Articles Posted in Crimes of Violence

CBS News has another case where a suspect is alleging police misconduct. Is this just another in a flurry of police brutality cases or was the cop a hero who saved innocent lives by his action?

It was like a scene from an action movie. The suspect is walking down a street, holding a large gun and threatening to shoot himself and others. A lone cop sees his chance and disarms the man…by hitting the man with his patrol car! While in an action movie, that would just be a cutaway, in real life the cop may be faced with termination and a lawsuit.

On February 19, Mario Valencia had a stolen rifle and had already fired once near Tuscon, Arizona.

Seeing a brief opening, Officer Michael Rapiejko drove his cruiser on the sidewalk and rammed the suspect. The police chief later claimed it almost certainly saved Mario’s life.

According to the local police, Mario was fleeing from a Walmart where he had already stolen the rifle. The police caught up to him near a post office, where he then pointed the rifle at his head multiple times and threatened suicide before firing the gun in another direction and fleeing. It was not clear if he was intentionally shooting at the police or not.

The standoff came to an arupt end nearby when Rapiejko hit him with this cruiser. The police have since released the dashcam footage that shows the officer ramming into the man.

The local police srgt. told a newstation back in February.”This was a dangerous felon who’d been on a crime spree throughout the morning. He’d just stolen a weapon, loaded it, was not obeying commands from officers and was walking toward occupied businesses. It’s a busy time of morning, a lot of employees at work, a lot getting ready to come out for breaks, he’s walking toward those businesses. So we had to take immediate action and make sure he didn’t get inside those businesses.”

The suspect was taken to a nearby hospital for several days before he was booked into jail. Besides the armed robbery, assault and arson charge, the suspect is also connected to multiple crimes including a convenience store robbery, grand theft auto and a home invasion.

Mario’s criminal defense attorney made no statement other then to mention that his client was in crisis and the car ramming was not necessary. “I’ve also heard them say that they saved his life and I find that to be a very strange statement — to then use the deadly force to almost kill them by plowing them into with your vehicle,” he said.

He made mention of a possible civil lawsuit against the officer.

The local police say they treated this case in the same way as an officer-involved shooting.

Officer Rapiejko was unhurt and placed on paid administrative leave for the standard three days. While the state attorney’s office has already cleared him and he won’t be facing charges, he is still being investigated by his own agency while he is back to work.
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Once is a tragedy but is twice murder? Colorado prosecutors think so and is charging a man with the death of both his first AND second wife. A local CBS story has more information.

58-year-old Harold Henthorn is accused of pushing his wife off a cliff in Rocky Mountain park in Colorado. Prosecutors now think he also murdered his first wife 17 years earlier under similar circumstances.

“We don’t believe it was his first murder,” the Assistant U.S. Attorney told the judge. “He committed an earlier murder of his first wife in remarkably similar circumstances.”

The Judge appeared to agree with the prosecutor and ordered the suspect to be held without bond. The state had requested the hearing, calling Harold a “flight risk” with a large amount of disposable income he could use to flee.

So far Henthorn has only been charged with the murder of his second wife, pleading not guilty to the charge.

Per the police, the suspect is accused of pushing her off a 140 foot cliff in a remote part of the trail back in September of 2012. Ironically, he had taken the victim on a surprise trip to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary!

There were no other witnesses to the fall other then the suspect himself. Family members of the victim becam suspicious and contacted the police. After an extensive police investigation, including an asset check showing the defendant was living off millions of his dead wife’s money, a grand jury indicted him on her murder.

Henthorn’s story unraveled under further investigation of his assets. He told multiple people that he was a professional fundraiser but his tax return found no information of employment. Most experts found this very unusual.

The Judge agreed: “To have ready access to $1.5 million in cash is very troubling in a case of this kind because it means the defendant has the means to flee,” Also disturbing, the judge mentioned, were recent transfers of large amounts of money into accounts belonging to Henthorn’s brother. That is a sign of someone hiding money for a nest egg for a sudden flight.

Toni’s family members also found other evidence. Toni was a well-off doctor in Mississippi when she met Harold. Harold convinced her he was wealthy and together they moved to Colorado. Once there, the “wealthy” man became controlling and obsessed with money according to the deceased’s family.

It was only after their daughter’s death did her parents realize that she was covered by three different types of life insurance totaling almost five million dollars. The first claim came in only a few days after she died.

