Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hitchin' a ride..........

The team has concluded that "they expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough to secure rides through Canada."

hitchBot is a robotics project run by Dr David Harris Smith and a team from McMaster University.  The team includes members from Ryerson University, McMaster, University of Toronto and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and is a joint effort between the Institute of Applied Creativity and the Anne Leononwens Gallery. On July 27, hitchBOT began it's planned trip across Canada by hitchhiking with motorists.

The robot was constructed very cheaply to help deter people from trying to take components.  The team used pool noodles, rubber boots, a bucket, gloves and a cake saver for it's head.  It is both a engineering experiment and a social one.  The team is using hitchBOT to prove if robots can trust humans, the opposite of what usually is questioned.

The team will be tracking it's progress along the trip and there is no planned end date........ it will end when hitchBOT reaches Victoria BC.  People can also keep track of hitchBOT through it's Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter.  It is a totally helpless robot but definitely not mute.  hitchBOT has been programmed to carry on a conversation with anyone who is giving it a ride or just finds it beside the road looking to bum a ride.

The team hopes that hitchBOT will also be able to see some of the sights along the way, so they are encouraging people to not just give it a ride but include it in their sightseeing.  It hitched it's first ride with a kind couple that took it as far as Kouchibouguac National Park where three young men were the next to pick up hitchBOT.  They picked it up at the campground and drove it around New Brunswick, introducing it to people at rest stops.  At one point, hitchBOT stated that it wanted a pet dog so they stopped and bought a stuffed dog for it.  They left both the dog and hitchBOT in Campbellton.

From there, it took a ride back east for a while and checked into a campground before heading back to Campbellton to try and head west.  The robot is unable to do anything but talk and wait for it's next ride.  People who give hitchBOT a ride will have to plug it into their car's lighter so that it can recharge it's batteries.  The vulnerability is part of the experiment that hitchBOT is a part of...... instead of trying to gauge how much humans will fear a robot, they created a robot that is so dependent that they will try to gauge how much a robot can trust people.

One thing is for certain..... hitchBOT will probably be a lot safer hitching in Canada instead of the US.  Who knows what field it may end up in after a serial "BOT" killer picks it up.

Update August 4:

hitchBot has been making great time since it's small back-tracking adventure.  It stopped off in Toronto to visit with family, has photo-opped with the Wiarton Willy as well as attending the Powwow in Wikwiemikong.  So far, it looks as though people are having a lot of fun giving hitchBOT a ride across Canada and making sure that they share their experience with as many other people that they can.  Evidently..... hitchBOT has acquired a real liking to camping as well, as evidenced by the pictures that keep showing up on it's Facebook page.

Update: August 9 2014:

hitchBot has made it half way across Canada sharing rides with strangers.  A Belgian couple who is traveling from east to west through Canada on holiday gave it a ride to Thunder Bay.  They had originally spotted it while it was enjoying the Pow Wow but it was already traveling with others.  It was a few days later that they passed hitchBOT hanging out on the beach north of Sault St Marie and picked it up.  hitchBOT got to ride shotgun with the couple who left it off in Thunder Bay with a small sticker to mark their time together.  While they could have brought all the way west with them, they chose to let hitchBOT continue exploring Canada with other travelers.

Update August 14 2014:

hitchBOT has finally made it to British Columbia but not after it partied it up and crashed a wedding.  It has been reported that it was waiting to hitch a motorcycle ride to Vancouver BC and it will finally have made it all the way across Canada.......... way to go!

Update Aug 21 2014:

hitchBot finished it's trip across Canada in about three weeks and it's family is elated.  It arrived a little worse for wear but all in one piece and in less time than they had expected.  They are also happy to know that hitchBOT was not just a small local "thing" but is known internationally through it's travels.

It reached Victoria BC on Tuesday, has made a tour of the town as well as crossing the border to Seattle WA.  On Thursday night it will have a farewell appearance at the Open Space Arts Society from 7 to 9:30 pm for anyone wishing to meet the famous little traveling robot.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

He is back at it.........

"I will always be the parent of a murdered child.  I will always be that angry, driven guy," stated John Walsh.

