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True Crime Update, January 4, 2006

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Sensational, horrific and heinous true crimes across the nation, notable for the type of crime, the celebrity of the criminal, or both.

Bodybuilders and Murder
Here’s a new crime to come across the radar during the holiday week just passed. Two bodybuilders, a Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan, had a live-in personal assistant, Melissa James, who was discovered bound and gagged in the trunk of Ryan’s Jaguar. The Jaguar had been torched.

Seems even in liberal Las Vegas they don’t approve of this sort of behavior, which is likely why these two went on the lam, ending up clear across country in Massachusetts. Ryan was picked up there as she was getting her nails done.

They claim they were not trying to escape the authorities, but I must ask, then, just why are they fighting extradition back to Nevada?


Accused bodybuilders were in elite class
Couple to face charges in death of assistant
By Douglas Belkin and Benjamin Freed
Boston Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent
December 25, 2005

They were considered royalty in the bodybuilding community, their physiques so perfectly developed that just a few weeks ago they were commanding $3,000 fees for just a few minutes of flexing on stage.

Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan sat in a South Shore jail, awaiting extradition to Las Vegas where Titus will formally be charged with murdering the couple’s personal assistant and burning her corpse, Las Vegas and local police said.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

”They were best of the best,” said Darrell Terrell, a nationally ranked bodybuilder who hired the couple in July to pose at a show he promoted in Oklahoma. ”They were the elite in the industry. This whole thing has just shocked everybody.”

Titus, 40, and Ryan, 33, were arrested Friday afternoon at a Stoughton nail salon after FBI agents were tipped that the two were heading to Boston to meet a friend, liquidate their assets, and flee the country.

Their travel plans took a sudden turn after Melissa James, the couple’s 28-year-old live-in personal assistant, was found dead in the trunk of Ryan’s red 2003 Jaguar, according to court documents. James had been bound and gagged, the car had been torched, and James’s body was partially burnt.

Laci Peterson’s Mom Tells Her Story
Sharon Rocha, mother of slain Laci Peterson and mother-in-law to the lovely Scott Peterson, finally has her book for sale. She provides many glimpses into the strange and weird soul of Scott Peterson, who is believed to have killed his pregnant wife on Christmas Eve and has been sentenced to death by a California jury.

Some early tidbits in the book have been released. We especially like that bit about Scott proposing to have the family dog interviewed by a pet psychic to help “find” the then missing Laci. One can only imagine how that would have worked. Perhaps the pet psychic would have revealed that the family dog claimed that Laci had been captured by a band of witches in order to steal her unborn baby. No, wait. That was Scott’s contention as relayed by his lovely defense attorney to the stars, Mark Geragos.


Mother writes of Laci’s life, the trial
Sharon Rocha shares intimate thoughts on traumatic experience
By GARTH STAPLEY
Modesto BEE STAFF WRITER
Last Updated: December 28, 2005, 05:56:36 AM PST

The unspeakable grief of losing a child and grandchild to family murder crashes down in every chapter of “For Laci,” a book by Laci Peterson’s mother scheduled to hit bookshelves Saturday.

“You wake up from most nightmares and they’re over,” Sharon Rocha wrote in the book’s opening line. “Mine was different.”

Most of the eight books published about Modesto’s blockbuster double-murder case have focused on Scott Peterson, who arrived on death row in March. In contrast, Rocha’s book – subtitled “A Mother’s Story of Love, Loss and Justice” – provides by far the best look at the soul of the victim.

In a school report saved by Rocha, a young Laci wrote that the “Psycho” character Norman Bates “can fool you by looking and acting like a normal person.”

Scott Peterson left a golf-course job after being accused of stealing from the company, after meeting Laci Rocha but before their marriage.

Laci Peterson kept a pregnancy diary. Rocha referred to it several times in “For Laci,” including this:

“We’ve decided to name him Conner Latham Peterson. I enjoy talking to him and rubbing my tummy to let him know I’m thinking about him. Pregnancy is such a wonderful experience.”

Scott Peterson stunned those searching for his missing wife by announcing that he had arranged for a pet psychic to interview the couple’s dog. He canceled that when Rocha blew up and said the idea was ridiculous.

A Case FOR the Death Penalty
Perhaps it’s me, but I’ve noted there have been a lot of jail escapes of late. One lovely Reynaldo Rapalo, a serial rapist, escaped over the past holiday season by using the old knotted sheet trick.

