Another Media Attack on Christianity

Simply bad timing? Not on your life.

On the eve of Easter Sunday no less, CBS News’ “48-Hours,” decided to air a show attacking credibility of the Joyce Meyer Ministries. In the story called, “Writing on the Wall,” the head of security for the ministry killed is wife and two children and was found guilty and  sentenced to life in prison for the his crime.

However,  rather than providing viewers with the facts about the case, Maureen Maher dragged Joyce Meyer into the mess claiming Chris Coleman felt trapped by the restrictions of his employment contract. Coleman faced dismissal from his well-paying position if caught having an extramarital affair.

And that’s exactly what Coleman was doing.

Worse yet, to get out of his marriage, to the keep from getting caught and moving on to a life with his girlfriend, he murdered his family. To blame anyone else for Coleman’s actions is wrong.

However, it does fit perfectly with the national medias disdain for anything Christian.


When I woke up this evening, I had this rolling around in my brain cavity and it wouldn’t go away until I put it down on paper. I think it’s worth sharing:

When opportunity presents itself,
We must to be willing to stand up,
Take a deep breath —
Go for it completely,
Even at the risk of stupid.
Life is short.
Engage it passionately.

Corporal Aaron J. Ripperda, USMC

Corporal Aaron J. Ripperda, 26 of Madison, Illinois died on March 19th. He and six other Marines were killed during a training accident at Hawthorne Army Depot, in Nevada.

Aaron had joined the Marines in September of 2008, and had been scheduled to leave the service in May, so that he could become a chef. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

His awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expedition Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.

He graduated from Highland High School in 2005 and went to L’ecole Culinaire immediately after to pursue a culinary career, but changed his mind and joined the Marines. And while Aaron loved being a Marine, he was scheduled to get out of the service and move home to Madison County in just nine weeks.

Aaron’s father Kent Ripperda, said he was online at work, the morning after the explosion, when he saw the news account. Moments later, he called his ex-wife and Aaron’s mother, Tina Sutton, in and asked if she had heard about the explosion and, if so, whether she had new details.

During the call, Marines arrived on Tina’s doorstep.

Corporal Aaron J. Ripperda had written in his will that he wished to be buried at sea.  A funeral Mass will be held April 3 at 10 a.m. at St. Paul Catholic Church in his hometown of Highland, east of St. Louis.

A funeral Mass for 26-year-old Cpl. Aaron Ripperda will be held April 3 at 10 a.m. at St. Paul Catholic Church in his hometown of Highland, east of St. Louis, with visitation from 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Meridith Funeral Home in Highland, then again there from 8 to 9:15 the morning of the funeral.

Lance Corporal William T. Wild IV, USMC

Lance Corporal William T. Wild IV, 21 of Anne Arundel, Maryland, died on March 19th. He and six other Marines were killed during a training exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot, in Nevada.

William, known as Taylor, had joined the Marines in October of 2010 and had been deployed once to Kuwait and twice to Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

His awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.

Taylor grew up in the Whitehurst Community in Severna Park. He graduated from Severna Park High School in June 2010 where he was a proud member of the wrestling and baseball teams, including the 2009 State Championship team and earned a Minds in Motion award through his studies.

Taylor was an avid Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore Orioles fan. He also enjoyed spending time boating with friends on the Severn and Magothy River, and skeet shooting in Maryland and North Carolina.

Neighbor Bob Richhart spent an afternoon with the young Marine last summer, swapping stories poolside. Richhart served four years in the Marines and spoke of how he was once caught with contraband Juicy Fruit and ordered to chew the wrappers.

He recalled Taylor laughing.

Diane Lyons said she has lived 40 years in Whitehurst with her husband, Don. Together, where they watched Taylor grow and speak of him with the pride of parents.

Meanwhile, Patricia Zwald says her son, Andrew, also served in the Marines and grew up in the community. She struggles to come to terms with Taylor’s death.

Taylor is survived by his parents, William and Elizabeth, brother, Griffin and sister, Libby all of Severna Park; grandparents, William and Patricia Wild of Glen Burnie and Jan Sprinkel and Judy Graham of Annapolis; several aunts, uncles and cousins and was preceded in death by his grandmother, Elizabeth Sprinkel.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 29, at Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, 333 Dubois Road. Interment at Arlington National Cemetery will be held on Tuesday, April 2nd, with the procession meeting at 10:30 a.m. at the Memorial Gate.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to: “Marines Helping Marines,” or to “Friends of the Fallen.”

