Friday, February 29, 2008

Big Trouble In Little Tokyo

Los Angeles, CA

First off, a hat tip to Naomi Hirahara who just bounced me a note on this one. If you haven't read her Mas Arai novels (The latest, Snakeskin Shamisen, won the Edgar last year for Best Paperback Original Novel) or her short stories in Los Angeles Noir and A Hell of A Woman, you owe it to yourself to go grab them now.

Earlier this week, Kazuyoshi Miura, in connection with the 1981 slaying of his wife, Kazumi, near a downtown overpass was finally arrested here in the States. Getting there was a dogged, 27 year fight for retired LAPD Lt. Jimmy Sakoda.

The LA Times does a far better job of telling this story than I could ever hope to do, but I'll try to sum up.

Originally, it looked pretty cut and dried. Asian businessman comes to Los Angeles, gets robbed. He and his wife get shot. She dies after a year in a coma. Our boy plays the "America is a dangerous place" card and hightails it back to Japan. The media eats it up, of course. Everyone knows L.A. is a pit, after all.

Only it's not quite so simple. After a lot of digging by Lt. Sakoda, then with the LAPD's Asian Crime Taskforce, a few things come to light.

Turns out Miura's got a mistress. A Japanese porn star named Michiko Yazawa. Seems the two of them plotted to take Kazumi three months before. She shows up at his hotel as a seamstress and tries to nail her in the head with a hammer. Only she freaks and bails. Later she tells the cops that not only did she do that, but she also refused to be part of a plan to do his wife by acting as a mugger, shoot him in the leg and her in the head. Sound familiar?

Miura and Yazawa were finally both convicted in a Japanese court for attempted murder in 1986. He pulled six years. But because of the failure to convict a suspected accomplice, Miura's interpreter while he was in Los Angeles, the Japanese courts overturned the conviction in 1998.

Normally, that would be that. Boy's in Japan, he's been tried, convicted and exonerated. The U.S. can't touch him. Double Jeopardy and all that.

Except for two things. One is that California got rid of that little loophole in 2004 for people tried overseas after the murderer of a Sheriff's Deputy ran off to Mexico.

The second is that Miura is a blogger.

Boy's been giving group talks on people wrongly convicted of crimes back in Japan and keeps a blog about events, his life, probably his cats, too. More importantly about his travel plans. Like his plans to visit the United States.

Sakoda, retired but watchful, has been keeping tabs on Miura for a while. He bounces a note to Det. Rick Jackson of the LAPD's Cold Case Homicide Unit, who arranges to grab Miura once he's on U.S. soil.

I'll be interested to see how this one plays out. The Japanese press is getting involved, Miura's lawyer is trying to keep the Japanese government out of it. On top of all that, Miura has been named a suspect in the murder of his lover, Chizuko Shiraishi, who was finally identified in 1984, five years after her body was found in a field.

Grab some popcorn, folks. This one's gonna be a rollercoaster.

As A Matter of Fact They Are Watching You

Los Angeles, CA

Helicopter: [noun]: An aircraft that will follow your ass all over town with a camera showing just how fucking stupid your attempts at kidnapping and carjacking really are.

Marcelino Villali, 23, was arrested after a car chase starting in Oxnard that headed down the 101, hopping to the 405, over to the 10 and finally stopping around the McClure Tunnel leading onto PCH. Check out those photos. They're great, aren't they? Too bad they didn't get a shot of him shitting his pants, too.

The best part about it? They nailed him when he got stuck in traffic in Santa Monica. Imagine that. Traffic. In L.A. Who'da thunk?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

As If Public Transit Wasn't Bad Enough

Los Angeles, CA

Now some asshole has to go and shoot up a bus stop. Around 3:15 yesterday, a little after classes let out at a nearby school, a man opened fire into a crowd at a bus stop and calmly walked away. In all, eight people, five children, ages 10 to 14, and three adults were wounded in the attack at the corner of Central and Vernon.

