True Crime Thursday – Assault with a Deadly Turkey

by Debbie Burke


True Crime Thursday always falls on Thanksgiving Day. That gives me a great opportunity to search out crimes related to the holiday.

Here are the top six crimes committed on/around Thanksgiving:

  1. Domestic violence – Long-simmering family tensions, often combined with alcohol, can turn violent, like this case of a woman who stabbed her half-brother with a two-tined carving fork.
  2. Speeding and traffic offenses – Although the period between Christmas and New Year’s sees the most traffic, Thanksgiving comes in second with an estimated 55 million travelers on the road.
  3. Driving while under the influence – Binge drinking often starts on the appropriately named “Blackout Wednesday” and continues over the four-day weekend.
  4. Theft – Retail thefts and thefts from vehicles spike during the holidays but cargo theft also rises. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a particularly busy day for thieves because truck drivers often leave loads unattended while they go home for the holiday.
  5. Disorderly conduct – While most of us are eating the bird, some are flipping the bird, which could mean a charge of disorderly conduct in Texas.
  6. Vandalism – This crime category includes egging cars and houses, graffiti, breaking windows, stealing or destroying decorations, and other low-grade mischief most commonly committed by juveniles. Kids, please stay home and have another piece of pie instead.

In case your turkey doesn’t thaw in time to cook, here’s a great alternate use for a frozen bird:

In 2008 in North Carolina, a man stole money from a gas station then assaulted a woman while trying to jack her car. A Good Samaritan grabbed a frozen turkey from the woman’s groceries and clobbered the attacker on the head several times. The attacker fled with the woman’s car and crashed into several vehicles. He was later arrested, treated at a hospital for serious head injuries, and charged with numerous felonies.

To wrap up on a positive note, here’s a photo of volunteers working to ensure a Happy Thanksgiving for service members during the annual Turkey Drop at Fort Lewis McChord Air Force base in Washington.

Annual Volunteer Turkey Drop
Photo credit: Joint Base Lewis McChord

Hope your Thanksgiving is crime-free!

TKZers: What are you thankful for?

I give thanks for TKZ’s community that generously shares their knowledge to help other writers!


True Crime Thursday – Wrong Number Text Scam

Photo credit: Christian Wiediger, Unsplash

By Debbie Burke


You receive a text message on your phone that is clearly meant for someone else. The sender must have accidentally hit a wrong number and the person the message was intended for didn’t receive it.

It sounds important, perhaps a doctor’s office trying to reach a patient, a family member with an emergency. Or it could even be good news like a promotion or award.

Naturally, you want this important—but misdirected—message to go to the right person.

What do you do?

You could call or text the number back and explain that you received the message by mistake, and you want to let them know so they can contact the right person.

But should you do that?

According to the FBI, no.


Because “wrong number text” scams are on the rise.

When you return the message, you’re thanked profusely. Poor Aunt Tillie is in the hospital and if you hadn’t taken the time to let them know, Aunt Tillie could pass away without seeing her beloved niece or nephew.

They continue the conversation and pretty soon you’re texting like old friends. Therein lies the risk.

The “person” you’re communicating with could be a scammer or even a bot programmed to deliver appropriate-sounding responses.

According to the FBI: “The scammers behind the wrong number text messages are counting on you to continue the conversation.  They want to exploit your friendliness.  Once they’ve made a connection, they’ll work to become friends or even cultivate a remote romantic relationship.  It’s all a ruse, designed to get you to relax your mistrust so you’ll be more susceptible to falling for their scam, such as a cryptocurrency investment or many others targeting victims.”

What should you do if you receive a text meant for someone else?

The FBI advises, “Don’t respond.”

It’s a sad world when common decency, kindness, and courtesy are turned against people and used to take advantage of them. But that’s where we are.

Watch out for older family and friends who often fall victim to scams like this.

First Page Critique: A Death In Vegas, And It’s Not The Corpse

By PJ Parrish

Today’s submission is a second attempt. I read the first draft of this a couple years back and I thought it was a hot mess back then. We didn’t print it here because I thought the writer needed a second chance. So here is the new version. Give it a read and we’ll talk. The writer calls this a light mystery with serious intent.


It’s not easy starting your life over when people think you murdered your husband and got away with it. Especially in a place like Morning Sun, Iowa.