One of the arguments against the death penalty is the concept that those behind bars for life cannot commit more of their heinous crimes.

Rapalo is not, I must emphasize here, on death row, nor did he receive the death penalty. I’d argue that he would have tried his escape, and succeeded as he obviously did, regardless of his crime.

More disturbing, this fellow planned, even as he was on the lam from the law, yet another sexual assault. Well, he is a serial rapist, so it’s not far-fetched that he dreamt of more such crime while on the loose.

Point being, and I don’t necessarily agree but I’ll throw it out there, that sometimes felons do escape prison. Ted Bundy, now dead by state execution, also escaped prison as I recall and managed to murder a few more young women before he was finally picked up in the state of Florida.

Life in prison does not ensure that these heinous felons will be kept from the innocent public is what I’m saying here.


From CNN.com:
MIAMI (AP) — A serial rape suspect who escaped jail said he considered committing a rape while he was on the loose for nearly a week, authorities said.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comReynaldo E. Rapalo told investigators he spent six days in a makeshift shelter hidden in the brush of southwest Miami-Dade County.

During a six-hour interrogation after he was caught Monday, Rapalo said he came out of hiding and stopped by a party on Christmas Eve where he considered raping two people.

“He actually contemplated committing a sexual act on these two people,” Miami-Dade police Sgt. Robert Perez said.

Safe in the Mideast, Shot Dead in America
Here’s a strange and sad tale. A Navy reservist returns home from the Mideast and is soon shot dead by his wife and her teenaged boyfriend.

Seems the wife of Paul Berkley, Monique, got herself an adolescent lover while her husband — who was twenty years older than Monique, please note — was deployed overseas. The story below as quoted by the AP is a bit confusing. The story refers to Paul Berkley’s 18-year-old son but refers to a “Becky Berkley” as his stepdaughter. It then again refers to Becky Berkley as Monique Berkley’s stepdaughter.

Okay, it’s likely an error in reportage so we’ll assume for now that Becky Berkley was, indeed, Paul Berkley’s daughter.

Which makes the whole thing more odd in that it would seem that Becky’s boyfriend was part of the plot to kill Paul Berkley. Even weirder, Becky has her own blog and has been writing about this crime. So who is this Latwon Johnson, alleged to be Becky’s boyfriend, and what did “MistressBecky” know and when did she know it?


Sailor home for holidays slain in park
Wife, teen boyfriend held without bond in shooting

Monique Berkley, 26, has been charged with the slaying of her husband, Navy
Reservist Paul Berkley.

RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) — Home for Christmas after nearly a year in the Middle East, Navy Reservist Paul Berkley was making up for lost time with his family.

He arrived Wednesday, in time to hear his 18-year-old son, Zeke, sing the national anthem with his high school chorus. On Friday, he and 16-year-old stepdaughter Becky ate pizza, watched movies and danced.

By Sunday, the 46-year-old sailor was dead, shot once in the head during a walk in the park with his wife, Monique. She now stands charged with his slaying, along with two men — her alleged teenage lover and her stepdaughter’s boyfriend.

“It’s all just so ironic, isn’t it?” Becky Berkley wrote Tuesday on her own blog, MistressBecky, as her stepmother was making her first court appearance.

“My dad was in the Middle East for months and months and didn’t get shot,” she wrote. “Then he came home, where you’d assume he’d be much safer… and then, all this happened.”

Monique Berkley, 26, was ordered jailed without bond. Andrew Canty, the man who moved in with her during her husband’s deployment, and Latwon Johnson, both 18, also were denied bond. They were in the process of being assigned public defenders.

Talk About Perfect Casting
Lillo Brancato Jr. once appeared in a movie with Robert De Niro and was featured in several episodes of The Sopranos.

He played a hood on The Sopranos and now it would seem he was a two-bit hood in real life.

He and another accomplice were attempting a break-in to steal drugs after a lovely evening at a strip club. An off-duty police officer heard the ruckus and was shot, allegedly by Brancato’s accomplice. Brancato is boo-hooing about the dead police officer and swearing he never would have gone along if he’d known his partner in crime had a gun.

Perhaps. Brancata has been charged with murder and despite his tears, it’s not clear just who had the gun and who did the shooting.

