“What this seems to be is a revelation of your very darkest side, ma’am,” said Judge Arthur Anderson, as he stared at Marjorie Orbin during her sentencing hearing. “When that dark side is unleashed, it’s about as dark as it gets,” he continued.
The judge spoke these words from his bench September 8th, 2004, in a courtroom in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the start of fall in Arizona; a welcome reprieve from the blistering heat of the summer. It was not only the torrid heat that ended; however, but a dark chapter of this desert community’s crime annals.
A Grisly Find
The residents of Phoenix enjoy a patchwork of preserved desert areas throughout the city. However, on October 23rd, 2004, the rugged beauty of the area was eclipsed by a morbid find at the corner of Tatum and Dynamite Road, in North Phoenix. The Phoenix Police Department’s 911 call center received a panicked call from an individual who was hiking in the area.
Police quickly arrived at the desert location and the hiker led them to a spot that was not far off from the residential streets that surrounded the reservation. When the officers reached the site, they instantly knew that this was not a routine call. Detective Dave Barnes, of the Missing Persons Unit, arrived on the scene minutes later. A putrid smell filled the air as Barnes walked toward a 50-gallon Rubbermaid bin. “As we walked up you could smell the death in the air. Once you smell it, you know what it is for the rest of your life…it’s the first time I had ever seen anything like that, where it’s – just a piece of body,” he would later say.
Barnes removed the lid and carefully opened the black trash bag contained within. Inside the trash bag was the bloody, dismembered torso of an adult male. Barnes would later tell a reporter, “All of the insides, all of the internal organs, intestines were missing…I thought, ‘Who could do this to a human being? Cut off his arms, his legs, his head?’”
The grisly find was located less than two miles from the home of Marjorie Orbin, who lived in the 17000 block of North 55th Street. Butcher had a strong suspicion that he had just found the torso of her missing husband; Marjorie had filed a missing person’s report September 22nd, 2004.
Jay Orbin was the successful owner of Jayhawk International, a dealership that specialized in Native American Art. He frequently traveled for business purposes and it was not unusual for him to be gone three weeks out of the month. It was through his business travels that Jay met Marjorie.
The Stripper and the Salesman
Marjorie had been married seven times before meeting Jay at the age of 35. Marjorie was unable to conceive children and had lived a life with herself as the central focus. She entered each relationship looking for her Prince Charming, but it never happened.
Michael J. Peter was a very successful businessman who had made millions creating upscale strip clubs around the world. Marjorie left Peter because she believed he was cheating on her.
She moved to Las Vegas, where she danced at a strip club. It was at this strip club in 1993 that she met Jay, who was traveling through Las Vegas. They had been dating for a while when Jay proposed to Marjorie, offering to pay for fertility treatments if she married him. Marjorie accepted Jay’s proposal and they got married at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.
Soon afterward, they moved to Phoenix, where Jay lived. Marjorie was able to conceive and gave birth to their son, Noah. The couple divorced in 1997 but continued to live together. Marjorie had problems with the IRS and did not want Jay’s assets to be vulnerable.
September 8th, 2004, Jay was driving back to Phoenix from a business meeting when he got a call from his mother wishing him a happy birthday. That call was the last time anyone spoke to Jay.
When Jay’s parents, brothers, and friends called his home, Marjorie told them that he had gone on a business trip and would not be returning until September 20th. During that time, those who cared about Jay could not reach him on his cell phone. His parents and friends expressed their concern to Marjorie; however, she said she did not know what was going on with him.
People who spoke to Marjorie about Jay stated that she expressed little concern for his welfare. Jay’s intended return date passed and still, nobody could reach him. When they inquired with Marjorie, she continued to remain aloof to their concerns. After continued pressure from friends and family, a missing person’s report was filed September 22nd.
Suspicion is Raised
The Police Department assigned Detective Jan Butcher to the case. She interviewed Marjorie, who indicated that the last time she’d seen Jay was on August 28th, when he had attended his son’s birthday. Butcher became suspicious of Marjorie on September 28th, after leaving voicemail messages for her before she called back. “I asked her to provide me the license plate of the vehicle Jay was driving. She said she would call me back. She never did. So, that was a little bit odd,” she later told a reporter.
From that point on, Butcher’s suspicions only continued to grow. Credit card and phone tower records indicated that Jay had arrived at his home in Phoenix on September 28th, which didn’t match Marjorie’s claim that she had last seen him on August 28th.
When detectives checked Jay’s credit card records, they found that Marjorie was spending thousands of dollars, including purchasing a $12,000 baby grand piano, while the business account had a withdrawal of $45,000. Within one day of reporting Jay missing, she had liquidated a total of $100,000 from Jay’s personal and business accounts.
A final cause for suspicion arose during a call that Detective Butcher made to Marjorie requesting that she take a polygraph test. Butcher heard Marjorie remark to someone in the background, “You know what? She wants me to take a polygraph tomorrow.” A male voice replied, “You tell her to go f— herself.”
Butcher obtained a search warrant and went to Marjorie’s home, accompanied by a SWAT team. The SWAT team forced their way in and encountered an adult male, Larry Weisberg. Larry was Marjorie’s new boyfriend and the voice that had been heard in the background of the phone call. Weisberg was combative, resulting in police tasing him.
Police searched the premises and found a large number of credit cards belonging to Jay, plus his business checkbook; items that he always kept with him when traveling. Though police did not make any arrests, their surveillance of Marjorie deepened. It was shortly after Marjorie’s home was searched that police found Jay’s torso in the Rubbermaid bin in the desert.
DNA evidence confirmed the torso belonged to Jay Orbin. The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office inspected the torso and concluded Jay had been shot and his body frozen. At some point, the body had been defrosted, and a jigsaw was used to dismember and decapitate it.
When searching Jay’s business, police found a packet of jigsaw blades, with some of the blades missing. The Medical Examiner’s Office determined the blades from the business matched the cut marks on the torso, where the limbs and vertebrae were severed.
Detectives traced the UPC code on the Rubbermaid bin back to a Lowes Home Improvement store in Scottsdale. The detectives scored big when they viewed video from the store’s surveillance cameras and saw Marjorie purchasing the Rubbermaid bin, trash bags, and black tape. Police detained Marjorie when they caught her forging Jay’s signature while making a purchase at a Circuit City store.
