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PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys

Top 10 Most Infamous Serial Killers

October 30th, 2014

During Halloween season, many of us turn to slasher films and horror classics for vicarious scary thrills. Some of the most famous serial killers–Michael Myers, Jason Voorhies, and Freddy Krueger–are nothing more than film characters. We can hold our breath, huddle close, and scream in terror when these slashers wreak their vengeance, and still feel safe when we leave the theater or turn off the television.

Still, while horror flicks are the stuff of fiction, real life serial killers have caused terror in cities across the globe. The following infographic looks at the top 10 most infamous serial killers worldwide.

Serial Killers enlarged

Serial killings peaked in the United States in the 1980’s, but have since declined. Some of the most infamous American serial killers include the following:

  • Jeffrey Dahmer – the serial killer committed acts of rape, necrophilia, cannibalism and dismemberment to his 17 victims.
  • Ted Bundy – the charming Ted Bundy killed 30 young women, dismembered and raped their bodies, and kept their heads as souvenirs.
  • Ed Gein – the inspiration for the movie Psycho killed two women who resembled his mother after she died. He also made skulls into bowls, human skin chairs, and a belt of human nipples.
  • Henry Lee Lucas – Although he is only confirmed to have killed 11 people, he confessed to killing over 600.
  • The Zodiac – The Zodiac killings were never solved. The Zodiac killer wrote cyphers to the police, allegedly holding his identity, but many could never be solved.
  • Albert Fish – the boogeyman, was a child rapist, murderer and cannibal. He is known not only for his child murders, but also for his famous x-ray which showed 2 dozen needles stuffed into his hips and perineum.
  • Richard Trenton Chase – The “Vampire of Sacremento” who committed six murders in a single month, Chase is known for his schizophrenia and paranoia that led to him drinking the blood of his victims.
  • Dennis Rader – The “BTK Killer” (for “bind, torture, kill”) killed 10 people near Wichita, Kansas, between 1974 and 1991. Rader had sent taunting messages to police, but stopped in the early 90’s. He began writing letters again in 2004, and those notes led to his 2005 arrest and conviction.
  • Gary Ridgeway – The “Green River Killer” was convicted of murdering nearly 50 women, but investigators believe his death toll could be as high as 90.
  • John Wayne Gacy – The killer clown sexually assaulted and murdered at least 33 teenage boys in the mid-to-late 70’s. Gacy was given 12 death sentences and was executed in 1994 after spending 14 years on death row.
  • Albert Desalvo – The “Boston Strangler” confessed to killing 13 women in the early 1960’s; however, investigators believe more than one person may have been responsible for the killings, also called the “silk stocking murders.”

While many of the above names–or at least their nicknames–are virtually household names in America, the number of their victims pales in comparison with the body count of “La Bestia” Luis Garavito. A Columbian serial killer, Garavito confessed to 147 rapes and murders of young boys, and he is charged with 172 murders. Investigators believe the number of actual victims could be as high as 300. Despite being the worst serial killer in history, Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos was sentenced to 30 years in prison based on Columbian maximum sentencing, and his sentence was reduced to 22 years because of his confessions and his cooperation in helping police recover the bodies.

New Domestic Violence Assessment Takes Effect Nov. 1

October 27th, 2014

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and this month will culminate with a new law designed to protect victims of domestic abuse.

On November 1, Oklahoma law enforcement officers responding to domestic calls will be required to ask certain questions to determine the risk a victim holds of being killed by his or her abuser. Currently, responding police are required by law only to give the victim a card with the phone number for the state domestic violence hotline.

Supporters of the law say the new measure will not only give police more information about the nature of the assault, but will help victims of domestic abuse understand the dangers they face in an abusive relationship. A person in an abusive relationship may have a tendency to believe that the assault was a one-time deal, or may think that the abuser will change his or her ways, or that the abuse will never escalate. However, being confronted with questions like, “Has he or she ever threatened to kill you?” or “Has he or she ever tried to choke you?” may help someone face the reality that domestic abuse can quickly turn deadly when an abuser’s rage is out of control.

Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence in the nation. The Violence Policy Center reports that for the second year straight, Oklahoma ranks third in the number of women killed by men. That number takes into account only the number of women killed by men in single-victim homicides–it does not include women killed in multiple-victim homicides, including murder-suicide or familicide (murder of the spouse and children). The Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board reports that only 2 percent of women killed in domestic homicide over the 10 year span of the study had accessed domestic violence support services.

The fatality review board found in its 2012 annual report that, despite the evidence of prior violence in 77 percent of intimate partner homicides, only 24 percent of the victims had a protective order against their abusers.

