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True Crime Books by Jason Lucky Morrow


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Dark Bayou: Infamous Louisiana Homicides

Home | New Books | Dark Bayou: Infamous Louisiana Homicides

dark-bayou-louisiana-homicidesIf you’re from Louisiana or love Louisiana like I do, you’ll want to read this book. It’s from a great team of authors who know their history well. Great stories of murder and mayhem with a gumbo flavor.

This collection chronicles the most mysterious, bizarre and often overlooked homicides in Louisiana history. Drawing on contemporary records and, where available, the recollections of those who provide a coherent version of the facts, these mesmerizing tales detail some of the more gruesome episodes: the rise of the first Mafia godfather in the United States; the murder of two New Orleans police chiefs; the brutal murder of a famous New Orleans madam; the story of a respectable young woman who “accidentally” poisoned her younger sister and is a suspect in other family deaths; the ritual killing of blacks in southwestern Louisiana and eastern Texas; the mysterious death of a young housewife which still generates debate; and the demise of a local celebrity who believed in his own invincibility.

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Mug Shot Monday! Jake Vohland, Chicken Rustler, Poultry Pilferer, 1931

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Jake Vohland, Chicken Rustler, Poultry Pilferer, 1931

Since this is the week of thanksgiving, I wanted to work in a thanksgiving type crime. The best I could do was this poultry pilferer from 1931.

Jake-Vohland-Chicken-Rustler-1931Credit: Nebraska State Historical Society


In 1931, during the depths of the Great Depression, Jake Vohland attempted to steal chickens from Mr. and Mrs. Dale E. Stubblefield who lived near Shelton, Nebraska. The Stubblefields, however, had devised an ingenious homemade burglar alarm to protect their large chicken farm in Gibbon. They placed a mousetrap near the door of the chicken barn that rang bells in both their living room and bedroom.

Vohland unknowingly set off the burglar alarm on a dark night in March 1931. The alleged thief ran out of the chicken house refusing to stop when Mr. Stubblefield cried halt. In his attempt to flee the scene, the alleged thief dropped part of his booty and escaped with only ten chickens at a value of over $5.00 ($78 in 2015 when adjusted for inflation).

In his haste, the burglar did not stop for his car and made his getaway on foot. Mr. Stubblefield parked near the abandoned car and notified the sheriff (Buffalo County). The sheriff quickly determined the car belonged to Vohland and proceeded to his home. Vohland was placed under arrest despite his claims that the car was stolen by someone else for the purpose of the chicken house raid.

The jury did not believe Vohland’s story. He was found guilty of theft and sentenced to 1 year in the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

Credit: from the Nebraska State Historical Society


Jake with a shaved head and a craving for fried chicken.


Mug Shot Monday! Ronald O’Bryan: ‘The Candy Man,’ & ‘The Man Who Ruined Halloween,’ 1974

Home | Mug Shot Monday, Short Feature Story | Mug Shot Monday! Ronald O’Bryan: ‘The Candy Man,’ & ‘The Man Who Ruined Halloween,’ 1974
Ronald O'Bryan, executed for murdering his son with poisoned Halloween candy.

Ronald O’Bryan, The Candy Man, The Man Who Ruined Halloween, 1974. Executed in Texas in 1984.

On Halloween night, 1974, Ronald O’Bryan took his eight-year-old-son, Timothy, and his daughter, trick-or-treating with some other neighborhood friends near their home in the Deer Park suburb of Houston. Since there was a light rain falling, they only collected candy in a two-block area for half-an-hour before returning home.

As he went to bed, Ronald agreed to let both of his children eat one piece of candy before they went to sleep. They both chose a large “Pixie Stix” they had received.

“Thirty seconds after I left Tim’s room, I heard him cry to me, ‘Daddy, Daddy, my stomach hurts,’” Ronald later told reporters as he sobbed loudly. “He was in the bathroom convulsing, vomiting, and gasping and then suddenly he went limp.”

His son died ninety-minutes later at the hospital and by the next day, police had determined the Pixie Stix was full of cyanide. His daughter, five-year-old Elizabeth, who also chose a the same candy before going to bed, still had it in her hand the next morning—unable to open it because of the staples that kept it shut. It too contained poison.

