Anyone who consistently follows crime stories knows that you become attached to the stories you follow. You become attached to the victims, the affected loved ones, and sometimes even the antagonist, in certain cases.
The headlines in 2013 were filled with crime stories, especially with HLN covering some of the most talked-about trials. I decided to choose the top 5 cases that affected me the most this year. That’s not to say that all of them don’t affect me in one way or another, but some just get to you in more ways than one.
The Jodi Arias Trial
Who can forget about the Jodi Arias trial? This was a case I had been following since I heard about the death of Travis Alexander in June 2008. Travis was brutally murdered by his on-again off-again girlfriend, Jodi Arias. She drove to his home in Mesa, Arizona from her place in Yreka, California, slept with him, and then stabbed him 29 times, slit his throat, and shot him in the face.
She then had the nerve to attend his funeral and act like a grieving friend. She sent his grandmother flowers, voluntarily spoke with detectives to try and throw them off her trail, and came up with three different stories as to how Travis had died.
Jodi’s first story claimed that she hadn’t seen Travis since April, and that she wasn’t even in the area when Travis was killed. When confronted with undeniable evidence that she WAS at Travis’ home during the killing (evidence including but not limited to Jodi’s bloody handprint found on the wall at Travis’ home), she then changed her story to say that two intruders had broken in and killed Travis. She claimed that she had escaped within inches of her life, and that she never spoke up or called for help for Travis because she was scared the intruders would then come after her.
By the time Jodi’s trial came around earlier this year, Jodi had changed her story yet again. This time, she admitted to killing Travis, but claimed it was in self-defense. She testified in court that Travis had been taking a shower and that she was taking pictures of him, when she dropped his camera, enraging him. She then claimed he got out of the shower and lunged at her. She said that after a foot chase around the bedroom and bathroom area, she retrieved a gun and shot him in order to stop him from attacking her. She then claimed she conveniently blacked out during the stabbing.
Jodi was (thankfully!) found guilty of Travis’ murder in May. The jury couldn’t agree on the sentence, however, so another jury will be appointed in 2014 to ultimately decide her fate.
I started this blog after Jodi’s trial, so I didn’t cover it with any blog posts. Below are some good resources though, if you’re interested in reading more about it:
The George Zimmerman Trial
The George Zimmerman trial was another trial that garnered national headlines and was aired on HLN. George, a neighborhood watch captain in a Florida suburb, came across 17-year-old Trayvon Martin while Trayvon was walking home from a local convenience store. George thought Trayvon looked suspicious, and confronted him. A scuffle ensued, and George took it upon himself to shoot and kill Trayvon.
George was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter, which caused a lot of outrage around the country. Personally, I was shocked that even though George claimed the shooting was an accident, he didn’t receive any jail time for killing a child, accident or not.
I still think about Trayvon Martin all the time. I think about how he wasn’t doing anything wrong, and yet he lost his life. I think about his parents, and how they have to deal with the pain of losing Trayvon not only in their daily lives, but every time George is back in the news, most recently for an alleged domestic violence charge. It just doesn’t seem fair, and the entire situation got so ugly so fast. It became a race issue, and a pro-gun vs anti-gun issue. The main point that a child lost his life seemed to get lost in translation.
I also started this blog after the Zimmerman trial, so I unfortunately only have posts up about his recent legal troubles. Below is a good outside resource:
The disappearance of Nicholas Steward
Nick Steward was a 33-year-old man from Lake Villa, a suburb outside of Chicago. Nick was driving home from work on a Friday afternoon, and never made it there. His wife was frantic, and search teams were organized. I myself went and searched for him, since I live not too far from the area.
For weeks, I checked in daily to see if there was any progress. Then one night, Nick’s car was found, abandoned in an apartment parking lot, down the street from his parents’ house. Nick’s body was found in a field nearby. He had committed suicide, ultimately succumbing to whatever demons he had inside of him. He left behind a loving wife and a small child.
You can read my posts about Nick Steward by clicking on the links below:
- Where is Nicholas Steward?
- Timeline of the night Nick Steward disappeared
- UPDATED: Nick Steward’s car found, body likely found
The mysterious death of Kendrick Johnson
17-year-old Kendrick Johnson passed away earlier this year, his body found in a rolled up gym mat inside the gym of his high school. Local authorities in Valdosta, Georgia, ruled his death an accident, but his parents aren’t buying it. And if you really put yourself in their situation, would you be satisfied with that theory?
A lot of things don’t pan out, and there seems to be a lot that went wrong during the initial investigation. Kendrick’s family is fighting to have the case re-opened, and more of their questions answered.
In November, Michael Moore, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announced that federal authorities will investigate the circumstances behind Kendrick’s death.
Should evidence gathered in the investigation warrant criminal or civil rights charges, Moore said he would recommend them.
You can read my post about Kendrick Johnson by clicking on the link below:
The release of Ryan Ferguson
In happier news, Ryan Ferguson, who had been wrongfully convicted of murder nearly a decade ago, was finally released from prison this year.
Ryan had been convicted in 2005 of the murder of sportswriter Kent Heitholt, who had been attacked in the newspaper’s parking lot on Halloween night in 2001. Ryan and his friend Chuck had been out drinking at a club that night, down the street from where the murder occurred. Ryan has always maintained that after leaving the club, he and Chuck got into his car and he dropped Chuck off before going home himself.
Chuck, however, came up with a different version of events years later. Chuck, who admittedly was heavily into drugs, saw an article the newspaper had printed on the anniversary of Kent’s death, and started having dreams about it. He began to panic that he couldn’t really remember the events of that night and wondered if he and Ryan were involved in the murder. He voiced his concerns to a friend, who then called the police. Police interrogated Chuck and coerced a confession out of him.
Chuck pleaded guilty and testified against Ryan at trial. Another witness, a janitor at the newspaper office, pointed to Ryan in court and said that he saw him in the parking lot right around the time of Kent’s death. Ryan was convicted and sentenced to 40 years.
Over the years, the case against Ryan completely fell apart. Both Chuck and the janitor recanted their testimonies from his trial, both risking possible perjury charges for admitting to lying on the stand. Ryan’s appeals were denied, however, until last month.
Ryan’s attorney had filed a motion, claiming that Ryan received an unfair trial, due to the prosecutors withholding evidence. Three judges hearing the motion agreed, and Ryan was released.
You can read my posts about Ryan Ferguson by clicking on the links below:
- Ryan Ferguson back in appeals court today
- Ryan Ferguson: Convictions overturned by appeals court
- Why the State of Missouri should not retry Ryan Ferguson
- Ryan Ferguson finally FREE, State of Missouri will not retry him
So those are my top 5 cases for 2013. What are yours?