Lance Corporal Mason J. Vanderwork, USMC

Lance Corporal Mason J. Vanderwork, 21 of Hickory, North Carolina, died on March 19th. He and six other Marines were killed during a at Hawthorne Army Depot, in Nevada.

Mason joined the Marines in June of 2010 and served overseas twice. Vanderwork was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.

Mason graduated from St. Stephens High School  in 2010, two-and-a-half years later he had served overseas twice, bought his first car and got married to a girl from home after knowing her for only two months. They planned to start a family together, wife Taylor Vanderwork said.

Taylor said she learned of his death when three men in uniform came to the door of the couple’s Jacksonville home. Mason loved being a Marine and had a tattoo emblazoned on his chest, she said, that read: “Sacrifice. Without fear there is no courage.”

Family members and friends remember Mason as a spontaneous, caring person who loved the beach, fast cars and spending time with family and friends. He had an 11-year-old sister who idolized him.

Mason is survived by his parents, Melissa Vanderwork, of Hickory and Kevin Hallberg, of Jamestown. In addition to his parents, he is survived by his wife, Taylor Vanderwork, of Jacksonville, N.C.; sister, Katelyn McMahan, of Hickory; grandfather, Terry Vanderwork, of Clymer, N.Y.; grandparents, Cecil and Gloria Huffman, of Taylorsville; grandmother, Donna Morgan, of Hickory; uncle, Dawayne Vanderwork, of Lakewood, N.Y.; mother-in-law, Janet Molander-Foster, of Hickory; father-in-law, Mark Foster, of Hickory; two brothers-in-law, Bryant Molander, of Dover, N.H. and Justin Molander, of Ft. Carson, Colo.; and sister-in-law, Lindsey Foster, of Hickory.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, April 1, in the chapel at Bass-Smith Funeral Home in Hickory. Memorials may be made in his honor to “Marines Helping Marines.”

Lance Corporal Joshua C. Taylor, USMC

Lance Corporal Joshua C. Taylor, 21 of Marietta, Ohio, died on March 19th. He and six other Marines were killed during a training accident at Hawthorne Army Depot, in Nevada.

Joshua joined the Marines in June of 2010. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

His awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.

Josh was one of a kind. That’s how family and friends are remembering the 2010 Marietta High School graduate.

Josh wanted to be Marine since he was a child, his grandfather added.

His fiancée, Abby Malone said the two were planning to marry in May.  She also described Josh as a devout and faithful Christian.

Abby’s father, Keith Malone, called him an exceptional person.

Marietta High School Principal Bill Lee recalled Josh proudly wearing his dress uniform when visiting the school while on leave. He called the Marine’s death “just a terrible, terrible loss.”

Joshua is survived by his parents, three sisters and a brother.

Services have yet to be determined for Lance Corporal Joshua C. Taylor.

Lance Corporal Roger W. Muchnick Jr., USMC

Lance Corporal Roger W. Muchnick Jr., 23 of Fairfield, Connecticut, died on March 19th. He and six other Marines were killed during a at Hawthorne Army Depot, in Nevada.

Roger joined the Marines in June of 2010, he had served two tours in Afghanistan, and was considering going to college. Muchnick was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

His awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.

Muchnick  joined the Westport PAL football program in third or fourth-grade and played through eighth-grade.  He graduated from Staples High School in 2008.

Muchnick attended Eastern Connecticut State University, completing his freshman year and then joined the Marine Corps. The men’s lacrosse team is planning to honor Muchnick’s memory by wearing the number 36 — his jersey number — on their helmets for the rest of the season.

Roger is survived by his parents, Kate Coakley of Jupiter, Fla. and Roger Muchnick Sr. of Ashville, NC, his brother Will, 21, and sisters Avery and Grace, 19. He is also survived by his grandparents, Jerome and Marilyn Muchnick of Philadelphia, and Dr. Robert and MaryAnne Coakley of Lenox as well as, several aunts, uncles and cousins.

Funeral services for Lance Corporal Roger W. Muchnick Jr., will be held Friday, March 29, in Lenox, Mass.  The service will take place at 11 a.m. at St. Ann’s Church, 134 Main St.