Jay’s remaining body parts were never found, nor the gun that was used to shoot Jay.
Marjorie and her boyfriend, Larry Weisberg, were arrested December 6, 2004. Weisberg was offered immunity if he agreed to testify against Marjorie, who was sentenced to life in prison October 1st, 2009.
Located just northeast of Houston, the city of Katy has a population of 16,158, according to 2015 statistics.
On June 24th, 2016, a 911 dispatcher received a chilling call. At first, the dispatcher did not hear a single voice talking to her, as was the norm for most calls. Rather, she could hear several voices in the background. Then she heard the sound of a female crying and the words, “Please. Forgive me. Please. Don’t shoot.” This was followed by a male voice that begged, “Please. Don’t point that gun at her.”
A gunshot sounded and the female voice yelled to the dispatcher, “I’m shot.” The dispatcher answered, “Hello? What’s the address?” There was no response. The phone went dead.
That phone call originated from the home of Jason and Christy Sheats. Christy, age 42, born in Decatur, Alabama, as was Jason. They were childhood sweethearts, who eventually moved to Katy, Texas, raising their two daughters; 17-year-old Madison and 22-year-old Taylor.
Jason worked for Oxy, a Houston-based oil company, as an IT consultant. In recent years, the Sheats had experienced marital problems and Jason was planning to divorce Christy. On the day of that fateful phone call, it was Jason’s 45th birthday and Christy had called a family meeting around 5:00 p.m. Jason and their daughters expected the meeting to be about the looming divorce.
The family gathered around the dining table. Within seconds, the unimaginable occurred. Christy pulled out a .38-caliber revolver that she had been hiding under the table. She pointed it at Taylor and shot her in the back as she tried to run away from the table. Christy then turned to Madison and shot her in the neck. Jason ran and took refuge behind the living room couch, before fleeing with his daughters out the front door.
The daughters only made it to the street before both of them collapsed. Christy started running toward Taylor, who was lying on the street, while a neighbor offered Jason shelter in her home. The police, who arrived in time to witness this chaos, used trees and parked cars as shields. They saw Christy kneeling over Taylor’s body, ready to shoot her a second time. Police ordered her to drop the gun. When she refused, they shot her.
A medical helicopter took Taylor to a local hospital where she died on arrival. Madison and Christy’s lifeless bodies lay on the street in front of their home. The gun that Christy used was a gift from her grandfather, to whom she was extremely close.
Christy was deeply impacted when her grandfather died in 2012. Compounding her grief was the fact that her grandmother died two months later. Jason would later tell detectives that his wife suffered from depression during this time and became a heavy drinker. She had been admitted to a private mental health hospital for suicide attempts three times over four-year period. Jason stated that Christy took a variety of prescription medications and was seeing a therapist. A neighbor informed the police the couple had separated but then recently reconciled. Before the shooting, Christy had no history of violence toward others.
Christy had stopped working after the death of her grandfather. Previously, she had worked as a hair stylist, as an executive assistant to the vice-president of a transportation company, and as a receptionist at Clean Canvas Tattoo Removal. This was a part-time position that she had held from January 2015 to May 2015, when she was fired. The owner, John Hollis, had originally thought that Christy was the perfect fit for the job. In an interview with People, he stated, “She was very pleasant when she wanted to be. That was in front of customers.” He went on, “The times when she wasn’t pleasant were times were when I assumed that whatever was going on at home was getting to her.”
Hollis also indicated that Christy had spent some time living in an apartment, away from the rest of the family. She would flip flop in her explanations about this to Hollis, sometimes saying that she was separated from her husband and other times stating that she was going to divorce him. “It was erratic; it was highs-and-lows,” Hollis continued. “I wouldn’t say it was deterioration; I would say it was peaks and valleys.”
The interviews conducted by the media with those who knew her, and through the Sheats active use of social media provide a different perspective on Christy. A friend, Catherine Knowles, commented to People Magazine, “She loves her daughters. I have no idea what could possibly make a mother who loves her daughters as much as she did – what could cause a person to snap? The part of Christy that I knew was a very kind, loving mother.” Knowles continued, “Within 20 seconds of meeting her, we were talking about her being a mom. That was her mission in life, that was her everything – her two daughters.”
On Daughter’s Day in September of the year prior to the shooting, Christy posted the following message to her Facebook account:
“Happy Daughter’s Day to my two amazing, sweet, kind, beautiful, intelligent girls,” she wrote. “I love and treasure you both more than you could ever possibly know.”
Three years before the shooting, Taylor posted the following message to her Facebook account, honoring her mother on Mother’s Day:
“Mom, you are so selfless, as you always put our whole family before yourself and never ask for anything in return,” the post read. “You’re so kind and loving, as you always remind us of just how much you care and how proud you are of everything we do. You’re so intelligent and fun to be around because I feel like I can talk to you for forever now about anything.”
The post concluded: “You’re one of the strongest people I know, if not the strongest, and you have had to overcome so much in your life, but you still manage to love us and put your everything into being a mom. You’re so encouraging, as you always push us to do our absolute best, even when we can’t muster up the strength to do it ourselves. You’re such a blessing to have as a mother and friend, and I truly appreciate you and all that you do. Happy Mother’s Day to my amazing mommy and I love you.”
Two years before the shooting, Christy posted on her Facebook page: “I am truly a Southern gal. I was born in Alabama but have been living here in Texas for 15 years. I have two amazing daughters I simply adore… They are my everything! I thank God for every breath he allows me to take!!”
When a reporter for the Houston Chronicle interviewed one of Christy’s neighbors, Austin Enke, he stated, “They were always cheerful and never depressed. You never heard anything bad about them.” While another neighbor told a local news station, “The mother was nice. You wouldn’t expect it if they told you this is what was going to happen. I don’t think anybody, at least a sane person, would do that.”
In one Facebook post, Christy referred to herself as being Baptist, as well as conservative and strong supporter of the second amendment; which provides the right for gun ownership. In one Facebook post, she wrote, “It would be horribly tragic if my ability to protect myself or my family were to be taken away, but that’s exactly what Democrats are determined to do by banning semi-automatic handguns.”