News that a child had been poisoned to death exploded across Texas and the entire United States. One local detective working the case told an Associated Press reporter that parents should get rid of all the Halloween candy collected by their children. “It’s just not worth the risk,” the detective said. “If parents want their children to eat candy, let them go to the store and buy candy.”

Parents followed his advice and threw all of their children’s candy away and the event helped to forever spoil a once popular children’s holiday.

Ronald, an optician, aided police in their efforts to narrow down the location where the Pixie Stix were picked up. During their search, five other poisoned Pixie Stix were found with children who had also gone trick-or-treating with the O’Bryans.

Early in the investigation, Ronald’s “help” raised their suspicions. He couldn’t seem to locate the house although it was in a small area. They also learned that he had recently taken out several life insurance policies on both of his children, and that his son was insured for $30,000 (the 2015 equivalent of $145,000 when adjusted for inflation).

On Monday, November 4, Ronald O’Bryan was arrested for the murder of his son. Police were tight-lipped over their evidence but one week later a recorded grand jury hearing revealed there was not much doubt he was behind the murder. Two months before his son’s death, O’Bryan telephoned a friend who was a chemist asking about how he could get cyanide and how much would be fatal. When the chemist inquired why he was asking these questions, O’Bryan replied that he was just curious, and nothing more.

Then, a chemical salesman testified that O’Bryan tried to purchase potassium cyanide but the only size they had available was their typical bulk size of five pounds. Since that was too much, O’Bryan politely backed out of the sale.

On the night of Halloween, friends who went with the O’Bryans reported Ronald had gone to one particular house alone, and was seen returning with Pixie Stix which he gave to his own children, and their two children and another neighborhood child. For those attempted poisonings, O’Bryan was also charged with four counts of attempted murder.

And finally, Ronald’s own brother told the court that he “was a poor manager who had trouble keeping a job…and was in poor financial condition at the time of Timothy’s death.”

During his trial held in May, 1975, these witnesses and his own wife testified against him. Daynene O’Bryan told the jury that life with her husband bore a constant struggle with debt and financial pressure. Although they were behind on some loan payments, she revealed that her husband had bought $10,000 of accidental life insurance policies for both of their children. After Timothy’s funeral, she learned he had spent another $108 on premiums for two more polices valued at $20,000 each. When her husband began talking about how they were going to spend the money after their son had just died, she became alarmed. He wanted to pay off bills and then take a trip to Florida, she said.

The Associated Press captured her sentiment toward her husband during his trial. “Mrs. O’Bryan, testifying in a trial that could send her husband to the electric chair, appeared cool and without emotion. She spoke in a clear, steady voice and kept her eyes averted from her husband.”

Later, his insurance agent testified that Ronald called him within hours of Timothy’s death to begin the process of filing the claim.

During the defense’s case, character witnesses were called who testified that Ronald O’Bryan was “a sweet guy” who was always kind to children and attended church regularly where he donated his time.

“He was a very concerned parent, very sensitive their needs,” one of his coworkers told the court.

His attorney also tried to counter some of the more damaging claims by prosecution witnesses including his attempt to purchase cyanide, and his discussions of cyanide with coworkers. Later, during closing arguments, he pointed out that the prosecution was unable to prove his client actually purchased cyanide from any chemical company.

But it wasn’t enough and on June 3, 1975, “The Man who Ruined Halloween,” was declared guilty after the Houston jury deliberated for just forty-six minutes. The next day, the thirty-one-year-old former auxiliary police officer, optician, and future ex-husband was sentenced to die in the electric chair.

But by March 31, 1984, the execution method had changed to lethal injection. Eight years, nine months, and twenty-eight days after he was sentenced to die, Ronald Clark O’Bryan, the “Houston Candy Man,” and “The Man Who Ruined Halloween,” was pronounced dead at 12:48 in the morning. He maintained his innocence all the way to the end. In an interview before he died, the reinvigorated Christian said: “Because I have no guilt, I’ve really got nothing to worry about.”

