The 31st Anniversary of the Murders of Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Dowski – the Colonial Parkway Murders

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The location today where Cathy Thomas’s Honda Civic was found

October 9, 2017, marks the 31st anniversary of murders of Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Dowski. This was the first of the Colonial Parkway Murders and that makes it significant on several fronts.  In a recent WAVY poll, over 90% of the people believe that this string of murders are the act of a serial killer.  If that is the case, that killer attempted to recreate events that led to the deaths of Cathy and Becky over three decades ago; duplicate that experience.  It makes their murders more important to fully understand since it is the lighting of this fuse that led to six additional murders.

Cathy Thomas was a dynamic individual from what we have been able to ascertain.  She graduated from the US Naval Academy in the second class that allowed women…making her one of the true trailblazers in the service.  By almost all accounts she brought a vibrancy and vitality to those around her.  Cathy wanted to be a surface warfare officer in a Navy that barely accepted females to begin with.  She was a homosexual in the Navy at a time when that was considered a security risk.  The Naval Investigative Services (today known as NCIS) probed her lifestyle and it was one of the factors that caused her to eventually leave the Navy.  She became a stockbroker in civilian life and was already very successful in her new career.

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Cathy Thomas while in the Navy

Rebecca Dowski was a transfer student to the College of William and Mary.  Intelligent and energetic, she had completed her high school years in France.  She attended Dickenson for a short time and became a standout athlete there.  During her summers she taught at a summer camp where the kids and the parents thought highly of Becky’s enthusiasm and leadership.  Her parents divorced and that hit her hard but she never lost focus or her drive.  She transferred to William and Mary to pursue a career in international business.

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Rebecca Dowski, William and Mary Student

Cathy and Becky were introduced by Cathy’s former girlfriend and were in the early stages of a relationship.  On October 9, 1986, they were last seen on-campus, assisting another friend on a computer homework project.  Becky’s car was packed to go home over the fall break (Columbus Day).  They left campus in Cathy’s car, presumably to get something to eat and to spend some time together before Becky left.

Their car was found by a jogger near the 9.5 kilometer mark on the Colonial Parkway along the York River on October 12.  It had been pushed over the edge of the river embankment and was nose-down.

The Park Rangers presumed the white Honda Civic was a crashed vehicle and smashed the back window out to get to the occupants and rescue them.  The interior had been soaked in diesel fuel.  Cathy was in the hatch portion of the car, Becky in the back seat.  There was blood everywhere.  It became almost instantly clear that this was no drunken driven accident.  Because the bodies were found on Federal land, the FBI was called in.

Cases still unsolved  Colonial Parkway Killings Haunt 20 Years Later
Cathy’s car after being secured by the FBI for analysis

The murderer or murderers came with several implements of death.  The victims had been strangled with a nylon line commonly used by boaters.  Their throats had been cut by a very sharp knife, nearly decapitating Cathy Thomas.  The killer had removed the rope with his knife, leaving a small piece of it in Cathy’s red hair.  The murderer put the bodies in the back of the Honda and had driven it to the spot on the Parkway where it was found.  Dousing the vehicle interior with diesel fuel, he had tried to light it…spent matches on the ground told that part of the story that night.  Diesel’s higher ignition point negated that.  Finally he had tried to push the Honda into the York River in hopes that it would wash out to sea.  Instead it had been stuck there on the embankment.

It was overkill.  Why cut their throats if you had them tied up around the neck?  What had triggered this kind of brutality?   Was it someone offended at seeing two women together, perhaps intimately?  Or was it something else that caused this level of violence in the killer?

There had been a struggle – Cathy Thomas had put up a fight.  She had a knife cut at the base of one of her thumbs. The killer had spent considerable time with his victims.  He had presumably struggled with Cathy, regained control, tied the two of them up – strangling them. Then he had cut their throats, put them in the car, and drove them to where they were found.  This was not a small portion of time he spent with his victims; which begs the question – why?  If his intent was to kill his victims, why not just shoot them as they sat in the car?  No.  This killer spent time with them as they struggled and suffered.