Lance Corporal David P. Fenn II, USMC

Lance Corporal David P. Fenn II, 20 of Polk City, Florida, died on March 19th. He and six other Marines were killed during a training accident at Hawthorne Army Depot, in Nevada.

David joined the Marines in June of 2010. Fenn was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

His awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.

Victoria Fenn, David’s widow, kept busy with her aunt, Sarah Moore, making funeral plans for her husband and remembering her time with him and their 2-year-old daughter, Nyka.

The couple met their freshman year at Auburndale High School and became friends. They eventually began to date in the 10th grade and married during their senior year before he joined the Marines, Victoria  said.

David was active in the school’s ROTC program and was a member of the wrestling team. But the military was always his goal and he immediately joined after graduation and headed to boot camp June 14, 2010, a day Victoria still remembers.

Pictures on Victoria’s Facebook page show David with their daughter, smiling and kissing her, along with one of him kissing Victoria’s pregnant belly.  Moore described David as a “down to earth” kind of person.

David is survived by his wife: Victoria Lynn Fenn, daughter: Nyka Riley Fenn, father: David Paul Fenn, mother: Sandra McIver, brothers: John McIver and Michael McIver, sisters: Melanie Fenn and Holly Fenn.

Visitation is Saturday, April 6, 2013 from 12-1pm with funeral services at 1pm, both at Ott-Laughlin Funeral Home, 645 West Central Avenue, Winter Haven, FL. Burial to follow in Oak Grove Cemetery, Lake Alfred, FL.

Private First Class Joshua M. Martino, USMC

Private First Class Joshua M. Martino, 19 of Clearfield, Pennsylvana, died March 19th. He and six other Marines were killed during a training accident at Hawthorne Army Depot, in Nevada.

Joshua had joined the Marines in July of 2012 and was set to marry his fiancee. Martino was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division,  Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

His awards include the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Martino’s mother, Karen Perry, said community members have gone above and beyond in offering their condolences and prayers. Since learning of her son’s death Tuesday morning, Perry said not only family and friends, but also complete strangers have offered their sympathies, which have made all the difference in the world.

Martino’s fiancée, Anna has also been struggling with the tragedy. She and Martino had started dating when they were 16 years old and have been inseparable ever since.

Anna said they got engaged this past October. The couple’s high school friends have offered their condolences to her, which she greatly appreciates.

Perry said the night Martino was killed was actually one of his last nights in Nevada. He was going to return to North Carolina, where he was stationed. He was planning on returning to his hometown of DuBois this weekend.

She said she first heard a radio news report about the Monday accident, then three Marines arrived at her workplace to say her son was among the seven dead.

Services for Private First Class Joshua M. Martino have yet to announced.

Hawthorne Army Depot: A Brief History

“The evening of March 18th, 2013, will forever be remembered as a moment of profound tragedy in Mineral County,” District Attorney Sean Rowe told those gathered for a memorial service. “You have given meaning to the phrase, ‘America’s Patriotic Home.’“

Hawthorne has held an important place in American military history since World War II when it became the staging area for ammunition, bombs and rockets for the war. It opened in September 1930 as the Naval Ammunition Depot Hawthorne, was re-designated Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant in 1977 when it moved under the control of the Army.

In 1994, the site ended its production mission and became Hawthorne Army Depot.  The site now serves several purposes for the military, including storing ammunition and explosives and providing what the military calls an ideal training facility for special forces preparing for deployments to similar desert terrain in places like Afghanistan.

The 147,000-acre location in Nevada’s isolated high desert is also considered an ideal training environment for Special Operations forces preparing for deployments to Southwest Asia.  Nevada was chosen for the location because of its remoteness in the wake of a devastating explosion at the government’s main depot in New Jersey in 1926.

Hawthorne opened four after a lightning-sparked explosion almost destroyed the Lake Denmark Naval Ammunition depot, about 40 miles west of New York City. The blast and fire heavily damaged the adjacent Picatinny Army Arsenal, killing 21 people and seriously injuring more than 50 others.

Following Monday nights explosion, hundreds of residents in the rural community turned out to mourn the loss of the seven Marines. Families with children clutching small American flags were among the nearly 300 people who attended the brief memorial service Tuesday, where a trumpeter played taps at a city park as a giant American flag flew at half-staff across the street from the base at dusk.