We love that bit about Brancata “might” take the witness stand. We assume Brancata’s going to blame his accomplice, and it could well be that’s how it came down. We’re pretty sure Brancata will have to take the witness stand if his charge against his accomplice is his defense.

Why should we assume Brancata, lovely person that he is, would never conceive of such as carrying a gun?


Accused ‘Sopranos’ actor: I’m sorry
Lillo Brancato Jr., charged in officer shooting, feels ‘horrible’

Thursday, December 29, 2005; Posted: 12:06 p.m. EST (17:06 GMT)

Lillo Brancato Jr., accused in the slaying of a New York police officer.

NEW YORK (AP) — A young “Sopranos” actor accused in the slaying of an off-duty police officer said in a jailhouse interview he’s sorry and didn’t know his alleged burglary accomplice was carrying a gun.

Lillo Brancato Jr., who appeared opposite Robert De Niro “A Bronx Tale” and more recently was in several episodes of “The Sopranos,” was charged with murder and other counts in the December 10 shooting of Daniel Enchautegui during a gunfight.

He told the New York Post in an interview published Thursday that he wept while reading a newspaper account of Enchautegui’s funeral.

Image hosting by TinyPic

“When I saw the picture of his father, it brought tears to my eyes because he looked like one of those old-fashioned men — kind of like my father,” Brancato said. “I also thought that could have been my father going to my funeral.”

Enchautegui, 28, was shot after he heard Brancato, 29, and another man, Steven Armento, breaking into a basement apartment in the Bronx, authorities said. Before he died, Enchautegui wounded both suspects.

Brancato, who acknowledges problems with drugs and alcohol, said he was unaware Armento was carrying a weapon when they left a strip club to break into the apartment and steal prescription drugs. Authorities identified Armento, 48, as the gunman in the slaying.

“If I would have known, I wouldn’t have allowed him in my car,” Brancato said. “Imagine, we get pulled over and I get caught with an armed felon in my car. Since I’ve been in the movies, it would have instantly drawn attention.”

Brancato said he might take the witness stand at trial to tell the jury “how
horrible I feel about my stupidity.”

“If I had the chance, I would want to meet his family and look them in the face and tell then how sorry I feel about what happened,” he said.

Pat Fish is a published author and her books have drawn attention from her fellow reviewers on Blogcritics. Reviews of Memoirs of Josephine Fish and Mystery and Mirth have been conveniently provided for your reading pleasure.

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About pat fish

  • RogerMDillon

    How exactly is David Arquette involved in the Lillo Brancato Jr. story?

  • http://www.vespaquest.com Justene Adamec

    Getting one’s nails done isn’t consistent with being on the lam but I have never understood fighting extradition.

  • David Arquette

    Feel free to remove my picture from this blog immediately. Goldberg was right about you guys.

  • Dave Nalle

    The problem here is that PatFish searched for ‘Lilo’ Brancato when the guy’s name is ‘Lillo’ Brancato. For some reason the only things that come up when you search on google images for the name spelled with only one ‘l’ are two misattributed pictures, one of David Arquette and one of Ice T.

    I’ve now corrected the article with a picture of the actual Lillo Brancato who may not look quite as scary as that picture of David Arquette with the redeye, but at least it’s the right guy.

    And if that really was David Arquette, please accept my apologies on behalf of the BC editorial staff. It was an honest error. If you’re confused about being mistaken for Lillo Brancato you should take it up with http://www.bangitout.com which is responsible for promulgating the erroneous image on Google.

    Dave

  • http://patfish.blogspot.com/ Pat Fish

    Thanks Dave.

    Note that newspaper quote spells it with two “L’s” as well.

    I kept going back and checking and kept coming up with the same picture. Kept thinking I was nuts.

  • RogerMDillon

    Should have listened to me last week when I pointed it out. Instead of Google try using IMDB in the future. This is the second time a celebrity has been misidentified by this blogger.

  • gordonliu

    police officers in the united states will totally disregard constitutional rights to catch a criminal, making them criminals.

    the fact that the officer in lilo’s situation was doing his job, does not change the fact, that while many officers dont deserve this, at least half deserve to be flogged with spiked bats and tortured. police are some of the most brutal criminals you will ever meet. watch out, they are just as bad as the people they try to stop. hey it takes a criminal to catch one!!

    fuck the police im glad hes dead