kill everyone and burn the house, a plan that he didn't agree with.  Komisarjevsky stated that he was only there for the money and he was not a killer.  He tried to make it sound as though he was trying to stick up for the Petit family even though he had already beaten William and had tied Michaela to her bed, taken partially nude pictures of her and assaulted her by then.

Whatever he may claim he felt about killing the family, it didn't stop him from participating with Hayes in setting the house on fire before they both fled.  Both Michaela and Hayley had been left alive and tied to their beds while Jennifer had been killed and left on the first floor.  Both girls died of smoke inhalation, Michaela in her bed and Hayley had managed to free herself and was found at the top of the stairs.  He doesn't mention if they knew that William had freed himself and run from the basement for help.  They were quickly captured after they crashed the Petit family car into police cars further down the block.


Hayes and Komisarjevsky both have left daughters behind while they sit on death row.  Hayes's daughter, Alicia was 15 years old when her mother told her about the horrific crime her father had just been arrested for.  She had just returned from summer camp when her mother broke the news of her father's arrest and she explained everything he was accused of doing then.  Alicia's parents had divorced when she was very young but she had continued to see her father every week for ice cream and movies.  In 2013 she was serving in the Air Force overseas and she chose to participate in an HBO documentary "The Cheshire Murders" about the crime.  She spoke about being bullied in school because of her father's crime and that she had blamed herself for his actions for many years.  She is currently working as a dialysis technician and studying to become a nurse.  Alicia stated that she wishes she could tell William how sorry she is for her father's actions.

Komisarjevski also has left a daughter behind while he sits on death row, as well as a long history of contact with the Connecticut legal systems. He had been on the DCF records from his childhood when both he and his sister were abused by Scott, an older foster brother in the home.  He in turn, abused his sister for several years until she was 10 years old but she had testified in court that he was not a violent person.  It was further stated that his mother Jude believed that her son could pray his illness away.  Jude withdrew her son from Norton Elementary School in the fifth grade after he began throwing desks at a teacher he did not get along with.  She felt the teacher was too strict with her son and decided to home school him.

Jude and Benedict had adopted Komisarjevsky when he was two weeks old and testimony in court had explained that there was a history of mental illness in his birth parents family history.  His mother Jude claims that she did not know of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his brother Scott until he had been sentenced in 2002 for a string of burglaries.  Whatever the case may be, Komisarjevski was already a troubled young man, a victim of abuse and a sexual predator.  The string of burglaries that he was arrested for were not just simple break-ins.  He stated that he enjoyed the rush he received from breaking in and creeping around people's homes with night vision goggles, while they were sleeping inside.  It was noted when he was sentenced to 9 years in prison and followed by 6 years of special probation for the 12 break-ins, that he was a criminal who was seeking a confrontation and a cold blooded predator.

Hayes on the other hand, had a long criminal history.  He had a drug problem and had been arrested 26 times since 1980 and spent most of his adult life in and out of jail.  His convictions though for burglary, larceny, narcotics and weapons possession don't show an interest in violence.  Hayes did have a problem with drugs and being able to complete community release, which he had failed all five times he had received it.  His last arrest came in 1996 for breaking into a car to steal a purse in search of more money for crack.  He was sentenced to five years in prison and he didn't expect to be released an earlier than 2008.  Evidently, someone felt that he should be released early and he ended up in the same halfway house as Komisarjevsky.  There, while others scratched their heads wondering, the two became close friends.

Before his arrest on the burglaries, Komisarjevski, then 21, had gotten his 15 year old girlfriend pregnant.  He pleaded with the judge during his sentencing that he had turned his life around following the birth of his daughter Jayda and along with his parents plea for a placement in a two year faith based program, he tried for leniency.  He was released early for good behavior and had his ankle bracelet removed only one week before the Petit murders.

Komisarjevsky's sister testified on her brother's behalf during the sentencing portion of his trial, in an effort to have him avoid the death penalty.  She stated that her parents had not sought psychological treatment for her brother or her after the abuse was exposed because they were afraid that the state would break up the family.  She had no response though when the prosecution asked her how she had grown up in the same situation as her brother and still has lived a successful life.  His parents both testified about his difficulties growing up which included shooting windows out with a BB gun, burglaries and setting a gas station on fire, which led to an arrest and a hospitalization.  His father testified that he had even tried moving the family to New Hampshire to escape the bad influences on his son.

The defense went as far as having a taped interview with his daughter Jayden shown to the jury in hopes of avoiding the death penalty.  It showed a bright 9 year old girl who didn't really know her father, calling him Josh, who only knew that he had done something bad at work.  Komisarjevsky had fought the tape being made because he felt that it would put too much pressure on her in the future.  The current reports are that his daughter is now living with a maternal aunt and does not go by his last name.