Even though the Marines were from the other side of the country, locals still feel a strong sense of pride in the military because the town’s history is so deeply tied to the armed forces. The town calls itself “America’s Patriotic Home” and is home to the Hawthorne Ordnance Museum, which displays hundreds of shells, munitions, battery guns and weapons dating to World War II.

Red, white and blue sculptures made of former shells and bombs are on display in town and Storefronts carry names like Patriot’s Plaza. The sign on the Convention Center  Thursday carried the message, “Please Pray For Our Marines.”

There have been at least three other fatal explosions at Hawthorne over the years. An October 5th, 1951, blast killed five people, another on September 3rd, 1966, killed two men and a rocket explosion on May 26th, 1971, killed three.

Seven Marines Die in Hawthorne Explosion

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is conducting the probe into a fatal training accident at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. The investigation has been ongoing since a 60mm mortar shell exploded in its tube Monday night during training, killing seven Marines and wounding eight more.

Investigators are working to learn exactly how the Marines were positioned when the explosion occurred and what went wrong in firing the mortar.

Command has issued a ‘Deadline Safety of Use’ message suspending use of the M224A1 60mm mortar system for all Marine Commands in training and downrange after a Monday’s explosion. The blanket suspension comes with an exception: General officers in combat theater can still authorize use of the mortars if they choose.

“The Marines were conducting live fire and maneuver training at the Hawthorne Army depot,” Brigadier General Jim Lukeman said. “A mortar round exploded in the mortar tube, causing the deaths of seven and injuring seven others. We don’t know yet what caused this malfunction.”

The Marines killed Monday had been undergoing training for the past month at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Pickle Meadows, near  Bridgeport, California and at Hawthorne.

“This is part of the type of training that we do just to maintain a force in readiness,” Lukeman said. “It’s not specifically linked to a nearby deployment.”

The victims were airlifted to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno with injuries that included penetration trauma, fractures and vascular injuries, said Stacy Kendall, a spokeswoman for the medical center. She added, six Marines and a Navy sailor were wounded and of those, six were in serious or very serious condition, while a seventh suffered minor injuries.

The seven Marines killed in the blast, left from Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Wednesday evening bound for Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where they’re based.

A Stone for her Daughter

Mildred Joy Flemming arrived in Goldfield in 1906 with her mother, Anne Ellis, and stepfather, Herbert, from Colorado. She was only about 9 years old at the time, but her story has touched many.

Joy was only 6 months old when her father, George Flemming, became trapped in an underground mine’s ‘live hole’ in Colorado. A live hole is one filled with blasting materials.

He died instantly when it exploded.

Anne, born in Missouri in 1875, purchased a tombstone for her husband’s grave and a boarding house to support her family with a $600 company settlement. The business failed, and she later married another miner named Herbert Ellis.

Together they decided Goldfield was the place to earn their fortune. They arrived in the new boomtown in September and took up residence in a one-room, tent-covered shanty.

A string of bad investments in the Goldfield Stock Exchange ran the couple’s savings dry, and a labor dispute at the mines added to their problems. Soon, Ellis found himself out of work.

The next summer, Joy, as she was known, complained of a sore throat. Unable to afford a doctor, Anne treated the girl herself.

But as Joy grew sicker, Anne was finally forced to seek the aid of a doctor, who gave her devastating news. Joy had diphtheria.

The little girl died August 30th, 1907.

Refusing to give her daughter to the undertaker, Anne readied Joy for burial herself. The next day, the family and a minister laid the child to rest in an unmarked grave in one of Goldfield’s five graveyards.

The mother anguished over the fact there was no tombstone to mark her daughter’s resting place. One evening, she took a large stone from the construction site of a new school and taking it home, using a hammer and a large nail, she chiseled the name “Joy” into it’s large, flat surface.

When she finished, she put the stone in a small red wagon, and with the help of a deliveryman, got the stone to and set it on Joy’s grave. A couple of months later, Anne left Goldfield to join her husband, who had gone back to Colorado.

Over the years, the tombstone, made of soft limestone, fell apart. Later, Nevada transportation workers replaced it with a new one.

Anne never returned to Nevada. Instead she settled in Bonanza, Colorado.

She would go on to become treasurer for Saguache County in 1918 and was re-elected twice before health problems forced her to resign. In 1929, she wrote a book, “An Ordinary Woman, Plain Anne Ellis.”

Anne died in 1938, the same year she earned her Master of Letters from the University of Colorado.

