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Episode 135: Cindy Blitzer Testimony

When Craig Blitzer became district attorney of Rockingham County in North Carolina, he was worried about taking a pay cut because his wife Cindy had got the couple into a lot of debt. But he was reassured when he realized he could employ her as his assistant. After all, that’s what his friend Wallace Bradsher, district attorney of neighboring Person and Caswell counties, had done with his wife, putting her on salary as an assistant. When both district attorneys learned from the state ethics commission that they weren’t allowed to hire relatives, they made a deal to swap wives. Cindy Blitzer went to work for Wallace Bradsher, and Pam Bradsher went to work for Craig Blitzer. Only Cindy Blitzer was also attending nursing school full-time, which meant she did little to no work for Brasher.

In this episode, Wallace Bradsher acts as his own attorney and questions Cindy Blitzer about how much she knew (or claimed to know) about the $48,000 she received in unearned pay. Cindy Blitzer avoided criminal charges because her husband made a plea deal with the state on a misdemeanor charge (he also had to pay back the $48,000). Wallace Bradsher was sentenced to four months in prison and stripped of his law license.

Episode 134: Brent Wolgamott Testimony

This episode contains the testimony of college student and former male escort Brent Wolgamott in the trial of author Michael Peterson for the alleged murder of his wife Kathleen (the case featured in Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s excellent documentary miniseries The Staircase), whom, he claimed, had fallen down a staircase in the couple’s home. The prosecution brought in Wolgamott (“Brad from Raleigh”) to testify in the belief that his testimony would support their argument that the Petersons’ marriage was far from happy, and that Kathleen had discovered Michael’s alleged secret “gay life” and wanted a divorce. Wolgamott testifies that he never met Peterson, and in their emails, he had praised his wife and his marriage.

Peterson was convicted of the murder in 2003, and after eight years in prison, was granted a new trial. On February 24, 2017, Peterson submitted an Alford plea to the reduced charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to time already served and freed.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 133: three 911 calls

The first call was placed in January 7, 2007 by Dylon Peterson, 25, who tells the dispatcher that he has just killed  two people. Peterson, who is drunk, seems incoherent, has a bizarre affect, and gives no explanation for his act. He was homeless at the time, and had been staying with a friend, Nick Nagle, whom he’d met at a culinary arts class in Vancouver. While Nick and his father were out of town, Dylon stabbed to death Nick’s younger brother Mathew, 15, and his mother Sandra Torell, 45. He was sentenced to 57 years for murder. His motive remains unclear.

The second set of calls relate to a crime that took place in Irving, Texas, on  New Year’s Day, 2008. Taxi driver Yaser Abdel Said, 58, felt that his daughters Amina and Sarah had dishonored his family by refusing to adhere to the standards of traditional Egyptian cultural behavior. That day, he lured them into his taxi cab on the pretense of taking them out to eat, and fatally shot them in the cab. Before she died, Sarah Said made a brief, desperate call to 911 asking for help. By the time the police located the cab, the sisters were dead, and Yaser Said had disappeared, along with his handgun and all of his savings. He has not been found.

The third pair of calls relate to an attempted kidnapping that took place in Simi Valley, California, in March 2007. A 9-year-old girl was playing alone outside her home when she was grabbed by the hair and forced into a vehicle. Two neighbors saw the incident, describing the kidnapper as a middle-aged Latino man. He drove the girl around the city, trying unsuccessfully to molest her, then dropped her off about a block from her family’s apartment. The girl suffered minor scratches and bruises but was not seriously injured. The man was never identified.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 132: Darryl La Ray Johnson Sentencing Hearing

Darryl La Ray Johnson, 32, of Great Falls, Idaho, pleaded guilty on March 1 2017 to possession of marijuana. In May, he went to court for a sentencing hearing after spending five months in jail. At the beginning of the hearing, he fires his attorney at the hearing and asked to represent himself. He goes on to argue that an Idaho judge has no jurisdiction over him because he’s a “Moorish American national.” Johnson is referring to a religious sect formed in the 1920s on the belief that African-Americans came to America from Morocco and they’re related to the ancient Canaanites and Moabites of the Bible. Adherents claim Moors were America’s indigenous inhabitants and are thereby entitled to self-governance.

