DB Cooper Crackpottery 1, Buntsy's Sanity 0
Plus Mr. Erika Jayne's office gets auctioned, the truth about Sam Bronfman, and much more
When San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson announced two arrests in the 1996 disappearance of [Kristin] Smart, he singled out for praise Chris Lambert, the creator of the Your Own Backyard podcast. “What Chris did with the podcast was put it out nationally to bring in new information,” Parkinson said. “It did produce some information that I believe was valuable.” Lambert says he started the podcast after repeatedly passing a billboard calling for tips on Smart’s killer(s). “I thought I’d give it a shot and see if I could get a few people talking,” he tells the AP.
Well, now authorities want Lambert to talk — on the record. Per SLO’s Tribune, Lambert got subpoena’d (…? you’d think I’d have that punctuation knocked by now) to testify in a preliminary hearing for one of the two defendants accused of killing Smart. Lambert is expected to take the stand August 30. — SDB
Civil-rights investigators assert that, in Mississippi, lynchings never stopped. A nauseating longread from last weekend’s Washington Post confirms what I at least had suspected — that perpetrators and sympathetic law enforcement might have decided to call them something else, but they were still happening.
“The last recorded lynching in the United States was in 1981,” said Jill Collen Jefferson, a lawyer and founder of Julian, a civil rights organization named after the late civil rights leader Julian Bond. “But the thing is, lynchings never stopped in the United States. Lynchings in Mississippi never stopped. The evil bastards just stopped taking photographs and passing them around like baseball cards.”
I would be surprised if that practice had stopped, alas. DeNeen L. Brown’s piece is excellent, and Jefferson’s barely controlled fury in her explanations of her findings really comes through, but it is not an easy read and will not fill you with faith in the Justice Department, so if you need to save it for an easier time, I get it. — SDB
Want to buy “collectibles and furniture” from Tom Girardi’s law firm? That bankruptcy auction starts August 25. Not 100 on whether I got a PR email about the sale because of this newsletter, or because the bookshop is now on every estate-sale mailing list from Brooklyn to Barstow, but because I’m used to reading the fine print on these, a word of caution: you’ll have to pick up finds like
Signed Erin Brockovich Movie Poster
Vintage Hermes 3000 Typewriter
Early 1900’s Cauldon Gold Flake China Set
Blind Justice Bronze Statue (floor standing)
2011 Black Cadillac DTS
in person, or arrange for a local agent to throw ’em all in the Caddy and drive ’em to you. The antique pictured above is tempting, but god knows what they’re going to try to charge for that or the Koufax stuff; if you guys end up with House-husband’s desk or booze, let us know! — SDB
Showtime returns to the true-crime space in October with Buried. It’s a four-parter about Eileen Franklin’s “long-repressed memory of her childhood best friend’s murder [, which] sparked a national debate about the power and limitations of memory in the court of law.”
If you’re not familiar with the Franklin case, in which Franklin fille’s recollection that her father, George, had killed her best friend Susan Nason helped convict George years later, you can start with this Mercury-News piece marking the 50th anniversary of Nason’s murder. Franklin pere had his conviction reversed on appeal, on the grounds that repressed memories ain’t shit evidence-wise (I’m paraphrasing). He appears to have been a trash monster, but Nason’s murder still isn’t solved, and like Bill James, I’m “far from convinced” he was involved.
I’m looking forward to the series, though; the trailer is below. — SDB
Hat tip to my pod husband, Mark Blankenship, for tipping me to “A Lawyer’s Deathbed Confession About a Sensational 1975 Kidnapping,” a NYT deep dive by Alex Traub into the kidnapping — or was it?? — of Seagram’s heir Samuel Bronfman. It’s a crazy-fun read, if only for…whatever’s going on with the Fibbie bro in this pic, second from left, as the Feds pose with the ransom money and guns allegedly used in the kidnapping.
One of the accused, Mel Patrick Lynch, recanted his confession and claimed that Bronfman — whom, he noted, was his lover — had masterminded his own snatching, as a shakedown of his super-rich family. Alas,
Mr. Lynch’s tale lacked basic information. He could not offer even a motive for the crime, like Mr. Bronfman’s need for immediate money. Asked what he and his lover talked about, Mr. Lynch referred to “things in general.” He said nothing about romance or desire beyond the clinical phrase “we had sex.”
The attorney for the other kidnapper, Dominic Byrne, is the author of the tell-all memoir the Times is treating as a “deathbed confession” since the attorney, Peter DeBlasio (no relation AFAIK), died shortly after its publication last year. He’d planned to attack Lynch’s story, but soon realized he’d be better off on Lynch’s bus than under it, because Lynch was the Babe Ruth of bullshitting:
“I can look back now after a 50-year, 600-trial career and say that among the thousands of witnesses I observed, nobody approached the magnificence of Mel Patrick Lynch,” Mr. DeBlasio wrote. “He was the Arturo Toscanini and Enrico Caruso of witnesses. He turned a horror story into a tragedy of operatic dimension. The jurors were mesmerized. If they could have, they would have exploded in applause and cried for an encore.”