Made in Mexico

Many times I’ve been to the playa of the Black Rock Desert,  to enjoy some alone time, to pray, to think and explore.  In a small wash to the north-east of State Route 49, I found a group of small rocks and stones.

Buried in the dried mud due to a past gully washer, I could tell two had shape to them.  One was a “flake,” of some sort, used possibly to cut animal hide, and the other an arrowhead.

Seven days later I recalled I had these two items in the tool box of my truck. So I retrieved and rinsed them off.

The larger piece, I thought was a flake, turned out to be exactly that. The other was also what I believed it to be – an arrowhead – however there is a catch to the find.

On one side – though the print is extremely faded — it reads:  Hecho en Mexico. Perhaps it’s the proof historians need to prove the Paiutes or Shoshone tribes traded with the Mexicans before John Fremont wandered through the area.

My tongue is still in my cheek.

The Great Lava Bed Wars: Leading Up to the War

The first known explorers from the United States to come through Modoc country were John Charles Fremont together with Kit Carson in 1843. In the early evening of May 9th, 1846, Fremont received a message brought to him by Lieutenant Archibald Gillespie, from President James Polk about a possible war with Mexico.

Reviewing the messages, Fremont neglected the customary measure of posting a watchman for the camp. By doing so, it was clear Carson, had “apprehended no danger.”

Later that night Carson awakened to the sound of a thump. Jumping up, he saw his friend and fellow trapper Basil Lajeunesse sprawled ou on the ground in blood.

Carson sounded an alarm as he realized the camp was under attack by Native Americans, estimated to be several dozen in number. By the time the attacked end, two more members of Fremont’s group were dead.

The one dead attacker, it turned out, was a Klamath Lake native. Fremont’s group fell into was he described as “an angry gloom.”

To avenge the deaths,  the following day, Fremont attacked a Klamath Tribe fishing village named Dokdokwas, where the Williamson River and Klamath Lake meet.  The village, it is now known, had nothing to do with the attack from the night before.

It’s generally agree Fremont and Carson, chose the wrong tribe to lash out against and that in all likelihood the band that had killed Fremont’s men were from the neighboring Modoc. The attack destroyed the village structures; one of Fremont’s men, by the name of Sides reports the expedition killed women and children as well as warriors.

The Klamaths are culturally related to the Modocs, but the two peoples were bitter enemies.

FOX Exec’s Disappearance Now Called Murder

FOX Executive from Los Angeles, Gavin Smith has been missing since May 1st, 2012 and his brother Greg Smith lives in Reno and sister, Tara Smith Addeo lives in Minden. The family of the 57-year-old exec and former UCLA basketball player has offered a $20,000 reward for information about his whereabouts.

Investigators say Smith had separated from his wife Lisa and three sons, and was living with a roommate in the Los Angeles area. They add, he received a late night telephone call May 1st, and left the house about 10:30 p.m., wearing purple sweatpants and black and gray shoes.

Police now saying he was likely murdered, this after Smith’s Mercedes was found February 21st in a Simi Valley storage locker.  Authorities have named John Creech as a person of interest in the case; he is in custody on unrelated drug charges.

The Simi Valley storage unit is linked to Creech, and he and his wife’s West Hills, house has already been searched twice by police. Smith met Creech’s wife, Chandrika in drug rehab.

Smith’s body has yet to be found.

The Bandit of Ballarat

As quietly as possible, officers encircled the man they tracked over the last year. They could see his make shift camp site as they approached.

“Gun!” one of the officers shouted. Another yelled, “Police! We have you surrounded!”

Seconds later, the single report of a gunshot echoed over the rock-strewn landscape. The chase had concluded and the man dubbed “The Ballarat Bandit,” was no longer.

The desert camp where the Bandit shot himself with a .22 rifle, ending a yearlong manhunt about a mile outside Inyo County, where he was well-known to local authorities. In death, the Bandit became an even greater mystery when every effort to identify him met with failure.

In 2003, he made himself known to law enforcement. The Bandit stole a geologists car and wallet and used his credit card to purchase supplies, including filling his gas tank in Tonopah.

During the year-long pursuit he stole food, weapons, cars, wallets, and even a child’s little red wagon in Nevada, which he used to transport a stolen battery to jump-start a stolen car. He was neat and precise in his habits, cleaning his campsites so thoroughly not even a square of toilet paper, much less a fingerprint, remained.

