November 16, 2003

This Killer Country

Like Carla Rae's post shows, there is a lot of craziness in this country where murder is concerned. Many cases in the news recently have exhibited the lack of consequences faced by those who commit murder. Whether they're aged millionaires who crisscross the country, disadvantaged rural youth, or prominent members of our own communities, murderers are getting off frighteningly easy lately.

It was an article in Rolling Stone that first drew my attention to this issue of murder. The piece described the final hours of 13-year-old Maryann Measles and the struggle her mother has endured in the aftermath of her death. In 1997, Measles had fallen in with the wrong crowd in her hometown of New Milford, CT, where her maturity made her feel out of place among the kids at school. She found acceptance in a group of older teens, but her good looks and outspoken nature sparked jealousy in the girls she thought were her friends. A few months later, Maryann disappeared and her mother was left to carry on a crusade that continues to this day.

Maryann Measles was gang-raped and wrapped in chains that would keep her body below the surface of the Housatonic River for months. The exact cause of death is not known, as her head was held underwater but she may still have been alive when her body was bound and thrown into the river. When Maryann failed to turn up after she was reported missing, her family was forced to conduct their own search. Though they were urged to stop, the Measles' dressed in black and spied on the houses of her friends in hopes of finding clues as to Maryann's whereabouts.

Four years after the disappearance of Maryann Measles, eight suspects (including three women) were arrested in relation to the murder. Cindi Measles, Maryann's mother, was reported to have said that she didn't think justice would ever be done. One of the killers was known to have bragged of his hometown that "This is New Milford...You can get away with murder." It remains unclear what punishment will be faced by those involved in this killing, but the Rolling Stone article quoted someone close to the case as having said that it's likely that at least four of the suspects will receive reduced sentences for providing information to incriminate the others.

The Robert Durst case mentioned by Carla Rae is another high-profile murder trial that ended with a bewildering verdict. Durst is a fascinating defendant in that he cross-dresses, is an avid marijuana smoker, and is believed to have been responsible for a number of killings, including that of his late wife, over the years. Robert Durst, however, is a rich man, the primary heir to a billion-dollar fortune, and can afford the kind of defense team that can convince a jury that beheading is a reasonable action to take in self-defense.

Speaking of self-defense, that was the claim that allowed Ligonier podiatrist Karl Long to avoid 40 years in prison for killing his wife. Despite the nature of the crime (Elaine Long was suffocated with a dry-cleaning bag), the suspicious nature of Karl's wounds (the prosecution claimed he inflicted them himself), the fact that she was cheating and had emptied their savings, and the fact that he had been trying for years to end his marriage, Long was convicted only of third-degree murder and sentenced to a mere five to ten years with credit for time served.

An article printed by the Tribune Review in August reveals the factors that render the court's decision ludicrous. A 240-pound man does not need to push his wife's face into a bed for six minutes to defend himself. This is a big guy. Even if he'd shoved her with enough force to knock her out, he would not be on trial for murder. And what person in their right mind would defend himself against his knife-wielding wife with a dry-cleaning bag? The idea of a murder suspect losing consciousness and passing out on top of the victim, smothering them, seems like something you'd see on TV. It would seem ridiculous there, too, but it worked for Karl Long.

Upon his release (which could happen as early as 2007), Long will be able to return to life as usual, as his podiatry license remains intact. He'll be able to return to his kids, something Judge Ober wanted to make sure of.

On November 15, the Trib reported:
"During a daylong hearing yesterday, Long's family, friends and patients testified about his good character and his need to be with his two children. The judge said he was swayed by that testimony."

These are the same two children who were present in the house while their father was murdering their mother.

These three cases are just an example of the strange state of today's American justice system. In a time when young people are spending years in prison for possession of marijuana, men and women like the defendants in the cases I've described are serving more lenient sentences for murder. Where is the justice in that?

Posted by Jess P at November 16, 2003 8:29 PM

A chilling case. The young pot-smokers obviously don't have expensive lawers to fight their legal battles for them.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at November 17, 2003 5:03 PM

I actually knew MAry-Ann i was very close to her family and still am i love you mary-ann rest in peace 'justice for maryann'

Posted by: AShley at February 19, 2004 6:25 PM

Scumbags got what they deserve for what they did to my cousin. R.I.P. Maryanne JUSTICE WAS SERVED!

Posted by: Nicole Judson at October 24, 2007 11:47 PM

These scumbags got exactly what they deserve... well, actually, no they did not, they are still alive but they wiil always remember as we all will. maryann will be missed always, she was a good kid with a heart of gold. i knew her and know her family well. justice for maryanne

Posted by: krista frattarola at December 15, 2009 10:14 PM
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