Thursday, July 8, 2010

David Koresh

Frustrated musician and future apocalyptic cult leader David Koresh (1959-1993) attended Garland High School in Texas (as Vernon Wayne Howell) before dropping out during his junior year. From his earliest days in elementary school, Koresh was a poor student diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities. However, when it came to the bible, he turned out to be a savant. Indeed, Koresh had a photographic memory and nearly total recall of numerous passages of scripture. In 1981, he joined the Branch Davidians, a Waco, Texas-based religious sect that had broken off from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1930. Koresh soon became romantically involved with their "prophetess," Lois Roden, a woman in her seventies, but later tried to diminish her standing by proclaiming his own powers as a visionary. After Roden's death and following the commitment of her son, George, to a mental hospital in the late 1980s, Koresh effectively took command of the Branch Davidian faith.

Like Charles Manson, Koresh fancied himself a rock musician, but he was not nearly as prolific a recording artist as his fellow cult leader (who has put out at least two albums of psychotic material). Koresh's best known song is an eerily prophetic composition that he released in 1987 that concerned arch rival, George Roden. The song, entitled Mad Man In Waco, contains the lyrics "There's a mad man living in Waco, praying to the prince of hell..." It was issued on 45 and cassette to local record stores, and according to a biography of Koresh by Brad Riley and Bob Darden, failed miserably. It has, however, served as catchy promo music for the various documentaries that have been produced about the Waco incident.

By 1993 Koresh and his adherents who resided at the church's headquarters at the Mount Carmel ranch outside of Waco, had become the focus of the federal authorities because of their activities with firearms. Specifically, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had determined that the Davidians had been converting guns into automatic weapons. After a horribly botched February 28, 1993 ATF raid on the compound (a protracted shootout left four agents and six cult members dead), a 51 day standoff ensued.

During the media-saturated siege, it became known that Koresh had committed numerous statutory rapes of girls he had chosen from his flock to become his "wives." The cult leader reportedly had as many as 19 wives and sired at least 12 children. On April 19th, the FBI breached the Davidian compound with tanks and began shooting tear gas canisters into the building. Several hours later the structure was in flames. By the end of the standoff only a few Davidians had escaped the building with their lives. A total of 74 men, women and children died in the inferno (Koresh and his chief lieutenant, Steve Schneider, were later found to have died from gunshot wounds). All of the official investigations into the siege have determined that--based on audio and visual evidence--the Davidians started the April 19th fire.

In the days following the arrest of Timothy McVeigh (1968-2001) for the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, it was revealed that the accused mass murderer had been interviewed by a journalism student near the Davidian compound during the standoff. McVeigh had traveled to Waco to demonstrate his solidarity with the "oppressed" cult members and to sell bumper stickers with phrases such as "Fear the Government that Fears Your Gun," and "A Man With a Gun is a Citizen, A Man Without a Gun is a Subject." McVeigh would later cite the outcome of the Waco siege as the principal source of his hatred of the federal government (and, no doubt, it was also the inspiration for the date that he chose to commit his act of domestic terrorism).

Legacy: McVeigh is interviewed near the Davidian standoff on March 30, 1993

Lynndie England

Lynndie England, the pixieish, leash-holding mascot of the Abu Graib torture scandal, graduated from Franfort High School in Ridgely, West Virginia in 2001. During her junior year at Frankfort, she joined the U.S. Army Reserves. After a post-high school stint working in a chicken processing plant, she was called up for service in Iraq and was assigned to the 372nd Military Police Company at the soon-to-be notorious Abu Ghraib Prison (now known as Baghdad Central Prison).

In 2004, leaked photographs of England humiliating Iraqi prisoners (particularly shots of her holding an inmate by a leash and pointing at a stripped prisoner's genatalia) put an American face on the torture outrage. England was among eleven people--including the father of her son (Charles Graner)--convicted of various charges of mistreatment of prisoners. She was sentenced to three years and served 531 days at the Naval Consolidated Brig at Miramar. After her parole was completed in September of 2008, England was dishonorably discharged.

In the poorly received book, Tortured: Lynndie England, Abu Ghraib and the Photographs that Shocked the World, England maintains that she was just following orders at the prison.


Monday, July 5, 2010

John Mark Karr aka Alexis Reich

John Mark Karr, the supremely creepy former grade school teacher who falsely confessed to the JonBenet Ramsey murder in 2006, graduated from Hamilton High School in Hamilton, Alabama in 1983. The photo presented above is from his junior year in 1982.

Karr, who married a 13-year-old in 1984 (the marriage was annulled the following year), continues to have a disturbing obsession with young girls. In 2001, after a stint as a substitute teacher in Petaluma, California, he was arrested for possession of computerized child pornography. After pleading not guilty, he jumped bail and did not surface until his arrest in Thailand in 2006. It was because of Karr's Ramsey-obsessed e-mail correspondence with a University of Colorado journalism professor, that he became the subject of interest of the Boulder, CO District Attorney's office. As a result of his televised "perp walk" in Thailand, he quickly became a freakish cable news sensation and earned a business class flight (albeit handcuffed) back to the United States to face further examination by the authorities.