In one instance, authorities discovered the Bandit’s camp near the base of a 9000-foot mountain. They launched an assault at dawn with a K-9 unit and a SWAT team.

They chased the Bandit up the slope following his tracks and came within 50 feet of him, but the Bandit eluded them He sprinted five miles up and over the mountain and across the valley beyond leaving law enforcement officers in the dust.

A couple of months later, he again escaped by jogging through desolate backcountry to the Reno area. Officials hunted him from helicopter and horseback, from the triple-digit heat of the desert to the snow-capped High Sierra Mountains.

Suspected of being a terrorist, the Bandit set up paramilitary style camps, well stocked with high-tech firearms, overlooking the Tonopah Test Range, the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, NAS Fallon and the government’s secret installation, known as Area 51. He was also believed to be a mental case or some sort of folk hero.

When possible, he avoided human contact and confrontation. He did, however, have a temper, as investigators found when they discovered he had shot a stolen vehicle full of holes when it became stuck in the mud, kicked a dent into the side of the stolen truck when it wouldn’t start, and disabled the vehicle of the man he bunked with in a remote cabin after the man asked him to leave.

For the owner of that isolated cabin, his house-guest was irritating and lazy, constantly talking about his hatred of the Bureau of Land Management. Still others reported brief interactions with a lean, highly energetic man with bright blue eyes.

Either way,the bandit burglarized uninhabited ranch homes, farms and cabins in remote areas. He took batteries, macaroni and cheese, soup and other nonperishable food, pots and pans, guns, cars, clothes and cooking spices.

But all that changed when an off-duty BLM ranger spotted a campsite on his way through Death Valley. He stopped to check it out, discovering marijuana plants, several weapons and ammunition.

Inside the vehicle, a pickup truck stolen in Nevada’s Humboldt County, the officer found the geologist’s driver’s license. He disabled the truck and left the park, alerting authorities to the camp.

But by the time rangers reached the scene, the Bandit had returned, grabbed a plastic bag of .22 bullets from the cab of the truck, a few cans of food and a sleeping bag, and fled on a stolen ATV.

Temperatures in Death Valley at the time were in excess of 120 degrees, and the Bandit had only one small 2-quart water container him when he fled. The heat, apparently, was beginning to affect him for his usual careful habits faltered.

And it only got worse as he went further south, avoiding the settlements of Tecopa and Shoshone where he could have found water, and descending further into the dry desert heat until he ran out of gasoline for the ATV. A National Park Service ranger spotted him sitting near a callbox on California Highway 127 near Ibex Pass and called for backup.

Three hours later, as officers converged on his remote campsite, the exhausted Bandit was out of options. He stripped off all his clothing, stretched out under a tarp held up and shot himself.

The only thing found in the pocket of the shorts removed before he died was a handful of marijuana seeds. It seems he had, in fact, thoroughly erased himself.

It was a hot, quiet day at the Samaritan Cemetery in San Bernardino as the man known as the Ballarat Bandit was finally laid to rest. John Doe #39-04, the identity assigned to him by the coroner’s office, seemed to have taken his all his secrets to the grave.

Eighteen-months later the Ballarat Bandit authorities identified the Bandit as George Robert Johnston, left his family after being jailed in 1997 after officials found 4,000 marijuana plants on his Prince Edward Island farm in Canada. Perhaps it was prison that drove him to the open desert and to take his own life, fearing more confinement.

It’s a secret that sleeps with the resting bones of the still-mysterious Bandit of Ballarat.

Simple Prayer

At first I wasn’t going to share this, and then I asked, “So why write at all?” It’s a re-discovery that re-opened my eyes: the power of simple prayer.

Towards the end of 2012, I was down, nothing was going my way and it showed. Everyday, I found it hard to keep going.

Tired of the perpetual downward cycle, I gave up and asked God for help — I mean REALLY asked for His help. By this time I was operating on a couple of hours sleep in a week-long period.

And soon my outlook changed.  Now, I’m calm, the world proceeds as it should, and I have nothing to do with either.

Something’s shouldn’t be so easily forgotten.

“Big Bill” Blanchfield

“Big Bill,” was born in Ireland and served as a pilot in Great Britain’s Royal Flying Corps during World War I. By 1918, William Blanchfield was a pilot with the U.S. Air Mail Service, having immigrated and applied for U.S. citizenship.

