JEHOVAH'S WITNESS MENTAL HEALTH:
JW - ON - JW CRIME COURT CASES
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The following criminal court, civil court, and other cases, in which the Jehovah's Witnesses religion served as the spiritual element of the perpetrators' and/or other actor's formative environment, or otherwise served as one of the major influencers of the perpetrators' and/or other actor's behavior, are often tragic, and speak for themselves.
Court Cases involving Jehovah's Witness Criminals who have been convicted of FINANCIAL CRIMES, including stealing money from their fellow Jehovah's Witnesses and others, are summarized on our JW EMPLOYEES website. Click HERE for FIVE additional lengthy webpages of financial related court case summaries.
PENNSYLVANIA v. VINCENT HATCHER was a 2001-2 Pennsylvania murder court decision. In October 2001, Vincent Hatcher, 21, of Germantown, Pennsylvania, and who had no prior criminal record, shot and killed and shot and wounded two fellow Jehovah's Witnesses during an argument over a girl at a Philadelphia "Jehovah's Witness Get-Together".
Devon Jacobs, 18, and Quenton Jacobs, 17, had spent that Sunday attending their local Kingdom Hall, and going door-to-door selling WatchTowers. That evening, they decided to attend the "Get-Together" at the Palace Roller Skating Rink. There, while apparently waiting for the rink to open, the two JW Brothers got into an argument with Hatcher reportedly over a girl. The opening of the rink apparently interrupted the argument, and the Jacob brothers went inside. However, Hatcher, who JWs later reported as having been "disfellowshipped", retreived a pistol from his car. Inside, Hatcher proceeded to shoot Devon Jacobs multiple times in the chest and abdomen, while Quenton Jacobs was wounded in the leg. A third older Jacobs brother attempted to transport his brothers to the hospital, but got lost on the way. By the time they got to a hospital, Devon Jacobs had died due to loss of blood (one can't help but wonder if the likely offered blood transfusion would have saved him in the ER).
In May 2002, Vincent Hatcher was convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to the mandatory term of life in prison with no chance of parole. Hatcher was also convicted for violation of the Uniform Firearms Act, and sentenced to two and a half to five years; as well as 10 to 20 years for aggravated assault on Quenton Jacobs.
PENNSYLVANIA v. MALCOLM MOORE was a 2000-1 Pennsylvania murder court case. Limited Details. In Summer 2000, 25 year-old Malcolm Moore, Philadelphia, stabbed to death his Jehovah's Witness Mother, Mary Moore Hooper. Moore reportedly had been severely mentally ill for years, and had been cared for by his mother until he went beserk and stabbed her over 100 times. Moore claimed that "evil voices" instructed him to do the deed. Thelma Moore, 29, was the only other sibling. Outcome unknown.
NEW YORK v. WILLIAM RODRIGUEZ was a 2001-2 New York murder court case. William Rodriguez, 37, and Gloria Rodriguez, 35, who lived in the Bronx, apparently were a happy Jehovah's Witness couple for many years. The JW Couple had three children. However, sometime around 1999, after Gloria Rodriguez became employed with the local Bronx Board of Education, possibly after the youngest child had reached teenage years, Gloria Rodriguez started "cheating" on her husband. Gloria Rodriguez had an affair with Hector Rodriguez, 23, in late 1999 or early 2000. She also may have had other affairs.
In Summer 2001, Gloria Rodriguez asked for a divorce, but William Rodriguez refused. Given the JWs' belief that divorces should only be considered if a partner has committed adultery, it apparently took a while for William Rodriguez to suspect his wife of cheating. Once the lightbulb came on, the couple may have started arguing and fighting because Gloria Rodriguez did not want to 'fess up. As much as it does not make sense to non-JWs, Gloria Rodriguez may have preferred to hire the murder of her husband, rather than admit to adultery, which would have resulted in her "excommunication", even if she were an "inactive" JW.
Gloria Rodriguez approached Hector Rodriguez and offered him $1000.00 down, and $3000.00 afterwards to kill her husband. Hector Rodriguez agreed. On Monday morning, August 6, 2001, at 7:35 AM, as William Rodriguez walked to his street-parked car to go to work, Hector Rodriguez approached him in a fake robbery attempt. Hector Rodriguez then gunned down William Rodriguez in a hail of bullets -- one of which grazed a bystander.
Hector Rodriguez then fled to Florida, where he was arrested on that Thursday at a Tampa area Western-Union office, where he believed he was going to receive the additional $3000.00. It is unclear how police solved the case so quickly. In May 2002, Gloria Rodriguez and Hector Rodriguez each pled guilty to first degree murder, and reportedly were to be sentenced to 20 years to life.
TEXAS v. JOHNNY WALDEN was a 2001 Texas murder court decision. Limited, incomplete details. In May 2001, a 93 year-old "devout" and "active" Jehovah's Witness, named Julia Walden, of Brazoria, Texas, was murdered by her 39 year-old son, Johnny Walden. Walden was convicted, and he may have received a 40 year prison sentence in a plea deal.
Johnny Walden and his 18 month younger brother, Tommy Walden, were adopted by Julia Walden when they were babies/infants, and when she was in her mid to late 50s. Julia Walden's husband, Bill Walden, left her not long thereafter, and she reared the boys by herself. There is a good possibility that the two boys were children of one of Julia Walden's relatives.
Johnny Walden had lived a troubled life -- from childhood right up to the murder. He was the "bad" son, while Tommy was the "good" son. Over the years, Johnny Walden had claimed that his troubled life was the result of mental issues caused by his having been sexually molested when he was around 3-4 years old by a late-teens male relative who also lived in the household at that time.
Possibly after serving a tour in the Army, Johnny Walden returned to Brazoria and married Sheryl Anderson, and they had a son sometime around 1984/5, named Jonathon Walden. Johnny Walden and Sheryl Walden divorced around 1992/3.
