Archive for October, 2006|Monthly archive page

Happy Halloween!

I realize that some of you are waiting to hear about our trip to Chattanooga, but I’m just too swamped to deal with composing an entry about it right now. I’ve got to make a trip to the Pumpkin Patch, attend school Halloween parties, man a caramel apple booth at the Fall Carnival, assemble costumes, carve pumpkins, dig a grave (sort of), and buy candy — all in the next few days. There’s probably some other stuff that I’m forgetting about right now, not to mention all the regular domestic stuff that is piling up. I’m not sure who I relate to more — Ichabod Crane or the Headless Horseman. Probably both, alternately. So have a happy Halloween and I’ll see you on the other side!

Click this link to Carve a Pumpkin!

Advertisements

Breaking News: Michelle Gardner-Quinn

The body of missing University of Vermont student, Michelle Gardner-Quinn, has reportedly been found, but details are sketchy and reports vary as to the recovery site. Investigators have been excavating a construction site in a residential yard a few blocks from the jewelry store address where Michelle was last seen. Construction workers indicated that they were focusing on an area where concrete was poured on Monday.

Earlier, authorities had cordoned off at least half a block in a residential Burlington neighborhood several blocks south of where Gardner-Quinn was last seen. They were concentrating on a stately, three-story, red brick home, where there has been construction on an addition.A backhoe could be seen in the yard, but police were keeping a crowd of media well away from the scene and were declining to comment.

The Burlington Free Press, citing construction workers who declined to be identified, reported on its Web site that digging was to concentrate on a hole behind the house where concrete was poured on Monday.

WCAX reported that a man who had been a subcontractor on the job was the person whose phone Gardner-Quinn had used as she walked toward her dorm.

No arrests have been reported, but police have searched the vehicle of the man who loaned his cell phone. [Source: The Boston Globe]

 

In addition, a swimming hole near Richmond was also being searched today. Vermont’s WCAX-TV is reporting that a female body found near the popular swimming area of Huntington Gorge is that of Michelle.

A sad ending to an exhaustive search. Channel 3 News has learned that police have found the body of Michelle Gardner-Quinn, the missing UVM student.Official sources tell us that her body was found Friday near the Huntington Gorge in Richmond. We are told it was not in the gorge, but along Dugway Road.

 

Police have not yet confirmed that report but are expected to hold a press conference this afternoon.

Update: 4:15 pm, CT

It’s official:

Burlington Deputy Police Chief Michael Schirling says a woman’s body has been recovered in a town east of Burlington. He has confirmed that the remains are those of missing University of Vermont student Michelle Gardner-Quinn. [Source: KDKA.com]

CourtTV is reporting that police have released the name of the man seen in the video with Michelle Gardner-Quinn. He is 36-year-old Brian Rooney. He has been arrested on unrelated charges and is now a suspect in Ms. Gardner-Quinn’s death.

The Interactive Map has been updated with Dugway Road marked with placemark #8.

Duckett Command Center

As national media focus shifts to other missing persons cases, Team Trenton is taking a new tack in working to locate 2-year-old Trenton Duckett, missing from his Leesburg, Florida, home since August 26. Joshua Duckett has opened his own command center and set up a website — http://www.helpfindtrenton.com/— in an attempt to collect tips and boost public awareness of his son’s disappearance. Tips can be called in anonymously to Duckett’s hotline (1.877.TRENT65)as well as to local law enforcement. Duckett also plans to hire a private investigator as soon as funds become available.

For more information about Trenton’s disappearance, read this Duckett Timeline entry. Additional entries are accessible on the main page of this blog or by using the Categories menu in the right sidebar.

Michelle Gardner-Quinn

Michelle Gardner-Quinn was reported missing on Saturday, October 7, after failing to show up to a dinner date with her parents who were in town for Parents’ Weekend at the University of Vermont. She had been out with friends at a bar near campus the night before and was last seen around 2:15 am walking toward campus with a man her friends described as a “random guy”. Shortly after first hearing about the disappearance, a friend and I began discussing the reported details of the case. I chose not to write an entry because my own hopeful theory was that Michelle had gone missing voluntarily, perhaps in reaction to mounting stress in her academic and personal life. I saw no value in publicly discounting the plausible seriousness of the situation, preferring instead to keep an eye on reports and hope that Michelle would soon be found alive and well. Unfortunately, as details continue to emerge, it appears that my early speculation was wrong. I now believe that the abduction and/or demise of Michelle Gardner-Quinn is all too genuine. Burlington Police and the FBI are diligently gathering tips, collecting every grain of potential evidence, and following each lead in striving to locate the 21-year-old.

