2017 in Crime & Justice: Part II

Aaaand I’m back—and only a week late—with just some of the high-profile cases that dominated the latter half of 2017. Old school killers made headlines with the death of Charles Manson and the positive identification of a body found in John Wayne Gacy‘s crawl space four decades ago. Zachary Adams‘s long-awaited trial for the murder of Holly Bobo finally commenced after years of delays, and the 15-year-old Slenderman stabbing perpetrators were found not guilty by reason of insanity. Suffice to say that 2017 was an eventful year in true crime.

However, this is not a complete list of the year’s high-profile cases; as much as I’d like to be a one-woman-Wikipedia, I’ve had one too many concussions for the cognitive load that task would require. Some stories are just too big to do justice in a brief summary, and writers more talented than I have already covered the #MeToo movement and mass shootings.

What you will find here, however, are the stories of 2017’s second half that are—for one reason or another—stuck in my weird, fucked-up brain.

If you haven’t already, go back and read Part I!

July

Long-Unidentified John Wayne Gacy Victim Confirmed by DNA to Be Minnesota Teen, Jimmie Haakenson

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(L-R) A forensic reconstruction of Victim 24 compared to a photo of  Jimmie Haakenson circa 1976 [Image via]
On July 19, 2017, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced that a DNA test identified 16-year-old Jimmie Haakenson as Victim 24 of notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Haakenson was one of many victims whose bodies would be found buried in Gacy’s crawl space.

Six years ago, Dart announced his office had reopened the Gacy investigation in hopes of identifying eight victims whose names still remained a mystery decades later. Haakenson was the second to be identified.

Haakenson told his family in St. Paul that he planned to explore Chicago on his own. The teen called his mother on August 1976, to let her know he had arrived in Chicago, but his family never heard from him again.

Haakenson’s nephew — who never met his uncle, but took an interest in his disappearance — recently persuaded Haakenson’s brother and sister to submit DNA samples for testing. The nephew “felt very, very compelled throughout his life to find out about his uncle,” Dart said.

The DNA testing showed a “strong genetic association” with Victim 24. In tandem with other information—including the initial missing person report—detectives concluded that Victim 24 was, in fact, 16-year-old Jimmie Haakenson.

After Gacy’s arrest and the discovery of 27 bodies in his crawl space, Haakenson’s mother came to Chicago in 1979. Her attempt to determine if her son was among Gacy’s victims failed because—according to Dart—she did not have the missing’s dental records that would be necessary to identify him. She died in 2008 without ever knowing what happened to her son.

August

Aramazd Andressian Sr. Convicted of Killing Five-Year-Old Son After Disneyland Trip

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[Image via]
Aramazd Andressian Jr. was last seen leaving Disneyland in the company of his father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., at around 1 AM on April 21. The following morning, Andressian Sr. was found unconscious near his car in a Pasadena park, having doused his car in gasoline and swallowed prescription pills. His son was nowhere to be found, and would never be seen alive again.

After being arrested in June, Andressian pled guilty on August 23 to murdering Aramazd Andressian Jr. and was sentenced to 25 to life. Following the sentencing, Detective Louis Aguilera revealed previously unknown details: according to Detective Aguilera, Andressian Sr. smothered his son to death with a child’s jacket within an hour of the pair getting to Santa Barbara County—just past Lake Cachuma—on April 21. Afterwards, Andressian Sr. put the boy’s body in a wooded area about 1-2 miles beyond the lake. He stayed near the lake for about eight hours before returning to the Los Angeles area.

Andressian had planned the murder three or four months before putting his plan into action. He planned to kill himself afterwards and make it appear as if his estranged wife, Ana Estevez, was involved. Investigators have cited revenge for a contentious divorce as a motive in the case.

Dismembered Remains of Kim Wall Disappears Surface in Denmark Bay After Suspicious Submarine Accident; Sub Creator Charged in Death

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[Image Via]
Kim Wall, a Swedish freelance journalist, disappeared in the bay of Køge, Denmark, after boarding midget submarine UC3 Nautilus with its creator, Peter Madsen. The submarine sank the following morning under suspicious circumstances. Madsen was rescued by a private boat and the submarine was resurfaced, but Wall was not found. Madsen was charged with negligent homicide following his rescue.

