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Hard Place Gets Harder

Taylor and Hall in Goblin Valley (YouTube)

A few days ago, I wrote about two Boy Scout leaders who recently took a trip to Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park—known for its large boulders perched on pedestals created after millions of years of dust and erosion—and then pushed one of the “goblins” off its base (“A Rock and a Hard Place”).

While Glenn Taylor leaned into the boulder and shoved it to the ground, his accomplice David Hall filmed the incident and even provided musical accompaniment by singing an a capella version of “Wiggle It, Just a Little Bit.” The video was later posted online and went viral, bringing national attention to an act that could end with Taylor and Hall in jail.

Defacing anything in a state park is a serious offense, so both of these jackasses’ actions could result in serious consequences… even more so given a recent development with regard to Taylor, the man seen shoving the boulder.

Apparently, Taylor filed a personal injury lawsuit in September in an effort to collect disability for what he called “serious, permanent and debilitating injuries.” They were supposedly caused by an automobile accident more than four years ago, but judging from the viral video, these injuries seem far less serious than the misguided scout leader originally claimed. And the defendant in his personal injury case—Alan MacDonald—isn’t buying it.

“Someone with a bad back who’s disabled, who can’t enjoy life, to me, doesn’t step up and push a rock that big off the base.”

I couldn’t agree more. And Taylor reminds me of those sketchy people who file a disability claim, deck themselves out with all sorts of medical props—like neck braces and crutches—act as if the pain they’re experiencing is unbearable, and then get photographed dancing at a night club or lifting something heavy. If they were smart enough to avoid the so-called spotlight, then their attempts at fraud may be successful. Unfortunately, though, their inability to “lay low” comes back to haunt them and instead of receiving disability funds, they land themselves in court and sometimes behind bars—which is exactly where Taylor should be, if you ask me.

Travis Alexander with his future killer, Jodi Arias (MySpace/Jodi Arias)

Travis Alexander with his future killer, Jodi Arias (MySpace/Jodi Arias)

As a side note, another interesting piece of information came out about David Hall, Taylor’s musical partner in the whole goblin-toppling fiasco. As it turns out, Hall was best friends with Travis Alexander—the man killed by Jodi Arias, who was convicted of first-degree murder last May—and even appeared on numerous newscasts to share his opinions about the media frenzy of Arias’ trial.

Small world, huh?

Arias Addresses Jury

Jodi addresses the jury, complete with crocodile tears (courtesy of HLN-TV)

As I am writing this, Jodi Arias is standing before the same jury that convicted her of murdering her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008, tugging at their heart-strings and trying her best to convince them not to sentence her to death.

Of course, this comes roughly a week after Arias told reporters that she preferred death, which she viewed as the ultimate freedom. Personally, I (and many others) felt this proclamation was little more than reverse psychology designed to influence the jury to spare her life so she could “suffer the consequences” of her crimes behind bars.

And based on what Arias has been telling jurors today, it appears that we were right. She does want to live, and she has plenty of reasons why, at least in her mind. Jodi also seems to regret her actions and the pain she’s caused to so many. I don’t buy it, but I suppose the jury might.

Here are a few highlights and notable quotations from the convicted murderer:

  • Arias apologized to Alexander’s siblings for causing them so much pain, which she said she never intended.
  • She referenced suicide: “Every time that I’ve had the thought or desire to commit suicide, there’s one element that has always—almost always—caused me to waiver. They’re sitting right over there. They’re my family.”
  • Arias mentioned how her time in prison could be used for something positive and beneficial to society: “If I get permission, I’d like to implement a recycling program… each week huge loads of waste are hauled off to landfills. A substantial proportion of that could be kept out of landfills and recycled instead. It may even create new jobs for the people there. This is one small thing that could have a positive and far-reaching impact on the community and planet. I’d like to start a book club or reading group. Something that brings people together in a positive and constructive way so that we can share and recommend other good books and stimulate discussions of a higher nature.”
  • Some family pictures were shared with the jury, obviously in an attempt to humanize Arias more. Having people view you as something besides a heartless murderer is always a good idea, I think.
  • On the fact that she will never be a mother: “Because of my own terrible choices I have to lay that dream to rest.”
  • At one point, Arias claimed that she never knew herself to be capable of such violence. She also apologized for “throwing mud on Travis’ name.” I think that’s the least of her concerns since a muddied name is far better than a bloody corpse, don’t you?