Wednesday, new information was released by the Burlington Police Department. Investigators are requesting help from the public in gathering information about a person who has become a “significant focus” of the investigation. Images captured by a jewelry store surveillance camera display Michelle walking eastbound on Main Street, in the company of the “random guy” she was reported last seen with by friends. The young man, who had earlier loaned her the use of his cell phone, is described as a thirty-something white male, 5′ 9″ to 5′ 11″ in height, weighing between 170 and 190 pounds and wearing dark blue jeans and a dark-colored zip-up fleece shirt. Police are not seeking to identify the man, but to locate anyone who may have seen him in the area that night. It appears that they are interested in determining where else this guy may have been on the night in question and whether he was seen at other locations with Michelle. In addition to the stills shown below, the Burlington Police Department has made available a segment of the surveillance video on their website. That page also contains links to press releases, photos of Michelle Gardner-Quinn, and press conference videos.

Earlier this week, police executed a search warrant at a home in Richmond, subsequently declaring that the residents thereof are not considered suspects in Ms. Gardner-Quinn’s disappearance. Neighbors described the couple in glowing terms, adding that they have “grandchildren of their own all over the place.” However, the search is indeed related to the investigation of the, as yet, unnamed man captured on camera accompanying her.

Thursday’s search spanned areas east of the city in Jericho and Richmond. Police had searched a house in Richmond earlier in the week and Tremblay said of the man seen in the video with Gardner-Quinn: “There is a connection to the Richmond home.” He did not elaborate. [Source: Rutland Herald]

Obviously, police have reason to suspect that he is involved in her disappearance and have evidence that he traveled to Richmond shortly after Michelle’s disappearance. In all likelihood, the man was identified by tracing back his number to the cell phone Michelle used to call her friend Tommy that night. The next logical step would have been to track any other calls and pings from that phone in the following days to ascertain the travels of the person of interest. The search for Michelle and any of her belongings was expanded to include Jericho, which lies along the Route 15 corridor between Burlington and Richmond. Reportedly, forensic evidence has been recovered, although police are not specifying the location of that recovery, and is currently being analyzed in a crime lab. In addition, some tip(s) or evidence has led investigators to two parks on Lake Champlain — North Beach and Oakledge — in their search for Ms. Gardner-Quinn.

Interactive Map

I have plotted the areas of interest on MSN’s Live Local maps. Click the Interactive Map link above and wait for the markers to load. Each marker has additional information that you can view by hovering your mouse cursor over the placemark. Some markers overlap and can be seen better by zooming in to street level. Please provide links to any additional articles of interest, as well as your own thoughts and theories, in the comment section.

Columbus Day

It’s Columbus Day, and I’m feeling adventurous. So I got to Googling around on the Internet and found out that The NIÑA is going to be in port at Chattanooga, Tennessee this month. My kids are fascinated with tall ships right now because they’re into all things pirate. I’d love to take them to see The The NIÑA firsthand. It won’t matter a lick to them that it’s only a replica of the original.

I also came across The Wonders of Rock City, which is just south of Chattanooga, at Lookout Mountain in Georgia. Looks like a grand place for an adventure, no?

Now if I can only talk my husband “HAL” into a trip on such short notice. I’m having flashbacks to our other foray into Tennessee. Once upon a time, in an October of yesteryear, we decided to see Memphis, Nashville, and Gatlinburg. (Well, it was my idea actually. HAL just happily went along with my spur-of-the-moment notion.) Clueless hicks that we are, neither of us had any idea that October is the busiest season of the year in the Great Smoky Mountains. HAL was dumbfounded when he learned that we couldn’t get a room in Gatlinburg because the leaves were changing. Yes, people come from far and wide to view the autumnal transmogrification every year. After spending half the night driving around, we ended up finding a room on the west side of Knoxville and returned to Gatlinburg the next day. Aside from that one little setback, we had a great time. Of course, we were childless then, making the driving around half the night a tad less troublesome. Reckon he’ll remember that little adventure less fondly and say, “No way!”?

