Tag Archives: Missouri

Did Man’s Confession Save Parents Who Failed Polygraph?

Four years ago this week, then-43-year-old Shawn Morgan confessed he had suffocated Breeann Rodriguez with a white plastic bag, according to an Associated Press report.  Had it not been for his confession, Edgar Rodriguez and Claudia Ramos might have had to face charges for the murder of their three-year-old daughter.  Why?  Because both reportedly failed polygraph tests administered by investigators trying to crack the case.

Shawn Morgan / The Clapper Memo

The little girl’s body was found in a remote area a few miles from the from the family home in the Southeast Missouri town of Senath, population 1,500.

The decision to conduct polygraph tests came after investigators decided they needed fast answers about the girl’s disappearance. That’s when, according to the father who spoke about the matter with CNN’s Nancy Grace Aug. 11, 2011, Breeann’s parents were asked to take polygraph tests and, after the tests were completed, were told they had failed.

Who, exactly, decided to turn to the polygraph?  Dunklin County (Mo.) Sheriff Bob Holder told me the county prosecutor would be able to answer that question. I decided not to call him, however, because I’m not interested in the answer to that question as much as I am in the tests and the consequences little Breeann’s parents could have faced as a result of failing them.

Is there an alternative to the polygraph? Yes, and details about it — including a plethora of success stories and reasons why more local and state law enforcement agencies across the United States use it instead of the polygraph — are highlighted throughout the pages of my second nonfiction book, The Clapper Memo.

Click here to learn more about the book and read some of the high-profile endorsements it has received.  Click here to order a copy of The Clapper Memo.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

Retired Geologist Predicted EPA Failure in Letter to Editor Published Only Days Before Gold King Mine Disaster

While national news media outlets have been slow to take notice of Dale Hamilton’s letter to the editor of the Silverton (Colo.) Standard newspaper about the Gold King Mine disaster in Colorado, Zero Hedge, was not.

Click on image above to read Zero Hedge article.

Click on image above to read Zero Hedge article.

On Wednesday, as part of the Zero Hedge mission “to widen the scope of financial, economic and political information available to the professional investing public,” the site’s editors asked a headline-shaping question — Did The EPA Intentionally Poison Animas River To Secure SuperFund Money? — that caught my attention for several reasons.

For starters, I was attracted to the story, because I tend to smell a “rat” anytime the EPA is involved in anything. Here’s the link to the EPA’s official statement regarding the disaster.

On a more personal and emotional note, however, I care about the health of such rivers, because I spent some of the best times of my life as a youngster on summer vacations, fly fishing for brownie and rainbow trout on the Conejos River of southern Colorado.

My interest grew when I learned Environmental Restoration LLC, the EPA contractor said to be involved in the disaster, is from Fenton, Mo., according to a piece in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

Finally, the fact that my father is, like Hamilton, a retired geologist also played a role in drawing me to this story. After reading Hamilton’s letter to the editor that was printed in the Silverton, Colo., newspaper only days before the disaster took place, I suspect my dad might secretly consider its author a superhero. But only secretly, because dad isn’t much into idolizing folks.

What, exactly, did Hamilton write in his letter? In short, he warned that the EPA’s “grand experiment” would fail and, in the long run, result in the federal government’s environmental watchdogs having to declare the Animas River area where the disaster took place only days later an EPA Superfund Site, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Stay tuned for more about this disaster, because I suspect it’s gonna blow up in somebody’s face.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

Throwback Thursday: Ferguson Troubles Began in Garden

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Three years ago today, I shared news about a man in Ferguson, Mo., — yes, the same town where the Michael Brown incident took place in August 2014 — who was fighting for the right to grow food in his garden without first obtaining permission from the city. Below I share that story again, along with an update and some observations.

Karl Tricamo received a citation for gardening without permission.

On April 23, 2012, Karl Tricamo received a citation from the city of Ferguson, Mo., for gardening without permission.

During World War I and World War II, it was considered one’s patriotic duty to plant a “victory garden” in order to reduce food costs.  Doing such a thing today, however, could result in one man having to pay a hefty fine or worse if officials in the backward city of Ferguson, Mo., get their way.

According to a news release from Dave Roland at the Freedom Center of Missouri, Karl Tricamo never imagined that it would be especially controversial when he decided to plant a garden in his yard in order to secure cheap, nutritious, organic produce for his family.  Just to be sure, however, he looked up all of the relevant ordinances in the city just north of St. Louis and confirmed that he would not be violating any laws.

