Jan and I were very fortunate to have as a dinner guest yesterday evening Diane Brinker who was one of the eight sisters of Kathleen Briles. There were 9 girls and 2 boys. Diane shared a lot of details with us and it was a pure blessing to simply be able to sit and talk with her. In some ways, having conversations with her and others, the people in these stories become family to me as I ride along listening to the fun days and the sad days. It is so sad to me to meet them with all this pain brought about by one person, and the tragedy is that Kathleen would not have died if the FBI had not failed to keep their computer data base up to date. Diane shared photos of her sister and her family with us. It was a wonderful evening but so tragically brought about. It leaves me with a major responsibility to write Nightmare in Terra Ceia with as much sensitivity as I can muster.
Goodreads has a contest running on my book Do You Know How To Fly which is a true crime novel. It is the first of two books about a career criminal who came to the Tampa Bay area after being placed on parole for bank robbery and sentenced to 15 1/2 years in Federal prison.
Shortly after his arrival here he dumped the woman who married him sight unseen while he was in prison and who helped his being released from prison and moved in with a woman much younger. Shortly after that he began a series of robberies, assaults, and home invasions. It ended with his capture after a bar fight but too late for the murder of a local doctor’s wife. Sadly had the FBI’s CODIS program for DNA been up to date he would have been stopped months prior before two local women (one the doctor’s wife) was brutally murdered.
Kuhn’s debut true-crime story shows how a violent man’s life led him to death row.
The author uses interviews and other sources to piece together the life of Delmer Smith, a seasoned career criminal awaiting execution in Florida. Smith was born in Detroit in 1971, on the cusp of the city’s economic decline. By age 14, he was convicted of raping a woman at a carwash where he worked. The 18 months that he spent in a juvenile reformatory dashed any possibility of rehabilitation; instead, he learned “how to be more proficient as a criminal” as he became “a creature without a conscience.” As a young adult, Kuhn writes, Smith carried out burglaries, carjackings, and bank robberies, which eventually led to a 15-year incarceration. After his second prison stint, he moved to Florida; there, Kuhn writes, Smith assaulted and beat multiple women—all the while leading a double life as a “wise and loving uncle” to his two nieces. Eventually, the violence led to a murder conviction. The author interviewed many of Smith’s victims and found that the women were now “desperately seeking someone or something to fully trust again.” Thanks to these firsthand accounts, readers receive a nuanced portrait of a predatory man. Kuhn’s decision to jump between accounts of Smith’s early life and present-day interviews is an effective one; by regularly pulling readers back to the present, he reminds them of the painful, enduring impact of his subject’s actions. Moreover, Kuhn shows a great deal of sensitivity when recounting the crimes, evoking deep pathos instead of graphic sensationalism. That said, the book does include some unnecessary background information, including three pages on Smith’s birth alone; it also bafflingly overuses section breaks, which disrupt the otherwise strong narrative flow.
A thoughtful, engaging account of a brutal life and the carnage that it left behind.
So here I sit with the majority of Book Two done and I am procrastinating. Call it what you will, but I just can’t seem to get myself going. I am within reach of being done with Book Two and I just can’t seem to push myself over the edge. Maybe it is a case of fear. Yes, fear.
I have been working on this for 6 1/2 years and to let go of my baby, so to speak, is frightening. Not only that but is it a good book or is it shit? I don’t know. I feel it is a good book but at the same time I am concerned that the author, me, is just delusional. That happens to everyone I think that has created something and who has this ache in their hearts to be looked upon as an artist, relevant for the current times and yet building a legacy for others to look up at and marvel at the work done so far.
So, anyway, I met with retired Sheriff’s Detective Ned Foy who solved the Briles’ murder case and had coffee with him. I gave him a copy of Book One and he said he is excited to read it. He is also looking forward to Book Two.
Now the pressure is on. Actually it had already started this morning at breakfast when Sherry Call Roberts walked up to me and poked me in the stomach asking how close I was to finishing Book Two . Of course she was being playful but the point was simply this: get going and get finished and stop procrastinating. It is easy to fall into that trap. So I am grateful to Sherry and to Ned and to everyone who is bugging the hell out of me to finish the book. It needs to get done.
The other nice thing, and I mean that really, is that Ned told me that he would join the readers I have now and review Book Two. After all, he is the main man on that. It was his case to solve and he did. He can provide me with even more insight than I have now. He’s excited. I’m excited. And, I know that everyone else will be excited too as we all move forward with this. I know I am not alone.
The book is out and can be found at Amazon Prime. It is also online at Barnes & Noble. Price is $15 plus shipping ( in some cases). It is also available thru me at $18 which includes shipping and my signature on the inside of the book.
PREDATOR ….. Book One is now in print. You can find it on Amazon in print or download to a Kindle. You can order it through your favorite bookstore. OR, you can order it here and now and I will send you a signed edition for $15 plus $3 for postage = $18.
Book two is in production and will be done and in edit and review within 10 days. Publishing will take about two weeks after that. I am anticipating that the price on that book will be about $10.