Stand by and I’ll let ya know.

Update: 5:02 pm

Okay, you’re gonna love this. HAL suggested we borrow a travel trailer and go for it. We are the epitome of the blind leading the blind. He did have enough sense to hedge with, “We’ll talk about it tonight.” So, of the two of us, he might actually be the brighter bulb. Time will tell.

The Eubank-Duckett Saga

The Orlando Sentinel has published a comprehensive article detailing the soap opera-like chronicles of Melinda (Eubank) and Joshua Duckett. I’ve chosen not to excerpt any of it here because I feel that taking any part of it out of context would be unfair to the subjects. Read the entire article at this link:

From Teen Sweethearts to Bitter Foes.

The Sentinel has also provided a .pdf file of DCF documents pertaining to Trenton’s custody. There is a link to that file in the Sentinel’s left sidebar. Or you can click on this link that will take you directly to their .pdf:

Court and DCF Documents.

At this time, I won’t be excerpting anything from that file either. Suffice it to say, there is plenty of shame to go around for the trauma that Trenton endured during his short life. I have saved the file for publication in case it later becomes unavailable at that link.

And the Truth Comes Out

Just as with the forged threatening e-mail purported to be from Joshua, Melinda Duckett may have thought she had outsmarted everyone with a concocted abduction of her precious son Trenton, but it’s obvious now she’d never fooled anyone but herself. Investigators were skeptical about Melinda’s story from the word go, when she pointed the finger at her estranged husband and presented them with the infamous e-mail threat as proof that he was responsible for Trenton’s disappearance. At every turn, Melinda’s words and actions only served to reinforce their suspicions.

“She feigned cooperation, but she was uncooperative throughout the investigation,” said Capt. Steve Rockefeller of the Leesburg Police Department.Not only did investigators find fresh paint on Melinda Duckett’s apartment walls and baby pictures, including a sonogram, in the trash, investigators said they also found holes in any story Melinda Duckett tried to tell them, especially when they put her on a voice stress test machine.

“Joshua passed his voice stress test. And Melinda, the results on hers were indicated deception,” Rockefeller said. “That was definitely one of the earlier indicators that something was wrong with her story.” [Source: WESH.com}

 

Melinda was reportedly more than a little skittish in the face of polygraph examinations, balking at the opportunity to clear her name on more than one occasion. This revelation is in direct conflict with the statement of her attorney, Kimberly Schulte. During an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor, Ms. Schulte claimed that Melinda did not refuse to submit to a polygraph examination, insisting that she (Ms. Schulte) rejected the invitation on her client’s behalf.

The undisclosed whereabouts and activities of Melinda after leaving her grandparents’ Lady Lake home on Saturday afternoon continue to be the most problematic for investigators. It seems that those lost hours were a particular sore spot for Melinda, as well.

Leesburg police confirmed that at one point, she started answering questions about the Friday and Sunday on the weekend Trenton disappeared, but when they started asking her about Saturday, Melinda Duckett got up and walked out.“The time frame right after Saturday afternoon leading up until Sunday morning she was, she just didn’t seem willing to discuss. And at one point, she did get up and leave an interview,” Rockefeller said. [Ibid]

 

I’ve no wish to complain about investigators’ decision to release more information to the public. In my opinion, most law enforcement organizations have, until recently, been too reluctant to enlist the public’s help in investigating high-profile crimes. I understand the line of thinking behind that, and in many cases, it’s justified. In this case, I personally don’t yet have enough information to determine whether they should have done anything differently. Although I’m grateful to be apprised of more of the facts, I’m afraid of what the decision to release the information signifies — namely that Leesburg Police have exhausted all leads and are desperate to churn up new tips.