Certainly, the state’s statistics regarding domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and domestic homicide are sobering. It is clear that the state needs to take firm measures to reduce domestic abuse. Hopefully, the new domestic violence risk assessment measures to be implemented November 1, 2014, will encourage those in an abusive relationship to get the help they need to escape such a situation.

If you or someone you love is in immediate danger in a domestic situation, call 9-1-1 for emergency help. Otherwise, call the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Safeline at 800-522-SAFE (7233).

Lawyer Charged in Sex Tourism Case

October 25th, 2014

An Oklahoma City attorney accused of travelling to Peru to engage in sex with underaged girls was formally charged this week after a year-long investigation.

Just over a year ago, Michael Dean Billings, 59, and Ada bail bondsman Robert Pierce were accused of visiting Iquitos, Peru, for the purpose of having sex with minors. FBI agents and Peruvian officials detained the two men after they allegedly took two young girls, aged 13 and 17, to a hotel room in the poverty-stricken country known for child prostitution.

Investigators claim they found Viagra, four bags of candy, 22 condoms, extra-small lingerie, and $2600 in $100 bills in the room.

Billings has denied involvement in criminal sexual activity, saying that Peruvian officials cleared the men of wrongdoing. He says that one of the young girls was the daughter of Pierce’s ex-fiancee, and that he was planning to take the girl and her friend to dinner.

The attorney says that a former friend was trying to set him up and make it look like he was involved in criminal activity in order to divert attention from the friend’s own criminal investigation.

FBI officials say that since the accusations were made, Billings and Pierce have been involved in witness tampering, paying witness to say that they were not involved in child prostitution.

Investigators say Billings traveled to Peru four to six times a year, with approximately 30 visits between 2005 and September 2013.

On Friday, Billings was arrested at his office and charged in a three-count federal indictment. The attorney pleaded not guilty to the three counts of conspiring to travel for illicit sex in a foreign place, and he was ordered to be held without bond pending a detention hearing to be held Monday.

Under federal law, it is a felony to travel to foreign countries to engage in sex with minors or other acts which would be sex crimes if they occurred on U.S. soil. It is a violation of federal law even if the act, such as child prostitution, is not illegal in the destination country.

Traveling for sex with minors is prohibited under 18 U.S.C. 2243, which reads in part as follows:

(b) Travel With Intent To Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct.–A
person who travels in interstate commerce or travels into the United
States, or a United States citizen or an alien admitted for permanent
residence in the United States who travels in foreign commerce, for the
purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or

(c) Engaging in Illicit Sexual Conduct in Foreign Places.–Any
United States citizen or alien admitted for permanent residence who
travels in foreign commerce, and engages in any illicit sexual conduct
with another person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not
more than 30 years, or both.

Conspiracy or attempt to commit the above acts is punishable by the same penalties ascribed to actual commission of the act.

College Student Charged with Murder of Parents, Sister

October 20th, 2014

A housekeeper reporting for work at the home of a prominent Duncan family made a grisly discovery–the bodies of the three family members who lived there.

John Hruby, 50; his wife Joy “Tinker” Hruby; and their daughter, 17-year-old Katherine had been shot to death.

The housekeeper told her daughter to call the Hrubys’ son, Alan, a 19-year-old University of  Oklahoma student, to tell him that something happened and he needed to come home.

When police told Alan of his parents’ and sister’s murders, they say he fell apart, wailing and sobbing. However, his emotions weren’t the only thing to collapse, as his alibi soon fell apart as well.

Reports say Alan Hruby had scheduled tweets on Twitter to give the appearance of being in his dorm room in Norman when he was actually in Duncan. He was pulled over at approximately 1:00 a.m. last Thursday, a mile from his parents home. However, despite telling a police officer that he forgot his driver’s license and giving a fake name and birthdate, he was let go with a ticket.

Investigators say Alan continued to his family’s home, where he stole his father’s gun.

John Hruby noticed the missing gun and reported it stolen, but it was too late.

Alan returned to Duncan later in the day, entered the home through a back door, and shot his mother as she texted with a friend. When she didn’t die instantly, Alan shot her again. Tinker Hruby died of two gunshot wounds to the head.

The young  man then waited for his younger sister to come in from washing her car, and he shot her in the neck, killing her instantly.

Investigators say he then waited an hour for his father to return home from work. He shot him twice in the head.

While his parents and his little sister lay dead, reports say, Alan Hruby went to Dallas to party with friends, selling his ticket to the Red River Rivalry and staying at the Ritz-Carlton.

Investigators say that when police told him of the deaths, his histrionics didn’t add up. They say he was wailing and hyperventilating, but there were no tears, and he didn’t ask any questions about the deaths.

