Archive for August, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
To say that I know how to fish would be a lie. Yea, fishermen lie all the time. Maybe I’d fit right in. What I like to do is look at fish swimming among the corals and swaying sea fans. But, to catch them on a hook is a challenge for me. The group wanted to go fishing today. With boat loaded with rods and reels, hooks, lures, cooler stocked with ice sushi sauce, and stuff I have no clue to their purpose, out Silver Point inlet we (Walter, Carol, Kitty, and myself) went to troll along the drop-off between Xanadu and Peterson Cay.
My job was to sit on the hard deck and watch the poles, and when one started to zing, I was to yell out “fish on the line”. Not too hard a job. But I had several scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, coffee for breakfast and the seas being flat and the sun warm, and me needing to tan-up like a Bahamian, I dozed from time to time.
The line did “zing”, “fish on the line” I shouted. Kitty and Carol jumped off their white cushion seat, Walter throttled down the boat and shoved the gears into neutral. The pole bent downward and the line spun from the spool. Kitty started to reel in the fish. It acted like a big one. At least 25 pounds. I cheered her on.
Carol reeled in the other lines. Didn’t want any entanglements while Kitty fought with the monster. She’d pull the pole to her, then relax as she cranked the line in. Several times she repeated this task. The rod straining. I pulled on my gloves and booties, ready to haul this 50 pounder on board.
Kitty’s arms started to tire. Walter stood beside her, ready to assist. I envisioned fish frying in a big black skillet. The line would spin out. Kitty crank it back. Her against the leviathan. This guy had to be as big as our 34foot vessel and weigh just as much.
Five minutes into the fight, Kitty had brought the watery Kraken close to the stern of the boat. With heart pounding, I peeked over the side expecting to see flesh eating teeth or menacing tentacles. Would we be able to get this fish into the boat? To the surface he came.
Not the trophy winner I saw in my mind. A five foot barracuda. We unhooked him and let him return to the reef.
We continued to fish. Five and a half fish we caught. All barracudas. The half fish? A Caribbean reef shark took a bite out of him. So what to do? We wanted fish for dinner.
Off to the fish market.
The Bahamian fishermen fish all night, then the next day or two, they sell their catch at the local roadside market. The market is really an abandoned parking lot with weeds growing through the cracks in the asphalt. You walk from vendor to vendor asking about the species of fish they have in their coolers.
We settled on a hog snapper. The fisherman ask how you’d like it, with or without the head, tail too, both sides or just one? Then he grabs his machete and goes to work. After seeing him work that long bladed knife, I wouldn’t want to upset him.
One Bahamian sold land crabs that you could boil. We passed, didn’t have a pot big enough. Plus, that creature looked like he’d fight you sensing his future.
Still we needed something to go with the fish.
Conch, as in conch fritters. I think every meal in the Bahamas should start with conch.
We didn’t catch that big tuna we were hoping for, but the fish dinner that Kitty and Carol cooked that night was one of the best I’d ever had.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Peterson Cay, a place away from the cosmopolitan areas of Grand Bahama Island, a place of white sandy beaches, blue-green water, rock breaking surf, bird rookery, and a place that I’ve always wanted to visit.
As we circled the long sandbar point on M/V Irish Luck, I could smell the BBQ coming from the island. A party boat of snorkelers had arrived before us. We motored our boat into the lee of the island, anchored, and donned our gear. Kitty, Walter, and Carol said we were going to snorkel a bit before having lunch. The smell of BBQ proved to be too strong. I swam straight to the wide, foot-printed beach.
The six-foot Bahamian cook was a friendly man. I eyed the chicken grilling over the charcoals. Oh, did it smell good, which I told the cook and his bare chested assistant. For the compliment, I was reward with a nice piece of chicken. So good. I sat on the sun bathing beach, my feet in the warm blue water, and enjoyed the food and the view, pausing every few bites to lick the deep red, tangy sauce off my fingers.
That’s when I noticed, Walter sure likes a lot of flags on his boat. We had the Stars and Stripes, the yellow Bahamian courtesy flag, which are standard. Plus the two flags for snorkeling, the red and white-striped Diver Down and blue and white Alpha flags. That was all fine. All were waving and flapping in the breeze. Then, there it was, a fifth flag, tied to the pulpit, a deep blue with gold five-pointed stars, Walter’s family flag. It seemed a bit much. But since he owns the boat, he can fly any flag he wants. I debated whether to get more chicken or not.