John Walsh's new show, The Hunt on CNN, caught it's first fugitive at approximately 1 pm on July 28 2014 in New York City.  Charles Mozdir was featured on the July 20th episode of the program and that show produced a tip that he had been working at a restaurant in the city.  That tip did not pan out but after the program was rebroadcast on July 27th, a tip came in naming the Smoking Culture shop on W Fourth St as a possible location for Mozdir.

Mozdir was working as a salesman in the shop when NYPD Det Mario Muniz entered the store to try and spot him.  He left and immediately returned with US Marshals to apprehend him.  Mozdir opened fire on them with a 32 caliber handgun and was mortally wounded when the officers returned fire.  Muniz,  a 20 year veteran of the force, was hit twice in the stomach and is expected to live.  The two US Marshals, Ryan Westfield and Pat Lin were also wounded but they are also expected to live.  Mozdir was transported to the hospital where he later died.

Mozdir had been on the run since June 15 2012, when he failed to show up for his arraignment on child molestation charges in San Diego CA.  He was accused of molesting the 7 year old son of friends after their son reported what Mozdir had done to him one evening.  Mozdir was a long time friend of the couple and had even been the photographer at their wedding.

The boy's mother called Mozdir one evening to help watch her son because he was running a high fever and she was exhausted from trying to care for him and their newborn child.  They were all in the same bed that evening and Mozdir stayed the night to watch the boy's fever.  The next morning after he had left, the boy reported what Mozdir had done to him during the night and the parents immediately contacted the police.  Mozdir was arrested four days later after police found child pornography and pictures of bestiality on his cellphone and home computer.  He bonded out the next day and never showed up in court for his arraignment.  His roommate told police that he had two guns and police searched for him in California, the Mexican state of Baja Californis and Georgia, after his car was found abandoned near Darien GA.

John Walsh was born in 1945 in Auburn NY and eventually settled in Hollywood FL to work as a hotel marketing executive and raise a family.  On July 27 1981, Reve Walsh left their 6 year old son Adam playing in the toy section of the Sears store in the Hollywood Mall while she went shopping.  She could locate him when she returned and after two hours of searching, the police were called.  Adam's severed head was found two weeks later in a canal near Vero Beach, about 120 miles away.

 His body was never recovered.  The prime suspect in his murder, Ottis Toole was never charged with the murder, even though he had confessed to it in 1983 while in prison for two unrelated murders.  The police had lost his impounded car and machete but on Dec 15 2008, police announced that they believed he was Adam's killer.  Toole had died in prison on Sept 15 1996 of cirrhosis before he could be charged with Adam's murder.

John and his wife Reve found positive outlets for their grief by helping to Missing Childrens Act of 1982 and the Missing Children's Assistance of 1984 which created the the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  In 1983, their story was made into the NBC television movie "Adam" and in 1986, the sequel "Adam, his song continues" was made.  Both programs featured pictures of missing children following the movie and they led to the return of 61 children.

In 1988, Walsh agreed to do "America's Most Wanted", a program that would feature fugitives in hopes of that leading to their capture.  The program was not seen as being able to do much by critics and started off slowly.  The program had initially turned down doing a segment on John List who had killed his mother, his wife, two sons and his daughter in their home at 431 Hillside Ave in Westfield NJ.

 He had killed them in November of 1971 but their bodies were not discovered until December.  The newest photos of List were from 1971 but when the segment aired about him on May 21 1989, they had an artists rendering of what he may look like then.  One of the over 300 tips that came in after the broadcast named Robert P Clark who was now living in Virginia.  List was arrested, found guilty in 1990 and was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences.  After that program, the show took off and during it's 25 years on TV, helped to apprehend 1,231 fugitives.  It was so successful that at times, fugitives just turned themselves into the police after a segment featuring them aired.  Some stated that they knew that they would be caught after it aired.

America's Most Wanted was cancelled by Fox in 2011 and it was revived on Lifetime but canceled after a year.  Walsh is now back with a new show "The Hunt." which airs on CNN.  Instead of the numerous fugitives that had been profiled in one show, the new show will only profile one to two fugitives per episode.  They expect the program to also be tied into Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the changes media has gone through.  The program itself is a more sophisticated and restrained version of his last show and so far, iy has begun to show results.

On July 26 2014, the program aired an episode featuring William Bradford Bishop.  On March 8 1976, police entered the Bishop home at 8103 Lilly
Stone Dr Bethesda MD and found it drenched in blood.  They believe that he bludgeoned his mother, wife and three boys to death on March 1st and then loaded their bodies into his station wagon.  He took along the family Golden Retriever, Leo, who was the only survivor that day.