This claim (lack of jurisdiction) has been used numerous times by different groups under what is known as the “sovereign citizen movement.” According to this claim, indigenous individuals are not subject to government statute. However, the legal arguments claiming individuals are “sovereign” have been rejected by the courts. Judge Pickett threatens to place Johnson in contempt of court after he continually interrupts Pickett and the prosecutor. The judge comes close to losing his temper two or three times, but overall remains admirably cool and calm, given Johnson’s refusal to abide by the courtroom rules. He gives Johnson more than one chance to request the services of an attorney or go on probation. But Johnson never quits, and ends up with a prison term.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 131: Cross Examination of Erik Sackett

In October 2017, Erik Sackett, 39, of Vernon County, Wisconsin, began dating single mom Erin Somvilai, who had a history of depression, drug use, and mental illness (she’d already attempted suicide three times). Erin was in love with Erik, but he was mainly interested in sex, and in February 2018, he got involved with another woman. He tried to distance himself from Erin, even though he continued to have sex with her. Erin was distraught, and her life began to spiral downwards.

On June 3 2018, Erin visited Erik and left him a bottle of brandy, a photo and a note. She returned again later that day, only to find Erik in bed with his new girlfriend. Upset, she left and began texting Erik and threatening to kill herself. Erik went to find her and took her to Runge Hollow Lake to calm her down, and the two of them went swimming. After Erik left her, Erin went missing, and police began searching the area. Erin’s body was found in her car in Runge Hollow Lake in Vernon County, Wisconsin, near his Erik’s cabin.

Erik Sackett was the main suspect in Erin’s death but his attorney Christopher Zachar raised the possibility that Erin committed suicide (the doctor who performed the autopsy said he couldn’t it rule out). Zachar also told jurors of another suspect looked at by police–Dr. David Onsrud, a physician who employed Erin to take care of his son. Onsrud admitted that he paid roughly $15,000 for Erin to tie him up as part of a fetish.

Sackett was acquitted of the crime. Erin Somvilai’s death remains undetermined.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 130: Deposition of Cleal Watts III

This episode contains just over an hour’s audio from the six-hour deposition of Cleal Watts III (CV No. 13-2578) in the Western District of Tennessee in August 2015. Watts told investors he was an experienced importer of gold dust, that he owned a refinery in Dallas, Texas, and that their funds would be used to purchase and refine gold dust from Africa in order to generate substantial returns in the United States. When no returns came in, Watts would delay by telling investors grandiose stories about hijackings, theft, customs issues and storage challenges, enabling him to coerce more money out of them. In the end, Watts defrauded his clients out of $5.3 million, which he spent on himself. It took three years of litigation to get answers out of Watts–and even in this deposition, his answers are vague, circuitous, and redundant, often skirting the point.
To defend himself, Watts uses the claim that he’s a dyslexic with memory problems, and he never puts anything in writing. He claims that he’s a wealthy gold merchant, but refers to bullion as “bouillon” (and keeps referring to “monies”). The straight-shooting attorney in this deposition is Anthony Pietrangelo of Pietrangelo Cook, PLC in Dallas, Texas. The lawsuit resulted in a $22 million judgement against Watts.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 129: Interrogation of Rocky Rambo Wei Nam Kam

This episode contains part of the interrogation of Rocky Rambo Wei Nam Kam, a 25 year old man Chinese accused of killing Vancouver couple Richard Jones, 68, and his wife, Dianna Mah-Jones, 64, in their home on Sept. 26, 2017. Rocky does not confess to the murder–in fact, while he’s happy to engage in a little small talk, he says nothing at all related to the crime.

His interrogator is Sgt. Leah Terpsma, who uses a gentle, sympathetic, motherly approach, bringing Rocky a chicken sandwich and eating her lunch with him. But it doesn’t work. All Rocky wants is to be given his phone so he can play video games while he waits to be taken to jail.