In this case, police are looking into seeing if this is a gang hit that netted a lot of collateral damage. If it is, and they can identify the target, it might lead them to the shooter. I sincerely hope this is the case. We have enough psychos running around killing with no understandable motive thanyouverymuch.

February's been a rough month. We had the shoot out in Eagle Rock less than a week ago, where a drive-by turned into a major gun battle.

Then there's the Winnetka shooting on the 7th, which left five dead, including one SWAT officer, the first in that elite force's history to die in the line of duty.

Also, the Oxnard 15-year-old who shot his classmate in the head, killing him, possibly for being openly gay. Hate crime charges have been filed.

And, of course, the murder/suicide in Baldwin Park a couple days ago that killed five, leaving only the 14-year-old son of the murderer alive.

Throw all that into the usual mix of murders, assaults, rapes and robberies, and it's uglier than usual out there. Must be something in the water.

I mean, besides bromate.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cinema Verite

Fullerton, CA

In the 50's, William Castle, genius of schlock horror, brought his movie The Tingler closer to the audience by wiring some of the seats to shock them. Well, in the 21st Century, we've outgrown this sort of crap. No, we go out there and stab people, instead.

Two men were attacked during a showing of The Signal, a horror film about a mysterious signal broadcast across television, radios and cell phones that turns people into homicidal maniacs. Like we need that kind of encouragement.

I haven't seen it, yet, but I'd really like to. Basically, it's a zombie movie without the zombies. And I love the roles these people get to play: Dead body, Man with Hammer, Ducttaped Woman, Hedgeclipper Steven's Wife. I don't know what the fuck that means but it sounds goddamn ominous, doesn't it? Not exactly Chainsaw Bob, but it'll do.

Anyway, seems this guy went and tagged one movie-goer, ran over to tag another and bolted. One's got a punctured lung and the other's got a chuck out of his arm.

Monday, February 25, 2008

No More Heroes by Ray Banks

When I get a nondescript package in the mail with my name scrawled on it in shaky blue ink I figure it's either fetish porn or body parts. Hey, it happens. Anyway, this time, instead of Midget Madness or Pony Girl Monthly I found a copy of No More Heroes by Ray Banks.

Now, I read at the pace of an autistic monkey, but I burned through this thing in an afternoon. I don't care who you have to blow to get your hands on a copy, or how long it takes for Amazon to send it by Sherpa (I'm still waiting for Donkey Punch to land on my doorstep), you need to read this book. This is what doing it right looks like.

Here's a synopsis:

It's Manchester's hottest summer on record and while Callum Innes evicts families on behalf of local slum lord Donald Plummer, the English National Socialists stir up racial tensions to breaking point. A firebomb attack at a Plummer property thrusts Innes into the spotlight as he saves a child from the burning building. But when Plummer enlists his help to track down the arsonists, Innes finds himself dealing with more than the ENS and his rapidly overwhelming codeine addiction. Time's running out and the temperature keeps rising. Manchester needs a hero and Callum Innes is the closest it has.
Detective novels follow a particular pattern. P.I. gets a job, asks a bunch of questions, finds clues, solves the mystery. That's what makes it a detective novel. But that, like the synopsis, doesn't begin to approach what Banks does with the story.

The plot is important, obviously, and he does an excellent job telling it.  He  works it on several different levels, keeping it intimate and real. But it's his portrayal of Cal Innes that really makes it. He's not a conventional PI. He always looks like he's playing at it, like a kid wearing Daddy's shoes. He says he's a PI, so people believe him. But he can't convince himself.

And when he saves a kid from a burning building and gets painted with the hero brush by the local paper, he can't believe that, either. He's a fuck up, after all. Takes too many pills. He's a waste of breath. Watching him struggle against who he thinks he is to try to become the hero people are telling him he is is an intimate and visceral experience.

