JEHOVAH'S WITNESS MENTAL HEALTH and
JW FAMILICIDE and OTHER JW-ON-JW CRIMES
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The following criminal 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 stealing money from their fellow Jehovah's Witnesses, and similarly related crimes, are summarized on a sister website. Click HERE for FIVE webpages of financial related court case summaries.
WASHINGTON v. LEMBCKE was a 2001 Washington state familicide murder court decision. In August 2001, a mentally ill 16 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named William Lembcke, was convicted of murdering his father, Robert H. Lembcke, 49 (not a JW); his JW Mother, Diana L. Lembcke, 43; his brother, Wesley J. Lembcke, 11; and his sister Jolene A. Lembcke, 18. "Willy" Lembcke was sentenced only to life in prison without possibility of parole due to his "juvenile" status.
PENNSYLVANIA v. 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. 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. 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. 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.
NEW YORK v. CRABTREE was a 2000 New York court case. On October 4, 2000, a Jehovah's Witness Elder, named Michael R. Crabtree, 33, of Walton, New York, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and third-degree assault. Outcome of criminal charges, which Crabtree is assumed to have denied, is unknown, but Michael Crabtree conducted a funeral at the Hamden, New York Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in April, 2001, which would indicate that he apparently suffered no organizational punishment as a result of these charges.
The charges were "pressed" by Lisa Key, 29, of Delhi, New York, who also attended the Hamden, New York Congergation of Jehovah's Witnesses, where Mike Crabtree was an Elder. Lisa Key alleged that she left her 9 year-old son, Matthew Key, and another unidentified male youth at the Crabtree's home while she went to a doctor's appointment. After she returned, the Crabtrees, the Keys, and the unidentified boy all had dinner together at the Crabtree's home. After dinner, Matthew Key and his friend went outside to play.
Michael Crabtree allegedly then told Lisa Key that there had been a problem while she was at her appointment. Key claimed that Crabtree told her that Matthew and he had had a "confrontation", and that Crabtree had had to "smack" Matthew. Lisa Key then called her son into Crabtree's home and confronted him in front of Crabtree. The 9 year-old allegedly began to cry, and allegedly displayed his chest. Lisa Key later reported:
"There was a perfect handprint on Matthew's left side. It was bright red, and you could see every finger, like the handprints a child makes in school with fingerpaint, and there was an indentation on his chest left by Mike's wedding ring. I was stunned. I just told the kids it was time to go, and we got out of there."
After Key and the two minors left the Crabtrees, Matthew Key and his friend allegedly told Lisa Key that they had been playing basketball with Mike Crabtree, but that Crabtree got too rough, and they didn't want to play anymore, so they went into his house, and sat on the couch. They claimed that Crabtree came inside, got angry, and hit Matthew Key.
Lisa Key further related that Mike Crabtree had been "working" with her son since around April/May of 2000, and especially so after she and her husband divorced in June 2000. Crabtree also had been conducting weekly "bible studies" with the 9 year-old for several months, and they apparently had always gotten along well.
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. 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.
CALIFORNIA v. NELSON was a 1999-2000 California murder case. In February 1999, Teresa Nelson, 22, of Vallejo, California, fled to the home of her Jehovah's Witness Parents after arguing with and attempting to shoot her baby's daddy, Shawn Wilson. There, in her parent's garage, Nelson stabbed her 23-month-old daughter, Saliyah Nelson, six times with a carving knife. Nelson later tried to commit suicide by stabbing herself in the liver.
Teresa Nelson formally pleaded "not guilty by reason of insanity" to the resulting charges. Two court-appointed doctors concluded that Nelson, who had been reared as a Jehovah's Witness, had a family history of mental illness and displayed symptoms for several years that apparently went unnoticed or misdiagnosed. Nelson twice sought psychological counseling while pregnant.
Nelson's problems were exacerbated when she was "disfellowshipped" in 1996 for having gotten pregnant out of wedlock. However, Nelson may have been later "reinstated" given that in November 2000, one of Nelson's doctors reported to the court, "Ms. Nelson is highly troubled, clinically depressed and potentially suicidal, and cannot function independently. ... She apparently ruminates about spiritual matters, which include whether or not she will be accepted to her chosen religious group, when and how she will see her daughter, and under what circumstances will life be worth continuing.''
