The Man Who Decapitated His Seatmate on a Greyhound Bus Is Set to Be Released
After sawing off a man’s head with a Rambo knife six years ago, Vince Li will soon be able to leave the Canadian psychiatric unit behind for short periods of time and take a bus around the nearby Selkirk community on solo visits.
I called up Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada and executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Manitoba. Chris considers himself a friend of Li’s and conductedthe only interview Li has ever given to media. We talked about his relationship with Li, whether the general public should be worried that he might stop taking his meds once he’s free, and trying to explain mental illness to people who believe that if you kill someone, you should be locked up for life, regardless of mental health issues.
VICE: Describe your relationship to Vince Li.
Chris Summerville: It’s been a relationship of rapport and developing a friendship, providing self-help services to him, peer support services, and helping him understand his mental illness. Basically, being a non-therapeutic person for him. Everybody’s asking him therapeutic questions, he needs somebody who can just talk to him in a personal, one-on-one way.
Vince Li’s psychiatrist from the Selkirk Mental Health Center, Dr. Steven Kremer, says Li runs a low risk of re-offending once back in the community. What does that mean?
It means the psychiatrist does risk assessment. What they evaluate is whether or not he has insight into his illness. And he does have insight into his illness. They also evaluate whether he is compliant with his medication and understands the need to take the medication, which he is and does. Also, [assessing whether] he has any addiction problems, which he doesn’t. Does he have any sociopathic traits? He doesn’t. He’s an ideal patient, he hasn’t had any altercations with any of the patients since he’s been [at the Selkirk Mental Health Center], so he’s really an ideal patient.
Humans Have a Long History of Eating Each Other
People who eat people are generally not considered “good people.” If you have any doubts, spend an afternoon searching the world wide web and peruse the “Cannibal Top Ten Lists,” which are occupied by the Milwaukee Monster Jeffrey Dahmer, Japanese exchange student Issei Sagawa, and child-killer Albert Fish. And news of the insane and psychopathic hits our home pages on the regular, such as the recent story of a hotel restaurant in Nigeria shut down by police for serving human flesh as an “expensive treat.”
The dispatches we have from a pre-internet era are no different. With the torch lit by Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C., carried on by the likes of Captain Cook and his crewin the Pacific, and still not yet extinguished by those traveling through Africa in the early twentieth century, a significant portion of European history is dedicated to documenting encounters with the bloodthirsty man-eaters of the far corners of the globe.
Tinged with varying degrees of racism, many of these accounts are just xenophobic hearsay. A surprising number, however, have actually been verified as true.
Nope, Still No Such Thing as a Fatal Marijuana Overdose
By all accounts, 31-year-old mother of three Gemma Moss recently smoked half a joint to help her sleep, and then she never woke up: a tragic passing that quickly yielded giddy tabloid headlines touting her as “the first woman in Britain to be poisoned to death by cannabis.”
As though some incredible sports record had just been achieved.
And really, the headlines could have gone even further, proclaiming poor Ms. Moss “the first person in recorded history to die of a marijuana overdose!” Which, given the fact that humans have been ingesting the plant in one form or another for more than 10,000 years, certainly sounds like a scoop. Especially when science had previously pegged the dose you’d need to ingest in order to suffer a fatal overdose at considerably higher than half a joint.
According to a 1988 ruling from US Drug Enforcement Agency administrative law judge Francis Young:
Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity. A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success. Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.
At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette…. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about 15 minutes to induce a lethal response.
So if the rather notably anti-marijuana DEA considers fatally overdosing on chronic nigh well impossible, and if even the world’s most rabid drug warriors can’t point to a single previous medically confirmed OD, how the heck did we end up with last week’s definitive headlines? Is it possible that Gemma Ross rolled up a 3,000-pound joint and then consumed half of it in one sitting?
Hunting for the Vampire of Barcelona
At the turn of the 20th century, Enriqueta Martí—a woman from the witchcraft-steeped countryside of Cataluña—came to Barcelona. Like many of the poor rural immigrants flooding into Barcelona at the time, she found that the Catalan capital was less “Pearl of the Mediterranean” and more “City of Death.” This didn’t bother her, though, because it was in Barcelona that she became her country’s answer to Jack the Ripper, luring children back to her house, killing them, and then drinking their blood.
Fast forward a century and Marc Pastor, a CSI detective based in Barcelona, finds himself working on a case involving another female serial killer. In his spare time, he writes Barcelona Shadows, a retelling of Martí’s diabolical career redolent of Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and David Peace. Already a bestseller in Spain, the book has just been published in English. I caught up with Marc for a trip back to the dark alleys of the Barcelona slums.
VICE: Hi, Marc. When exactly is your book set?
Marc Pastor: It’s in 1912. Barcelona is leaving its rural past behind and becoming a modern city. There is the biggest casino in Europe, which was an amazing amusement park with a rollercoaster. There’s a lot of poverty. People are living in the streets and there’s a lot of sickness. This is where Enriqueta appears, where she rises up. A woman. She is a female killer, which is very unusual because 99 percent of serial killers are men. It’s a dark and creepy city with a dark and creepy serial killer.
And Enriqueta came onto this scene from the countryside, to work as a servant in a house?