The miracle he was hoping for never came.

In his final statement, he applied his faith to forgive those who were about to wrong him.

What is about to transpire in a few moments is wrong! However, we as human beings do make mistakes and errors. This execution is one of those wrongs yet doesn’t mean our whole system of justice is wrong. Therefore, I would forgive all who have taken part in any way in my death. Also, to anyone I have offended in any way during my 39 years, I pray and ask your forgiveness, just as I forgive anyone who offended me in any way. And I pray and ask God’s forgiveness for all of us respectively as human beings. To my loved ones, I extend my undying love. To those close to me, know in your hearts I love you one and all. God bless you all and may God’s best blessings be always yours. Ronald C. O’Bryan P.S. During my time here, I have been treated well by all T.D.C. personnel.

Outside the Huntsville, Texas, prison, employees from a local bar handed out Pixy Stix to the 200 to 300 people who had gathered outside the death chamber.


The Longest Prison Sentences Ever Served

Home | Uncategorized | The Longest Prison Sentences Ever Served
Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby

Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby, 66 years.

Ever wondered who has served the longest prison sentence in US history and how long it was? How about in the entire world? Who, how long and where?

And what was it like to give up more than six decades of your life? What happens to a person who serves 60-plus years in prison?

In an excellent, and very, very long article he began in 2010, and then updated over the next few years, historian Mike Dash gives us the answers. Since the article was updated, the information at the top is little off from what we read further.

The longest served prison sentence goes to Australian Charles Fossard who served 70 years and 303 days.

The top three in the United States were:
1 Paul Geidel (NY). 68 years, 245 days §
2 Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby (IN). 66 years, 123 days §
3 William “The Lipstick Killer” Heirens (IL). 65 years, 181 days

The article contains accounts from Geidel and Van Dyke Grigsby that you will surely find interesting.

Dash goes even one step further by uncovering who has served the longest sentence in each state, as well as New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Whether you are from Texas, Washington, Florida, Massachusettes, or Pennsylvania, you’ll find the answer with a story and in many cases, rare photos you’ll want to see.

Great article, great research and great reading for your weekend.




Mug Shot Monday! Cop Killer Frederick D. Fair

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Cop Killer Frederick D. Fair

Frederick D Fair, two time escapee and convicted cop killer of Patrolman John McDaniel in 1928.

On August 19, 1928, Atlanta Police Department Patrolman John McDaniel responded to a disturbance between two acquaintances. When Officer McDaniel attempted to arrest Frederick D. Fair, the principal instigator in the disturbance, Fair shot the forty-nine-year-old lawman in the chest.

McDaniel was transported to the hospital, but died three days later of his wound.

Fair was later apprehended, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned his conviction and he was tried a second time, again convicted of murder, and again sentenced to death.

On August 21, 1930, the suspect, along with another condemned murderer, escaped from the Fulton County Jail. He was recaptured on August 6, 1936, in Enid, Oklahoma, where he lived, worked and was married under the name Roy C. Wallace.

According to his ex-wife “Mrs. Wallace,” who divorced him shortly before he was identified by an Enid police officer through his fingerprints, she claimed he wasn’t that bad of a guy. “His only trouble is that he has outbursts of uncontrollable temper. At other times he was as kind and generous as could be.”

Fair was returned to Georgia where Governor Herman E. Talmadge commuted his sentence to life approximately two months later on October 14, 1936.

On May 22, 1938, Fair escaped from a prison work camp in Chattooga County. He was recaptured two weeks later in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Just before he was to be returned to Georgia, Oklahoma officials discovered that he was responsible for the attempted murder of a man and his wife in Hennessay, Oklahoma, (twenty-one miles south of Enid) just before he was recaptured the first time in 1936.

On August 9, 1938, he was convicted of two counts of attempted murder and sentenced to two concurrent 10 year sentences in the Oklahoma Penitentiary.

Patrolman McDaniel had been employed with the Atlanta Police Department for 17 years and was survived by his wife. Frederick Fair died in Atlanta, Georgia, in March of 1963.