Prior to April 2001, Johnny Walden had lived away from Brazoria. It is not clear whether this was his choice, or whether he had been incarcerated. In any event, Johnny Walden asked his mother's permission to move into a small house behind her home, and she allowed him to do so, in April 2001, despite protests from Tommy Walden, Sheryl Anderson, and Jonathon Walden.
On the evening of May 20, 2001, Johnny Walden and Julia Walden argued over whether or not Johnny had been molested by a relative when he was a child. Apparently, this had been a decades-long issue between Johnny and his mother, who apparently had always denied that the molestation had occurred. Julia Walden still would not admit such. Johnny Walden apparently stewed overnight on the issue, and re-initiated the argument on the morning of May 21. Apparently, when Julia Walden still would not admit that Johnny had been molested, he attacked her, and smothered her to death with a pillow.
Tommy Walden found his mother's body when he got off work that afternoon. She was in her bed, as if she had died in her sleep -- except for the signs of a struggle on both her forearms. Johnny Walden was the main suspect, and he apparently confessed a few days after the Kingdom Hall funeral.
ROBERT GRAHAM - SHERRY GRAHAM SUICIDES. In April 2000, a Newton, North Carolina, Jehovah's Witness Couple, named Robert Avery Graham, 38, and Sherry Graham, 38, each died after refusing to consent to life-saving blood transfusions made necessary by blood loss caused by gunshot wounds. Limited details. Sometime on Saturday, April 15, 2000, Robert Graham shot his wife Sherry Graham in a domestic dispute at their home. Robert Graham fled their home, but Sherry Graham's gunshot wound apparently was not that serious given that she was conscious when police arrived and found her on the kitchen floor. It is not known whether she had telephoned police, or whether there were children in the house at the time of the shooting, nor is it known how long it was between the shooting and arrival of help.
Robert Graham was shot by Newton police several hours later on Saturday afternoon when Graham fired a shot at a moving cruiser, and apparently later threatened to again fire at police after his vehicle was stopped. Graham was admitted to the local hospital with a "non-life threatening" wound, but Graham refused to consent to a needed blood transfusion. Robert Graham died about 28 hours later on Sunday evening at Catawba Memorial Hospital due to blood loss.
Interestingly, local JWs quickly claimed that Robert Graham was not a Jehovah's Witness, despite the fact that he was able to do what many JWs have been unable to do -- look death in the face and refuse to save his own life by simply saying "yes" to a WatchTower-prohibited blood transfusion. Sherry Graham was transported at some point to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, where she too died during the night of April 18-19, because she refused to consent to a needed blood transfusion. Sherry Graham's father, who provided info to reporters about his daughter's condition and the beliefs of JWs, identified himself as someone who had "studied with the Jehovah's Witnesses".
SOUTH CAROLINA v. MARK EAST was a 2000-2 South Carolina court decision. Limited details. At around 5:45 PM, on October 25, 2000, Mark East, 63, of Berea, South Carolina, shot and killed his wife of 40 years, Judith East, 57. Authorities reportedly found Judith East in the couple's living room dead from two shotgun blasts. The couple had four surviving children, and four grandchildren. Curiously, in June 2002, the local prosecutor agreed to a plea deal with Mark East in which East pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of 30 years, BUT suspended upon completion of five years' home incarceration and five years' probation.
Apparently, there were unknown extenuating circumstances related to this "killing". Judith East reportedly was a Jehovah's Witness Pioneer, that is, a fulltime "doorknocker", with the Greenville Northwest Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Judith East's Mother was also a JW, so it is possible that she had been reared as a JW. And, since JWs are commanded not to marry non-JWs, if Judith East had been reared JW, then it is more probable than not that Mark East would have been a JW. Even those who know practically nothing about JWs know that someone married to a spouse with that many JW connections has themselves had some amount of JW connections over the years. At most, Mark East was or had been a JW. At the very least, he was a tortured non-JW husband, who simply may have had all that he could take.
UNITED STATES v. PETER A. NEDD was a 1999-2000 Massachusetts federal criminal court case. In December 1999, an African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Peter A. Nedd, was arrested by the F.B.I. on multiple charges of interstate threats and stalking. Nedd had been threatening to rape and murder three members of a fellow Jehovah's Witness family that lived in Massachusetts. Peter Nedd, 38, had become obsessed with and started stalking the young teenaged daughter of this JW family sometime around 1995. After four years of telephone calls and letters from Nedd, the JW Parents obtained a restraining order against him. However, Nedd repeatedly violated that order in 1999 by telephoning them, threatening them, and appearing at their residence in an attempt to visit the by-then young adult daughter. Approximately 80 harassing telephone calls were tape-recorded. In 2000, Nedd was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 33 months of incarceration. During this trial, the federal prosecutor presented evidence that Nedd had been diagnosed with a mentally illness as far back as 1989, but that Nedd had not continued to get psychiatric care or take his medication.
See also PETER A. NEDD v. HOME DEPOT, which was a 1995-8 New York federal civil court case in which Peter Nedd sued his employer, Home Depot, alleging employment discrimination. That New York jury believed Nedd's allegations over Home Depot's multiple discrediting witnesses, and awarded Nedd $210,000.00 in compensatory damages and $1,000,000.00 in punitive damages. Because of the statutory damages cap, the judge had to reduce Nedd's total award to $300,000.00.
On Sunday morning, January 2, 2000, services at the Norco, California Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses were delayed for about an hour as Riverside County Deputies attempted to disarm an unidentifed 40-year-old JW Female who was threatening to commit suicide by slashing her throat and wrists with a kitchen knife.