I could write pages of why the investigation went nowhere, attempt to lay blame and point fingers but that does not help at all and is likely a misguided effort.  None of that changes the reality that this pair of murders became cold – frigid cold.  There are questions I’d like to know, beyond the obvious “who was the killer?” These include:

  • Where did Cathy and Becky go after they left campus?  There is a presumption they were killed either late on October 9 or the early morning hours of October 10.  Where did they go after leaving William and Mary?  There was meat in their stomachs, so they must have gone somewhere for dinner – where?
  • Where did these crimes take place?  There was not enough blood to indicate they were killed where the car was found.  So where did these murders happen?  Was it on the Parkway at another pull-off, or somewhere entirely different?
  • When did the murders transpire?  There is a long span of time from when the pair were last seen and when their bodies were found.  How much time did the killer spend with them?  The timeline often answers other questions for investigators.
  • Why leave their bodies on the Colonial Parkway – a heavily traveled roadway?
  • Why were they targeted?  This is two bright (if not brilliant) young women.  What triggered such a scene of carnage? What drew the killer to these two women?

Bill Thomas has remained a stalwart champion of his sister Cathy.  He has established a Colonial Parkway Facebook page.  If you have theories, suggestions, memories, or tips – it is a great place for you to go to offer your thoughts.  I encourage you to go there and join that group.

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The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: To the Gellesian Fields Part 17

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Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters.  For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects.  Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one.  Enjoy!

Bor Boskin…

I didn’t trust our Captain from the moment I saw him.  His name was Durand Wildsong, a pretty boy as far as fighters go.  That dimple did nothing for me, nor his long blonde hair and goatee.  He wore a polished breast plate – which to me only attracted unwanted attention during a battle.  His shield was a field of green with three intertwined roses.  Lieutenant Rygar had passed on command to the Captain, which seemed a bit odd to me.  I’d spent enough time near military camps when they came near our village to understand how the chain of command works.

Captain Wildsong gave us the usual pep talk, with just a touch of arrogance in his voice.  “I’m your commanding officer. You new recruits, you don’t know our commands yet.  Watch the other soldiers and do what they do, you’ll pick it up.”  Apparently that was the depth of our training.

“As I understand it, you are here to deliver some message to the Gash.  If proven wrong, I will dispatch you.  I run a tight ship here.  We have a long way to go – through the plains.  It is not an easy journey to be sure.  You will be given duties along the way, I expect you to follow my orders without question.”

I nodded.  I didn’t like this guy’s attitude. Recruits?  Ha! We were drafted.  This was clearly a bit of spite on the part of the Vizir Krolf Lorraine for our going behind his back to get to Lord Sklaver.  As if to accentuate my suspicions we saw the Vizir approach the Captain before we departed.  The two spoke but I could not hear them.  I did see that Vizir point to us.  “You see that Theren?” I nodded at the two of them.

“I did,” the druid replied.  With those words all of us, even that mute monk that had joined us looked over at the Vizir and the Captain of the Guard.

“This does not bode well,” Arius added.  I noticed that his hand drifted to the pommel of his sword as he watched the Vizir.  He was my kind of paladin.  He was tolerant of people and the games they played, but when push came to shove, he responded with force.  Paladins are complex people at times, and at others, very simple.

“We’re being set up,” Althalus muttered.

I tended to agree but held my tongue.  The best that I could do is be prepared.

Our trek was slow – we were assigned to the rear of the column.  We passed some farmers along the way, hauling their harvest to the city. A few offered us some apples from their carts, which was kind of them.  The camp was very “military” in how it was set up for the night.  The only advantage I saw to being with a larger party of armed men is that we were safer and we wouldn’t have to be up a good portion of the night on watch.

Our first few days and nights journey were dull, which was something that we all needed.

One farmer asked us where we were headed and Galinndan said we were headed to the Gash.  “I’ve heard some strange things from there recently.  That’s not unusual though.  Strange stories are common around that locale.”

“Have you seen anything out of the ordinary yourself,” Althalus probed.

“There were some hoof prints I came across on the road a few days ago.  We haven’t seen those raiders operating this far south in a while.”

“Raiders?” the warlock pressed.

“Minotaur’s.”

We all looked at each other.  Blackshear had mentioned killing the prince of the Minotaur’s.  That was where he got those incredible battleaxes he carried.  I wondered if it was the same ones he was referring to.

