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Guest Post: Beyond the Man in the Iron Mask, Part 3

April 28, 2012 11 comments

Today’s post is brought to you by Nicolas Henry Vidocq from Defrosting Cold Cases.

Part 1 was posted on Gary Lee Walter’s blog “Stretlaw” at http://legalacademia.wordpress.com/ onApril 14-15, 2012

Part 2 was posted on David Swanson’s blog “Case Jackets” at http://casejackets.blogspot.com/ onApril 21-22, 2012

Part 3

Saint-Mars became an army cadet at the age of fourteen. His army career progressed very slowly and he frequently complained about being skipped for promotions. At 24, he was placed in the First Company of the King’s Musketeers. At 34, he was promoted to Corporal and at age 38, promoted to Sergeant before being appointed Governor of Pignerolo.

Saint-Mars had some family assets and strove to receive letters of nobility in his obsession with prestige and fame. At age 50, he was finally promoted to Second Lieutenant in the Musketeers.

To be assigned to the run-down fortress of Exiles after having governed Pignerolo was a humiliation so when the opportunity to govern Saint-Marguerite came up, he took it. He then made the plans to renovated Saint-Marguerite in hopes that he would again be assigned famous prisoners but none ever came.

Then, tragedy hit his family. In the years between 1691 and 1693, his wife and two sons passed away. Saint-Mars fell into a deep depression. To be assigned the Bastille, would be an ego boost and a step back up on the social ladder. So Saint-Mars thought up a cunning plan.

Desperate to take his place in society, a place society owed him, he abused his powers. Alas, there were too many corrupt people around who could be used, too many uneducated people around to fool and many of them feared for their own lives.

The prestigious prison command of the Bastille would secure Saint-Mars’ status in society but he also needed to keep that status alive. And that proved to be a real problem because after Louvois, the Ministers of War were not impressed!

But the game needed to be played to the end. He could not loose face. So, Saint-Mars probably kept du Junca as far away as possible from his unknown prisoner because du Junca reported to nobody else but the King. Another concern would have been that du Junca would have found out soon enough that the unknown prisoner was not a threat to the Monarchy or the State at all. And then du Junca would probably try to find out to whom the unknown prisoner did pose a threat.

Conclusion

Will we ever know whether there really was an unknown prisoner who was made to wear a velvet or iron mask when in public? Not if we keep starting with Louis XIV and the obsessions with possible twin brothers.

We need to start with the Minister of War, Louvois, and his relationship with Lauzun because in the end whoever Saint-Mars used for his own fame was put there by Louvois in the first place for something Lauzun witnessed.

So, do I dismiss all the other solutions about who the unknown prisoner might have been? No, but I am tempted to dismiss them for the very simple reason that they all start from the same premise: that the prison records at Pignerolo were complete and accurate in listing who was incarcerated there. Why assume that?

Cold case re-investigations should question everything. I call it alternative puzzle piecing. A cold case is a puzzle. We try to fit the pieces together. Usually people start with the edges and then continue with the best or most recognizable part of the (perceived) image. Sometimes that works very well. However, if after decades the puzzle pieces still do not fit together then maybe it is time to think outside the box.

Maybe the bits of information that formed a single puzzle piece were never meant to be placed together. Maybe we started the puzzle with the wrong pieces or, in the wrong order. So, what would happen if we started in another order or with different pieces? 

That is exactly what I do on my blog Defrosting Cold Cases. I look at the puzzle again and try to find out whether there were alternative explanations for the facts in hopes to regroup the puzzle pieces and the timeline, to get a clearer picture. I may not start with the image and I will stray from the edge. However, if a case has not been solved for decades the least we can do now is give “alternative puzzle piecing” a shot. We just might find out that it works.

So, back to the drawing board, everyone!

Vidocq, April 2012.

Recommended reading: Of course I recommend the book by Alexandre Dumas but only if you can keep in mind that his is one of the books that started the gossip! For a more balanced and researched overview. I recommend:

John Noone “The man behind the iron mask” 1994

Nicolas-Henry “Vidster” Vidocq, an older gentleman, loves to crack his brain over the impossible. He likes to read about historical mysteries and unsolved homicides. He writes down his musing on the blog “Defrosting Cold Cases.”

Vidocq is of course, my pen name and I wish to remain in the shadows. Those who work with me do know who I am. I thank them for keeping my privacy.

As Vidocq, I created #cclivechat (Cold Case Live Chat) on Twitter. Every Friday from noon-1pm EST you can join the chat for updates on unsolved homicides worldwide. I also host guests during “themed” chats. A schedule of the themed chats can be found on the DCC’s home page. Guests discuss issues ranging from DNA to blogging, cyber-bullying to fiction, and from postmortem toxicology to forensic arson detection.

You can follow Vidocq’s account on Twitter: @Vidocq_CC.