The folks in Morning Sun — there’s only about four hundred of them — don’t have much tolerance for weird people, especially a rattlebrained housewife who tries to bail out of her marriage after a couple of little marital “tiffs.”

But I was born and bred in Morning Sun, and on that Fourth of July when my husband Brad came at me with the Ginsu knife we had just bought off a late-night infomercial, I didn’t figure I had a lot of options.

The police believed I killed him. My neighbors believed the police. My relatives believed the neighbors. But fortunately for me, the jury didn’t believe any of them.

So I walked. Actually, I ran.

Three thousand miles to be exact, all the way to Las Vegas. I had to get out of Morning Sun and I figured Las Vegas was a good place to reinvent myself. It’s the kind of town where everyone takes big chances. It’s the kind of place where dwelling on the past is about the only thing that’s really a sin.

Like I was doing now.

I rubbed my neck, pushed Brad out of my head and myself out of my chair. My Payless pinchers were where I had kicked them off when I came back to the office and hour ago. I glanced up at the surveillance monitor. So was Mr. Cranko. He was still planted like a Buddha at blackjack table 15, his sausage fingers ruffling his chips, the ash of his Marlboro about to fall to the green felt.

A tap on the door drew my eye to the door. Pete, my night manager, came in and tossed a yellow paper on my desk.

“Hey boss,” he said. He glanced up at the monitor. “How much is Cranko in?” he asked.

“Twenty-seven thousand,” I said.

Pete shook his head. “How does a Searchlight plumber get that much to play with?”

I shook my head even though I knew Cranko was a meth dealer. Half the lizard people in the desert were. I looked down at the yellow paper.

“How many?” I asked, giving the paper a poke.

Pete shrugged. “Just two. One for panhandling. The other for soliticting.”

“Male or female?”

“We couldn’t tell.”

Okay, we’re back. What is the basic problem here? C’mon, I know you all pay attention when we preach about this at The Kill Zone.

Yup, that’s right. Too much backstory. Too much thinking, remembering, musing, regretting. I wish I had enough room here to show the original version because this is actually much better. But this still isn’t ready for prime time. The protag’s past is interesting, but it’s just that — past tense. We’re already about 350 words in and nothing much is happening IN THE PRESENT. Sure, we get some dialogue and I suppose Pete coming in and interrupting the protag’s thoughts might pass for “action”. But it is interesting? Where is the disturbance in the norm, as James always pleads for?

Okay, true confession. My sister Kelly and I wrote this. It was one of our freshman attempts many many years ago. I found it while cleaning out the hard drive the other day and we decided to drag it out, hit it with the paddles and see if it could be resusitated.

Sigh. I dunno. I really like this protag and the arc of the story we wanted for her — she’s trying hard to make up for some bad life decisions, she’s in a dead-end job in Vegas, and she can’t find a new road forward. Her arc involves not just reinventing herself but also rebuildingg a badly damaged relationship with her dad. But this first chapter is fatally flawed because our desire to impress you with her backstory is getting in the way of the forward motion. SOMETHING HAS TO COMPELL HER TO CHANGE.

But no. We go on for about seven more pages describing the drab old-fashioned casino where she works, her sad attempts to start dating again, and how envious she is of the glamorous new casino, The Monolith, opening next door. So she opens her window and watches the klieg lights, the red-carpet crowds next door. More thinking, regretting, sighing…

Then, guess what happens at the end of chapter 1? Here it is:

I started away from the window.
That’s when I heard the scream.
A second later, I heard the thud of something against metal. My first thought was that something had fallen on the Dumpster in the alley.
But things, inanimate things, didn’t scream.
I went back to the window, and looked up. Nothing but the klieg lights waving like windshield wipers against the navy blue sky. I forced myself to look down.
It was so close to my open window, I could smell the blood.

To make a too long story short, a showgirl has fallen off the roof of the Monolith. Or was she pushed? Well, that’s where the story — and our protag’s story — finally begins to come alive.  Here’s the opening of Chapter 2:

I knew she was dead, but her eyes spoke to me.
They were green, probably from contacts she didn’t need, but an emerald green nonetheless. A red and gold sequined headdress covered her blonde hair, and her long legs were contorted under her. Her black fishnet stockings were caught on the chain-link fence like a giant spider web.
I watched as red feathers floated down, one settling on her forehead, right next to the line of blood that ran from her ear.