Police detained Alan for violating the probation he was serving for fraud charges. Last year, Alan took out a credit card in his grandmother’s name and racked up nearly $5,000 in charges on a trip to Europe. Alan violated probation by drinking and leaving the state, and police used that violation to detain him as they continued to question him about his family’s murders.

Eventually, police say, Alan confessed to the murders. He said that he killed his parents and his sister, a high school junior, simply so he could inherit his parents’ money and not have to share the inheritance with his sister.

He told investigators that he owed $3,000 to a loan shark and he needed the inheritance to pay off the debt.

Alan Hruby is charged with three counts of first degree murder, and those who knew the Hruby family are struggling to understand the depths of greed that would drive a young man to familicide.

Author John Grisham Criticizes Tough Child Porn Sentencing

October 16th, 2014

Criticizing sex offender laws as too severe is not a popular stance. Most people tend to lump all “sex offenders” in the same category as violent child predators, and they feel like the only acceptable reform of sex offender laws is to make theme even more stringent. However, those who know and love a “sex offender” understand that not all sex crimes are equal, and that most sex offenders are actually not a threat to public safety. In fact, the overall recidivism rate for sex offenders is quite low.

And while it has become socially and politically acceptable to criticize mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes, the same acceptance has not reached criticism of lengthy sentencing for sex crimes. One popular novelist has quickly learned just how readily a public can turn against someone for voicing an opinion on the matter.

John Grisham, author of numerous best-selling courtroom drama novels, recently told The Telegraph that he felt that America had “gone crazy” in sentencing and incarcerating what he feels are non-violent offenders–including those who view child pornography.

He told the British newspaper, “We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child . . . but they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

Grisham then goes on to describe a “good buddy from law school” who was arrested in a child pornography sting. Grisham said his friend had a drinking problem and one night wandered into a pornography site featuring “sixteen-year-old wanna-be hookers.” The author noted that the girls “looked 30″ and said, “He shouldn’t ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys. He didn’t touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people – sex offenders – and he went to prison for three years.”

The author said the United States has “gone nuts” in incarcerating people who have never touched a victim, saying that he has “no sympathy for real pedophiles,” but treating all sex offenders equally is a miscarriage of justice. He said of men, like his friend, who view child pornography, “They deserve some type of punishment, but 10 years in prison?”

It often seems that no one has sympathy for sex offenders, mentally classifying them all as violent, predatory pedophiles. Grisham faced significant backlash for his comments and quickly had to apologize for his stance:

“Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography — online or otherwise — should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable. I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all.”

One point made by Grisham’s disappointed fans is that in order for child pornography to exist, a child must be victimized. People who view and download child pornography–even if they themselves never touch a child–fuel the market that makes child sexual abuse profitable.

What do you think? Does Grisham have a valid point? Should those who download child pornography face the same penalties as those who produce and distribute it? Are they equally responsible for the sexual exploitation of children, or do some bear more responsibility than others?

Who is Luring Whom?

October 13th, 2014

In Oklahoma, we call it “Soliciting Sexual Conduct or Communication with a Minor by Use of Technology.” In other states, they call it “Internet Luring” or “Online Solicitation of a Minor.” No matter how it’s termed, the laws against online solicitation of minors are intended to protect the nation’s children from dangerous internet predators–those who lurk anonymously behind a computer screen seeking to lure children and young teens to victimize.

In order to enforce these laws, many law enforcement agencies and organizations, such as the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), have turned to conducting internet stings to ferret out these predators.

Shows such as Dateline NBC’s series “To Catch a Predator” fed public fears that pedophiles skulked behind every computer monitor, seeking children to manipulate and exploit. Producers worked with an organization called “Perverted Justice.” Members of the organization would act as decoys, engaging in explicit online conversations with adults and arranging meetings. When the subject of the sting would arrive at the designated meeting place, a TV show host was there instead, badgering the subject with questions and publicly shaming him or her before law enforcement slapped on the handcuffs.

What many viewers of the show do not realize is that a great many of these cases were thrown out after the judicial process showed conflict of interest and entrapment in making these arrests. It wasn’t law enforcement; it was entertainment. This “showmanship” came at the expense of many men’s reputations, relationships, and professions.

The series is now off the air, but internet stings continue. However, are these “catch a predator” stings any better than the ones drummed up for television ratings?