Categories: Guest Post

Last Seen Wearing Green

April 20, 2012 41 comments

The biggest fear I have as an officer is being called to the scene of a missing child. It puts dread in my heart and a sick feeling in my stomach. It’s not just small children, I had a case of a sixteen year old boy who was thought to be a runaway but had been murdered. There was nothing I could have done because his death happened before we were told he was missing. The case will haunt me forever. His mother and I hug when we see each other. Her sadness reminds me that runaways are always in danger.

I have attended incredible trainings offered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). They prepare me for the worst possible scenarios. I have our town’s sex offender’s addresses pinned on a map so I know who the biggest danger is in the area of a missing child. One hour, a one-mile radius, time is not on our side and the clock continues ticking. No matter how prepared I think I am, I know it may not be enough.

Non-family abductions are rare but it’s every parent’s nightmare and mine too. I worried about my own children but I’m more aware of the monsters in our world now. I share my fear with my grown children so they will be even more vigilant when it comes to my grandkids.

The 911 call for a missing one year old named Mickey came in at 2:30 in the afternoon. It was made by his six-year-old brother. I could hear the apprehension in the dispatcher’s voice. The radio transmission caused me instant anxiety. I immediately asked for a physical description and the clothing he was last seen wearing. I was told the description was fuzzy because of the age of the brother making the report but Mickey was last seen wearing green. The boys had been left home alone.

As I drove to the house, I looked up and down streets I passed hoping I would see the young child wandering along. I realized I was nearing a large pond where the local residents enjoy fishing as I pulled into the driveway. Even more dread filled me. I requested dispatch call in extra officers from our department or the county deputies. We help each other out in these situations.

The first thing you always do is search the premises inside and out. The front door was closed and I knocked announcing who I was. My heart broke at the sight of a small red faced boy sobbing his heart out. He looked through the curtained window and then let the cloth fall back into place as he opened the front door. My arms went around him and I felt his trembling. “What’s your name honey?”

“Bbbradnt.”

“Okay Brandt, tell me when you last saw Mickey.”

“He he was in the bed bedroom and he’s gggone.”

He took a long shaky breath and then continued with the words I didn’t want to hear. “He he likes the water and he might be in the the the pond.” This is when additional terror gripped me. I could hear sirens as several squad cars pulled up in front of the house. Two deputies arrived. I didn’t care about searching the house regardless of what my training dictated. They needed to get to the pond.

The deputies sprinted up the walkway. It was my call I was in charge. “It’s possible he’s in the pond.” I didn’t get any more words out as the two of them took off. The pond was about three hundred yards away.

I had my arms around Brandt and noticed a red compact car moving fast in our direction. It pulled into the driveway and the boys’ mother jumped out and ran the short distance to where we were standing. She immediately pulled her son into her arms. The look on her face was that of a terrified parent. She was gazing at Brandt with relief but the fear was still there. I wasn’t thinking about the fact she left a one year old at home alone with a six year old. It wasn’t the time or place. I was only thinking of Mickey.

“Brandt called the police because Mickey is missing. I’m sorry but he thinks he might be at the pond. The deputies are there now. I haven’t had a chance to search the house and that’s where I need to start.”

I’ve seen quite a few reactions when people hear horrible news. Brandt’s mother jerked him away from her and looked him in the eye. Her voice was stressed, “Mickey is missing?”

“Yyyes. I can’t find him.”

“And you called the police?”

I was getting angry at this woman’s response, she was terrifying Brandt. “We need to search the house first and I would like your help.” My voice was direct with a no nonsense air.

She gazed at me with an absolutely stunned look, “All this for a turtle.”

Thankfully dispatch took the brunt of the jokes for the mix up. The deputies heard the dispatched call go out but were further away than me so I was first to arrive. They told me they would have reacted as I did (at least this is what they said to my face). We average two missing youths per year. All but my sixteen year old were found safe and sound. In every one of these cases the parents wait until they call all their child’s friends and search around the neighborhood. Every minute counts. I would rather be notified immediately and find out grandpa picked up the child than encounter the worst case scenario.

To end this post on a lighter note, I stayed and helped Brandt find his missing pet. His mother was embarrassed but she joined in the search. It was actually Brandt who located Mickey. Before I left I gave my standard child lecture about what 911 is for. A happy smiling face looked back at me with Mickey in his arms wearing green.

Bad Luck Update: Change of Blues

April 13, 2012 8 comments

I’m leaving my winter blues behind and pulling out my short sleeve uniforms for the hotter months. Our trees are turning green, my goldfish are making an appearance at the top of the pond, and I’m ready for summer barbeques, gardening, wildlife and warmth. Our crime rates seem to spike as the temperature heats up so I’m also prepared for car chases, irritable complainants and farmer John’s dogs terrorizing Mrs. White’s chickens. Then combine juvenile delinquents causing havoc with the po po instead of their teachers, and believe it or not, I truly love this time of year.