Tricamo found that nothing in the ordinances prohibit citizens from growing healthy, organic produce on one’s property.  In fact, the city’s zoning ordinances specifically allow residents to cultivate community gardens and urban agricultural uses in residential areas.

Because he planted the garden in front of his house instead of behind it, Ferguson city officials soon began to pester Tricamo, going so far as suggesting that his garden was illegal.  Roland described the chain of events that followed:

In March, shortly after he had tilled the garden in preparation for planting, the city sent a letter commanding that the yard be covered in straw and planted with grass seed – even though nothing in the city ordinances requires yards to be planted with grass or prohibits the planting of a garden on residential property.

Six weeks later city officials sent another letter demanding the removal of the vegetables from his yard because the property was not zoned for “agricultural” use, but of course the relevant section of Ferguson’s zoning ordinances explicitly allows gardens to be grown in residential areas.  Then the City sent Mr. Tricamo a notice (below) alleging a violation of Ferguson ordinance number 7-133 – but that ordinance addresses the structural elements of residential buildings such as foundations, walls, windows and doors, stairways, chimneys, gutters, roofs, and buildings’ exterior surfaces.  It says nothing about yards.

When Mr. Tricamo confronted the City about this violation notice, they rapidly backtracked and claimed that it had been sent by accident!  The City said he should disregard the notice, but have continued to insist that Tricamo’s garden is illegal.

According to Roland, this situation illustrates a common practice among some city officials; when all else fails in their attempt to control citizens’ behavior, they sometimes just make stuff up.

UPDATE: Barely three weeks after publishing the article above, I received another news release from Roland. Dated July 26, 2012, it contained the paragraph below which summed up the outcome of the case:

The Board of Adjustment took up the matter on Wednesday evening and heard arguments from the City, Mr. Roland, Mr. Tricamo, and several members of the community. In addition to the legal arguments that the Freedom Center advanced, the testimony pointed out the growing movement in favor of organic, locally-grown produce and the well-documented challenges that low-income families face in finding reasonably priced vegetables in grocery stores. In the end, four of the five members of the Board of Adjustment agreed that Ferguson’s zoning laws do not prohibit citizens from growing gardens in residential areas. Ferguson’s residents are free to grow vegetables in their yards as long as they are not violating a specific ordinance or endangering the public health or safety.

In light of events that put Ferguson on the world map for all the wrong reasons some 25 months later, I suspect many city residents and officials wish this gardening fiasco had been the worst of their troubles.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

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‘Winning Life’s Lottery’ Requires Hard Work

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is a guest post by Paul R. Hollrah, a resident of Oklahoma who writes from the perspective of a veteran conservative politico and retired corporate government relations executive whose life experience includes having served two terms as a member of the Electoral College. Even if you disagree with him, this piece will make you think long and hard.

Westward view of St. Louis skyline in September 2008.

Westward view of St. Louis skyline in September 2008, 75 years after Paul Hollrah’s birth.

I realize that it may be a bit uncool to dwell too much on one’s own life experiences, but I have a point to make and I hope that I will be forgiven for doing so.

I was born in 1933, in St. Louis County, Mo., in the midst of the Great Depression. My parents, both of whom came from generations of farm families, had sixth-grade educations. Farming was a matter of hard dawn-to-dusk labor, so when children had learned to read, write, and “do their sums,” they were expected to leave school to carry their share of the workload.

When my parents married in 1929, they decided to purchase a small farm, but they had no money and the banks had no money to lend, so their only alternative was to become sharecroppers, giving a one-third share of their crops to our landlord in lieu of rent.

Sharecropping provided our family with a subsistence, but little else. Nearly all of the food on our table was either from our vegetable garden, from farm animals… chicken, turkey, beef and pork… or the rabbits, squirrels, ducks, geese, and catfish that my father brought home from his frequent forays into our local forests and rivers. Whatever butter and eggs we didn’t need for our own table was taken to South St. Louis every Saturday and sold to regular customers, door-to-door. But then, when war clouds gathered over Europe and the Pacific in the late 1930s, my father took a job as a pick-and-shovel ditchdigger at 67½ cents an hour, helping to build a new munitions plant under construction at Weldon Spring, Mo.

