True Crime Vol. XVI: The Byron David Smith Killings

By: Victoria Chavez 

17-year-old Nicholas Brady Schaeffel and 18-year-old Haile Kifer.

On October 3, 1789, George Washington issued his Thanksgiving proclamation, designating for “the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving” to be held on “Thursday the 26th day of November,” Since then, Americans have celebrated every Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November. Most citizens spend the day eating and enjoying the company of their loved ones, but for the families of two Little Fall teens, their day was spent in disbelief and sadness. 

The Byron David Smith killings occurred on Thanksgiving Day of 2012, when Haile Kifer, 18,  and Nick Brady, 17, broke into the home of Bryon Smith, 64, in Little Falls, Minnesota. Smith was retired from the U.S. State Department, was never married, and had always lived alone. Prior to the murders of the teens, Smith’s home had been burglarized at least half a dozen times over the last few months. He had only reported one previous burglary to the police, and investigators only found evidence of two previous burglaries. These burglaries sparked anxiety in Smith and led him to begin wearing a holster with a loaded gun in his home, as well as stashing water bottles and granola bars in the basement. 

On November 22, 2012, Smith drove his vehicle down the road, parking it in front of a neighbor’s home. Later that day, Kifer and Brady broke into Smith’s home. Video surveillance captured the teens looking around the property prior to the break-in. From Smith’s own account he told police when he saw Kifer, who he suspected was responsible for the burglaries, driving towards his home, Smith turned on a recording device he owned. When he returned to his home, Smith removed the lightbulbs from the ceiling lights and positioned himself in a chair that was obscured from view. He then waited 12 minutes until he heard Nick Brady break into his basement. Smith shot Brady twice on the stairs, and once in the head after he fell to the bottom of the stairs. Smith then made taunting remarks to Brady’s body, wrapped it in a tarp and dragged him into another room. 

Smith then went upstairs, and 10–15 minutes later, he ran back down into the basement, reloaded his weapon and took up his previous position in the obscured chair. Minutes later, Kifer entered the home and could be heard calling her cousin’s name. As she made her way down the stairs, Smith shot her. She fell down the stairs and Smith can be heard on the recording saying “Oh, sorry about that” after his gun jams, followed by Kifer saying “Oh, my God” very quickly; Smith shoots her again, multiple times in the torso, in the midst of which she screams “Oh, my god!” He repeatedly called her derogatory names and then dragged her into the other room, tossing her body on top of her cousin’s, and shot her one final time under the chin, killing her. Audio and video of the events were recorded by Smith’s security system.  The deaths were not immediately reported to police. Smith waited until the next day to notify police of the shootings, claiming he “didn’t want to bother the police on Thanksgiving.”

 This case sparked the debate about the Castle Doctrine. Legal analysts have stated that the initial shootings most likely would have been justified under Minnesota’s laws, but that the extra shots were not justified once any threat had been removed. A number of aspects of the case were noted by police as being inconsistent with self-defense. Smith had moved his truck earlier in the day, claiming he had done so in order to clean his garage. Prosecutors argued at his trial that it was an attempt to make the house look abandoned in order to lure the burglars into his home. In addition to his home surveillance system, Smith also recorded at least 6 hours of audio on a digital recorder in the basement of the residence.  Prior to the break-in, he is heard saying “In your left eye.” and “I realize I don’t have an appointment but I would like to see one of the lawyers here.” These comments raised suspicion due to the fact that Kifer was shot in the left eye and he later did request a lawyer. On April 29, 2014, Smith was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder with premeditation and on two counts of second-degree murder after three hours of jury deliberations.

Many still defend Byron Smith and believe it was his right to shoot the trespassers. Others think justice was served to a cold hearted man that did not see past his evil. One thing is for sure though, two young souls were lost that day, and with them went the love and joy of those who got the chance to know them. 

JROTC 5K Run

By: Victoria Chavez

Students and family supporting the cause

  This month the JROTC program will participate in a 5K run to help fight against Alzheimers. Alzheimers is a brain disease that slowly shows its symptoms around age 60. The disease progressively gets worse and worse as the years go by, first affecting your memory, thinking skills, and then ultimately your abilities to lead a simple life. Sadly this disease is very common among elders and affects over three million people. The Eagle Battalion thought this was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness for this medical condition. They have donated five hundred dollars to the cause and the battalion is running a 5K (3.1 miles). Due to COVID-19 and the need for social distancing, the run is a virtual one,  meaning they can submit videos or pictures of their participation. Each cadet will be allowed to run alone or with a group of 8 people. “It was a really good experience for us to be active while helping the community…” said by Christan Gutierrez. “My family has been affected by this disease… I’m glad that I can help make a difference…” said by an anonymous source. The run was a great turn out and the battalion was eager to see so many cadets participate in the event to help find a cure for Alzheimers.