So, why am I sharing this? Not for sympathy. We know that if we want to do something with this story, we have a lot of work to do. I’m sharing this so you really understand a couple things about effective openings:

  1. Yes, your character’s backstory is important because it provides a context for their arc in your present-tense plot. And you want the reader to care about your protag. BUT…something in the present must trigger the protag’s journey out of the past.
  2. Act first and explain later. I think our opening paragraph is fine — it’s a good tease. But we need to find a way to get to the catalyst event — the dead showgirl — more quickly and weave our protag’s backstory into the plot later.
  3. Don’t waste time on dialogue and secondary character that do nothing to move your plot along. This means the stuff with Pete and Mr. Cranko has to go. They add nothing. Remember: Your real estate is precious in the early pages. Don’t clutter it up with flaccid dialogue and spear-carriers.
  4. Make your protag pro-active not re-active. Part of our character arc is that our protag has always dreamed of being a private detective. But we need to hint at this in chapter 1. Right now, she’s boring. We need to juice her up.
  5. First person is tough. Everything is filtered through one POV and man, if your character is moping and groping, who’s gonna care? If you chose first person, make your narrator sing. Even if it’s off-key at first.
  6. Don’t make this common mistake: Spend time, pages and energy world-building the norm, then when something bad happens to disrupt it, the reader will care even more. Nope. Hint at a norm but don’t belabor it. Get your plot moving and later, you can layer in the “norm” that has been lost.
  7. And find a way to tell us your protag’s name. Big duh for us….we don’t tell you her name until page 23.

Whelp, there you have it. Oh, I forgot one more thing I’d like you to take away from this lesson, maybe the most important thing:

8. Everyone writes crap. We had already published two of our Louis Kincaid series books when we wrote this. What’s weird is neither of our Louis books had these flaws. What happened to us? [I am laughing as I write this] Shoot, I don’t know. I think we got so enamoured of our character and her sad little life back in Morning Sun, Iowa, that we forgot that we needed a plot. In trying to save her, we lost our story. So when you do write something bad — and you will — set it aside, let it bake a few weeks, months or years in the drawer or hard drive. Then pull it out and give it a whiff.

Does it smell like cheese? Then it is. Admit it and try again. To paraphrase Woody Allen, sharks and writers die if they don’t keep moving.


True Crime Thursday – Man Walks into FBI Office and Confesses to 44-Year-Old Murder

By Debbie Burke


Susan Marcia Rose 1972 high school yearbook


On October 30, 1979, a red-haired 24-year-old woman named Susan Marcia Rose was murdered in a building under renovation on Beacon Street in Boston. Earlier that night, she had been at a nearby skating rink. Cause of death: multiple blunt injuries to the head, skull fractures, and brain lacerations from a hammer. She had also been raped. Semen was collected at the crime scene and preserved.

In 1981, a man was tried for her murder and found not guilty.

Rose’s case remained cold for 44 years.

In August 2023, John Michael Irmer, 68, walked into an FBI office in Portland, Oregon, and reportedly confessed to killing several people, including a red-haired woman he’d met at a skating rink sometime around Halloween, 1979.

He further stated he had earlier been in prison for killing a drug dealer in San Francisco. At that time, his DNA was entered in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) that is accessible to all law enforcement agencies. When Irmer was released in 2012, he expressed surprise that the Boston police weren’t waiting to pick him up.

After his confession to the Portland FBI, Irmer was transported to Boston. On September 11, 2023 he was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court for murder and aggravated rape. He’s being held without bond.

Susan Marcia Rose’s murder may never be explained but at least the killer now faces justice.

True Crime Thursday – Sentenced to Give Away Books?


By Debbie Burke


This is a particularly weird case that mystifies me. I’m eager to hear what TKZers think about it.

Recently, in an author blog, there was a link to “ANTIBOOKCLUB.COM.” Clicking on it brought up the following letter:

Welcome to Submission Free Download Project

Dear Critic / Prospective Reader,

You do not know me.

Soon you may.

The attached file is yours to keep and read.

I will now explain why.

I took other people’s books and did not provide them with proper compensation in return. I have been instructed to write that sentence as part of my sentence. The punishment does not require me to write it five hundred times on a blackboard like a student in violation of classroom codes of conduct. I only need write it once. But I have to do more than write it. Since I took other people’s books, I must give my own.