Innes has a substance that makes him believable. He's indecisive, second guesses himself. He gets hurt, badly, and doesn't spring back. He has injuries from previous books that still plague him. He has a codeine addiction that willpower alone won't fix. Hell, at the rate he's going I'm not sure he can survive another few books.

And that, ultimately, is what makes this book work. Everything has consequences. There are no neat endings. Innes ends in a different spot on his journey to be the best man he can, but it's painfully clear that he's still got a long way to go.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Heather Does A Lot of Cocaine

Plots With Guns is back from the dead. And guess who's in it.

My story, Come To Jesus is in the inaugural issue of the resurrected mag.

And an asskicker of an issue it is with fiction by Greg Beardsley, Tim Maleeny, Kieran Shea, Matthew Louis, William Boyle, Jeremiah Granden and Justin Porter.

Being in PWG was a goal of mine the minute I ran into it, but before I got off my ass to submit anything it was gone. So this is, for me, kind of a big deal.

Hope you like the story. It's really very heartwarming, family fare. Seriously. Read it to your kids tonight at bedtime. Little tykes'll drift off to dreamland like moonbeams and fairy dust were shining out their asses.

Sometimes They Police Themselves

Montecito Heights, CA

Choose one option below that best completes the following sentence fragment: "Witnesses said the man was acting strangely,..."
a) "...repeating phrases in Spanish including "I'm looking for death"."
b) "...pacing with a machete in front of a pay phone."
c) "...before being gunned down in a drive by shooting."
d) All of the above.

A 31-year-old man was seen ranting in front of a payphone in Montecito Heights, waving a machete around (he had another one with him) and generally carrying on. So the locals took it upon themselves to make him stop.

...witnesses told police that they saw a gray Honda four-door sedan pull up to the sidewalk near the phone, then heard multiple shots and saw the victim drop to the ground. Morris said witnesses saw a Hispanic male with a shaved head climb into the passenger side of the car before it sped away.
As usual, no one's coming forward.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Things We Do For Love

Patti Abbott's got her finger on the pulse of Valentine's Day. It's not about chocolates, roses, and terrorism funding blood diamonds that you can drop a grand on to kill a kid in Sierra Leone.

No, it's about love. The kind of love you obsess over. Kind that hurts in your bones. Kind that makes you a murderer.

She's pulled together 13 stories from the web for your V Day reading pleasure. So grab those chocolates, some wine, your Better Half (or a skin mag if that floats your boat) and get all romantical with a nice, dysfunctional obsession or two.

And be glad your dates aren't that bad.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Like A Sledgehammer To The Drywall Of Your Skull

As usual, I am a day late and a buck short. The latest issue of Demolition is up, featuring stories by Keith Snyder, David Harrison, Jordan Harper, John McFetridge, and Lyn Lejeune.

The usual high quality violence and mayhem. You know, family fare. Go read. Now.

Or Bryon and Dave will do something rude and scatological on your rug.

The Road To Jail Is Paved With Good Intentions

Lancaster, CA

Children are sweet, lovable things, aren't they? They bring joy to your life, happiness to your world, and scream that you're dead when they find you passed out with your boyfriend after some midnight binging and bondage.

Anglea Cleveland, 29, was arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine and child neglect after her 7-year-old daughter's screaming woke up her neighbors at the Desert Sands Estate mobile home park in Lancaster. Seems the little scamp thought her parents had kicked. Neighbors called the cops, who found Ms Cleveland in a stupor and her boyfriend unresponsive. He was taken to the hospital. She was taken to jail.

Cleveland later told deputies that she and her boyfriend had taken methamphetamine and engaged in bondage before passing out.
Oooh. Bad move. Important safety tip, folks. Don't say anything to the police when you're loaded.

Kids. Don't you just love 'em?