More than ever, the focus is on Melinda Duckett and her whereabouts from 4 pm on Saturday, August 26, until approximately the same hour on Sunday, August 27. And they want the public to know it. Hopefully, there is someone out there who can delve into his or her memory and come up with something that will lead them to Trenton. We can only hope that Melinda didn’t take that most important truth to her grave. One way or another, Trenton needs to be brought home.

Melinda Duckett Updated Timeline

Click Image to Enlarge

  • Blue placemarks represent the locations Melinda is known to have visited on August 26.
  • Green placemarks represent the locations Melinda is known to have been at or in the vicinity of on August 27.
  • Orange placemarks represent locations Melinda claims to have visited on August 27.
  • The Knight Lake location is where Teresa McAbee’s body was recoverd in 1987. No evidence ties Melinda to that location. It is only a theory discussed later in this entry.

 

June 6

  • Melinda completes and signs her will.

June 14

  • Melinda files for divorce from Joshua Duckett.

July 3

  • Melinda faked an email from Joshua to herself, threatening to kill her and Trenton.

    In part it reads:

    “I hate you because you ruined my life and took my son.”

    “I am going to hunt you and your damn son down one day and kill both of you.”

    “Years ago, you stole my heart and f–ed me over.”

    “I don’t even think Trenton is my son anyway and your (sic) going to pay for what you’ve done to my life. I want you to be put through torture.”

    “When I get my hands on your f—–(racial slur) a– you’ll regret what you’ve done ? and I’ll bury your son with you.”

    Referenced articles:

    MSNBC article
    Nancy Grace transcript 1 & 2

July 5

  • Melinda requests a protective order, based on the threatening e-mail.

July 13

  • A no contact order is issued, and Melinda is granted temporary custody of Trenton. Joshua is hereafter prevented from seeing or speaking to his son.

August 25

    8:12 pm

  • Melinda made the following comment on her friend Ryan’s MySpace page:

    Well, well…how was work and all? I just got back home…had a slight emergency today and then my friends called me up to their house and I participated in the great sport of beer-pong. Needless to say, my buddy and I lost…but this time I didn’t up dancing on the table…oh, that’s right, I didn’t mention that one, did I? Those were the wilder days…LOL. Anyway, hope all is good and your talking care…talk later on…I’m off to bed and turning that damn phone off because it’s been going off non-stop!

In hindsight, I find it odd that Melinda made a point of posting on a MySpace.com page (viewable to the public) that she was turning off her cell phone. Why mention it? She had made no other reference to her phone or of numerous calls being a nuisance. Was she setting up an alibi for why her cell phone, and consequentially, her whereabouts, were untraceable during the next 40 hours, with the exception of the 7 hours spent at her grandparents’ house?

August 26

    9:00 am – 4:00 pm

  • Melinda and Trenton spent a good portion of the day at her grandparents’ home. While there, Melinda reportedly did laundry while Trenton played, and the two took a long nap together.
  • At some point during the day, Melinda made plans with two male friends to watch movies at her apartment.
  • 4:20 pm

  • Melinda was apparently home at her apartment where she posted a comment on a friend’s MySpace.com page.
  • 5:25 pm

  • Melinda used a credit card to purchase gas at a BP station south of Leesburg.

    Investigators learned that a previously unknown credit card issued to Melinda Duckett was used to buy gas at 5:25 p.m. that day at the BP station at U.S. Highway 27 and County Road 48. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

Again, I emphasize that Melinda took pains to keep secret her whereabouts between the time she left her grandparents’ home on Saturday afternoon and her ATM transaction on Sunday morning. Why was that necessary, and where exactly was she? There were reports that Melinda and Trenton were seen by more than one witness in the Ocala National Forest the weekend little Trenton went missing. Police initially took Melinda at her word that she had tried to visit a firing range there on Sunday but became lost. An exhaustive search was carried out there, producing nothing of value in the search for Trenton Duckett. However, it hasn’t been definitively reported whether the sightings occurred on Saturday or Sunday. Police still consider the tips credible and have conducted subsequent searches of other areas in the park. Melinda was allegedly seen in a Leesburg business without Trenton around 8 am Sunday morning. It stands to reason that something may have happened to Trenton prior to that time. Police have expressed little hope of finding the toddler alive, but Joshua Duckett is keeping the faith, believing that Melinda “stashed” young Trenton somewhere to keep him from his father.