When I wrote Submission, my chronicle of how various books written by others came to be in my possession, I did not intend for it to be published. It was a private diary. Circumstances beyond my control put it in the hands of others. I was told that it would be published and there was nothing that I could do to stop it. “Oh, well,” I said, shrugging. Maybe I’d see a few euros—a few bucks—from the deal. I was still thinking primarily of myself. Then came the judge’s intervention, and a set of orders. The most important one is the one that is guiding this message, and the attached file: it obligated me to send my manuscript out to others for free. The file is a “PDF,” which stands for “Portable Document Format,” but might as well stand for “Pages Delivered Freely,” because that it what is happening.

And so I reprint the other sentence that I have been compelled to write: Please enjoy this book, Submission, free of charge.


A Chastened

Filippo Gannatore


At the end of his letter, there was a form to click to download the .pdf and add it to a shopping cart, price $0.

I didn’t click on the link because I’m cautious about unknown links. I do not know what this one leads to.

He also included an email address “for press inquiries.”

Is this a marketing gimmick? Is he hoping the NY Times will review it? Does he think Hollywood will call about film rights?

Was there an actual legal case about stealing authors’ books? Had a judge really issued an order that compelled him to give his book away for free?

Curiosity piqued, I consulted Mr. Google. The only other mention of this particular book entitled Submission was on GoodReads with a three-star rating but no reviews. No Amazon listing. No information about Filippo Gannatore. No court case I could find.


TKZers, please chime in.

Do you believe a crime—presumably the theft of intellectual properties—was committed?

If a judge ordered him to give away his book for free, why?

Is this supposed to be restitution to authors whose works were taken without proper compensation? If so, how do the aggrieved authors receive any benefit?

If this is a marketing gimmick, what do you think of it?

True Crime Thursday – A Welcome Guilty Verdict

By Debbie Burke


In September, 2021, I wrote about the murder of Matt Hurley, the manager of a gym I belonged to. Although I was there that day, I was not an eyewitness. Here is the original post.

On July 13, 2023, almost two years after Matt’s murder, a jury in Kalispell, Montana found the shooter, Jonathan Douglas Shaw, 37, guilty of deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide.

When I read the headline, I was elated that Matt’s family received a small measure of justice.

Yet that pale victory doesn’t begin to fill the loss caused by his death.

I didn’t know Matt well, but he was always friendly and helpful. By age 27, he’d earned the responsible position of general manager. The gym ran smoothly under his leadership. He was that rare boss loved by those he supervised. This photo captures Matt’s personality.

Then, on September 16, 2021, everything changed.

For weeks, Jonathan Shaw had been living in his truck and trailer in the gym parking lot. He’d purchased a membership that gave him access to showers and restrooms. At the trial, an employee testified his “creepy” behavior caused her and patrons to feel uncomfortable. He was warned he could not live there but he remained anyway.

On that Thursday, Matt and the assistant manager approached Shaw in the parking lot to refund his membership fees and tell him he could no longer stay there.

They were walking away when Shaw pulled a nine-millimeter handgun and followed them. He said to Matt: “You’re gonna die now” then shot him four times, fatally wounding him.

The assistant manager ran for help, calling 911.

A gym patron, William Keck, was also in the parking lot. He retrieved his own weapon from his truck and ordered Shaw to drop his gun. Shaw did not. Shots were exchanged. One of Shaw’s shots wounded Keck in the thigh. Despite his injury, Keck fired shots that incapacitated Shaw and neutralized the threat.

Shaw had pled not guilty to the deliberate homicide of Matt Hurley and the attempted deliberate homicide of William Keck. 

During the four-day trial, defense attorneys called only one witness: Shaw.

Shaw made several claims that conflicted with other testimony and evidence, as well as his own statements.

He claimed he did not know who the two men approaching him were. However, evidence contradicted him.

Daily Inter Lake quote:

Shaw said he did not know Hurley, [Deputy County Attorney] Frechette pointed out, but investigators found records of online searches including both Hurley’s given name and Fuel Fitness in the query from the day before the shooting.

Shaw claimed he didn’t know they were gym employees, although Matt wore a uniform shirt with the gym logo.

When they attempted to give him an envelope containing a refund of his gym membership fees, the assistant manager testified that Shaw refused the refund and demanded more money. That indicates Shaw not only knew who they were but also the reason that they approached him.