This was not the suspect’s first go-around with life insurance. In 1995 he collected $500,000 in life insurance from the death of his first wife. Sandra Henthorn was killed when a car slipped off a jack while she and Harold were changing a flat tire. That first death is still under investigation but police and prosecutors noticed many similarities between the two “accidents” involving Harold’s wives.

Ironically, the suspect had no prior criminal record other then a theft charge involving underwear back in the 90’s.
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From an Orlando news station, a former Florida A & M bandmember has been convicted of manslaughter for his actions in the hazing death of another man.

Former FAMU percussionist Dante Martin was found guilty of manslaughter and multiple counts of hazing in what the prosecutor is saying sends a powerful message.

“I hope this scares people enough to stop it and to realize it’s not tworth it and to just find better ways to show you belong than hitting people …or endangering their lives” he said outside the courtroom.

After the verdict of “guilty”, Martin, who faces up to 22 years in prison and will be sentenced January 9, showed no emotion. Their were audible gasps in the courtroom including from the victim’s parents.

Martin’s criminal defense lawyers made no statement but said they planned to appeal on behalf of their now 27-year-old client. He was made out to be the ringleader of the band group that performed the deadly hazing ritual aboard the team bus in Orlando.

The trial consisted of three days of testimony, four hours of arguements from the state and defense and ended in a guilty verdict after a mere two hours of deliberations.

The Florida A&M band was well known throughout the state and has performed at Super Bowls, Grammys and presidential inaugurations. The death of one of their own had riled the band, including their tradition of hazing new members.

The victim, a FAMU student for seven years, volunteered to be hazed in a particular ritual known as “crossing bus C” on November 19, 2011.

This particular ritual consisted of him crossing the front to the back of the bus while being pummeled by fellow band members. He was allegedly hit more then 100 times by fists and drumsticks.

The vicitm cooapsed soon after the ritual, which followed the Florida Classic game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University. At the trial, the jury heard the cause of death: hemorrhagic shock as a result of the beating.

The defense tried to claim that this was not hazing, rather it was a character competition that had been in place for generations. The jury clearly did not agree.

Martin, who did not testify on his behalf, was also convicted of two misdemeanor counts of hazing two other students, both of whom were not injured.

10 other band members have previously received community control and probation sentences for their participation in the hazing. Three other students are currently awaiting trial and one man received a year in jail.

The school itself has not escaped blame. FAMU is being sued for wrongful death with the plaintiffs saying this “culture of hazing” has been encouraged for decades.
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As first reported in the smoking gun website, an octogenarian was beaten inside a “family” chain restaurant after asking the defendant to stop cursing…

An 80-year-old man was the victim of a battery on an elderly charge after he was repeatedly punched and thrown to the ground by the suspect. The reason? The elderly man asked the suspect to stop cursing!

26-year-old Mikie Sawyer was arrested for battery disorderly intoxication and obstruction for his actions in an Applebees last week.

The victim, Harry Sander, told police he was at the neighborhood bar when he heard the drunk victim repeatedly scream and curse. Sawyer was dropping F-bombs and using slang terms for the female anatomy. Harry approached the defendant and politely asked him to lower his voice per the police report.

The defendant refused, words were exchanged and after a no doubt fascinating conversation of the victim’s homeland and customs elsewhere in the world compared to America, the defendant brutally punched the elderly man in the face. Harry was then thrown to the floor and blacked out. He was treated by paramedics at the scene.

There appears to be plenty of evidence in this case. Per the police report, the victim’s face and cheek were bruised and discolored as was the defendant’s knuckles. There were also multiple eye witnesses to this battery.

After the fight, the defendant left the restaurant with two friends. A manager followed them outside to write down the license plate number. The defendant reacted by charging the employee and threatening to beat him up as well.

The defendant was arrested following a traffic stop. He was arrested and as of this writing there has been no court dates for him.
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From the smoking gun website, a Florida woman is arrested for aggravated battery after she stabbed her client for refusing to have sex with her!

22-year-old Shakieria Anquanette Shan Long was arrested by police earlieer this month for stabbing her client in the neck. His crime? Refusing her sexual advances because she was drinking too much!

Per a witness, there was a BBQ at a nearby Ft. Pierce home. Ms. Long and the victim, 32-year-old Eugene Slyvester entered the house. The defendant was screaming at the man that she wanted to have sex with him. The defendant, who babysat the victim’s children, was very intoxicated.