On August 23, Wall’s mutilated torso washed up on a beach, which—according to Investigator Jens Møller—had been both stabbed repeatedly in the ribcage and genitals to prevent gas build up and weighted down by a piece of metal to prevent it from floating to the surface. The charges against Madsen were expanded to include “improper interference with a corpse.” In September, Madsen stated that Wall was killed when he lost his grip on the submarine’s hatch cover—which he was holding open for her— and it fell on her head, causing skull fracture and her death.

On October 6, plastic bags containing Wall’s head, legs, clothes and a knife were found by police divers in Køge Bay. On October 12 , divers located a saw for which police had been searching. On November 21 and 29, police divers found two human arms believed to belong to Wall, weighted down by metal pipes, approximately one kilometer (0.6 mi) from where the head and legs were found. After more of Wall’s remains were discovered in October, Madsen changed his account of Wall’s death, this time admitting to dismembering her body; however, Madsen still denies involvement in Wall’s death.

After the discovery of Wall’s torso, police probed possible links to other murder cases in Denmark and elsewhere in Scandinavia, including the unsolved death of Kazuko Toyonaga, a 22-year-old Japanese woman whose dismembered remains were found in waters near Copenhagen after she disappeared in 1986.

Madsen is expected to go to trial in Spring 2018.

September

Manson Family Member Leslie Van Houten Recommended For Parole

On her 21st appearance before the parole board on September 6, 2017, Manson follower Leslie Van Houten was recommended for parole for the second consecutive year at the California Institute for Women in Corona, CA, where she’s spent the last 45 years incarcerated.

At age 19, Van Houten participated in the brutal murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, for which she was convicted in 1972. At the Manson Family’s 1971 trial, Van Houten was revealed to have stabbed She did not participate in the Tate murders that left six—including actress Sharon Tate’s unborn child—dead.

The recommendation does not guarantee Van Houten’s release, however. Her fate currently rests in the hands of Governor Jerry Brown, who has until February 8, 2018 to reject, modify, or accept the recommendation; the governor rejected the parole board’s recommendation for Van Houten’s release in 2016, calling Van Houten, “an unacceptable risk to society.”

The question of whether Van Houten should be released has become a topic of controversy that points to the broader debate of whether incarceration’s goal is rehabilitation or retribution.

In recent years, her attorneys have characterized Van Houten as a model inmate, having earned a BA English literature and a Master’s in humanities all while running self-help groups for incarcerated women.

At a parole board hearing in 2002, Van Houten said she was “deeply ashamed” of what she had done and added:

“I take very seriously not just the murders, but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson.”

Zachary Adams Found Guilty in Tennessee of Murdering Holly Bobo in 2011

(L-R): Zach Adams upon his arrest; photo of Holly Bobo [Image via]
After an investigation that fumbled through six years fruitless years, Zachary Rye Adams was found guilty of eight counts relating to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Holly Bobo On September 23, 2017. 

The 20-year-old nursing student was abducted outside the family’s Parsons, Tennessee home on the morning of April 13, 2011. Her brother Clint was the only witness to the abduction. Awoken by dogs that morning, Clint testified he looked out the window to see his sister and a man in camouflage—assumed to be Holly’s boyfriend Drew Scott–kneeling down, engaged in a heated conversation.

At the same time, a concerned neighbor was calling Holly’s mother to relay the woman’s scream he heard coming from the Bobo home’s direction. Holly was last seen alive when through the blinds the when Clint saw the man in camouflage leading his sister into the woods adjacent to their home.

In September 2014, Bobo’s partial remains were found by Larry Stone, a ginseng hunter, hunters in a wooded area in DeCatur County,  nearly 20 miles (32 km) from Darden. Stone testified he got a bad feeling when he stumbled upon an upturned bucket in the woods, when he then spotted what was eventually determined to be Holly’s skull. Investigators recovered her skull, teeth, several ribs, and one shoulder blade. The investigation revealed there was a bullet hole in the back of her skull.

In total, six men have been arrested and charged at some point in relation to Bobo’s disappearance and murder; however, after alleged participant Shayne Austin‘s suicide, only three of those men were actively facing charges: Zachary Adams, his brother Dylan Adams, and his friend, Jason Autry. The “A-Train” (get it?) were reportedly known for not only their criminal records, but also—like so many in an area seemingly plagued with addiction—their drug use.

It’s unclear exactly why—out of all the shady characters to make an appearance in the investigation—authorities focused in on the accused, but we do know the pursuit began after Dylan Adams’s arrest on unrelated gun charges. Dylan allegedly confessed to police that, when he went to pick up his truck at Zach Adams’s home, he witnessed Bobo alive after her abduction. An affadavit for a search warrant, states:

“[Dylan] observed Holly Lynn Bobo sitting in a green chair in the living room wearing a pink t-shirt, with Jason Wayne Autry standing just a few feet away.”