True Crime Vol. XV: The Murder of Peter Fabiano

By: Victoria Chavez 

Smoke Bomb Jack-O’-Lantern

The Crime 

Joan Rabel and Goldyne Pizer sat quietly parked outside a home located in Sun Valley. The pair waited in silence as they watched the lights go out. It was time to strike. 

Rabel whispered under her breath to Goldyn, “Alright, do it” Goldyn then exited the car  dressed in jeans, a khaki coat, red gloves, and heavy makeup that she covered up with a domino mask. She walked directly to the home and stood there for a few seconds before ringing the doorbell. 

Peter Fabiano awoken when the doorbell rang. He looked at the clock and questioned why someone would be here at this time of night. As he walked down the stairs it occurred to him that it might be a late trick-or-treater, so he grabbed the bowl of candy on the table and opened the door. He looked at the mysterious black figure and asked, “It’s a little late for this, isn’t it?” 

“No,” was the last word Peter Fabiano ever heard as Pizer lifted a brown paper bag and shot Fabiano. Pizer didn’t wait to see if Peter was dead, or if anyone had seen her. She ran back to the car where Rabel was waiting. 

As Pizer got in, Rabel leaned over and kissed her, saying, “Thank you.” The two women left and quickly burned the clothes they were wearing in case they contained any trace evidence. Afterwards, they returned the getaway car to the friend they had borrowed from earlier that day. When the two women had completed their mission, Rabel said to Pizer. “Forget you ever knew me.” Then they went their separate ways.

The next day Pizer realized she still had the gun, so she rented a locker at a Downtown LA department store and kept it there where she thought it would be safest. 

The Investigation 

The loud boom woke his sleeping wife, Betty Fabiano, she quickly ran downstairs only to find her husband barely breathing.

Betty ran to her police officer neighbour’s home, who called in the Valley police department. Peter was taken to Sun Valley hospital, where he was pronounced dead from the gunshot to his chest. 

It took a few days for Betty to compose herself but soon she did and was able to speak with the police. She told them that she heard two voices coming from downstairs, a man, and someone that sounded like a man pretending to be a woman.

Police initial thought was that this was the work of a gang. It was not uncommon for a random gang killing to occur during those hours of the night, although they didn’t think Peter Fabiano had relations with any gangs since he was just an owner of a successful salon. 

When questioned about who would want to harm Mr. Fabiano, Betty knew exactly who was responsible. She told police she believed it was an “ex-friend” Joan Rabel.

After weeks of no leads and a cold trail, law enforcement finally caught a break when a gun had been found in a locker at a department store. A ballistics test confirmed a match to the gun found to the bullet fired into Peter Fabiano. The police soon learned that this gun belonged to Goldyne Pizer. 

On November 12, Pizer was arrested in connection to Peter Fabiano’s death.  In the interrogation room, she confessed to everything, telling police that it was all Rabel’s idea. Rabel had coerced her into killing Peter; she didn’t even know the man. They then interrogated Rabel, but she refused to tell the truth and insisted that she knew nothing about the crime. The police got a warrant after hours of interviewing her and getting nowhere. 

The murder weapon, she said, had been bought with money Rabel had given her. Pizer told how they had been planning the murder for weeks. The two of them had driven by Fabiano’s home before, and Rabel had pointed out Peter to her, so she would recognize him when the time came. 

What was The Reasoning Behind The Murder?

Peter and Betty Fabiano met in the late 1940’s while living in New York. Peter left the Marines and began trucking when he first laid eyes on Betty, a new divorcee with two kids. They quickly married soon after. 

The four of them then moved to LA and opened up two beauty salons; at one of these salons Joan Rabel was hired. This is how she came into the picture. 

As the business began to grow, Betty and Peter’s marriage fell apart. It soon was a loveless marriage. This turmoil caused Betty to move into Rabel’s home. 

When they moved in together people started to make note of the close relationship of the two girls; but this was the 50s, so no one would have thought the two were a couple. 

Word eventually got around to Peter which turned out to be enough fuel to motivate him to fix his marriage. Betty vowed that she would never see Rabel again. 

Soon after Betty went back to Peter, Rabel realized that her girlfriend was serious about fixing her marriage. Soon after she had lost Betty, Rabel found Pizer and started telling her how horrible of a man Peter Fabiano was and that he had to die.

