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Murder, Arson and Jealousy 


Two 18-year-old boys, from Pulaski, Tn., William Charles Angel, Jr. and Matthew Wood, are sitting in the Giles County jail. They are both charged with 3 counts of first degree murder in the deaths of 38-year-old Desere Thornton and her two sons, 16-year-old Jerrod Thornton and nine-year-old Anthony Thornton. The two teens are also charged with arson, accused of burning down the home of the three murder victims.

One of the teens, Matthew Wood, was burned so badly while trying to set the house ablaze that his mother had to call 911 for emergency assistance. That call was what caused investigators - who had just received another 911 call about a house on fire - to zero in on the teens.




The two 911 calls were placed in the early morning hours of October 23, minutes after a home on Milky Way Drive in Pulaski, Tn. caught on fire.

The first call came in at 1:34 a.m. from a neighbor, Robin Hernandez, of the Thornton's saying: “The house across the road from me is on fire, the woods are on fire.....and there was just some kind of explosion down there.”

The second call came in at 1:59 a.m. from Matthew Wood's mother, Janet Thomlin, saying: “My son just called me and said him and a friend of his was playing with fire and he is burnt really bad and he’s screaming and crying....he said him and a friend were playing with fire, with gasoline, and he got too close and it burnt all of his face.

The authorities won't release any information on how the family was killed but said that the fire was an attempt to cover up the murders.

Apparently Wood and Angel went to the Thornton's house to look for the 16-year-old Jerrod. Wood was jealous and thought that Jerrod was involved with an ex-girlfriend of his. They all knew each other because they went to the same school, Richland High School. In fact Wood had asked Jerrod's girlfriend, Tessia Tibbs, about it just days before:

Giles County Sheriff, Kyle Helton, said it's one of the worst crimes he's seen.

"It's a small county, almost everybody knows each other and it's just a shock that somebody would commit such a heinous crime....It's tough for the community and it's just going to take time to heal"

According to neighbors, the family had recently moved into the home. Desere Thornton owned a local gym and her two sons attended school just a few miles from the now charred home.

Wood and Angel will be back in Giles County court on December 8th.


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Keith Bardwell Resigns, Faces Lawsuit

Sen Mary LandrieuKeith Bardwell

In the face unanimous and universal condemnation from politicians to civil rights organizations, Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell did what everyone was telling him to do - he resigned. Read the background story here.

The office of Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne said it had received a statement from Mr Bardwell saying: "I do hereby resign the office of Justice of the Peace for the Eighth Ward of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, effective November 3, 2009."

Keith Bardwell was the JP who refused to marry an interracial couple in Louisiana because of his concern for the kids of such a union. He was unapologetic about his attitude and genuinely did not seem to realize what all the fuss was about, as seen in this interview with CBS:

Bardwell was first elected in 1975 as justice of the peace in Ponchatoula, La., a town 55 miles north of New Orleans. His term was set to run through 2014, and he had said that even before the flap, he hadn't intended to run for re-election.

The couple Mr Bardwell refused to issue a license for - Beth Humphrey, 30, and Terence McKay, 32 - have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against him.

"We're saddened that it took national attention to this issue, which was decided back in 1967 by the Supreme Court, and also that it took public admonishment from other elected leaders in order for him to resign," said Laura Catlett, a lawyer for Humphrey and McKay.

The Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal who had previously called for Bardwell to resign, said Bardwell made the right decision.

"What he did was clearly wrong and this resignation was long overdue," the governor said in a statement.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Bardwell's refusal to marry the couple reflected terribly on the state.

"I am deeply disturbed by Justice Bardwell's practices and comments concerning interracial marriages," she said. "Not only does his decision directly contradict Supreme Court rulings, it is an example of the ugly bigotry that divided our country for too long.

"By resigning ... and ending his embarrassing tenure in office, Justice Bardwell has finally consented to the will of the vast majority of Louisiana citizens and nearly every governmental official in Louisiana ... We are better off without him in public service," she said.