Could this be Arias’ last bed? (courtesy of Berkeley Law)

Aside from a few other comments here and there, this is pretty much the gist of Arias’ presentation. After closing arguments and a rebuttal from Kirk Nurmi, Arias’ defense attorney, it will be up to the jury to determine her fate. Either Arias will receive the death penalty—which will undoubtedly be followed by years of appeals—life in prison without parole or life with the eligibility for parole after 25 years.

Either way, Jodi Arias is going away for a long time… perhaps even forever. And nothing she said today convinced me that she deserves anything less than death for what she did. I only hope the jury agrees.

More to come!

The Sexiest “Lady” Killers

Watch your backs, ladies and gentlemen! Beauty can be deadly! (courtesy of Bikini Knife Fight/Facebook)

The first time I saw Jodi Arias she was in the courtroom and on trial for murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Her hair was brown, her expression was blank and honestly, she seemed kind of mousy. Nevertheless—and due to the dramatic nature of this high-profile case—I started writing about the trial and searching for pictures of Arias to include with each blog post.

That’s when it suddenly occurred to me: Jodi Arias was once pretty cute. That may sound sexist and superficial, but she’s a bloodthirsty, vicious, crazy-as-hell, cold-hearted killer. Sue me.

I started thinking about how shocked people were to see a beautiful young woman like Arias convicted of something so evil and heartless. No one saw it coming—least of all Travis—and that is due in large part to the perception of beauty in American society.

Sorry if it sounds like I’m writing a journal article or something. Bear with me.

In America, we love and revere the beautiful people. Whether they are celebrities, sports heroes, politicians, band members, physicians… whatever… the prettier they are, the more we embrace them. And the more likely we are to believe that they can do no harm.

Think again.

Jodi Arias—even in her mousy, vulnerable and nearly-condemned-to-death state—is proof that sometimes, the beautiful package holds something dark and disturbed within. And I admit. I’m a sucker for a beautiful woman, as I suspect most heterosexual men are. But just because a woman is beautiful, sexy or appealing doesn’t mean she isn’t bat-shit crazy and capable of hacking you to pieces while you sleep.

The cautionary tales involving luscious bombshells and drop-dead gorgeous ladies are many, but here are some of the more notable ones. They all involve “The Big M”—murder—in one form or another. Some were convicted while others escaped imprisonment despite being guilty as hell. In every case, though, it’s the ladies that prove when it comes to homicide, nobody does it better than the femme fatales. 

Jodi Might Die

An “especially cruel” Arias in court (courtesy of Charlie Leight/Gannett)

Yesterday, the jury in the first-degree murder case of Jodi Arias—the 32-year-old woman convicted of brutally murdering her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008—decided that she was “especially cruel” when she shot, stabbed and almost decapitated the man she supposedly loved.

This not only moves the case into the sentencing phase, but also means the death penalty could be a real possibility for the woman who last week claimed she didn’t want to live anyway.

“I said years ago that I’d rather get death than life,” Arias told KSAZ-TV of Phoenix. “And that is still true today. I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I’d rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it.”

Give me a break.

As I mentioned in an earlier post (“Arias and Castro: The Latest Buzz“), Arias’ claim seemed to be little more than some pathetic attempt at reverse psychology. Personally, I believe she made this claim to influence the jury to keep her imprisoned for life, rather than to kill her. Since Arias may once again be permitted to address the jury—potentially to plead for her life before they determine her sentence—I guess we’ll have to wait and see if her story remains consistent.

Lord knows, that wasn’t the case during her criminal trial, when Arias’ story changed more than Lady Gaga changing outfits between songs.

Today’s jury decision regarding Arias’ cruelty isn’t the final nail in her coffin, so to speak, but it certainly could be. And I must confess that I’m anxious to hear which way they go, not because I want Arias to live—quite the opposite, actually—but because once they do, all this media coverage will start to taper off.

Yes, Arias’ case makes blogging easy since there are no shortage of twists, turns, speculation and drama, but even I am growing weary. It’s time for us all to move on, so I hope the jury wraps this up soon and does what many of us hope they do: give Arias the death penalty and avenge Travis Alexander.

No one deserves to die the way he did.

Arias and Castro: The Latest Buzz

Arias tries desperately to save her own life (courtesy of the Associated Press)

Even though the news coming from Arizona and Cleveland has been largely negative—which should be expected any time murder, kidnapping and sexual assault are involved—the upside is that in terms of blogging, there is never a lack of interesting material upon which to write.