The Last Argument
On the day of the killing, Christy and Jason had gotten into an argument over Taylor, who had a fiancée, Juan Sebastian Lugo. Taylor and Lugo started seeing each other in 2011 and he had given her a promise ring in 2013.
Christy wanted to ground Taylor and prohibit her from seeing Lugo. Jason argued that he was agreeable to grounding Taylor but they could not forbid her from seeing Lugo. Others knew Jason to be a doting father to his daughters. The reason for Taylor’s punishment was not known, but later that morning, Jason told Christy, “This would be the last birthday that you are going to ruin.”
After the shooting, Madison Davey, a friend of the Sheats family, spoke to a local news reporter and related a conversation that he’d had with Jason on the morning of the shooting. According to Davey, Jason said he had told Christy on the day of the shooting, “Just shoot yourself. Make it easy on all of us, just shoot yourself.” He said Christy replied back to him, “No, that’s not what this is about, this is about punishing you.’” Davey then told the reporter, “I always knew something would happen, but I never thought she would do this. Christy was toxic for the family. She was mentally unstable…He [Jason] would do anything to protect them and he tried to, but Christy was out to kill that day.”
Police believe that Christy shot their daughters because that would cause the greatest pain for Jason, adding that Christy could have easily just killed Jason if she wanted. Knowing how much Jason loved his girls, killing them and letting him live would create the greatest suffering for him.
The making of the film “Through Hike: A Ghost Story,” was falling apart, as was the impassioned dream of its 25-year-old director, Blaine Norris.
Norris, a resident of Pennsylvania, was known for being a “horror movie geek,” and a nerd. He was obsessed with making his first attempt at movie making a success. The last thing he wanted was to return to his job at Harrisburg Insurance Company, where he worked as a computer technician.
The Opening Scene
Norris camped out with a small group of amateur actors and actresses on the Appalachian Trail and began filming. The movie was about a group of young people hiking the Appalachian Trail, who get murdered by the ghost of a coal-mining baron.
As the movie director, Norris had his friend and co-worker, Brian Trimble, who had his own equipment, film the scenes. An investor had put up $18,000 to complete the project; however, Trimble had put the project in peril by botching up the filming, causing the film to go over budget. The investor had withdrawn his money in frustration.
As the cast rested in their tents for the night, Norris stayed up and pondered his situation. He was feeling the stress of not being able to pay for the film. He had lost his investor, and his credit cards were maxed out. Even worse, he had borrowed against his house without telling his wife. She was already frustrated with him for spending all his time working on the movie.
As he sat by the campfire, Norris could no longer ignore the obvious. He was heavily in debt and had run out of money to complete the film. Feeling defeated, Norris realized that it was time to call it quits. He would gather his crew and return home the next morning. His lifelong dream had come to an end. That was all that he could think.
The next morning, Norris drove home to his apartment. He had moved there with his family when the bank foreclosed on their house. He entered the apartment and found it empty. Everything was gone, including the furniture. He spotted a note; from his wife. She explained that she could not take it anymore and she was taking her son and moving on. Standing alone in the barren apartment, Norris came to the realization he had lost everything. He would have to return to his life as a computer technician; his dreams were not to be.
The Proposal and Rehearsal
The next day, Norris spent his lunch break with Trimble. Trimble confided with him about his own marital woes and Norris shared his hard luck story as well. Trimble told Norris he was sick of married life and how his wife was constantly following-up on him. She always wanted to know where he was. He felt that his life was reduced to working to make his wife happy. This discussion resulted in the two men conspiring together to resolve their problems in a deadly manner.
Trimble shared with Norris that he had taken out a $100,000 life insurance policy on his wife. He asked Norris if he would be willing to kill her. In turn, he would pay Norris the money he needed to complete his film. Norris was interested. He thought about the idea of reviving his life’s dream. Furthermore, his friend would be free of his wife.
Norris’s desire to be a director kicked in. They spent the next few months planning the murder. He staged and repeatedly rehearsed the murder with Trimble, just as he had when directing his movie. On the day before the murder, Norris went to K-Mart and bought work gloves, a box of plastic surgical gloves, a hooded sweatshirt, and pants. He also bought a knife with a 6” blade.
Lights, Camera, Action, and Murder
January 10, 2003, the plan was put into action. Trimble and his wife, Randi, lived in a townhouse in the city of Harrisburg. While Randi was at work, Norris entered the garage and waited for her.
As he waited, he could not help dreaming about his future as a movie director. He would have the insurance money to fund his film and make a major dent in his debt. Plus, he no longer had to put up with his wife’s complaints. While Norris waited, Trimble was dining at a restaurant with friends. The dinner would provide Trimble with an alibi.
Norris heard a car pull up in the driveway; it was Randi. She got out of the car and went inside her home. She slipped out of her work clothes and lay down on the couch to relax. Norris slipped out of the garage, threw a metallic object against her car, and then hid in the shadows by the side of the garage.
As he hoped, Randi went to investigate. She inspected her car but did not notice anything suspicious. She turned around to make her way back to her front door. Unbeknownst to her, Norris had already made his way inside her home.
Norris lay in wait in the hallway. When Randi returned to the living room, he bided his time until she had turned her back to him. When she did, he pounced on her from behind. He put a rope around her neck and proceeded to choke her. Randi managed to place her fingers between the rope and her neck. Though she was choking, her fingers prevented Randi from killing her.
Frustrated, Norris cursed at her and stabbed her with his knife twenty-seven times. When he was done, Randi was completely covered in blood. Her hair was matted in it. Norris then ransacked the home to make the scene look like a burglary gone wrong.
The detectives were suspicious when they investigated the crime scene. It was clear to them that Randi’s murder had not been the result of a robbery, as they could tell the ransacking had been staged. Eventually, Trimble confessed and agreed to testify against Norris to avoid the death penalty.
Because Norris agreed to confess, both men were sentenced to first-degree murder without the possibility of parole.
