Betrayed!

by Kathryn Jane

Betrayed:

Powerful Stories of Kick-Ass Crime Survivors

Some months ago I was asked if I would like to contribute a short story to an anthology. But not just any anthology. This one was being produced to benefit survivors of violence, and ALL the proceeds would be going to help those in need.

Seemed like a good idea for a worthy cause, so I said yes.

That’s when things got really wild because I started to see the names of the other authors participating. OMGoodness! Cream of the crop thriller writers were signing on.

Surprised is a mild word to express how I felt. But really, considering the woman at the helm was Pam Stack, of Writers on the Air, I should not have been surprised. Pam interviews amazing upper echelon writers all the time.

But pinch me, I am part of this team, and my story is one of twenty-two between the covers of this awesome project.

And speaking of covers, isn’t this one by participating author, Elle J Rossi, spectacular?

Oh, and besides the short stories, did I mention a complete novella by the amazing Allison Brennan is also included?

I hope you pick up a copy so you can enjoy a great read. Every cent of the purchase price goes to a wonderful charity that supports survivors of domestic violence.

Buy now as an eBook

Available in print within 24 hours.


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What Would You Do? #FosterAbuse #FamilyMatters @jacqbiggar

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What would you do if you saw children being abused?

The sad truth is many of us care, but not enough to get into the middle of what could be a dangerous or embarrassing situation.

We don’t do it out of meanness, as much as self preservation.

If we don’t get involved, we can’t get hurt, right?

 

This is a video from ABC News. It illustrates why many parents enter the foster system and how those children are mistreated.

 

 

Happily, there are those who will step up and help those in need, though in some cases this can cause an escalation in the violence these kids endure.

The CBC News in Canada did a post on the crisis children face within the foster system.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/canadian-foster-care-in-crisis-experts-say-1.1250543

Some children are placed in foster care without full safety checks while others wind up in supervised apartments or overcrowded homes, say child advocates who warn of a deepening crisis across the country.

In one case, a four-year-old girl was removed from the care of her aunt in 2006 after she was found to be neglected, malnourished and suffering from recurring physical abuse. An investigation found that the aunt had not been appropriately screened.

 

If you know of a case like this, or see signs of abuse please do the right thing and contact your local child protective services.

And if you are a child in need of help:

Childhelp® is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline external linkis staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453).

If you need help with personal or family situations, you may wish to visit our resources on Where to Find Help.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, or if you are a child who is being maltreated, contact your local child protective services office or law enforcement agency so professionals can assess the situation. Many States have a toll-free number to call to report suspected child abuse or neglect. To find out where to call, consult the Information Gateway publication, State Child Abuse Reporting Numbers.

This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.

 

My new book, Summer Lovin’, explores this issue.

Two young boys are left in the care of a neglectful uncle after their mother dies. All he’s interested in is the monthly allowance he receives for their care.

When school secretary, Rebecca Sorenson, meets one of the kids and is threatened by the uncle, she decides to seek help from the sheriff.

 

JacquieBiggar_SummerLovin_HR

 

Here’s a short excerpt from Summer Lovin’

Tommy cried all the way home. Not great hiccupping sobs like he’d done in the past when they’d first arrived at his uncle’s house and realized they were worse off now than when their parents died. No, these tears were silent. A steady stream that ran down his face and dripped unheeded off his chin. Tears of despair, of a childhood lost, of faded dreams.

Just for a moment today with that pretty schoolteacher he’d felt something close to peace. Her scent when she’d held him in her arms reminded him of his mom and he hadn’t wanted to let go. But then his uncle had shown up.

He reached the edge of town and looked for the overgrown drive. A broken down gray wooden fence and a lopsided Keep Out sign pointed the way to the old cabin hidden amongst tall spruce trees. The dirt lane was rutted so bad it tossed his bike from side to side but he refused to walk; his uncle had warned them there were snakes in the grass just waiting for little boys. Tommy wasn’t taking any chances.

He pulled up next to the sagging porch and slowly laid his bike on its side, listening for his brother. A soft humming led him to the corner of the building. Jasper sat in the dirt, his scrawny bare back bent over a little toy truck he was using to make roads with in the sand. Tommy sighed his relief, no new marks that he could see. He’d gotten here in time then.

“Hey, brother, whatcha doin’?” He let Jasper know he was there before moving forward.

Jasper jumped up, ready to flee, then realized who’d spoken and cracked a mile wide smile. “Tommy, Tommy you’re back.” He ran and wrapped his arms around his brother and Tommy frowned at how thin they were.

