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"Murder's my favorite. I love murder. Always one less witness to worry about." -- Defense lawyer, Murray Richman, quoted in Philip Gourevitch's true-crime book, "Cold Case"

Tragedy Strikes Theatre Family; Daughter Shot On Vancouver Street

Daughter of X-File's 'Smoking Man' killed trying to break up fight

January 6, 2004 -- Rachel Davis was shot and killed on the streets of Vancouver's Gastown as she tried to save a man from being kicked to death, according to a friend who witnessed the incident that led to the shooting.

Davis, 23, is the daughter of 2003 Gemini Award-winning actress Janet Wright, who was born in Saskatoon and whose family helped found Persephone Theatre 30 years ago.

Davis's friend Vaughn Neville said he, Davis and four others had been in the Purple Onion nightclub on Water Street when the bar closed at 4 a.m. Saturday. Outside, they found a dozen young people -- an Asian group and an Indo-Canadian group -- arguing.

One man fell to the ground and was surrounded by five or six others who took turns kicking him in the head until he lost consciousness. Davis -- entirely in character, according to her family -- jumped into the fray and shielded the unconscious man with her body, says Neville.

"I was surprised how fast she got in and was in the middle of it," said Neville. "That's when the gun came out. I saw two guys, two of the East Indian guys, get shot at point-blank range. He started shooting in other directions. And that's when I started running."

One of his friends chased the gunman, who turned round and opened fire. Neville returned to the scene of the shooting only to find Davis on the ground, a bullet through her forehead, fighting for her life.

"She put up a huge fight," said Neville. "She knew we were there. We held her hand. She breathed for us really well. Because of the severity of her gunshot, we all kind of knew she wasn't going to make it to the hospital. We just kept her calm and did what we could for her."

As Neville feared, Davis didn't make it.

Her distraught parents are not surprised that she risked her life to save a stranger.

"The way she died was awful, but at least it was in the spirit of her courage and character," her father Bruce Davis said. "What can I say? She's one of the most courageous, loyal and loving young women that almost anybody who knows her has ever known. She just couldn't stand people being badly treated like that and had no qualms about going into a fight and it always worked, until now."

Rachel's mother said she was grateful her daughter had at least spent the holidays with her family. Both parents say they bear no ill-will toward the people involved in their daughter's death. They only want her to be fondly remembered.

"We're not interested in vengeance, in 'whodunit' at this point. We just want to make sure that her soul's been properly captured, because she had lots of it," her father said.

This isn't the first tragedy to strike the family. Twelve years ago, Wright's sister Susan and her parents, Jack and Ruth, died in a house fire in Stratford, Ont.

The Wright siblings, Janet, Susan, John and Anne, grew up in Saskatoon and went on to notable careers in theatre, film and television. -- Excerpted from the article by Cam Fuller and Joanne Paulson The (Saskatoon) StarPhoenix, with Canadian Press Files

Ohio Police Link Two Highway Shootings

November  29, 2003  COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The most recent victim of the Columbus area highway shootings was laid to rest Saturday in her hometown of Washington Square, Ohio. Gail Knisely, a 62-year old grandmother, was shot and killed by a single bullet while she was traveling on the I-270 beltway outside of Columbus, Ohio.

It's a nightmare scenario: someone taking potshots at drivers going by a five-mile stretch of highway. Authorities said for the first time Friday they had linked the November 25 death of Gail Knisley to at least one of a total of 11-shootings which have taken place along or near a southern stretch of I-270 over the past several months.-- and they said the shooting was not an accident. Police won't use the term "sniper," but they say more of the shootings could be connected.

"You just can't believe someone would be sick enough to be shooting at cars," Missi Knisley, Knisley's daughter-in-law, said Friday. "It's a nightmare."

Extra patrols have been assigned to the leg of the highway, but those who live, work and travel through the area are nervous.

"We're living in a bad time," acknowledged Helen Speakman, who lives near the highway. She said she won't be bullied into changing her routine. "You never know what's going to happen, no matter where you live," she said, speaking through her storm door.

The first reported shooting on the southern section of Interstate 270 or in its immediate area was in May. A second occurred in August and the rest have been in the last seven weeks. The shots have been fired at different times of day, piercing trucks, cars, vans and pickups, shattering windows and flattening tires - and killing Knisley. The vehicles hit include a UPS delivery truck, a Coca-Cola truck and a horse trailer. No one besides Knisley has been injured in the shootings.

Authorities have released few details, saying only that tests on the bullets connected two shootings and declining to speculate on the type of weapon. Police did not identify the shooting linked to Knisley's.