Many people say they are not, and there are several lawsuits and appeals around the nation indicating that online stings are often entrapment. Some say go as far as to say that “Cops Create Sex Offenders.” In the linked article, a mother writes:

“My son is currently facing charges for Internet luring he went into an adult website where the age was to be 18 he started talking back and forth with a profile seating she was 20 after a few texts back and forth he felt there was a connection and began conversations with her then at some point she stated that she was only about to turn 15 yes he should have stopped communication then, but a few more texts went and the charges came. He was not in any kind of chat room for kids gaming rooms or anything just trying to meet someone his own age which turned out to be a cop in and adult place.”

We reached out to this mother and got a little more information about the case. (DISCLOSURE: This is not a client of our firm, nor is this case even from the state of Oklahoma. We have permission from the mother to share her story. We take attorney-client confidentiality very seriously.)

The woman’s 22-year-old son was visiting an adult chat room that expressly stated that all users must be at least 18 years of age. He struck up a conversation with a female whose profile said that she was 20 years old. The two chatted back and forth, and at some point, the “woman” admitted that she was not 20, but rather a couple of months shy of 15. The young man began to back-pedal, knowing that engaging in sexually explicit conversation with a minor was a bad idea, but the “girl” kept pursuing, even saying that she must “want it more” than he did. Because the young man had already established an online relationship with her when he thought she was an adult, the conversation continued.

Eventually, the two decided to meet. Along the way, however, the young man decided that meeting a young teen–even in a public place in the middle of the afternoon, as arranged–was a bad idea. He arrived at the destination, but instead of getting out to meet the girl, he stayed in his car and drove away.

Police pulled him over and arrested him, charging him with Internet Luring, a sex crime which, in the state where he was charged, is punishable by 5 years to life in prison and lifetime sex offender registration.

The young man is treated now as an online child predator, even though he was in no way seeking out the companionship of a minor when he entered an adult chat room and began chatting with whom he believed to be a 20-year-old woman. He even tried to back away from the relationship when she said she was actually a minor; however, the adult male decoy posing as a teen pursued.

Are these the acts of an internet predator and pedophile luring children? Or do they seem more to be the acts of a lonely young man who was, in fact, lured himself by law enforcement agents looking to make a high-profile arrest?

Reform of sex offender laws is not popular. Obviously, we want to protect our children from sexual abuse and exploitation. However, something must change in the way these undercover stings are handled. If a predator is actively seeking a child to exploit, is he or she going to look in an adult chat room intended for those 18 and older? Or will he or she be more likely to visit sites heavily populated by children? If a subject tries to avoid further communication with a decoy, does the decoy’s continued pursuit of sexual conversation constitute entrapment?

Clearly, entrapment is illegal. However, law enforcement agencies seem to blur the line between undercover investigation and entrapment in online sex stings.

In Florida, a number of arrests are being challenged after internet stings conducted by an ICAC task force. In these cases, the investigating officer posing as a minor is the one who actually initiated a sexual conversation, in violation of ICAC rules.

Similar cases around the nation will reveal that these online predator stings are little more than modern-day witch hunts, with the only true victims being those ensnared by unethical law enforcement practices.



Oklahoma Sex Offender Sentenced to 40 Years in Federal Child Porn Case

October 9th, 2014

A Norman man with a prior conviction for possessing child pornography was sentenced in federal court this week for producing child pornography.

Anthony Ray Sackett, 35, pleaded guilty this summer in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to a charge of producing child pornography. He faced 25 to 50 years in prison because of a prior Cleveland County conviction of possession of child pornography.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton sentenced Sackett to 40 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.

The case came after Sackett used a cell phone to take pictures and record video of himself engaged in sexually explicit conduct with a 2-year-old girl. He then distributed the images through Kik, a mobile instant messaging app.

Typically, producing child pornography is punishable by 15 to 30 years in prison under 18 U.S. Code 2251; however, with a prior sex crime conviction, Sackett’s potential sentence was enhanced to a maximum of 50 years. If he were to be subsequently convicted a third time, he would face a maximum life sentence.

The prior conviction came in 2002 after Sackett took a computer to a pawn shop. When he did not reclaim the computer within 90 days, shop employees began to prepare the device to sell. In doing so, they came across several images of adult males engaged in sexual activity with minors. They notified authorities and Sackett was arrested and ultimately convicted of possessing child pornography.

He served more than two years in prison for child pornography, forgery, and jumping bail before being released in October 2004.

In 2011, he was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender and given a 5-year suspended sentence.

In Oklahoma, a first offense of possession of child pornography is a Level I sex offense. This is the lowest risk-level classification in Oklahoma, and anyone who is convicted of a Level I sex crime must register as a sex offender each year for 15 years.

However, any subsequent sex crime conviction classifies a person as a habitual sex offender. This places him or her in the highest risk-level category as a Level III sex offender. Level III sex offenders must register with local law enforcement every 3 months for life.