"It just seemed like a quiet way to kill and a relatively painless way to die. There was little pain. All of them were dead in less than five minutes. I hit them with a hammer in their sleep and then put them face down in the bathtub to make sure they did not wake up in pain. To make sure they were dead."... I have come to hate this life and this system of things. I have come to have no hope. I killed the children to exchange them for five minutes of pain for a lifetime of pain."... I know that Jehovah will take care of all of them in the next life."Please know that I love Leigh Ann, Matthew and Mychelle with all of my heart. If Jehovah is willing, I would like to see all of them again in the resurrection, to have a second chance. ... ."
In August 1999, an unidentified 16 year-old male, who lived with his grandparents near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was arrested for threatening the life of his Jehovah's Witness GrandMother, and threatening to go to her Kingdom Hall and kill certain persons there. The teenager was arrested on charges of assault and terroristic threatening, and was placed in juvenile detention pending further action. Given that the troubled teen had threatened to make an attack on the Lancaster Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, this was more than a simple family quarrel. As has repeated itself numerous times over the decades, the untrained JW Elders probably stuck their noses where such did not belong, and made a bad situation even worse. No further details.
However, Maria de Jesus Cespedes-Cabanillas accidentally fell from the train as it proceeded through Niagara, and her left leg was severed. The woman was found by Border Patrol Agents, who then had her transported to Erie County Medical Center. There, Maria de Jesus Cespedes-Cabanillas' high moral standards would not permit her to consent to life-saving blood transfusions made necessary by her massive blood loss. She died around noontime the next day. Maria de Jesus Cespedes-Cabanillas was buried by relatives in Miami, Florida.
CALIFORNIA v. JOSHUA SHERMAN was a 1998 California murder court case. In May 1998, a 19 year-old Jehovah's Witness named Joshua Sherman was convicted of "involuntary manslaughter" in the April 1997 death of a fellow 18 year-old Jehovah's Witness and romantic rival, named Michael Vernon Barnett. Sentence unknown.
The female in this Newhall, California Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses "Love Triangle" was named Roxanne Roy. Michael Barnett and Roxanne Roy had been dating since Barnett's sophomore year at Hart High School, but had recently broken up. Joshua Sherman reportedly had been contending for Roxanne Roy's affection, and evidently wanted to remove Barnett from contention.
Michael Barnett was an award winning artist, who was in his first year of college. Barnett's JW Parents and friends described him as shy, reserved, and "very sensitive". Joshua Sherman's attorney alleged that Barnett was a martial arts expert. Sherman's attorney described Sherman as a a socially awkward teen, who had been home schooled by protective parents, who reportedly were "wealthy".
On Sunday, April 13, 1997, at 2:00 AM, the physically larger Sherman reportedly telephoned Barnett and talked Barnett into meeting him in the parking lot of Grace Baptist Church, which was within walking distance of Barnett's home. There, a physical altercation occurred in which noone but Sherman knows what actually happened. Around 5:30 AM, a church member arrived to prepare the church for Sunday services, and found Barnett alive, but badly beaten and lying in a pool of his own blood. Barnett's wounds were described as "massive injuries to the head and face",' including a broken tooth, and a depressed fracture to his left temple measuring four inches in diameter, which apparently had been caused by some sort of weapon.
Interestingly, the Grace Baptist Church member who found Barnett and summoned help had attended high school with Barnett. Barnett died the next day. It is not known if a need for blood transfusions was an issue.
Initially, noone knew who had telephoned Barnett. It was four days before Sherman eventually turned himself into police. Interestingly, a Jehovah's Witness named Kenneth Vail played some uncertain role during those four days. Vail reportedly was also a member of the Newhall, California Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, and possibly may have been an Elder. Evidently, Sherman had confided the events of early Sunday morning to Vail. Interestingly, it was reported that Vail testified in court regarding such. [If true, such is extremely interesting given California JW Elders refusal to testify in various California child molestation cases. Evidently, California JW Elders believe they have the right to pick and choose which confidential conversations they wish to divulge.]
RHODE ISLAND v. MONIQUE FOFANA was a 1998 Rhode Island murder court decision. In March 1996, a 15 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named Monique Fofana, who attended Classical High School in Providence, attacked and beat with a frying pan her 75-year-old grandmother, Mildred Washington, who had stopped by the apartment occupied by Fofana and her mother to pickup Fofana and take her to a meeting at their Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Washington survived the vicious attack, which left serious injuries to her head, torso, and arms, but never regained consciousness, and died six months later in a nursing home.
To make matters even worse, Monique Fofana appeared on television, and eventually appeared before a grand jury, and testified that she had witnessed two "burglars" bludgeon her 75-year-old grandmother with the frying pan. Fofana claimed that she had been in an upstairs bedroom when the attack began, and that after discovering such, she stayed hidden out of fear for her own safety. Fofana identified 19-year-old Darrell Pona as one of the assailants. Pona was charged, and Fofana then provided additional testimony against him before Fofana's juvenile boyfriend stepped forward in Spring 1997 and disclosed that it was he who had been hiding in an upstairs bedroom, when instead, it was Fofana who argued with and attacked her grandmother.
In December 1998, Monique Fofana pleaded "no contest" to second degree murder, and was sentenced to 52 years in prison. Fofana will be eligible for parole in 2015.
CALIFORNIA v. GARY STEVEN DELLAPENTA was a 1999 California court decision, which is billed as "The United State's First CyberStalking Conviction". Sometime during 1997-8, Gary Steven Dellapenta, 48/9, met "Randi Barber" (ficticious), 27/8, at a North Hollywood area Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, which they both were attending. Dellapenta and Barber apparently initiated some sort of brief relationship given that he later publicly divulged the code to Barber's security system. When Barber terminated whatever relationship there was, and rebuffed Dellapenta's continued advances, Dellapenta evidently made a nuisance of himself -- possibly even at their Kingdom Hall. The Elders became involved, supposedly at Barber's request, but possibly simply via the congregation grapevine. It is unclear exactly what the Elders did or said to Dellapenta, but whatever it was, it caused Dellapenta to become further enraged at Randi Barber. Some media reports later indicated that Dellapenta was "banned" from the Kingdom Hall, but it is not certain that such drastic action was taken until later in this several months long saga.
