Saturday, December 16, 2017


I am on a three-week-plus-one weekend  hiatus from medical school. I am officially halfway through my fourth and final year. in  technical sense, I am more than halfway through the year, because I have five weeks of unscheduled time in my final two quarters. Part of that time should be devoted to studying for Step 2 of the USMLE, but the studying can be done at my leisure and in my pajamas, or even in bed if that's how and where I choose to study. Furthermore, there's  easily time for a two-week vacation. I've already one all the interviews I need to do for my match list for residency. The time is mine to use as I see fit.

I have an additional four discretionary weeks, with which I have elected to redo my sub-internship because illness and injury rendered my initial attempt at sub-internship  a less-than-realistic look at the life of a pediatric surgeon. I passed the exam easily, and my supervising attending surgeon very likely would have cut me sufficient slack that my ratings would have been fine, but I felt that I would be taking advantage of circumstances to allow the marginal completion to stand as fulfillment of the requirement. (I think I met the minimum number of hours with twenty-five minutes to spare. I'm  unaccustomed to cutting corners quite so close.) I'll have the same supervising attending surgeon, and there will be sufficient time for him to write a letter of recommendation for me at or near the conclusion of the rotation. The letter he will write following my second effort will almost certainly be more effusive than would the one he would have written were I to have requested it following the initial experience. And, in a worst-case scenario, if I were to be stricken with another illness (I'm knocking on the ebony grand piano with one hand as I type with the other even though I'm not all that superstitious), the two endeavors combined would certainly allow me to log an acceptable number of hours in the subspecialty to consider the two combined trials to equal one full and  legitimate sub-internship.

That, however, is more than enough shop talk. I'm on break now.  Let's talk about something more compelling . . . such as novel means by which people have murdered others. I don't mean to be overly morbid, and I'll probably end up scaring myself to the point that I cannot go to sleep. Matthew is out tonight, and there's no guarantee that he will make it back here tonight with or without his date, and were he to make it back with his date, they might be too preoccupied with what they're doing to notice any cries for help that I might send out.  C'est la vie. I shall stick to my announced topic, and if it keeps me awake or gives me bad dreams, I'll deal with it by sleeping as late as I choose to sleep tomorrow.

I just read an article about a man who was convicted of suffocating his girlfriend with  bubble wrap. Why bubble wrap of all things? Did he bring the bubble wrap to their shared apartment with the express intent of suffocating his girlfriend, or did he just happen upon it during one of their frequent conflicts. Authorities had been summoned to their home on four prior occasions; in three of the four calls, the woman was determined to be the aggressor, but in the fourth call,  the deceased accused her eventual killer of trying to choke her.  It seems to have been one of those "can't live with him/her and can't live without him/her" sorts of relationships. We'll never know whether or not she could have lived without him, but she obviously couldn't live with him since he killed her with bubble wrap. I'm inclined to believe it was a heat-of-the-moment scenario. The convicted killer was a physician's assistant. Surely he could have come up with some way of killing her that presented at least a slight challenge for the coroner in determining the cause of death. From what was written in the article I read, it seems that he didn't even bother removing the bubble wrap from her face and disposing of it before calling his place of employment and asking the receptionist to cancel his appointments for that day (which was really quite considerate of him; they never heard from him again) and taking off in her jeep to travel  from their home on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina to Florida. He was arrested nearly six weeks later in Pensacola.

In what I would consider an even more gruesome murder, biochemist Larisa Schuster was convicted of killing her ex-husband Timothy by submerging his body in a barrel of hydrochloric acid.  This case hit a bit close to home. My father was marginally acquainted with both the victim and the killer.  The former couple's divorce was extraordinarily acrimonious, with the major bones of contention being custody of the couple's son and division of property. Schuster's biggest mistake, other than the killing itself, was probably enlisting the aid of an employee in the killing. Once authorities had evidence against the employee, he almost immediately commenced with melodious canary-like warbling.  Schuster took the stand in her own defense, but the jurors didn't find her to be an especially sympathetic witness or defendant.  I have included her picture, which in part solidifies the jury's reason for not finding a great deal of credibility in her denials. Just looking at a picture of the woman gives me a serious case of the willies.

While, for all practical purposes, with plastic surgery being off the table as an option for anyone facing trial for murder, one is essentially either blessed or cursed by the God of DNA in regard to physical appearance, cosmeticians and stylists have been known to work wonders and to create optical illusions with the tools of their trade. (Recall the makeover of Jody Arias, whose trial and makeover happened after your trial. Still, the idea of making the most of a defendant's appearance existed long before Arias' makeover. I'm merely using her as an example for the readers. If a defendant cannot be made to look conventionally pretty, at least present her as someone for whom  a person would  turn one's grocery cart around mid-aisle in order to avoid coming face-to-face with  because she freaking scares the bejeezus out of anyone with the visual acuity to identify nothing smaller than the ginormous E on a Snellen Chart.) You know you're on trial for rendering your husband defenseless with a stun gun, then placing his body in a barrel and pouring enough hydrochloric acid to immerse him for the purpose of dissolving his body, and you're so sadistic that you cannot be bothered with killing the man before letting the hydrochloric acid have its way with him. You're educated, and you understand that juries are swayed by appearances, and this is the most favorable makeover you could manage? Seriously?