Authorities on Friday asked whoever is responsible to call the sheriff's office.

Franklin County Sheriff Chief Deputy Steve Martin said that ballistic testing has been completed. While all the cases are similar, there is not enough left of the bullets to show they came from the same weapon. It's unclear whether there is one shooter or more, Martin said. He said authorities have received more than 250 tips naming several people as suspects have been called in to authorities. Police have started interviewing people, but don't have a suspect. The suspect is deliberately targeting drivers, Martin said.

Martin also advised the public to watch for changes in the behavior of friends and relatives and note if someone is missing work or appointments, shows excessive interest in the shootings or changes appearance.

Some of those changes of a possible suspect include:

  • Changing a normal routine, 24 to 48 hours after a shooting
  • Missing work or other engagements
  • Taking an unscheduled vacation or calling in sick to work
  • Showing an intense interest in the status of investigation, including discussing, saving articles, or taping television newscasts
  • Showing anxiety, nervousness, irritability, or changing sleeping habits
  • Using alcohol, or showing a change in weight
  • Taking an unscheduled work trip or visiting relatives
  • Altering appearance, including shaving or growing hair, or changing
    hairstyle.

Martin stressed that the sheriff's office is seeking input from citizens in the community, no matter how insignificant the information could appear. Anyone with information can call the police tip line at (614) 462-4646.

Department crime analysts also are reviewing this year's vandalism reports to see if any fit the pattern, police spokesman Sgt. Brent Mull said.

The stretch of highway in question runs through a sparsely populated area that includes woods frequented by hunters and people practicing target shooting and a few residential neighborhoods.

Knisley, a homemaker who lived about 40 miles away from Columbus, didn't like to drive in the city and was being chauffeured Tuesday by her friend Mary Cox. After Knisley's checkup following minor surgery on skin cancer lesions on her nose, the two had planned to go to lunch and go Christmas shopping. They were talking when they heard a pop.

"What was that? What was that?" Knisley, 62, said before slumping forward, according to the recording of Cox's 911 call.

Hours later, a GMC Jimmy was hit nearby, deputies said. The same day a tractor-trailer driver for Coca-Cola Co. found a hole in the rear door of the trailer after making deliveries along I-270.

Four days earlier, Edward Cable was headed home to southern Ohio when he heard a noise in his minivan. He found a bullet hole and shell fragment about 16 inches behind the driver's seat.

Trucker William Briggs was hauling two empty trailers back from Roanoke, Va., about 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 when his driver's side window exploded. Briggs had just entered I-270 from U.S. 23 and was in the center of the three westbound lanes. He kept driving, assuming he had been hit by a rock, and turned on his dome light to search for the stone but couldn't find it. A few minutes later, stopped at a truck terminal, he discovered the bullet.

"It didn't miss my face but a couple of inches at most," said Briggs, a Vietnam veteran from suburban Hilliard. "It was really luck on my part and ineptness on his part."

Briggs drove past the site of his shooting the next night and says he isn't afraid to travel the outerbelt.

"They didn't get me over there, they're not going to get me here," he said, referring to Vietnam. "Being shot at once - the odds are astronomical it's going to happen twice."

One of the victims, Edward Cable, said that he at first hoped the bullet that came within 16 inches of his head was just a random shot. However, after seeing Tuesday's fatal shooting in the same area, he knew he had been a target.

"I felt ... that it was not an accident, (and that) someone was actually trying to kill me," he said.

Cable, who lives in Lucasville but comes to Columbus to visit his daughter, said the anxiety and emotion of the realization made him "half-sick." He now goes out of his way to avoid that stretch of highway, he said.

"The not knowing is harder on people with stress and anxiety than anything else," Cable said.


-- Edited and excerpted from articles by John McCarthy, Associated Press Writer, by Neil Relyea for 9News, and NBC Columbus.com

Fukuoka Family Killed Because They Were Witnesses

Two detained Chinese admit killing family of four

September 27, 2003 FUKUOKA -- A Chinese suspect detained in connection with the killing of a family of four in Fukuoka in June has said he and two accomplices broke into the family's home with the intent to steal, but ended up killing them because they were seen. Officials of the Chinese Consulate General in Fukuoka said Wei Wei, a 23-year-old former student in Japan, made the admission during a half-hour meeting with consulate staff at the Fukuoka prefectural police headquarters.

Two men being held on suspicion of involvement in the murder also admitted to killing the Matsumoto family, according to the Public Security Ministry. Wang Liang, 21, and Yang Ning, 23, who had been students in Japan, told authorities that they killed the couple and their two children. Wang, who went to study in Japan in 2002, and Yang, who went there in 2000, returned to China on June 24, shortly after the murders were reported by the news media.

