Tag Archives: crime

nancy at 90ish.


Happy 92nd birthday to Nancy Drew! The first volume in the long-running girl detective series, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” was published 92 years ago under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. In a tribute to the iconic sleuth, author Theodore Jefferson writes, “Agency. It is that which forms the foundation for any hero’s ability to save the day. In America, agency for teenage girls in literature made its debut in 1930 in the person of Nancy Drew.” This original Mighty Girl character paved the way for many more heroic female characters and inspired generations of real-life girls and women.

Ghostwritten by Mildred Wirt Benson and later revised by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, the first volume of Nancy Drew had a huge influence on young readers. Nancy Drew provided them with “stories of someone like themselves who had a positive effect on the world instead of passively sitting at home… She is a character with that magical ‘what if’ question woven into her identity, and one that effortlessly captures the imaginations of readers by allowing them to participate in a world where the answers to that question are just as entertaining as the stories themselves.”

At the time, some viewed Nancy Drew as a poor role model, “contradicting adults while she squared off with the villains… she is mechanically inclined and at the same time doesn’t act like most people in the 1930s would have expected a teenage girl to act.” In fact, many libraries and bookstores refused to carry the Nancy Drew stories. Despite — or because of — that disapproval, kids collected the books voraciously, and in the midst of the Depression, used copies were shared and traded like trading cards are today. As a result, “any kid, even those who couldn’t afford new books, would very likely get to read every adventure starring their favorite character.”

The tremendous influence of Nancy Drew continues to this day asserts Jefferson: “It is difficult to overstate how powerful Nancy Drew’s presence remains in literature and in other media. She has influenced film, comics, video games and animation for [90] years, and will continue to do so as long as teenage girls take the lead as our heroes in the imaginative worlds of adventure.”

i loved this book series and it inspired me to be part of a neighborhood gang of childhood detectives

(the four crows – see my post below)

and i am still a huge fan of true crime, not as a criminal,

but in trying to solve the who’s, why’s, and how’s.


On leaving work, at work…

“I don’t promise to forget the mystery, but I know I’ll have a marvelous time.”

-nancy drew


credits: theodore jefferson, the mary sue, mighty girl



after making the decision

to challenge my traffic ticket

(I’m innocent, for the record)

my scheduled hearing

has been adjourned twice.

 in today’s mail

I received the new date

for my next potential hearing.

I had to laugh

when I picked up the new envelope

(for the third time now)

and it once again clearly read:


just above my name

with the court address In the return corner

 I have to wonder

just what major crime

my mr. rogers sweet and friendly mailman

 thinks I may have committed?

‘we find the defendants incredibly guilty.’

– mel brooks



whenever I’ve visited my friends’ lake house in the irish hills of michigan, there has never been a shortage of lakes and trees to be enjoyed. on one recent visit they took me on a walk through a very special place that I’d been wanting to see since hearing about it. at first impression it appears to be a beautiful, rolling, wide open natural space, but there is much more to it than first meets the eye.

once known as aiden lair, and now known as mccourtie park, it was formerly the 42-acre estate of herb mccourtie, a cement magnate. its trademark is its concrete bridges artistically handcrafted to resemble wooden structures. a visionary who loved architecture for art’s sake, mccourtie showed the versatility and beauty of the product he manufactured in 17 bridges that he commissioned to be created on his property using the 19th-century lost art of “el trabajo rustico” (the rustic work) in faux bois (imitation wood).

for more than 10 years, two mexican artists, george cardoso and ralph corona, created the bridges that span the creek on the property, as well as two concrete trees that cleverly hide the chimneys to his rathskeller. the bridges were individually created from wet mortar to resemble ropes and logs simulating native trees, such as oak, walnut, cherry, birch and beech. the intricate details include knots, insect holes, saw cuts, wood grain and even moss, lichen and beetle holes. an elaborate system of underground wires provided lights on and under some of the bridges. in addition, he created two huge pools, one for use as a swimming pool and the other as a fishing pond for his guests’ enjoyment.

(stills hidden in the cement ‘trees’ mixed among the natural trees)

known for giving lavish parties, he hosted a homecoming celebration every year that drew thousands of people to aiden lair to witness stunt flyers and enjoy baseball, local musicians, dancing and free refreshments. in the underground garage and rathskeller he created, he threw all-night poker parties that were attended by the likes of detroit auto baron henry ford.

throughout its history, the park has been the subject of rumors and legends. mccourtie’s rathskeller, which features a large bar, fieldstone fireplace, and vault, is rumored to have been a speakeasy during prohibition and a stopping point for al capone and other gangsters who bootlegged whiskey from chicago to detroit on U.S. 12.

it’s also been rumored that there are tunnels under the park property that served as stations for runaway southern slaves on the underground railroad. some people have reported sightings of a ghostly “lady in blue” strolling the grounds in old-fashioned clothing.