Research Note: I could find no information about his Oklahoma conviction for attempted murder, or his time in an Oklahoma prison. However, I have sent emails and requested information from several state and city government sources and hope to have a more thorough update on this case in the future.

Officer Down Memorial Page for Atlanta Patrolman John E. McDaniel.

Photo Credit: [Photograph 2012.201.B0410.0175], Photograph, August 6, 1936; digital image, (http://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc196026/ : accessed June 24, 2014), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History, http://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Oklahoma Executioner Rich Owens Discusses His Long Career in 1948 Article

Home | Feature Stories, Rediscovered Crime News | Oklahoma Executioner Rich Owens Discusses His Long Career in 1948 Article

Rich Owens was the executioner for the state of Oklahoma from 1915 to 1947. In addition to being a guard, his took the position as executioner because the state paid him $100-150 for every man he executed.

During his life, he killed a total of 75 men: sixty-six of those were by execution, and the other nine were men he killed under various circumstances.

Below, he describes a prison escape by two inmates. They had snuck-up behind him, stabbed him in the back, left the knife in, and were going to walk him out the front gate. Here is his story of how he killed both of them with his own hands.

“By then I had my other hand loose. I grabbed that so and so by the hair and socked that knife in to the neck bone, nd I didn’t pull it out straight. I just ripped ‘er out and let ‘er slice clear across. Then I kicked him a couple of times in the mouth and said now die, you so and so and go to hell with the others.

“You ought of seen how that so and so looked,” he said.

“I went in the tool shed after that other one. He began to cry for mercy—Oh. Mr. Rich, oh, Mr. Rich, don’t kill me.

“I said, you so and so, I said I’d kill you if you didn’t kill me. I told you not ever to ask me for mercy. He jumped through the window and a guard shot him in the knee.

“He went down bellering and I finished him with a long-handled shovel. I sure smashed his brains out. Then I jumped up and down on his temple ’til I felt the skull crush in.”

Please click on this LINK to read the rest of the story which is available by .pdf only.


Photo Citation: Oklahoma Publishing Company. [Photograph 2012.201.B1046.0404], Photograph, November 22, 1933; (http://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc538212/ : accessed October 26, 2015), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History, http://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Mug Shot Monday! Serial Killer Herbert Mullin

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Serial Killer Herbert Mullin

Herbert-MullinHerbert William Mullin is a serial-killer who murdered thirteen people in California between 1972 and 1973. After he was voted most likely to succeed when he graduated from a Santa Cruz high school in 1965, Mullin begins to exhibit bizarre behavior that would have him in and out of mental hospitals several times over the next few years. As it turns out, Mullin was a paranoid schizophrenic whose primary delusion was that he could prevent earthquakes by “sacrificing” the blood of his victims to the earth. His birthday, which came on April 18, was the same date of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and Mullin believed this was significant. Before he began killing people, Mullin tried to self-medicate his mental illness with illegal drugs.

Among his thirteen victims were a twenty-four-year-old college coed, a catholic priest, and four young boys camping in a state park.

Mullin is serving his time at Mule Creek State Prison

A forty-two minute documentary about his case can be viewed below:


New Book: Blood Legacy – The True Story of the the Snow Axe Murders

Home | New Books | New Book: Blood Legacy – The True Story of the the Snow Axe Murders

In BLOOD LEGACY: THE TRUE STORY OF THE SNOW AXE MURDERS, James Pylant sheds new light on a tale of 20 shocking deaths fueled by greed, insanity and revenge.

Book Description

Blood-LegacyIn 1925 Texans were stunned when a teenager’s severed head was found in an abandoned farmhouse near the town of Stephenville. An investigation led to ex-convict F. M. Snow and the mysterious disappearances of his wife and mother-in-law.

But this shocking, bloody saga began 50 years earlier…

Beautiful, vivacious Samantha Jones had a penchant for dangerous men. Her teenage marriage to gambler Amos Smith ended when he was gunned down in a hit orchestrated by his wife’s alleged lover, who was lynched. The widow then married the abusive Bill Olds who was later arrested for theft, forgery and murder.