“Did you eat the food I hid for you?” he demanded.

Jasper shrugged, his chin digging a hole in Tommy’s chest. “I wasn’t very hungry,” he mumbled.

Tommy frowned and set him back so he could look him in the eye. “Jas, you gotta eat. We ain’t ever gonna get outta here if you ain’t strong enough to run.”

Jasper’s eyes lit with hope. “Can we go now? Can we, huh?”

Tommy cursed his big mouth. Why’d he go and say anything? “No. We can’t go until we have a plan.” Jasper’s lips wobbled and Tommy changed the subject. “Show me the roads you’ve been building.”

It worked, for now. Jasper trotted over and sprawled out on his belly, reaching for the little blue car he’d been playing with. “Wait ‘til you see this. I made a hill and my car flies,” he said, his voice filled with excitement.

Tommy followed more slowly, his mind on that nice teacher. Why couldn’t someone like her have taken them in? He missed his mom so bad and yet sometimes he got scared because he couldn’t quite picture her in his head anymore. The teacher reminded him of her though. She smelled good too and had a pretty dress. His mom always wore nice clothes; she said she liked to look pretty for her boys. Man, he missed her. She’d know what to do right now because he sure didn’t. The only thing he did know for certain was that he’d promised to take care of his brother and he darn sure was going to.

The rumble of a vehicle coming up the drive had both boys scrambling for cover. A ratty blue tarp hanging over a pile of scrap metal nearby did the job, though it was a tight fit. Their uncle had warned them often enough to keep outta sight of strangers.

“Who is it?” Jasper asked, his voice squeaky with a mix of fear and excitement.

“Shh, we’ll know soon enough,” Tommy whispered. “Just keep quiet, okay?”

The rattle as the engine shut down told him who it was even before the tinny door slammed shut and his uncle stomped around the corner looking like the axeman from Snow White.

“Where the hell are you hiding, you stupid little shits?” he roared. His heavy work boots kicked up tufts of dust as he circled the yard in search of them. He glanced at Jasper’s toy car, reached down, picked it up, and sent it flying into the bushes.

Jasper whimpered but thankfully held silent, his body vibrating so hard the tarp rattled. Tommy jerked him away, pulling him up against his own shaking body. He was so scared he needed to pee.

“You come on out of there or your stupid ass brother is going to pay the price.” The edge of the tarp lifted and a hand reached in and latched onto Tommy’s arm in a death grip. Jasper’s eyes grew big as pie plates and welled up with tears. Tommy cried out in pain but shook his head viciously at his brother, warning him to keep quiet and stay still.

And then he was yanked out and thrown to the ground. Uncle Pete stood over him as he lay in the dirt, lips twisted in a snarl that sent shards of fear through Tommy’s gut.

“You better explain yourself, boy.” He nudged Tommy with his boot. “What did you think you were doing at the schoolhouse today?”

Tommy thought fast. There was no way he was going to tell this man the real reason. He had to come up with something to defuse the anger brewing in his uncle’s eyes. He reached into his pocket and reluctantly withdrew the gold chain he’d taken from the teacher lady’s purse.

“I was getting you some money, Uncle.” A beefy hand reached out and swiped the necklace from his hand. His uncle eyed him suspiciously for a moment before lifting the cross on the chain to the light.

“You aware this is stealing, boy?” He gave the chain a little shake and the cross glinted so bright it practically blinded Tommy.

“I did it just the way you showed me, sir.” Tommy lifted himself to his elbows. “She won’t know who it was.”

Uncle Pete frowned, his brows like bats wings over his eyes. “You better hope the hell not, kid. Your brother doesn’t like when you screw up.” He laughed, his belly jiggling under the dirty plaid shirt. He turned and strode toward the shack, hollering over his shoulder, “Git in here and make me some grub, I’m hungry after chasing you all over creation.”

Tommy waited a few minutes, knowing full well that it was his uncle’s routine to go into the house, grab a bottle of booze and flop down on the ugly green sofa for the night. He had time to make sure his brother was okay now.

He pulled back the tarp to let Jasper out, then went searching for the toy car, the last thing Jas had from their mom. A few moments later he found it under the edge of a blackberry bush. Careful to avoid the painful spikes, he managed to retrieve it with only a couple of minor scratches.

“Here you go, buddy, I found it.” He turned and offered it to Jasper but his attention was on the house. “Don’t worry, I won’t let him touch you again.” And when his brother looked at him with eyes that knew more than any five-year-old kid outta know about pain, Tommy’s gut tightened with a white-hot rage.

