Police officers are trained to notice patterns of behavior among criminals. If a felon is at large, police will often track them down based on crime scene evidence, and sometimes it can even take years before the pieces start coming together.
In 1989, a respected Alabama judge was killed in his home after he opened a seemingly normal package that was actually a deadly pipe bomb. When no one claimed responsibility, police assumed it was a random act of violence.
However, one expert noticed a strange similarity between this crime and one that had occurred 17 years earlier. That was when the entire mystery started to unravel…
Recognizing criminal patterns is something all police investigators are taught to do. Most repeat felons will leave similar bits of evidence behind, and when they do, police are able to piece the clues together to make an arrest. This is what happened in 1989 in the case of one Alabama judge’s death. At first, officers believed it was a random act of violence, but then they started to investigate deeper…
On December 16, 1989, respected Alabama Judge Robert Vance opened a package that was sent to his home in Mountain Brook, Alabama. It was the size of a shoe box, and unbeknownst to him, it contained a pipe bomb. He opened it, and the explosion killed him immediately; it also seriously injured his wife who was in the next room. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, and there was no evidence suggesting that Judge Vance was being targeted by terrorists.
Judge Vance was only the third judge ever to be assassinated in the United States during the twentieth century. It was rare that judges ever fell victim to crimes like this one. Although the police had very little information to work with, they suspected there may have been more at play than they initially thought…
Two days after the murder of Judge Vance, on December 18, a parcel-sized package arrived at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in downtown Atlanta. It contained another pipe bomb surrounded by nails. Luckily, one of the guards on duty detected it using an X-ray machine, and authorities defused it without a problem.
On the same afternoon, however, yet another package was found, and this one, unfortunately, wasn’t detected in time. A 41-year-old attorney named Robert Robinson opened the package at his desk, and the pipe bomb detonated, blowing out the windows of his office and critically wounding the attorney. He died shortly after in the hospital. Clearly, something was afoot…
That same day, a third mysterious package arrived in Jacksonville, Florida, at the offices of the NAACP. Luckily, it was never opened, and after the mail room attendant heard the stories of the other two bombs on the news that evening, she reported it to the police.
Police suspected the packages may have come from Columbian cartels since Judge Vance was heavily involved with numerous drug cases. Similarly, on the day that Robinson died, he was supposed to attend a community event on drug abuse. However, Miami’s Drug Enforcement Administration dismissed the accusation because it didn’t fit the pattern of cartels in the past.
Police investigators then started exploring the possibility that the assassinations were politically motivated. Judge Vance had been active with the civil rights movement and was even chairman of the Alabama Democrats, which had included African Americans in the state delegation for the first time ever.
Robinson also had strong ties to the NAACP and had fought for years to abolish segregation in schools in Savannah, Georgia, in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. He spent a majority of his time helping the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
The political ties between Judge Vance, Robinson, the NAACP, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals led investigators to believe that a white supremacist was possibly behind the deadly packages. A white supremacy group had even mailed a letter to a Mississippi television station threatening the 11th Circuit a few months earlier.
An expert who defused one of the undetonated bombs quickly debunked the white supremacy theory. He noticed the bombs had a unique design with four welded rods. He approached the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and told them he had seen this exact design 17 years earlier…
Back in 1972, a Georgia resident named Walter Leroy Moody Jr. nearly killed his first wife with a similarly made explosive device that accidentally went off in his home. The intended target was supposed to be a car dealer who repossessed Moody’s vehicle.
Moody was sent to prison for four years for the explosive accident. When he was finally released, he attempted to have his conviction expunged by mounting an appeal to the courts. In August 1989, only a few months before the murders of Judge Vance and Robert Robinson, the 11th Court rejected his appeal.
Moody’s next plan of action was to convince two women, Julie Linn-West and her mother, Susan Eckstrom, to tell police that the explosive had been placed in his home by someone else. Instead, Linn-West approached police with very crucial evidence.
Linn-West possessed multiple audio and video recordings of meetings she had with Moody. Investigators also found out that Moody’s girlfriend, a woman named Susan McBride, assisted Moody by supplying him with the necessary packaging and postal materials. Things were starting to rapidly take shape…
When police raided Moody’s home in Rex, Georgia, they found even more evidence tying Moody to the killings, and on November 7, 1990, he was indicted for the murders of Judge Vance and Robinson. The police finally got their man.
During Moody’s trial, the prosecutors argued that he’d sought revenge on the court system because they rejected his appeal years earlier, and he attempted to make his actions look like the work of a white supremacist to throw off police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Free described Moody as a “stealth bomber.” In his closing remarks to the court, Free said, “He tried to anticipate everything in this case, and he almost succeeded.”
Moody was found guilty on all counts and was sent to prison for multiple life terms. He was eventually sentenced to death and transported to the Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama in 1997. As of July 2017, at age 82, he was the oldest inmate awaiting execution.
Judge Vance’s memory still lives on in the judiciary system. In 1990, a federal building and courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, was renamed “Robert S. Vance Federal Building and United States Courthouse,” and Atlanta’s chapter of the Federal Bar Association hosts the Robert S. Vance Forum on the Bill of Rights every year.
The murders of Judge Robert Vance and Robert Robinson shocked everyone. They were seen as an assault on the nation’s most sacred institution. Without a just judiciary system, a nation can never prosper, and without admirable judges like Robert Vance, neither will its people.
The fact that the police were skilled enough to put together clues that are decades old to catch criminals is incredible! Moody would have surely gotten away with his crimes if it wasn’t for their hard work.
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Source : boredomtherapy.com