In a 1988 case that, as far as I was able to discern, to this day the identification of the killer remains unsolved, the murder weapon was identified. A large loaf of incredibly dense pumpernickel bread, perfectly matching the indentation found on the skull of the late Sir Reginald Hemsley-Doddingdale (no, I'm not making the name up; people in Great Britain actually have such names) was found next to the body of the deceased.  The question of whether the pumpernickel loaf was baked to an extra-firm consistency with the intent of creating a murder weapon or someone actually intended to eat the bread remains unanswered just as is the question of who did the unspeakable deed.  If Brits routinely eat bread that is  hard enough to kill a person who is stuck in the head with it, that might offer at least a partial explanation for the stereotypically unsightly state of dentition of the majority of Brits who are not members of the royal family.

Jerome Henry Brudos, who was later discovered to have severe anger issues related to his mother, killed four women and attempted to kill two others. Brudos had a colossal foot- and stiletto-fetish, and in at least two cases kept a severed foot of his victims in his freezer. He stole and sometimes wore stilletos and women's undergarments. He did a few other things too disturbing for me to share with you. One of his victims he kept hanging from a pulley in his garage for weeks so that he could have sex with the corpse. he was married, and his wife was not allowed to enter their garage without first announcing her presence on an intercom he had set up for that purpose. He typically donned stilettos to masturbate after each killing.  In his prison cell, he kept catalogs of women's shoes, which he claimed were essentially pornography to him. I don't understand why authorities allowed him to keep the catalogs or anything else that gave him sexual pleasure. He had the right to live, in my opinion, but not to be sexually gratified. If the color gray had provided sexual gratification to him, authorities would have had the right to remove every trace of the color gray from his environment.

Just over ten years ago in a small town in Idaho, bras and panties began to disappear from apartment and dormitory laundry facilities. Initially the thefts were sufficiently subtle so as not to create undue alarm. The owners initially thought their undergarments had been misplaced. (For the record, the guy wasn't stealing LDS undergarments that are worn by endowed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Victoria's Secret was closer to his preferred genre. The bra-and-panty thief eventually grew bolder, and would steal all of the bras and underpants from whatever laundry facility he visited, leaving no doubt in regard to the theft.  Security cameras were set up, and the culprit was identified. The bra-and-panty thief was the fourteen-year-old son of  a couple who were prominent both civically and religiously. His father at the time served as bishop of one of the local LDS wards.

The fourteen-year-old boy was charged with petty theft, to which he pled guilty in exchange for a sentence involving no incarceration. His name was withheld because of his age, though the town was small enough that his identity was soon known to everyone who cared to know who lived in the town. I know of this and of his identity because a relative of one of my relatives was one of the victims of his theft.    In the allocution that was required in exchange for avoiding any time in juvey,  he admitted to sometimes skipping school when he knew his parents would not be home. He would string a rope across his room from which to display the undergarments as he masturbated. His disgraced family soon, with permission from the court,  moved out of state.

In the eyes of the law in most if not all jurisdictions, stealing underwear is no different than stealing anything else; no enhanced sentence is given because it was women's underclothing that the young man happened to steal. The reality of this, on the other hand, is that we're probably talking about one very sick puppy here.  He isn't yet -- at least as far as I know -- anywhere near the classification either of the flying dumbo who used bubble wrap to smother his girlfriend or of any of the other murderers whose cases I have detailed here.  Yet something about this case is more than a bit discomforting. The young man by now is a young adult of roughly twenty-four years of age.  Did anyone follow through with the counseling that was almost certainly a condition of his probation? If so, was the counseling provided by a mental health professional who is certified and highly trained who is highly trained and well-versed in the nuances of sexual deviancy, or did the kid merely talk once every week or two to his Mormon bishop, a volunteer lay leader who doesn't even have the three to six units of course work in pastoral counseling that a mainline Protestant pastor or a Catholic priest would have been required to complete unless by sheer coincidence the Mormon bishop happened to be a mental health professional in his day job?  Did he go on to serve an LDS mission among an unsuspecting population?  The issue could be one of nothing more complicated than a struggle with sexual identity. Perhaps his fondness for undergarments typically worn by females stems from his own desire to wear such undergarments, which, in the culture in which he was raised, would not have been considered an acceptable option. That,  however, would have to be considered a best-case scenario.  The other possibilities are much more alarming. Will his exploits someday be featured  on A & E or on Oxygen network? Only time will tell .  .  .


  1. Today, I've been binge watching Fear Thy Neighbor, which makes me afraid for my future.

    1. I've never seen that, though I can imagine what it would be, and it would cause one to fear for the future.

  2. A unique modus operandi I read in a fictional murder mystery used potassium chloride injected into the temple area of the head hidden by hair. A very thorough coroner found it almost by luck. I believe the victim was passed out or asleep at the time of the injection.
    Where would one find a whole barrel (55 gallon drum?) of hydrochloric acid? I can't imagine they are just laying around in mall parking lots.

    1. Ms. Schuster owned and operated an agricultural research lab. I believe she ordered the hydrochloric acid through her business, which facilitated the state's charge of premeditation because she couldn't really demonstrate any pressing need for hydrochloric acid in such a quantity, nor could she explain where it went if it wasn't used for the murder. I think she blamed an employee she was charged with paying to help her who turned state's evidence on her.