(a peek into the window of what used to be the ‘rathskeller’ – a bit creepy now)

in 1991, mccourtie park was named to the state register of historic sites by the michigan historical commission. the next year, it was added to the national register of historic places by the national park service.



“prohibition has made nothing but trouble.”

-al capone 






source: mlive



 andrew killawee is a canadian tv producer who recently had his wheelbarrow stolen and he announced this with a sign outside of his home: “BRING BACK MY WHEELBARROW.”

 a few days later, the sign had changed: “THANK YOU FOR BRINGING BACK MY WHEELBARROW.” apparently tersely worded demands for stolen property, in rural canada, lead to results. and results lead to politely worded replies.

all of this might have gone forgotten—a brief, humorous tale of small-town crime, one among many brief, humorous tales of small-town crime that happen in small towns across the world—if it hadn’t been for twitter, where an acquaintance of killawee combined the hand-painted signs into a single tweet.  

her tweet went viral, and he later noted his regret at not being more fluent with the service. “well it took a lot of hard work, but I think I can now retire. thanks to my friend for really making the big push here … i’ll learn twitter one of these days.”

“i mean if we even had a wheelbarrow,

that would be something.”

-william goldman




credits: erik shilling, atlas obscura, andrew killawee -photo

I think crime pays. The hours are good, you meet a lot of interesting people, you travel a lot. – woody allen (take the money and run)



(the morning alert from my local sheriffs)

Monday August 31, 2015, 7:54 AM
Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office
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Advisory: Stolen Golf Cart – Downing Farms Golf Course – Salem Twp

Dear Beth K,

Salem Township Deputies are investigating the theft of a golf cart that occurred at the Downing Farms Golf Course. The incident occurred between Aug 29th at 9 pm and Aug 30th at 5:30 am. Stolen was a Club Car beverage cart white in color and a large number of returnable cans. Unknown suspect(s) forced entry to the club garage. No arrests have been made at this time.


If you have any information regarding this incident please contact the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office at 911, through our confidential tip line (734) 973-7711 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-Speak-UP.


Burglars are opportunistic and look for the easiest way in and out. The more you can secure your property the less likely you are to have your home broken into.

“An educated and engaged community is our best partner”

– Sheriff Jerry L. Clayton

image credits: google images

the four crows.



we were a formidable team

my two sisters

one friend

and i

 an ad-hoc precinct

fashioning ourselves

the finest of sleuths

solving crimes

all around

our neighborhood

it was our job

our destiny

the four crows

walked the streets

the fields

the woods

looking for clues

to crack puzzles




as we

dreamed up

our cases

finding empty pill bottles

 asking a neighbor

if he killed his wife

as we hadn’t seen her

found out

that she had died

 left a note

for a woman

who yelled at her children

telling her she was too mean

found out

they were adopted

 asked her to give them back

we clearly

way overstepped our bounds

as detectives


tend to do


in pursuit of justice

 in an attempt

to right the wrongs

to restore balance

in a community

that didn’t know

they needed us

or that we were

always looking out for them

in the most secret of ways




as a

murder of four crows

all under age 8

“the case called for plain, old-fashioned police leg work!”
― donald j. sobol, encyclopedia brown, boy detective

d.b. cooper



   i have always been a fan of true crime, and unsolved mysteries in particular. while i have no desire to be a part of any criminal activity, (and openly admit to occasionally absconding with an extra fine chocolate or two from a hotel lobby), i have always been fascinated by the criminal mind and the planning and execution of their crimes. i love putting the puzzle pieces all together, the wild goose chase, the wrong turns, and the process of finally solving a case. today is the anniversary of the day in 1971, when one of my favorite cases ever took place, and one that remains unsolved to this day: the d.b. cooper case.

D.B. Cooper: Everything you need to know in 20 sentences and 5 minutes of your time.

