Using Human Scent Dogs to Track Down a Killer

One of the ways the feds were able to track down Joshua Wade after he had already evaded conviction in the murder of Della Brown, was to use human scent dogs.  I had never written about Bloodhounds before writing ICE AND BONE, and what I discovered astonished me.  

The dogs were able to pick up Wade’s scent two whole weeks AFTER he had used the ATM card of one of his victims.  This video, which the FBI shared with me, picks up as a dog named Tinkerbell leads her handler Dennis Slavin and other investigators from that ATM, right to the victim’s house.  The dog lingers on the front deck a while but then appears to pick up another scent, at the house next door.  Here’s the description from Chapter 32 of ICE AND BONE:

Slavin followed closely as Tinkerbell approached Mindy’s house.  The dog climbed the stairs to the home’s outside deck which led to the front door and paused briefly, sniffing the door knob.  Slavin thought Tinkerbell might end the trail there, but he then noticed a change in the dog’s behavior.  It was almost as if she was picking up a stronger odor from somewhere nearby.  The dog descended the stairs of the deck and made her way back down Mindy’s driveway, as the entourage of FBI agents followed.  The dog appeared to want to enter the yard next door but there was a long, tall fence blocking the way, so Tinkerbell went almost to the end of Mindy’s driveway, made a sharp right, and led the agents through some brush and tall grass, and into the front yard of the house next door.  Tinkerbell made a beeline for the carport, and circled a few times the area where a car might usually be parked, then paused to sniff the door and doorknob that led from the carport into the house.  Tinkerbell lingered near the door, sniffing the base of the door and the one wooden step just in front of it, showing no real interest in any other location, indicating to her handler that this was the end of the trail.  

To make sure the results were not some sort of fantastic anomaly, Agent Stockham had another Bloodhound named Lucy run the same trail from the Wells Fargo ATM, this time using a scent pad taken from the gear shifter in Mindy’s car.  Just as Tinkerbell had done before her, Lucy would lead authorities along the very same trail: from the ATM, to the carport, and finally, to the side door of the house where Joshua Wade lived.

To read more, check out my book, ICE AND BONE: Tracking an Alaskan Serial Killer, by clicking here.



Listen to the F.B.I. Interview with the Killer Featured in ICE AND BONE

Here is an audio clip I obtained from the F.B.I. of an interview with Joshua Wade shortly after his arrest in connection with Mindy Schloss’s disappearance. The interview appears in Chapter 40 of ICE AND BONE. What you obviously can’t see is Wade’s reaction when Agent Thoreson claims they “talked to Mindy.” Both Agent Thoreson and Detective Perrenoud, who were in the room, told me that a devious smirk came over Wade’s face:

From Chapter 40:

If there was any doubt before that moment that Wade had killed Mindy Schloss, for either Agent Thoreson or Detective Perrenoud, it evaporated with one facial expression. Detective Perrenoud could see in Wade’s eyes what he must have been thinking: You couldn’t have talked to her, because I killed her. 

Making A Murderer

I just finished binging Netflix's new True Crime docu-series, "Making A Murderer."  It was compelling in many ways, and I think overall, it's a triumph.  That said, I think its main failing is that after 10 hours, the viewer still does not have a clear picture of the victim in the murder case, Teresa Halbach.  I assume this was because her family did not want to cooperate with the couple who was making the documentary, perhaps because of their apparent close connection and access to the Avery family. 

Aside from that, and the persisting feeling that the story is being told exclusively from the Avery's point of view, the series provides a fascinating look at the justice system and its failings, especially when it comes to Avery's teenaged nephew's case.  For that alone, the series is well worth the investment of time.

The Looming Tower

This book has been sitting on my shelf for more than a year and recent events in Paris, Beirut and the downing of a Russian jetliner gave me the motivation to finally read it.  In "The Looming Tower," Lawrence Wright tracks the origins of the radical Islamic movement which led to Osama Bin Laden's attack on 9-11.  It's a magnificent work of journalism and helps put these terrible attacks in some sort of context.  It is compelling, enlightening and wonderfully written.  I cannot think of a more important book to read at this moment in history.


'Stable' is not a Condition

In reading these early reports about Spencer Stone, the hero in the French train attack, being stabbed, it's no wonder there is confusion about his condition. In just one interview, an official said stone was "critical," was "expected to survive," and was also "stable." As journalists, we need to insist on getting the correct information as it relates to conditions. The choices are: good, fair, serious and critical. "Stable" just means the condition is not changing.…/la-me-ln-spencer-stone-stabbed-in-…

Deadly Hippos

I took the photo at the top of this page on a recent trip to Botswana, (and yes, it was with an iPhone!).  To reach that location, we had to take a 45-minute ride in a four-seat plane from Maun, a 15-minute ride in a Land Rover, followed by one-hour ride on a boat through all manner of tall grass and swamp.  

On our way out of the camp, we encountered a pair of hippos.  Here, I must admit my own ignorance.  I have always regarded hippos as "cute," perhaps because I grew up playing the board game "Hungry Hippos."  As I took photos of the massive creatures, their tiny ears peering above the surface of the water, one of them swam in front our boat, submerging itself with a great splash.  The driver of our boat, a man by the name of Carlos, who grew up on the Okavango Delta, gunned the boat forward, as we were in a narrow channel.  As we lunged forward, passing over the hippo, we felt a huge jolt.  I was aghast.  I thought we had killed the hippo, or caused it grave injury.  Carlos later explained the hippo was probably fine, (I have no idea if he was just trying to placate my fears).  

What I have since learned, is that Carlos may have very well performed an act of heroism.  It turns out that hippos pose the greatest threat to humans than any other animal in the African wilderness.  They are grass eaters, so they aren't out for human flesh, but they are very territorial.  After some very non-scientific research with involved about 20 minutes of googling, I came across a figure I found hard to believe: hippos account for 3,000 human deaths in Africa each year.  Setting aside whether that figure is accurate, I did come across a verified report from 2014 in which a pair of hippos had overturned a boat, killing 13 people, mostly African children who were on their way to school.  Check it out: