The 30th anniversary of the second of the Colonial Parkway Murders – Robin Edwards and David Knobling

David Knobling 20001
David Knobling
Robin Edwards
Robin Edwards

September 20, 2017 marks the anniversary of what has become known as the second pair of the Colonial Parkway Murders.  At the time the connections between this crime and the deaths of Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Dowski on the Colonial Parkway were not contemplated. The crimes were treated separately, handled by completely different law enforcement agencies.  The spiderweb of connections that would link the crimes had not been seen yet.

There are almost more unknowns than knowns about the late night of September 19th and the early morning of the 20th.  The known facts are straight-forward, almost benign.  David Knobling had agreed to take his cousin and his brother Michael and his brother’s friend, Robin Edwards out for some fun.  They were supposed to go to a movie, but ended up hitting an arcade.  David drove a black Ford Ranger that night, his pride and joy.  On the trip to take Robin home, his brother and cousin opted to ride in the back so she wouldn’t get wet as the rain intensified.  David and Robin were in the cab for the 15-20 minute ride…it was their only time alone that night.

Robin was dropped off after 11pm on September 19th.  David took his cousin and brother home, ordered some pizza and watched TV.  Later he left and picked up Robin who had sneaked out of her house.  No one knew the two were going to connect, or why.

Early in the morning hours of September 20th, David’s truck was spotted by partiers at Ragged Island Wildlife Refuge across the James River.  Police found the vehicle parked, one window down slightly, the door ajar, keys in the ignition turned to accessories, and the radio going.  There was no sign of David and at that time, no one knew that Robin Edwards was with him. Robin’s family assumed she had run away from home.

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David’s truck at the crime scene

It rained heavily for two days and police searched the James River and made a cursory attempt to search the refuge, but to little avail.  David’s stepfather Karl went out on his own, wearing waders, searching the swamps for any sign of his missing son.  The police towed David’s truck to his father’s house, accidentally dropping some of their fingerprint cards in the process – such was the shabby state of the investigation at this point.

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The contents of David’s truck bed

Two days later a jogger running on the beach of the James River spotted the remains of Robin.  David was found several minutes later, further down the beach by his father and an officer.  Both had been shot.  David had been hit twice, once in the back shoulder with the bullet angled up – the other shot to his head.  Robin had been shot in the head from behind.

The anguished families were not told of the crimes by the authorities, but instead learned about it from the local news coverage.

Robin was fourteen years old.  She had been a spitfire – having runaway several times and was aged beyond her years by the experiences she had endured.  In the months before her disappearance she had begun to turn herself around.  David was 20 and had just started a new job.  He had a girlfriend who had recently discovered she was pregnant with his child.  Why they got together, no one can say for sure other than their killer(s).

To say that the investigation was botched would be complimentary.  David and Robin were found a mile or so from David’s truck.  Their shoes were in the vehicle, so investigators had to know they had not gone far.  The fact that a search had not turned up their bodies and that jogger had been running through the crime scene, discovering their remains, only points to the sloppy police work that had taken place.

Ragged Island is a rough place with a gritty reputation even to this day.  There are only two paths that the killer and his victims could have gone.  One was from the parking area straight to the James River Bridge.  Lined by chain link fencing and a swamp, there was no avenue for escape.  The second path is a winding trail through the swamp to the beach not far from where they were found.  On a rainy night, with only the lights from the bridge, either path would have been dark and dangerous.

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The Ragged Island Refuge “Visitor Center” Today

We learned during our research that David’s vehicle had been staged that night; poised for theft.  He always backed his truck into its spot – and never left it unlocked.  Also David and his brother had wired the radio so it could play without putting the keys in.  The killer had turned the keys to accessories to turn on the radio – something that David knew he didn’t have to do.

The killer had left the truck with the keys in plain sight – practically begging for someone to steal it – to further muddy the waters of this investigation.  It turns out this was a pattern that would be followed on the next two of the cases tied to the Colonial Parkway Murders…the staging of the vehicle for theft.

The Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Department later developed a theory that one Sammy Rieder may have been involved in their deaths.  He failed a polygraph test and admitted that he had seen David’s truck in those early morning hours and had stolen money from David’s wallet in the vehicle.  With his death there is no one to further validate in involvement – if any – with the murders.  He may have been little more than someone seeking attention by linking himself to the case.  It sounds crazy, but there were others that have done that with the Colonial Parkway Murders.