Catlett said the resignation won't stop the lawsuit, which also names Bardwell's wife as a defendant.

"This does not in any way change the fact that he, with his wife's help, discriminated against an interracial couple while he was a public official," Catlett said.




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Christopher "Dudus" Coke Wanted

Christopher Dudus Coke

Christopher "Dudus" Coke, 40, a Jamaican national, is wanted by the US authorities on a number of drug and weapon offenses. See the story here.

The U.S. has officially asked the Jamaican government to hand him over to face those charges and has complained about the tardiness on the part of Jamaican government to do so. See the extradition request here.

"The U.S. government is looking forward to the Jamaican government respecting their obligations under the treaty," Patricia Attkisson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, said.

Acknowledging the request for Christopher Dudus Coke's extradition, a Jamaican official responded:

“The Government has been notified and discussions are taking place. It is principally the prerogative of the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s office”, Foreign Affairs Minister Kenneth Baugh said.

Coke's lawyer, Tom Tavares-Finson, said he had not seen any paperwork and did not know why the U.S. was interested in his client. He claimed that Coke had no connections with the United States and was also not sure if his client would turn himself in voluntarily.

"We're waiting to hear what the decision is," said Tavares-Finson, who has dismissed the U.S. charges as "hype."

According to reports, Coke is the alleged leader of the "Shower Posse" gang. He is charged in the U.S. Southern District of New York with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and conspiracy to illegally traffic in firearms. Coke faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. Under the Extradition Treaty, accused persons do not have to sell illicit drugs in the United States to be convicted in that country. See a report in the Jamaican newspaper the Jamaica Gleaner concerning the U.S.- Jamaican Extradition Treaty.

Christopher Coke is not only politically well-connected to the governing party in Jamaica, the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party), he is also the recognized leader of his community of Tivoli Gardens in downtown Kingston. His influence stretches across the entire island of Jamaica and overseas to the U.S. and England. His extradition to the U.S. would likely have huge ramifications among his followers and his community.

View Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica in a larger map

Another Jamaican newspaper, the Jamaica Observer gives this perspective on Coke, as well as some background information. His aliases include Dudus, President and Shortman:

"He is the leading figure among JLP garrisons and many leaders in those communities report to him. He is tremendously powerful and is feared by friends and foes alike"

According to an article in, there could be social unrest if Coke was to be extradited. He has the legitimacy that the government can only envy among the urban poor. A Caribbean scholar with knowledge of the workings of inner-city communities across the region put it this way:

“For the people, legitimacy in the Government stops at Carib 5 cinema (in Cross Roads). From that point down, he (Dudus) is more legitimate than the Government. He has a monopoly of force and consensual power because he has legitimacy that the Government of Jamaica cannot even dream to have where the urban poor is concerned.”

What does a government do when they have created a government within a government? What do they now do when they have to hand up this government to another government?” he asked. “He (Dudus) can get kids to be off the street at 8:30 pm. The Government does not even have the power to scratch anybody’s hair much more to do something like that. People feel safer in Tivoli Gardens than anywhere else. It is the safest garrison. This is touchy. In a country that barely understands order, you have found somebody to provide order in the midst of chaos because downtown is chaos. What do you do with him?”

The government in Jamaica is under pressure to respond to the U.S. request for extradition from the opposition party the PNP (People's National Party). Peter Bunting, Opposition spokesman on national security, claims that the Government's failure to extradite Tivoli Gardens strongman, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, has caused a stand-off between Washington and Kingston.

Peter Bunting, said in a press statement that the longer the Government took to honor the US request to send Coke to stand trial, the country's national interests and international reputation was being jeopardized.

"It is completely untrue," said Minister of Justice and Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne:

"The Jamaican Government has, indeed, responded through the channels laid down in the Extradition Treaty between Jamaica and the United States and there is ongoing communication between the authorities of both states," she said in a press statement.