The bodies of Shinjiro Matsumoto, a 41-year-old clothing merchant from Fukuoka City, his 40-year-old wife Chika, 11-year-old son Kai, and 8-year-old daughter Hina, were found June 20 in Japan's Hakata Bay, handcuffed and weighed down by dumbbells. Fukuoka police think someone who knew Shinjiro Matsumoto well asked the two suspects to carry out the crime, but the ministry did not mention that possibility.

On August 8, Japanese police arrested Wei Wei, a 23-year-old student who studied in Japan, on a robbery charge as he was about to leave for China. On August 19, Wang was held in the city of Shenyang, Liaoning Province. Yang was detained in Beijing August 27. Investigations were launched in China after the Japanese Embassy in Beijing informed the ministry of the murder case on August 15.

Wei admitted to police that he broke into the Matsumotos' home with Wang and Yang and killed the family. Wei told police he had been informed of the time that Matsumoto would be absent from the home so they could break into the house. According to the ministry's investigations, Wang, Yang and Wei broke into the home around 12:30 AM. on June 20, discovered the family was home, and killed all four members of the household and stole money and valuables. They transported the bodies in the family car and dumped them in the bay. Then they abandoned the car and fled.

It is extremely rare for the Public Security Ministry to publicize investigations into individual crimes in Japan. "Police in China and Japan will cooperate closely and work to bring all the facts to light as quickly as possible," a ministry official said. -- Kyodo News/Japan Today September 27, 2003September 25, 2003

Page Contents:
  • Tragedy Strikes Theatre Family; Daughter Shot On Vancouver Street
  • Ohio Police Link Two Highway Shootings
  • Fukuoka Family Killed Because They Were Witnesses
  • Judge Turns Case Over Against Mother Accused of Helping Cover Up Murder
  • Man Arrested in Connection With Shooting Death of Williams Sister
  • UFO Researcher Detained for Murder
  • Japanese Woman Tourist Murdered in New Orleans

Man Arrested in Shooting Death of Williams Sister

September 15, 2003 LOS ANGELES -- A 24-year-old man with gang connections has been arrested on suspicion that he shot and killed the 31-year-old eldest sister of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams after an argument in a poor Los Angeles suburb, police said on Monday.

Aaron Michael Hammer was being held without bail as the suspected triggerman in the death Sunday of Yetunde Price in Compton, an area known for gang violence about 20 miles south of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office said. Hammer will face a first-degree murder charge at his arraignment, which was expected Tuesday, a sheriff's spokesman said.

Hammer was believed to have shot Price in the upper chest as she and a companion, Rolland Wormley, drove past a Compton house where they had had an earlier confrontation with occupants, Deputy Carlos Lopez said.

"This particular residence has been problematic for our deputies," Lopez said, without giving details. The Los Angeles Times quoted another police officer as saying the house had a history of drug use taking place there. Lopez said that police "had responded to that particular house before. It's a house where people go and crash for a night or two."

Lopez said Price was shot in the upper torso at 12:15 AM PDT. Wormley, who was driving a white SUV, took Price to a relative's home in nearby Long Beach, where an ambulance was called. It's not clear whether Price was dead on arrival at the undisclosed hospital, he said. He described Price and Wormley, 28, as "acquaintances."

Wormley, who was not injured, was later arrested on suspicion of violating parole and assault with a deadly weapon, a sheriff's spokesman said on Monday.

Price, a mother of three, owned a Los Angeles-area beauty salon and worked as a personal assistant to her two sisters, Williams' family attorney Keven Davis told Reuters.

"We are extremely shocked, saddened and devastated by the shooting death of our beloved Yetunde," the Williams family said in a statement. "She was our nucleus and our rock. She was personal assistant, confidant, and adviser to her sisters, and her death leaves a void that can never be filled. Our grief is overwhelming, and this is the saddest day of our lives."

Serena Williams, who will turn 22 on Sept. 26, is the No. 3 female tennis player in the world. Venus, 23, is the No. 6 female tennis player in the world.

Family spokeswoman Raymone Bain told Reuters that Price's tennis pro sisters had been out of town when they heard the news. "Venus was on the East Coast and Serena was in Toronto filming a movie," she said.

Serena was filming a cable television drama "Street Time," in which she plays a reformed gang member on parole, according to the Williams' fan Web site, www.venusserenafans.com.

Sheriff's deputies and a gang squad from the Compton police department surrounded the house where the shooting occurred early on Sunday after patrolling deputies heard shots fired, Deputy Scott Butler said.