Little fuckers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And This Isn't Even The Valentine's Rate

Los Angeles, CA

Normally, a non-smoking room at the Westin Bonaventure with a king-size bed, panoramic views, and free use of the gym will run you $249.00 a night. Tack on charges for having a drunk 15-year-old boy you met on Craigslist passed out on your bed, though, and it goes up to $20,000.00.

Richard Willrodt, 48, an accountant from Camarillo, is being held on $20K bail for suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor after a young boy was found passed out in his room, apparently from drinking too much. The couple next door complained about the noise which brought security, who then called the paramedics, who finally called the police.

Low profile, dude. Look it up.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rhetorical Questions

Pasadena, CA

The problem with medicine today is that they ask too many damn questions. Where does it hurt? What medications are you taking? Who stabbed you?

An 18-year-old man walked into a local hospital with multiple stab wounds early Sunday, but would not tell police what happened to him, officials said.
Multiple stab wounds and you have to ask?

At least he didn't spin some bullshit tale about falling onto a salad fork a hundred and fifty times. Not that that doesn't happen, of course.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

All Kinds Of Bad

Winnetka, CA

SWAT Officers Randy Simmons and James Veenstra, both long time veterans of the LAPD, were shot as they entered a home in the West San Fernando Valley this morning around 1:00am. Officer Simmons is dead and Officer Veenstra is in critical condition with wounds to the face, but is expected to survive.

This is the first time a SWAT member has been killed in action.

I heard about this on KFWB this morning as I was driving. By then, of course, the shooter was dead, the house was an inferno and the LAFD was trying to figure out how to put the damn thing out without risking getting shot. From the sound of it, in the end they just let it burn.

This whole mess started last night around 9:00 when Edwin Rivera, 21, called the police saying that he had killed three members of his family and would they be so kind as to pop by and take him out, too. Not like that, of course, but that was the gist. His actual words were, "Come get me."

SWAT entered around 12:30, found two dead in the house, one alive, who later died after they got him out. Gun fire, two officers hit and a pullback. Around 5am police lobbed tear gas. I can't say whether the tear gas started the fire, but I'd say it's a pretty good bet.

Rivera finally came out of the house around 7:30, where a sniper got him with a head shot.

Who knows why he did it. That's irrelevant, anyway. The point is that five people are dead, one of whom had spent the last twenty-seven years in service to the city performing some of the most hazardous duties a police officer can be called upon to do.

Just another day in the City of The Angels, I guess.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Beware The Routine Traffic Stop

Glendale, CA

Sarkis "Sako" Militonyan, 44, was pulled over for straddling lanes in a Chevy Tahoe without plates. Of course, it was the stolen California driver's licenses, social security numbers and bank routing numbers that really did him in. Seems he was wanted on fraud charges, too, after being accused of bilking Medicare for five million dollars, and walking away with one and a half.

You'd think he could afford some driving lessons. Or plates.

Clearly, this is a man who doesn't understand the meaning of phrases like "lying low", "flying under the radar", "left hand turn lane". I'm not sure what this says about the state of our healthcare when this moron can work the system for that much money. Probably sent the forms written in crayon.

So watch out for the "routine traffic stop" folks. It brings down murderers, drug dealers, and child molesters. This one's my favorite.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Of Bodies And Bellwethers

Back in September I blogged about a woman, Liya Lu, whose body was found stuffed into a trash can in Pasadena. Her boyfriend, Isaac Campbell, got extradited from Minnesotta and is being held in Pitchess awaiting trial. He's got a court date for the 28th of this month. It's going to get dragged out for a very long time, I'm sure.

This morning I got an email asking for more information and one with some info, later posted as a comment, that Liya called the cops on Isaac after she found that he was dealing and that a "friend of a friend of a friend" had been recently held (now released) in connection with the case because he had been asked to help move the body. I have no names or other details.

Frank Giradot over at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune was covering the murder over at the Tribune's crime blog, Crime Scene, and has done a much more thorough job than anything I might have posted. Check him out. He writes good stuff. Particularly his coverage of the recent Monrovia gang killings. Like a fucking war zone over there.