When the case went to trial in January 2020, Rocky’s attorney argued that his mental state was impaired due to an addiction to video games and he didn’t have the intent to commit murder. In fact, he argued that Rocky thought he was in a video game when he murdered the couple. No other motive has come to light.

Sentencing has been delayed due to COVID quarantine.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 128: Edwin Lara Crime Spree Tapes

On July 24, 2016, Edwin Lara, a public safety officer at Central Oregon Community College, beat 23-year-old Kaylee Sawyer to death during his work shift. The following day, he found a second victim.  19-year-old Aundreah Elizabeth Maes, 19, was sitting in her car in  the parking lot of a Ross store, when Lara pointed his gun at her, opened the passenger door, got into the back seat and demanded she drive him to California.

 He ordered Maes to stop at a hotel at 11:39 p.m that night, where he took a room, handcuffed Maes to the bathroom door, took a shower and then forced her into bed. He made her swallow two sleeping pills and crawled in beside her. Maes prevented him from raping her by lying that she had a sexually transmitted disease.

 Lara forced Maes back into the car at 1:26 a.m., and they drove around until 5 a.m., when they stopped at a Super 8 motel in Yreka. Outside the motel, Lara walked with Maes toward a 73-year-old motorist sitting in a parked car and shot him in the abdomen when he wouldn’t give up his vehicle. He then took his victim to  a nearby gas station, where he stole a car from a 76-year-old woman and her two teenage grandsons.

At 6:40 a.m. on July 26, 2016, he called 911 and said he was wanted for murder. He was arrested a short time later, armed and wearing a bulletproof vest. This episode contains audio of: Lara’s 911 call turning himself in, a police interview with his wife while he was on the run, and his police interrogation after the arrest.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 127: Manuel Vela Prison Interview

    In December 2017, Manuel Vela, 28, was arrested in east Bakersfield, California after “socking and choking” his pregnant girlfriend to death, carving her unborn child out of her body, and “cutting it up” by the side of a road next to a homeless shelter. Vela had faced three previous domestic violence charges, including a previous conviction against his victim, Kristina Rivera, 30. This interview was conducted shortly after Vela’s arrest by two reporters from KBAK-TV in Bakersfield.

Vela had not been evaluated by a psychiatrist when this interview took place, but he is clearly incompetent to stand trial. At first he expresses concerned about possibly incriminating himself, but right away describes him crime in graphic detail. Vela is obviously schizophrenic. He is paranoid and delusional, calls himself “the Antichrist,” claims his “Father” told him to kill his girlfriend and her baby, describes hallucinations, hearing voices, receiving commands from outer space, and other bizarre tangents.

In January 2018, Vela was found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead. The official cause of death was suicide by hanging.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 126: Confession of Robert Gladden, Jr.

On Monday August 27, 2012, the first day of the a school year, 15-year old Robert Gladden Jr. pulled a gun from his pants and opened fire in the cafeteria of Perry Hall High School in Perry Hall, Maryland. He was quickly tackled and brought to the ground by a teacher, but not before shooting and seriously injuring another student, Daniel Borowy, who survived his injuries. After his arrest, Gladden was interviewed by Baltimore County police. In this interview, Gladden has a flat affect, mumbling and rambling in a voice whose depth belies his childish appearance. He is obviously in a state of severe depression, and has been for some time.

Gladden admits to being bullied and says the shooting was an attempt to commit suicide by cop.  He tells his questioners that he hoped this would be the last day of his life, and expresses admiration for the Columbine shooters. He says he took 21 shells with him to school that day because “I figured if I’m going to do it, I might as well kill a lot.” He confesses that he’s been struggling with unhappiness for years. “The first time I thought about killing myself, I was in fourth grade but I was so young, I figured I’d wait,” he says, adding that he hopes to get the death penalty  “so I can just die.”

The death penalty has been abolished in Maryland, but Gladden was charged as an adult, and Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. went beyond state sentencing guidelines and gave him 35 years in prison.

Listen to the episode here.