Nelson's public defenders failed in their attempts to have Nelson ruled legally incompetent to stand trial, and also failed with their insanity defense. A jury found Nelson guilty of second-degree murder, and assault on a child causing death, as well as one count of attempted manslaughter against Shawn Wilson. Sentence unknown.
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.
FLORIDA v. HERNANDEZ was a 1999-2004 Florida murder court decision. In August 2001, a Jehovah's Witness, and illegal alien from Mexico, named Pedro Hernandez-Alberto, was convicted of murdering his two step-daughters in January 1999. Pedro Hernandez was sentenced to the death penalty, and both his conviction and sentence was affirmed by the Florida Supreme Court in 2004.
In 1996, fellow Jehovah's Witnesses Pedro Hernandez-Alberto, age 29-32, and Maria Gonzalez, in her mid to late 40s, were married after dating for less than two years, but after having known each other since the early 1990s through their attendance at their local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. A daughter, named Gabriella Hernandez, was born on October 25, 1996. The older Maria Gonzalez already had an adult son, named Salvatore Gonzalez, an adult daughter, named Isela Gonzalez, and a minor daughter, named Donna Julssa Berezovsky. Pedro had previously lived in California, Georgia, and probably elsewhere, so given the discrepancies in his reported age, and given that he supposedly had no prior criminal record, it is possible, that like many other illegal aliens, Pedro may have used multiple aliases as he moved around the United States.
Maria Gonzalez owned and operated a family business known as the Apollo Beach Family Restaurant, and she owned her own home, all prior to the marriage. After the couple were married, Maria resisted Pedro's demands that his name be placed on the titles to the home and business. Pedro also did not get along with Maria's children, particularly the two daughters, the oldest of whom was only 3-6 years younger than Pedro. All not only lived together, but all also worked at the family's restuarant. By January 1999, the couple were arguing continuously, and each were threatening to divorce the other. Marriage counseling by the couple's Jehovah's Witness Elders, who have no professional training, accomplished nothing, except maybe to make the situation worse.
On the afternoon of Sunday, January 3, 1999, while Pedro was home with 11 year-old stepdaughter, Donna Berezovsky, and 2 year-old Gabriella Hernandez, he told Donna to pick up a toy in the family room. When Donna refused, Pedro struck her in the head and knocked her to the floor. Pedro then removed a 9mm handgun from the fanny pack that he was known curiously to wear constantly, and shot Donna in the back, killing her.
Pedro then drove to the restaurant. After first using the restroom, he walked up behind Isela Gonzalez, 29, who was working in the kitchen, and shot her twice in the back. After she fell to the floor, he then shot her once in the back of the neck. Thereafter, Pedro Hernandez attempted to flee to Mexico, but was eventually arrested near Houston, Texas.
The following 1999 Jehovah's Witness tragedy involved a JW young adult who was injured while committing a crime, and then committed "backdoor-suicide" by refusing a blood transfusion. In February 1999, members of a family of Peruvian Jehovah's Witnesses had previously entered Canada -- apparently for the purpose of more easily crossing the border illegally into the United States. Maria de Jesus Cespedes-Cabanillas, 23, and probably others of her family, were using what was apparently a "well-known" method of breaking America's immigration laws -- sneaking into the United States late at night on slow moving freight trains crossing the Michigan Central Railroad Bridge, just south of the Whirlpool Bridge, in Niagara Falls, New York.
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. HENRIQUEZ was a 1996-2000 California multiple murder court decision. In August 1996, an African-American/Hispanic Jehovah's Witness, named Christopher Henriquez, 24, murdered his 8-months pregnant Jehovah's Witness Wife, Carmen Henriquez, 25, and their 2 year-old daughter, Zuri Henriquez. In 2000, Chris Henriquez was sentenced to death, and he now awaits justice in San Quentin Prison.
