Saturday, May 31, 2008

The horror!

Husband Kurt just captured this photo of these rather gorgeous tiny alien creatures exploring a bicolor iris bud.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The humble ruellia

This dwarf Ruellia is hardy and blooms pretty much all summer and fall, especially in the morning and with some rain. The taller version (which can sometimes exceed two feet) is quite invasive, so I only keep it in the still totally untamed side yard:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Today’s Michael Scott pretrial hearing: DNA testing continues and early September is the goal for retrial

Attorneys for both Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen met in chambers for the first 25 minutes of today’s status hearing. Judge Lynch then took the bench and explained that the parties had been working out some more discovery issues, particularly concerning original testing and retesting of certain evidentiary items, with today’s focus on DNA. Apparently logistical difficulties prevented Springsteen from being in the courtroom today.

Scott’s attorney, Carlos Garcia, recently filed a motion requesting that the State be ordered to call the defense as soon as they receive any DNA-testing results, agreeing with Judge Lynch that it’s essentially a Brady motion. Prosecutors argued that it’s not Brady material if the results are only ruling out people and that they do intend to turn over any official written reports. Garcia argued the defense deserves to get the results as soon as possible to know if they need to do their own further testing.

After more arguing, during which Judge Lynch said, “You guys amaze me…” and that he was “transfixed by the extraordinary difficulty” both sides seem to have getting along with each other, the judge ordered the State to inform the defense whenever they receive a conclusive answer (e.g., DNA results), written or verbal.

Garcia put on record that his April 9th motion to allow the defense to test the ligatures and the girl’s shirt had indeed been ordered, a joint agreed order. Garcia then asked that the defense be given copies of audio and/or video witness statements of five or six people, including Dearl Croft. Because the defense has had access to these recordings, Judge Lynch denied the request for copies.

Finally, Judge Lynch said that he expects Michael Scott’s retrial to begin shortly after Labor Day at the earliest and October at the latest, with Robert Springsteen’s retrial to begin not long afterwards, possibly December or January. The next status hearing is set for June 11.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No more backyard weed fabric: new bed

Although the weekend’s temps and humidity were more conducive to lounging on the couch sipping margaritas, I was so excited that husband Kurt got the backyard weeds whacked then pulled up the last plot of newspapers/weed fabric that I got to work.

More After:
Originally we’d planned to turn that area into another raised bed for summer veggies, but we decided it wasn’t quite sunny enough, so I planted a bunch of drought-tolerant sun/part-shade plants there for now. I mostly stuck with my tried-and-true Society Garlic, pink skullcap, leadwort plumbago, and Mexican feathergrass, but I tried one Jerusalem sage and one rock penstemon, too.

Sometime soon we plan to define the bed with some edging to help keep the grass out. The three tomatoes and two squash plants are looking okay but not producing anything…

Yogurt Shop Murders: I'll attend tomorrow's SCHEDULED pretrial hearing

Once again, at this very moment the online docket says tomorrow's Micheal Scott/Robert Springsteen pretrial hearing is still happening. I'll check it again tomorrow morning and hope it's accurate.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Having faith these new pots won't walk away

I definitely got my mega-dose of vitamin D today—I took off work early and was outside more than four hours. Inspired by fellow Austin garden blogger Pam’s feathergrass-in-colorful-pot trick, I did my own version today. I thought it was going to be a quick project, but once I got going I realized I first needed to do some MAJOR rosemary thinning to open up the space by the front porch steps, where I also planted a bunch of leadwort plumbago.

Upright in the front, we have a weird concrete relic (birdbath?) found half buried in the backyard ages ago. Today I filled it with some rocks and a graphite-colored pot in which I planted three anonymous succulents.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

True confessions of my past garden ruthlessness

When we first began converting our front lawn into a front-yard garden, we were, admittedly, ruthless (to the transplants) because we were SO focused on killing the grass (organically) and planting just a very few extremely hardy and drought-tolerant things instead.

When I say ruthless—some might say sadistic--I mean that I would plant some poor thing at noon in mid-August in crummy soil, water it for a few days and, if it didn’t ultimately survive, I crossed it off my “acceptable” list. Then we got some professional advice, after 5 years.

Jackie of seed garden design helped us pull things together and taught us that we couldn’t just KILL the grass; we had to REPLACE it with something. We had originally thought we could get away with replacing the dead grass with a ton of mulch or even just patches of bare dirt. She also showed us, among other things, how to add some richer topsoil along with our mulch.

So until recently, we didn’t feel we even had the LUXURY of paying much attention to the overall picture and art of things, a concept I now think should always be somewhat dynamic anyway. We still struggle with extracting nutgrass every week, but we’re finally feeling a little freer to play around with the whole design of our front-yard garden. And we’ve still managed to not own a lawnmower.

My first jalapeno bloom: do I pinch it off?

Some say if the soil and weather conditions are poor or erratic--here, yes--it's probably better to remove this jalapeno pepper's first bloom to promote more peppers later. Any Austin area or zone 8b people have advice?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Young Vitex tree has begun blooming

I know, I know: wow, surprise! Iris has another purple, cone-shaped blooming thing in her yard. But this is a Vitex tree, albeit a small-ish one right now, and it has just begun blooming. The larger ones I've seen are quite dramatic, covered in purple blooms for a good part of the summer. I think the trunk of ours is a pretty shape, too.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Passively killing more grass

This time the grass killing is over by the carport in the easement. This strip appears smaller in the photo than it is: it's actually about 10 ft wide by 44 ft long.