Actually, as a whore.
I was about to say: she swiftly becomes a prostitute. How quickly does she start to kill people, and can you tell me about her methods?
We don’t know exactly how many people or children she killed. That’s part of the myth. Jack the Ripper had five victims, but you don’t know how many victims Enriqueta had. She was arrested in 1912, but she went to Mallorca in 1901 for three months and had to come back because people wanted to kill her. So you can imagine she was murdering people and children for 12 years, at least. I met a lot of people after publishing the book who told me, “My grandma was a victim of Enriqueta,” or, “My grandmother-in-law was one of the people Enriqueta tried to kidnap.” They showed me pictures. She tried to kidnap a lot of people. One woman told me her grandmother-in-law was approached by a woman who tried to give her candy and told her to come with her.
These French Tombstones Make Dying Fun
Maybe it’s because we just said goodbye to another year, or maybe it’s because I spent the past two weeks gazing into the creases of my grandmother’s face as she tried to remember my name, but I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Not in the half-assed New Year’s resolution way, where I’ll con myself into thinking I’m going to live life to the fullest, while simultaneously reaching for a bag of Cheetos and watching porn. I’m thinking more about the practical side—burial arrangements.
Let’s face it: graveyards are a bummer. And I’m not talking about all the dead mommies, daddies, and babies lying underground rotting—I’m speaking from a purely aesthetic standpoint. Most cemeteries are just a sea of boring gray, crumbly stone with a bit of marble thrown in here and there. At best there might be a statue of an angel crying or a cool spikey cross to mix it up, but generally speaking they’re not an exciting visual experience.
But why shouldn’t it be? When I die, I want my final resting place to be a monument to my own inflated sense of self-worth. And while some people have the fun coffin thing on lock, I think it’s time we paid more attention to what’s going on above ground. Thankfully there’s Funeral Concept.
1 On April 1, Malcolm L. Shabazz was arrested at a bar in South Bend, Indiana, where he was visiting friends. “America is eating me alive,” he told his imam.
2 He returned to his hometown in the Hudson Valley and flew to Los Angeles to meet his friend Miguel Suarez.
3 Miguel, a 30-year-old undocumented immigrant and labor organizer, was deported from Oakland on April 18. Malcolm met him in Tijuana, hoping a trip south would inspire him to live up to his legacy as Malcolm X’s grandson.
4 Miguel and Malcolm took a two-day bus ride to Mexico City. They dreamed up a plan to unite black and brown people in Mexico and beyond.
5 On May 8, their plans—and Malcolm’s tumultuous life—were cut short after a bar scam they fell for went horribly wrong near the Plaza Garibaldi.
—Investigating the unsolved murder of Malcolm X’s grandson
I Got My Personal Genome Mapped and It Was Bullshit
Last Friday, the FDA forced personal genomics company 23andMe to stop marketing its tests to the public in their current form. Before the order came in, customers would send a spit sample to the firm, who would sequence the DNA and look for genes indicating a risk of up to 254 diseases and conditions, providing a breakdown of any issues.
The FDA cited a lack of supporting evidence for some of the claims made and expressed particularly serious concern over their assessment of the BRCA gene, which is linked to breast cancer, suggesting 23andMe’s tests might result in false positives that could lead to women undergoing traumatic and unnecessary surgery. The FDA’s actions have led to an explosion of opinion across the science blogosphere, but in all of that commentary a big question remains unanswered: What exactly is the point of personal genomics?
My first experience with the industry came about three years ago, when I was offered the chance to have a test done with Navigenics, a firm since taken over by a biotech firm called Life Technologies. Being a curious sort of guy, I jumped at the chance. A sample tube arrived via Fedex a few days later, which I duly spat into and sent back for analysis.
The results came back in the form of a sort of “wall of death”—a breakdown of all the things that might harm or kill me over the coming decades, detailing how likely I am to have each condition. Drilling into the figures, I can see that I have a higher risk of prostate cancer than 95 percent of the population and a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s—twice the average risk. So I’ll probably get cancer, but on the plus side I’ll be too forgetful to care about it.
India’s Nuclear Scientists Keep Dying Mysteriously
Indian nuclear scientists haven’t had an easy time of it over the past decade. Not only has the scientific community been plagued by “suicides,” unexplained deaths, and sabotage, but those incidents have gone mostly underreported in the country—diluting public interest and leaving the cases quickly cast off by police.
Last month, two high-ranking engineers—KK Josh and Abhish Shivam—on India’s first nuclear-powered submarine were found on railway tracks by workers. They were pulled from the line before a train could crush them, but were already dead. No marks were found on the bodies, so it was clear they hadn’t been hit by a moving train, and reports allege they were poisoned elsewhere before being placed on the tracks to make the deaths look either accidental or like a suicide. The media and the Ministry of Defence, however, described the incident as a routine accident and didn’t investigate any further.
This is the latest in a long list of suspicious deaths. When nuclear scientist Lokanathan Mahalingam’s body turned up in June of 2009, it was palmed off as a suicide and largely ignored by the Indian media. However, Pakistani outlets, perhaps unsurprisingly, given relations between the two countries, kept the story going, noting how quick authorities were to label the death a suicide considering no note was left.