"If it bleeds, it leads." The old newspaper adage remains true with some of this year’s most reported news stories involving criminal acts that ranged from love triangles gone wrong to racially motivated acts of violence to cruel acts of depravity that remind us just how inhumane humans can be.
Jodi Arias, Guilty of First-Degree Murder
Among the biggest crime stories of 2013 were those that ended with well-televised courtroom dramas such as the brutal slaying of 30-year-old Travis Alexander by his ex-girlfriend, 32-year-old Jodi Arias
. Alexander was found with throat slit, multiple stab wounds on his body, and a gunshot to the head in his home in June 2008. In May of 2013, Arias was convicted of first-degree murder.
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George Zimmerman Found Not Guilty
Two months later, a second sentence came down that in addition to captivating much of the nation’s attention, also divided it largely along racial lines.
In July, a jury of six women found Floridian George Zimmerman, a mixed-race Hispanic neighborhood watch captain, not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin
, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American. The not guilty verdict in the racially charged case resulted in heightened tension between some black and white communities while giving way to new questions about racial profiling and self-defense.
Murder and Race
In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin case, several other crimes in 2013 were analyzed from a racial perspective, such as when three 15-year-old black youths relentlessly beat a 13-year-old white boy
over the summer on a school bus in Gulfport, Fla., leaving him with a broken arm and two black eyes. The beating was captured on tape and the boys were charged with aggravated battery.
In November, a 54-year-old white man shot a 19-year-old black teenager
when she knocked on his door in a predominantly white suburb of Detroit. Theodore Wafer with was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, and use of a gun during a felony in the shooting death of Renisha McBride. News of the shooting death sparked protests and comparisons to Trayvon Martin.
In August, two teens from Oklahoma allegedly shot to death a visiting Australian
collegiate baseball player, 22-year-old Christopher Lane, for the "fun of it." The alleged killers, Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and James Francis Edwards Jr., 15, were then driven away from the murder by another teen, 17-year-old Michael Dewayne Jones. Luna and Edwards were charged with first-degree murder, while Jones was charged with using a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and with accessory to first-degree murder after the fact.
Also in August, an 88-year-old World War II veteran died after being beaten to death by two youths
outside an Eagles Lodge in Washington State. The Victim, Delbert "Shorty" Belton, a former Marine and Purple Heart recipient who survived the Battle of Okinawa, was discovered unconscious and bleeding in his car. The two suspects, 16-year-olds Demetrius Glenn and Kenan Adams-Kinard, were caught several weeks later and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery.
Lastly there was the knockout game, in which predominantly youths targeted unsuspecting people
by attempting to knock them out in the street with a single punch to the head. The attacks, which were captured on camera by the perpetrators themselves, led to fatal assaults in some cases, and a Texas man was charged with a hate crime
in one instance.
Ariel Castro's Depravity
Among the most depraved criminal acts that made headlines in 2013 was the forced imprisonment and prolonged abuse, both physical and sexual, of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight
, who were freed in May after having spent nearly 10 years imprisoned in a suburban Ohio basement. Additionally, a 6-year-old girl, whom Berry had given birth to during her captivity, was also freed. The individual responsible for the heinous act was 52-year-old Ariel Castro, a Cleveland area school bus driver who had kidnapped the women when they were in their mid-teens. Before justice could be handed down, Castro managed to take his own life and commit suicide with his prison bed sheets
300 Men 'Knowingly' Exposed to HIV
Rounding out some of the most heinous criminal acts committed in 2013 is that of David Lee Mangum, a 37-year-old Missouri man who police say may have knowingly exposed more than 300 sexual partners to HIV
. Magnum reportedly didn’t tell the men he slept with about the illness because he was scared of being rejected. Magnum was arrested in late August and charged with knowingly infecting with HIV, a felony that could carry a life sentence if convicted.
Some of the most disturbing criminal acts of 2013 involved the deaths of children.
In May, a 15-year-old Utah boy was arrested after he allegedly stabbed his two younger siblings to death
with a knife. The boy, Aza Vidinhar, who was supposed to be watching his brothers, ages 4 and 10 years old, went missing when police arrived and was immediately labeled a person of interest. He was subsequently caught and charged with two counts of felony murder, and could possibly face a life sentence if tried as an adult.
In November, the remains of a family of four that had been missing since February 2010 were recovered in two shallow graves in the desert
outside the California city of Victorville. The McStay family consisted of 42-year-old Joseph McStay and his 45-year-old wife Summer and their children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3. Who was responsible for murdering the McStay family remains a mystery with no arrests having been made and no suspects named as of Dec. 30.
In July, a 22-year-old bride, Jordan Graham of Montana, allegedly pushed her newlywed husband, 25-year-old Cody Johnson, off a cliff to his death over the summer. The victim may have been blindfolded at the time of his death
, federal prosecutors theorize. The couple had been married for just eight days before the husband’s death. Graham was subsequently charged with first- and second-degree murder.
NYC Biker Attack
In late September, a gang of bikers terrorized a family during a high-speed chase through New York City
that ended with 33-year-old Alexian Lien being dragged from his SUV and severely beaten in front of his wife and 2-year-old daughter. The chase lasted nearly half an hour in the middle of the day and covered more than 50 city blocks. The incident began on the West Side Highway when a group of bikers apparently attempted to shut down the highway by slowing traffic and in the process Lien’s SUV bumped one of the motorcyclists. His vehicle was subsequently surrounded by the bikers who were apparently trying to force him out when he attempted to flee and in the process drove over several bikes and at least one biker who was seriously injured. Several of the bikers involved in the beating were arrested, including an off-duty, undercover police detective
who investigators claim was shown on video hitting and kicking the SUV before other bikers attacked its driver.
International Crime Stories
Whereas most crime-related headlines in 2013 focused on the actions of the guilty party, in at least one instance in Bolivia, it was the community’s form of justice toward the suspect that made news. In June, a suspect in a woman's rape and murder was buried alive by Bolivian villagers
inside the grave of the woman who was believed to be his victim. Police reportedly identified Santos Ramos, 17, as the possible culprit in the attack on 35-year-old Leandra Arias Janco. Enraged by the act, more than 200 community members seized Ramos and buried him alive alongside his alleged victim, while preventing police and prosecutors from reaching him.
In other news around the world, a popular Japanese chef was killed in a dispute with two diners over a noodle dish
on the German island of Sylt in May. Miki Nozawa, who apparently used to cook for Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, reportedly got into a dispute with two diners about a dish of fried noodles. Having suffered serious injuries in the assault, Nozawa was rushed to a local hospital, where the 57-year-old died from his injuries. The two suspects aged 50 and 36 were detained on suspicion of causing Nozawa's injuries, but have been released due to lack of evidence, police said.
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