He fingered the wallet in his pocket he’d also stolen from the teacher. Soon. Soon he’d have enough to get them far away from here. And they weren’t never coming back.

I hope you try Summer Lovin’ and if you enjoy the book please consider leaving a review. I’d appreciate it, thanks!

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Solving Cold Cases: One Match at a Time #RSsos #MissingPersons @Stephitay

Lost & Found: Solving Cold Cases One Match at a Time #RSsos #amwriting

 

When you hear about a mass disaster, what event comes to mind? Earthquake? Tsunami? Terrorist attack?

That was my first thought until I attended the Killer Nashville writer’s conference in October. There I learned about what experts now call “The Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster” or the high number of missing and unidentified persons reported every year in the United States.

I walked into the session titled, Forensic Services for Human ID, hoping to obtain research for a story I was writing about a missing person investigation.  The presenter, Todd Matthews (Director of Communications & Quality Assurance at the Forensics Services Unit UNT Center for Human Identification) did a stellar job highlighting this growing crisis.  He also provided information about a free resource called National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or NamUs.

At the end of the presentation, my goal became more than writing this tool into a story plot. I was compelled to share this information with others.


Here are some alarming nationwide figures I found on a 2014 fact sheet reported on the  NamUs webpage:

    • 4,400 unidentified remains are found each year, 1,000 remain unidentified after one year
    • 90,000 active missing person cases at any given time

crime scene

NamUs, funded by the National Institute of Justice, is an unidentified person database that serves as a clearing house for two separate repositories– one for unidentified persons and one for missing persons. The NamUs database can be searched by anyone, but law enforcement and other agencies have access to more advanced tools built into the system.

This accessible tool works in a couple of different ways:

  • If someone is missing, information can be entered with specific details to be searched such as tattoos, clothing, physical features, and jewelry. Family members can enter this information directly into the system. Law Enforcement can also assist them with this process.
  • The records of unidentified persons can be entered by medical examiners and coroners.
  • Once in the system, the records can be searched for potential matches.
  • The unified system allows investigators to compare a potential match side-by-side.
  • If there is a match, the information is presented to investigators for review.

As of October 2014:

      • 20,917 total missing person cases were reported to NamUs – 7,537 cases were resolved (821 with NamUs assistance) -however 10,546 active cases remain in the database
      • 11,621 total unidentified person cases were reported to NamUs – 1,471 cases were resolved (381 with NamUs assistance) – 9,845 active cases remain in the database

Short Video – The Missing and the Dead: Inside America’s Coldest Cases


Currently there are new upgrades in the works for the NamUs system. One tool will have the capability of reuniting family members during “critical incidents” such as multi-state or large-scale events.  Some other features in development are a central database for victim accounting, a system for the public to self-report and make others aware they are safe during a disaster, and one that provides real-time victim data to assist emergency personnel in responding.

Although the NamUs program has provided several free tools to inform the public, many people are unaware of this resource. Which brings me back to the purpose of my post – helping to spread the word. So whether this information finds a place in one of your plots (which was encouraged during the session), or perhaps on your social media site, we are all playing a small role in helping to solve cold cases one match at a time.

 

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Juicy Info on Forensics #RSsos #Suspense #Writer @SarahRSWriter

FORENSICS: The Tattle-Tale Corpse, #RSsos, #amwriting, #books

Hi! It’s me again, back with more juicy information I picked up at the Writer’s Police Academy back in 2010. Last month you learned someForensics down-and-dirty facts about ARSON. Today (hope you haven’t eaten yet!) is FORENSICS, autopsies and the amazing amount of facts you can gather from a corpse.

This workshop was given by Jonathan Hayes, a fascinating, hilarious British Senior Forensic Pathologist in NY. Oh, and he happens to also be an author, the link takes you to his Amazon page.

Now, I’m going off 5-year-old, scribbled notes, here, (“what the heck is that word?!) so I hope I’ve done his workshop justice, because it was riveting!

The first thing he did was make sure we understood the difference between a Medical Examiner and a Coroner. An ME performs autopsies on suspicious, unnatural and violent deaths, meaning an extensive evaluation of injuries, and he issues a Death Certificate. A Coroner is an elected official with minimal training in medicine, forensics and death investigation. Hayes quipped that technically the job could be open to any politician or rural guy with a big enough truck to haul a body. (Did I mention he was funny?) A coroner can employ an ME, but for many rural budgets there’s a financial disincentive to do so.