Anyway, I have gotten more comments and hits on the handful of posts I did on the Liya Lu murder than any other. I think I had something like 300 page hits in a day. I usually get between 60 and 80. Yeah I know, not exactly one of the popular kids.

As usual, things have died down on the comments, but I've noticed a pattern that starts with emails and the occasional post of an anonymous tip then mushrooms into a short burst of comments and searches and then a fade into nothing for a while. Then it starts up again. I get the same pattern with questions about fire captain David Del Toro. In fact, as I write this, another comment on Mr. Del Toro has just been posted.

Whenever this happens I always wonder why. Is it a build up of pressure from not enough information? In our media saturated age it's easy to think that everything can be Googled. Not having access to news, those thin slices of truth that by their nature can't tell a complete story, is maddening.

I wonder sometimes if the patterns of questions and comments can be broken down into some chaos algorithm, something to track the swarm mentality we all contribute to. Is there a bellwether that draws these things out? Some confluence of factors I can't see that make more and more people jump on the bandwagon? Is it some bizarre Heisenberg principle where the act of observing it in the first place acts as the trigger and feed for more?

My theory is that we're all victims of a Six Degrees problem. All of our lives and interests have intersecting points. There are those who know the victim, those who know the suspect. Those who hate, those who love and those who are simply filled with morbid curiosity.

In this case, I think she touched a lot of people's lives, not just by who she was, but by the nature and context of her murder. The community around her doesn't strike me as particularly tight knit except in regards to her. I'm not sure how many commenters who knew her knew each other, but I haven't gotten get the sense that any of them did.

The most interesting thing about this, for me at least, is how local it is. There has been very little coverage about this outside the SGV Tribune and a lot of the commenters have felt slighted. It's almost as if he strangulation and unceremonious hiding of a young woman's body in a drum just isn't important enough to edge out Paris Hilton's latest crotch shot.

I'm curious how much coverage this will get once it actually goes to trial. Not much I imagine.

Well, I could go on all day about this, so I'll stop here. There's only so much self-referential bullshit I can expect you people to put up with from me in a single day.

But before I sign off, I'm curious what any readers might think about this. Feel free to chime in. Opinions are free, after all.

Monday, February 04, 2008

This Is What You Get For Driving Under The Speed Limit

West Covina, CA

So, Gary Cogburn, allegedly in a stolen vehicle, took police on a high speed... wait. No, scratch that. Took police on a slow speed chase last night.

Cogburn started evading the cops around 10:00 last night in El Monte, wound up in West Covina and parked for several hours with the cops outside waiting for him to give up.

That couldn't have been fun. Must have been like being in a fishbowl watching a herd of cats outside. He kept dropping notes out the window demanding that he speak with his sister.

Eventually, around 5am, police fired tear gas into the car and got him out.

The kicker? The car might not have been stolen.

Friday, February 01, 2008

In Praise of Naked Ladies

Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Both Christa Faust's latest book, Money Shot, a noir tale set in the midst of the porn industry, from Hard Case Crime and Sue Ann Jaffarian's latest Odelia Grey novel, Thugs & Kisses, about a murder solving, plus-sized, middle-aged paralegal are out this month.

Two great books that couldn't be any further from each other in tone and feel. So they're doing their signings together.  Two great tastes that taste great together.

Okay, that came out wrong.  Or it's Freudian.  Fuck, I don't know.

Anyway, The Naked Ladies Launch Party is this Saturday at 5:00pm at The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood. They'll be talking about, signing and reading their books. Bring all those burning porn and paralegal questions. I hear the paralegal business can be pretty lurid so be forewarned.

The fun continues on Sunday at 2:00pm at the South Pasadena Library at the monthly Sisters In Crime meeting, where they will be reading from each others' books.

Aside from both being excellent writers, they're also really cool people. So show up, hang out and get your books signed.