In 1921, Blanchfield was assigned the Reno-Elko run.  The Nevada State Journal describes one of his flights:

“During the month of November 1922, Blanchfield made his phenomenal run from Elko on the wings of a hurricane. The thermometer registered 16 degrees below zero at Elko and the field manager there told him it was impossible to make the flight. But Blanchfield, with that soldier tradition of generations, demurred. He said that the mail must go. And he won. But the fight he made with the blizzard is still talked about in aviation circles.”

Such exploits made him a national hero. But it was his death that left an indelible mark.

Friday afternoon, August 1st, 1924, Blanchfield flew over the Knights of Pythias Cemetery off Nevada Street in his DeHaviland DH-4 biplane. A group of mourners were gathered below for the funeral of Air Mail Service mechanic Samuel J. Garrans, who had died in an accident three days earlier.

Blanchfield planned to say goodbye his friend by circling the cemetery three times, then dropping a wreath on Garrans’ grave. He had jus’ completed the second circle, something went wrong.

His plane went into a flat spin, crashing into the side of a home on Ralston Street. The impact split open the planes gas tank, setting the craft and the house on fire.

Blanchfield was trapped in the wreckage. When his burned body was removed from the wreckage, his hands were still grasping the controls.

His funeral was at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral. He was laid to rest at in veterans plot at Mountain View Cemetery.

Reno Air Mail Field was renamed Blanchfield Air Field (also known as Blanch Field) in his honor. It’s now the site of the Washoe County Golf Course.

Writing for the Ear

Originally, I posted these in 2006. Then I decided to unpost them, but I’m putting them back up so they can be shared by anyone and everyone in the radio news business. Besides it clears one more file from my computer….

Stick with Who, What, Where and When. Avoid Why or How. If a listener would like to know why or how, they can pick up the newspaper. Think in terms of, “noun, verb, noun, verb.”

Once you have the four-Ws in your mind, tell the story to yourself, and then write it out in no more than two or three sentences. This takes some practice.

Stay in the present tense. The subject “says,” not “said.” Remain in the NOW. If it is snowing, that should be the lead story. If a pile-up is clogging the afternoon commute, lead with it.

Be LOCAL, however if a lead story isn’t obvious, look at the local headline of the paper for an indication.  If the first large LOCAL headline is the state budget or an attempted kidnapping make it your first story lead.

Use a bullet-point style of writing. The idea is to be “quick-in and quick out.”

Keep sentences down to 10 words if possible. When using newswire copy, rewrite the lead sentences. Each sentence is generally 25 words long. This is because they were written by someone who is a newspaper reporter. Avoid using compound sentences.

Don’t use numbers if you can help it. When you cannot avoid using numbers, round the number up or down. Then use “near,” “around,” “above,” “below,” or “about” to add accuracy to the story.

Stay away from radio-speak like, “The 1300 block of…,” instead just use the street name. It just means that you don’t “know” the actual address anyway, so why telegraph it.

If you have two numbers that cannot be avoided, add them together. “Just above 5-thousand,” sounds better than, “two-thousand-one-hundred and three and another estimate of two-thousand-nine-hundred and ninety-six…”

Delete quotes from your story. That is what actualities are for. Instead use a generic phrase like, “The police say…”  Also avoid repeating the subject’s name. “John Smith says he’ll run for governor next month. He’s a high school teacher.”

Remember “district officials say…” works as good as, “School district superintendent Joe Blow says…” Police sergeant Jim Badge says…” can be replaced with “Authorities say…”

The word “That” is over used in many cased. “He says that he’s a construction worker,” is reduced by a one-word if rewritten to read, “He says he’s a construction worker.” Use contraction as much as possible.

Avoid language that is too technical or designed to make the article sound “educated.”  The word “accused” works as good as “alleged.” Replace words like, “residence,” with “home” or “house.”

When editing actualities, use only six to 10 seconds of recorded material; anymore and the immediacy disappears.  Wrap it with two-lead sentences and close with a single sentence.

Remove words that tend to editorialize. For example: “The nominee gave an rousing speech last night…,” should be edited to read, “The nominee gave a speech last night…”

Watch out for words that are unnecessary. “The police are looking for a thief that is described as…”  The word’s “that is” are not needed to complete the story.

Don’t write, “This unidentified woman says…”  Instead make it read, “This woman says…”

Remember:  This only a guide and not a set of rules.