This is not Jonathan Hayes ;)

Becoming an ME requires a 4-year medical degree, 3-4 years as a resident in pathology and a year of fellowship in an accredited program where you conduct a minimum of 250 autopsies- as many homicides as possible, and are encouraged to be present at as many crime scenes as possible to become expert in all areas: DNA, blood spatter, criminalistics, toxicology, etc. An ME is employed by the Department of Health, so technically there is no partnership with the police. PAY? $90K rural, $150K average and $250K or higher in affluent areas of America. (Statistic was given in 2010, folks!) There’s also the ability to do private consulting, such as being an expert witness for the defense.

Here were his death stats back then: 40% natural causes, 40% accidental, 10% suicide, (Called ‘Deliberate Self Murder’,) 5% homicide and 5% undetermined. Are you as surprised as I am? Based on local and national news I would have thought the figures went in the opposite direction. “Undetermined” death? Real bad for an insurance payout! Depending upon jurisdiction the police may decide not to call an ME. For example, a natural death will be sent straight to a funeral home. <–But we’ll forget about that here, because we’re talking forensics!

SO: a dead body is discovered, 911 is called. Let’s go through the steps, CSI watchers! The First Responder secures the scene, calls the ME and and does not touch the body. The ME arrives and his first priority becomes interpreting the many variables. The position of the body, where it is in the room (air conditioning, exposure to sunshine, etc.) Photographs are taken of all angles of the body and room. The ME will talk to the lead investigator, make notes on time, weather, witnesses, understanding the surroundings: such as visible objects on the body or clothing, objects in the room like a firearm or needles, to get a basic understanding of what happened. Then he turns the corpse over to see if there is anything underneath.

This is also not Jonathan Hayes.

Next is discovering the time of death through 3 postmortem changes.

ALGOR MORTIS is the cooling of the body; a rectal thermometer is used. (Enjoying that English muffin?) During the first half-hour of death the body temperature will stay the same. It drops half a degree per hour.

LIVOR MORTIS is the settling of blood. It takes approximately 3-4 hours to see a color change, max settling occurs at 8-12 hours. LM is so obvious that it’s usually easy to tell if a body has been moved after death. And naturally, if the body ‘bleeds out’ there’s very little LM information. Discolored LM could mean cyanide or carbon monoxide poisoning.

RIGOR MORTIS is the stiffening of muscles. The earliest sign is goosebumps (tiny muscles pull the hair up.) The first detection of rigor is within 3-6 hours, Full rigor is 6-12 and rigor passes 18-36 hours later.

Put the three mortis measurements together, and time of death is roughly:

A warm, limp body: under 3 hours.

A warm, stiff body: 3-8 hours.

A cold, stiff body: 8-36 hours.

A cold, limp body: after 36 hours.

At about 30 hours decomposition begins, but again, it depends upon the environment (boiler room vs cold river.) The colder the environment the longer it takes for decomposition…and that’s leaving out variables like insects, animals, drowning, etc.

Nope. Not Jonathan Hayes.

In the morgue the body is undressed and the surfaces of the body and clothing are scrutinized for trace evidence, even using light sources. A sexual assault kit is completed if needed. A full body MRI machine and/or X Ray will show bullets, fragments, the tip of a blade broken off, fractures, cardiac air embolism and perhaps identification if the body is decomposed or too badly burned in a fire. The body is weighed and measured, anything identifiable is recorded: injuries, surgical scars, tatts, endo-trach scar, etc. Eye color, condition of the mouth (natural teeth, any injury to the oral cavity…if you ever saw ‘Silence of the Lambs’…hello? A moth?) If there is anything positive that assists in telling a story about the death then pictures are taken, evidence is bagged and information is recorded.

I won’t go into the internal exam, even though I have about 10 pages of fascinating notes, but let me end with: the ME is so dedicated to ‘hearing’ what the corpse is trying to communicate that they can seek consultants like forensic anthropologists, forensic entomologists (insects and larva) and forensic botanists (plant growth in and around the body) to help create the most accurate summary of who this person was, how, when and where they died and hopefully- if necessary, who did it. FORENSICS was hands down my favorite session that entire weekend.

Jonathan Hayes’ FB page. He’s a hoot and brilliant–go ‘friend’ him. (And evidently he lives part of the year near my SWFL town!)

You guys were troopers to put up with this morbid post (pun intended,) so here is a gratuitous hottie. (Still not Jonathan Hayes.)Man face close

You’re very welcome!

Sarah Andre

 

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