Ms. Long proceeded to follow the victim to a back bedroom where she grabbed a knife and began stabbing him. Per the witness, the defendant soon came out asking for help, saying she stabbed Eugene and that he “was leaking”.

The witness grabbed a towel and proceeded to put it on the victim’s neck while walking him home. That did not last long as the defendant soon came running up to them and proceeded to punch the victim in the face multiple times.

Police were called and after questioning witnesses, they arrested the defendant for felony battery, public intoxication and misdemeanor battery.

This was not her first brush with the law. At the time of her arrest, Ms. Long was free on abond in connection with an earlier arrest for disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest, and battery on a law enforcement officer. Her bond was quickly revoked and she remains in jail.

As for the victim, Mr. Slyvester received multiple stitches but told police that he did not wish to press charges. As of the time of this writing, no charges had been filed.
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From an article on the BayNews9 website, two locals who were involved in the “She Fights” online beating controversy, were sentenced to prison for their part.

In the Pinellas County criminal courthouse, two local residents were sentenced to prison for their role in producing homeless fights for the former website

27-year-old Zuzu Vargo and 61-year-old Jeff Williams were previously found guilty by a jury for aggravated abuse of a disabled person. Both defendants were involved in the making of a series of videos that portrayed mentally disabled men being beaten up by women. Often, the men were homeless and were paid a few dollars to have the crime of battery performed on them.

Camera operator Jeff Williams was deemed more responsible for the videos then Ms. Vargo. Williams was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Vargo, who was seen on film punching the victims, was sentenced to three years prison. Her criminal defense lawyer was hoping to avoid prison by showing that she had a need for mental health treatment instead of prison. A doctor testified on her behalf saying she had substance abuse issues as well as suffering from PTSD.

Both defendants spoke to the judge and offered an apology of sort. “We have been portrayed as sort of as going and grabbing people and beating them up and that’s not what this is about. It’s a portrayal of fantasy,” Mr. Williams said. It was later revealed that the defendant paid the victim as part of a settlement agreement from a civil court lawsuit.

Ms. Vargo added “I don’t ever want to cause anyone any pain ever again and I want to make amends any and every way possible. I hope that you can forgive me”.

Both defendants are still awaiting trial for additional counts of aggravated assault from another video.
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As reported in the Tampa Bay Times two women were arrested after physically beating another woman in a “Road Rage” incident…

Two women were arrested in St. Petersburg after allegedly crashing into another woman, ripping her out of her car and brutally beating her.

It started on 34th Street S in St. Petersburg in the early evening last Tuesday. 26-year old Amber Beckwith and 22-year-old Ariel Young were driving in a car when they almost crashed into a fellow driver.

The driver/victim Rose Lucarell, 61, honked at them to avoid a collision. The two suspects did not react well to that. They proceeded to pull up alongside the elderly woman while throwing objects at her car, flipping her off and cursing at her.

Finally Beckwith, who was driving the car, smashed into the front of the victim’s vehicle. Rose Lucarell was forced to stop in the street and Amber Beckwith proceeded to ram her car multiple times.

The two suspects then got out of their car, opened the victim’s door and proceeded to hit her in the head. She eventually was pulled out of the car and severely beaten and thrown to the ground.

Unfortunately for the suspects, there were multiple witnesses. Some of them helped the victim to the hospital, where she was treated and released. Others called the police on the two “road rage” women.

Both suspects were arrested and taken to the Pinellas County jail where they were held with bond. Ariel Young is facing a charge of burglary with battery. Amber Beckwith is facing charges of burglary with battery and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle.

While the aggravated assault with a motor vehicle is a third-degree felony, the two suspects are in a load of trouble as the burglary with battery charge score mandatory prison and is punishable by life (PBL)!
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A local crime story from the Tampa Bay Times that brings up some interesting questions about juvenile crime versus adult criminal charges.

16 year-old A. Peterson made his first appearance in the Pinellas county juvenile court yesterday following his arrest for attacking an 83-year-old man. He stood straight while the judge explained his charge, an aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. The teen turned himself in to the police and admitted to stealing the man’s car but denied attacking him.

He was one of three people charged in the attack of the man. His 13-year-old brother was charged with grand theft. A 15-year-old female friend of the brothers was also charged with a battery on an elderly victim.