Police arrested Hammer after interviewing him and five other people found inside the house after a lengthy standoff, Lopez said. Police also confiscated an assault rifle, he said.

Investigators are looking for two people who were believed to be involved in the shooting, Lopez said on Monday. No descriptions of those suspects were provided.

Investigators were trying to determine why Price and Wormley were in the neighborhood, a moderate- and low-income area with primarily Latino and black residents. Price lived in Corona, some 20 miles to the east.

Venus and Serena Williams are the youngest of five sisters. The family spent their early years in the Compton area but later moved to Florida, where the two tennis champions attended a training camp for the most promising young players. -- Edited from Reuters

Japanese Woman Tourist Murdered in New Orleans

September 6, 2003 NEW ORLEANS -- The body of a Japanese tourist missing since Aug 31 was found Thursday near the Mississippi River in New Orleans, police said Friday.

The partially nude body of Kanako Oyama, 21, was found Thursday in a wooded area in Algiers at D'Armas and Brooklyn streets. She had been asphyxiated and had a belt around her neck, according to the Orleans Parish coroner's office.

Police said they received an anonymous call reporting a body about 3:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. They found a purse and other personal items belonging to Oyama not far from the body.

Oyama, who was on a three-week trip, disappeared after checking into her room in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon, leaving her luggage behind. When she didn't check out on Wednesday, the manager of the hostel reported her missing. -- Edited excerpts from Wire reports as posted in Japan Today

UFO Researcher Detained for Murder

Was a specialist in UMMO case

September 10, 2003 SPAIN -- According to a story reported by paranormal website Mundo Misterioso, Albacete-based parapsychologist and ufologist Jose de Zor, one of the main experts in the UMMO case, has been detained by the police and charged with the murder of a young pilot, Manuel Esposito.

It is worth noting that de Zor has focused exclusively on the ties between the UMMO case and the "amputated hand" of Albacete. Manuel Esposito's corpse was found decapitated on June 24. An investigation was started in which the term "ritual crime" was kept in mind by police investigators at all times.

All clues lead to the small town of Albacete, specifically its gay community. The veteran "ummologist", leader of the Albacete gay community and an activist with the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), achieved a certain measure of popularity last year after performing hypnotic regressions on Spanish television last year.

-- Edited from the translation by Scott Corrales/IHU/Guillermo Gimenez, as posted to UFO UpDates - Toronto

Judge Turns Case Over Against Mother Accused of Helping Cover Up Murder

September 8, 2003 JONESBOROUGH, TN -- Saying he could not continue presiding over the case against Howard Hawk Willis' mother because he could not be neutral, Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown turned it over to a colleague last week. Emma Elizabeth Hawks is accused of helping her son cover up the murder and dismemberment of a newlywed teenage couple from Georgia.

Seventeen-year-old Adam Chrismer's hands and head were found in a Johnson City lake and his body, along with that of his 16-year-old wife Samantha Leming, were found in a Johnson City storage shed rented by Hawk.

Brown said he could no longer preside over Hawk's trial because of evidence he heard during the probation hearing for her sister, who was sentenced to two months in jail for trying to destroy a reputed confession tape. The tape played at the hearing for Marie Holmes included repeated orders from the sisters to Willis' ex-wife that she erase a tape in which he confessed to killing Chrismer and Leming.

"I've already heard the evidence on one of the charges against Ms. Hawk -- and it's almost as if this court has heard her case tried and she wasn't here," Brown said Friday. "Under those circumstances, under the rules of ethics, the court has no choice but to recuse itself and give this to another judge."

Hawk, 72, is charged with two counts of abuse of a corpse and one count each of being an accessory after the fact of first-degree murder and soliciting the tampering of evidence. Brown was referring to the solicitation charge because her sister was charged with the same crime.

"If I can't come in with an open mind and be just completely fair and unopinionated and unbiased, I'm not going to try a case," he said. He gave the case to fellow Criminal Court Judge Bob Cupp and it was reset for Oct. 14. Brown will continue to preside over the case against Willis, who is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

Clifton Corker, Hawk's attorney, said his client did not have an opinion about whether there was an advantage to Brown giving up the case.

"She wants Judge Brown to make the right decisions, and I think if Judge Brown has a concern about his ability to do so, then he did the right thing," he said.

Authorities contend Willis killed the teens last October in a sex-for-drugs scheme. He's also a suspect in the dismemberment slaying of his stepfather, Sam Thomas last October. Thomas' headless, handless torso was recovered near a vacant trailer on Lookout Mountain, Ga., and his head was found near a Johnson City park. -- AP

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