Shaw claimed self-defense, saying he believed they were armed and going to kill him. He admitted he never saw any weapons on them yet stated he was in fear for his life. They only had mobile phones.

Initially Shaw said he couldn’t hear a conversation between Matt and the assistant manager but later stated he heard them “whispering about him in insulting and possibly threatening terms.” 

He also claimed that coronary artery disease rendered him “unable to run away.” Yet he later said he “ran back” to his truck.

The defense attorney gave this closing statement: “The evidence is [Shaw} acted with justification. He was mistaken but his actions were reasonable in light of the circumstances.”

The jury didn’t buy Shaw’s justifications nor the defense’s closing statement. A little more than four hours after beginning deliberations, they returned with guilty verdicts on both counts.

Shaw will be sentenced on September 21, 2023, two years plus a few days after he murdered Matt and attempted to kill Keck. He faces a prison sentence up to 100 years.

Shortly after Matt’s death, coworkers wanted to memorialize his positive example and had t-shirts and buttons printed that read “Be Like Matt.” Almost two years later, his family, friends, co-workers, and even casual acquaintances, like myself, still feel the loss. Our community is poorer and sadder without him.

TKZ regular Brian Hoffman responded to my original post with an insightful comment: “It’s also a good reminder to those of us who write crime that the real experience and the fictional one are different.”

Yes, they are different.

In my books, I’ve created some truly despicable fictional villains. Fortunately, on the page, I can dispense justice that fits the crime.

But Matt’s murder isn’t fiction and I can’t rewrite Shaw’s fate.

The guilty verdict is welcome but the deep, empty hole remains in the hearts of those who cared for Matt.  

Neglecting to Make My Deadline

By Elaine Viets

When the first day of June rolled around, I realized my next Angela Richman, death investigator mystery was due at my London publisher on August 1.
AUGUST 1! A day I was sure would never arrive when I signed that contract two years ago. But here it was, rushing toward me like a runaway freight train.
I had eight weeks to finish my novel. Eight weeks. And I was on Chapter 10 – a long way from the end. If I wanted to finish on time, I’d have to write 4,500 words a week.
I could do that. If I switched to extreme writing mode. In other words, “neglect everything else.”

Good-bye to my social life. No parties, no leisurely lunches, no long phone chats or Zoom visits. My friends know they’ll see me in August.

No conferences and drinks at the bar with other writers.
So long doom scrolling. The nation will have to take care of itself for the next eight weeks.
Adios, cute cat videos.

I can no longer afford these luxuries.
No binge-watching TV. No shopping, no matter how good the sales.

My husband Don has promised to run errands for me. Any other essentials can be ordered online. For the next two months, my emails will pile up. All doctor and hair appointments are cancelled. I have to finish this book on time.
The decks were cleared, and I’ve been pounding the keys. I’ve just finished Chapter 25 and need to get a good start on Chapter 26. Another five hundred words today and I’ll be up to speed.
Ben Franklin’s warning is glaring at me. “You may delay, but time will not.”

I’m lucky. Unlike many writers, I have a helpful husband, and the luxury of an office in my home. I don’t have children or relatives to care for. I’m a full-time author and don’t have to go to a job.
So what do writers with serious responsibilities do?
Parents certainly can’t neglect their children or quit their day job. Some have to write at the kitchen table. They don’t have a room of their own.
These writers are a tough breed. One of the toughest is author Joan Johnston. A number of years ago, she was a mom with two young kids. She wanted to write romances – and succeed.
There was nothing romantic about how she achieved her success.
Joan told me she got up at four o’clock in the morning and wrote until she had to get the kids ready for school and go to her job.
Joan’s hard work at that ungodly hour paid off. Today, she is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than sixty historical and contemporary romance novels, and she’s won a slew of awards.
I’m not sure I could have done what she did.
So, writers, how do you carve out writing time for yourself when you’re down to the wire?


The Dead of Night, my new Angela Richman, death investigator mystery, is available in book stores and online:
Buy from, and your purchase will help support local bookstores
Barnes & Noble:
PLEASE NOTE: Prices for e-books and hardcovers vary. Please check that you have the lowest.