I was about to go back and get another piece of that really good tasting chicken, when Kitty swam up to me and said “no”. Not only “no”, but I shouldn’t have had the first piece. For some reason she thinks it’s wrong to walk up to a stranger and invite yourself to lunch. I think of it as dining with new friends. The second piece would have to wait until Kitty could no longer see me.
Peterson Cay is two to three acres in size with a wide sandy beach on the lee side and rocks on the ocean side. It lays about two hundred yards from shore, so most people arrive by boat instead of swimming. Canoers and kayakers like to make it as a day trip. The water ranges from knee deep to just over my head on the outside of the reef. The area ocean side and to the west is the reef, east of the island is sandy shallows, and northwest of the island are the grass flats, the area I wanted to explore.
Most snorkelers don’t like grass flats, instead they navigate to the reef. True, that is where most of the fish hide out. The grass flats are usually in calmer water and the life is concentrated into micro sites. Not many hiding places in the grass, unless you’re a pipefish or a seahorse. So any obstruction, like a coral head, or remains of a boat, and life flocks to it. Kitty counted 33 species of fish, plus almost all of the grasses: turtle grass, eel grass, plus shaving brush, arrowhead crabs, anemones, and the pink stripped flamingo tongue snails.
Plus, being in five feet of water, makes it easy to do surface dives and lay on the bottom, watching life. That piece of chicken I had earlier did give me some extra buoyancy. Or it might be all the fine meals Kitty has cooked in the last few years. Whichever it is, I had to curl my legs over my back to keep me on the bottom. Being in the water seems like you have entered some space vortex. The time passes quickly. I just enter the water and the next thing I know, the sun is getting ready to set. That’s life in the ocean.
Today we have two guest bloggers. I’m pleased to introduce you to Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman, who are both private investigators as well as writers like myself. They have just published a new book, How To Write A Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths.
Motivations for Murder
By Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman
Highlands Investigations & Legal Services, Inc.
We’re honored to be guests at Handcuffed to the Ocean, which is about “crime, mysteries and adventures on the high seas.” As we live in Colorado, we don’t have any adventures on the high seas to share, but we’ve experienced our share of crime and mysteries.
We also share a commonality with Steven Brown in that all three of us are private investigators as well as writers. Therefore, focusing on crime and mysteries, we thought the mystery writer fans of Steven’s blog might be interested in several real-world examples of motivations for murder. Also, because writers sometimes use organized crime as a tool for creating compelling plots, characters and conflicts, our case examples focus on organized crime and how it employs power plays in murder.
A quick disclaimer: Our knowledge of any organized criminal enterprise is limited to our own research, work and individuals we’ve known. We don’t claim expertise or authority beyond this.
Motivations for Murder: Revenge, Concealment and Intimidation
In our three case examples, we’ll focus on how organized crime employed violence for revenge, concealment and intimidation. Each case highlights a real-life power play of murder, the lessons we learned as PIs, and one or two examples of that power play in fiction.
Case 1: Revenge as Motivation for Crime
Power Play in Murder: Attempted murder as an act of revenge
Overview of Case: Gang-boyfriend discovers his gang-girlfriend (and mother of his child) with another guy (who’s a member of a rival gang). Boyfriend attempts to kill rival gang member with a screwdriver in front of girlfriend…victim manages to walk out onto the porch (with a screwdriver stuck into his head) and is seen by one neighbor who contacts police. No one wanted to testify against the tool wielding, jealous boyfriend.
PI Lessons Learned: Omerta: the code of silence is pervasive throughout the world of organized crime. This code is part of a gang’s honor code, which also includes vows to respect the organization’s rules, hierarchy, rules of conduct and punishments for breaking any code.
We learned how difficult/impossible it is dealing with the code of silence. In this attempted murder, everyone who saw firsthand what happened were all members of a gang and none of them, despite the horror of what had occurred, would talk.
The victim’s injuries prevented him from identifying who stabbed him.
Because of omerta, all we had was one witness, a middle-aged woman who rarely left her apartment. Unfortunately, she moved before we came into the case. We spent days, weeks trying to track her down. The day we finally located her residence, we learned from a neighbor that the witness had apparently died of natural causes and that her funeral had been the day prior.