The Virginia State Police have their own theory.  They believe that a local drug dealer had arranged to sell drugs to David and Robin as a pretense to sexually assault Robin.  It is a colorful theory but lacks the evidence or witnesses to back it up.

As with the case in New Kent County, the Virginia State Police ignored their own behavioral specialist.  The investigators in both of these pairs of murders tend to think their crimes are not connected to the Colonial Parkway Murders.  They may be right.  Until an arrest is made, no one will know for sure.  For us, it is hard to disconnect these crimes.  The Colonial Parkway is only a few minutes’ drive from Ragged Island.  If they are not connected – then there are multiple killers that have managed to elude authorities for all of these decades, which is just as a chilling a thought.

What are the odds that these crimes, a murder of a couple with no known enemies, in such a brutal manner, are not somehow connected?  Our talk with Larry McCann of the Virginia State Police who profiled these crimes summed it up best.  “You have a better chance of winning the lottery than these crimes not being connected.”

As I stated earlier, there are more unknowns here than knowns.  Did David and Robin meet their killer at another location and were brought to Ragged Island to be killed, or were they there the whole time?  Why had they agreed to meet in the first place?  Where did the crimes take place – where the bodies were found – or at another point in the wildlife preserve?

Right now, only their murderer knows – and the silent wind-swept trees of Ragged Island.

#Colonialparkwaymurders

#truecrime

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Hiring for Culture – The Case for Adaptability

FEARED OR LOVED

Last year a newly hired mid-level leader told me how he was frustrated with our organization along with, “I’m going to make some pretty big changes here, you wait and see.”  I’ve heard that before and warned him that his ideas might be good, but the key is how you implement them in our current culture.  He scoffed at me.  He was destined, in his mind, to (as my father would say) do wonders and shit blunders.  A year later his frustration is a little higher and the organization hasn’t changed in the least as a result of his efforts.  He thrust his bold and innovative ideas at our organization and found that his way of working didn’t mesh with how we work.  The root issue isn’t that we have problems as an organization…it’s that we hired someone that can’t adapt enough to our culture in order to influence change.

Corporate culture trumps individual leaders who desire to change.  It is the nature of the Corporate Overlords (All hail our Overlords!) to squash anything that might rock the proverbial boat.  Company culture is a big thing, lumbering, highly resistant to attacks and cries for transformation.  A deeply entrenched culture can easily smother and overpower the most ardent crusader seeking to change it.  People that come in with objectives of changing the company into something else often are found years later in a corner cubicle, drooling, rocking back and forth, sticky notes all over them and the floor, muttering to themselves.

When people hire they tend to look at experience and technical skills.  The unconsciously weigh the personality of the candidate as well.  In reality they need to explore a candidate’s adaptability.  Will this person be able to work in the culture of the organization – or will they try and make the culture change?

Adaptability is important with anyone coming in, yet most interviewers barely touch upon it.  They tend to see individuals that talk about driving cultural change as “go-getters.”  In reality, most people of this ilk end up bitter and disappointed or they simply pack up and move on, claiming, “My previous employer’s company was unwilling to adjust to my ideas.”

So what do you ask during an interview to root out a candidate’s willingness to adapt?  Here’s some samples:

  • Tell me about a time when you had a good idea but there was resistance – how did you overcome that resistance?
  • What kind of support do you expect from leadership or sponsors in making changes?
  • Having good ideas is important – tell me about how you successfully implemented changes at your previous employer.
  • How would you go about mapping stakeholders in our company in order to drive change?
  • Sometimes there are organizational barriers that prevent change.  Talk to me about how you overcame some barrier in the culture of your previous employer.
  • In your mind, what is the best way to deal with a culture that might not be ready for your ideas?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to bring together a lot of diverse stakeholders and get them on the same page?  How (exactly) did you do it?  What were some of the challenges you faced?
  • What role do you think this position has when it comes to our company’s culture?
  • Tell me what you think our organization’s culture is? (This one is very revealing, it tells you their preconceived notions should you hire them.)
  • How would you go about adapting what you did at your current employer to our unique environment here?

Champions that think they can inflict change to any organization’s culture can be powerful, but only if they can implement their changes.  What questions would you recommend adding to this interview list?

Review of Manhunt: Unabomber

 

unabomber
Discovery is upping the true crime ante with a stellar show like Manhunt: Unabomber

 

I finished watching Manhunt: Unabomber a week or so after finishing The Keepers.  I was tempted to compare and contrast the two, but I won’t.  It’s like comparing apples and grapes.