He drove almost six hours south to Columbia NC and dumped the bodies on a remote logging road.  He then set them on fire and fled west.  His car was found in the Great Smokey Mountains Park near Gatlinburg TN about three weeks later.  He had been seen with the dog Leo during that time as well as a woman who was traveling with him.  After that, he seems to have vanished.

There were plenty of reasons to cause stress in the Bishop household but no one has ever said they know why Bishop would have done what he did.  It may be that Walsh can again work his magic with another bust of a fugitive who has been on the run for decades.  If anything........ maybe his capture will bring closure to so many who have spent years looking for the answers in his murders.

For information about fugitives profiled on "The Hunt":

Update July 29 2014:

The police received two good tips on the location of Mozdir after two airings of the show that highlighted him.  The first stated that they had known him but that he had left the area about 19 months before.  The tip stood out because it mentioned that he had a dog.  Mozdir was last seen by his sister and he had his black Labrador "Lucky" with him.  Mozdir evidently had been living in Florida at some time but their second tip stated that he was now living in NYC and working in a smoke shop.  The caller claimed to know him personally and police were able to obtain his cellphone number.  They pinged the cellphone to determine if he really was in NYC and the tip was confirmed.

Mozdir had changed his appearance some from his last sightings.  He had grown his hair longer as well as growing a beard.  He opened fire on the officers at close range after they entered the shop, using a 5 shot revolver.  Muniz was hit three times, twice in the bulletproof vest and once beneath it.  Mozdir had ten bullet wounds..... six in the abdomen, two to the chest and two in the left arm.  Police later found another 20 rounds of ammunition on him but he never had the chance to reload.  He later died at Bellevue Hospital.

The police went to his apartment on Monday night with a search warrant and seized Gateway computer, an Acer laptop, prescription pills and a West Virginia drivers license.  Mozdir seemed to be viewed as an oddball who lived two separate lives.  Many who knew him stated that he was well liked, fostered dogs and was a generally likable guy.  Most of them had no idea that the former wedding photographer did more than exaggerate the descriptions of his overseas travels.

Unfortunately, three officers were injured while trying to arrest Mozdir.  Many are glad that they were not severely injured but few are sad that Mozdir chose to go the way he did.  It can be viewed as a blessing to the family and victim......... they will not have to suffer through a trial and all the pain that could cause.

Update: August 8 2014

John Walsh has scored another case closed with the discovery of the body of Shane Miller on Aug 3rd.  Miller, his truck and the family dog had gone missing right after his wife and two young daughters were killed and he became their main suspect.  He was later spotted in Petrolia CA by an ex girlfriend and the manhunt centered in that area.  He dumped his truck and fled on foot and authorities believed that he was hiding out in the mountains.  His remains were found on the bank of the Mattole, about 1,500 from where his truck had been found the year before.  The police also recovered a handgun and loaded magazines that were near the body.

Police in Tampa FL are still looking for Christopher Ponce, 23, who is wanted on the charges of DUI manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, DUI with serious bodily injury and reckless driving.  At 2:49 am on July 19 2012, he crashed his 2012 Ford Fusion into the 2000 Mustang that William Angel was driving.  William was killed instantly and his two friends, Jay Davis and Robert Newberry were seriously injured.  Ponce was also injured and was arrested after being released from the hospital.  He was released on a $50,000 bond and had to wear an electronic monitor but the judge had informed him that if his blood alcohol was proved by testing to above the limit, he would end up in jail.

Ponce cut his monitor off and jumped bond before he could be put in jail.  He had amassed quite a driving history since he had gotten his license at 16 years old.  He had already received 5 speeding tickets, a DUI in 2010, a suspended license and  a careless driving charge.  It is believed that he has had help in escaping and may still be receiving help from friends to stay free and he may be still in Florida or has escaped to any Spanish speaking country since he is fluent in Spanish.

Update Oct 9 2014:

The FBI had received a tip after the broadcast of the story of Brad Bishop and they felt that it was solid enough to exhume a body for proof.  The body is of a John Doe in Alabama who looks like Bishop.  The coroner received the body of a man who was hit by a car on Oct 18 1981 while walking along Highway 72 in Scottsboro AL.