And today is no different.

Rather than writing several different blog posts about Jodi Arias—the Arizona woman recently convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander—and Ariel Castro—the Ohio man recently arrested for kidnapping three young women, holding them captive, beating them and raping them repeatedly—I thought it might be more prudent to cover all the latest developments in one article.

Namely this one.

For starters, I take you to Arizona and the most recent twist in the case of Jodi Arias. Yesterday, Arias was convicted of first-degree murder and could eventually be put to death for her crime. Life in prison is still an option, though.

In what can best be described as reverse psychology—albeit a misguided attempt at it—Arias issued the following statement just after a jury convicted her of killing Alexander: “I said years ago that I’d rather get death than life, and that still is true today. I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I’d rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it.”

Although her attempt to influence sentencing seemed very obvious to many—including myself—I must say it was the smartest move Arias could make at this point. After all, if a judge thinks a death sentence would be doing her a favor, then the obvious choice would be to sentence her to life in prison… to force her to live with the consequences of her deadly actions.

Castro hanging his head in shame (courtesy of Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

Personally, though, I still believe Arias deserves to pay for her crime with her life. I’m not religious, obviously, but “an eye for an eye” seems like little more than fairness in action. If you take an innocent life, then you should be prepared to offer up your own as compensation. Granted, this won’t bring Alexander back—and many would argue that losing one life is enough without throwing another into the mix—but again, fair is fair.

Was it fair that Travis got shot and stabbed to death in the shower on that fateful day five years ago? Absolutely not, so why should Arias get anything less than death?

I guess we’ll all find out soon enough. Arias’ sentencing hearing is underway and, with any luck, this decision will come much faster than her conviction did. Stay tuned as I’m sure more information will follow.

Now we travel to Cleveland, Ohio and the case of Ariel Castro, the man charged with kidnapping, imprisoning, raping, beating and impregnating three young women for nine years or more.

In the interest of time—and to make this post less daunting for readers like you—here is a list of some of the latest developments in this shocking case:

  • Castro has been charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and rape. His bond has been set at $8 million—$2 million for each of the girls he held in captivity.
  • Investigators found a suicide note that Castro wrote in 2004 which references some kind of past abuse by a family member. This doesn’t excuse him from his crimes, of course, but he was placed on suicide watch at the Cleveland city jail and may still be on it after being transferred to the Cuyahoga County detention center.
  • One of Castro’s victims—Michelle Knight—told police that he impregnated her as many as five times while holding her prisoner. On each occasion, Castro forced her to abort the fetus, sometimes starving her or punching her in the stomach until she finally miscarried.
  • Castro kept the girls chained up in the basement—usually in separate rooms—but later allowed them to live on the second floor of his home. Whenever the mood struck him, he would visit one of them to satisfy his sexual needs and deviant behavior.
  • When Amanda Berry got pregnant, Castro apparently had a change of heart and asked Knight to assist in the delivery, which happened in a tub or plastic pool. And when the newborn stopped breathing, Castro told Knight he would kill her if the child did not survive. Thankfully, she did and is now six years old—she escaped from Castro’s home with her mother Amanda on Monday night.
  • To see whether or not the girls would attempt to escape while he was gone, Castro would often “test them” by leaving for a few minutes and then returning suddenly to see if they tried anything. If they did, then they would be disciplined, which I can only imagine involved rape, assault and other torturous methods.
  • A few of the girls actually saw television news casts about their disappearances and even vigils held in their honor. In fact, a number of people remember Castro attending some of the vigils himself!
  • All three women are in good condition. Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus are back with their families, while Michelle Knight remains hospitalized but could be released soon.
  • A lot of people are curious how Castro could have abducted young girls on a busy street like Lorain Avenue in broad daylight. In Knight’s case, Castro somehow lured her into his vehicle and instead of taking her home, delivered her to his “prison” on Seymour Avenue. Amanda Berry was returning home from a shift at Burger King when Castro pulled up beside her, claimed to be the father of one of her co-workers and offered her a ride home. She obviously never made it and ended up on Seymour Avenue with Knight. DeJesus would join them a year later.
  • Law enforcement officials searched Castro’s home—which was described as being in “disarray”—and confiscated more than 200 items that might help them determine what really happened there.
  • The FBI also searched a boarded-up home several doors down from Castro since they received some information connecting it to the case.