The Mystery of Pumpernickel Valley Exit

“I’ll never drive at night again,” 86-year-old Patrick Carnes is heard telling the Nevada Highway Patrol trooper who pulled him over after he passed by too close to him as he stood by a tractor-trailer he had stopped.

“I’m only following him because he’s going to Elko,” the elderly man is also heard to say.

He was talking about the big rig truck and trailer he was following westbound on I-80, a few miles east of Wells about 9 in the evening of April 13th. It would be the last time Carnes’ would be seen.

Interstate 80 is one of the nation’s most important freeways; it carries thousands of travelers each day. It’s most desolate part is the one that slices through northern Nevada.

At night, inky darkness swallows everything. Some call the road “The Big Lonely.”

Earlier in April, Carnes and his dog, Lucky drove to Ohio to visit family. The day before he was last seen, he packed up his dark green Subaru station wagon and head back towards Reno.

After the Trooper gave Carnes a traffic warning, the World War II veteran continued into the night.

The following day, Carnes car was found abandoned at the Pumpernickel Valley off-ramp, a three-hour drive from where the Trooper had talked with Carnes. There was no sign of foul play and the car had gas, but Carnes and the dog were nowhere to be found.

Investigators were quick to notice that Carnes’ vehicle was on the south side of the freeway. However, he was travelling west, which should have placed the vehicle on the north side of the interstate.

That told officers, someone had dumped the Subaru.

Despite their immediate findings, they searched the desert for Lucky and Carnes for several days. Nothing was found to show where they had gone.

Then the Trooper, who pulled Carnes over, heard about the man’s disappearance and decided to check his cruiser’s dash-cam. The video shows the two men talking and tractor-trailer speeding by.

Though the vehicle zipped by quickly, authorities were able to freeze-frame the trucks’ trailer, and zoom in on the upper left hand corner. There, a logo is visible, though so far , no one recognizes it.

Two years before Carnes’ disappearance, the FBI quietly created a task force to look into the possibility that a serial killer working as a truck driver, was operating along the I-80 corridor.

Three years earlier 62-year-old Judy Casida of Cold Springs, Nevada,  went missing along the same stretch of roadway. Furthermore her white, Mazda pickup was also found abandoned at the same off-ramp.

When investigations stall, good detectives are open to calling on unusual resources.  Seven months after Carnes disappeared, psychic Elaina Proffitt, a former Reno resident and a veteran of a number of high-profile criminal cases became involved.

While she confirmed many of the investigators suspicions, none of her findings are directly available to the public. Authorities did say she left then with other avenues to explore in the case.

One unsettling theory that can’t be dismissed is this might be the work of a pair of serial killers, working as a team. To the east, Utah authorities are looking for a young man who disappeared in May 2012 along I-80 near Dugway. To the west, an elderly hitchhiker vanished in April in California’s Humboldt County.

There is also the case of the skeletal remains found off of State Route 89 between Truckee and Calpine in 2003 in the central part of Sierra County. It took authorizes nine-years to identify the remains.

Charlene Rosser of Eureka, California, went missing in October 1998 after having last been seen in April 1998. She was also known to accept rides from truck drivers.

MISSING: Thomas James Smith

For the last couple of years I’ve searched for a friend that I went to school with and so far he’s proving very hard to find. I have very scant information, though I’m in touch with his sister, Ina who lives in Colorado.

Thomas James Smith was born April 11th, 1960 in West Germany, and has gone by the nicknames, “Tommy,” “Tom,” and “T.J.”  He and his family were assigned to Requa Air Force Station in Klamath in 1974.

He was in my 8th grade class and all the way through our senior year, graduating in 1978. Shortly after graduation, his family was reassigned to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

I spoke with him one last time in 1979, while I was stationed at Warren Air Force Base.

Time and again I’ve run his name and date of birth through an Internet search and have come up with very little. What I have been able to find is that he has a wife named Deborah Smith, who I believe is in Olympia, Washington and that she’s been looking for him as well.

Furthermore, after Tom disappeared from Deborah’s life he was in a four-year relationship with another woman and he walked out of her life with her camping gear and hasn’t been seen since. Finally, this woman says he has a “Tenbears” tattoo on his buttocks and a tribal paw print on one of his forearms.

I’ve put our inquiries to various police departments in Washington and Colorado, but I’m beginning to fear the worst.