Thereafter, Gary S. Dellapenta began to impersonate Barber, who did not even own a personal home computer, on the internet. Gary Dellapenta opened a number of email accounts using Barber's name. Dellapenta also started posting ads on sexually oriented websites, using Barber's name and personal info, in which he solicited sexual relationships on her behalf. During a five or six month period during 1998, Barber received dozens of telephone calls, and six or more males went to Barber's apartment in response to the internet advertisements and email exchanges during which Dellapenta impersonated Barber, and gave out her name, address, description, telephone number, and even the code to her apartment's security system.
Gary Dellapenta also continued his own stalking of Barber, who eventually out of fear stopped sleeping at her own apartment. Barber also eventually lost her real estate office job due her poor job performance caused by the stalking and the resultant stress. At some point, Barber and her father went on the offensive. After explaining the situation to callers, Barber received help from a couple of men who provided info and correspondence with Dellapenta. Barber's father also posed as a responder to one of Dellapenta's ads, and gathered additional email address info. The gathered info was turned over to state and federal authorities, who eventually obtained search warrants which allowed them access to Dellapenta's various online accounts, his Internet Service Provider, and eventually Dellapenta's own computer.
Gary Steven Dellapenta was arrested in February 1999, and initially pleaded not guilty to charges of stalking, computer fraud, and solicitation of sexual assault. However, in April 1999, Dellapenta pleaded guilty to one count of stalking and three counts of solicitation of sexual assault. Dellapenta was sentenced to six years in prison.
LOUISIANA v. TWYANE HALL was a 1997 Louisiana murder court case. In June 1997, a 12 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named Twyane Hall, was charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his 13 year-old brother, Tresleigh Hall. Twyane Hall pleaded "not guilty". Outcome unknown.
"While not a popular religion, most Americans view Jehovah's Witnesses as highly moral, non-violent, family centered people. That picture fits the Halls and their children. ... Twyane, at age 12, is being tried for murder, like a common criminal."-- and --"A 12 year old is about to be tried for murder in Ouachita Parish as a result of a death that even the victim in his last words, said was an accident."Judge Alvin Sharp ruled last week that there is probable cause to prosecute 12 year old Tywayne Hall for the death of his brother. ... How the wound occured, no one knows. The victim said just before he died that it was an accident. While everyone is concerned about the sanctity of human life, there is not a parent in America that cannot empathize with the Hall's who have lost one son to tragedy and now have to face the prospect of watching as prosecutors paint their remaining son as a vicious murderer as they push for a second degree murder conviction.
"Since there was no argument. No fight. No threats. There must be some validity to the dying words of a 13 year old boy who realized that his brother would be blamed for what he saw as an accident. Tywane Hall, an honor student, non-violent in nature an obviously a reasonably disciplined young man needs counseling right now. The thought of his brother's death will haunt him all of his life. Hall doesn't fit the picture of the dangerous, crime prone youth who should be tried as an adult-for murder. The Hall family needs mercy at this point.
"This case cries out for Justice tempered with mercy! Hopefully it will come!"
NEW YORK v. WALTER JOHNSON was a 1982-3 New York criminal court decision. On a Friday evening in June 1982, while services were ongoing, 19 year-old Walter "King Tut" Johnson, and two accomplices, "stuck up" and robbed nearly 300 members of his own mother's Brooklyn area Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Trio barely made the hourly minimum wage from the small amount of cash and jewelry taken from the low-income members.
While out on bail, Johnson and the same or other accomplices robbed six passengers on a NYC area bus. The gang was also suspected in a subway car holdup one week later. Re-arrested, Walter Johnson was eventually convicted and served three years in prison before being paroled, and then going back to a life of even more serious crimes.
In 1996, Walter Johnson was sentenced to life in prison without the possibilty of parole, under a "three-strikes" law. Johnson had led quite a notorious life between 1986 and 1996. Johnson was a suspect in mutiple robberies, shootings, and other crimes over the years. Johnson claimed relationships with several of the top name east Coast Rappers and their production companies, and became a suspect in the first shooting and eventual murder of Tupac Shakur.
NEW YORK v. VANESSA RICHARDSON and NEW YORK v. JEFFREY RICHARDSON were related 1996-2002 New York murder court cases. On the evening of December 21, 1996, a Jehovah's Witness Couple, named Kevin Foote, 26, and Vanessa Fields Foote, 25, who had each been reared as JWs, and who fellow JWs described to media as "devout" Jehovah's Witnesses, and who attended the Amityville Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, on Long Island, reportedly were on their way to deliver Christmas presents to relatives in Brooklyn, when the couple were purportedly accosted by a masked mugger who shot and killed Kevin Foote. Besides his loving wife, Kevin Foote was survived by his then 4 year-old son, Kevan Foote.
In March 2001, Vanessa Richardson and her second husband, Jeffrey Richardson, whom she had married in March 1997, were arrested in Georgia for the 1996 murder of Kevin Foote. As it turned out, Jeffrey Richardson was Vanessa Richardson's first lover, but he had been jailed for robbery at the time Vanessa had met Kevin Foote at a WatchTower Convention in 1991. Vanessa Fields, 19, decided to marry Kevin Foote, 22, in 1992, after Jeffrey Richardson was convicted and sentenced to prison. Richardson and Vanessa Foote began an affair as soon as Jeffrey Richardson was paroled from prison in the Fall of 1996.
Thereafter, the Duo concocted and carried out the plot to murder Kevin Foote, and to disguise such as a routine mugging gone bad. Vanessa Foote lured her husband to the Brooklyn housing project, where a cousin had an apartment. There, Jeffrey Richardson "stuck up" the couple. After taking their wallets, Richardson told Kevin Foote to turn around, and then shot him in the back of the head.