I generally dislike shows that are scripted dramas of real events.  Mostly because there are so many bad ones out there.  But starting a few years ago with Fargo (the series) that began to change.  When the OJ miniseries came out, it was exceptional.  Manhunt: Unabomber belongs in that class of show – with high production qualities, good acting, and a great script.

This series is the story of Jim Fitzgerald of the FBI who creates a new form of criminal investigation called forensic linguistics which ultimately leads to the Unabomber’s (Ted Kaczynski) arrest.  I like the fact that the focus was less on the criminal and the horrific crimes and more on the investigation that brought this bastard to justice.

Kaczynski is the perfect foil for the mind of Fitzgerald in this series.  Yes, we all know that he ends up in jail, but there is a genius there, a brilliance that requires an equal in the form of the FBI agent.

Fitz (as he is called) sacrifices a lot to catch his prey – his marriage, his family, friends, colleagues, etc.  In the end, despite the victory, you almost feel that is hollow for the character.  Others steal his limelight and while we see justice prevail, the cost cuts like shrapnel from one of the killer’s devices.  The struggles that Fitz goes through against the rigid bureaucracy of the FBI rings true to me to this day…trust me.

The writing is brilliant as is the casting.  What I like the most is the incredible attention to details.  Ted’s cabin is almost a character all by itself, silent, yet a part of his own twisted personality.

The producers were outstanding.  They did not turn this into the gore-fest that it could have been, but gave it purpose and focus.  I hope other producers that do recreations look to this as one of those gold-standards…right up there with Fargo.

If you didn’t watch this series, get it via On-Demand or from your provider.  It is chilling, breathtaking, and educational.

#unabomber

#truecrime

 

Review of Star Trek Adventures RPG

Star Trek RPG
Put on your red shirt and prepare to beam down

I have to admit, I was excited that Modiphius Entertainment was putting out a new Star Trek RPG.  This stems from a few places.  First, I have been a Trek fan since the original series (yes, I’m that old.)  Second, one of my first writing projects in the gaming business was for FASA’s Star Trek RPG back in the 1980’s (yes, I’m that old part II.)  I wrote support books, rules, and scenario packs back in the day. I’ve even gotten to write game walk-thru books for several of the computer games for Star Trek. Third, we’ve been in a weird glut of Star Trek RPG’s.  There have been some good attempts in the past to rekindle this franchise into a game – but they all more or less fizzled.

So I pre-ordered the game and slotted some time to play at Gen Con. I lightly read the rules before Gen Con and I’m glad I played the game to clear up some of the ambiguity in the book.  That brings me to one point, some of the rules and examples are not entirely clear.  I struggled a bit with some of the core concepts until I played.

The rules can be a little confusing.  So if I made any mistakes, those are on me (and the gamemaster that led us on our adventure).  Once I got into the game there were some bits of brilliance here along with some, “what the hell?” moments reading/playing this as well.

Something brilliant – the use of momentum and threats poold.  This is a pool of points that you build by over-succeeding on tasks.  They are a group pool you can leverage to roll extra dice to try and succeed, or to up the ante (so to speak) on a certain situation.

The counter to that is the threat pool which his owned by the gamemaster.  This is the ying to the momentum pool’s yang.  The gamemaster can leverage this pool to his advantage, allowing him to toss in complications such as NPC’s recovering faster from damage.  The two pools interact with each other but are critical to the play of the game.  It does open up some questions from time to time as to whether a character should leverage the pool or not – but this forces good teaming with the players.

The game system itself is very simple.  But there are some strange things embedded in here.  For example:  The damage your phaser does is not just the weapons listing, but factors in your Security Discipline.  So if you are a red shirt using a phaser, you might do more damage than someone who has a low Security Discipline. This makes sense on a “to hit” roll, but not on damage.  Weird eh?

Star Trek
Starfleet needs a new crew because these guys are dying

There were other things that seemed a little lopsided in play.  I had an Advisor Talent with my character, which meant I could lean over your shoulder and help your character perform a task. The thing was, there’s no real limit to it.  So I helped a pilot navigate an asteroid field, helped coach a fellow officer in disarming a bomb, and even acted as an Advisor when someone was shooting.  It allowed players to re-roll a die for a task but this simple Talent feels like it needs some boundaries.  There were only so many times I could say, “Atta Boy!” while being an Advisor.

