When I started working with actual criminals, I realized that they were easier to get along with because they knew how bad things could get.
Cannibal Cop and the Freedom to Have Fucked-Up Fantasies
As every middle schooler knows, the internet is a repository of strange shit. A few casual keystrokes can take you to Goatse, Lemon Party, Cake Farts, and a dozen other weird porn memes. A few more clicks and you can find photos of mass graves, diseased genitals, rotting animal corpses teeming with maggots, open wounds festering and dripping with pus. Most hardened internet denizens laugh (or turn away in disgust) and move on when confronted with the web’s dark corners, but occasionally, people end up curling up inside them and making a home.
That’s one way to describe what happened to Gilberto Valle, the tabloid-famous “Cannibal Cop” who just had his conviction for plotting to kidnap, kill, and eat a bunch of women overturned by a judge who ruled that all of the online discussions he had with others about murder and vorefantasies were just that: fantasies.
“Once the lies and the fantastical elements are stripped away, what is left are deeply disturbing misogynistic chats and emails written by an individual obsessed with imagining women he knows suffering horrific sex-related pain, terror and degradation,” Judge Paul Gardephe wrote in an opinion released Monday night that sided with the defense. “Despite the highly disturbing nature of Valle’s deviant and depraved sexual interests, his chats and emails about these interests are not sufficient—standing alone—to make out the elements of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.”
We Spoke to Former Rwandan Genocidaires
At the entrance to Nyarugenge Prison in Kigali, Rwanda, armed guards stand beside painted letters that read, “No Corruption.” Through the gates, I spot guards escorting inmates around. Prisoners wear pink if they are awaiting a sentence, and orange if they are serving one.
During the three-month long Rwandan Genocide 20 years ago, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died at the hands of their friends, neighbors, and colleagues. After the catastrophe ended, a huge amount of people needed to be prosecuted, but there were limited resources to conduct the trials. To speed up the prosecution procedure, a system of local justice called gacaca courts was brought in. Trials were held in villages, where victims and their families publicly confronted the accused before their communities.
Gaining access to a prison here is a complicated affair that involves collecting and submitting several letters of recommendation, culminating in written permission from the Rwanda Correctional Services. After supplying all the necessary proofs, I wait on a couch in the reception area and then speak to two former Rwandan genocidaires: Justine, a 50-year-old woman wearing a polka-dot orange head scarf, and Thomas, a 54-year-old man who wears a watch on his wrist and shakes my hand before he sits down.
VICE: Why are you in prison?
Justine: I’m here because of the genocide issues. I was part of the ruling party, and I did participate in what happened to my neighbors. When the genocide started, a roadblock was set up beside my house. They said they were trying to capture the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] soldiers there. I didn’t know it was a genocide; I just believed that this was true. It continued, and my neighbors were killed. To save my family members, I began killing people too and was in the Interahamwe [a Hutus militia].
How long is your sentence?
I’ve been in prison since 1996, but in 2007 I was released and allowed go home. But later they pressed more charges against me, and after three years, I was brought back again. I had already confessed to everything that I did and had asked for forgiveness. I thought it was over—people tell me that I’ll be here for a lifetime.
Why Are So Many Aboriginal Women Being Murdered in Canada?
In February, the frozen body of 26-year-old Loretta Saunders, a pregnant Inuit woman from Labrador, Canada, was found dumped onto a highway median in New Brunswick. Saunders, a student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, had been writing her thesis on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada—in a tragic twist, she became one of the subjects of her own research, the latest in what is estimated to be hundreds of murders and disappearances of indigenous Canadian women. Just this month, the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told reporters that 1,186 aboriginal women had been murdered or went missing over the past 30 years.
The sad irony of Saunders’s death shed light on a human rights issue that has been quietly brewing for years in Canada, a progressive country that is generally known for treating its citizens—including most women—well. The Canadian government doesn’t collect data on the race and ethnicity of missing persons, but a new database compiled by independent researcher Maryanne Pearce documents 4,035 cases of missing and murdered women and girls, 883—or nearly 25 percent—of which involve aboriginal women. That’s a shocking statistic, considering that aboriginal women make up just 2 percent of the population in Canada. While some of the cases date back to the 1950s, the majority took place between 1990 and 2013.
“This is part of a larger phenomenon of violence against women, period,” Pearce said. “It’s such a complicated issue. We have to look at every layer, with a special focus on systemic racism. There isn’t one answer—there isn’t one person or group who can address this. It has to be everybody—the First Nations governments, the provincial governments, the police forces, and the national government. And the Canadian public has a responsibility too.”
From Killer to Painter
Peruvian artist LU.CU.MA spent 27 years in jail for the murder of his brother, among other crimes. After his release, LU.CU.MA—short for Luis Cuevas Manchego—swore to turn himself around. He traded the machine guns, hand grenades, and knives that he once used to ambush buses for art supplies.