Kevin Foote had a $150,000.00 life insurance policy, but Vanessa Richardson was only able to get her hands on $35,000.00, because of the ongoing investigation. The remainder was held in trust for the couple's son. However, she had also inherited the couple's Long Island home, which was quickly sold to help finance the Richardson's escape to Georgia.
In June 2001, Vanessa Richardson made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for a prison sentence ranging from 8 1/3 to 25 years, and for her cooperation and testimony against her husband, Jeffrey Richardson. In February 2002, Jeffrey Richardson was convicted of second degree murder, and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. His conviction was affirmed on appeal in 2004.
At the sentencing of Vanessa Richardson, her father, Frank Fields, begged the judge for mercy, saying, "She has repented for her sins." Kevin Foote's parents, James Foote and Constance Foote, argued to no avail for even a more harsh sentence than the minimum 100 months prison term recommended by the prosecutor.
ARDRA YOUNG v. DETROIT FIRE DEPT ET AL and MICHIGAN v. ARDRA YOUNG were two 1996-2000 Michigan court cases. An African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Ardra Young, was a City of Detroit firefighter, who alleged that the Detroit Fire Department and one or more of his white supervisors had discriminated against him because of his race. The outcome of Ardra Young's 1996 employment discrimination lawsuit is unknown, because, before it could be settled or litigated, Ardra Young murdered his wife and teenage son.
In February 1997, Ardra Young arranged a late night meeting with his estranged JW Wife and JW Son at a Detroit municipal park. Young shot both his wife and his son in the back of their heads, and then fled to the home of his girlfriend in Illinois. Young returned to Detroit the next day, and without even asking to see his son, who was still alive on life-support, Young ordered doctors at Grace Hospital to turn off the life-support systems -- supposedly due to his WatchTower beliefs.
After Young's alibi did not stand up to scrutiny, Young eventually confessed to police. Despite such, Young pled "not guilty" at trial. Young's defense team put on a vigorous defense. However, Young was found guilty, and sentenced to concurrent life terms. Young's defense team vigorously pursued appeals, possibly due to Young's pending employment discrimination lawsuit and the large settlement or judgment that Young's attorneys were anticipating from such.
Amusingly, Young's attorneys unsuccessfully requested a new trial based on "newly discovered evidence", which included a letter which had been mailed to the Detroit Fire Department, which had been signed, "White Fire Fighters Association", which claimed that they actually had killed Young's wife and son -- not Ardra Young. Between 2000 and 2005, Ardra Young started filing his own habeas corpus actions in federal court. All have been denied thus far.
CROWN v FRANCESCO COSSEDDO was a 1996-2000 Supreme Court of New South Wales Australia murder case. In the early evening hours of a day in January 1995, the corpse of 62 year-old Maria Cosseddo was discovered on her bed, in her bedroom, in the Guildford house she shared with her Jehovah's Witness Husband and their three adult children. The Coroner ruled that the direct cause of death was manual strangulation which had occurred only a few hours before her corpse supposedly had been discovered in the laundry room by her JW husband when he returned home from an errand. Although he maintained his innocence then, and thereafter, murder charges were filed in August 1996 against the 66 year-old JW Husband. However, he was released on bond, and remained so until his 2000 conviction.
Francesco Cosseddo had immigrated to Australia from Italy in 1966, and he married Maria in 1968. Again, they had three children whom were still living at home at the time of the murder. In 1988, 58 year-old Francesco Cosseddo converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses. This caused many problems within this Catholic family resulting in estrangement between Francesco and Maria. While they continued to live in the same house, the couple lived separately. Francesco did his own cooking, cleaning, and washing, and dined alone. The children testified that their parents frequently quarreled over religion and finances, but that there had never been any physical violence.
Soon after the murder, Francesco Cosseddo's mental fitness deteriorated quickly, and multiple mental health assessments followed with varying determinations. In 2000, Francesco Cosseddo was convicted of murder in a jury trial, which mandated life imprisonment. However, the sentencing judge ordered additional competency testing for the by-then 70 years-old Cosseddo. Outcome of further proceedings unknown.
ILLINOIS v. NIELS CHRISTIAN NIELSEN was a 1995-6 Illinois double murder case. On Independence Day, July, 4, 1995, a self-professed Jehovah's Witness, named Niels Christian Nielsen, age 21/22, of Wayne City, Illinois, shot and killed his ex-wife, Sue Marshel Gelsinger, 38, and her 13 year-old daughter, Melinda Marshel. Niels Nielsen had married the then divorced "Sue Marshel" in 1993, when she was 35 years-old, her daughter was around 10 years-old, and he was only 18/19 years-old. The marriage was annulled after they reportedly had lived together for only ten days.
Sue Gelsinger's automobile was discovered on July 5, 1995, partially submerged in a lake just outside Wayne City. The interior was blood-stained, and Gelsinger and her daughter were missing. Sometime in the next few days, Niels Nielsen was arrested and jailed on an apparently unrelated felony theft charge. There, in jail, state police questioned Nielsen about the missing mother-daughter, and he apparently voluntarily gave them enough info to incriminate himself (although he later pled "not guilty".).
The burned and dismembered remains of the mother-daughter were soon found in a gymbag floating in a local farm pond. It is unclear whether their remains were found before or after Nielsen had incriminated himself. Police eventually discovered pieces of bones belonging to the mother and daughter in a burnpile located behind the home of Nielsen's mother and step-father.