A crisis center in Colorado received a call on July 19, 2002. Earlier that same day, the same caller had made several attempts to reach a counselor but had been unsuccessful. To the caller’s relief, he had finally made it through and was speaking to a crisis counselor. The caller started talking to the counselor but was disconnected after nine seconds. The individual who placed that call was James Holmes. He had called with the hope that someone could talk him out of committing what would later be referred to as the Aurora shooting massacre.
The Descent from Honor Roll to Darkness
Holmes was born December 13, 1987, in Oak Hills, California; his family moved to San Diego when he was twelve. As an adolescent, Holmes was withdrawn and spent much of his time playing video games. He was particularly fond of War Craft III, where he was ranked among the top players. While he was socially awkward, he demonstrated strong academic achievement. In 2010, he graduated with honors from the University of California at Riverside, where he’d studied neuroscience. He was in the top one percent of his class and had a GPA of 3.949.
Holmes began working and then applied to graduate school. The Anschutz Medical Campus, located in Aurora, accepted him. This was the moment when his steady decline into darkness began. He found himself struggling academically for the first time in his life. Further, the girl he was dating; his first girlfriend was losing interest in him and just wanted to be friends. The stress of graduate school and the thought of losing his girlfriend were taking its toll.
The Holmes family had a history of mental illness. When he was younger, a therapist had recommended he take medication. He saw three different therapists at the university and shared with each of them that he was having homicidal thoughts. The therapists did not consider him a risk because he had not articulated a plan to carry out his thoughts.
Holmes became depressed and dropped out of graduate school, spending most of his time alone. The desire in him to harm others grew strong. He sent an email to the girlfriend, stating he had thoughts of killing others. He also sent his diary, which detailed his homicidal thoughts, to his former therapist. He wanted someone to stop him, to convince him there was another way. In a last-ditch attempt, he called the crisis line but was disconnected.
It was his sign. There was no turning back.
The Dark Knight and the Gunman
On July 20, Holmes armed himself with a Glock 22 pistol, Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun, and a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle. He also equipped himself with an urban assault vest, a gas mask, canisters of gas, and over 6,000 rounds of ammunition. He got into his car and drove to the Aurora Theater.
When he arrived at the theater, he parked his car and got out unarmed. He studied his surroundings as he walked to the theater. He purchased a ticket for the new Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” bought some popcorn, and sat down to watch the movie. While the audience was focused on the movie, he was studying what was going on inside the theater and planning.
Halfway through the movie, Holmes left his seat and exited the theater. As he walked toward his car, he passed a line of 400 people waiting to buy tickets. There would be plenty of targets for his vengeance at the movies tonight.
He returned to his car and suited up. He put on his urban assault vest, armed himself with weapons, and put on the gas mask. Armed and ready, he walked toward the back of the theater and entered through an unlocked back door.
The audience did not notice Holmes right away as they were focused on the movie. He tossed two gas canisters in the center of the theater and immediately began shooting people. The crowd screamed, and chaos broke out. Most of the audience went diving to the floor, using the seats as shields. Some people in the back rows tried to run for the exits. The air was filled with smoke, the sound of gunfire, and lots of crying and screaming.
Suddenly, there was a strange silence; his rifle had jammed. The audience did not make a sound, hoping to avoid detection. The silence was short-lived: he grabbed the Glock 22 .40 caliber handgun and continued shooting. As the bullets sprayed the theater, some of them penetrated the walls and hit three audience members in the adjacent theater.
When police arrived, they found Holmes standing by his car in the parking lot. He was cooperative and did not resist arrest.
Twelve people died in the massacre; another 70 were injured.
During the competency hearing, two court-appointed forensic psychiatrists declared Holmes as sane at the time of the shooting. While he was being evaluated, Holmes referred to the people that he wounded as “collateral damage,” stressing that, at the time of the shooting, he was focused on how many people he could kill.
On July 16, the jury returned a guilty verdict on 12 counts of first-degree murder, 140 counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of possessing explosives.
Holmes was sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences, with an additional 3,318 years added.
It was a hot August day in Jupiter, Florida, and the Harrouff family was having lunch at Duffy’s Sports bar. They were joined by their nineteen-year-old son, Austin, who was visiting his parents for the weekend.
Austin was growing impatient and becoming restless as he waited for his order to arrive. His parents, Wade and Mina Harrouff, tried to calm him down. Something that Wade said to Austin only compounded his restlessness. Austin could no longer contain himself and abruptly got up from the table and stormed out of the restaurant. He was walking back to his parent’s home, which was three miles away, when felt a familiar feeling overcome him. The fear that he experienced would later spark a bizarre and horrific crime that would receive national attention.
Frat Boy Behaves Strangely
Born December 21st, 1996, Harrouff was a native of Jupiter. Besides his parents, he had a sister named Haley. Harrouff was well-liked by all those who knew him. He was seen to be nice, helpful, and polite. An active child, he loved sports. In high school, he was on the wrestling team and played football. His muscular body and good looks made him stand out in a crowd. He later attended Florida State University, where he majored in exercise science. He also belonged to the fraternity Alpha Delta Pi.
In the months leading to that fateful August day, those who knew Harrouff noted significant changes in his behavior. It started off with him telling his parents that their house was haunted. He became so upset by this that he moved his bed into the garage, which was to become his new room.
In particular, he was fearful of a demon he referred to as Daniel. He also told his mother that he had superhuman powers and was sent to Earth to help others. One day, Mina was cooking and had prepared a bowl containing cooking oil and cheese. She had stepped out of the kitchen to get something. When she returned, she caught her son drinking cooking oil, straight from the bottle, and eating the mixture from the bowel.
The Demon Made Him Do It
It was because of his strange behaviors that his mother became alarmed when he stormed out of Duffy’s on August 16th, 2016. She called the Jupiter police department and his fraternity to assist her in finding him. When she spoke with the police, she informed them he was not a danger to himself or others. Her statements were not without merit. Harrouff was not violent, did not take drugs, nor had he ever been charged with a crime. Still, she had a bad feeling about the situation. Unfortunately, her concerns would come true.
Under the sweltering heat of the day, Harrouff walked home from Duffy’s. He lived on Southeast Kokomo Lane, almost three miles away. With every step he took, the fear within him grew stronger. Soon, he was in fear for his life. He felt the presence of Daniel looming over him.