Captain Wildsong huddled with the farmer at the mention of the Minotaur’s then let the man go about his journey.

“Anything we need to be worried about Captain?” Arius asked.

“They have always been a bit of as problem – more in recent years.  They seem to have bit of a hard-on for the Royal Guards. Our peace with them was bought with blood and certain conditions.  Suffice it to say, they do not like the Royal Guards.”

“Great,” Althalus said with a chuckle, picking at the smock of the Royal Guards that we now wore.  “It would have been funny except that’s now us.”  The warlock was right – this did not bode well.  I took a look at Dimitrios, the monk that had been at Althalus’s side since the city.  He made eye contact with me with those penetrating blue eyes and offered only a shrug in response.  I oddly was not creeped out by him.  There are times silence is precious and a man that does not talk does not weigh you down with the burdens of his life.

The Captain continued, “One of our men, some twenty years ago, killed one of their leaders.  Since then, well, they have wanted a bit of revenge.  We have been able to deal with them, but it is always tense.”  He cleared his throat and raised his voice for the rest of the troops to hear.  “They will attempt to provoke us if we come across them.  No one draw weapons or fly off the handle when that happens.  I know what they want and I will handle this.  They will look to you for reaction.  You draw a weapon, they will counter thrice over…by killing us all.”

We huddled for a moment.  “What do we know about Minotaur’s?” I asked.  All eyes drifted to our druid Theren. If anyone would know, the tree-hugging druid would.  He honestly looked a little embarrassed and at the same time, proud.  “Aside from the usual half-bull, half-man, there’s not a lot known.  They are said to be originally spawn of demons.  Not all of them though.  Some break their ties with the hell-spawn and form their own tribes and mate among themselves.”

I glanced over and saw Captain Wildsong pulling over one of the other guardsmen in hushed conversation.  I nudged Theren and he saw it too.  “I wonder what that’s all about.” I asked.  It wasn’t until the next morning I received an answer.  At daybreak the man that had been speaking with the Captain rose early and mounted up, riding out at a trot far off on the road ahead of us.

Arius saw it too and approached the Captain.  “Are you scouting ahead?”

“Yes.  It seemed…prudent,” Wildsong said.  I didn’t think much of it at the time. Only later would I remember the strange way he responded.

Three hours later we came across a white trail of smoke not far off of the road.  It was a cottage, one that has been recently burned.  Wildson stopped the column.  “I need some volunteers to check that out.”

“I’ll go – and so with Galinndan,” Arius offered.  The rogue was a little surprised that he had been volunteered but the two of them went off to inspect the burned out rubble.  They came back after 20 minutes or so.  “No bodies of men or beast – living or dead,” the paladin reported.  “Lots of hoof prints though, all over the area.  Whatever happened here is over with.”

“We ride on then,” Wildsong said.

We camped that night on the plains.  There wasn’t much cover, just the normal briar and bramble.  There were copses of trees that dotted the rolling hills, but they were few and far between.  The Captain agreed with Arius’s suggestion at no fire for the night – not with the threat of the raiding Minotaur’s in the area.  We bedded down.

That night there was a commotion coming from Theren’s and Galinndan’s tent.  I rolled out of my woolen blanket, Skull Ringer at the ready.  As I charged out of my tent I saw a figure stagger back, howling in Orcish. It was hard to make out, but it seemed to be a half-orc, and he was clearly bloodied about the head.

Dimitrios silently emerged almost like a shadow in the night.  Arius popped out of his tent and surprised me that he was using a weapon and not unleashing any of his magic.  The rock he threw hit the attacker in the back as he ran away.  The manlike creature turned and made an obscene gesture at us, then ran off into the dark.  The entire camp erupted.  “To arms, to arms!” barked Captain Wildsong. Confusion and men staggered out with weapons only made matters worse.

Wildsong made a quick headcount.  “We’re short a man!”

“It’s Galinndan!” Theren called out.  “He was hit in the throat with some sort of poison dart.”

I opened the tent flap and saw him.  The rogue was pretty pale, a dark wobbling his his neck as he breathed.  Theren pulled out the healing potion that Galinndan had purchased in the city and poured it into his mouth while Dimitrios pulled the dart out of his neck. I could see the sickly green ooze on the metallic point.