Apparently, Nielsen had stopped the automobile of the mother-daughter at some unknown location, shot both of them in the head while they were still in their car, then dismembered their bodies, then burned such, then gathered what remained and placed such in a canvas gymbag, and then threw the 130+ pounds gymbag in a nearby pond. Although Sue Marshel apparently had married a man named Gelsinger subsequent to her relationship with Nielsen, the motive for the murders possibly related to Sue Marshel Gelsinger's possibly being pregnant. Whether Nielsen was jealous of another relationship, or possibly thought the baby was his, is unknown.
In February 1996, Neils Neilson attempted suicide by deeply slashing his right wrist while awaiting trial in the Wayne County Jail. Neilson and one or more family members reportedly refused to consent to blood transfusions during both the initial emergency treatment at Fairfield Memorial Hospital, and at a second Effingham hospital where surgery was performed to repair damage to his wrist, due to their "Jehovah's Witness beliefs". Nielsen survived.
Niels Christian Nielsen was convicted of both murders in June 1996, and he was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Due to the subsequent mandatory appeals, and then later, the "stayed" death penalty situation in Illinois, Nielsen's execution has yet be carried out.
Terra Zakula had just graduated in May from Sevastopol High School, where Zakula was a member of the school's soccer team. She had also been on the staff of the school newspaper. Terra Zakula's funeral was conducted at the Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.
At around 3:50 AM. on October 1, 1994, Leif Zakula, 20, of rural Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and son of Jehovah's Witness Parents, Nick Zakula and Bette Wickman Zakula, ran off the road and slammed into a building in/near Nasewaupee, Wisconsin. Zakula's auto caught fire and burned. There were no other passengers in Zakula's auto. No further details of Leif Zakula's death.
Curiously, in October 1995, Associated Press issued an article about cutting the cost of funerals, which was published nationwide, which featured Bette Zakula as the primary interviewee, which stated, in part:
"After Bette and Nick Zakula's grown son died in a car accident, the Wisconsin couple drove his body from the hospital to a crematorium, then held a simple church service. In doing so, the Zakulas gave their son what more and more Americans would like but few will ever have: a plain and simple departure from life. They spent only $200 and, more importantly, gained an unexpected peace of mind. Being involved helped to make it a reality. ... It was more personal," said Bette Zakula, who decided to arrange her son's funeral after failing to find a funeral home that would provide just a cremation.
"... Although few people will care for their dead as the Zakulas did, more people are shying away from at least some of the pomp of traditional funerals and choosing cremation or simpler services.
"A memorial society recommended by a friend proved crucial to the Zakulas, alerting them to the option of avoiding the high cost and commercialization of a funeral home, said Mrs. Zakula. The process felt so right for them that when a second child died in a car accident nine months later, the Zakulas took care of her funeral."
Around noontime, on Sunday, October 30, 1994, a mentally ill 20 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named Jeremy W. Larson, of Grand Forks, North Dakota, either drowned or died of hypothermia in the Red River, after he jumped into the freezing water while being pursued by both city police officers and county deputies, who reportedly wanted to speak with him about "possible medical problems he was having".
One media article stated that Jeremy Larson was attempting to "reach the spiritual sanctuary" of the East Grand Forks Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. It is not known exactly what Larson had done, or who had telephoned police, but Larson was evidently near the Kingdom Hall when he died, and he died soon after the Sunday meetings ended.
Further adding to the mystery are the facts that Jeremy W. Larson, who had been reared by JW Parents, Terry and Antonia "Toni" Larson, was described by his JW Mother as an "active" Jehovah's Witness, who was "deeply religious", and significantly, Jeremy Larson was permitted a JW funeral at that same East Grand Forks Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.
WEST VIRGINIA v. ANDREA YOUNG and VIRGINIA v. ANDREA YOUNG were related 1994-5 murder court cases. On the afternoon of March 18, 1994, Andrea M. Young, 27, of Richmond, Virginia, after purchasing a life insurance policy on her JW Mother, then went to the home of her Jehovah's Witness Parents, and attempted to murder her mother by suffocation, but apparently failed. At some point thereafter, Andrea Young shot and killed her 69 year-old JW Father, Ralph Young, outside the parent's home.
Andrea Young thereafter fled the state. On Sunday, March 20, 1994, apparently after running out of money around Clarksburg, West Virginia, Young approached several Jehovah's Witnesses in the parking lot of the Anmore Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, and asked for money. After being refused by several JWs, Young pulled a pistol and attempted to shoot or did shoot at two of the JW Elders. Young was thereafter arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder, but was returned to Virginia for prosecution on the more serious murder charge.
Andrea Young reportedly had a history of mental problems, which had been exasperated by her recently having been disfellowshipped (excommunicated) from the JWs. Young eventually plea bargained to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 43 years in prison.
FLORIDA v. MELVIN DALE FREEZE was a 1992-5 Florida criminal court decision. In February 1995, a 54 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named Melvin Dale Freeze, was pronounced "not guilty" by a six-person jury of his peers in a criminal trial in which Melvin D. Freeze had been accused of murdering his 52 year-old wife of 38 years, Doris Ellen Freeze, in May 1992. Dale Freeze had also been accused of torching the couple's Ocala, Florida mobile home. A previous trial in July-August 1994 had ended in a hung jury -- five for guilt and seven for innocence.
Due to the two separate controversial trials, both of which included voluminous evidence and testimony pointing both to Freeze's innocence and guilt, from 50 or more witnesses for the prosecution, and dozens for the defense, the available details are scattered and difficult to summarize. Thus, this summary should not be considered complete. From the best that I can piece together, Melvin and Doris Freeze were originally from Ohio, where they had reared their children. The couple had relocated to Ocala, Florida sometime in the 1980s. While Melvin apparently was an active Jehovah's Witness, Doris had been disfellowshipped for smoking cigarettes years prior to their moving to Florida. The Freeze children apparently were also split into groups of JWs and former JWs, with the JWs possibly being the children who believed their father to be innocent, and with the former JWs possibly being the children who believed their father to be guilty.