Dylan also allegedly told police Zach claimed,”he had raped Bobo and videotaped it.”

Zach Adams was arrested in late February 2014 after search warrants were executed on the Adams family’s property, and was officially charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and felony first degree murder in March. A charge for coercion of a witness was added for allegedly trying to convince his brother not to talk about the Bobo case. Dylan Adams was arrested in connection with the Bobo case that September. In July 2017, Autry was granted federal—only federal, not state—immunity in exchange for testifying against Adams. And while Autry wasn’t granted state immunity, the State of Tennessee did agree to discuss reduced charges following his testimony.

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Jason Autry during his nearly 10 hours on the stand  (Image via Keith Cummings, The Jackson Sun)

And, wouldn’t you know it, but in a surprise change of events, the prosecution’s star witness was none other than Jason Autry himself whose testimony monopolized the nine-and-a-half hours of Day Four. Much to my surprise, I found Autry to be well-spoken and somewhat compelling: his testimony was so detailed, cogent, and clinical. but not without inconsistencies.

Jason Autry told the jury he thought he was just going to help with some meth-cooking when he met up with Adams; however, he claimed to instead be told that the defendant actually needed help burying the body in the back of his truck, rolled in a multi-colored blanket. Autry stated he assumed it was the body of someone with a drug debt, but Adams allegedly informed him:

“That’s Holly Bobo.”

Apparently, the victim had been raped by the Adams brothers and Shayne Austin, according to the testimony. And Autry, ever the friendly neighbor, agreed to go down to an interstate underpass in Decatur County with Adams to dispose of the body.  Without emotion, Autry recounted the grisliest part of this story, when he and Adams realizing they “had no tools” to bury a body. This is when, according to Autry, they decided to “gut her” before dropping the body in the deepest part of the river. Autry apparently believed that snapping turtles do the rest of the work by eating the victim’s remains before they could be located.

Autry claimed to then help carry Bobo’s body to the river’s edge, when he then claimed too see Bobo’s foot twitch and a cry of distress muffled by the blanket in which she was still allegedly wrapped. Autry stated he immediately called out to Adams:

“This fucking bitch is still alive.”

Fearing Bobo had heard his name and could implicate him, Autry told Adams something “needed to be done,” before Adams reportedly retrieved a gun and shot Holly Bobo while Autry served as look-out.

The defense’s somewhat scattered case attempted to highlight the inconsistencies in the state’s case and Autry’s story. Adams’s attorney called ex-TBI agent Terry Dicus to testify, who stated he stopped investigating Zach Adams when his alibi checked out.

Dicus was the lead case agent for the TBI’s investigation into Bobo’s disappearance from April 2011 until June 2013. He said he investigated Adams “two or three times” before finally deciding, after a conversation with Adams’ girlfriend, that he was “wasting my time on these idiots.”

But the defense’s attempt to poke holes in the prosecution was apparently not persuasive enough: Zach Adams was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 50 years. When Dylan Adams goes to trial this May, he will not face the death penalty. No word when—or if—Autry will go to trial in connection. In fact, it was reported in November that Autry may once again take the witness stand against the younger Adams brother. Plea negotiations are apparently in the works.

October

Teenage Perpetrator of ‘Slenderman’ Stabbing Found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, Sent to Psychiatric Facility as Part of Plea Deal

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15-year-old Morgan Geyser being led into court [Image via]
On October 5, 2017, 15-year-old Morgan Geyser entered a guilty plea to charges of attempted first-degree murder for—with the help of her friend, 15-year-old Anissa Weier—stabbing Payton Leutner, a classmate, in an attempt to please a fictional Internet character known as Slenderman.

Geyser plead guilty as part of a somewhat-confusing agreement, in which the teenager agreed to plead guilty if Judge Michael Bohren would subsequently find her not guilty—and thus, not criminally responsible—due to “mental disease or defect.” As part of the deal, Geyser will avoid further jail time, and instead will be committed to a mental institution.