Violence stalked the next generation when Samantha’s daughter, Maggie Olds, was twice widowed with the murders of her second and fourth husbands. Yet, Maggie’s unfortunate choice for a fifth husband, F. M. Snow, led to a gruesome, triple tragedy.



Mug Shot Monday! The George Tisdale Case, 1911-1925

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! The George Tisdale Case, 1911-1925

The George Tisdale Case

GeorgeCTisdaleThe case of George Tisdale, convicted in 1911 for second degree murder and sentenced to 10 to 15 years in federal prison, reveals a deplorable side to the prison justice system at that time. The story below  comes from the August 1926 edition of the publication, The O.E. Library Critic. The article details how Tisdale was forcibly committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington DC, the oldest insane asylum in the country, by McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary officials where he was held past his release date without due process. The likely reason – the hospital was paid an allowance by the federal government for each patient. More patients = more money.

One attempt by a lawyer to have him released by writ of habeas corpus succeeded, but instead of being freed, thugs from the insane asylum entered the courtroom and forcibly kidnapped Tisdale who was then hauled back to the hospital under the pretense of “observation.” They had already been observing him for thirteen years. Tisdale was eventually released after a congressman intervened on his behalf.

The horrors of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital have been well-documented during the 20th Century.

The Tisdale Case – The O.E. Library Critic, August, 1926, pages 1-3.

In 1911 an Alaskan miner, George C. Tisdale, took part in a miners’ brawl in which a man was killed.  Tisdale surrendered himself to the local United States marshal, for criminal justice is administered in Alaska, as a territory, not by locally chosen officials, but by the United States Department of Justice, was tried and sentenced to the Federal Penitentiary at McNeil Island.

After two years residence in this prison Tisdale was transferred to Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital for the Insane in the District of Columbia [Washington DC] on recommendation of the prison alienist.  Whether this recommendation had a sound basis or not I do not know.  It is a notorious fact that inmates of Federal prisons who are too persistent in their attempts to secure their liberty, or who know too much about inside affairs, and who thus make themselves annoying to or feared by the officials, are frequently gotten out of the way by sending them to Saint Elizabeth’s “for observation” as to their sanity.  This serves a double purpose; it protects the prison officials from exposure, and it enables the asylum authorities, who are in collusion with the penal powers, to say that the prisoner is “dangerously insane” and so to hold him incommunicado and so prevent his telling tales to his friends or taking legal measures for his relief.  Any little eccentricity, such as inclination to doubt the infallibility of the courts, is enough to afford a plausible pretext, plausible enough for a prison doctor under the thumb of the warden.  You won’t believe that possible, but it is a fact, and you shall see presently.

Tisdale was still at Saint Elizabeth’s department for the criminal insane on October 4th, 1921, the date on which his original sentence for murder expired.  One might have expected, therefore, that he would be discharged in the usual manner as with other prisoners, and allowed to go home, or at least that the usual discharge would take place but that if he was really insane, he would be temporarily held until a court order of commitment as a lunatic could be secured, as the law requires, a process which would involve definite proof of insanity to the satisfaction of the court.  Even if that were done, he should be removed from the noisome (noisy) Howard Hall, the walled prison within the precincts of Saint Elizabeth’s, and given such restricted freedom as other non-criminal inmates enjoy.

Nothing of the sort happened.  Tisdale was not released; he was not brought into court for a hearing on his mental condition; he was not transferred to the status of a non-criminal patient.  No, he was just held and treated as a criminal, despite the fact that his sentence had expired.

For four years this man, who had paid the penalty of his crime, if crime it was, was held under the status and all the disabilities of a criminal.  Meanwhile another person, a fellow prisoner in Howard Hall, who was just as sane as you or I, had made the acquaintance of Tisdale and learned of the predicament in which he was, thousands of miles from home and without a friend.   This person was more fortunate and had managed to secure his liberty.  He interested others in Tisdale’s case, and a local welfare worker, Mrs. Eldred, attempted to secure  a writ of habeas corpus for Tisdale, the effect of which would have been to have him brought into court, and the asylum authorities required to show why they were detaining him.  Not only was the writ dismissed by the local court without a hearing, at the instigation of Dr. William A. White, the superintendent of the asylum, but an order was issued prohibiting Mrs. Eldred from entering the institution.  A second time an application for a writ was made, this time by our friend John A. Savage, [a lawyer] who actually succeeded in having Tisdale brought into court, and freed on the ground of illegal commitment and illegal detention, and as being of sound mind.