The man had no identification on him and was dressed in multiple layers of clothing and the coroner chose to photograph the John Doe before his body was buried.  The photo shows a man who has a striking resemblance to Bishop, with a cleft chin, thin lips and sideburns.  Bishop had killed his family in 1976 and then drove to NC where his car was found abandoned after he had the bodies of his family.  The area where his station wagon was discovered is about 207 miles from Scottsboro AL and it is possible that Bishop could have stayed in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park area without being detected.

The FBI is hoping to match samples of Bishop's DNA to that of the John Doe and if that happens, they will be able to close the book on Bishop and his horrible crime.

Update March 1 2015:

Victor Barnard was quietly arrested in a condo in Pipa Beach Brazil on Feb 27 2015 after disappearing from Raymond Washington in 2014.  He had been charged with 59 counts of sexual assault in Minnesota in connection with abusing two young girls in his church.  A 33 year old Brazilian woman who had previously lived in the US was arrested with him as well.  The police seized religious papers, diaries, computers, flash drives and cell phones from the condo as well.

The prosecutors in Pine County Minnesota issued the warrants for Barnard in April 2014 after investigating the claims of two young women, one 12 and the other 13 years old.  They stated that they had been selected by Barnard to be part of his group of "maidens" and lived cloistered with him and separated from their parents at the River Road Fellowship near Finlayson MN.  Both stated that they had been raped by Barnard for years.

Barnard moved his group of followers to Washington after he admitted having affairs with married women and the church split.  The local law enforcement started to look more closely at Barnard and he was also facing bankruptcy when he finally moved his family and remaining followers to Washington around 2010 or 2011.

It has been reported that they Brazilian Government has already signed the extradition papers for Barnard but he will not be returning to the US until he goes through the legal steps in Brazil.  The split in his church has left many very happy that he has been arrested and others who still believe in him ready to defend him once he returns to face the charges.  There may well be more charges for him to face if more young women step forward to tell their stories or the allegations that he hid other molesters in his flock can be proved.  Either way, it has been proven that what John Walsh states may well be very true........ you can run but you can't hide.

Update March 1 2015:

Brazilian police had worked for five months to track down Barnard who they say had entered the country illegally in 2012.  The condo where he was finally arrested in was located in a gated community and they report that he had been living there for about six months.  Barnard has been transported to a federal jail in Lagoa Nova, Natal and is awaiting extradition there.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dumb, dumber and dumbest..........

"Everybody wants to work the night shift now," stated Doc's general manager/vice president Lou Bangert.

At 3:06 am, July 29 2014, three men broke into Doc's Beach House in Bonita Springs FL.  Lou Bangert stated that there have been break-ins during the 27 years that the restaurant has been open but they usually amounted to someone breaking in a window to steal cash from the register.  He did not expect to see pictures of three men breaking into the kitchen area on his security cameras.

He first noticed that the man in frame was not wearing any clothes........ then noticed that there were three guys, naked and robbing the kitchen.  Later on Monday, pictures of the naked bandits were posted on the Facebook page for Bonita Jetski & Parasail and by Wednesday, the local police had released some of the pictures.  Bangert stated that the men never went into the restaurant to steal money but they did make quite a mess in the back.

The three stole 60 hamburgers, three pounds of bacon, three red bell peppers and a paddleboard.  Don't ask me what they needed the paddleboard for.  They can be seen on camera taking the food and spending about 5 minutes in the back, before heading outside.  Police say that it was a bit like following Hansel and Gretel......... they left a trail of food outside and into the parking lot, where the peppers were found.  Police surmise that the three may be staying at Barefoot Beach or parked the get-away vehicle in a nearby parking lot.

Two of the men are naked and the third was wearing underwear and they all look well built.  Bangert stated that his waitresses want the bandits to return and everyone seems to want to work the night shift now, just to catch a glimpse of them.  The security footage does show that they were aware of the cameras.  One is seen trying to change the direction of one camera but is not aware that they was a second camera still taking the pictures.  The two naked bandits do try to cover their faces and genitals when they spot the camera but it still is baffling as to why the three were naked for the robbery.  Were they concerned that they might be recognized from their clothing?

The theory is that they may have just been college aged kids who may have been drinking.  It is not known if they are tourists or locals but Bangert is fairly certain that they will be recognized and caught fairly soon.  Their choice of robbery outfits certainly was not the best choice.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

California gold rush........