Neither jury believed the prosecution's theory that just before 2:00 PM, on a Tuesday afternoon, Melvin Freeze had choked Doris Freeze into unconsciousness; then placed her on their bed in their bedroom; then set their mobile home on fire; and then left the scene in his automobile. Neither jury believed the state fire investigator who testified that there had been a trail of gasoline poured from the doorway of the bedroom to the back door of the mobile home, and that the fire originated in the bedroom. Neither jury believed a neighbor's testimony that Melvin Freeze exited the mobile home, tied the couple's dog to the front porch, and then left the scene only a matter of minutes before smoke and fire was seen coming from the mobile home. Neither jury believed testimony from a jail cellmate of Melvin Freeze, with whom Freeze conducted "Bible studies" in order to convert the cellmate to the JWs, who testified that Freeze had confessed to the murder, and had prayed for forgiveness for the murder.
Both juries apparently believed the defense theory that Doris Freeze had started the fire, and then died of smoke inhalation and carbon moxoxide poisoning as part of her intentional suicide. Both juries apparently believed the defense's own fire origin expert, who testified that the point of origin could not be determined. Both juries apparently believed that Melvin Freeze was many miles away when the fire started.
Doris Freeze had a long history of depression, other mental illness, and multiple suicide attempts. The marriage allegedly had been a troubled one from the start, which allegedly included much spousal abuse that allegedly had forced Doris to seek shelter in spouse abuse centers in both Ohio and Florida. Testimony regarding spousal abuse was specifically excluded from the trials.
Reportedly, the couple had allegedly been considering divorcing in late 1991 or early 1992. Money problems were alleged. Melvin Freeze, who allegedly also had a history of depression, had reportedly been hospitalized for such for three weeks in February 1992 -- shortly before Doris Freeze's death.
In the end, after having heard and seen the above and much other testimony and evidence, neither of two juries believed that the prosecution had proved that Melvin Freeze had murdered Doris Freeze. Many relatives and friends agreed. Many relatives and friends disagreed.
VIRGINIA v. DARYL GREEN was a 1992-3 manslaughter criminal court case. Daryl Green, a 19 year-old African-American Jehovah's Witness, was found "not guilty" by a jury who believed Green's version, Green's JW family's version, and Green's hometown friends' version, and Green's Norfolk State University friends' version of the October 1992 shooting and death of William H. Berry III -- namely, that the shooting had been an accident. Their story sharply contrasted with the initial reports made by investigating police and the Police Chief from Green's hometown.
Will Green, a Philadelphia area USPS employee, stated that he and his wife were active Jehovah's Witnesses, and that they had reared their son, Daryl Green, as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Daryl Green and William H. Berry III were "best friends" -- to the point that after graduating from a Philadelphia area high school, they enrolled together at Norfolk State University in Virginia. Since JW youths are strongly encouraged to have as friends only other JWs, it is possible, although not known, that William Berry was also a Jehovah's Witness.
According to Daryl Green, Green's friends at his off-campus NSU apartment at the time of the shooting, and Green's family and friends back in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, Daryl Green's posse had returned to his off-campus apartment after playing basketball, and while watching television, Green had attempted to show his friends his .22 caliber pistol when the gun discharged and accidentally killed Berry. That account of the incident was believed by the Norfolk, Virginia judge who allowed the case to go to the grand jury only as a voluntary manslaughter charge, and it was believed by the Norfolk, Virginia trial jury who completely acquitted Green.
In contrast, Yeadon's Chief of Police indicated that Green, Berry, and possibly two other area youths who were at Green's off-campus NSU apartment at the time of the shooting were all "juvenile wannabes" of a gang called PSB, or the "Philadelphia-Style Boys", and that all had juvenile criminal records. Apparently, the Yeadon youths were all attracted to Norfolk State University because it was a predominantly African-American university that had a "party school" reputation. NSU also had a reputation for violence during this time period. The Green-Berry shooting was the third shooting of a student on or near campus in only the first 4 weeks of that semester.
In contrast, the local newspaper noted that although Green and Berry had went to junior high and high school together, and had enrolled together at NSU, by the time of the shooting, Berry was living in a dorm, while Green had an off-campus apartment. It is unclear whether this was their original living arrangements at NSU. The newspaper also reported that it had been told by acquaintances of Green and Berry that the two had had a running confrontation ever since they arrived at NSU, and that an argument had erupted at Green's apartment, and the shooting resulted from such. Apparently, that version was later either denied or retracted.
THE ROBERT MOORE and BENJAMIN MOORE SUICIDES. Sometime in the 1970s, John Moore and Roberta Moore, both Jehovah's Witnesses, were married, and had four children in addition to the son that Roberta brought from her first failed marriage. Their two youngest sons, Robert and Benjamin were born in 1980 and 1983. On August 30, 1993, the dead bodies of Robert, 13, and Benjamin, 10, were discovered on a recreational trail about one mile from their rural "cabin" located near Ogema,
Roberta Moore has spent much time and effort over the years contesting that ruling. Her suspicions of murder have included unknown serial murder(s), and even her ex-husband, John Moore, as the killer of her sons -- as she has so posted multiple times on the internet.
Apparently, the Moores' marriage began to fall apart sometime in the early 1980s when Roberto Moore's sister disassociated herself from the WatchTower religion, and John Moore therafter forbid his wife from associating with her sister. Roberta Moore also disassociated herself in 1986. Thereafter, John Moore made every effort to continue taking the children to their local Kingdom Hall, and to rear them in the JW faith. Robert Moore and Benjamin Moore reportedly did not like being reared as JWs, and having to go through everything that JW Children are forced to go through at school, such as refusing to stand for the National Anthem, refusing to recite the Pledge, and refusing to participate in any holiday and birthday celebrations. Given John Moore's adamant support for the JW lifestyle and Roberta Moore's rejection of such, and what must have occurred with the children as a result of turmoil in the home, it was easy to speculate that the two young boys eventually had had all they could take.