On April 28th and 29th, I will host fellow writer Nicolas Henry Vidocq for his third installment of the three part series titled Beyond the Man in the Iron Mask. This coming weekend, April 14th and 15th, part one can be found on Gary Lee Walter’s blog “Stretlaw” and then part two on April 21st and 22nd on David Swanson’s blog “Case Jackets.” Vidocq runs the Defrosting Cold Cases blog and combines true-crime, history and modern day mysteries. If you’ve never been to his website please visit and discover why I can’t stay away.

I am hard at work on my next book “Bad Luck in Small Town.” I’m combining one of my unusual homicide investigations with past blog posts. The true story combines a dead body and a toaster with a great mystery. Due for release this fall.

Bad Luck Officer, my second book is in need of reader reviews. If you’re willing to write a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords, I will give you a free digital copy of book III when it’s released. After you post the review please send me an email at suzieivy @ ymail .com (all one word) and I will add you to my free book list. Thank you in advance.

On April 21st, my friend and fellow blogger Melissa Crytzer-Fry is visiting Small Town and accompanying me on a ride-a-long. She is an incredible writer and photographer. I wrote about Melissa in my post “A Murderous Rendezvous” which tells the story of our first meeting after I attended the autopsy related to my next book. Melissa will be in town for two days and I have a tight schedule planned. We will be hiking my mom’s canyon looking for her mountain lion, eating a large barbeque dinner, drinking margaritas, sleeping off the alcohol and then working a patrol shift. Small Town might never be the same.

I wrote a post for Blogher that will not be published here. It’s about being a menopausal police detective. If you read it and become concerned about the people I protect on the streets, please notify my department that I need a vacation. Here’s the link: When Did My Breasts Grow Longer?

If you read Bad Luck Officer I offer this update on Mrs. Marie Lloyd. She died peaceably in her sleep two weeks ago. I towed her car during my rookie field training because she no longer had a valid driver’s license. She was almost completely blind and terrorized my fellow officers if they dared to pull her over. The entire police department escorted the hearse through town as she was driven to her final resting place. Over two-hundred citizens attended. I cried.

When They Stand

April 5, 2012 41 comments

I don’t write about the sex crimes part of my police job often though it’s considered my specialty. These cases cause me sleepless nights, tears and heartache. I’m not the victim but as a society we are all victimized by such atrocities.

For child victims of molestation and survivors of sexual assault, it leaves behind a legacy of shame and devastation. As a detective investigating the circumstances of the crimes, my job is to remain aloof and impartial. When I’m looking at a woman, bruised and bleeding, gazing at the floor and telling me it was her fault, I’m angry. When I watch a three year old child tell of the horrors he or she has lived with and then ask if it’s time to play, my tears fall.

I am human.

I never lie to a sexual assault victim or the parent of a molested child. The laws are not in their favor. The accused has the right to face the accuser. If a child is old enough to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they sit on the stand, alone, in front of adults and must be able to point out the defendant and describe what the monster did to them.

For women and men, they must articulate details of the attack and claim intimate pictures of genitalia as their own. The defense attorney, jury, and judge all look at the pictures in open court.

I don’t agree with the term “date rape.” Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter if you know your attacker, the after effects last a lifetime. I know there are those who say “victims” lie. I have investigated two cases where they did. I then prosecuted the true criminals and won.

In the past twelve months there has been an increase in my sex crimes workload. It’s been rough and I’m thankful every day that I have a wonderful support system and the strong shoulders of my husband to lean on.

Until this past year, my victims have agreed to lighter sentences for their attacker as part of plea deals so they would never be required to testify to the horrifying events. I understand. I empathize but I want my suspect to go away forever because I know this is the only way they’ll be stopped. I hold my counsel and wonder if I would be strong enough to bare all under these circumstances. For a long time I didn’t think I could.

Then something happened.

A fourteen year old girl slowly walked to the witness stand. Her long hair in ponytails, with small glasses perched on her nose. Her slender body was engulfed by her chair. She looked out at the audience where her mother and father sat and quietly described, in great detail, what was done to her. She found her voice and her emotional testimony was heard.

Then, in an exceptionally public case, a forty year old woman silenced a disbelieving audience who were supporting a well-known prominent man in our community. She described hours of torture and took one of the pictures of her brutalized body and turned it toward the defendant yelling, “You did this to me.” There was not a dry eye in the room.

Then, three months later, a sixteen year old refused to be silenced and at the end of her testimony she stood up from the witness chair and screamed her pain to a stunned courtroom. The defendant looked down and would not lift his head.

These three incredibly strong females have changed me. In spite of the insensitivity and regardless of reliving their personal pain, they stood up for all victims.

When they stand their power is unstoppable.

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