The stabbing in question occurred in Waukesha, Wisconsin on May 31, 2014, when then-12-year-olds Geyser and Weier lured Leutner into the woods, where Leutner was stabbed 19 times in a reported attempt to impress the fictional character Slenderman, who they reportedly believed would kill their families if they didn’t kill Leutner. The crime was extensively covered in the incredible HBO documentary, Beware the Slenderman

Beware the Slenderman
12-year-olds Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser reportedly tried to kill sixth-grade classmate Peyton Leutner in an attempt to please an internet boogeyman known as Slenderman [Image via]
After the attack, the Leutner crawled to a road where a cyclist discovered her lying on the sidewalk and called 911. She was rushed to a hospital, at which point she was “one millimeter away from certain death”, according to a criminal complaint. The victim recovered after being hospitalized for six days. Leutner’s mother wrote in December 2017 that her daughter now has 25 scars—19 from the attack and six more from surgeries to repair Leutner’s heart, liver, stomach and pancreas—that “tingle and ache” to this day.  Leutner and her family didn’t object to the attackers’ plea agreements because they would save Leutner the trauma of testifying.

 

Payton Leutner [Image via]
Geyser and Weier were tried separately. In September 2017, a jury found Weier not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, after she plead guilty to a lesser charge of attempted second-degree intentional homicide and agreed not to seek release for three years were she committed instead of imprisoned. Had the jury rejected Weier’s insanity plea, prosecutors would have recommended a 10-year prison sentence.

Geyser will be committed to an institution run by the state’s Department of Health Services. There, doctors will assess Geyser’s mental state, submit those findings to the court and a final sentencing decision will be made at a later date, the according to online court records. Prosecutors are asking Judge Bohren to set the commitment for 40 years, the maximum term Geyser would have faced in prison had she been convicted without an insanity plea.

November

Charles Manson Dies After Over 45 Years Behind Bars

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Charles Manson—the man who, with his eponymous “family,” killed the 60’s—died on November  20, 2017 at the age of 83 while serving nine life sentences for nine 1969 murders in Los Angeles.

Though the court found that Manson never personally committed any of the Tate-LaBianca murders, Manson was given a death sentence in 1971 due to his role in directing the killings as part of a plan to incite a race war. After a prolonged, circus-like trial plagued by bizarre behavior  and constant disruptions, Manson Family members Susan Atkins, Tex Watson, and Patricia Krenwinkel were eventually found guilty of seven counts of murder—Leslie Van Houten found guilty of two—and like Manson, were sentenced to death. But, when a California Superior Court set aside the death penalty in 1972, all capital sentences—including Manson and his family’s—were commuted to life in prison.

From 1978 to 2012, Manson was denied parole 12 times. His parole hearings were, without fail, just as colorful as his family’s 1971 trial. When asked in 1992 to tell the board why he felt he was suitable for parole, Manson said:

INMATE MANSON: – if I’m not paroled, and I don’t get a chance to get back up on top of this dream, you’re going to lose all your money, your farms ain’t going to produce, you’re going to win helter skelter. You’re going to win your reality. You’re going to get everything that you want right from the pages of that court. That’s going to be your reality and you’re coming. You’re growing up and you’re going to be there, just like you want him to be there, that’s where he’s coming because that’s what you’re making for yourselves.

In a somewhat shocking turn of events, Manson got engaged to 26-year-old Afton Elaine ‘Star’ Burton on November 17, 2014, while still in prison. Burton had been visiting Manson in prison for at least nine years, and maintained several websites that claimed his innocence.

Charles Manson and friends
Star Burton and Charles Manson [Image via]
While Manson got a marriage license on November 7, they would never marry: the marriage license expired in February 2015 without a ceremony taking place. It was alleged the nuptials were called off upon the discovery that Burton’s end goal was to gain ownership of Manson’s corpse to use as a tourist attraction after his death. Burton, however, said on her website that they weren’t married because Manson fell ill.

The corpse-show controversy foreshadows the present day issue that no one–including the coroner—is quite sure to whom Charles Manson’s remains belong. Those staking claims to Manson’s body include a pen pal, a Florida Man claiming to be Manson’s grandson, a man from Illinois who runs a website dedicated to Manson, and a man who claims to be Manson’s son.

December

Serial Killer Todd Kohlhepp Claims to Have Higher Body Count

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On December 9, 2017, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported receiving an eight-page letter from convicted serial killer Todd Kohlhepp, in which he claimed to have more victims yet to be discovered.

In the letter dated November 28, Kohlhepp—who was recently moved to protective custody—wrote:

“Yes there is more than seven. I tried to tell investigators and I did tell FBI, but it was blown off. It’s not an addition problem, it’s an multiplication problem. Leaves the state and leaves the country. Thank you private pilot’s license…

“…At this point, I really don’t see reason to give numbers or locations.”

