Today I asked you to post something new that you’ve learned at CrimeCon 2018. Here’s what I learned: CrimeCon should be at LEAST a week long. It is so difficult to choose between many equally-captivating sessions; everyone has just begun to get their bearings and find their way around the hotel; and many new friendships have started to blossom -- just in time for CC18 to wrap up tomorrow. I’m already sad to see you all go. But, some amazing things happened today!
West Memphis Three
Bob Ruff’s Truth and Justice Podcast has spent its fifth season exploring the West Memphis Three. Admittedly, West Memphis Three is not a case I’ve kept up on; crimes involving children are quite emotionally taxing for me. It appears that the same rings true for Bob Ruff.
Today, on the 25th anniversary of their deaths, Bob began with an emotional tribute to the three young victims. Stevie loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Christopher was energetic and still believed in the Easter Bunny; Michael was obsessed with Cub Scouts and was wearing his uniform when he disappeared. These intimate details left a pall in the room. We honored their memories with a moment of heavy silence, then it was time to dispel some common misconceptions about the case:
The murders occurred in a deep forest
The bodies were discovered in the same body of water
The three victims were all playing together in the afternoon
In reality, the victims were found just yards away from an active apartment complex -- and police didn’t interview any residents in the building closest to the scene. Rather than playing together all day, Christopher was unaccounted for 45 minutes at one point after school
He later arrived at Stevie’s house looking for his friends, but they had already left to ride bikes and play, so he hung out and watched Muppet Babies with Stevie’s mother. There are zero credible sightings of the boys from 4:00-4:30.
Knowing so little about the case, I’m glad that I waited to begin researching it until after Bob’s session. As I’ve learned more about it today, the clarity he provided on the essential details has been invaluable.
The Sensory Experience
John Gerard Schaefer lived just doors away from Kim Massnick in Florida at the time that he was committing horrific, sadistic crimes in the area. The former cop kidnapped and murdered a confirmed two victims, but he’s suspected of more than thirty similar crimes. Many of us came into the Sensory Experience unfamiliar with his crimes, but we now know much, much more about him than we ever wanted to know. His proximity to Kim’s home made him an obvious choice as a subject in the hands-on curriculum that plays heavily into her educational philosophy.
We all sympathize with victims, but fortunately, very few of us really understand what they’ve endured. Kim Massnick set out to change that with this session. Though the session was peppered with her signature lighthearted humor, it took a dark turn as the audience donned hand restraints and blindfolds.
To represent what Schaefer’s victims endured, participants held their hands above their heads while a volunteer read part of a letter that Schaefer had written for a book. The letter took roughly 4-5 minutes to read and provided truly horrific details about his M.O. and disturbing insight into the mind of a deranged killer. Halfway through the letter, many participants had conceded defeat and lowered their hands.
Schaefer’s victims didn’t have that choice. While we were loosely “bound” and blindfolded in a comfortable, semi-air conditioned room, his victims were tied so tightly that they lost circulation in their hands, tied to a tree in a hot, dank, foul-smelling swamp while Schaefer performed the cruel rituals he described in his letter. It was an emotional, moving, and wholly effective simulation that made one thing clear: even if we think we know what victims endure, we can never truly know without living the nightmare ourselves.
How to Catch a Liar
Steven David Lampley called this session “How to Catch a Liar.” I’m not sure what it says about me, but what I heard in the session was “How to Be a Better One.” We learned about the different kinds of lies, like benign lies (“No, that dress looks great on you!”) and ego-driven aggrandizement lies (consider every ‘I was a hero’ story you’ve ever heard), and how to spot them. Here are some disturbing facts we learned:
In a single day, you probably hear 100-200 lies
All the new people you’ve met at CrimeCon? Statistically, they lied to you 2-3 times within 10 minutes
Lying accounts for $1 trillion in financial losses every year
More lies are told in the month of January than any other month
Most lies are told via telephone
Steven played three short videos in which he demonstrated a staggering number of deception indicators. Just to name a few:
Failure to deny an allegation
Touching one’s hair, face, or clothing
Clearing one’s throat
It’s a comfort to know how to spot a fibber, and handy to know what not to do next time your boss asks why you’re late.
Choosing between Darren Kavinoky and Mike Dowd’s situational awareness session and the Dateline panel was difficult. In the end, I surmised that the Dateline fanatics would share enough info and pics to cover that one, and as we learned recently, I need a little help with situational awareness.
Basically, Darren and Mike really want you to stay alive. We learned what to do in three potentially like active shooters and behind-the-wheel danger.
In the event of an active shooter, Darren and Mike offered these tips:
Run. You can’t predict where you’ll be when a shooting occurs. Run away from the sound of fire and take cover immediately behind a structure, car, or anything that’s sturdy enough to provide a barrier between yourself and the bullets
Get authorities on the scene immediately. If you do get away or find adequate cover, call 911 immediately and report the shooting
When in large crowds, sit near an exit and identify a secondary exit in the event that one is blocked. Study and assess anyone within six feet of your seat.
Another place danger can occur is behind the wheel of your car. When you pull onto your street, take stock of your surroundings; if someone is lurking nearby whom you don’t recognize or you see something suspicious, keep driving. Circle the block or run an errand and return to your home later. If (like me) you are a victim of a carjacking at gunpoint, give up everything. Give them the keys to your car and anything else they ask for. Remain calm and make an attempt to humanize yourself to stay alive. Alert authorities after they’ve fled the scene.
I wish I could make it to every session, but your pics and posts from #CrimeCon help tell the stories I can’t be there to tell. Thank you for sharing your insights and experience with your partners in crime.
As of this writing, the VIP cocktail hour is wrapping up at the world-famous Wildhorse Saloon and CrimeCon: Unplugged is ready to begin. I’m heading back to the Saloon now, so I’ll see you there, but you won’t see me (despite your best efforts).