The game isn’t about killing but incapacitating.  I am changing that with my players.  Red shirts die – look it up.  It’s an easy hop to turn the damage into hit points.

The rules have a lot of fluff text (easily 1/3 of the book).  It safely presumes you know the Star Trek universe.  While the system is set up to play in all but the new films eras, there’s not a lot of guidance about what is different from a gameplay perspective.  The fluff text is great stuff, wonderful little nuggets for Trekkers, but these nuggets take you all over the place.  There’s no comprehensive timeline to help players only familiar with one era to jump in.

The rules for starship combat work but are pretty abstract. Your skills apply to combat situations, so it does work.  I still long for the old FASA system and may revert to that for my players.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of Modiphius Entertainment – or the one.

Some rules seem missing – or at least I haven’t been able to track them down.  When they talk about Reputation for characters, they have a table listing the number of Responsibilities that a character has.  They never really explain this and the table seems contrary to Star Trek, “I have the lives of 430 crewmen I’m responsible for!” According to the table Captain Kirk, you’re only responsible for 17-20…17 to 20 what, I have no idea.

Go to the index you say?  Yeah, good luck with that.  The index is one of the biggest weaknesses in this rulesbook.  It is only four pages-ish long and far from complete.  I hope Modiphius releases a comprehensive one online soon. As it is, this index is worthless and frustrating.

The book is graphically laid out with good artwork and a LCARs Star Trek interface.  That’s nice.  With a black background the white lettering can be a little hard to read at times.

One minor nit – there’s no ship blueprints here.  I don’t need a Constitution Class ship – I’d setting for a Danube Runabout.  Yes, you can score these things online with no problem, but it seems lacking. As a sidebar, the Danube Class ships are shown as a graphic image, but no game stats for them appear in the book – another minor nit.

Star Trek Adventures is destined to be hard to run.  Players that know Star Trek can go down a lot of rabbit holes and whip out a lot of technical stuff that can imbalance play (I know, I’m one of those people!)  It’s a big universe so things can get out of hand quickly.  This is one of the few games where your inside knowledge of hundreds of hours of TV and films can force your gamemaster to pull out his/her few remaining hairs.  This means you have to craft your adventures very carefully.

So is it worth $58 dollars US for the book.  I think so.  I heard a lot of people griping online that the game is too pricy.  It is no more than any other high end RPG.  There’s 384 pages of stuff here, so there is a bulk value.  I love the star maps in the end pages, which is very useful and kind of fun to read. You will pay this much for almost any game system out there these days and this is on-par with the Star Wars RPG, though I found that system more technical than Star Trek – which favors true role playing.

The manufacturer is releasing miniatures for the game – but seems to be skipping the Star Trek II Wrath of Khan figures, which easily had the best uniforms we saw in Star Trek.

I have already prepped two adventures for my player group to go through.  So I like the system enough to continue to play it.  I hope they (Modiphius Entertainment) are planning some good sourcebooks to refine the rules for the eras.

Red Shirt 2

Out of five stars, I would give this 3.9.  I love the momentum/threat pool system and there’s a lot of simplicity here that makes it relatively easy to learn.  I am hopeful they will supplement this system to fix some of the rough edges.

Anniversary of the fourth and last of the Colonial Parkway Murders – Daniel Lauer and Annamaria Phelps

Daniel's Car
Daniel Lauer’s Nova as it was found.  Did you happen to see this car or its occupants?  

It has been 28 long years since the crime took place; 28 years from this weekend.  Labor Day will never be the same for me.  It is a reminder of two of the victims of the Colonial Parkway Murders – Daniel Lauer and Annamaria Phelps.  Even today I cannot drive that stretch of I-64 without thinking of the two of them.  I always point out the key scenes to my ever-patient wife as we drive by.  She understands my chronic fixation with these crimes.

Like most of these murders, it was a fluke the victims were even together.  Annamaria was in a relationship with Clint Lauer, Daniel’s brother.  Daniel had been visiting Virginia Beach for Labor Day and the Greek Week festivities (which were a literal riot that particular weekend).  He had decided to move in with the couple.  Times had been tough for Clint and Annamaria.  Clint had lost his job at Wendy’s and their power had been cut off.  Daniel’s contribution to the rent was a welcome and much needed source of income.