The code of silence effectively numbed any efforts to prosecute this case. Unless the government protects people who are willing to testify, the age-old device of enforced silence within a criminal organization will prevail.
Fiction Power Plays Using Revenge: Romeo and Juliet, Sonny’s death drives revenge in The Godfather.
Case 2: Concealment as Motivation for Crime
Power Play in Murder: Concealment to protect against conviction
Overview of Case: This involved a powerful family who had ties to organized crime. The eldest son was charged with numerous sexual assaults related to his nightclub ownership. While awaiting trial on those charges, he was accused of soliciting another inmate to murder the women who were to testify against him. After receiving partial payment for these hits, the inmate called his attorney, a public defender, and agreed to testify against the son.
PI Lessons Learned: When someone is looking at double-digit to triple-digit year sentences, desperation can defeat reason and the best efforts of counsel and investigators.
Fiction Power Plays Using Concealment: In the series The Sopranos, Adriana’s murder (concealment of Mafia secrets from FBI); in the series The Wire, a drug dealer seen talking to the cops was killed by his own people.
Case 3: Intimidation as Motivation for Crime
Power Play in Murder: Intimidation as turf ownership
Overview of Case: Local bar patron and good citizen goes to his favorite neighborhood establishment for a Saturday night beer. While there, he encounters drunken gang members who are eager to establish their domination of this establishment by flashing signs to show their control (marking their territory). After patron angrily tells gang members to stop flashing signs, they drag him outside the bar onto the sidewalk (on a main street) and beat him to death with bar stools. A vehicle with two witnesses pulls over, yells at gang members to stop. A gang member approaches the vehicle and punches out one of the witnesses (passenger), warning the driver to mind her business. The driver drives away and calls 911.
PI Lessons Learned: We learned that the victim’s perceived disrespect was grounds in the gang members’ minds to not only intimidate, but to kill.
Weeks after the murder, we photographed new tagging on the outside bar walls by the same gang, reaffirming that they “owned” this highly disputed city corner. As part of our ongoing training, we later attended a workshop on gangs and learned more about tattoos, tagging, clothing and vehicle ownership, and how these are cultural symbols that affirm gang membership as well as their specific beliefs.
In Fiction, Power Play Using Intimidation: The horse’s head in The Godfather.
We hope these examples of crime motivations and power plays are useful to writers developing characters and stories, and that our lessons learned offer insights to fellow private investigators.
Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman are co-owners of Highlands Investigations in Denver, Colorado. Their ebook How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths is available on Kindle:
Saturday – July 23th, 2011
I posted this under “sailing”, which I wasn’t. With engines running it’s called “motoring”, but I have seen a lot of sailors use their little kicker when under way. Sailing or motoring, it’s still boats on the water underway, making way.
Time to spend some days in the Bahamas, I’ve been looking forward to this for three months. Nothing to do but fish, snorkel, sun, and explore the island with my wife Kitty, Walter Burns the owner of the boat, and his business partner, Carol Chesser. No schedules, just relaxation. Thus it came as a shock to me that everyone wanted to get up at 5am and motor across the Gulf Stream from West Palm Beach to West End, Grand Bahama Island. Getting up before sunrise is a sin in my book, especially on vacation.
I didn’t have a choice, get up or be left behind. I rolled out of bed at o-dark-thirty.
The weather man forecasted the seas to be less than two feet. Sounded great. But as we left the Lake Worth inlet, I saw humpbacks on the horizon. No, not whales. Humps, as in large waves. I figured they were just swells and nothing to worry about, having made this crossing several times. But, about four miles east of the inlet, something in the back of my mind reminded me that we had entered the Bermuda Triangle. Some people refer to this area of the ocean as the Devil’s Triangle. Whatever it is called, there have been times I called it just unpleasant.
For the next three and a half hours we rode seas greater than two feet. More likely four to five feet, with a few six’s thrown in for the fun of it. The vessel, Irish Luck, a 34ft Mainship Pilot with twin Yanmar 240 diesel engines handled the seas well. Not what I’d call a rough crossing, but one that kept me from dancing on the back deck. The Gulf Stream doesn’t care what is forecasted, it will be what it wants to be. Plus, the Triangle plays by its own rules also.