As he walked, he began stripping off clothes, until he was semi-naked. He did not remove his clothes because of heat as much as it was to escape a strange feeling he was experiencing; a feeling he could not explain. Harrouff would later say in an interview, “I just needed to find someone to help me, to figure out where I am…I don’t even remember what I said to myself. I just remember being afraid, scared.” That interview would be with Dr. Phil McGraw but would never air.
John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon were a married couple, who lived close to the Harrouff house. Stevens was 59 and worked as a landscaper. Mishcon was 53, and a housewife. They would routinely bring their portable television to the driveway, where they would watch it. It gave them the opportunity to enjoy the open air and chat with people passing by. On this day, Mishcon sat in her folding chair watching her show. The garage door was open, and Stevens was inside the house. He was finishing up on a project and was planning to join his wife outside.
The glass of lemonade she was drinking was almost empty, so Mishcon got up from her folding chair and went inside for a refill. She entered the house through the garage; it was at this point when Harrouff found himself in front of their home. He did not know Stevens or Mishcon. He did not know why he was there, or how he got there. All Harrouff knew was that he was feeling afraid, and not feeling like himself. He walked up the driveway and made his way into the garage.
Inside the garage, he saw tools hanging neatly on the wall. He also saw cans of paint and bottles of different liquids. He grabbed a bottle, removed the lid, and drank from it. He felt a burning sensation in his throat. It was at that point Mishcon stepped back into the garage. She let out a scream as she saw the near naked Harrouff standing in their garage. Harrouff was just as surprised to see her. Her screams aggravated him. He hit her repeatedly with his fist until she succumbed to his beatings and lay motionless on the garage floor. Harrouff saw a machete on the wall and grabbed it. He swung it at her multiple times, leaving deep cuts in her lifeless body.
Turning around, Harrouff saw Stevens in the doorway that led to the garage. Stevens saw his wife’s body on the floor of the garage. Before he could even react, Harrouff ran at him. Stevens ran in the house, but it was no use, Harrouff was much faster than him. He beat Stevens and then stabbed him repeatedly with a pocket knife he carried.
Jeff Fisher, who lived in the neighborhood, heard Mishcon’s screams and headed over to investigate. Before he could see Mishcon’s body, Harrouff charged him. Fisher ran away, but Harrouff stabbed him three times. Fisher was able to escape and run home, where he called 911.
A Grisly Feast
Deputies from the Martin County Sheriff’s department arrived at the house of Stevens and Mishcon. They found Mishcon’s blood-soaked body in the garage. As bad as that was, they were greeted by a sight even more horrific when they entered the home. In the living room they discovered Harrouff on top of Stevens, who was barely alive. Harrouff was chewing on the side of Stevens face as he made animal-like sounds.
The deputies ordered Harrouff to get off Stevens, but he refused. They used a stun gun on him, but it didn’t affect him. Harrouff did not get off Stevens till police dogs were released on him. It took three deputies to restrain him after due to the incredible strength he exhibited. As the three deputies secured him, another deputy checked on Stevens. It was too late; he was dead. Harrouff yelled at the deputies, “Fucking kill me, fucking kill me! Shoot me now! I deserve it!”
Harrouff was arrested and taken to the sheriff’s station, where detectives interviewed him. While not denying anything, he was not able to explain why he committed the crime. As the interview progressed, Harrouff claimed his throat was burning. He was taken to the emergency room, where he was examined; his esophagus was burned from the chemical he drank in Stevens garage. He had pieces of human flesh and hair stuck between his teeth.
The Dr. Phil Interview
Harrouff was hospitalized at St. Mary’s Hospital for treatment of his chemical burn. He slipped into a coma for 11 days; preventing him from being formally arrested. As they waited for Harrouff to awaken from his coma, the sheriff’s department requested a blood sample. It was tested for hallucinogenic drugs, due to his bizarre behavior and great strength displayed while being arrested, they were sure he must have taken something. To their surprise, his blood test came back clean.
While he was still in the hospital, and after waking from the coma, Harrouff was interviewed by the Dr. Phil Show via Skype. The following are some excerpts from the interview:
When Phil McGraw asked him how he felt about what he had done, he responded, “I felt terrible. And I really, really don’t have words to explain how I feel. It’s like, it’s like a nightmare.”
McGraw asked him what his thoughts were about what happened, Harrouff replied, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I never imaged this would ever happen. And I’m deeply sorry to the family affected. I hope something like this never happens again. I didn’t ever want to consciously do something like this. I never planned it. I didn’t want to do it. And, like, I don’t know what to say.”
When asked what he would like to say to the victim’s family, he replied, “I’m sorry for their loss. And I hope that you can all find it in your hearts to forgive me. And I’m so sorry, and I never wanted this to happen.”
Harrouff was very emotional during the interview, often breaking down in tears. Those who knew him could not conceive of him committing a crime, let alone one so horrendous.
Another puzzling piece of his past was a letter he wrote himself January 6th, 2014:
The way I see myself may or may not be different from the way others see me. I view myself as happy, shy, nice, positive, and I never give up. I view myself as happy because usually I have view things to feel sad or depressed about. One of the main things I dislike about myself is that I am shy. I want to be confident and assertive. I am not that shy around close friends because after I get to know someone, I’ll start to open up more toward them. I also see myself as nice because I will go out of my way to help people.
Harrouff was formally arrested upon being discharged from the hospital and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. At his arraignment, he pled not guilty, and the prosecution agreed not to seek the death penalty.
His trial is set to begin June 17th, 2019.
On another legal note: The Dr. Phil interview was released to a local news station after a legal request was made under Florida’s public information law. Harrouff’s defense lawyer argued that the release of the interview would be prejudicial against his client; however, a circuit judge from Martin County ruled in favor of the news station.
It was July 13, 1970, and Highway Patrol Officer Randy Newton was on patrol in Big Sur, California. He was driving the Pacific Coast Highway when he received a call from dispatch that two men, who were involved in a traffic accident, had fled the scene. He was advised the two men had taken off on foot in his area.