On the trip, Daniel had brought along Joe Godsey, his wife, and their infant girl.  By the end o the weekend, Daniel decided to move in with his brother and his girlfriend and was going home to Amelia County Virginia to drop off the Godsey’s and to pick up his clothing and personal items.  Annamaria innocently tagged along.  It would give her a chance to spend a few minutes with her family while Daniel went home and packed. Then the two of them could return to join Clint in Virginia Beach.

It seemed that everything went according to the ad hoc plan.  The Godsey’s were dropped off as was Annamaria.  Daniel packed and was paid by his father for some painting work that he had done.  Daniel was going off to start a new life at Virginia Beach.  Annamaria spent some time at her parents.  Daniel picked her up in his Chevy Nova and they headed back for the two hour or so drive back to Virginia Beach on eastbound I-64.

It was late at night.  There were reports were made after-the-fact that said the couple was seen at the rest area on the eastbound side of the highway in New Kent County.

The next day Daniel’s Nova was found in the rest area on the other side of the highway, in the westbound area, on the merge/acceleration ramp.  It was parked at a strange angle with the driver’s window half down.  Dangling from the window was a feathered roach clip which usually hung from his rearview mirror.  The vehicle had been placed there with the keys – staged so that someone might see it and take it.

Lauer Car Interior
The back seat of the vehicle
Lauer Roach Clip
Was this roach clip hanging on the window a taunt to authorities?  

New Kent County Sheriff’s Department and the State Police searched the area but could find no sign of the missing pair.  A lot of the area was covered with helicopters, but the dense woods made it all but impossible for anyone to have seen anything on the ground.  Not enough effort was put into the search, that much is for certain.

Exit on I 64
The rest areas as they appeared during the search, Labor Day weekend 1989.  They have changed considerably since then.  The eastbound area is a Virginia Welcome Center – the last clean restrooms between Richmond and Williamsburg

The families were interviewed as were the Godsey’s. Everyone was put under a microscope.  I cannot imagine what it was like for Clint Lauer.  He was the only person that tied the two people together – his girlfriend and his brother.  For him, their disappearance was a double love-loss.  No one, it seemed, had a motive for taking any harmful actions against either of the victims.

The search ended.  Then began the last days of dwindling summer.  It rained a lot during the next six weeks adding to the gloom the families struggled with.  No one gave up hope that they might yet be found. There were sightings in Williamsburg and other places, but they all turned out to be other people.

Then in October some turkey hunters found their remains just over a mile from the rest area just off of a logging road.  They had been covered up with an electric blanket that Daniel had in the car.  Their discovery helped investigators but was an embarrassment to the authorities.  Their search had been an utter failure.  No one knows what kind of evidence might have been gathered had they been found in the first 24 hours.

The bodies were just off a secluded narrow logging trail in the woods. On the trail itself was a locket that had been worn by Annamaria.  Had she dropped it as a breadcrumb in hopes someone might find it and in turn, find them?  Had it been cut off during the attacks that killed her and Daniel?  Or had the killer placed it there as some sort of message to authorities?  Perhaps it was a signal, some sort of sign to them.  I leave this to the behavioral experts to dig into.

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The logging trail as it appears today – not very different
The Locket
Annamaria’s locket.  

There were other questions that came up as well.  The covering of the bodies is sometimes done as concealment.  If the blanket had been placed over their head it could be that the killer was feeling guilty, perhaps pointing to a connection between him and the victims.  Unfortunately with so much time having passed, there was no way to be sure.

The only evidence of what happened that night to the pair was a nick on one of Annamaria’s skeletal fingers.  There was no way to know for sure if a knife or other weapon was used to kill them.  One thing is for sure, Annamaria fought and fought with tenacity. She did not go quietly into the darkness. I doubt Daniel did either.

What we know of the killer is revealed by the location of these crimes.  The logging trail was difficult to navigate in the darkness and almost impossible to turn around on.  There was no mud on Daniel’s car tires, so we know that the murderer must have taken them on that trial in his vehicle.  That meant that he had to have gotten control of them in the eastbound I-64 rest area and drove them the half mile further up the road to the exit, drove under the highway, then onto the logging road.  That means whoever the killer was, he had scoped out the area in advance or had previous knowledge of that road.  Otherwise he risked his own vehicle getting stuck or trapped back there too.  The killer chose the sight because of the seclusion.  The trees and dense growth muffle every sound, even today.