Per the police report, the two Saint Petersburg brothers and the girl attacked the elderly man Tuesday morning as he was in his car at his Pinellas Park condo. The senior citizen fought back and says the oldest brother slashed his arm with a knife. The teens made off with his keys and his car was stolen that night while he slept. There were multiple bikes that were found at the scene of the crime.

The elderly man has some bad injuries from the battery including a fractured cheek bone, multiple stab wounds and a bruised rib. For his part, the man is glad the teens are all in jail as he felt he could have been killed!

At the juvenile hearing, the boy’s father and grandmother were in attendance and expressed remorse for the victim’s injuries.

The juvenile judge assigned a public defender to the defendant and would not release him from custody. Rather, she set another court date.

It seems very likely that both the 13 and the 15-year-old will be charged for juvenile crimes and not charged as an adult. This means that any sentence they receive will be much lighter then adult sanctions. In addition by staying in the juvenile system, the teens will be more likely to get the cases dismissed.

The bigger question is what happens to the oldest teen. If he stays in the juvenile court, he cannot be held past the age of 21. As the charge is serious and the teen is older, there is a legitimate chance that the Pinellas State Attorney’s office may file this charge as an adult.

As an adult, robbery with a deadly weapon, Florida Statute 812.12(2)(a) is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison or life (“PBL”) if certain criteria is met.

The next few weeks will be very important to this young man, as decisions that could put him in prison for life will be made.
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Claiming self defense, a 39-year-old Pinellas Park mother is pushing back against an arrest that charged her with aggravated child abuse.

Police claim the mother of four struck her 16-year-old daughter with a baseball bat, leaving the juvenile dazed and bleeding.

The defendant told the judge at a court appearance Wednesday that she was innocent of the charge. “I am not a child abuser”. Rather, the mother claims that her daughter attacked her multiple times and the victim was hit by mistake.

Police were sent out on a disturbance call to the mother’s Pinellas Park home. They arrived to see the victim bleeding from the head and the suspect still holding on to a baseball bat. The victim told the police that her mother went crazy during an arguement about doing the dishes and committed the battery on her.

The suspect denied this and claimed that her daughter walked into the handle part of the bat.

Initially held without bond, the judge took mercy on the suspect after the DEFENDANT’S mother offered to watch the victim and the defendant claimed that she had three other children at home with nobody to watch them. The judge set the bail at $15,000 and ordered no contact between the two parties.

A look at the defendant’s Pinellas criminal record shows multiple priors spanning almost 20 years for charges that include felony theft, worthless checks, drug charges and violations of probation among others. Ironically, she also had a contributing to the deliquency of a minor charge. If this newest allegation is true, she went from contributing to the deliquency of a child to actually harming a minor!

LEGAL ANALYSIS As it is now charged, aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison!

In addition, it is a level nine offense which means it scores so high that the defendant is looking at a mandatory prison sentence. Depending on how the state chooses to proceed, her criminal defense attorney may be able to claim self defense or negotiate a lower sentence with the state attorney or the judge. There could be parenting classes, anger management courses, counseling, jail and/or probation as possible plea alternatives.
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The “knockout game”-where one or more people commit an assault or battery against a stranger for no reason- has been all over the news. A series of random attacks in New York, Baltimore, Miami and L.A. among others, has received a large amount of media coverage. Is this a real phenomenon or is this overblown like the “summer of the shark” a few years back?

One good thing about the increased coverage means an increase in the amount of arrests. Per “the smoking gun” website, a suspect in a series of “knockout game” attacks was arrested in New York.

Is chivalry dead? It may be to one New York teen as he was arrested for his part of a vicious, unprovoked attack on an elderly woman.

Juvenile Devin Alexander was arrested for a violation of probation and a battery on an elderly charge last Wednesday. Mr. Alexander first came to light after a video was uploaded to a Facebook page. The video, which can be viewed at the above Smoking Gun link, seems to show Devin bragging to a man that he is going to smack an elderly lady as she walks out of the store. When the woman exited , the suspect proceeded to sucker punch her in the back of the head. The hit was greeted by the man filming screaming out in delight multiple times.

These “knockout game” attacks are getting increased media attention. Unlike many other assaults, there appears to be no motive such as robbery or anger at a known victim. Rather the idea is to find a defenseless man, woman or child and beat them for fun.
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