VICE traveled to Lima, Peru, to talk to LU.CU.MA about his life, how he uses art as a way to repent, and why all his paintings involve things like corrupt politicians being beheaded by snakes.
Check out more Fringes episodes here.
(Source: Vice Magazine)
This Death Row Inmate Is Dying to Donate His Organs
In 2001 Christian Longo killed his wife and his three young children and fled to Mexico. Once he was brought back to the US, he was convicted of those murders and placed on Oregon’s Death Row, where he has resided since 2003. He was once on the FBI’s top-ten most wanted list, and James Franco is even going to play him in an upcoming movie.
Christian, now 40 and still in jail, is turning a new leaf. In an effort to give back to his community, he has decided to donate his organs upon his inevitable execution. The only problem is, due to the lack of an efficient prisoner donation protocol, he pretty much can’t. Chris is even willing to forgo all appeals of his death sentence if he can donate his organs upon his execution. Still, he’s been denied.
Through his Gifts of Anatomical Value from Everyone (G.A.V.E) organization, Chris is looking to change that. The mission of G.A.V.E is to remove the medical and ethical issues involved with prisoner organ and tissue donation and gain approval for some of the 2 million incarcerated individuals to donate. If successful, the organization will substantially reduce the number of people on waiting lists for organ and tissue donation (which is more than 121,000, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network).
I recently conducted an email interview with Longo about how he came to found G.A.V.E, the work his organization is doing, and the impact prisoner donation could have if certain ethical and political barriers were removed.
VICE: What piqued your interest in prisoner organ donation?
Christian Longo: After watching a friend increasingly suffer from a degenerative disorder called scleroderma, it became apparent she would eventually need a kidney transplant. After being told by my prison system that consideration may only be given for donations to immediate family, I put together a proposal for my unique circumstances as a death row inmate. I offered to end my remaining appeals and face execution if my healthy body parts were able to be donated to those in need. My request was denied.
How surprising was it to find out you couldn’t donate?
It was a Spockian “that’s illogical” moment followed by a fear that someone I cared about might not be able to find a suitable donor… which pissed me off.
A shocking story of citizen detectives, a videotaped murder, animal torture and one very disturbed celebrity wannabe
Nancy Grace’s Insane, Murder-Fueled Twitter Brilliance
Out of the frothy, weird sea of people typing stuff into Twitter, hardly anyone makes me laugh as often, or genuinely shocks me more, than Nancy Grace. Thousands upon thousands of wannabe writers and comedians attempt to subvert Twitter’s format and play with surreal connections and black humor, but I doubt anyone has ever topped “I want answers #BoxOfInfants”—a tweet that, like “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” is a brilliant and complete short story told in the space of a single sentence.
Nancy Grace, for the uninitiated, is a former prosecutor who hosts her self-titled show on HLN, where she becomes furious at the evils that men do four times a week and stops just short of calling for the public execution of criminals. Like any vigilante, she’s got a backstory tinged with tragedy: She dreamed of becoming an English teacher until her college fiancé, Keith, was gunned down in front of a convenience store. From that moment on, she pledged that she would devote herself to fighting evil. “I would go to law school, become a prosecutor, and put people in jail who hurt victims like Keith,” she wrote of her life-changing epiphany.
She was really, really good at putting people in jail—she once told Larry King she never lost a case—though she was also later cited for pretty serious ethics violations. She went to television armed with that same zeal for watching people get thrown behind bars and the same disregard for any code of professional conduct.
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.
We Need to Stop Trusting the Police
Last Monday, a jury found two former Fullerton, California, police officers not guiltyon one charge of excessive force, two of manslaughter, and one of second-degree murder in the beating death of Kelly Thomas. The 2011 altercation, which lead to Thomas’s death five days later, was captured in detail by surveillance cameras and audio from police recorders—on tape, the cops can be seen beating the homeless man mercilessly and Tasing him twice in the face. At one point, Thomas is moaning “Help me dad” as the officers swing their nightsticks at him.
That fairly clear video evidence, along with the activism of Kelly’s father Ron (a former sheriff’s deputy) and the mobilization outraged community, ensured Thomas’s death got a lot more media coverage than the killing of homeless people by police normally do. But the officers are still walking free after beating an unarmed man to death. (In fact, one of them, Jay Cicinelli, already wants his job back.) How does that happen? A great many people in the community are asking that same question—multiple protests against the outcome of the trial this week resulted in 14 arrests
One answer to that question is that the jurors, like most Americans, probably thought that cops are generally almost always right. A Gallup Poll from last month found that 54 percent of respondents had “high” or “very high” amounts of trust in police officers. People think more favorably of cops than they do journalists, politicians, lawyers, or even members of the clergy. The only authority figures more trusted than the police are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and grade school teachers.