Further, the logging road was a tunnel through the trees.  On my own visit, I was reminded of the same effect on the Colonial Parkway.  Was this a killer hell-bent on duplicating the experiences he had thrilled at with his other murders?

The State Police’s theory is that the killer took control of the pair, drove them on the trail, and killed them.  He went back and got the blanket from Daniel’s car to cover them up.  He then returned again and moved Daniel’s car to the westbound rest area and staged the vehicle for possible theft.  It was the same kind of staging that had been done of the victim’s vehicles at Ragged Island and on the Colonial Parkway.

And what of the roach clip hanging from the window?  Larry McCann of the State Police believes that was a taunt to the authorities.  A signal of, “Look at what I can do and you can’t catch me.” If that is the case, there is an arrogance of this murderer.  To me I am drawn more the window being down.  It is as if someone approached Daniel and Annamaria in their car and asked for identification.  A law enforcement officer of some sort, or someone impersonating one.

When it comes to the Colonial Parkway Murders, the behavioral experts will tell you there is a distinct pattern that ties these crimes together.  It’s not just the killing of pairs of victims.  It is the staging of vehicles, the separation of the vehicles from the victims, open glove boxes and windows being down on the cars, and other things.  Investigators, on the other hand, try and pull these cases apart.  They ignore the connections and look at each one as merely a separate crime.  Some say that Ragged Island isn’t connected to the Parkway Murders.  Others say it is this case.  For them it is easier to look at each one separately rather than as part of a pattern.  Personally I find that thinking frustrating and confusing to the families.

My ultimate response to this approach is, “Fine, then make a damned arrest.” Even bringing charges in one of these cases is a victory for all of the families that have been horribly impacted by these tragedies.

Cold cases are justice denied.  Cold cases continue to inflict injury to the survivors every day of every year.  Cold cases demand resolution as much as any other murder…they are no less important.  Justice is a patient mistress indeed when it comes to the Colonial Parkway Murders.  Far too patient.

If you saw Daniel’s car or the occupants 28 years ago, please contact the authorities.  Any new information is greatly appreciated.  The truth is out there and someone always knows something – they may just not have had the context up until now.  If you want to know more about these cases, there is a Colonial Parkway Murders Facebook page or you can reference our book – A Special Kind of Evil.

#truecrime #colonialparkwaymurders

Review of Unsolved No More – A Cold Cast Detective’s Fight for Justice by Kenneth Mains

Unsolved No More

When I started reading Kenneth Main’s book Unsolved No More, I thought I was going to get stories of cold cases that he has resolved.  The book starts as his autobiography, and I wondered if I made a good choice.  I write about cold cases, so that was what I wanted.  Then I hit his chapter on why cases go cold.  That chapter alone should make this book required reading for law enforcement professionals.  He confirmed what Victoria and I have encountered in our own cold case research for books.  One word – “wow!”  I actually re-read portions of that chapter twice because it resonated with me so well.  I have seen the tunnel-vision of some investigators at the expense of the survivors and the victims getting resolution.

Mains knows his stuff, that much is true.  His autobiography portion of the book is there for two reasons.  One is to establish his credibility.  Done!  Two, explaining why he became drawn to the twilight world of cold cases.  Done again.  In fact, looking back at that portion of the book, it was masterfully done to achieve these goals.  “I see what you’ve done there Detective Mains – well played…”

The absolute best portion of this book is the actual cold cases themselves that he worked on.  Kenneth Mains is a law enforcement equivalent of a surgeon of cold cases…he diagnoses the issues and, working with precision, dissects the cases with consummate skill and care.  There is no flowery language here, these are written with the icy calculated care of a professional.

The case stories Mains has written about are beyond gripping, they draw you in and hold you tight as he puts you in his shoes in looking at them. These are not the kind of cases you see on Discovery ID, they are more of the gritty real-world cases.  Not all of them have the kind of red ribbon tied to them at the end that you might expect with a perfect resolution.  I was caught off guard by some of the resolutions, and as a reader, that’s a good thing.

The true crime genre is in its infancy when it comes to the subgenre of cold cases. I highly recommend this wonderful book if you want to understand the cold case investigatory process or if you want to dive into some cases that are filled with twists, turns, and more than a few surprises.  Pick up Unsolved No More, you won’t be disappointed.