I decided it was best to review rule 1 with everyone. During the Crossing, don’t turn off the engines. They may not start back up. Once a diesel is running, it keeps running until there is no more fuel. I love a diesel. Gasoline engines don’t have that reputation.
After hauling the anchor up by hand, we headed to our destination. Rounding the bend at Freeport, several tankers were lined up to either off load crude oil or to load refined oil. A busy place. The freighters may look small on the horizon, but monstrous up close.
Haleigh Cummings disappeared sometime in the early morning hours of February 10, 2009. If you believe the 911 call that Misty Croslin made, Haleigh’s disappearance was first noticed after 3:00 am. The 911 call was made at 3:27 am. Misty said she woke up to find the back door open and Haleigh missing. She was just getting ready to call 911 when Ronald arrived home from work and was standing in the front door.
Well, here we go. Separating fiction from fact. There are many that “hear” things on the 911 call that I don’t hear. You must remember that this recording has been redacted by the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) so there are some garbled areas in the recording. There are those that claim they hear a third person at the mobile home in the background. There is one point (at about 1:32 into the first call) where I believe I hear a small voice say, “Misty.” I have to wonder if that is not Junior speaking. Surely Junior was not sleeping with all of Ronald’s hysterics. Misty in an interview in May 2011 says Ronald was running around yelling and waving a gun.
I have placed on our website the two calls between the PCSO and Misty. Misty first called 911 and then Ron hangs up the phone at about 3 minutes and 37 seconds. The 911 operator calls back and the conversation continues for another 3 minutes or so.
The calls on our website are exact copies of what I received directly from the PCSO. They have not been doctored or edited by me or anyone else, except for the portions redacted by the PCSO.
Also I have placed on our site my transcription of what I hear on those recordings. My transcription is probably not perfect and if you have some corrections, send them along. I’d suggest you right click here and open this transcription in a new window 911 Transcription and read it as you listen to the calls.
I know there are those that suggest Ronald is acting on these recordings. I do not agree with that assessment about these two calls. That is not to say that Ronald is not a consummate liar and actor. But when Ronald says: “If I find whoever has my daughter before you all do, I’m killing them. I don’t care. I will spend the rest of my life in prison. You can put that on the recording. I don’t care.” I think that is genuine emotion. Not acting, not staging.
Nothing about Ronald Cummings, his actions, lifestyle, or his personality, do I like or admire. Misty Croslin told me on November 28, 2009 that she’d seen Ronald hit both Haleigh and Junior. I have nothing but contempt for a father who would smack his child so hard that the child’s nose bleeds.
Notwithstanding his alleged physical abuse of his children, his statement above still sounds genuine to me. It resonates to my sense of fatherhood, as one father to another. I have three of my own children and have raised three stepchildren. If one of my children were kidnapped, had disappeared, or even runaway, there is nothing that would stop me from going out and finding that child, or finding the person responsible for harming my child.
Would I resort to vigilantism to seek justice against the person who kidnapped my daughter? In all honesty, I might. And I might express the same sentiment that Ronald expressed. Judge me as you will for that, but that’s how strongly I feel about my children. I would leave no path untrod, no clue unexplored, no piece of earth unturned, until I found my child, and/or brought to justice the person responsible for great injury against my child.
Since Ronald Cummings and I, both feel that same emotion for a lost child, I have to believe that his angst at 3:30 in the morning on February 10, 2009 is genuine. And if it is genuine then I have to believe that at that time he had no clue as to what happened to his daughter or who was responsible for her disappearance. That is not to say that he did not learn at a later date the details surrounding his daughter’s murder and abduction. I do not know if Misty ever confided in him the truth about what happened that night.
As for Misty, I don’t hear that same angst in her voice on the call. Now, Haleigh was not Misty’s daughter and we have to consider that in listening to these calls. But we know in times of stress she is not calm and cool.
Misty, while visiting the Ragsdale Apartment complex in Palatka, Florida, was robbed at approximately 8:15 pm on October 19, 2009. She was in the company of two friends.
Here is a link to Misty’s 911 call after she was robbed. This link was posted on YouTube by Art Harris at Artharris.com. Compare this 911 call to the call Misty made when Haleigh disappeared.
There is a substantial difference in her demeanor. You tell me in which 911 call is she truly panicked and in which one is she “going through the motions.”