My older sister and I attended a small one-room brick schoolhouse at Harvester, Missouri, three miles from our home, but when my father decided to give up farming for good in 1941 to work in the defense plants, we left our little red brick schoolhouse and moved to St. Charles, a suburb of St. Louis, where we were enrolled at a Lutheran parochial school. And when we completed our primary school education we attended St. Charles High School, a public high school.

I was not a good student and had little interest in high school. However, my parents insisted that if I wanted to get a good job, I had to have a high school diploma. It was the only thing they ever said on the subject. Attending a college or university was never a consideration, so during my four-year high school career I successfully avoided all subject matter related to mathematics and the sciences. I graduated in June 1951, with a GPA of just under 2.0, a C-minus average.

After graduation, I took a job as a “grease monkey,” tow truck driver and mechanics helper at a local automobile dealership, and, months later, I went to work as an assembly line riveter at McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, a major manufacturer of jet fighter planes for the U.S. military.

Then, in July 1953, I received a letter from the president of the United States; it began with the word, “Greetings.” I was drafted into the U.S. Army Aug. 12, 1953, and was trained as a Field Artillery Operations and Intelligence (O&I) specialist. After completing my basic training and my O&I training I was sent to West Germany for 17 months as a member of the post-World War II occupation forces. Upon being honorably discharged in June 1955, I returned to McDonnell Aircraft where I worked as a production control expediter for 18 months.

During that time, as therapy for an injury to my left knee, the result of a “friendly fire” incident during basic training, I took a second job as a ballroom dancing instructor in St. Louis. Those two jobs kept me fully occupied for at least 15 hours each day, five days a week. However, my injury prevented me from adequately performing my day job, so I took a job selling sewing machines and vacuum cleaners in the housing projects of St. Louis. My sales territory included the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing project where it was absolutely foolhardy for a white man to enter without an armed escort… let alone attempt to repossess a sewing machine or a vacuum cleaner from a black family who’d failed to make their monthly payments.

Finally, in December 1956, I took a job as a draftsman for Laclede-Christy Corporation, a major refractory manufacturer in South St. Louis. My job was to design open-pit strip mines on leases in Missouri and Illinois, and to assist the company surveyor in laying out prospecting plans for our drilling crews. It was during the nearly two years that I worked for Laclede-Christy that I developed an interest in surveying, mining engineering and geology.

In February 1957, I married my ballroom dancing partner, with whom I’d earned an all-St. Louis ballroom championship. However, being unable to afford the rent for a house or an apartment of our own, we were forced to move in with my parents. But then, as the economic recession of 1957-58 worsened, I learned that my job at Laclede-Christy was to be phased out. It was then that I made the decision to “escape” into college, to enroll as a full-time student at the University of Missouri College of Engineering. It was something that my supervisors at Laclede Christy had urged me to do, but I had little or no high school background in science and mathematics. So, during the 1957-58 school year I took two evening courses in Intermediate algebra at Washington University in St. Louis… just to see if I could handle college-level mathematics.

In two semesters of algebra, I earned two Cs. So, in August 1958, armed with nothing but my two Cs and an abundance of hope and determination, I enrolled at the University of Missouri. Since I had no money and no background for the study of engineering, I look back on that decision as the most courageous thing I’ve ever done. After selling everything we owned, except for our clothing and our 1953 Ford, I went to the local Goodwill store and purchased three rooms of kitchen, bedroom, and living room furniture off the junk pile in the alley behind the store for a total of fifty dollars. It was not good furniture; it was on the junk pile for good reason.

In early November 1957, we were blessed with the birth of a beautiful baby boy who was ten months old in August 1958 when we loaded all of our belongings, including our $50 worth of junk furniture, into a U-Haul trailer and moved into a dilapidated three-room tar-paper shack in Columbia, Mo., just across the road from the Missouri Tigers football stadium.

Our only regular income was the $125 I received each month under the Korean G.I. Bill… $27 of which paid our monthly rent. The remainder of our income, earmarked for the next semester’s tuition and books, gasoline, utilities, and insurance, left us with a food budget of only 60 cents a day. After we’d purchased milk and other supplies for the baby we were able to afford only beans, spaghetti, and an occasional bottle of catsup to mitigate the blandness of our starchy diet.

