"Today in Theranos" · Van Houten · The Ripper

and the second Day of 12 Days of Best Evidence!

On the first day of Christmas, Sarah’s true love brought her Justin Michael Wolfe. Wolfe’s attorney, John H. Partridge, made the case a candidate for our first Day of Best Evidence. (Though, where’s the pear tree, Sarah? Where’s the treeeeee?) On the second day of Best Evidence, my true love didn’t bring me two turtledoves (in fact, no one should, they’re endangered), but they did bring me Kelley "Turtle" Tibbs.

Turtle is at the center of A Fatal Lie, a 1999 book about a homicide case in Richmond, Virginia, in which the 18-year-old Turtle and three of her friends killed fellow teen Stacey Hanna. The motive behind the crime was murky — some folks said that it was a dispute between hot-headed young lesbians gone out of control, while others said that the Turtle-led attack on Hanna was pure sadism.

Chew’s book, which came out less than two years after the crime, does a decent job of attempting to unravel the complicated politics of the region’s young, gay scene, including how this group of (not kidding) avid Melissa Etheridge fans ended up killing a young woman in a nearby wooded area.

The book’s out of print now, but used copies can be found for just a couple bucks. And if you want to skip to the end, Turtle’s spending the rest of her life in jail, and as of 2019 was working in the Virginia Department of Correction hospice program, giving compassionate care to fellow women who are dying in jail. “People think nothing good can happen here,” Tibbs tells the Daily Progress. “But we’re still human, and we can help.” — EB


It’s no eight maids a-milking, but Best Evidence is still a good gift. Let’s face it, no one has room for eight maids, and who can drink all that milk, anyway? Instead, give friends and family the gift of this here newsletter, which on most weekdays will serve up a big tall glass of true crime. Which is also good with cereal!

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The Ripper will drop about a month after its subject’s death. The docuseries about Peter Sutcliffe, also known as the Yorkshire Ripper, will be released on Netflix on December 16. It’s the first show from production house Raw Television since Don’t F**k With Cats, and appears almost exactly a year after that massively popular series made its debut. (My god, folks, can you believe it’s been a year already?)

As Sarah noted last month, Sutcliffe died in prison after contracting COVID-19, which means you won’t have to google what he’s up to now. Per Netflix’s tweet to promote the show, Sutcliffe killed at least 13 women between 1975 to 1980, and the show interviews investigators of the crimes, in an effort to determine why police had such a hard time tracking Sutcliffe down. — EB


Speaking of old folks in jail…Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, who was 19 when she participated in the LaBianca slayings, was recommended for parole this summer, but California Governor Gavin Newsom turned the recommendation down, saying via statement that “evidence shows that she currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.”

Van Houten, now aged 71, has been rejected for parole four times in her 50-plus years in prison: twice by Jerry Brown, and now twice by Newsom. Rich Pfeiffer, Van Houten’s longtime attorney, tells the Associated Press that he will appeal Newsom’s ruling, as “there is no way Newsom will let her out, so [the courts] have to enforce the law or it will never be enforced.” — EB


HBO released Baby God last night. This is that documentary on Dr. Quincy Fortier, the Nevada fertility doctor who impregnated women with his sperm instead of using the samples from the patients’ husbands — a move that his victims didn’t discover for decades. If you want to “spoil,” the story, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has a solid accounting of the case, but for the rest of you, I’ll just say that home DNA tests are really just the gift that keeps on giving.

The film’s garnering praise from publications as diverse as Decider and the Boston Globe, the former of which compares it to Athlete A for how it “rips the lid off the ugliness of patriarchal power in the medical field, and quietly advocate for the empowerment of survivors.” Sarah reviewed it for Primetimer, and wasn’t as enthusiastic, but only because she felt it needed a longer treatment. By the time you get this newsletter, it’ll be up on HBO Max, so if you watch it, let us know what you think. — EB

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Today in Theranos: I mean, these shenanigans. What a case.

Theranos founder Holmes’ lawyers claim profane chants in company meetings are ‘normal’ In the upcoming trial of Elizabeth Holmes, federal prosecutors plan to present evidence that Holmes led “profane chants” about a competitor and John Carreyrou, the Wall Street Journal reporter who’d eventually write Bad Blood, arguably the definitive take on the rise of the Fyre Fest of health care startups.

According to the prosecution, Holmes led chants of “Fuck you Carreyrou” over his critical coverage of the company. Holmes’s attorneys don’t deny the claim, saying “There would be nothing remarkable about Ms. Holmes expressing frustration to her colleagues about critical news coverage of her and their company. That normal human reaction to adversity and negative publicity would not be evidence of consciousness of guilt.” Yeah, folks, I don’t know about that.

Theranos founder Holmes’ trial to go ahead with socially distanced jury: judge In a Tuesday ruling, Judge Edward Davila said that the trial would happen in early March, and in person, “with the air filtration cranked to its highest level and other precautions in place.” He also said that “the room will be reconfigured to keep people apart and he plans to procure clear face masks for witnesses.”

I mean, who knows where we’ll be then, but I’ll just note that at present, the COVID-19 case rate is rising so swiftly in Santa Clara County (home to San Jose, where the trial will be held) that everyone who travels to the region from over 150 miles away is legally required to quarantine, and the region is almost out of hospital beds. So, maybe, just…wait a couple months until this thing is over? — EB


Friday on Best Evidence: DUCK!


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