Book One goes into his early life and his coming to Florida to meet a woman 20 years his senior who thought she was being humanitarian. He dumped her for a young model and resumed his career as a criminal.
This is a narrative nonfiction true crime. It contains some graphic detail. Book two discusses the autopsy report on a woman killed on Terra Cela Island in Manatee County and it will also be a bit graphic. Continue reading “Predator, The Man Who Didn’t Exist, Book One, Do You Know How to Fly”
The following is about a violent and horrific murder. It is a real story about real people. Parts of this are very graphic. Please have respect for the victims, their families, and their friends.
She lay face down.
At least, that is how they found the body—face down.
They being the hastily-established Manatee County team of sheriff’s deputies, forensic personnel, fire department paramedics, and the county coroner’s office staff that had been called into service on August 3rd, 2009, in the middle of the night. It was their job to descend on the horrifying scene at a residence in a quiet neighborhood in response to her husband’s frantic 911 call.
Manatee County 911, what is the nature of your emergency?
The operator’s voice was calm, well-practiced, having responded thousands of times in the same cool manner during stressful telephone calls as this would soon become.
Caller: (Unintelligible) I just got home, my wife is on the floor!
The voice was breathless, filled with shock and terror.
Three years after the Manatee County 911 system recorded the emotion-filled phone call from a distraught man, the prosecution introduced the tape as evidence in Case No. 2010-CF-000479, The State of Florida vs. Delmer Smith, a murder case.
The Court, jury, and gallery would sit and listen completely absorbed by the conversation being played back for them. While the horror of the night slowly became indelibly evident for everyone else in the room, the defendant appeared indifferent. He spent most of his time looking at the highly-polished wooden conference table-top where he sat, or at his handcuffed hands which were kept low behind the table so the jury could not see them.
He focused on them, turning them over, then right side up. He twisted them one way, then another, carefully examining each hand like a person would checking to see if they might need to wash them. Perhaps, in this case, to remove the invisible stain and erase the scent of his victim’s blood that only he was conscious of.
The act was eerily reminiscent of the scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth where the Thane of Fife’s wife spoke those incredibly memorable lines, “Out, damned spot! Out, I say! … What! will these hands ne’er be clean? … Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
CONTINUATION: The following is a continuation of the forward from the book Predator: The Man Who Didn’t Exist.
“How is it,” she began again, drifting, slowly turning the thoughts over in her mind. Then she turned to me and I could see that the anger was draining.
The sun was behind her, and its light filtered through the profusion of auburn curls that framed her face. They were dancing and bouncing in the gentle wind that swirled around us.
Her face had grown soft. It was almost hidden within what appeared to be a hundred curls that moved as though alive. And, in the midst of the entire wild tumble were her eyes. Deep, dark, mysterious, and profoundly sad.
“How is it that you didn’t know?” she repeated, echoing the accusing tone used against her.
“I’ll tell you,” she leaned towards me, a spark suddenly backlit her eyes. “I just now realized why. Have a guess?” She tilted her head waiting for an answer.
“Well, I would think it was because he portrayed himself in such a manner that you couldn’t see who or what he was,” I said, feeling the need to say something, anything, even if it was wrong. I felt that I needed to contribute, to help her deal with what I felt was an incredible “aloneness” that had befallen her through no fault of her own.
“No,” she replied softly. “No.” A light smile drifted across her lips, but the sadness remained in her eyes. “No. Wrong.”
“Then what? Why didn’t you know, or could tell?” I asked.
“The answer is simply this: I once met a man who didn’t exist.”
PART ONE IS TO FOLLOW: THEY FOUND HER FACE DOWN.
A short-lived smile touched her lips. Her voice lowered, softened. She lit a cigarette, busying her fingers, took a deep draw on it, then blew the first exhale up and away from my direction. “My friends,” she inhaled again. “My family,” she said quietly, more to herself than to me. Her eyes were still looking down and with the palm of her free hand she absent mindedly smoothed her dress. “It was like, you know, I was at fault for some reason. I was the guilty one. That is what they wanted to know.” She took a sip of her tea and looked around at the other lunch customers seated at tables near ours who were, like she and I, enjoying a soft Florida breeze. “Every one of them.” She paused, then added, “‘He was your boyfriend,’ they said to me,” her voice climbed with passion. “Like that gave me some kind of magical insight into the man. It’s all bullshit.” Her eyes dropped to the pavement, then up, fierce, black.
“‘You lived together. And, you are telling me, telling us you didn’t know?'” She thumped her chest with a thumb and turned her head quizzically to look at me. Our eyes met and once more I could not look away. Her chin was high and her eyes, moments before warm and friendly had grown suddenly cold, hard, flinty.
I could see, could feel the emotional intensity that burned inside her. She felt wronged by the very people she thought would have been there for support. She wanted to say to each of them, “What about me? All these questions are about why I didn’t know. What about me? Don’t any one of you who are aware of the relationship that I had with Delmer recognize that I had feelings in this? Don’t you recognize my fear? My bewilderment? My sense of betrayal? Is it only that you want to know why I didn’t know? Well, better yet, if you were around him, why didn’t you know?”