The Trials 

Before their trial started in December, both women had to meet with three psychiatrists. The courts seemed to believe that due to their relationship with each other, the trials could be corrupt. Pizer was very open with the psychiatrist as she had been with the police. She was quoted saying, “I had no motive, personally. Whatever motive I had was to please Joan. I was always easily influenced. I have been impressionable and always trusting.” Rabel on the other hand never spoke a word and declined to testify. 

Pizer got on the stand and told the events of what happened that night. Rabel refused to tell the truth, but was seen smiling when Pizer was giving her tearful testimony. Both women were charged with first-degree murder, but through a plea deal, it was reduced to second-degree murder. Each woman was sentenced to 5 years to life in prison though they were eventually released. Afterwards, Rabel and Pizer changed their names and were never heard of again. A short crime for the cold murder of an innocent man. 

True Crime Vol. XlV: Remembering 9/11

Two first responders comfort each other as they look at the chaos.

By: Victoria Chavez

At 5:45 A.M. Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al-Omari pass through security at Portland International jetport in Maine. The pair aboard a commuter flight to Boston Logan International Airport, where they would then connect to American Airlines Flight 11. 

7:35 A.M. Passengers, including five hijackers, board Flight 11 at Gate B32 in Logan International Airport, Boston. 

8:14 and 8:15 A.M. The terrorist attack and kill pilot Captain John Ogonowski and First Officer Thomas McGuinness of Flight 11 and take control of the aircraft. At this time 51 passengers and 5 hijackers (Marwan al-Shehhi, Fayez Banihammad, Mohand al-Shehri, Hamza al-Ghamdi and Ahmed al-Ghamdi) board another flight. 

8:20 A.M. American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Washington Dulles International Airport for Los Angeles. The aircraft carried 65 people, including six crew members, 53 passengers and five hijackers. 

8:46 A.M. The first plane crashes. American Airlines Flight 11 strikes the North Tower of the World Trade Center, traveling at hundreds of miles per hour and carrying around 10,000 gallons of jet fuel. The flight crashes into floors 93-99 and severs all three emergency stairwells, trapping hundreds of people above the 91st floor. 

9:03 A.M. The second plane crashes. United Flight 175 strikes the South Tower on floors 77-85. Two of the three emergency stairwells are rendered impassable and most elevator cables in the area are severed by the crash, trapping many on floors above the impact and in elevators.

9:37 A.M. American Airlines Flight 77 hits the Pentagon. 

9:59 A.M. The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses from top to bottom. It had been covered with flames for about 56 minutes. Over 800 workers, including first responders, died during this time. 

10:03 A.M. Passengers on Flight 93 take down the four hijackers in the cockpit and crash land it into a field near Shanksville, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all 33 passengers and seven crew members on board. 

10:28 A.M. The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses. Over 1,600 are killed. 

It has been 19 years since this tragedy has occurred. While it forever left America scarred with a taunting message, we still continue to honor those who died and those who gave their lives. We will never forget 9/11.

Ready for Anything

By: Victoria Chavez 

As the school year of 2019-2020 comes to an end, the seniors of 2020 will begin to ready themselves to enter the world right through their bedroom doors. Most have plans for college, some hope to enter the workforce with their dream jobs swirling in their minds, but what about the seniors that wish to enlist and serve the country? Is the military taking numbers on the high school students across the nation and telling them to have a seat? Has the outbreak stopped them from starting their lives? 

The recent pandemic has caused a lot of hysteria for not only the people across the world but it has deeply impacted the military as well. For those that did not know all MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Stations) was shut down due to COVID-19. This meant that many people graduating high school and the people enlisted could not be shipped off to BMT (Basic Military Training) at the initial date given. The thought of never being able to start their journey scared many seniors. “ I haven’t even been to MEP in and I’ll have to 2-4 weeks before I can go in…” said Hannah Van Auken. Most recruiters are doing the best they can to help anyone who wishes to join by keeping them updated on the situation. “As far as I know MEPS opened again and I’ll be [shipped] off some time next month” stated an anonymous source. Hope still shines through for the 2020 seniors as they continue to reach their objectives.

Many students here at PHS are determined to pursue a career in the armed forces. “The military can provide a great foundation for my career and education”, said AJ Paez. AJ is among the countless seniors throughout the states that are dependent on the military’s advantages to help them achieve their set goals. “I want to go to college and afterward have a family on my own, the Air Force seemed like the best option for me…” stated by Hannah Van Auken. Hannah’s hope for a normal nuclear family after serving is shared commonly in not only the military lifestyle but for others as well. “ [I want] to set myself up [up] for the future….to get my independent,” a comment made by Caryna Ochoa. 