#truecrime #coldcases

Humorous Workplace IT Department Awards

IT Crowd
From The IT Crowd – “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” 

I am not just an author, I also work for a living – in an IT department.  The IT department is often the unsung heroes of any organization.  They are also the most black-hearted villains…often at the same time they are being damned heroic.  Information Technology is rarely appreciated, often maligned, and staffed with a bizarre menagerie of people that both soothe and create headaches; often in the same day.

It dawned on me that IT needs some sort of award ceremony.  Now, none of this applies to where I work currently, of course, but could be implemented in almost every IT department on the planet.  Feel free to share with your much-abused colleagues imprisoned in data centers, slinging code, or trapped in an Agile Sprint:

The Death Star (aka the River Kwai) Award:  Presented to the person most likely to blow up a deadline or budget (costing millions of dollars and thousands of lives in the process.)

The Tick Award: Given to co-workers for latching onto a project or work effort, not performing, but sucking the life out of it for everyone else.

King of the World Award:  Winners of this award earn it by willing to brag or claim credit for work they didn’t do to glorify their perceived contribution.

The OCR Award: The OCR (Office Comic Relief) is given to this vital person who makes witty, insightful, snarky, and blatantly comedic comments during conference calls.  (I myself am a six time winner of this in our department.  I’d like to thank the members of the Academy…)

The Dr. Who Award:  Awarded to individuals that show up at 10am and leave and 4am, take an hour for lunch, and complain about their long working hours.

The Tall Glass Award:  Given to the individual whose entire job function is to whine about work.

The Imperial Stormtrooper Award:   Presented to the individual who consistently misses the mark with every work effort they undertake.

The BW Award:  The (BW) Ball-less Wonder Award is given to the manager who, when pressed with adversity, sells his or her people out and backpedals on decisions.

The Software Abuse Award:  This is given to the persons who use software inappropriately.  They write documents in Excel, use PowerPoint to perform spreadsheet functions, etc.

The Eyechart Award:  Given to the person that produces a graphic image that cannot be read or understood due to small fonts or inane complexity.

The Chicken Little Award:  Winners of this award are in such a state of constant panic and paranoia that they cease to accomplish anything of use.  Also known as The Order of the Whirling Dervish.

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Remain calm! 

The Hot Air Balloon Award:  Presented to individuals that take something small and inflate it in terms of cost and complexity…usually just to make themselves appear more important or make others afraid to undertake the task.

The Brown-Noser Award:  This award is given to the biggest ass-kissers.

The Old Yeller Award:  This is awarded to individuals who have loud barking dogs in the background when on conference calls while working at home.

The Domino-Effect Award:  For the IT professional that put some little thing into production, ignoring protocols and processes, and took down the network or some large application.   Also known as The Lights Out Award. Note:  After the cover-up and deflection, this person is often promoted to a leadership level for reasons I cannot explain.

The Lotsa-Frappa Award:  Presented to an individual that takes a business call while in line at a coffee place, forcing his/her coworkers to listen to the grinding and calling out of names for completed brews.

The Drunken Driver Award:  Winners of this award are individuals that have a track record of sharing a presentation on a call but not knowing how the technology works, and causes the entire meeting to devolve into a group tech support call.

The Ghost Award:  This award is given to those individuals that are part of a project team but never seem to attend a single meeting while at the same time telling people about their vast contributions to the team effort.

The Bull in a China Shop Award:  Recipients of this award receive it for verbally and organizationally plowing into other people’s projects or work efforts, disrupting them on some misguided belief that their project is more important than everything else.  It must be, they are working on it.

The Bubble Boy Award:  This honor is presented to individuals or teams that go off on their own and make some sort of organizational or process change but openly refuse to engage with every stakeholder impacted by their decisions.  Living in a bubble, they cause havoc and chaos all in the name of progress.  Morons.

The Hoarder Award:  Honorees of this award receive it for not sharing information in a vain and arrogant effort to inflate their own positions or ego.

The Blind Squirrel Award:  Presented to the IT person that solves a massive problem or outage through blind luck, and still doesn’t know how that happened.

The H. G. Wells Award:  Individuals winning this coveted award do so by referencing how we have done things in the past.  “We used to do it this way…”  Their desire to travel back in time is admirable and their insight are often stunningly correct, but are often ignored.

The Center of the Universe Award:  This often sought after award is given to the person who has dedicated most of their time during the year focused on advancing their career rather than actually DOING THEIR FU*KING JOB!  With them, it is all about that next promotion.

The Pyramid Award:  Granted to people who hopelessly over-architect technology solutions just because they can.