She didn’t need to say those words. I felt them emanating from her heart and soul. I saw them in her eyes, the way she held her head, the silence that surrounded her as she sat and stared into her tea.
This was our first meeting, Michele and mine. However, it would not be the last.
MAIN CAST OF CHARACTERS
SARASOTA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Sergeant J. Blessee, Patrol Supervisor District Two
Miss Farnsworth, Victim’s Assistance
Detective Rhonda V. DiFranco, Forensics
Detective C. Dusseau
Detective Michael “Mike” A. Dumer
Jessica Hendrickson, Crime Scene Technician
Jessica Jarecki, Crime Scene Technician
Detective B. Keane
Detective M. LeFebvre
Detective K. McGath
Deputy Mrzuack, K-9 Officer
Deputy Josh Pelfrey
Deputy B. Pollock
Deputy John Swinney
Jessica Sawyer, Forensic Technician
Deputy John Thomas
Detective D. Tuck
Sergeant Daniel Tutko
Detective Sergeant John Walsh
Deputy Wineka, Helicopter Pilot
SARASOTA CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT
Detective Linda DeNiro
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT
Rochelle Gatemen, Supervisor FDLE Bio-Lab, Fort Myers, FL
Shana Hayter, FDLE Crime Laboratory Analyst in Biology and DNA
Michael Rafferty, FDLE Chief of Forensic Services
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Special Agent G. Sandoval
FEDERAL PAROLE OFFICER
CITY OF VENICE, FLORIDA POLICE DEPARTMENT
Sergeant Jason Adams
FAMILY, AND ACQUAINTANCES OF DELMER SMITH
Shannon (Bodell) Barrett, landlady
Michele Quinones, former fiancé
Alicia Phillips, niece
Christina Smith, niece
Martha Tejeda, personal friend
STATE OF FLORIDA PROSECUTING ATTORNEYS SARASOTA OFFICE
DEFENSE ATTORNEY SARASOTA COUNTY
MANATEE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Detective Kumiko Carter
Detective Edward “Ned” Foy
Robert Feverston, Latent Fingerprint Examiner
Grace Givens, Crime Scene Technician
Andrew Hasty, Deputy
Hurley Smith, Crime Scene Technician
Richard Talbot, Crime Scene Manager
Adrianne Walls, Crime Scene Technician
FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS OF KATHY BRILES
James A. Briles, MD
Calvin Briles, MD
OTHER MANATEE COUNTY WITNESSES
Michael Bierds, Publix Store Manager
Wilson A. Broussard, Jr. M.D., Forensic Pathologist
Armenouhi Comstock, Owner Armiks Fine Collectibles
Stanley Grubbs, Atrue Lock Service
Kevin Noppinger, DNA Laboratory Manager, DNA Labs International
Istvan Szecsenyi, Owner Roadkill Auto, Inc.
Oliver Young, Duct Tape Product Manager
Victoria Marshall., Sarasota County Victim
STATE OF FLORIDA PROSECUTING ATTORNEYS MANATEE OFFICE
DEFENSE ATTORNEYS IN MANATEE COUNTY
This material is protected by a copyright by Gordon Kuhn
This is a true story. I have been working on this story now for 4 1/2 years. I am not settled on the title yet. Above is one version. Another is “A Killer Hiding in our Midst.” But the story will be the same. It is a sad story of a wasted life and the chase by law enforcement that arrived too late to prevent a tragic murder. The book begins with acknowledgements of all the people who have helped me write it to which names are being added and I am not ready to disclose just yet. So, let us begin. Comments welcome.
The Criminal Mind
Doctor Samenow in his book, Inside the Criminal Mind, exhorts us to remember that “… we must begin with the clear understanding that the criminal chooses crime. He chooses his associates, his way of life, the kinds of crime he commits. He rejects society long before society rejects him; he is victimizer, not victim. The criminal values people to the extent that they can be manipulated; he believes he is entitled to whatever he desires; he does not justify his actions to himself.”[i]
“How is it that you didn’t know? How could you not see these things about him?” Michele Quinones leaned her head slightly to the side as she repeated the same questions that had been put to her by those she thought she knew and whom she thought knew her.
Her face was expressionless; however, her head and right hand responded with a slight rise and then dip as she placed emphasis on each “you” echoing the questions put to her repeatedly in disbelief by family members and friends.
It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon, April 14th, 2013, and the one-time girlfriend of Delmer Smith, an attractive, intelligent, forty-two year old woman, sat with me at a small table outside the Panera Bread Company in the Coco Plum Plaza in North Port, Florida, drinking iced coffee. We had just finished lunch at the sandwich shop where we met to discuss her relationship with a man who terrorized women living alone in Sarasota and Manatee Counties in 2009.
She paused in her thoughts, her unblinking, dark eyes held mine in their grasp. I could see in her gaze that she was hurting deep within.
“That is what they asked me. You know? Over and over again.” She looked away and down, and then added, “It wasn’t so much a question,” she said, “but more of a demand.”
(More to follow tomorrow.)