"Obviously, he will return," stated attorney Avonte Campinha-Bacote.

She began life as the SS George Law in 1852 but was renamed the SS Central America.  The 280 foot long, wooden hulled, copper sheathed side-wheel steamer regularly ran a route between Central America and the east coast of the US.  In less than 5 years, she was sitting at the bottom of the ocean.

On Sept 3 1857, she set sail from Colon, Panama with 477 passengers and 101 crew members.  She was carrying approximately 10 tons of gold in various forms that had been mined in California and brought east through the Panama Canal.  Her passengers were mostly wealthy businessmen and miners who were returning east with their possessions and wealth from years of mining.  The ship made a quick stop in Havana Cuba and then headed north towards her final destination of New York.

The ship was caught up in a category 2 hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas on Sept 9 and by Sept 11, she was taking on water and sunk by 8 pm that evening.  She took 425 passengers with her as well as gold ingots and $20 gold double eagles worth $2 million dollars.  The loss of that much gold has been cited as a factor in the Panic of 1857 and the ship became known as "The Ship of Gold."

In 1985, the Columbus-America Discovery Group was formed by Thomas G Thompson to find the wreck and salvage the gold.  Thompson had a background in ocean engineering and understood the uses of the new technologies in deep water exploration that were being developed.  The ship had gone down on the Blake Plateau about 200 miles east of Charleston SC and it was about 1 1/2 deep.  It was felt that the wreck site had probably not been buried in sediment or torn apart by strong currents.  Thompson knew that the chance to bring back the gold that had been aboard would attract investors for the search and recovery.

Thompson began assembling a limited partnership of investors to fund the search as well as finding a team of scientists and technicians.  He managed to get a group of 161 investors to pay $12.7 million dollars to find the wreck and recover the gold.  The wreck was found in 1988 and Thompson began to bring up the gold.  The investors were even more excited until they ran into the roadblocks they never expected.

No one really knows how much of the gold Thompson brought up after he found the wreck.  The investors know that he did sell ingots and gold coins to a California mint for $52 million dollars but the did not receive any of the proceeds.  The team of nine technicians who helped find and recover the gold are owed $2 million dollars for their work and they have sued Thompson as well.  Thompson recovered gold from the wreck until 1991, when the recovery effort was hit with legal issues that included 39 insurance companies filing claims for the recovered gold.

US Circuit Judge Edmund Sargus issued a warrant for Thompson's arrest in August 2012 and issued a temporary block on the sale or transfer of 500 restrike gold coins that were made from some of the recovered gold.  The coins were part of a deal made in 2000 with the California Gold Marketing Group for the rights to the remaining treasure.  They paid Thompson $52 million, of which, $30 million remained after the costs of the recovery were deducted.  Sargus ordered Thompson to reveal the location of the coins as well as turn over the money which was held in trust.

Thompson never showed for his court date and has not been found yet.  His attorney stated that Thompson is out to sea and is not even aware that there had been a warrant issued for his arrest.  He is now in his early 60's and no recent pictures of him exist.  His last known address was in Vero Beach FL and he has not been seen there either.

Tampa based Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc has been selected to recover any remaining cargo and conduct an archaeological excavation of the wreck by Ira Owen Kane.  He was appointed as the receiver for interests in the ship and it's gold.  The Odyssey was granted exclusive rights to salvage what is left of the cargo and items and they will receive 80% of recovery proceeds until a fixed mobilization fee are paid and negotiated day rates are paid.  After that point, they will receive 45% of the recovery proceeds.  Experts that were hired by Kane estimate that the ship may hols from $343,000 to $1.4 million dollars of gold from the 1857 values which translates to approximately $97 million dollars at today,s rate.

The Eureka Bar was sold in 2001 for $8 million dollars to a Forbes 400 business executive for their personal collection.  The bar that was brought up by Thompson weighs about 80 and is said to be the largest and heaviest numismatic item to exist.  It was fabricated by the assayers Kellogg & Humbert during the San Francisco gold rush and was worth $17,433.57 in 1857.  An 1852 $10 gold coin from the wreck sold last year for $11,750.

The wreck has not been disturbed in 20 years and the new recovery team is excited to be a part of history.  They expect to find more than just gold while working the wreck, since technology has made even more advances in the past two decades.