Christopher Henriquez, who also may have spent time as a youth with family in California, apparently was reared mainly in the Bronx -- as a devout Jehovah's Witness. When he was a teenager, Henriquez reportedly was chosen to travel all the way from either NYC or California to South Dakota to "pioneer" in "unassigned territory" (fulltime door-knocking) for the Jehovah's Witnesses. [Non-JWs should be aware that JWs take even the most inconsequential organizational assignments very seriously. For a male teen simply to be allowed to pass microphones at his Kingdom Hall, he must pass a series of character and performance "tests". Thus, for Chris Henriquez to be chosen to travel to South Dakota to "pioneer" in "unassigned territory" is proof that he was an "elite" JW.]
Specifics are sketchy, but Henriquez possibly married Carmen Jones, of California, around 1992, after they were introduced to each other by fellow JWs. The marriage apparently was shaky, and Henriquez apparently moved back to NYC sometime in 1994, which would have been around the time of the birth of Zuri Henriquez. In 1994, Christopher Henriquez pled guilty to a robbery in NYC. He may have done some jail time, but was eventually paroled.
In July 1996, the JW Couple had made a fresh start in Antioch, California. After Henriquez lost his job, Carmen Henriquez discovered that Chris was planning a bank robbery, and moved out. A couple weeks later, she moved back in after Chris convinced her that he had not been serious. Apparently, she soon discovered otherwise, and probably told Chris that she was going to turn him in. Chris first tied Carmen up, and after he apparently was unable to convince her to keep quiet, he first beat, and then strangled her to death. Chris then killed their 2 year-old daughter by first smothering her, and then hitting her in the head with a hammer. A few days later, Henriquez hopped an airplane for NYC. Based on a tip, possibly from Chris's JW Mother, the FBI were waiting for Henriquez's arrival at La Guardia Airport, and he was arrested without incident. Henriquez was wearing a new Rolex, and had nearly $50,000.00 in cash on him.
Police described the young Christopher Henriquez as a cool, calm, calculating homicidal maniac, whose admissions surprised even them. Henriquez not only coldly confessed to brutally murdering his wife, the viable fetus, and his daughter, but Henriquez also confessed to robbing and murdering a Bronx loanshark and a man in Chinatown in 1994. Henriquez also confessed to robbing two California banks within the past month. Interestingly, Henriquez had two accomplices in the recent California bank robberies. I wonder who they were, and how Henriquez made their acquaintance. Christopher Henriquez also confessed to as many as 50 NYC muggings and robberies when he lived there in 1994. Who knows how many similar crimes he may have committed in NYC and California during the "gaps".
OHIO v. VINCENT SHAW and OHIO v. SYLVIA CHENEY-SHAW were jointly tried 1997-2001 Ohio criminal court cases relating to the child abuse of DeAngelo Cheney, the natural child of Sylvia Cheney-Shaw, and step-son of Vincent Shaw. DeAngelo is a functionally retarded autistic child, with a seizure disorder, born to Sylvia Cheney, in 1993. The couple met in early 1996, and married in August 1997.
In September 1997, DeAngelo was removed from the custody of his mother and his step-father and placed in foster care after he suffered injuries reported to Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, which were suspected to have been the result of physical abuse.
Shortly thereafter, the Warrensville, Ohio Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses formed a "judicial committee" to investigate whether Vincent Shaw had brought any reproach on the congregation by being publicly accused of physically abusing DeAngelo. Vincent and Sylvia Shaw voluntary participated in defense of themselves, while Renee Jones, the apartment complex neighbor who had reported Vincent in September for the abuse which she observed, testified against Vincent to the JW's judicial committee.
It is not known what action, if any, that the Warrensville, Ohio Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses took against Vincent Shaw, or, more importantly, to help DeAngelo Shaw, but it says much that the PRESIDING OVERSEER, named Robert Powell, later testified on behalf of Vincent Shaw, at the government's prosecution. Powell testified to the effect that he had personally know Vincent Shaw as a member of the Warrensville congregation simce 1987, and that after considering the testimony of non-JW Renee Jones, the judicial committee decided NOT to disfellowship Shaw. We must assume that if any lesser judicial action had been taken against Shaw by his JW congegation that Powell would have disclosed such during his trial testimony.