Although the year of 2020 has not been the greatest, everyone is making their efforts to help bring the light back into society. This virus has not stopped the seniors from becoming future defenders for the frontlines of America. I, as well as many others, am proud to see what will become of these strong, courageous, and daring young adults. Congratulations to the class of 2020!

The Disappearance of Don Lewis

By Victoria Chavez

Don lewisIn the wild world of the new Netflix’s new docuseries, The Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, Madness, lies a mystery of a missing man named Jack Donald Lewis. Jack Lewis, otherwise known as “Don” Lewis, was a native of Dade City, Florida. By 1981, he was a self-made millionaire through his real estate and used car businesses. Lewis was married to his first wife, Gladys Lewis Cross, and had three daughters and an adopted son. In January 1981, Lewis met Carole Murdock on Nebraska Avenue in Tampa, on a night when she fled her house after being attacked by her abusive first husband, Michael Murdock. Carole and Don began having an affair while both were still married. She became one of his many girlfriends and substantially grew his wealth by helping him buy and sell real estate in 1984. Lewis and Murdock divorced each of their spouses and married in 1991. The following year, the couple co-founded Wildlife on Easy Street, which is now called Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary for big cats in Tampa. Don and Carole clashed over how to run Wildlife on Easy Street. He wanted to breed the cats and operate it as a business, while she wanted it to be a charity. 

Don became unsatisfied with Carole as the fighting was more frequent during the time he would spend with her. Don would fly to Costa Rica very often to not only escape the bitter relationship at home but to also participate in the many affairs he had with the women in Costa Rica. Carole knew of this affair and wrote about her feelings about them in a journal she kept. She would also write about Don’s deteriorating mental state of mind. She claimed many workers would approach her and tell her that Don would say strange things that indicated he may have had Alzheimer’s disease. However, Don’s former personal attorney and a former business associate have claimed that the accusation was false. Then, in July of 1997, Don filled out a request for a restraining order against Carole, claiming she had threatened to kill him and had hidden his gun to prevent him from protecting himself; this request was rejected. He told Carole multiple times that he wanted a divorce but never went through with the idea. 

On August 18, 1997, Don Lewis disappeared after leaving his home to make an early-morning delivery around 6:00 a.m. Then, on August 20, his white 1989 Dodge Ram Van was found at the Pilot Country Airport in Springhill, Florida, 40 miles away from the sanctuary. At the time of his disappearance, Lewis owned several planes and was known to sometimes fly them even though his private pilot license was suspended. The keys to the van were found on the floorboard and the van had been parked for a couple of days. No evidence was found within the van.

 Although there are many theories surrounding this odd case and most of these cases point to only one person, Carole Baskin. The former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, who goes by the nickname Joe Exotic, has promoted an unsubstantiated theory that Carole was involved in the disappearance of Don. He believes that Carole killed him and fed his remains to their tigers. Exotic created a music video entitled “Here Kitty Kitty” that featured a Carole-lookalike acting out this widely believed theory. Through all of the confusion and suspense, one thing still remains sure: Don has not been seen for 22 years and his family is still hopeful that they can finally put this cold case to rest. 

 

Raiders Ready

By Victoria Chavez

raidersOn February 22, 2020, the Zodiac and Eaglettes teams competed in yet another raiders meet. This was the first meet the Eaglettes participated in for the season. “I’m proud that our team competed that day and especially because we didn’t give up…it was a team effort,” said cadet Staff Sergeant Faith Bernie. The fear and anxiety were plenty to go around between the teams but thankfully everyone pulled through safely and soundly. “I was really proud of both the males and females… they put in a lot of work, and it paid off.”, said cadet Captain Edward Uhl.

That day each team had to complete a rope bridge construction/crossing, cross country rescue, an obstacle course, a 5k run, and another small obstacle course. “I was nervous at first, but everyone gave me the motivation that I can do it…” said cadet Staff Sergeant Christian Gutierrez. The following cadets competed: Brendon Esquival, Jared Griego, Jessie John Guel, Simon Karsky, AJ Paez, Zachary Salmeron, Lorenzo Samaniego, Braxton Springer, Aries Uhl, Edward Uhl, Zander Zamora. Faith Bernie, Victoria Chavez, Jeanie Gomez, Natalia Jones, Ashley Mahavier, Yolanda Miranda, Guadalupe Quintana, Ashley Steed, and finally Hailey Woodson. 

The results are as follows: the males came in 4 out of 10 in the 5k run, they also came in 2 out of 10 in the rope bridge, and in total the team placed 5th out of the 10 schools who competed. The females did their best for their first time experience coming in 4th out of 5 schools.