True Crime Thursday – Victim, Villain, Antagonist

By Debbie Burke

@burke_writer defines victim as:

a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency: a victim of an automobile accident.

a person who is deceived or cheated, as by their own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency: a victim of misplaced confidence; the victim of a swindler; a victim of an optical illusion.

a person or animal sacrificed or regarded as sacrificed:war victims.

a living creature sacrificed in religious rites.

Merriam Webster defines villain as:

a character in a story or play who opposes the hero;

a deliberate scoundrel or criminal;

one blamed for a particular evil or difficulty.

Merriam Webster defines antagonist as:

one that contends with or opposes another.


At 2:30 a.m. on January 19, 2023, a car crashed into the downstairs bedroom of a home in Austin, Texas, while the resident was asleep in the bedroom upstairs.

Homeowner Chris Newby described the accident:

“It sounds like a plane hit the house, I mean, I felt like I hit the ceiling,” Newby said. “The whole house just shook…Basically, there’s an entire car, right here inside the bedroom.”

See photos of the damage at this link.

Emergency workers rescued the driver. Police arrested him on suspicion of DWI.

End of story?

Not quite.

Ten days after the crash, Mr. Newby received a letter from the city of Austin, dated the day of the crash, informing him of code violations because of the condition of his house.

Fox News reports:

Every window, skylight, door and frame shall be kept in sound condition, good repair and weather tight,” one of the violations reads. 

Another violation said that “all exterior walls shall be free from holes, breaks, and loose or rotting materials. 

According to

The letter explained Newby had 30 days to get his house in order or face consequences, including as much as a $2,000 fine per violation, per day.

The letter apparently was in response to a report by the Austin Fire Department that had responded to the accident scene.

Mr. Newby said of the letter: “I’m in violation for being a victim.”

Per KXAN: 

[Austin Code Department division manager Matthew] Noriega explained the citation is the city’s policy and procedure, with the ultimate goal of ensuring safety.

“This was a catastrophic incident and they wanted to ensure that the homeowners were safe and the building was safe,” Noriega said.

“If an extension is needed, we will give them that extension,” Noriega explained. “We work with the owners or management.”

The code department granted an extension. The driver’s insurance will pay for repairs.


TKZers: What are your thoughts about which roles are played by the real-life characters in this true crime story?

True Crime Thursday – John Bozeman’s Unsolved Homicide from 1867


John Bozeman

By Debbie Burke


Bozeman, Montana is known for Montana State University, world-class outdoor recreation, expensive homes (median price is $845,000), and the unsolved homicide of the city’s founder more than 150 years ago.

John Bozeman was a pioneer who blazed the Bozeman Trail as a shortcut from Wyoming to the Montana Territory gold fields, although he was unsuccessful at gold prospecting.

In 1867, he became a murder victim.

In the Montana Territory, tension existed between white settlers moving west and Native tribes who, despite treaties, were displaced.

In April, 1867, Bozeman and mill owner Thomas Cover were on their way to Fort C.F. Smith to secure a flour contract for Cover. They spent a night at a cattle ranch belonging to wealthy Nelson Story, Sr.

For unknown reasons, Bozeman was concerned for his safety and expressed his worry in a letter. That night, he shared a room with W.S. McKenzie and “begged” McKenzie to take his place on the journey, even offering his clothes and boots.

Thomas Cover

One possible reason for Bozeman’s fear is that he evidently had made advances on Cover’s wife, Mary, according to this article from The Sherman Room. 

However, the next day, Bozeman and Cover resumed their journey together. According to Cover, when they stopped for a meal near the Yellowstone River, five Native men approached.

A shootout ensued in which Bozeman was struck twice in the chest, killing him. Cover claimed he had been shot once in the shoulder from the rear. He also said Blackfeet men stole their horses. He escaped and returned to the ranch for help.

The next day, Nelson Story arrived at the ranch and sent a trusted guide to study the murder scene. Story examined Cover’s wound, noticed powder burns indicating a shot from close range, and was suspicious that the bullet had entered from the front, contrary to Cover’s claim.

The guide returned and said he’d found Bozeman’s body, along with his valuables, undermining Cover’s claim that theft was the motive for the murder. He found tracks of only Bozeman’s and Cover’s horses, with no indication of five Native men Cover claimed had shot them.

However, soldiers from Fort C.F. Smith later encountered a camp where five outcast Natives bragged that they had killed Bozeman and had his horse.

