Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Accused murderous conspirators didn't have much of a plan

It's not what you do that counts for much; it's what you do after you do what you do that determines your criminal success or failure. That's the essence of criminal wisdom, this axiom of the felony tank, the courtroom, the no-tell motel, of the fraternity and sorority of those on the run, pursued by the hounds.

It's legal advice from the dark side, the criminal element that is bound to lose at lease sometimes in its constant battle of wits with the forces of law and order. Without a plan, all the success in the world with revolver, blade, burglar tools, arsenic, explosives, the forger's art, or the light-fingered skills of the dip count as nothing.

Those who are accused of murdering Sgt. Ryan Sullivan for his soldier's group life insurance benefits of $100,000 were terribly efficient in plotting his demise. Like the sergeant, a two-time veteran of the Iraq war who was awarded a Bronze Star for his coolness under fire, they won the battle and lost the peace.

The trail of clues left by alleged mastermind Katherine “Katie” Briggs, beneficiary of the life insurance policy benefits, and her indicted co-conspirators John Valdez and Kyle Moesch is astonishingly clear. It's not surprising because the witness testimony that has emerged both on direct examination from prosecutors and cross examination from defense counsel paints a picture of a hard-drinking, hearty partying group of soldiers tightly knit by their wartime experiences.

If nothing else, the evidence does not point to the kind of efficient, tight-lipped criminal organization that gets away with murder on a routine basis.

They hit the bars in Killeen and Austin at every opportunity and were about to deploy again to Iraq for a third tour in the combat zone. In fact, the following Tuesday, October 11, 2008, after the Monday of the Columbus Day 4-day weekend, the sergeant's rapidly decomposing remains were found in his residence off post – a dwelling leased by Katie Briggs – was to be the beginning of an administrative review period at the Soldier Readiness Center to prepare all paperwork, including life insurance information and last wills and testament, prior to debarkation for the war zone.

It's the same Soldier Readiness Center in which Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan carried out his murderous attack just a little over a year later, leaving dead and dying in his wake because of his disturbance involving the tenets of Islam, an Arbabic word that translates, literally, as “peace.”

Though the evidence is far from proven at this point, in its totality it indicates the kind of circumstances that, though they do not exclude all other persons from culpability, clearly indicate some kind of hostile intent to cause the death of Sgt. Sullivan.

For instance, John Valdez told his room mate, Corporal Jeremy Jacobs, and fellow medic Kyle Moesch that there was a contract out on Sgt. Sullivan and he intended to carry it out and pick up the fee for doing the killing. Cpl. Jacobs told no one because, as he testified, he did not believe this threat. The three of them made a trip to Quantico Tactical, fighting gear store, which is located not far from the main gate of Ft. Hood, on a shopping trip for a “stun gun.”

On a similar visit, The Legendary learned that the store does not carry that type of merchandise, but Academy outdoor supply does. The stun gun demonstrated to me generates 800,000 volts through the use of two CR2 batteries, a vicious burst of blue flaming static that creates a belligerent belch of zapping, snapping electric sound. The price, $43 the copy.

There is a similar model available that generates 1 million volts, and one of smaller capacity that generates 600,000 volts. Repeated shots from the devices will create a state of shock in a person whose central nervous system is thus insulted – enough to create a circumstance where an accomplished hand to hand fighter such as Sgt. Sullivan could be attacked with a blade specially designed to penetrate to body's cranial and thoral cavities and cause a “two-step” injury and loss of consciousness within 30 seconds.

The Gerber Mark II knife has a blade of nearly one foot in length with a double-edged and serrated design that will both stab, penetrate, and incise and slash at will. In fact, it's not much different than the gladiator's short swords carried by legionnaires and the class of slaves who fought for their lives for the spectacle of it all during the times of the Roman Empire. The medical examiner testified that the attack could be characterized as a "frenzy" because to inflict 35 such wounds - two of which would have caused loss of consciousness in 30 seconds or less - would have been nothing less in its nature.

In one conversation, John Valdez asked Cpl. Jacobs if he had some of the chemical used by anesthesiologists to arrest the voluntary motor functions of patients undergoing surgical procedures. He testified that Mr. Valdez was interested in obtaining some to render the sergeant immobile during a planned murderous attack. The corporal testified that he not only told him he had none, he did not believe him.

Kyle Moesch came to the Jacobs' residence, let himself in with a key he had obtained while he was a room mate of the corporal, then rushed into the bath and washed the blood from his hands. When he emerged, he told him he had personal knowledge that John Valdez had killed Sgt. Sullivan. He showed him some spots of blood on his trousers. Mrs. Kristy Jacobs said he looked “very upset” when he let himself into the residence.

Even today, he constantly mimics the action of scrubbing one's hands – without soap and water. One wonders if he is even aware of his actions.

Ms. Briggs visited Mr. Valdez at the Bell County lockup and answered his question about how much of the insurance money remained in her account at the time of the visit. According to a surveillance tape made of their telephone visit, she answered the figure was $70,000, according to court papers.

At the time of his arrest, Killeen police obtained a key to a motel room in that city where they found his motorcycle jacket with a cash envelope from Bank of America stuffed with $4,480 dollars in cash. Ms. Briggs had made a withdrawal for a similar amount just prior to that.

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