But the Saint Elizabeth’s people were not through with him.  Disregarding the action of the court, bullies were sent from the asylum, who grabbed Tisdale in the court room and carried him back to prison under the pretext of “holding him for observation,” and that, mind you after they had already had him under observation for thirteen years!

Called on by a member of Congress who had interested himself in Tisdale’s cases to explain his action, the superintendent of the asylum, by this time swelled with conceit of his own importance and ability to disregard the law, replied with an important letter, which, however, did not settle the congressman.  The latter took the case in hand and succeeded in getting Tisdale discharged, after illegally held for four-and-a half years.

Meanwhile, the man who had befriended Tisdale in the first place was subjected to persecution from another governmental source, the post office department.  Post office inspectors apparently opened his mail, and I myself have received complaints from various correspondents that they had been annoyed by communications from the post office department asking to be informed confidentially what relation they had had with this gentleman. Speculation as to the reasons may be premature, but may be surmised that those whom he was opposing in the Tisdale and other cases had endeavored to implicate him in a charge of using the  mails to defraud, and thus to head off his activities in behalf of the unjustly oppressed inmates of Saint Elizabeth’s asylum.

Why is it that the authorities of Saint Elizabeth’s seem so determined to get and to hold on to patients, whether legally or illegally?  That, to, can be but a matter of surmise only.  It has been suggested that as the institution gets an allowance for each patient, every person they can detain is a permanent source of revenue.  That Tisdale was sane at the very time he was prevented from seeing his advisors, on the ground that he was dangerous, there can be no question.  Such an occurrence can follow only either as the result of grossly incompetent management or of motives which, seeing that they involve disregard of well-known legal provisions and result in a person in sound health and under no criminal charge being held as a convict, can be regarded as little short of criminal.

“The Tisdale Case,” The O.E. Library Critic, August, 1926, pages 1-3.


Murder in Suburbia, Disturbing Stories from Australia’s Dark Heart, by Emily Webb

Home | New Books | Murder in Suburbia, Disturbing Stories from Australia’s Dark Heart, by Emily Webb

Murder-in-SuburbiaWhen I’m looking for a true crime book to read, I like to jump into crimes I never knew about. If you’re an American reader with the same passion, then you will enjoy Australian True Crime writer Emily Webb’s book, Murder in Suburbia: Disturbing Stories from Australia’s Dark Heart.

You know that country Australia. It’s like a hot version of Canada, and a sexier version of England. Sorry England, but they have the beaches and climate for it.

Webb is a gifted writer who presents fascinating cases that adhere to her theme – Murder in Suburbia. Reading this book, I am reminded that it is just a matter of time before we are all brutally murdered in our homes.

This book has more than twenty examples of horrible crimes from Australia. It also features plenty of examples of what I enjoy most when reading a true crime book: a bad guy that you just love to hate. The sadistic, horrible killer that makes you think: hmmmm, maybe waterboarding isn’t such a bad idea.

If you thought living in the suburbs meant that “it can’t happen to me” – this book will make you think again.

Emily-WebbAbout the Author: I have always been intrigued by crime and have been an avid true crime and crime fiction reader since I was young. I became a journalist because a) (I’m a sticky beak) I like to know what’s going on and b) I absolutely love news, newspapers, radio and I knew it was what I always wanted to do. (If I wasn’t a journalist I’d want to be a librarian.)

My first true crime book is called MURDER IN SUBURBIA – DISTURBING STORIES FROM AUSTRALIA’S DARK HEART (a case file book of Australian murders). The book is published by The Five Mile Press. I interviewed several victims of crime for the book and can’t thank them enough for their time.


I live in Melbourne, Australia with my husband and two daughters. I work as a journalist for Leader Community Newspapers.