Shortly after Bozeman’s murder, Cover moved to California and, for a time, successfully raised navel oranges in San Bernardino. In 1884, while searching for gold in the desert between Los Angeles and Yuma, Cover disappeared and was never found.

Years later, Nelson Story’s son said his father told him Cover had killed Bozeman then shot himself in the shoulder to disguise his guilt.

Another version of the murder surfaced when a man named Thomas Kent claimed Nelson Story, Sr. hired him to kill Bozeman.

Hearsay, rumors, and gossip promoted various theories but none of the possible scenarios could be proven with evidence.

John Bozeman’s murder remains a fabled but unsolved mystery.

Renee Carlson’s well-researched article about the homicide was published in Distinctly Montana magazine. Here’s a link to her story.


TKZers: Any theories about this very cold case?



A young Native inmate shouldn’t have gone to prison. Now he’s dead and video evidence is overwhelming against a female guard who swears she’s innocent. Investigator Tawny Lindholm plunges into the sinister world of deep fakes where “proof” isn’t truth.

Available at Amazon and major online booksellers. 

True Crime Thursday – Vicious Vishing by Voice Cloning

Photo credit: Jason Rosewell, Unsplash

By Debbie Burke


Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.

That saying has been attributed to sources like Benjamin Franklin and Edgar Allen Poe. It’s appeared in song lyrics like Leon Haywood’s “Believe Half of What You See (and None of What You Hear)” and the third verse of the immortal Marvin Gaye classic, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”

Today, those wise words are even truer because of Voice Cloning, a new tool created by Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the cyber-scammer’s toolkit.

Phishing and Vishing are scams where criminals contact victims, often posing as a bank, reputable business, government agency, hospital, law enforcement, or other entity in order to gain access to your personal and/or financial information.

Phishing contacts victims by email, urging you to open an infected attachment or click on a link that downloads malware. Phishing attacks are generally sophisticated and massive in scale, targeting thousands of businesses and individuals at a time using automation.

Reportedly 74% of organizations in the US have been successfully targeted by phishing attacks.

Vishing (AKA voice phishing) is when a scammer contacts the victim by phone, impersonating a law officer, banker, charity, etc. who convinces you to verbally share your confidential information. The caller ID is spoofed, making the call appear to come from a legitimate source like a bank, Social Security Administration, credit card company, etc.

Vishing requires a scammer to contact one victim at a time, to persuade them to give up sensitive personal and financial information on the phone, making it less efficient than phishing.

However, vishing can still be devastatingly effective, especially now thanks to Voice Cloning. AI can take a sample of someone’s voice and create speech that’s impossible to tell from the real person.

Voice cloning is a boon for scams like Family Emergency, Friend Stranded Overseas, or Grandchild in Trouble. Scammers harvest voice samples of your loved one from YouTube, TikTok, and other online sources.

They can also call the person to record their voice or even use their outgoing voicemail message.

In a few seconds, criminals can download enough of a person’s voice to create a convincing imitation.

Now when “Johnny” calls Grandma saying he was in a car accident and needs bail money, the voice is identical to the real Johnny. That triggers panic, and the victim is more likely to act without thinking. And lose money in the process.

“Johnny” will ask for gift cards, cryptocurrency, or want you to wire money. Once you do, the funds are instantly transferred to the scammer and the transaction can’t be reversed.

Your money is gone.

How do you protect yourself against a voice that sounds exactly like your loved one?

The FTC advises:

“Don’t trust the voice. Call the person who supposedly contacted you and verify the story. Use a phone number you know is theirs. If you can’t reach your loved one, try to get in touch with them through another family member or their friends.”

A simple low-tech safeguard is to have a password or code that only you and your family knows. If something about a call with a loved one sounds suspicious, ask them for the password.

But be careful how you select a code. Criminals often scour social media accounts for clues to possible passwords.

If you post a photo of “my dog Spot” and choose that for your password, it could be guessed.

Speaking of Spot, to wrap up this post on a light note, does anyone remember the old Cal Worthington TV commercials that always featured “My Dog Spot”?

The last Worthington family car dealership was sold in February, 2023. End of an era but Cal’s jingle lives on.


TKZers: Has someone you know been taken in by voice cloning?

Can you think of ways to use Voice Cloning in mystery, suspense, or thriller fiction?



Investigator Tawny Lindholm plunges into an alternate reality where video is fake but death is real.

Please check out my new thriller Deep Fake Double Down.