“What was that about?  Why would a half-orc come in and attack us?” Wildsong pressed as he deployed several of the guards to the perimeter.  “Have you crossed this person before?”  Dimitrios simply shrugged at the question.

Galinndan slowly recovered, “Mommy?” he muttered.

“Far from it,” Arius replied.

“I wonder what that was all about.” Theren responded.

Arius paused for a moment.  “Oh crap.  Remember back at the inn, when the Thieves Guild tried to steal Skull Ringer?”

Galinndan tried to sit up but failed but looked over at the captain.  “He was a…associate.”

“An associate?” The captain replied in dismay. “He attacked you in the night.”

“He’s a member of the Thieves Guild,” Galinndan replied half-awake.

“Maybe,” Arius said in a low tone through gritted teeth, “You should be quiet and rest.”

“What did you do to piss off the Guild?” Wildsong demanded.

“We didn’t let them steal from us,” Arius said.  He as not making things better in our explanation.

“He,” Althalus said, gesturing to Galinndan, “forgot to pay them.”  Arius rolled his eyes, stunned that the warlock was telling the Captain so much detail.  Even a paladin knows there are times to keep their mouth shut…less chance to say a lie and commit a sin.  I had learned that well from my comrade.

“You crossed the Thieves Guild?” Wildsong said in dismay.  “You do know that they send out assassins to kill those that cross them?”  It would seem that Galinndan had forgotten to tell us this important detail.

“I know this looks orchestrated,” Althalus said. “We didn’t join the military to avoid the Guild.”

Wildson’s face was rigid with anger.  He glared down at Galinndan. “From now on you sleep alone.  I’m not endangering any more of my men on your account.  Your debt to the Guild, be it in blood or money; that is on you and your own foolishness.”

Galinndan bowed his head in shame.  The rest of the troops seemed to look at us all as if we were bad people.  We weren’t of course, but I understand this from their perspective.  The captain posted more guards, doubling the watch.  Our rogue was still pretty wobbly.  All we managed to get out of this was a used poison dart.

The next morning as we rose and Galinndan looked more hungover than anything.  Wildsong posted him at point, clearly as punishment.  As we were about to set out the captain asked, “Do any of you wish to tell me about anyone else you may have pissed off and have a bloodgrudge against you?”

Arius nodded.  “We did manage to piss off the Vizir.”  There were times that the paladin’s penchant for the truth made my stomach knot.

The captain didn’t flinch.  “I am well aware of your dealing with Vizir Lorraine,” he replied bitterly.  There was something in the way he responding that I did not like, not one bit.  I could sense that the captain was not a man to be trusted.

It rained but we trudged on.  Two days later we came across a gathering down the road. The man sent ahead as a scout returned and approached the column.  He and the captain entered into an animated discussion, one we could not pick up on.  The captain turned and faced all of us, speaking loud for all of us to hear.

“There’s a Minotaur patrol up ahead men.  We have a routine, a bit of a ritual with them.  They will approach us.  You will not draw weapons or make overt actions towards them.  They will ask you some questions.  You will need to answer honestly because they have the means of verifying your answers, none of which you want to experience.”  I could tell by the way he said it, it was ominous.

“You mean all of us?” Arius.

“Yes,” Wildsong said.

“I would have thought that you would have answered for the men in your command,” the paladin pressed.

The captain did not like having his integrity questioned, we could see that on his face.  “This is the way we have done it for nearly two decades.  It is how we maintain a peace with these creatures.”

“I would be honorable and speak for my men,” Arius replied under his breath.

“If you draw a weapon you doom us all,” Wildsong added, ignoring the murmur.  “Understood?”  Everyone nodded.  We all began to move forward.

Nine of the creatures were there.  They were massive, larger than anything we had seen before.  One, clearly the leader strode out before the others.  His thick leather straps that crossed his chest were impressive, studded with brass and silver grommets.  His right horn was nicked, chipped in some previous battle.  The massive creature strode in front of Wildsong and looked at him as he knew him, and respected him little more than one would an insect.  This does not bode well for us.