It would seem that the Connecticut courts had failed on several fronts and the failures put two men together who may not have ever committed a crime so violent if they had not met.  The courts also failed Komisarjevsky's girlfriend and daughter during all of this. When he was sentenced in 2002 to jail he had additional conditions added which included having no contact with his victims, attending school, undergo a mental health evaluation with treatment and pay child support for his new daughter.  He was ordered to pay child support even though the state had no proof of paternity, though he did rectify that in August of 2003 by signing a paternity acknowledgment in his jail cell. The state also did not make sure that he had taken care of the mental health part of his conditions or if he had violated the statutory rape laws.

His girlfriend Jennifer had stated that she did not want Komisarjevsky around her daughter and would not bring her to prison to visit him.  It was in 2005 that he finally started filing petitions from jail for custody and visitation of his daughter and since he was locked up, he had all the low cost assistance he needed.  Jennifer did not have that luxury.  She lost sole custody of her daughter in Sept 2005 when a judge decided that even while he was in prison and had abused his sister, he could share custody of Jayda.  This meant that she had to drop her daughter off every other weekend with Komisarjevsky's parents for semi-supervised visits with him.

Komisarjevsky was now working a construction job, had a new young girlfriend and was having his paycheck garnished for the child support payments.  In 2007, he incresed his legal efforts to gain sole custody of his child.  His parole officers seemed to ignore his past crimes and troubles and began encouraging him to sue for custody.  They even went so far as to offer referrals to add to his family court case as a reward for good behavior.  He raised the issue that her drug use was affecting the care she could give the girl and when she missed a hearing due to being hospitalized, she lost custody.

The courts gave sole custody of Jayda to him even though he himself had drug problems in the past, admitted sexually abusing his younger sister, blamed his situation on the upbringing he had with his parents and had been branded as a cold blooded predator.  At the time, he was living with his parents and this was the home the little girl would be moved to.  Jennifer signed an agreement for joint custody afterwards that would allow her visitation with the daughter she had raised and it required the girl to alternate nights between their homes.  Oddly, the courts were more interested in Jennifer's possible drug abuse than any of Kamisarjevsky's criminal background.

What then of William Petit?  The house he and his family lived in at 300 Sorghum Mill Dr was heavily damaged by the fire that had been set and the decision was made to demolish it.  A memorial park has been built on the site of the former home but William does not visit it.

William no longer practices medicine and states that the nightmares of that attack still haunt him.  In 2012, he married Christine Paluf, 36 and on Nov 23 2013, they welcomed William Petit III into their new family.  Not long after their wedding, the couple moved into a new home along the Farmington River in CT and while William still keeps certain lights on all night in the house, they have found the setting very peaceful and calming.

William dedicates all of his time now to his foundation, The Petit Family Foundation, as well as answering all the mail that he continues to receive through the years.  The foundation accepts donations and uses them to foster the education of young people, especially women in sciences, improve the lives of those affected by chronic illness and to protect and support those people who have been affected by violence.  People can donate money, volunteer time and participate in events that it promotes as a way of helping the foundation.  The website for the foundation can be found at:

The Petit family murder is a horrific crime and touched many more lives than just those directly involved.  It may also be a very blatant warning to the legal system that overlooking some things can lead to such damaging results.  It is good to hear that William Petit has found the support and courage to continue to live each day with an uplifting outlook and I hope that he enjoys many more good years in the future. 

All related Petit stories on this blog:


Update Sept 6 2014:

The lawyers for Joshua Komisarjevsky have asked the Connecticut Supreme Court to hold an evidentiary hearing, reverse his sentence and order a new trial for him,  Attorneys John Holdridge and Moira Buckley are seeking the new trial based on claims that the non emergency police phone line recordings were not given to the defense team for his trial.  They state in their motion that these recordings would prove their theory that the police response was inadequate and calls into question the credibility of some of the officers.  The attorneys feel that this would have impacted the guilt-innocence phase of the trial.

They state that the tapes would not be used to blame the police but they would be used to prove the bias, motive, self interest and prejudice against their client.  Walter Bansley III, one of his original trial lawyers stated that those tapes had relevance to the trial and would have been used.  He added that they would have been central to their defense theme of the failure of the police response team.

State's Attorney Michael Dearington stated that those tapes had been turned over to the defense team and that he did not see that they created any meaningful issue.  It seems as though this new motion is somehow supposed to "prove" that Komisarjevsky would not have committed the horrendous crimes that he did............ if the police response teams had acted much more quickly in preventing them from carrying out what they had planned to do when they returned to the Petit home.

Let's be serious here......... they were caught driving the victims car on the same street as the crime scene, after they ran out of the burning house.  How many ways can you say guilty?

The police did not force either Komisarjevsky or Hayes to do what they did.  No amount of "I had a tough life" and whining that the police could have been quicker and stopped us makes either of them any less guilty.  The motion almost seems to be another waste of the court's time.,0,3631448.htmlstory