The summer months of 1951 brought creeping terror to Somerset, as an unseen killer stalked children, claiming three young lives within a month.
John Thomas Straffen was born in Borden, Hampshire, but spent his early years in India, as his father was in the armed forces.
From 1938, when the family returned to England to live in Bath, Straffen was in virtually constant trouble with the authorities and was sent to special schools.
At age 10 he was sent to a school for backward children, and on July 27 1947, a 13-year-old girl reported to the police that a boy called John had put his hand over her mouth and asked: “What would you do if I killed you? I have done it before.”
Six weeks later, Straffen was found to have strangled five chickens belonging to the father of a girl he’d quarrelled with.
When arrested, he cheerfully confessed to burglary and many other
Ron Rash’s novel ‘The Risen’ tells complex tale of two North Carolina brothers haunted by events in the summer of 1969.
By Ben Steelman StarNews Staff
“Appalachian Noir” is a term many apply to the dark fictions of Western North Carolina writer Ron Rash — novels and stories of a hill country dotted with meth labs, addicts and the occasional serial killer. The official world is often corrupt, yet a few individuals, like those detectives in 1940s movies, battle for justice and answers.
At the same time, Rash has a Faulknerian sense of history — the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even passed — and his fiction often has the feel of a dark, Grimm fairy tale. Consider “Serena,” for instance (made into a movie with Jennifer Lawrence), which features one of the wildest Wicked Queens of history.
All of this comes to the fore in “The Risen,” Rash’s
Swedish thriller writer Helene Tursten adds “Who Watcheth” to her series of well-received tales starring police detective Irene Huss in the coastal city of Göteborg.
The book opens with the discovery of a middle-aged woman’s naked corpse in a cemetery. Soon, other middle-aged women die in similar fashion. Detective Huss and her colleagues find that all the victims have strayed sexually — and that before they die, their killer has left them a flower and a Biblical message.
American readers will have to cope with unfamiliar Swedish names for places and people; for example, Huss’ boss is named Efva Thylqvist. But Tursten gives those readers a suspenseful story that will keep them in their chairs for a couple of winter evenings.
Female readers will sigh with envy over Huss’ husband, a chef named Krister. He spares Huss the chore of cooking— and to him, a male-made meal goes way beyond hot dogs and
When the biggest story in years broke this month in the unsolved Long Island Serial Killer case, few noticed that an online community of crime buffs and two filmmakers sparked the revelation.
The news went national when local investigators reported to a federal database that a DNA match meant partial skeletal remains found on Ocean Parkway in 2011 belonged to an unidentified woman whose torso was discovered in Rockville Centre in 1997, which in turn confirmed the victim—dubbed “Peaches” because of her fruit tattoo—was the mother of the lone child recovered amid the carnage uncovered in the Gilgo Beach murders probe. It was widely reported to be the most significant update in the investigation since the last bodies were found. Although most reports omitted it, the story behind how this forensic clue was unearthed raises as many questions about the case as the news itself.
“Unfortunately, we’re playing catch up,” Joseph Giacalone,
Editor’s Note: This story is the final part of the News Journal’s 2016 year in review.
ASHLAND – Shock and sadness swept Ashland and Richland counties in September, when a 911 call reporting an abduction led police to a suspected serial killer.
Authorities say Shawn Grate admitted to murdering five women and kidnapping a sixth. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and is scheduled for a competency hearing Jan. 6 in Ashland County Common Pleas Court.
His capture and alleged crimes were voted the No.1 story of 2016 by the News Journal’s newsroom staff.
It was six years ago, when a Suffolk County police officer and his dog came across the remains of 24-year-old Melissa Barthelemy. Over the next several days, police discovered the bodies of three other young women, all wrapped in burlap and placed within about 500 feet of one another, buried in the marsh on Gilgo Beach in Long Island, New York. The remains were later identified as Amber Costello, Megan Waterman and Maureen Brainard-Barnes. All four women had worked as online escorts and had been missing for months or years.
On that December day in 2010, police had been searching for 24-year-old Craigslist escort Shannan Gilbert, who was last seen fleeing the home of a client she met on Craigslist in nearby Oak Beach on May 1, 2010.
Instead, what police discovered was a grisly graveyard. Over the next four months, six more
The Ohio Supreme Court says it won’t reconsider the death penalty appeal of a Cleveland man convicted of killing 11 women and hiding the remains in and around his home.
At issue in Friday’s ruling was the court’s decision earlier this month upholding the 2011 conviction and death sentence of Anthony Sowell (SOH’-wehl).
Defense attorney Jeffrey Gamso had asked the court to reconsider its Dec. 8 ruling based on what he called the trial judge’s improper closing of a pre-trial hearing. The hearing involved the admissibility of Sowell’s videotaped police interrogation of more than 11 hours.
The court ruled 5-2 Friday to reject the defense request.
The judge ultimately allowed the use of the video, and most of it was played during Sowell’s trial.
A mitigating factor is a way of explaining a defendant’s actions to help guide a jury away from a death sentence. Jurors are asked to consider mitigating factors on a verdict slip. They also consider aggravating factors that argue for the death penalty.
Federal prosecutors have argued throughout the trial that defense attorneys have gone too far in proposing 191 mitigating factors, unfairly tilting the deliberation process in the defense’s favor. The 191 mitigating factors proposed by the defense in a court filing earlier this