One afternoon a day before Thanksgiving in 1971, a guy calling himself Dan Cooper (the media mistakenly called him D.B. Cooper) boarded Northwest Airlines flight #305 in Portland bound for Seattle. He was wearing a dark suit and a black tie and was described as a business-executive type. While in the air, he opened his brief case showing a bomb to the flight attendant and hijacked the plane. The plane landed in Seattle where he demanded 200K in cash, four parachutes and food for the crew before releasing all the passengers. With only three pilots and one flight attendant left on board, they took off from Seattle with the marked bills heading south while it was dark and lightly raining. In the 45 minutes after takeoff, Cooper sent the flight attendant to the cockpit while donning the parachute, tied the bank bag full of twenty dollar bills to himself, lowered the rear stairs and somewhere north of Portland jumped into the night. When the plane landed with the stairs down, they found the two remaining parachutes and on the seat Cooper was sitting in, a black tie.
Jets, a helicopter and a C-130 aircraft had been scrambled from the closest air force base to follow Cooper’s plane. The military was called in days after the hijacking and approximately 1,000 troops searched the suspected jump zone on foot and in helicopters. The Boeing 727 used in the hijacking was flown out over the ocean and the stairs lowered and weights dropped in an attempt to determine when Cooper jumped. The SR-71 super-secret spy plane was sent in to photograph the entire flight path but no sign of D.B. Cooper was ever discovered.
Nine years later in 1980 just north of Portland on the Columbia River, a young boy named Brian Ingram was digging a fire pit in the sand at a place called Tena Bar. He uncovered three bundles of cash a couple inches below the surface, with rubber bands still intact. There was a total of $5800, the Cooper serial numbers matched, and the first evidence since 1971 came to light. The FBI searched and analyzed the beach, the river was dredged by Cooper Hunters and the theories on how the money got there supercharged the Legend of D.B. Cooper.
Decades passed, D.B. Cooper became famous in book, movie and song. In 2007, Special Agent Larry Carr took on his favorite case with the restriction not to waste government time or money pursuing it. Agent Carr brilliantly decided the way around the problem was to treat the hijacking like one of his bank robbery cases – to get as much information out to the public as possible. He released previously unknown facts about the case and the D.B. Cooper frenzy started anew.

In 2008 the Cooper Research Team came together to take up the challenge and was given special access to investigate the case. This website is the result of that three year investigation.


The Public Debates:

The D.B. Cooper case continues to be debated in forums and chat rooms around the world. Most of the conversation (and arguments) center around a few ideas outlined below. The ‘Debate Factor’ is the level of interest for that theory among Cooper followers.

Did Cooper die in the jump? It is a huge public debate if Cooper died in the jump or not. Experienced skydivers say he would have died if it was his first jump but if he was an expert, no problem. One experience parachutist believed that anyone who had six or seven practice jumps could accomplished the jump. The cold weather may or may not have killed him in the woods even if he landed ok. No body or parachute was ever found. Debate factor* = 9 of 10

Was Cooper an experienced skydiver? He requested “front and back parachutes” = novice. He turned down instructions on how to use the parachute = experienced. He picked the non-steerable military parachute = novice. The military chute could better withstand the exit speed of the plane = experienced. He put the parachute on like he knew what he was doing = experienced. He took the reserve chute that was sewn closed and non-functional = novice. Debate factor = 7 of 10

The Tena Bar money find is problematic because it is 20 miles away from the town of Ariel, Washington where the drop zone analysis completed in 1971 said he jumped. In order to get the money on to Tena Bar, several theories are in play. First is the Washougal Washdown Theory, based on the idea that the money had to wash first down smaller rivers, then into the Columbia River in order to end up on Tena Bar. Second is that the FBI flight path was incorrect and Cooper actually landed on Tena Bar and buried the money. Third is that Cooper or someone else buried the money on Tena Bar to throw off the FBI. Debate factor = 10 of 10

The “Palmer Report” stemmed from the FBI bringing in Portland State University geologist Dr. Leonard Palmer to analyze the sand bar where the money was found. In between the 1971 hijacking and the 1980 money find, the Columbia River was dredged and sand was deposited on Tena Bar in 1974. Palmer’s report determined that the money was in a layer of top sand laid down by the dredging. This implied that the money was somewhere else upstream for years before coming to rest on Tena Bar. The counterpoint was that the delicate rubber bands were still intact on the bundles when found. The bands pointed to an earlier time frame for the money coming to rest on Tena. Debate factor = 9 of 10

Where was the real flight path? The flight path map in the FBI archive has no information on who drew the flight path or when it was created. The flight path as drawn is thought to be from the detailed analysis of radar data and flight recorder discussed in the FBI transcripts. The FBI path does NOT fly over Tena Bar or the Washougal area. The money found on Tena Bar forces the flight path debate because it would be much easier to explain the money find if Cooper flew over Tena Bar and jumped, or flight #305 flew over the Washougal River and Cooper’s ransom money ended up washing down stream. Debate factor = 7 of 10

How did three loose bundles of money stay together for years and then get buried together? Several possibilities have been put forth. The bank bag protected them for years in the river and then rotted away before the bills did. Cooper lost the money when he landed on Tena Bar in the dark. Someone else buried the money there. Debate factor = 5 of 10