The piece goes on to talk about why DeBlasio’s “ethical breach” here is not in fact that he lied to the jurors — who went on to acquit Lynch and Byrne — but that he made the fact public, which breaches confidentiality even though both defendants are dead; and about what became of Sam and his fam after that (they were staples of turn-of-the-millennium VF longreads, I know that). — SDB
It can often seem, at least to me, like true justice is never going to be served in the morass that is Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes…but God bless Virginia Giuffre for not trying to hear that. Giuffre filed a lawsuit in federal court earlier this week, accusing Prince Andrew of raping her when she was 17 years old. The prince’s public response to accusations regarding Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell has to date been, you know…unimpressive, so I wonder if Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, isn’t trying to leverage that PR disaster for information from the prince on other big fish.
On the other hand, the prince already having “retired from public life” after the Beeb-interview debacle in 2019, that leverage may not functionally exist any longer, but we’ll see. Either way: drag ’em, Ginny.
…You too, Brit! — SDB
Someone got here by searching for “brest evidence.” Look, when I found out who I can sue for the emotional distress wrought by underboob sweat, I will let Google know. Until then: welcome! And if you’d consider a paid subscription, Eve and I would really appreciate it.
Foundation garments ain’t cheap. …Okay, seriously: subs help us pay contributors and maintain subscriptions of our own to the Times, premium cable, streaming services, and other places where good true crime lives.
(Jokes aside, if you were actually searching for “breast evidence,” here’s a resource for free or low-cost breast-cancer screenings near you. And stick around, we’ll find you something to read or listen to in the waiting room.) — SDB
This story on a DB Cooper “dig” may not qualify, I’m afraid. I don’t mind that caring about DB Cooper has become a part of my public “brand,” because sometimes you get a comic like the one above that did induce a chuckle. But for every one of those, there’s two or three that seem legit and then two sentences in it’s, like, “Steve Hodel is certain his father sewed Cooper’s parachute” or whatever the hell. Alas, this AP update falls into the latter group. The headline promises that a “crime historian” “conducts dig” for lost Cooper-case evidence, which implies, you know, some credentials; the verb “to conduct” in particular suggests academic/preservationist protocols.
KOIN reports that Eric Ulis, a self-described expert on the infamous D.B. Cooper case, began a two-day dig on Friday. Ulis and four volunteers are searching for evidence about 10 to 15 yards away from where a boy found $6,000 of Cooper’s ransom money in 1980.
Ulis said his theory is that Cooper buried the parachutes, an attache case and the money at the same time, but dug smaller holes instead of one large one.
If I weren’t writing up this item, I’d have bailed at “self-described expert” and not looked back, not least because even actual “experts” with FBI lines on their résumés tend to descend into Crackpot Canyon with the Cooper story. But for you guys, I stuck in looking for any qualifications for Ulis in the AP brief. What makes him a historian? What in his opinion lets him describe himself as an expert? What exactly does he do, like for work?
Because the thing is, Ulis’s theory isn’t bad! It’s certainly no worse than some of the “my ex-husband’s late cousin’s second wife’s sister’s massage therapist swears she saw Cooper on an episode of Midsomer Murders” “theories”
that end up getting turned into entire series on the Military Channel; it’s fine if he’s a fro-yo dispenser repairman by day, that’s not the point. The point is, the AP should know better than to call someone a “crime historian” in a hed when that title pretty clearly came from…the someone. They should especially know better than to do it in a DB Cooper joint, because it’s gonna get sent to me and I’m gonna have to write it up and like I said, this is the gig, but could the other professionals help me out over here and make it rull clear with some scare quotes that this is probably another goose chase?
As it turns out, Ulis has better accreditation than AP’s lede oversell might make it seem; he’s toplining yet another No Seriously This Time: We’re Finding This Jumpy Mofo series on the History Channel that drops in a couple weeks. I doubt he found anything, but at least the theory’s sort of a new one, and the AP crime-desk editor’s decision to act like Ulis has an endowed chair at U Dub isn’t Ulis’s fault. (AP also doesn’t mention the upcoming special. Get on the stick, guys, dang.)
Ulis ain’t finding that jumpy mofo, though. And I ain’t watching The Final Hunt for DB Cooper, because it ain’t the final hunt, because they never are. — SDB
Next week on Best Evidence: I’m-a stop teasing the Hilarie Burton thing and actually write it up. Also, more Epstein dirt, Toobin’s comeback, and my The Modern Detective review.