On November 3, 2016, the 45-year-old realtor was arrested when law enforcement discovered Kala Brown chained to a metal storage container’s interior wall on his Spartanburg County property.

Three months earlier, Brown and her boyfriend, Charles David Carver, went missing from Spartanburg County. Investigators tracked the missing woman down by tracing the couple’s last known cellphone signals to Kohlhepp’s property at 213 Windsong Way, where they heard banging noises coming from inside the container.

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Kala Brown and Charlie Carver

In a gut-wrenching video of the rescue later released by law enforcement, Brown—still chained by the neck to the metal container—told authorities with incredible clarity that she had witnessed her captor shoot Carver:

“Todd Kohlhepp shot Charlie Carver three times in the chest, wrapped him in a blue tarp, put him in the bucket of the tractor, locked me down here. I’ve never seen him again. He says he’s dead and buried. He says there are several bodies dead and buried out here.”

Carver remains were discovered in a shallow grave nearby, as was the 2002 Pontiac in which the couple was last seen.  Spartanburg investigators learned that the pair were lured to Kohlhepp’s home by promises of a job.

Police soon discovered the bodies of John and Meagan Coxie—a local married couple missing since December 2015–on the property.  Spartanburg coroner Rusty Clavenger said that he believed the victims had been buried around eleven months earlier, shortly after they disappeared.

But perhaps more surprisingly, Kohlhepp quickly admitted to killing four more at a Chesnee mototcycle dealer in 2003. Kohlhepp’s confession resolved a cold case known locally (and on the internet) as the “Superbike Murders.

(From Left to Right) Beverly Guy, Chris Sherbert, Brian Lucas, and Scott Ponder

In a videotaped confession days after his arrest, Kohlhepp recounted the day he shot Superbike Motorsports owner, Scott Ponder; Ponder’s mother and part-time employee, Beverly Guy; service manager and mechanic Brian Lucas; and mechanic’s assistant Chris Sherbert.

In his letter, Kohlhepp said that it had been three years since he “acted out” before the murders of the Coxies.

Unarmed Kansas Man Shot by Police After “Swatting” Prank

On the night of December 28, 2017, 28-year old Andrew Finch was shot and killed by police officers after Tyler Barriss allegedly falsely reported that a hostage situation was happening at the address. Finch was unarmed.

The false report and Finch’s death brought the problem of “SWATting” into mainstream view. Swatting, according to cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs is a hoax, “wherein the perpetrator falsely reports a dangerous situation at an address with the goal of prompting authorities to respond to that address with deadly force.”

According to Krebs—who interviewed the self-professed swatter prior to his arrest—this swatting incident appears to have stemmed from a Twitter dispute that culminated in Barriss—going by the twitter handle @SWauTistic— threatening to swat another user who goes by the nickname “7aLeNT“. @7aLeNT then tweeted out a dare to be swatted alongside an address in Wichita, Kansas that, as it would turn out, didn’t belong to him. In fact, @7aLeNT had unknowingly tweeted the address of Andrew Finch, who was not involved in the dispute and did not know either user.

Swautistic then responded by falsely reporting a domestic dispute at the Kansas address 7aLeNT posted. He told authorities one person was murdered and several relatives were being held hostage. In an account published in theWichita Eagle, Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston described what happened next:

Officers went to the 1000 block of McCormick, preparing for a hostage situation and they “got into position,” [Livingston] said.

“A male came to the front door,” Livingston said. “As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon.”

Livingston didn’t say if the man, who was 28, had a weapon when he came to the door, or what caused the officer to shoot the man. Police don’t think the man fired at officers, but the policincident is still under investigation, he said. The man, who has not been identified by police, died at a local hospital.

Swautistic was soon tweeting that he could see on television that police had fallen for his swatting, but when it became apparent someone was killed as a result, Swautistic tweeted the following:

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Image via Krebs on Security

According to Krebs, “Swautistic” is—as his twitter handle may obliquely imply—a serial swatter. He claimed ownership of hoaxes including a false bomb threat at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that disrupted a contentious public meeting about net neutrality, a hoax bomb threat that forced the evacuation of the Dallas Convention Center, and—you guessed it—another bomb threat at a high school in Panama City, Florida.

The day after the swatting, police released the 911 call and body cam footage and stated they were working to identify the 911 caller. On the 30th, Swautistic’s identity was revealed when police arrested 25-year-old Tyler Barriss in South Los Angeles.

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