There has also been criticism of Jamaica's Prime Minister, Bruce Golding. Tivoli Gardens is his constituency and he has mostly been silent on the requested extradition of Christopher Coke. An editorial asked a question that Prime Minister Golding needs to answer clearly and unequivocally:

That question is "whether the Government's loyalties lie with those who hold that the end justifies the means or the citizens of this country who are committed to order and the rule of law".

According to Claude Robinson, a journalist with the Jamaica Observer:

All that can be expected of the Prime Minister is a simple and clear statement acknowledging the request and affirming that it will be dealt with in accordance with our democracy and our constitution without regard to the political affiliation of the target of the request. Once that due process is complete, the country will be told the full outcome. That's all that was expected from the prime minister. He should have delivered.

So the question remains, as it has for over two months now:

Will the Jamaican government hand over Christopher "Dudus" Coke to the U.S. authorities to answer the criminal charges against him?




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La-Z-Boy in DWI case on eBay

mpa04040.pdfLounge Chair Drunk Driving

A motorized La-Z-Boy driven by Dennis Leroy Anderson, 62, of 143 5th St., Proctor, Mn. is up for sale to the highest bidder on eBay. Dennis was charged with, and plead guilty to, a DWI charge after crashing the La-Z-Boy into a parked car in August 2008. He was given a suspended 180-day jail sentence and fined $2000Click here for the complete story.

The La-Z-Boy motorized chair is powered by a eight horsepower Kohler lawnmower engine and comes equipped with a stereo, built-in cup holders and headlights.

la z boy 2la z boy 4

The vehicle is controlled with a steering wheel protruding from the seat cushion. It even has a driver-side side mirror. Sorry, no seat-belts on this model. It is adorned with, among other things, the logo of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).

la z boy 6

Police Chief Walter Wobig says he's starting the bidding at $500 on Thursday (10/29/09) and it will be up on eBay for five days. Chief Walter Wobig cautions that the chair isn't "street legal," so any buyer would have to park it in the living room. The proceeds will go to the police, state and the prosecuting attorney.

la z boy 5

Not to be outdone, the family of Dennis Anderson is also putting up on eBay an autographed photo of him (Dennis) riding the La-Z-Boy. They say the proceeds will go toward helping Dennis with his expenses.

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You Are Not My Son?

Phil Boete and Ron Ryba

This is the heart-wrenching story of a father and son who thought they had found each other after years of separation, only to find out that fate had played a cruel trick on both of them.

Ron Ryba was a high school football star when he met his high school sweetheart, 16-year-old Kathy Butler, in 1975. They were in love and she became pregnant and bore him a son. It was a hard decision but they decided to give the baby up for adoption through the Catholic Charities of Trenton, N.J.

A few weeks later, Phil Bloete was adopted by a New Jersey couple through the same organization.

Ron and Kathy eventually broke up and ended up marrying other people. Ron stayed in touch with the Catholic Charities and through the years they provided him with baby pictures and assured him that the boy was doing well.

About five years ago the two men - Phil Bloete was now a high school English teacher - began writing to each other through the charity organization. They eventually decided to meet each other.

"I wanted him to know that he was born out of love and I had given him up as a gift," Ryba said, who explained that he and the baby's 16-year-old mother decided their son deserved a better upbringing than they could provide.

The meeting went well and they bonded in what they thought was a long-awaited father-and-son reunion. If fact everything went so well and the two grew so close that Ron decided to add Phil to his will last year. That was when things took a strange turn.

The results of the DNA tests that Ron's lawyer required they take, shocked everyone....the two sets of tests showed there was "zero percent chance" that Phil was related to Ron or his ex-girlfriend, Kathy....he was NOT their son.

Both men feel let down by Catholic Charities, which has been unable to come up with any information to untangle the mess.

Ron Ryba and Phil Bloete are not father and son, but they are friends bound together by a heart-wrenching mystery. Where is Ron's son? Who are Phil's birth parents? They remain determined to find out.

"We'll just take this journey together; we'll do it together," Ryba said.


Their story was told on Good Morning America in the video clip below:






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