Newton exited the main highway and took a dirt road where the two men were last seen. After a brief drive, he spotted two men in the distance. One of the men was approximately six feet in height, shoulder length blond hair, a beard, and powerfully built. He was wearing an Army fatigues jacket and jeans. His companion had long dark hair, a beard, wearing a green Army field jacket, jeans, and cowboy boots.
Newton pulled up to the men and exited his patrol car. The blond-haired man was 22-year-old Stanley Dean Baker, and his companion was 20-year-old Harry Alan Stroup (in some stories the name has also been spelled Harry Allen Stroup). Both men were upfront with Newton and admitted to being involved in the traffic accident. This routine stop would take a turn when Barker made a bizarre statement, “‘I have a problem. I am a cannibal.” At first, Newton did not take him seriously, until Baker pulled two human finger bones out of his pocket.
Hitchhiking Across America
Both Barker and Stroup were born in Sheridan, Wyoming. Baker, once an altar boy and a boy scout, while growing up in Sheridan, never got in trouble with the law. Stroup did socialize with drug users but never actually got into trouble with the law. Baker did start to get involved with drugs after he was dismissed from the Navy for misconduct. He got involved with a satanic cult known as Four Pi Movement; a cult rumored to have committed murders for ritualistic purposes.
In June of 1970, Baker and Stroup left Sheridan to hitchhike toward the western coast. The following events are based on Baker’s account of the murder:
When they reached Montana, the two men split up. Baker wanted to continue going while Stroup wanted to find a place to rest. They decided that Baker would explore the area and come back to meet up with Stroup later. As Baker walked along the side of freeway, he could see dark clouds gather on the horizon of the Montana sky. Having lived all his life in Sheridan, thumbing his way across the county gave him a sense of freedom.
In his pocket, Baker had a piece of paper on which he had written down the ingredients to make LSD. He and Stroup had taken LSD before reaching Montana and were hoping to manufacture it when they reached California. The hippie culture was growing there, and they knew they could make easy money. He also had a copy of the Satanic Bible. He was recruited to the Four Pi Movement while living in Wyoming and was follower of the cult’s leader, Grand Chingon.
As he walked along the side of the freeway, a 1969 Opel Kadett slowed down for him. The driver of the car was 22-year-old James Schlosser. Schlosser was a social worker at the Musselshell County Welfare Office. He was a large man over six feet tall and 200 pounds, with big frame glasses, and style of dress that gave him a nerdish appearance; a sharp contrast to Baker’s scruffy and unkempt look. Schlosser believed in helping others and offered Baker a ride.
Carnage At The National Park
As the two men took off, Schlosser mentioned to Baker that he was headed for Yellow Stone Park. An avid fisherman, he wanted to camp out for the night and get some fishing in. Baker asked if he could join him and Schlosser agreed.
The two men found a camping site close to the river. It was getting late so their plans for fishing would have to wait until the next day. That night, both men slept on the ground. Because of the warm temperature, they did not pitch a tent. The warm temperature, the thunder and lightning of a distant storm, the seclusion, and LSD he had taken earlier, woke Baker’s dark side.
Baker reached for the .22 caliber pistol he kept on him. While Schlosser was sleeping, Baker shot him in the head. A savage fury took over Baker. For him, having killed Schlosser was not enough. He reached for his hunting knife. Without putting much thought to it, Baker stabbed Schlosser twenty-five times. After Schlosser was dead, Baker cut a large t-shape in his chest, spread his chest wide open and using the knife, he broke Schlosser’s rib cage open and pulled out his heart. Baker proceeded to consume Schlosser’s heart under the stars.
After consuming the heart, Baker’s face was stained with blood and beard matted with it. He stared at Schlosser’s body. Grabbing his knife again, he dismembered Schlosser’s corpse. He removed the head, arms, and legs, which he cut off at the knees. Baker tossed the torso in the river and discarded the other body parts throughout the park. When he finished disposing of the body parts, he washed off in the river. Though he tried to get the blood out of his clothing, the stains remained. Returning to the campsite, he drove off in Schlosser’s car. As Baker drove away from the park, he saw Stroup hitchhiking. He picked him up, and they headed for California.
On Saturday July 11th, a man was fishing on the Yellowstone River. He felt his line snag on something heavy. He managed to reel in his line, where he made a shocking discovery. He had reeled in a human torso. The fisherman drove to nearest telephone and called the ranger station at the park’s entrance. Deputy Bigelow answered the call and was advised of the situation.
Deputies arrived at the site where the torso was discovered. They waded into the river and pulled the waterlogged torso out onto the banks. They searched the river and surrounding area but were unable to locate any other body parts. They also faced another challenge. The Yellowstone River crosses several states, so they could not determine where the torso was originally dumped. While investigators continued to search for evidence, the torso was sent to the morgue.
Connecting The Dots
On Monday, the Livingston Sheriff’s department received a teletype regarding a missing person’s report. The subject of that report was James Schlosser. The description provided in the report closely resembled that of the torso. Results of a DNA test confirmed the sheriffs’ suspicion.
Baker and Stroup reached Monterey County, California. Driving Schlosser’s Opel Kadett, they were approaching Big Sur. Baker did not realize it, but he was driving on the wrong side of the road. He was caught off guard when he saw a pick-up truck coming right at him. The collision between the two vehicles resulted in the Opel taking on major damage; however, the pick-up truck received only a dented bumper.
The driver of the pick-up truck approached Baker and Stroup to make sure they were okay and to exchange information. Baker told the other driver he did not have a driver’s licenses. The other driver asked the two men to get into his truck, to which they agreed. They drove to the nearest phone to call the police so an accident report could be completed.
The driver and his two passengers drove to a service station in the town of Lucia. As soon as the driver parked his truck, Baker and Stroup bailed out of the car and took off running toward a wooded area. The driver called the California Highway Patrol to report the incident; it was Officer Newton who answered the call.
Officer Newton caught-up with Baker and Stroup, who admitted to causing the traffic accident. Given the lack of any identification, Newton arrested both men after reinforcements arrived. While driving back to the police station, Baker and Stroup freely conversed with the officer; sharing that they were from Sheridan, Wyoming, and had hitchhiked across the country.