Whew! I told you a list would work better, especially since the information from Cleveland seems to be snowballing with each passing minute. Hell, by the time you read this post things could be dramatically different, so I strongly suggest you stay tuned to your favorite news source to stay abreast of the latest in both of these disturbing and very interesting cases.

I know that I will!

Arias Verdict is In!

Is she a killer or a victim? We’ll know soon (courtesy of MySpace)

BREAKING NEWS!

The jury in the murder trial of Jodi Arias—the Arizona woman accused of slaughtering and nearly beheading her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander five years ago—finally reached a verdict earlier today.

It is expected to be announced at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time this afternoon, which is basically a half hour after the posting of this update.

Be sure to tune in so you can learn the fate of this unusual—and potentially psychotic—woman. Either she’s a victim of abuse who acted in self-defense or a cold-blooded killer. We’ll just have to wait and see which the jury believes she is.

It’s worth noting that before taking lunch today, jurors revealed they had reached a verdict. Most jurors were smiling and sighing in relief—having survived such a long, grueling and high-exposure case–but at least one was seen wiping tears from her eyes.

Granted, she could be upset because Arias is going free and she feels badly for Travis Alexander and his surviving family members. Personally, though, I believe the opposite to be true: Arias will be found guilty and, once convicted, could face the death penalty or life in prison.

My Nostradamus hat is on, so let’s see how well it works. Stay tuned, peeps!

UPDATE: Okay. Maybe it didn’t take a psychic or prognosticator to figure out what the jury in the Jody Arias trial would do, but I still gave myself a little pat on the back when I heard she was GUILTY OF FIRST-DEGREE MURDER. Justice was served, brothers and sisters! Yes!

Of course, Jodi has yet to be sentenced. That circus is scheduled to begin tomorrow. And even if she is condemned to death, years of appeals will undoubtedly follow. For now, though, Travis’ family can breathe a little easier in the knowledge that the person responsible for his death will either pay with her own life or spend the rest of her days in a tiny, claustrophobic jail cell.

Unless Jodi stages some kind of daring prison break, that is. And given all the crazy shit that’s gone down so far, I certainly wouldn’t put it past her.

Keeping Stories Straight

Arias in court earlier this week (courtesy of Matt York/AP)

At the top of most newscasts in Arizona is the ongoing trial of Jodi Arias, a 32-year-old woman accused of murdering her lover, 30-year-old Travis Alexander.

Alexander’s body was discovered in his shower in June 2008, five days after he was killed. He had been shot in the head, stabbed more than 25 times and had his throat slit.

At first, Arias claimed that intruders were responsible for the murder. Her story changed once forensic evidence placed her at the scene and a short time later, she finally confessed to the murder.

In terms of motive, Arias claimed that Alexander was abusive and that she only killed him in self-defense. He supposedly freaked out when she dropped his camera while photographing him in the shower.

This is the same camera in which authorities later discovered a number of explicit sex photos of the couple. These were eventually used to pin the murder on Arias.

In her description of their relationship, Arias claimed that Alexander abused her and made her feel “like a prostitute.” Unfortunately, this contradicts a number of early statements she made to friends and even reporters.

In other words, Arias keeps flip-flopping on her story so much that by now, almost everyone believes she murdered Alexander in a jealous rage.

The victim, Travis Alexander (courtesy of ABC News)

One thing that really poked holes in Arias’ story was a sex tape that prosecutors discovered. In it, she mentioned how Alexander made her feel “like a goddess” rather than a prostitute, as she originally claimed. They even presented text message exchanges between Arias and Alexander that contradicted her original claim that their relationship was an abusive one.

Maybe it’s me, but I feel like a shot in the head, 27 stab wounds and a slit throat would be overkill even for someone defending themselves against an abusive lover. The guy was in the shower at the time, so I can only assume he was also naked and unarmed. Even if he was abusive, a gunshot to the head would be enough to end his life and, subsequently, the abuse.

Of course, someone who was abused may also turn to a knife to unleash the fear and frustration they suffered at their abuser‘s hand, so who knows what really happened.

The fortunate thing is that based on her changing stories and obvious lies, Arias is removing all doubt that she is the murderer in question. Unless she can prove this abuse really occurred, which will be tough now that her alleged abuser is dead, it’s likely Arias will face serious consequences. We’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose.

But for Arias, it’s not looking good.

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