His voice boomed, shaking my chest as he spoke to all of the guardsmen.  “I am Damon Korth.  I patrol this area for our tribe.  Royal Guardsman – hardly worthy of our time…though I am surprised that you sent your scout to ensure we were here Captain Wildsong.”  He gave Wildsong a glare and when I looked at the captain, he averted his gaze.  It was not a good sign, for sure.   “Usually you go out of your way to avoid us.  You know what we want…we want blood; we want vengeance.

“So I ask you men that follow Wildsong one question you must answer honestly.  In the name of our dead Prince DeSaul, are any of you kin or friends of Mathias Blackshear?”

Aw shit…

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

Public events for A Special Kind of Evil and other books – Fall/Winter of 2017

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Clearly she gets her looks from her mother – though I often am credited for her “colorful” vocabulary and temper.

Victoria Hester (my co-author and daughter) have a number of public events coming up this fall and into the winter – most centered on our book on the Colonial Parkway Murders.

As a note, we don’t bring books to sell at these events.  These events are not about selling books, but rather about talking about the victims and the crimes.  We are more than happy to autograph your books or your Kindles (no joke, people ask us to do this) at the events however.  We encourage you to support your local bookstores or Amazon.com.

I will be keeping these dates current.  Sometimes things change on-the-fly with some libraries.  Bookmark this post or simply follow my blog to keep abreast.

We hope to see a lot of locals show up at these events to talk about the crimes.

October 4 – Olivet College, Michigan.  Criminology Class discussing our book The Murder of Maggie Hume and that investigation.

October 5 – Battle Creek Math and Science Center, Battle Creek Math and Science Center, Battle Creek, Michigan.  Two Forensic Classes discussing A Special Kind of Evil.

October 9 – Smithsonian Air and Space Museum – Udvar Hazy Center at Dulles, 7pm.  Blaine will be discussing his book on Frank Luke Jr. – Terror of the Autumn Skies, for the AHS Group meeting there.  Open to the public.

October 17 – Tabb Library, Yorktown, Virginia, 6:30pm – Discussing A Special Kind of Evil.

October 25 – Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk, Virginia. 5-8pm  Discussing A Special Kind of Evil.

November 4 – Culpeper County Public Library, Culpeper, Virginia, 3:00pm.  Discussing A Special Kind of Evil.

November 28 – Newport News Library, Grissom Branch, 7:00pm.  Discussing A Special Kind of Evil.

Williamsburg Library will be January 20 at 2:00pm in the Kitzinger Room at the James City County Branch.

Needless to say we hope you are able to join us!

Snarky Interpretations of Real Life Job Descriptions

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Answer – I am the standing floor champion on World of Tanks.  So I’ve got that going or me…

Linkedin is constantly sending me jobs that they believe I am interested in or qualified for.  I look because, well, everyone should always be looking.  At the same time I cannot help but wonder, does Linkedin know something that I don’t?  The paranoia is very real. 

As I read many of these, you see patterns – certain phrases that turn up over and over.  As a veteran of the Cubicle Wars, I also know pure bullshit when I see it in a job description.  So the following is snippets from actual Linkedin job descriptions and my own snarky/funny/grim interpretations of those.  Enjoy!

“Some travel is to be expected.”  A LOT of inconvenient travel is expected.  We are going to send you to luxurious locales such as Newark, New Jersey to do your job.  PS.  We will force you to take these trips with no notice.  You didn’t really want a life outside of work did you?

“Must be a proficient multi-tasker.”  We are going to bury your ass in pointless work and unreasonable deadlines.  Then we will complain when you don’t get 46 hours of work done in 8 hours’ time.

“Candidate must be a self-starter. ” We have no functional leadership.  Zip, zero, nada.  We are going to give you no direction whatsoever. We’re counting on you to know what needs to be done (until it comes time to critique it.)

“Must be deadline driven.”  We expect you to work 24 x 7.  Don’t plan on any days off.

“You will be expected to partner with our people.”  We will provide you with an out of date org chart and you must then fend for yourself.

“Looking for an aggressive go-getter.”  1.  A certain amount of douchbaggery is acceptable in our culture and expected with this position.  2.  We expect you to crush as lot of careers and dash a lot of hopes in accepting this position.