Daniel Stewart suffered from bipolar disorder and alcoholism, and at the time of the incidents had been home for only three weeks from his latest of three hospitalizations. Stewart could be gentle, fun, and charitable, and at times even held down a job, but he apparently had been refusing to regularly take his medications, and was suffering the consequences. When George and Yvonne Stewart attempted to force their youngest son to return to the hospital, Stewart grabbed a butcher knife and stabbed his father in the chest and back.
Hanover police, who had been summoned by Yvonne Stewart, arrived shortly after the stabbings, and shot Stewart when he refused to put down the knife, and advanced on the officers. George Stewart was released from Hanover General Hospital after five days of hospitalization.
In October 1992, Robert McNickles and his uncle Marshall McNickles were arrested on charges relating to the murder of Robert's uncle and Marshall's brother, Thomas McNickles, 52, and the rape-murder of 12 year-old Takeisha McNickles, who was Thomas McNickles' granddaughter, and relative of both Robert McNickles and Marshall McNickles. Takeisha McNickles' (step?) father was a Jehovah's Witness, named Andre Dimmings, who lived in Cleveland, Ohio. Takeisha also sometimes lived with her JW Grandmother, Barbara Edwards (Thomas McNickles ex-wife), who was also a Cleveland resident. It is unclear whether Takeisha McNickles was living in Boston at the time of her murder, or whether she was just visiting her Boston relatives at the time of her murder, because she was given a JW funeral and buried in Cleveland. Whatever was the case, all those Cleveland JWs apparently believed that it was safe for Takeisha McNickles to be either living with or visiting with the Boston relatives.
If Marshall McNickles was prosecuted for the murders, I cannot locate such. The only prosecution of Marshall McNickles that I can locate is an illegal possession of a firearm conviction which evolved out of this arrest, and for which Marshall McNickles spent six months in jail from around November 1992 until April 1993. Interestingly, this conviction was from charges filed against McNickles in 1973, but he may not have been previously caught due to using an alias, Tony McNickles. At the time in 1973, he was also charged with possession of burglary tools.
However, in 1997, Robert McNickles was convicted of murder in the second degree for the killing of Thomas, murder in the first degree for the killing of Takeisha, aggravated rape of Takeisha, and kidnaping, and was sentenced to six consecutive life terms. At the time of these crimes, Robert McNickles was on parole after having served six years in prison for an assault and rape committed in the early 1980s.
WISCONSIN v. JW JUVENILE was a 1990-1 Wisconsin juvenile court case. Limited details. Outcome unknown. In August 1990, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an unidentified 12 year-old Jehovah's Witness was arrested and charged with the shooting death of a second 16 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named Chauncey Young. The juveniles were both from families who attended the Glendale Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Young was apparently visiting at the other juvenile's home when the other juvenile shot Young in the head with a shotgun while playing "cops-n-robbers".
The 12 year-old pleaded "guilty" to "homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon". However, Chauncey Young, Sr. and Evelyn Young made a plea to the court not to further punish the other JW juvenile. They stated that just living with the thought of having killed their son was punishment enough. Outcome unknown.
MICHIGAN v. LUANNE SZENAY was a 1991 Michigan murder court decision. In 1991, a Bay City, Michigan, Jehovah's Witness Wife, named Luanne Szenay, 33, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and murder in the first degree in the murder-for-hire death of her JW husband, Timothy Szenay. Luann Szenay was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Timothy Szenay and Luanne Szenay owned and operated an area health foods store. The couple apparently had had many problems over the years, and by 1989-90 were in the process of divorcing. Luanne Szenay hired Shawn Marcus England, 18, and James Edmond Blau, 20, at least one of whom was a part-time store employee, to murder Timothy Szenay. In January 1990, the pair entered Szenay's home, where they forced Szenay to kneel on the living room floor before shooting him execution style in the back of his head and back, and then disguised the murder-for-hire as a robbery-murder.
Luanne Szenay's defense was that the murder-for-hire was a genuine robbery-murder, of which she had nothing to do, and that she had been repeatedly beaten and terrorized over the years by Timothy Szenay, who Luanne Szenay alleged had strayed from the tenets of their WatchTower religion. However, there was no police record of such domestic abuse. The prosecution theorized, and a jury of Szenay's peers believed that Luanne Szenay's real motive was to accomplish the death of Timothy Szenay before their divorce was final, so that she could collect his $300,000.00 life insurance policy.
NEW YORK v. ABRAHAM ROBINSON was a 1991-4 New York murder court case. After 40 years of marriage, and having reared several children, an older Jehovah's Witness Couple, named Abe Robinson, Jr., 64, and Thelma Robinson, 63, of Selkirk, New York, were going through an apparently bitter divorce when, on July 1, 1991, Abe Robinson, 63, returned to the couple's home, from which he had been barred by a restraining order, and beat, and strangled to death with his bare hands, his estranged wife. Soon thereafter, an adult son, Desmond A. Robinson, 31, arrived at his parent's home, and found his father lying on top of his mother's corpse.
At trial, Robinson's attorney argued that Robinson was mentally ill at the time of the attack, and that Robinson had not intended to kill his wife. A defense psychiatrist testified that at the time of the attack that Abe Robinson was suffering from a personality disorder and severe depression caused by financial troubles and having recently been disfellowshiped from his local Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Given his age, and the fact that the prosecution portrayed him as an extremely domineering husband, who had victimized his wife for decades, it is probable that Abe Robinson once had been a JW Elder.
A jury evidently partially believed some of the defense in convicting Robinson of only second degree murder, which was affirmed on appeal. Abe Robinson, Jr. was sentenced to a prison term of 25 years to life, which given his age meant that he would die in prison.
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