Thereafter, during the spring of 1998, Vincent and Sylvia Shaw were permitted unsupervised visitation periods with DeAngelo. During one of those unsupervised visitation periods in June 1998, DeAngelo was admitted to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital with life-threatening abdominal injuries.
In August 1998, the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury issued multi-count indictments against Sylvia Cheney-Shaw and Vincent Shaw. In June 1999, a joint bench trial was conducted. Multiple Jehovah's Witnesses testified on behalf of the Shaws. Overwhelming evidence of abuse was presented by multiple non-JWs. In addition to her testimony about abuse of Angelo, Renee Jones also testified that Vincent Shaw had threatened her on multiple occasions. A Housing Authority police officer also testified that he broke up a verbal altercation between Shaw and Jones in November 1998, and that Vincent Shaw had threatened to kill them both, and gestured with his finger.
The trial court found Sylvia Cheney-Shaw guilty of 14 counts of child endangering. The court sentenced her to a term of two years on each of counts 30 through 41, to run concurrent to each other (later vacated by the appellate court, and remanded for sentencing under statute in effect at time of commission); and two years each on counts 43 and 44, to run concurrent to each other, but consecutive to counts 30 through 41.
The trial court found Vincent Shaw guilty of felonious assault; child endangering; and of intimidation of a witness. The court sentenced him to a term of imprisonment of five years each on counts 4 and 8 to be served concurrently, one year on count 11 to run consecutively to count 4; two years on count 13 to run consecutively to counts 4 and 11; two years on count 14 to run concurrent with count 13; and two years on count 16 to run concurrent with count 11.
CALIFORNIA v. 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. 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. PAZ and CALIFORNIA v. PAZ were related 1997 California criminal court cases. In October 1997, two Jehovah's Witness Foster Parents were convicted on various charges relating to the Christmas 1996 death of a 19 month-old foster child, who died of injuries including broken bones and a bruised skull. In a plea bargain deal, Fernando Enriquez Paz, 34, pled guilty to child abuse, and was sentenced to six years in prison. Maria Del Carmen Paz, 29, pled no contest to child abuse, and was sentenced to time served and five years probation. The couple also lost custody of their own 9 year-old son, and 3 year-old daughter, who reportedly provided testimony against the parents.
Described as "model foster parents", these Jehovah's Witness Foster Parents reportedly had passed the foster parent system's scrutiny with flying colors on multiple occasions. Fernando Paz was even employed at a hospital as an emergency room clerk.
On December 27, 1996, the Paz's called 9-1-1 and summoned paramedics because 19 month-old Julio Gonzalez had stopped breathing and slipped into unconsciousness allegedly after choking on a carrot. When paramedics arrived, they noted that Fernando Paz was giving CPR in an overly rough manner. Paz alleged that he had already removed the carrot from the child's throat using the Heimlich maneuver. Doctors at Pasadena's Huntington Memorial Hospital put the child on life support and worked on his little body for 36 hours before declaring him dead. A CAT scan performed during the treatment revealed that the child was suffering from head trauma and injuries consistent with "shaken baby syndrome".
NEW JERSEY v. JAMES and NEW JERSEY v. JAMES were related 1993-1999 New Jersey court cases. The cases began with the arrest of two children in October 1993, and did not end until January 1999, when the children's former adoptive parents, Anthony James and Shirley James, and NJ prosecutors finally reached a plea deal. Anthony James was sentenced to 4 years on probation for 4 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and Shirley James simply agreed to enter a pretrial intervention program. By that time, Anthony James and Shirley James had reportedly relocated to Deltona, Florida, in 1998, where Shirley James eventually became a licensed foster parent.
In October 1993, Englewood, New Jersey Police arrested for shoplifting food at a local supermarket a 15-year-old girl and her 11-year-old brother. These two children accused Anthony James, then 36, and Shirley James, then 39, of neglecting them and two other adopted children, a 16-year-old girl, and a 10-year-old boy. The James family also included the James' own 8 year-old son, and a fifth adopted 12 year-old girl, who allegedly was treated better than the others, and apparently did not complain. (That's six children in total.) Neighbors told reporters that the James were Jehovah's Witnesses, who could be seen attending a nearby Kingdom Hall. When contacted, Elders at that Kingdom Hall confirmed that they "knew" the James, but refused to say more.