Karr's admissions, however, turned out to be nothing more than the fantasies of a deeply troubled person. But even after a DNA test eliminated him as a suspect in the Ramsey murder, he continued to maintain his guilt. He was then extradited to Petaluma where child porn charges were still pending. However, the computer seized in his 2001 arrest had been lost by police, so the case was dismissed. At this point, Karr was free to enjoy a brief period making the talk show rounds and then he largely disappeared from view. In 2007 he was charged with battery and obstruction in a domestic altercation with his girlfriend at his father's residence near Atlanta, Georgia.   

In 2009 it was revealed by the National Enquirer that Karr had undertaken hormone replacement surgery and was living as a woman. According to a 2010 restraining order taken out against him by Samantha Spiegel, Karr's legal name is now Alexis Valoran Reich. Spiegel's legal action was prompted by Karr's alleged threat to kill her if she revealed his plans for starting a child sex cult called "The Immaculates."

If ever there was a mascot for this blog...

Further reading (if you must): Alexis's website and resume.

Donald Rumsfeld

Donald H. Rumsfeld graduated from New Trier High School (whose diverse alumni also includes Charlton Heston, Bruce Dern and Liz Phair) in Winnetka, Illinois in 1950. In high school, he met his future wife, Joyce Pierson. He also pursued football, swimming, and track, but excelled in wrestling, the sport in which he would win many medals. A New Trier classmate named Ned Jannotta is quoted in the Rumsfeld biography, Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait, citing wrestling as a key to the future two-time Secretary of Defense's personality: "Wrestling is, after all, a sport in which there is no such thing as second-place money. You go head to head, winner take all."

After high school, Rumsfeld attended Princeton University on a Navy ROTC scholarship and graduated in 1954. The nation, though, would have to wait several more decades for the "Rummy" we all know and love to truly emerge on the national stage (at some point on his rise to the top, he found time to shake hands with Saddam Hussein). As President George W. Bush's wartime General Jack D. Ripper-esque Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld became a household name and a star of numerous press briefings. As the Iraq War descended into chaos largely because of the minimal American troop presence he recommended, he offered cheery reassurances such as "stuff happens." As the war on terror got worse, the quotes got better. Many of them can be read here.

Rummy is now busy writing his memoirs. 

Charles Whitman

Charles Whitman, the Texas Tower mass murderer, killed 15 people and wounded 32 others on August 1, 1966 in Austin, Texas. The night before these shootings he killed his wife and his mother, making his total death count 17. His rampage was finally ended by an Austin Police Officer who shot and killed the sniper. Whitman, an Eagle Scout and former Marine, was enrolled at the university as an engineering student at the time of the murders.

Before joining the Marines, Whitman attended St. Ann's High School in West Palm Beach, Florida. He studied piano and was a pitcher on the school's baseball team. As a child, he was an altar boy at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church. From his earliest youth, Whitman was fascinated by firearms--an interest encouraged by his troubled, abusive father.

Today Charles Whitman is perhaps best known for being one of the subjects of a rant by drill instructor Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) in the 1987 Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacket. In a scene set near the rifle range, Hartman attempts to inspire his soldiers by praising the marksmanship of former Marines Lee Harvey Oswald and Whitman. Summing up, Hartman says, "Outstanding! Those individuals showed what one motivated Marine and his rifle can do! And before you ladies leave my island, you will all be able to do the same thing!"   

George Tenet / Ron Jeremy

Long before former CIA Director George Tenet helped enable the Iraq War with his infamous statement that the case for weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk," he was an overachieving student at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside, New York.

One of his fellow players on the Cardozo soccer team was none other than Ronnie Hyatt, better known by his nom de porn, Ron Jeremy. Jeremy recalled his high school relationship with Tenet to TMZ in 2007 thusly: "We didn't speak much, and didn't have much in common..." 

Since stepping down from his seven-year term as head of the CIA in 2004, Mr. Tenet has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, written a memoir, and is now the managing director of the investment bank, Allen & Company. Ron Jeremy, on the other hand, has honored his alma mater by being listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Most Appearances in Adult Films."


Eric Schaeffer

Eric Schaeffer (not to be confused with the film historian or theater director of the same name) attended Brattleboro Union High School in Vermont in the late 1970s where he impressed at least one classmate with his budding narcissism. In addition to being active in the school's theater program, the diminutive student also played on the basketball team. According to a 2000 New York Observer profile, Schaeffer also attended the Calhoun School and Columbia Preparatory School before going off to Bard College. At Bard, he earned a degree in drama and dance after which nine years of driving a cab in New York City awaited him. During this period, the energetic grad allegedly wrote two stage plays, a novel and twenty screenplays--all of which he seems hellbent on turning into awful movies.

The sins of Eric Schaeffer are too numerous to explore in one blog post, but most of them have been dutifully indexed by Gawker. However, if you are short on time, the trailer for his misbegotten film Fall, embedded below, tells you just about all you need to know...