The two men were brought to the station and interrogated. When asked about the finger bones, Baker told investigators he kept them to chew on, as he had developed a desire for human flesh since the age of 17. He also revealed he had received electric shock therapy for a nervous disorder.
While they were being questioned, detectives hit pay dirt. They received information that the Opel Kadett Baker and Stroup had been in was registered to Schlosser, whose torso had been found in Yellowstone River. The detectives split up Baker and Stroup to interrogate them separately. While interviewing Baker, Detectives were surprised by how open he was; boasting about his involvement in Schlosser’s murder, claiming sole responsibility for it.
Pride In Murder
Baker and Stroup were extradited back to Montana, where they were arraigned on July 27th. They were detained at the Park County jail until August 4th. That was when Baker was sent to Warm Springs State Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Unlike Baker, who was an open book about the murder, Stroup remained silent and proclaimed his innocence. Prosecutors were getting frustrated because they had no evidence directly linking him to the murder.
Baker was found competent to stand trial and tried separately from Stroup. During his trial, Baker conducted himself in a manner that was anything but typical for a defendant. He continued to brag he was the mastermind of the murder and Stroup played no part in it. He made claims that he was Jesus and used mind control to make rock legend Jimi Hendrix overdose on drugs. At one point, he told the presiding judge to, “Go fuck yourself.” When the judge reprimanded him, he responded, “What are you going to do? I am already sentenced to life in prison.”
October 20th, the jury found Baker guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison, with an additional ten days for his remarks to the judge.
Thanksgiving Day was when Stroup was found guilty of manslaughter, as there was enough evidence to demonstrate he was somehow involved. The jury was convinced that Stroup had played a role in Schlosser’s death. They did not believe that Baker could not have butchered Schlosser alone, given Schlosser’s size. Park rangers also testified they saw Baker, Stroup, and Schlosser in the Opel Kadett when they arrived at Yellowstone Park. Further, the vehicle’s odometer indicated that Baker did not make any extra trips to pick-up Stroup.
Baker also confessed to an unsolved murder in San Francisco. On April 20, 1970, the body of 40-year-old Robert Salem was discovered. Salem was stabbed 27 times, including a deep cut in his neck where the killer had attempted to decapitate him. Additionally, his left ear was missing.
The killer had used Salem’s blood to write the words “Zodiac” and “Satan Saves” on the walls of the home. Investigators were unable to locate proof to tie Baker to his murder.
Baker was out by Christmas 1986, after 16 years. He died in 1994 from cancer. Because of the short time spent in prison, Montana changed their minimum of years served and prisoners could not apply for parole before 30 years of their sentence were served.
Stroup was released after two years. He was convicted of selling meth in April 2007 and released in 2015. He served more time for a drug conviction than being an accomplice in the murder and cannibalism of Schlosser. He is still alive, and 69 years old.
Jiverly Antares Wong sat quietly as he waited for his number to be called at the Binghamton American Civic Association, in New York. He was there to apply for benefits, as he was recently laid off from his job at the Shop-Vac factory, which was closing its plant in Binghamton.
In South Vietnam, Wong could barely speak English, even though he had been living in the United States for almost ten years.
His number was finally called, and Wong walked up to the window of the benefits representative. Seeing that Wong was having a difficult time expressing himself in English, she gave him a phone number that assisted Chinese and Japanese speakers. Wong became insulted and told her that he was Vietnamese and stormed out of the building.
What that representative did not know was that Wong would come back and catapult the Binghamton American Civic Center into international news as the site of a mass shooting.
Resistant to Change
Wong was born December 8th, 1967. He was the second oldest of four children. His family moved to the United States from Vietnam, in July 1990, when he was twenty-two. They were able to come to America because of their refugee status. He became an American citizen November 1995.
While the rest of his family were able to integrate into American society, Wong did not. Among the things that frustrated him was finding work and the language barrier; he did not want to learn to speak English. Because of this, he found his employment opportunities limited.
Of Pride, Secrecy, and Conspiracies
After gaining citizenship, the family moved to Ontario, Canada, where they lived for a few years before moving to upstate New York. Wong moved to Inglewood, California, in 2000. He believed he would feel more at home in the Los Angeles area because of its Korean community. Over the next twenty years, he would frequently move between Los Angeles and New York.
He rented a studio apartment close to Los Angeles Airport. His only window offered a view of a brick wall. For seven years, he lived there and worked for a company that made sushi, earning $9.00 an hour. He led a quiet life and did not socialize, as he was an introvert and very secretive; so secretive that he got married and did not tell his family. The marriage lasted seven years.
There were two things that Wong had strong feelings about: Making his parents proud, and guns. Because of his culture, he grew up believing that he needed to be able to provide for his parents and family, even though they lived in New York. The pressure he was facing was because his parents and sibling were more successful than he was. They had assimilated into their community and could speak English reasonably well. He struggled with his English and could barely support himself; he had been arrested for passing a bad check. He also had an encounter with police when he experienced a minor traffic accident. From these two incidents, Wong developed paranoia about the police, believing they were conspiring to get him.
Struggling to make it in Los Angeles, Wong decided to move back to Binghamton and live with his parents. The Wong family lived in a single-family home, located in Union. It was a modest house that was home to his parents, his sister, his niece, who was just an infant.
Wong found work at the Shop-Vac factory in the village of Endicott. Though he had a job, he continued to struggle when trying to communicate with others, causing continuing frustration for him. His way of relieving stress was to go to the gun range and practice shooting; he would spend hours there. He became a skilled shooter and was able to hit a target 50-feet away. His weapon of choice was a semiautomatic Beretta pistol, with a laser sight.
The Bottom Drops Out
In 2008, the U.S. economy faced its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Shop-Vac closed its factory and Wong, along with his co-workers, was laid off.
Binghamton’s American Civic Association (ACA) offers a wide range of services to the local immigrant community. It assists immigrants in attaining citizenship, as well as offering classes for learning English and cultural support.
While searching for employment, Wong went to ACA to apply for unemployment benefits. They recommended he take their course for learning English. Wong agreed and attended classes, but he did not speak to anyone.