Details provided by media reports are sketchy and sometimes contradictory. Apparently, all five "adopted children" had been adopted before the James family had relocated from New York to New Jersey. The children had been classified as "hard-to-place" by the State of New York, and as a condition of adoption, the State of New York was paying the Jameses (who allegedly were both unemployed) $500.00 per month "per child" to care for the five adopted children until each reached 18 years old. The State of New York did no further monitoring of the family after the adoptions were finalized.
The four adopted children who complained about their living conditions -- a 16 year-old girl, a 15 year-old girl, an 11 year-old boy, and a 10 year-old boy -- lived in the Jameses converted attic, and were required to use a bathroom in the basement. They allegedly were restricted as to what, where, and when they could eat. The other two children had their own bedrooms, and reportedly were not subject to the same bathroom and eating restrictions as were the four children. According to New Jersey education officials, at the time of the shoplifting arrests, all six children were supposedly being "home-schooled" without the benefit of state approval.
The James were initially released on $10,000.00 bail, and the four children who complained were placed in the care of New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services.
In May 1994, Anthony James and Shirley James were indicted on 13 counts each of child endangerment, criminal restraint, and fraud. Supposedly due to lack of evidence, most of those charges were dropped in the January 1999 plea deal.
Interestingly, within a week or so after this scenario made the news, two similarly adopted children of Shirley James' twin sister, Debra Winston, who reportedly was also a Jehovah's Witness, and who lived within a block of the James' family, came forward and made similar accusations of both neglect and abuse against that second JW Family. No further details.
CALIFORNIA v. 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.
NORTH CAROLINA v. PHIFER was a 1997 North Carolina infanticide murder court decision. In January 1997, in Greensboro, North Carolina, a newborn baby girl was found dead by a dumpster-diver inside a garbage dumpster located in a city park. An autopsy later determined that the infant had been born alive, bathed, and even nursed, but then died of exposure after being placed inside the dumpster. Despite nationwide publicity, noone came forward to claim the corpse, so the Greensboro community came together to give a fitting burial to the infant known only as "Baby Jane Doe".
In April 1997, a mentally ill 19/20 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named Racquel Phifer, was arrested based on a tip from a co-worker and charged with first degree murder. Phifer initailly pleaded "not guilty", but eventually plea bargained "guilty" to second degree murder, and was sentenced to 10-13 years in prison, where she has undergone therapy for a number of mental problems.
Reared by devout Jehovah's Witness Parents, Racquel Phifer struggled to meet the high expectations of strict parents. Despite the fact that Baleria Phifer was an elementary school teacher, Racquel flunked several grades in school, and eventually flunked out of high school. During the course of the trial, Racquel Phifer claimed that she had been raped when she was 11 years-old by an unnamed relative, and that she had not told anyone, and that as a result, she had struggled with thoughts of suicide and other mental issues for years.
Fearing her JW Parents reaction to her having gotten pregnant out of wedlock, Phifer was able to hide her pregnancy with the aid of another one of her mental issues -- bulimia nervosa, which caused her to experience periods of weight gain and loss. Curiously, though, Phifer read and prepared to deliver the baby at home, alone, which she did. Phifer cared for, bathed, played with, and even nursed her newborn daughter for hours. Then, the telephone rang. Her mother was angry because Racquel had not picked her up from work. When Racquel began to think about the confrontation that would occur when she showed her own daughter to her mother, she panicked. On her way to pick up Baleria Phifer from work, Racquel Phifer stopped at the city park and made a dumpster deposit. The baby girl died slowly as her temperature dropped gradually in the January air -- hours during which Phifer could have returned, but did not.
"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. 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. RICHARDSON and NEW YORK v. 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.
YOUNG v. DETROIT FIRE DEPT ET AL and MICHIGAN v. 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. 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. YOUNG and VIRGINIA v. 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.
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