FLORIDA CRIME NEWS
by Leigh Lundin
A writer in Florida never has to run out of material. Often, news stories reflect stupidity, sometimes on the part of officials, but in recent weeks, crime news has become scary. Florida recently experienced home invasions, and the second could have been as fatal as the first.
In a gated community west of Orlando, three men and a woman held a family hostage in their own home for three days (or two and a half, according to some reports). During the ordeal, the crew dragged Marcela Borges to the family’s bank and had her withdraw close to 24 thousand dollars.
|In researching these stories, I was amazed at the rants and self-promotions flowing through blogs and forums. There were cries against illegal aliens as apparently some people don’t realize Puerto Ricans are Americans. One racist came up with a non sequitur about blacks being able to get away with crime. A talk show host I never heard of used the Billings murders to promote his radio program while blaming gun control advocates. One commenter expressed suspicion about ADT security alarm ads on the page, since the security system played a major part in capturing the Billings criminals. It made me appreciate the classiness of Criminal Brief readers.|
After the female perpetrator insisted the victims be executed, Borges managed to escape out a second story window, survived being shot in the back, and stumbled to neighbors who called the police. Information is limited at this point, but after helping the female criminal escape, the three males have been captured. The name of the woman at large has not been released.
Eight criminals, at least two with military training, staged a four minute raid in an Escambia County home in the early evening hours this summer. Although officials there ascribed the motive to robbery, it seems clear homicide was the intent of at least some of the involved, who murdered Melanie and Byrd Billings in front of their children.
The Billings were known for adopting children, twelve or thirteen according to reports. Like the Winter Garden family, the Billings were business owners and seemed deliberately targeted.
In a conversation this week, a fair question came up why I didn’t write about crime happenings in Orlando’s own backyard, particularly the Lisa Nowak and Casey Anthony cases. I reeled out an instinctive answer, but I’ve given the question more thought. Usually criminals are classified ‘bad people’. I think there are people who are bad and people who are badly in need of help.
In the case of astronaut Lisa Nowak, one doesn’t drive nearly a thousand miles across country carrying a knife, duct tape, rope, a BB gun, pepper spray, and latex gloves, while wearing a wig, trench coat, and adult diapers (to avoid bladder stops on the highway) simply to invite your rival to tea. I think Colleen Shipman was fortunate to avoid grievous body harm and I agree with observers the judge was lenient giving two days jail time and a year of probation.
With that in place, I feel Lisa Nowak is a very troubled woman and needs psychiatric help more than prison– but then a lot of criminals do. She has received another kind of punishment: her reputation is ruined and her career is in tatters, which counts for something. Most people will understand I won’t club a person when they’re down.
Thus far, I made one mention of the Caylee Anthony homicide, merely regarding disgust about psychics who involved themselves in the case, steering the sheriff’s department away from the location the body was found while, as usual, managing to claim they were somehow right. At the time, Nancy Grace asked the public to stand back and let the ‘professionals’ (specifically naming psychics) do their job.
The Casey Anthony trial saturates our local news. At present, lawyers are trying to make a scapegoat of the meter reader who discovered the body, so you get an idea how ugly this mess is.
This being Florida, the Vacation and Execution State, our prosecutor asked for the death penalty. I find Casey vacuous, self-involved, ditzy, and less than grown up, yet, if the state is right, she murdered her own daughter, a sweet little girl whom the prosecution alleges she found inconvenient. How can one reconcile that? At least as troubling, television’s ‘Dr. G‘, Jan Garavaglia, has not been able to unravel a cause of death other than "homicide of unknown origin".
|Caylee Anthony Forensic Report: (car) carpet fibers|
|Caylee Anthony Forensic Report: (DrG) autopsy|
|Caylee Anthony Forensic Report: (FBI) plastics|
Even capital punishment enthusiasts must find it a bit difficult to execute a girl who’s on the wrong side of immaturity. Harder yet, after more than a year of seeing Casey Anthony in our living rooms, she’s become familiar, someone we’ve come to know. Realizing the state might fry her is more unsettling than usual.
Most of all, I feel for the grandparents. The majority of the public is sympathetic, but other elements have been relentless, demonstrating in front of their house, blocking their driveway, harassing the couple. By all accounts, they loved their granddaughter deeply and they love their daughter as well. They lost one; they don’t want to lose the other.
This case raises two questions: How could Casey Anthony kill a young girl? How can we?