The Technobabble Award – The much coveted TBA:  Presented annually to the IT staff or leader who creates the most complicated new acronym or buzzword combination simply so they sound more important.  Special points are awarded for creating an acronym that spells out an actual word.

The Hall-Monitor Award:  Provided to the individual that solely relies internal processes and documentation as the means to justify their existence. This person is often times the same person that tracks when people log on and log off, just to call them out for not working enough.

The Groundhog’s Day Award:  This award is given to the person or teams that do something wrong, over and over, with the hope that the results will somehow be different at some point.

The Order of the Paper Spine:  This elite order is given to those managers that sound tough, but when pressed, completely sell out their entire team (or even their entire organization).  The award is provided based on the greatest gap between their verbal bluster and the degree of their complete compromise.

The Bridge Burner Award:  This honor is given to those individuals who quit one job and take another and manage to make the transition in a highly public and disastrous manner.

The Ulcer Generator Award: Given to the person who, by their very nature, generates tension and leaves a wake of snarky comments wherever they go, giving their managers constant angst.

The Pyromaniac Award:  This is bestowed on those individuals that deliberately create problems solely so they can come in and solve those problems.  Sick SOB’s…

The Captain Insensitivity Award:  Presented to those individuals that say or write things that are hurtful to the staff, while being completely oblivious to the damage they cause.  Note:  They are usually baffled when they receive this award.

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The Stalin Award:  Given annually to the most brutal manager, one who rules through fear and intimidation.  Note:  Because of this vindictive bastard’s reputation, this award is made covertly, with no nominees attached to it.

The Pontificator Award:  This award is granted to those individuals that ramble on and on during a meeting or call simply so that it appears they are contributing, when in reality, they are regurgitating the same stuff over and over.

The Artful Dodger Award:  Given to the office fu*k-up that, once his/her mistakes are discovered, they transfer to another team to dodge the proverbial bullet.

The Reading is Fundamental Award:  Presented to individuals that don’t read their email and get on calls so that other people can explain what they should have read in the first place.

The Airline Points Whore Aware:  This award is given to the individual who has racked up the most frequent flyer and hotel award points in a year.  He really didn’t have to travel that much, but this is how he funds his family vacations at the expense of the organization.  Douchebag.

The Bus Transmission Award:  Presented to the person or persons who can be relied on to throw another person or team under the bus (place blame) in order to preserve their own reputation.

The Bugler Award:  Recipients of this award receive it for tooting their own horn – often – constantly.   They brag about the work they accomplish and the work they claim to have accomplished that is done by others.

The Mandatory Learning Infliction Award:  This award is given to the leader who requires mandatory learning on the organization because they believe that learning alone drives behavioral change.  This is given with a gold star if there is a pass-fail test as part of the learning.

The Angel of Death Award:  Presented to the person that is on their death-bed or recovering from surgery and still comes into work, and makes sure everyone knows it.  Thanks for hacking up during the conference call Bob…yes, we get it, you are more dedicated than sane employees who stay at home.  Or, perhaps, you’re just stupid.

Underwater Award:  Also known as the I’m So Busy Award.  This is awarded to people that go out of their way to constantly tell you just how busy they are, despite having time to disrupt your day.

The PowerPoint Police Award:  This coveted award is given to the individual who points out when your presentation deck does not meet the company standards.  “You’re using Georgia 14 point font and we are supposed to use Times Roman 15 point, James.”

The Gone Girl Award:  Presented to any man or woman who mysteriously disappears during work hours for long periods of time and offers only vague excuses as to where they are.

The Derailer Award:  This honor is given to the individual that shows up at the tail end of a project and manages to grind it to halt over some meaningless technicality that could have been avoided IF THEY HAD ATTENDED A SINGLE MEETING.  Note:  There is a special place in Hell for the individuals that win this award.

The Order of the Bloody Blade:  This award is given to the person that most effectively stabs a coworker in the back for their own personal gain.

The Cersai Lannister (Incest) Award:  This award is bestowed for a manager who hires someone unqualified for the job, just because they are a friend or come from the same company that the hiring manager worked at.

The Red Pencil Award:  Given to those individuals that cannot edit a document digitally but must print it out and mark up the hard copy.  This, despite the fact they work in an IT department and know about revision marks in Word.

The Scotty Award:  Given to the coder that creates a true thing of beauty – a piece of code that does what it is supposed to, sails through testing, and is short and sweet.

Did I miss any?