But the biggest shock of all was the difficulty of the course work. I was a 25-year-old veteran with a wife and child to support, and I found myself competing for grades against seventeen and 18 year olds with four years of engineering prep in their high school careers. I attended class every day, I studied very hard, and I completed every homework assignment. Yet, when mid-term grades were posted during my first semester, I found that I was failing every course.

With no alternative, I developed a radical new study regimen. I was in class at 7:40 every morning and completed my lectures by noon. By 1 p.m., I was home, hitting the books, and I refused to turn the page in a textbook until I thoroughly comprehended everything on that page. I was up every morning at 6 a.m., and I studied for 14 hours a day, every day of the week. It worked. At the end of my freshman year I found that, not only had I turned those Fs around, I was named to the Dean’s Honor Roll.

Our second child was born in January 1960, after which my wife took a night-shift job at the University Medical Center. Each night at 10 p.m., I’d load our sleeping children into the back seat of our Ford and drive my wife to the medical center in time for her 10:30 p.m. shift. After driving home, I’d return our children to their beds and resume studying until 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. After a few hours sleep, I was up again at 6 a.m., changing diapers and feeding the children. And after dropping the boys off at our babysitter’s home, I’d pick up my wife at 7 a.m. and drive her home so that she could get eight hours sleep. I was in class at 7:40 a.m., and when I’d completed my morning lecturers, I’d return home to repeat my 14-hour study regimen.

It was our daily routine, and it was brutal. When I entered the university in August 1958, I was 6 feet tall and weighed 153 lb., but when I graduated four years later, in June 1962, I was still 6 ft. tall but weighed only 116 lb. But I have no regrets. During my junior year, I was elected to Chi Epsilon, the Civil Engineering Honor Society; in 2001, I was elected to the Civil Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni; and in 2012, I was named an Honorary Knight of St. Patrick, receiving the Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering.

During my junior and senior years, we had a neighbor with three small children whose husband was serving a long prison sentence. And although she was on the public dole, her in-laws often delivered supplies of freshly-butchered beef and pork from their farm… which she promptly tossed into our neighborhood garbage pails because, as she explained, she didn’t like “that old country meat.” When I returned to the university for my 20th class reunion in 1982, our former landlord reminded me that he and his wife had often seen me rooting through those garbage pails with a flashlight, late at night, digging out food with which to feed my family. It was such a painful experience that I had apparently washed it from my memory.

As we drove away that day, my eldest son said, “Dad! You fed us out of garbage cans?” To which I replied, “Yes, Mark, I did. I did whatever I had to do.”

Those were difficult, character-building years. But now, after more than 50 years of unlimited opportunity and exciting challenge, Barack Obama informs me that I’ve played no role in any of that… that I’ve arrived at this stage of my life because I’ve “won life’s lottery.” I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t purchased that lottery ticket.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.

‘The Financial Coach’ Sentenced to 9 Years in Federal Prison

Federal Judge Ronnie L. White sentenced Bryan C. Binkholder to nine years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release during a sentencing hearing Friday at 10:30 a.m. inside a 10th-floor courtroom at the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. In addition, the judge ordered Binkholder to make full restitution of more than $3 million the court said he owes his victims .

The Financial Coach Show

If the name rings familiar, it’s because Binkholder hosted “The Financial Coach Show” on Saturday afternoons on FM Newstalk 97.1, St. Louis’ only conservative FM radio station, from 2009 until early 2012. when his face appeared on the station’s airstaff listing for the last time during the first week of February 2012. A source told me Binkholder had also bankrolled many of the costs involved in staging the first St. Louis Tea Party event at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis in 2009, but I could not obtain confirmation of that today.

Binkholder’s sentencing came several weeks after he accepted a plea deal on four counts of committing financial crimes involving real estate investments in St. Louis and Florida, and brings to a close an investigation that began at the state level more than five years ago and later appeared on the radar of federal investigators.

Attorney Albert Watkins tried to convince Judge White to reduce the number of points levied against Binkholder per federal sentencing guidelines and thereby reduce his sentence, but the judge wasn’t to be persuaded.

While being led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit after the hearing, Binkholder turned toward the gallery — where approximately 60 people were in attendance, including his wife and one of his three children — and told those who had not yet left they would get all of their money back if the government handled things (i.e., the assets involved) properly.

Binkholder’s attorney told the court his client will need a court-appointed attorney to handle his appeal which must be filed within 14 days.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

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