“Candidate must have a great deal of flexibility.”  We will be giving you conflicting orders, deadlines, and priorities.  Moreover you are not allowed to complain about it. Good luck!

“You must have experience working in a matrixed organization.”  You will have multiple managers with conflicting objectives, expectations, and timelines.

“Creative work environment.”  We make stuff up as we go.

“You must have an established track record in (fill in the blank).” We anticipate you racked up a body count at your current employer while meeting your goals and expect more of the same.

“Must have in-depth industry knowledge.”  The ability to bullshit and drop industry buzzwords and acronyms will serve as a substitute for actual expertise in this job.

“Applicant must be self-directed.”  1.  No one is going to give you direction, guidance, assistance, or help as you are thrown to the wolves.   2.  We have no time for your  petty little questions.  3.  Our “leaders” couldn’t organize a good bowel movement.

“Experience in a collaborative environment a must.”  Everyone here will want to weigh in and criticize your work.  “Do you really think an Ariel 14 point font is the best to convey your message?”

“Seeking an eager candidate.”  We are looking to hire someone in their 20’s.  Older applicants will be completely ignored.

“Demonstrable ability to resolve complex system or business issues…”  You won’t believe how screwed up we are.  Don’t get me started on how bad our clients are either!  That’s okay, we expect you to come in and fix years’ worth of fu*k ups.  No pressure eh?

“Must be comfortable with public speaking and facilitating group discussions with senior executives.”  We want you to go and meet with our leaders and explain to them what business we are in, who are customers are, and why their ideas are wrong.  Good luck with that.

“Ability to work in a dynamic environment a plus.”  We are in a constant state of reorganization.  You’ve been warned.  PS.  That person that is hiring you is on the chopping block but doesn’t know it yet.

“Experience Managing People.”  Experience managing contractors.

“Candidate must be comfortable with public speaking to senior leaders.”  You will be preparing a lot of PowerPoint slides and reading them to people who are far too busy to take the time to read them on their own.”

“Ability to handle multiple priorities.”  We are going to dump a shitload of work on you – all due on the same day.

“Experience working with global teams.”  You will be expected to take phone calls at 4am and 11pm with people you cannot understand.

“Applying research and analytical skills to support thought leadership…”  You are allowed to use Google and Wikipedia to look up buzzwords we don’t fully understand.

“Candidate must have public sector experience.”  You will be working for a beltway bandit as a pitiless contractor in the Federal Government…may God have mercy on your soul.

“Experience working with human capital…”  You will be expected to work with actual people face-to-face rather than work remotely from home.

“Structuring approaches to solving discrete problems…”  We are hiring someone to fix our existing and future fu*k-ups.

“Use effective communication expertise to solicit feedback…”  You are to be the customer’s whipping boy (or gal) for every mistake that was made by our company.

“Ability to train and coach diverse teams in relation to governance, processes and best practice.”  You will be inheriting a team of broken souls and crushed dreams and are expected to fix them, despite the abuse that has been inflicted on them by your predecessor.

“Proven experience identifying and analyzing problems with the ability to make recommendations for solving these challenges.”  We don’t want to hear about your little problems; just fix it.

“You will be working in a challenging, complex and highly demanding environment.”  You will be experiencing chaos and mayhem starting on day one and it will not get any better.

“Enthusiastic individual sought…”  We expect you to be happy no matter how bad the abuse is.

“Develop and review complex spreadsheets to analyze data and develop specific recommendations.”  Maybe you can make some sense out of this data…we sure can’t.

“Coordinate with other organizations/teams to accomplish goals.”  Your success is dependent on your peers, which means you are screwed.

“Research, develop, and execute industry business plans…”  This is our way of saying, “We have no idea what we are in business for or how to deliver to our customers.  We’re counting on you figuring that out for us.”

“The ability to communicate respectfully and with tact.”  No yelling in the office.  That’s what got the last person that held this job fired.  We’re still paying on that lawsuit.

“Executive presentation skills a must.”  You will be using PowerPoint a lot.  A LOT.  Since your audience is executive-level, much of your work will be taking complex things and turning them into confusing graphics that look well-thought out.

“Become a thought leader in __________” We are counting on you figuring out what we are hiring you to do.

“…forward thinking…”  We need at least one person in our organization that knows which way is up and you could be him/her!

