Guilty of Murder By SUV and Train

June 27, 2008


A man who claimed he was attempting suicide when he triggered a 2005 rail disaster was convicted Thursday of 11 counts of first-degree murder and could face the death penalty.

Two commuter trains collided into a tangled mass of smoking wreckage littered with victims after Juan Alvarez left a gasoline-drenched sport-utility vehicle on railroad tracks in Glendale, northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

Alvarez, 29, looked on stolidly as the Superior Court jury returned its guilty verdicts for the murders and one count of arson. The jury also agreed there was a special circumstance of multiple murders – making Alvarez eligible for the death penalty – but it acquitted him of a charge called train wrecking.

Jurors were ordered to return for the start of the penalty phase on July 7.

Alvarez had pleaded not guilty. He admitted causing the Jan. 26, 2005, disaster but claimed he had intended to kill himself, then changed his mind and was unable to get the SUV off the tracks.

A fast-moving Metrolink train struck the vehicle, derailed and struck another Metrolink train heading in the opposite direction and a parked freight train. In addition to the 11 deaths, about 180 people were injured.

Prosecutors denounced his claim of being suicidal as a lie and said he was trying to cause a calamity to get the attention of his estranged wife. Prosecutors said he started out that day with thoughts of killing his wife and then killed the rail passengers because she wasn’t available.

The derailment created a horrific scene of mangled rail cars. Workers from nearby businesses scrambled to rescue the injured before firefighters reached the scene.

As he lay injured in the wreck, John Phipps used his own blood to scrawl what he thought would be his last words to his wife and children: “I (heart symbol) my kids. I (heart symbol) Leslie.” He survived.

According to trial testimony, Alvarez fled the vehicle, left the scene and went to a friend’s house, where he stabbed himself with scissors. Alvarez testified he did not remember stabbing himself but did remember being in a hospital with puncture wounds.

The verdict relieved relatives of the dead.

Alberto Romero said he is reminded of his uncle Leonardo Romero’s death every day because Metrolink commuter trains run past his machine shop. Teresa Nance, whose mother, Elizabeth Hill, was killed, said that as the trial began she had nightmares of being in the train with her.

Neither Romero nor Nance, however, thought it was necessary for Alvarez to be executed.

“He needs to think about this every day of his life,” said Alberto Romero, 45, of Rancho Cucamonga.

Nance, 40, of Reseda, said a death sentence could end up being a life sentence anyway because of appeals. “He’s not going to get off, he’s not going to get out,” she said.

The defense painted Alvarez as a mentally ill victim of childhood abuse who became a drug addict. The prosecution called him a pathological liar whose claim of mental illness was a manipulative tactic.

Separately, the derailment led to a debate about the practice of running Metrolink trains in reverse, with the heavy engine at the rear being controlled from the other end by an operator in what is called a cab car.

Critics contended that the train wouldn’t have derailed if the heavy engine had struck the SUV. The railroad defends the practice.

Originally found @ AssociatedPress.com

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Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Death at Disneyland

May 2, 2008

At Disneyland today, a man jumped to his death from the 14th floor of the Disneyland Hotel.

Anaheim Police spokesperson Rick Martinez said the male victim was between 30-40 years old and was in Anaheim on business. The room was shared with one other male colleague. Although investigations are being conducted, it appears the jump from the balcony was a suicide.

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DC Madam Escapes Sentencing By Killing Herself

May 1, 2008

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, also known as the DC Madam, was recently convicted of a few different crimes including money laundering and using the mail for illegal purposes surrounding her run as the leader of a major Washington, DC prostitution ring that served high-end clients. Her body was found in her mother’s Florida home after she apparently commited suicide, thus evading sentencing. With her death goes more chances of getting more names of clients that allegedly included Congressmen.

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Top 3 News Stories that Need to Go Away

March 6, 2008

There are over 200 countries in the world. We are supposedly in an era of globalization. Then why not take a big step back, take a look at the world news, and report on issues that affect us globally?

A lot of people in the News business will tell you that Americans want to hear about the latest kidnapped college student, office shooting spree, or politician’s extramarital affair. I call bullshit. “If it bleeds, it leads.” Whatever.

It may be subjective what is or is not relevant to one’s daily life. But here are 3 stories I would argue that get WAY too much coverage, given what little significance they have on the average American.

1. Fat Baseball Players, Steroids, and the U.S. Congress

Roger Clemens

Apparently, the use of  drugs to cheat AT A GAME is worth the time of the U.S. Congress and every cable news channel. Think about all the lying and cheating from the Bush administration alone that Congress could be spending it’s time on. Nope. Baseball. It’s pure, it’s American — it’s bullshit. This isn’t just a waste of time and energy, it’s a waste of our tax dollars. The next time this soap opera rears it’s ugly head, ask yourself: do you really care if Roger Clemens (or anyone else) shoots steroids in their ass?

2. Drew Peterson and His Missing/Dead Wives

Drew Peterson

He’s a slimeball ex-cop. He kills his wives. He makes it look like an accident. How could this possibly affect the world at large? Why follow this story on the news? Put it in the tabloids and get over it.

3. Murder Suicides

It happens everyday, yet it is still eagerly reported as “breaking news”: someone who is mentally ill, desperate, or just plain evil shoots a bunch of people before killing themselves. Sometimes it’s a family, sometimes it’s a school, sometimes it’s a random public place, but it’s always the same report: Why did they do this? What drove them to the edge?

Funny how easy it is for the news to raise the questions and then not even think about really addressing them. They just show the same footage of police tape over and over again. When was the last time you heard one of these violent stories reported in the context of gun control? Diminishing social services? Mental illness and the taboo of clinical therapy to treat it? If these tragedies aren’t going to be used to help us understand ourselves and the environment we live in, then they might as well not be reported as news — they’re really just CSI sensationalized drama filler.