[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CONN., UTAH
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Feb 24 12:30:41 CST 2006
Petty Quarrels Turn Deadly----Empty Tissue Roller Leads To Murder
We've all been there. Sitting on the pot, staring at an empty cardboard
roll, the fury rising.
Most of us will let the anger drain and find an emergency alternative, but
police in Florida say Franklin Crow went ape recently over the absence of
bathroom tissue and smashed his roommate's skull with a sledgehammer
"We've got the BTK killer, and now we've got the TPK killer - the `Toilet
Paper Killer,'" said Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University in
As Farley noted, the why in this case may go much deeper than tissue
paper, but Crow is far from unique in his seemingly superficial motive for
murder. Police around the country say young people are killing each other
over mean looks, and 1 psychiatrist who works with convicted murderers
says more hair-trigger homicides are likely because of a misdiagnosed, or
undiagnosed, brain disorder.
In the Florida case, Crow, 56, was arrested Monday on a charge of murder
in the death of Kenneth Matthews, 58, of Ocklawaha. Newspaper reports say
Crow and Matthews were arguing about a lack of toilet paper in the home
they shared when Matthews grabbed a rifle.
Crow allegedly knocked the gun away and hit Matthews 8 times in the head
with a sledgehammer handle.
Not finished, Crow hit his roommate two more times with a claw hammer,
Closer to home, a Framingham, Mass., man was convicted of killing his wife
after an argument about scorched ziti. After Laura Jane Rosenthal, 34,
criticized him for burning their dinner, Richard Rosenthal smashed her
head with a rock, then cut her torso open and impaled her heart and lungs
on a stake in the backyard. Rosenthal lost an insanity plea and was
sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for the 1995 killing.
And in Connecticut back in the late 1980s, jurors in the trial of Arthur
Werley heard testimony that Werley killed Kimberly Labrecque in part
because she said he looked like Howdy Doody. A red-haired and pale young
man at the time, Werley allegedly snapped when Labrecque, 21, refused his
sexual advances and likened him to the popular 1950s TV marionette. He
shoved her down cellar stairs in his Torrington home, then bludgeoned her
with a rock. Werley was convicted of manslaughter in 1990 and sentenced to
20 years in prison.
Farley, the psychologist, says, "I don't think people should panic and
think of this as an epidemic."
However, he said, rage in America has spread far beyond fights between
angry motorists, to airplanes, ball fields, ski slopes and the Internet.
The anger, Farley said, is fueled in part by an increasingly busy,
multitasking society, by family destabilization and by reality TV
ringmasters such as Jerry Springer.
"I think, increasingly, we are making the private world public," he said.
"There's a loosening of civil inhibitions. ... What you feel may lead to
what you do."
The New York Times recently reported on the rise in killings prompted by
seemingly petty disputes - over a dress, use of a soap dish, a cellphone -
and by young people's perceptions of disrespect. Milwaukee Police Chief
Nannette H. Hegerty called it "the rage thing."
"We're seeing a very angry population, and they don't go to fists anymore,
they go right to guns," Hegerty told the Times.
Some people, however, have biological trigger points that lie dormant,
like a hairline crack in a house foundation, until something sets them
off, says Dr. Donna Schwartz-Watts, director of forensic services at the
University of South Carolina.
Part of her job as a forensic psychiatrist, Schwartz-Watts said, involves
working with state prisoners. 4 convicted murderers she sees have
Asperger's Syndrome, a brain disorder related to autism. Among other
problems, those who suffer from Asperger's lack social skills, have
trouble empathizing with others and can be ultra-sensitive to sound, light
One of the cases she worked on, Schwartz-Watts said, involved a
22-year-old man convicted of killing an 8-year-old boy. The two had been
trading video games outside when the boy ran over the man's foot with his
bicycle, she said. The man went berserk, pulled out a gun and shot the
She found that the man's sudden action was caused by an aspect of
Asperger's Syndrome called "tactile defensiveness." Think of the movie
"Rain Man," she said, when Tom Cruise's character tries to hug Ray, played
by Dustin Hoffman, and Ray folds up and starts screaming.
Schwartz-Watts said she is trying to get a grant to study the prevalence
of Asperger's Syndrome among South Carolina inmates. She fears that the
disorder is more widespread than is known, and until society gets a better
handle on it, "you're going to see a lot more of these crimes."
(source: Hartford Courant)
Killer stalls execution; son of victim frustrated
When Matt Hunsaker graduated from high school and became old enough to
advocate for his murdered mother, he thought it would be just a few years
before her killer would be executed.
Since then, Matt Hunsaker has turned 30, started a family of his own and
on Thursday watched the 20th anniversary of her death pass - all with
Ralph LeRoy Menzies still alive.
A lot more time could pass before Menzies dies for killing 26-year-old
The Utah Supreme Court is still mulling an appeal. If the court rules in
favor of Menzies, it could set the case back 11 years - and fuel Matt
Hunsaker's already pitched anger.
"It sucks," Matt Hunsaker said Thursday, as he stood against his kitchen
stove in his house at the end of a West Valley City cul-de-sac.
In front of him on the counter was a stack of police reports from the
investigation into his mother's killing and a row of fading yellow packets
containing court briefs related to Menzies' trial and appeals.
"It's unnecessary," he said. "The evidence is there. He's been proven
guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and what are we doing? We're fighting
Then Matt Hunsaker, just 10 years old when his mother died, posed the
rhetorical question he's asked repeatedly over the years: "Where was my
Menzies maintains his innocence and has pursued appeals for years.
Currently, all parties are waiting for the state's high court to determine
whether Menzies should be able to re-file what's called a state habeas
review. A ruling in Menzies' favor would re-start an appeals process that
began in 1995.
Matt Hunsaker said his father kept him and his younger siblings shielded
from the criminal case as children. Maurine Hunsaker's mother, Betty
Sudweeks, was the family's spokesperson and chief advocate in the early
years after her daughter's death, but when he grew older, Matt Hunsaker
felt a responsibility to assume the roles.
"He just has a good way of expressing himself," Sudweeks said. "And I
think too it's become a healing thing. I just think that it does him good
to be active in this because he can express his feelings and get his
emotions out instead of getting it all in."
Matt Hunsaker said the legal process has failed him and his mother's other
survivors by preventing them from gaining closure. He said Menzies' court
proceedings "constantly" make him go to court. In reality, Matt Hunsaker
acknowledges, the action has been sparse. Some years Menzies has only had
2 hearings. Some years just one.
The process could have been further behind if not for Matt Hunsaker, said
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker.
"Before Matt first addressed the trial court clear back in 1998, we would
sometimes have to wait a very long time for rulings from the trial court,"
said Brunker. "After he addressed that court in 1998, the ruling we'd been
waiting for for about 9 months was ruled on in a week or two. And from
then on everything was prompt."
The process has taken a toll on Matt Hunsaker's personal life.
Last year, he and his wife divorced, partly because of the ongoing stress
of his mother's murder, he said.
Matt Hunsaker said a depression starts to come over him every December and
continues through February.
"I don't talk about my feelings and sadness with [my mother's death],"
Matt Hunsaker said. "I should have turned to my wife and I just couldn't."
Matt Hunsaker has taken his children - a 9-year-old son and 7-year-old
daughter - to some court hearings. He takes them to remind the judges of
the people affected by his mother's loss.
Even if Utah's high court rules against Menzies, federal reviews are
scheduled. Matt Hunsaker thinks it will be at least 2 years before Menzies
could be executed. But he has no intention of ending his quest for
"It'll help me take that next step in my life to move on from this."
(source: Salt Lake Tribune)
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