August 27

8:00 am

  • Melinda was reportedly seen in a Leesburg business without Trenton.
  • 10:49 am

  • Melinda withdrew $40 from a Leesburg ATM.
  • 11:15 am

  • A drive-thru server claims to have seen Michelle and Trenton at a Belleview Wendy’s before he was reported missing on August 27. Melinda came thru the drive-thru again about 20 minutes later without Trenton. **New info made available on 11/15/06.
  • 12:08 – 12:28 pm

  • Melinda was in the area of the Paddock Mall on SR 200 in Ocala. This is the first instance on record of Melinda’s cell phone use throughout the weekend. The 12:08 call was made to her friend, Chai-Wen Chen, who is the manager of a Rent-a-Center across the street from the Belleview Wendy’s where Melinda and Trenton were last seen together.
  • 12:30 pm

  • Call made from Wildwood cell tower.
  • 12:45 pm

  • Call made from Minneola cell tower.
  • Notice the 2 hours 57 minutes time gap here. The drive from Minneola to Tavares should have taken about half an hour — probably less considering Melinda’s tendency to speed. What was she doing during that nearly three hour span that apparently went unrecorded by her cell phone?

    In discussing the case at CrimeBlog.US, I speculated earlier that if Melinda wanted to implicate Joshua in Trenton’s abduction, she would probably dispose of his body in a location that held some significance for Joshua.


    If Melinda was trying to make Joshua look like the guilty party in their son’s abduction/possible murder, perhaps authorities should be searching the areas where Joshua’s father allegedly dumped his victims. I say “allegedly” because he has been convicted for only one of the crimes of which he is suspected. He sits on death row for the kidnap, rape, and murder of 11-year-old Teresa McAbee, but he is a suspect in at least two other murders. Teresa McAbee’s body was dumped in Knight Lake, near Mascotte, Florida. Mascotte is only a twenty minute drive from Leesburg, where Melinda and Trenton lived. Another likely victim is 14-year-old Jennifer Weldon, whose body was found near a phosphate mine in a remote area of Polk County. And a third possible victim is an unidentified young woman who was found in a water-filled pit near Lakeland. She was strangled about a year prior to Teresa McAbee’s murder.I’m not bringing this up to debate the guilt or innocence of Joshua’s dad. I just think that if Melinda wanted to pin the blame on Joshua, she might have left Trenton’s body at one of those locales because of the signifacance to his dad. BTW, Joshua was nearly two years old (very close in age to Trenton) at the time Teresa McAbee was killed.

    Posted on 11-Sep-06 at 1:13 pm

    The media made mention of the criminal history of Joshua’s father early on in the investigation. He is currently on Florida’s death row for the abduction, rape, and murder of 11-year-old Teresa McAbee. Her body was found floating at the edge of Knight Lake in Mascotte, where James Duckett was a rookie cop, the morning after she disappeared. Note the proximity of Mascotte to Minneola.

    Click Here For My Interactive Timeline Map

    In contrast to my speculation as to Mascotte, Melinda claimed to have traveled in the area of the Altamonte Mall, in Altamonte Springs, and the TD Waterhouse arena, in Orlando. She sketched out a map for her attorney depicting her route on August 27. It’s unclear whether the map is an honest representation of Melinda’s travels that day or another attempt to mislead investigators. There are no cell phone records to back up her claim. It appears that Melinda must have turned off her phone somewhere in the vicinity of Minneola , perhaps to prevent her whereabouts during that time from later becoming known. Why? The very fact that she tried to obfuscate her location calls into question the legitimacy of her declaration.

    All we know for certain is that at 12:45 pm, Melinda was near Minneola, and at 3:42, she was near Tavares. The three hours in between are as yet a mystery, and it seems it was Melinda’s intention to make it so.