Was Cooper from the area? He recognized Tacoma from the air = local. He would be an idiot to hijack an airplane where he could possibly be recognized = not local. He made the very unusual request for “negotiable American currency” unlike most Americans = not from this country. Debate factor = 3 of 10

How did the money degrade around the edges and get holes in them? Roots, tumbling downstream, dredging? Debate factor = 3 of 10

Are any of the current crop of suspects the real D.B. Cooper? Debate factor = 13+ of 10


 source: fbi archives

All art requires courage.  ~ Anne Tucker




crimestoppers come in all shapes and sizes. you do what you do.

credits: daytondailynews, lasvegas.com, xjosimo

“Badges, Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.“ – Blazing Saddles



as is my way, when i am curious about something, i like to learn about and experience it firsthand. i’ve always been fascinated by the law, crime, the criminal mind, mysteries, and everything surrounding this world. (except when fighting an unjustified ticket).

imagine my delight when i saw that my county sheriff’s office was offering a ‘citizen’s academy.’ it was to be 13 weeks of classes, one night a week, with different divisions of their office teaching us, and showing us, what they do. they would only take 20 people so we could have good discussions, be hands-on,  and go on ‘field trips’ together. i applied and was accepted, in spite of those past traffic ‘misunderstandings.’

from the moment it began, i loved every minute of it. the first night, we met the sergeant in charge of the program, who explained that their motivation was to bring the community together with law enforcement in order to build a better connection, a partnership, rather than an adversarial relationship, through our understanding of what they do. 

in my class there were citizens of all ages, in their early 20s to 70s, all genders, races, and occupations. each of us was there for our own reason, but we all were eager to learn. there was the behavioral psychologist, the architect, the vietnam vet, the housewife, the business exec, student, the professor, the young married couple, the crime hobbyist, and on and on. the subjects and the presenters were fascinating and we went on field trips: to the jail downstairs, to the command center (we traveled in the the county prisoner transport vans), and to the shooting and drunk driving ranges. talk about bonding experiences. 

i was as fascinated by the characters in the class, as i was by the sheriffs, and they never failed to deliver. we built a close trust over the weeks and people became more and more open, disclosing all sorts of crazy things. when we had a chance to ask questions, it never failed that at least one person would ask a ‘hypothetical question’ about something that was illegal, and the sheriffs would usually respond by saying, ‘i don’t know, or need to know, why you asked that, but i can give you the legal answer…..’ even the prisoners got in on the action, as they cooked and provided themed meals for us each week: one week, bad chinese, another, sticky italian night, and always the cookies, but it was all part of the fun. 

some of the presenters/classes/moments were:

corrections officers – our visit to the county jail (where one member of my class yelled out, ‘thanks for the cookies!’ to the prisoners).

drug recognition and weapons experts – talked about all kinds of drugs and weapons what is out on the street (many revealing and personal class questions about these).

bomb sniffing and drug smuggling dogs – the sheriffs advised us to ‘ditch whatever you have if you’re carrying anything’.

underwater search and rescue – showed us actual rescues and recoveries, and polar bear diving just to keep in practice, amazing tech.

homicide detectives bureau – gruesome photos, fascinating ways of solving cases, macabre jokes, tears.

impaired driving expert – class member volunteered to take the test in front of class and failed – said she forgot she was on prescription medication. maybe not the best night to volunteer for something, but i loved her for getting into the spirit.  

undercover – out of cover, and class member said he recognized one of them tailing him in a bad neighborhood recently.

mounted unit – wonderful horses and one sheriff who said he had a dream that he would no longer be a motorcycle guy and become a horse guy instead, and then it happened. they chased down the sergeant in our parking lot using only their horses. 

special weapons and tactics – wow.

traffic accident reconstruction – sad and very hard job, have to figure out what happened and notify families, nightmares.

emergency preparedness – underground bunker, with seats for leaders from all factions of first responders in county and state.

hostage negotiation team – delicate work, very challenging, always on call, 24/7 as needed, high stress, very dangerous.

community team – targets a tough neighborhood, works with residents to help get criminals out and rebuild the community.


chasing sergeant b down in our parking lot

on our graduation night we met the sheriff himself, who uses a hierarchy of psychological needs approach to lawbreakers – take care of basic needs before we can help them learn and make progress upward. i told him i use the same approach in kindergarten. i loved their honest, and funny, and sad, and scary, behind the scenes, stories. sarge b said she will take any of us on a ride-along if we’d like. and i see another adventure ahead. 


If time were the wicked sheriff in a horse opera, I’d pay for riding lessons and take his gun away. – W. H. Auden