Useless victim-alert system needs a major overhaul

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So how do you follow a week like the last one? Do things ever really return to normal or is it more like a hard left turn and complete change of course?

In 21 years at the Winters Express, the only day I can recall that rivals the difficulty of a murder happening at our front door was 9/11. On both days, we shelved our feelings and plowed through whatever we had to do to get the paper to press on time. There wasn’t time to stop and feel anything. That happens at around 3 a.m. while you’re staring at the ceiling.

In the midst of last week’s nightmare, I was working with Lauren Keene, a veteran Davis Enterprise crime beat reporter. Lauren writes more crime stories in a week than I do in a year. I was glad for some guidance. As for cold-blooded murder on a downtown Winters street, no one at the Express has had to cover that kind of story since 1913. Yes, it has been 100 years since this happened in Winters. May it be 100 more.

Not only is this type of story rare for us, our office was cordoned off inside the crime scene, and phone calls were pouring in from concerned citizens. Information was changing from moment to moment, and it couldn’t wait for two more days to get it out on newsprint. I was typing one minute, posting on Facebook the next. I was grateful for Lauren’s assistance, in particular for her story on the suspect’s criminal record. I couldn’t possibly have dug into those records and details as we were going to press, and Lauren’s story is the key to Leslie Pinkston’s murder.

William Carl Gardner III didn’t just waltz into our town one morning and shatter our lives. He was no stranger to the court system. Lauren’s story reveals that Gardner wiggled between the legal lines over and over and over, violating his probation and then simply posting bail. He was already facing felony domestic violence charges against a woman in Sacramento County from 2011 when he was arrested at the home of Carla Crane, Leslie’s mother, in January of this year for terrorizing both women and vandalizing Crane’s home.

Crane obtained a restraining order against Gardner, who was back in jail last month for violating his probation. He was released at the end of the day on Friday, Nov. 15, because he had fulfilled one of the terms of his probation: Enrolling in a treatment program for batterers.

Not attending, mind you. Not completing. Just enrolling.

The jail notified the Victim Information and Notification Everyday system about Gardner’s release, which in turn was supposed to email Crane to alert her that Gardner was free. However, the notification didn’t reach the VINE worker until Monday morning because the release came after hours, on a Friday. Maybe they should drop “Everyday” from their title and change the acronym to VINDBHO — Victim Information and Notification During Business Hours Only. I guess that’s not as catchy.

Sadly, by the time that email was sent to Crane, Leslie Pinkston was already dead. I sat down and talked with Crane (possible the strongest person I’ve ever met) and she told me that Gardner didn’t know where they lived anymore, because they’d moved. But he knew approximately where Leslie worked. So, he just waited in the parking lot across the street for her to pull up, first thing Monday morning, and hopped out of the car and gunned her down.

Beyond the fact that Gardner skipped through the legal system like a bed of posies, VINE is a joke. An email to notify victims of the release of someone threatening their lives? Excuse me? An email?

All of you who have email: How many times have you found an email in your spam filter two weeks later, or never received it at all, or one you sent bounced back, or maybe your computer crashed and it was lost before you opened it, or were on vacation and returned to find 3,000 unread emails and just gave up about a third of the way through, or maybe you just weren’t in the mood to wade through email and walked away from the computer? I probably have 200 unread emails right now as I type this. Hope my life doesn’t depend on any of them.

Really? People’s lives depending on email? And, only during business hours? For starters, how about no VINE-related releases on Fridays. Ever. And someone please inform the VINE folks that there’s simple technology that shows when an email is actually opened. Also, let them know that there’s this new thing called texting, where you can see on the spot if the text was seen or not. There’s also this wacky device called a telephone, where you can actually tell the victim that she’s in danger again. Not that there’s any appreciable protection from that, but hey, a nice little “Be afraid, be very afraid — sucks to be you, and have a nice day” call might be appreciated.

An email. Pathetic.

It must change. First off, sending an email is as meaningless as enrolling in treatment. Until that email is opened, there should be no release from jail. Period.  Further, restraining orders are junk. They only work on people who respect the law. Someone who has already assaulted another person has already shown he doesn’t. Those someones need to be microchipped. We microchip cats and dogs all the time, and it doesn’t harm them one bit. Inject those charged with domestic violence, assault and stalking with a GPS microchip. If he gets within a mile of the victim, a 911 call is triggered, and the criminal is easily tracked down and taken into custody until the trial. No bail. Just bars.

Oh, it’s inhumane, and it’s against our civil liberties, and the Constitution and wah wah wah!

Shut up.

Go tell it to Leslie Pinkston’s mother. Better yet, tell it to her little girl.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com

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6 comments
  1. Agree with everything except the chip. That’s a dangerous road to start down. Great in a perfect society, but once the first political dissident is chipped and tracked for disagreeing with the government, the camel is in the tent and standing on your chest.

  2. Agree with everything except the chip. That’s a dangerous road to start down. Great in a perfect society, but once the first political dissident is chipped and tracked for disagreeing with the government, the camel is in the tent and standing on your chest.

  3. “Inject those charged with domestic violence, assault and stalking with a GPS microchip. If he gets within a mile of the victim, a 911 call is triggered, and the criminal is easily tracked down and taken into custody until the trial.” …….. Perhaps the same thing could be accomplished by requiring someone who has a restraining order out on him to wear a GPS ankle bracelet? As Debra suggests with the microchip, if the wearer came within a mile of the protected subject, the person would be notified by an automated phone call of his presence. Likewise, if he somehow removed the ankle monitor, the protected subject would get the same call. At least then, she could be on alert. …….. And as to Alan Miller’s slippery slope worries, they don’t merit with GPS ankle monitors. Those have been used for decades and there is no reason to think they have suppressed political dissidents.

    1. Rich, we are in agreement. A chip is much harder to remove than an ankle bracelet. Less cumbersome too. As for Alan’s comments – I don’t proposed it for all convicts. Only those involved in domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking cases. Period.

  4. “Inject those charged with domestic violence, assault and stalking with a GPS microchip. If he gets within a mile of the victim, a 911 call is triggered, and the criminal is easily tracked down and taken into custody until the trial.” …….. Perhaps the same thing could be accomplished by requiring someone who has a restraining order out on him to wear a GPS ankle bracelet? As Debra suggests with the microchip, if the wearer came within a mile of the protected subject, the person would be notified by an automated phone call of his presence. Likewise, if he somehow removed the ankle monitor, the protected subject would get the same call. At least then, she could be on alert. …….. And as to Alan Miller’s slippery slope worries, they don’t merit with GPS ankle monitors. Those have been used for decades and there is no reason to think they have suppressed political dissidents.

    1. Rich, we are in agreement. A chip is much harder to remove than an ankle bracelet. Less cumbersome too. As for Alan’s comments – I don’t proposed it for all convicts. Only those involved in domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking cases. Period.

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