      3:42 pm

    • Call made from Tavares cell tower.
    • 3:47 pm

    • Melinda in vicinity of the Bassville cell tower.
    • 4:00 pm

    • Melinda seen alone outside her apartment at Windemere Villas.
    • 6:40 pm

    • Melinda claims to have put Trenton to bed.
    • 6:55 pm

    • Melinda’s friends arrive to watch movies.
    • 9:00 pm

    • Melinda allegedly discovers that Trenton is missing from his bed. The window is open and the screen is slashed.
    • 9:19 pm

    • Police respond to 911 call.
    • Unknown time

    • One of Melinda’s male guests was observed putting bags of trash into the garbage bin outside the apartment complex before driving Melinda to the Leesburg Police Department for an interview. The bags were later recovered by police and found to contain pictures of Trenton, a sonogram, toys, a toy chest, food items, and other baby care articles.

    August 28

    • Joshua and Melinda were to appear at a scheduled hearing regarding Trenton’s custody.

    September 8

    • Melinda Duckett commits suicide with her grandfather’s shotgun in a closet at their residence. She reportedly left behind four notes, one of which was addressed to the Public. Police later said there were only three notes which could be characterized as suicide notes. It’s unclear if Melinda left a note for law enforcement officers, as well. They will only say that there are no notes that will lead them to Trenton or his demise.

    September 21

    • Police declare Melinda their primary suspect in the disappearance of Trenton Duckett.

    **Just as the timeline posted last week, this one will be updated as details become available. Both the satellite image, included in this entry, and the timeline map, linked above, have been updated, as well. 

    Duckett Update

    Police have accounted for more of Melinda Duckett’s whereabouts during the period of time after she left her grandparent’s home. Credit card records indicate that she bought gas at a BP station in south Leesburg at 5:25 pm on Saturday, August 26. Placing her at that location causes investigators to reconsider the notion that Melinda went to the Ocala National Forest, which is north of Leesburg.

    Read the article at WFTV.com.

    Rather than updating the existing timeline entry, I will add the latest to it and repost it as a new entry when I find the time to do so. If you come across any new articles, please post the url in the comment section of this entry. Thanks.

    Response to "The Babe in the Bunker"

    Hey Barbara,

    If you’re going to express an opinion on a given subject, it’s usually best to inform yourself of all aspects of the case first. Melinda Duckett is not all that you’ve made her out to be. This was a mother who had allegedly threatened to snap her baby’s neck, dangled him over water, squeezed him hard enough to cause him to scream, leaving marks on his chest, and held a knife to his little leg. This was a woman who concocted a hate-filled e-mail to herself, riddled with threats of violence and death, and hacked her estranged husband’s e-mail account to send it to herself. Then she promptly used it to request a protective order from the court. That protective order prevented Trenton and his father from seeing or speaking to each other throughout what will probably turn out to be the last two months of the little boy’s life.

    Furthermore, Melinda was not living with her grandparents. She had her own apartment — the apartment from whence Trenton was allegedly abducted through a slashed screen on his bedroom window. Oh, and by the way, Melinda Duckett immediately pointed the finger at Joshua Duckett, accusing him of taking the child and proffering the forged e-mail to support her accusation.

    As for the stresses in her life, you’re basing your evaluation on things that we’ve heard only from Melinda. Was she going to school full-time, or is that an exaggeration on her part? How many jobs did she have at the same time? She liked to throw around the number two, but it appears that she was having trouble keeping employment. Just to be thorough, let’s fill out the activities list: searching MySpace for Prince Charming, weekly beer pong competitions, target shooting with a shotgun, manipulating others into joining in her vendetta against Joshua Duckett. There are probably other things to add to that list, but that’s all I can come up with off the top of my head.

    The picture you painted of Ms. Duckett is worse than a whitewash. You omitted critical elements. Melinda Duckett was not a poor, put-upon, single mom being systematically mistreated by her estranged husband and the system. I guess the truth — that Melinda Ducket was a conniving, controlling, manipulative, and abusive woman who used her baby as a weapon of vengeance agaist his father — wouldn’t have been all that helpful in your endeavor to slam Nancy Grace though; would it?

    As for those women’s groups you’re trying to rally, they’d better be more discerning in choosing whom to hitch their wagon to. [Yeah, I ended that sentence with a preposition. So what?]