Sex offender registration carries with it numerous restrictions and prohibitions. It allows public awareness of one’s past offense, essentially acting as a modern-day “Scarlet Letter.” Lifetime sex offender registration makes this stigma and these challenges inescapable.

Learn more about Oklahoma sex offender registration.

Actor Allegedly Confesses to Child Molestation in Secret Recording

October 7th, 2014

He played Reverend Eric Camden, a pastor and father seven children on the wholesome family television series “7th Heaven.” Now, Stephen Collins is accused of molesting 3 young girls several years ago. The accusation comes after the release of a covert audio recording in which a man alleged to be Collins admits to child molestation.

According to reports, Collins filed for divorce from his wife, actress Faye Grant, in 2012, after 27 years of marriage. Grant said she was “devastated,” by the filing, but the true shock came when he allegedly admitted to her that he had exposed himself to three young girls, even placing the hand of one of the girl on his penis.

Collins and Grant have been involved in a long and difficult divorce process since the filing, and now it has come to light that Grant secretly recorded a 2012 therapy session in which she questioned him about the sexual abuse and in which he allegedly admits to it.

Reports say that Grant was informed by her lawyer that it was legal for her to secretly tape the therapy session, because California law allows covert recording in order to gain evidence of a felony.

Now, New York police confirm that they have begun an investigation of Collins as a result of the tape, since two of the girls mentioned lived in Manhattan at the time of the alleged incidents. They say that they investigated Collins for sexual abuse before, but that the statute of limitations on that case expired before charges could be filed.

As of this writing, Collins has not responded to the reports of child sexual abuse.

It is interesting to note, however, that the recording was allegedly made in 2012 under the guise of gaining evidence of a felony–yet the alleged confession was not revealed to  New York police until recently. A New York Police Department source said that investigators with the NYPD Special Victims Unit traveled to Los Angeles “a few weeks ago” to question Collins.

If the reason for the secret recording was to gather evidence for a crime, shouldn’t that evidence have been turned over to police when the evidence was gathered? Is it possible that an angry partner in a heated divorce held on to a tape for leverage, only releasing it when the demands were not met? Is it possible that the voice on the tape isn’t even Collins?

Regardless of whether or not Collins did, in fact, sexually abuse and expose himself to pre-teen girls, the squeaky-clean image he generated on 7th Heaven is forever tarnished.

Whether the girls are victims of Collins as a sexual predator, or whether the actor is a victim of lies and manipulation, hopefully, justice will prevail.

Dallas Cowboys Player Accused of Sexual Assault

October 2nd, 2014

On the heels of a lawsuit filed accusing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of sexual assault come allegations that special teams player C.J. Spillman sexually assaulted a woman at a Texas hotel in September.

A woman filed a police report accusing Spillman of raping her at the Gaylord Texan hotel in Grapevine on September 20. The football player has not been charged and has played in two games since the alleged incident.

Today the team announced that he will continue to practice, with coach Jason Garrett saying that Spillman’s status with the team will not change unless he is arrested or charged.

Some people say that with scrutiny on the way the NFL is handling other domestic violence and sexual assault cases–particularly in relation to the Ray Rice case–the team and the league should act quickly to suspend a player accused of sexual assault.

However, Garrett told reporters, “I think you have to be careful with just accusations and allegations in this situation. When someone is officially charged or arrested for something, that’s when it becomes a different situation in our minds. For now, he’s a member of our football team and will take part in everything we do to this point.”

Garrett’s protection of due process seems to be self-contradictory, since earlier this week, he told his players that the team will enact a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence. Anyone involved in a domestic violence incident will be suspended from the team, “regardless of due process.”

Playing around with due process–a constitutional right in courtroom matters–can be a tricky thing. If all players accused of sexual assault were suspended prior to investigation and verification of the veracity of the claim, it would certainly be easy to manipulate the sport. Want your team to win? Just accuse the opposing quarterback of rape.

Some professional athletes have a sense of entitlement that leaves them to believe that they can take what they want and that they are above the law. Others may simply be high-profile targets for manipulative people seeking either attention or a large settlement.

As such cases show, an accusation alone can tarnish one’s reputation and have a tremendous impact on a career. Ben Roethlisberger was accused of rape but never charged. Kobe Bryant was criminally charged after a rape claim, but the case was dismissed after his accuser refused to testify. Both of these men, despite having no criminal conviction for the acts of which they were accused, are eternally linked with the accusations.

If a professional athlete is guilty of rape, he deserves the professional and legal consequences of his actions. If he is falsely accused, doesn’t he deserve the same due process rights guaranteed to all of us under the United States Constitution?

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PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys