Ep. 9: Duval sisters, Kirsten Fritch, Sabrina Matthews, Sherri Holland, Gaby Gonzalez


I know it took a long time, but here it is, Episode 9. Don’t forget to save a friend from a bland TCR-less life by telling them to subscribe!

Shout-outs

  • Revbom0z7: Love this podcast

    So informative and loving the emergency calls being added in at times. It gives a real insight to each story and I look forward to each episode being uploaded. Keep up the great work!

  • Rebexster13: Just gets better

    It’s a new podcast. The first few episodes are not as good. But even so every one improves. A lot of stuff that isn’t covered on other podcasts. So even if you listen to 100 others, this is a must add. Xoxo.

  • BlueJeep: Wonderful true crime podcast!

    Love the host and the content! What I don’t love: the creepy intro… (sorry!)

  • HaleyBaley93: Review of True Crime Review

    I’m a huge fan of this podcast. Joe finds the best stories to talk about. He isn’t discussing the same story every other podcast has discussed. He is going to the depths on the internet (page 2 and on!) to find great stories for his listeners. Also, Joe is a great writer. He’s so eloquent with his words. The True Crime Review is to die for. All around great podcast I’m proud to be a subscriber of. Keep up the great work! TL;DR – Joe writes reeeal good. Finds unique stories. Great podcast. Must listen.

Updates

Gordon Semple

Elizabeth Griffith, Stacey Stanley and Candice Cunningham

Prosecutor Bambi Couch Page previously said Grate confessed to killing Cunningham in June at the vacant Madison Township house, which was destroyed by a suspicious fire on June 20 or 21.

Cunningham’s body was recovered at the rear of the house in a wooded area, down a ravine.

In the Ashland case, the bodies of Stacey Stanley, 43, and Elizabeth Griffith, 29, were recovered in an abandoned house at 363 Covert Court near the downtown.

Preliminary autopsy reports indicate both women were strangled.

Grate has also been implicated in Rebekah Leicy’s death and that of Marion County Jane Doe, whose body was found in 2007.

  • Shawn Grate items advertised online for sale: I don’t support “murderbelia” sales unless the seller donates all proceeds to the victim’s family, a victim advocacy organization, or another worthy cause. To profit from selling items related to a murder or a murderer is among the “depths of human depravity” I was thinking about when coming up with this show’s tagline.

News

Anastasia Duval

In May,

Alexandria was driving a Ford Explorer on Hana Highway on May 29 with her sister Anastasia in the passenger seat when the SUV crashed into a rock wall, plunging about 200 feet onto a rocky shoreline during what was described as a hair-pulling fight over the steering wheel.

Alexandria was injured but her sister Anastasia was killed. Though authorities arrested and charged Alexandria with second-degree murder a judge later ordered those charges dropped for lack of probable cause. A grand jury, probably convened shortly after her release, indicted her in late October on a second-degree murder charge. When police caught up to her in New York she fled briefly before being arrested. New York authorities will extradite her to Hawaii for prosecution.

The audio clip included in this episode was retrieved from a video on the YouTube account of local morning show Mountain Morning Show on Park City Television in California.

Kirsten Fritch, Breanna Pavlicek and their mother Cynthia Morris

Authorities issued an Amber Alert for Kirsten after they found her younger sister, Breanna Pavlicek, 13, and their mom, Cynthia Morris, 37, dead with gunshot wounds in the family’s Baytown house.

Investigators arrested Fritch’s boyfriend, 21-year-old Jesse Dobbs, outside of the bar early Wednesday morning. Police say Dobbs is a person of interest in the case.

He was charged with one count of murder so far, for Kirsten’s death, but is being questioned about the deaths of her mother and sister. He’ll likely be charged in those murders as well.

Chron.com reported Thursday that court documents state Dobbs

stabbed her more than 50 times in a brutal triple slaying and told detectives he killed “not the real Kirsten but the fake Kirsten.”

Audio excerpts were taken from KHOU 11 News.

Sabrina Matthews

On November 9, 2008, someone slit 14-year-old Sabrina Matthews’ throat in her Queens bedroom. The next day at about 1:15pm, her father found her body. Because there were no signs of forced entry her father was briefly considered a suspect in his daughter’s murder.

Then, for almost 8 years, her family mourned her murder without a name or a face to blame it on.

That’s why Sabrina’s mom Shirda was so grateful to cold case detectives John Roberts and Phil Panzarella when they told her recently that they used DNA evidence to arrest and charge 24-year-old Rashon Venable, a Pennsylvania inmate already serving time on a plea deal for the 2009 rape of another 14-year-old girl.

He was 16 when he murdered Sabrina. He has waived extradition and been charged with 2nd-degree murder. Sabrina’s mom, talking about the meeting in which detectives told her they had her daughter’s killer:

“I scream out in the air, and I said, ‘Thank you, Jesus!’” Matthews told the station. “Oh, God, I cry and cry and I said, ‘Detective? Is this for real?’ And I said, ‘Can I hug you, sir?’”

They did hug, and there’s really nothing I can add to that.

Audio excerpts taken from PIX 11 News.

You can see about thirty minutes of interview with Shirda on YouTube by visiting this playlist.

Human Garbage of the Week: The Murder of Sherri Holland

I work with mental health professionals and I know it plays a much more important role in violent crimes than most news reports discuss. But this case is an exception.

Sherri Holland was the single mother of a 14-year-old son when her abusive ex-boyfriend Steven Frederick Spears murdered her. She was only 34-years-old. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Spears had not one but four unique plans for murdering Sherri. These were electrocution in the shower, fatal beating, shooting her, and suffocation.

In the end he chose suffocation. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Around 10 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2001, Spears hid in the closet of Holland’s son, who was spending the weekend with his father. Around four hours later, he came out and killed her.

Spears choked Holland until she was unconscious, then smothered her by wrapping duct tape around her face and mouth, placing a plastic bag over her head, and sealing the bag with duct tape.

He then, despite it being 90 degrees outside, turned the heat up all the way in her house, no doubt to accelerate decomposition.

When she failed to pick her son Derrick up from his father’s house the next day, the two men went to her house, worried about her. They didn’t enter the bedroom because Spears had padlocked it after the murder. That was probably for the best because sheriff’s deputies asked Derrick to wait outside while they searched the house for his mother. This prevented him from being present when authorities discovered what must have a disturbing scene.

He hid in the woods like the coward he was for ten days before turning himself in:

Once caught, Spears readily confessed to the murder. He told investigators 10 days after killing Holland — 10 days during which he’d hidden in the woods — that he had warned Holland that if he ever found out she was with somebody else, he’d “choke her … to death.” He told investigators, “If I had to do it again, I’d do it.”

He was tried, convicted and sentenced to death.

He was evaluated for psychological fitness upon refusing to pursue further appeals of his death sentence. When asked if he wanted to die, he answered:

“Not really, but would you want to live in a six by nine cell? That’s not living” according to the evaluation report he added: “I want to die because I don’t want to live like I’m living. It’s like a cancer eating me up every day.”

Sometimes the death penalty, widely considered the greatest price for a killer to pay, is actually an early release of sorts, preferable to a life sentence. As an attorney I sometimes wonder whether prosecutors or even victims’ families should be given the option to petition for the commutation of a death sentence to a life sentence. If the killer’s statements suggest life in prison would be worse to them than death, it should be an option of the victims’ families to ask a court to impose the sentence which would inflict the most suffering.

After all, death penalty sentences are obviously not intended to lead to rehabilitation. The only purpose of the death penalty is retribution, to cause the killer suffering. If that suffering would be greater alive than dead, it’s a reasonable thing for a family to request.

I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t want to pay for these people to spend life in prison, even if they’re suffering.” But the truth is that Spears is an exception, and most killers on death row fight the sentence, quite literally, until their final hours. So you’re paying either way…

In conclusion, Sherri Holland’s killer may have had mental health issues, but his behavior and statements as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution strongly suggest he killed out of deliberate evil. He planned and waited and hid, suggesting he thought about it, was willing to risk getting caught to hid in wait for her, and knew what he did was wrong, hence running into the woods.