Wong continued to struggle to find work. He was making it on $200 a week, which came from his unemployment benefits. On April 2nd, 2009, Wong went to the ACA to renew his benefits. When the representative advised him of the phone number for Chinese and Japanese speakers, he grew irate. He was Vietnamese. He was 42 and living with his parents, when he should have been supporting them. He stormed out of the building.
Friday, April 3rd, 2009, Wong had an appointment at an employment center, where a counselor was working with him to find a job. Wong did not attend his appointment; he was too frustrated. Wong had other plans. Instead, he got his two Beretta pistols, a bulletproof vest, and drove back to the ACA, arriving around 10:30 a.m.
He pulled up to the rear of the building and parked in front of the rear entrance to create a barricade. He then exited his car and walked to the front entrance. Wong entered the building and without a word, began shooting. He fired at anyone he saw. His first targets were two receptionists.
One receptionist was shot in the head, the second one was shot in the abdomen. She played dead as she fell under her desk. She had the foresight to call 911. Sixty-one-year-old receptionist, Shirley DeLucia, remained on the line as she kept the 911 operator informed of what was happening as they waited for police to arrive.
Wong continued to move around the building as he made his way to the classrooms where they taught English. He filled the classroom with gunfire as he relentlessly fired off shots. There was not one person in the classroom who was not hit. Some people avoided Wong’s detection and hid in the basement. When he heard sirens approaching, Wong killed himself.
In 3 minutes, he had fired off 99 rounds. Thirteen people were killed, excluding Wong, while four others were injured.
Fifty-one- year old Priscilla Ford sat by her attorney in the Reno courtroom as they waited for the jury to file into the room. The 5’4” black woman looked like anything but a hardcore criminal. Weighing in at 125 pounds, with brown, shoulder-length hair combed back. Ford’s grandmotherly looks made her seem out of place.
The jury took their seats and the jury foreman stood up to read the verdict. They found her guilty on 6 counts of murder and 23 counts of attempted murder. Ford’s face had remained expressionless throughout the proceeding. The court officer handcuffed her and took her way.
She was about to become the only woman on Nevada’s death row.
A Teachers decent into Darkness
Born February 10th, 1929, in Barren Springs, Michigan, Ford’s life was one of inspiration to all who knew her until she became the perpetrator of the 1980 Thanksgiving Day Massacre.
In 1957, with only a high school diploma, she started teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in the city of Dowagiac. The school board was nervous having her as she was the first black person ever hired. Their concerns gradually faded as she demonstrated herself to be a masterful teacher. She won the love of her students and the respect of the administration. Ford went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in 1966.
Ford and her husband separated in 1972, after which she moved with her daughter to Buffalo, New York. Ford wanted her daughter, nine-year-old Wynter Scott, to be close to her family, who lived there.
It was around that time that her family and friends started seeing changes in her behavior. She was becoming delusional. She started reporting sightings of her husband and made claims she had the soul of Jesus Christ. She also became an alcoholic.
In 1973, Ford and her daughter moved to Reno, Nevada. Life for her was becoming more difficult due to her delusions and drinking. She decided to seek help and admitted herself in the Nevada Mental Health Institute. After performing a mental evaluation, she was diagnosed as having a passive-aggressive personality with hysterical episodes. She stayed at the clinic to receive treatment and become stable again, after which she was released.
A stubborn woman, Ford did not keep up with her visits to the clinic and soon returned to drinking. Additionally, her delusions became more frequent. In 1974, she was arrested for trespassing, and her daughter was taken away by social workers. Her daughter was placed in Wittenberg Hall, a juvenile detention center located in Reno.
Having her daughter taken away from her put her over the edge. She had lost her husband and now her daughter. Desperate, she moved back to New York. Because of her delusional thinking, and her resistance to see a psychiatrist, her family would not take her in. She turned to Catholic Charities for help. All she could think of was her daughter, who she believed was kidnapped by Reno authorities.
With the stress of not having her daughter, and unwillingness to get treatment, she went on a quest to get her daughter back. Though her daughter was in Reno, she drove to Idaho in 1978. It was there that she did go to a mental health hospital for help. In 1979, she drove back to Buffalo, where she admitted herself as well. During her stay there, she was given a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.
In May 1979, she moved to the state of Maine. She consulted with an attorney about getting her daughter back. The attorney explained that he could not help her, to which she replied, “I would drive across the state and kill everyone I saw along the way, and the people of Reno will pay in death.”
The Thanksgiving Massacre
Feeling as though she has been abandoned, Ford decided she would return to Reno and try to get help there. She got a job wrapping packages at Macy’s department store, hoping it would lead her to a better position with the store. Her goal was to raise enough money so she could retain a Nevada lawyer and get her daughter back.
On Thanksgiving Day, Ford became despondent. Her attempt to raise enough money seemed impossible. In her delusional thinking, she heard the voice of Joan Kennedy, the wife of Senator Edward Kennedy, telling her, “Just run through a whole bunch of people and kill everyone.”
With a blood-alcohol, level of .162, Ford got into her black 1974 Lincoln Continental and did exactly that.
She drove through town around 2:50 p.m. and reached the southeast corner of Virginia Street. It was busy with foot traffic as tourists and residents filled the sidewalk; a steady flow of people came and went through the many casinos. Ford hit the accelerator and her Lincoln Continental jumped the curb and barreled down the sidewalk, traveling 100 feet.
Screams filled the air as her car plowed through the crowd, sending bodies flying. A woman was carried over 100 feet on her hood, before falling off. Ford got back on Virginia Street and drove until she reached the corner of Second Street. The traffic prevented her from going any further. It was there she was arrested.
At her preliminary trial, she pleaded not-guilty due to insanity. A judge ordered she be sent to a psychiatric hospital until it was determined she could stand trial.
She was deemed competent to stand trial August 4th, 1981. During her five-month trial, Priscilla Ford’s defense attorney did not want her to testify, but she insisted on it. When she took the witness stand, she claimed to be Jesus Christ, and referred to the people that she killed as ‘pigs.’
The jury found Ford guilty on March 19th, 1982, on six counts of murder and 23 counts of attempted murder.
She was sent to death row but died January 29th, 2005, from emphysema, at 75.
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