“Assist proposal managers and capture managers in developing/maintaining and communicating storylines, schedules, plans, outlines, assignments, baselines, and storyboards to the team.”  YOU will be doing all of the work while the proposal and capture managers criticize it and claim credit for your efforts.

“Must have deep analytical skills.”  We have a lot of data but have no idea what it all means.  You will be expected to tell us what it means, so we can then question the data’s validity.

“Experience in working in, or leading, dynamic global teams.”  To make your position more challenging, all of the people you must work with are scattered across the planet.  Don’t plan on getting any sleep once you hire on.

“Candidate must possess exceptional written communications skills.”  As your manager, I see myself as a much better writer than you will ever be.  No matter how perfect your work, I intend to slow it down with an endless series of markups and revisions that will slowly drive you insane.  Welcome aboard!

“Must possess certification in/by  ____________”  We don’t care if you can do it, we just want to know that your former employer spent the time and money to send you to training to learn how to do it.

“Other duties as assigned.”  We are SO going to bury your ass in work.  You won’t be seeing daylight for months.

“Translate and synthesize information from SMEs into a message that targeted audiences can understand, while maintaining the technical accuracy and completeness of the intended response.”  You will be forced to meet with highly technical people who cannot communicate, so that you can suck out of them their knowledge and turn it into something that is understandable.  All the while the highly technical people will criticize what you do, as will those that receive your work product.

“Ability to perform with grace and efficiency under pressure.”  Don’t you dare bitch about the crappy way we are going to treat you or I swear we will make your life a living hell for punishment.

“A wide degree of creativity and latitude is expected in performing analytics duties…”  You will be expected to make shit up on the fly.

“Experience in process improvement.”  We are so messed up that we need a fresh set of eyes to tell us what to fix.   Of course we will be ignoring your input, but we still expect it.”

“Participate in business development efforts…”  You will be expected to take orders from the sales and marketing teams and support any of their lies or deceptions to the customer, regardless of how ridiculous they may be.

“Take charge of company performance…”  We need a fall guy for our horrible sales numbers – and you’re applying to be that guy!

“Enhance our Business Development Lifecycle…”  You are going to be in sales.

“Define and visualize business strategy.”  You will need to figure out what we should be doing, then put it on a single PowerPoint slide.

“Re-engineer processes to improve delivery.”  Your role will be to unfu*k all of the stuff your predecessor screwed up.

“Must possess a strong sense of urgency about solving problems.”  When things go wrong, and they will, we will be yelling at you to fix them.

Unboxing – Star Trek the original series miniatures from Modiphius Entertainment

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I pre-ordered the Modiphius Entertainment new Star Trek RPG and figured if I was going to get it, I might as well go hip deep and order some miniatures as well.  They arrived this week and I thought you might like to see what you get for around $50 US.

My initial reaction when I opened the box was, “what a lot of wasted packaging space!” You can see for yourself

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At first I wondered if something was missing.  

The miniatures are packaged two to a tiny ziplock.

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The box creates the illusion you are getting a lot more.

The mini’s themselves have minor flash on them, which is no big deal.  Obviously some assembly is required.

Actually the detail is pretty crisp, but since you can’t really pose them, I’m not sure (beyond the casting process itself) why I have to assemble them.

So what are my initial thoughts?  First, are they worth the price?  Well, unless Heritage miniatures returns and starts making minis again (yes I am dating myself) I think these are the best Star Trek character miniatures out there.  Of course, they are the only Star Trek miniatures out there.  They are worth it if you want them for your game – which I did.  People may gripe about the price, but it is no more gouging than what Games Workshop has been doing for years.  I am not disappointed.  We shall see after assembly and painting.

I think they are good – but I am curious why they are 32mm in scale when everything in the industry is 15mm or 28mm.  These will work with 28mm scale buildings, but come on Modiphius…get a clue.

I’m pleased.  I could be more pleased if Modiphius would release the crew in the Star Trek II uniforms – but I’m still happy.  Yes, they are pricey, but you don’t have a lot of options out there.

Now to assemble, prime, and paint…  Damn it Jim, I’m a writer, not of modeler…

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

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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

Hiring for Culture – The Case for Adaptability

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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?