No, while he may have been suffering from one or more disorders, his murder of Sherri Holland was cold and calculated. That’s why Steven Spears, who was the eighth execution in Georgia this year, is the Human Garbage of the Week.

But I’m going to end with something Sherri’s sister, Alice Loggins, said. For years she wanted revenge on Spears for taking her sister, but age and religion gave her insight into how her sister would have approached her own killer:

“Sherri would not have wanted that,” Loggins said. “When they do this, and Steve faces Sherri and the Lord, I can see Sherri telling God she forgives him. I can see it plain as day.”

Podcast Recommendation

This week’s Podcast Recommendation is True Crime Historian. This podcast by Richard O. Jones features his inspired readings of primary source documents, usually newspaper articles, from centuries past.

From the Old West to the death penalty to witch trials, Jones is a great dramatic reader. Couple that with excellent production quality and clockwork publishing consistency, True Crime Historian is one of the great role models for those of us who run solo podcasts.

Subscribe to True Crime Historian at iTunesaudioBoom or SoundCloud, and visit the website at true crime historian dot com.

Resource

This episode’s resource is The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Simon Baron-Cohen. If you’re considering buying it here’s an Amazon Affiliate link you can use to support the show.

Cold Case: Gabriela “Gaby” Gonzalez

Police:

her body is buried in the Otay River Bottom area of Chula Vista.

Timeline: Gaby Gonzalez Disappearance

  1. Gabriela “Gaby” Gonzalez was born on September 22, 1987. She lived in San Diego, California with her mother Leticia and her brother Eduardo Fernandez.
  2. She was last seen: April 5, 2002, when her mother dropped her off at Montgomery High School, where she was a freshman. That day, as on the two prior days, she let school almost immediately and went to her boyfriend, 19-year-old Juan Josa Vera, in Chula Vista, California.
  3. Later in April 2002: 14-year-old Gabriela “Gaby” Gonzalez reported missing; she was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 115 pounds. She had black hair and black eyes and was probably wearing Levi’s jeans.
  4. 2003: witness interviews and the investigation led detectives to classify Gaby’s case as a homicide.
  5. February 2003: Gaby’s boyfriend, Juan Jose Vera, who has had gang affiliations since before Gaby’s disappearance, is arrested in relation to six bank robberies.
  6. June 16, 2005: The San Diego Union-Tribune reports being told by Chula Vista Police Sargent John McAvenia that “Some braggarts on the street have been bragging about something a gang member might have done. The rumor we got was ‘Something bad happened to her while she was in Chula Vista.’” By this time, Gaby’s boyfriend Juan Jose Vera is in prison for robbery and possession of meth with intent to sell. He was named a person of interest but has never, to this day, been charged. [Source]
  7. June 2005: Chula Vista police searched the Otay River Bottom at Otay Valley Regional Park due to suspicions her body was hidden there. [Source]
  8. November 10, 2016: Nearly 50 police officers, FBI agents, District Attorney’s Office investigators and evidence technicians turned out to spend the day carefully searching a large patch of the rough, brushy Otay River bottom, using metal detectors, ground-penetrating radar and other technology. Teams also fanned out across the neighborhood around Date Street and Date Court, handing out flyers with Gonzalez’ photo and asking if anyone remembered the case. [Source]; Google Map of the 2016 search area, command post and main search area at center
  9. November 14, 2016: Police tell reporters: “We believed there was evidence to be found, so we conducted an operation last week, and the operation was a success, and now we have more information to work with.” Chula Vista PD Lieutenant Fritz Reber won’t say exactly what they found but he believes her killer will soon be brought to justice. [Source]
  10. Gaby’s mother Leticia said told reporters during the November 2016 search that “I would like to know if she’s alive.”
  11. Her brother Eduardo said “We’re always going to keep hoping, until there’s a body,” he said. “You mourn all the time.” Fox5 San Diego also quoted him as saying, in response to the positive police reaction to the new search, “Very fortunate they haven’t forgotten about her. And that there are new leads. We feel very blessed.”

The section on Gaby Gonzalez includes music from Ben Sound. Find the song, called Ofelia’s Dream, at his website.


Sources