Husband Kurt finished today what we had half-heartedly started together last August. He scalped this large strip with the electric weedeater then soaked it with the hose and stomped sections of newspaper (at least 10 pages thick) into it. Last, he covered it all with weed fabric and piled hardwood mulch on top of that.

What has been a bunch of bermuda grass with some nutgrass and crazy-ivy will soon be dead and replaced. The Turk's Cap peeking through the fence will stay and that big cottonwood stump continues to rot away. It will take a few months, so we've got time to think of what to put there--something low-maintenance and low-water. Maybe just a bunch of rosemary and lavender... We're open to suggestions.

Late edition of May 15th bloom day

I apologize that my first entry of bloom day is three days late. These are all extremely drought-tolerant.

Society Garlic, of course

Pink and purple skullcap


Bicolor iris

Prairie verbena (with tree leaves from Wednesday's storm still in gutter)

Texas sage

Mexican bush sage


Indigo spires (salvia)

Turk's cap

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Obliterated squash and battered tomatoes

We were VERY lucky in last night's storm. Our neighbor's 50-foot Sycamore tree, along with its treehouse, was completely uprooted and fell away from us, smashing their neighbor's fence and damaging a garage and SUV.

We have lots of small- and medium-sized branches all over the yard along with a few pieces of wood window trim but nothing worse. The tomato plants look a little banged up but overall alright, but the two little squash plants may be destroyed. The herbs are annoyed but perfectly fine.

A few more observations from yesterday's Devoe hearing

I admit it: that whole pretrial hearing was, among other things, just plain depressing. And listening to the recordings of the phone calls from Paul Devoe (from jail) to Sharon Wilson and Tiffany Waldrup was somewhat bizarre.

In the Wilson call, Devoe sometimes seemed to try to answer Wilson's questions in a somber, serious tone, but then he would sound really upset that she thought he might have been stealing money from her purse. He was very insistent that he was only looking for cigarettes and seemed to really want her to believe that he would never steal money from her, just wanted cigarettes! The cigarette argument was just weird.

Also, he seemed genuinely surprised that law enforcement had seized his trailer AND his car. Why would he even be concerned about those things when he was on the lam?

Also, in the Waldrup call, he sounded depressed about his situation but then became very chatty, practically insisting that she write him. He laughed allot in that call. Once again, just weird.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Today's conclusion of Paul Devoe's pretrial hearing: part 2

After Wilson's testimony, I overheard her in the hallway asking prosecutor Gary Cobb if she'd done okay. She had appeared so somber and kind of worn out, to me. He assured her she had done fine.

The next witness, Bill Brinlee, had worked with and become friends with Devoe for about a year and a half before the murders. Devoe had lived with Brinlee for about a month and a half up until the murders. Brinlee testified that he'd received around seven calls from Devoe over a four- or five-hour period in August 2007.

Devoe allegedly told Brinlee that he was on the run and had shot at six people and killed two. Once again, defense attorney Tom Weber got the witness to agree that Devoe never mentioned any specific names or locations of the Jonestown murders or offered any information about the gun.

Brinlee testified that Devoe "couldn't take it no more and went on a killing spree." He also said that Devoe told him that his next step was to "find Glenda and her father to kill them." Brinlee said Devoe's demeanor was normal but upset and that he'd said he shot the "bartender because he was in the way of going after Glenda."

In the last call Brinlee got from Devoe, Devoe told him he was still in Texas and that he loved him and that Devoe also thanked him for everything.

The next witness, Tiffany Waldrup, met Devoe while visiting with her then boyfriend, Jesse, at Bill Brinlee's ranch house in January or February 2007 and never saw Devoe again. Her testimony regarding how she later tried to call another friend named Paul and ended up accidentally calling Devoe was confusing, but anyway, Devoe called her back from Travis County jail, not even knowing who he was calling. The jail's recording of this call was played in court, too.

Once they figured out who was calling whom, Devoe asked her if she'd heard about his situation and said he wasn't doing too well and expected to get life or the death penalty. She said, "this was all over Paula?" Devoe said yes and "between the drugs and drinking--on drugs from getting out of the hospital for a snakebite...wish I'd never had the gun..." Then Devoe laughs and asks her how she is and asks her to write him.

Waldrup asks Devoe if he's talked to Bill (Brinlee). He says no because "they don't want me talking to Bill. It was Bill's gun that I used." Devoe tells her he tried to contact her through MySpace. She tells him that lightning had struck her house and fried her computer, at which point Devoe laughs and says, "I ought to give you mine. I bought a brand new car, trailer, nothing any more." She tells him she'll write him but testified that she never did.

The last witness was Devoe's sister. She testified to phone calls she received from Devoe on August 24-25, 2007, in which he said he'd shot people but didn't know if they were alive or dead and that he was on the run. She and her mother encouraged him to turn himself in and not hurt anyone else. He replied, "I gotta do what I gotta do." In a later call, he told her that authorities had him surrounded and he wanted to talk to his mother and was going to kill himself.

On cross exam, she agreed with Weber that Devoe had never indicated to her that he shot any other people except the bartender in Marble Falls.

June 10th is the next pretrial hearing for arguments.

Today's conclusion of Paul Devoe's pretrial hearing: part 1

Prosecutors called six witnesses today, all of whom testified to phone conversations they'd had with Paul Devoe. The continuing theme of defense attorney Tom Weber's cross examinations of all the witnesses was that Devoe never actually stated he'd killed any of the four Jonestown victims, never specifically mentioning their names or location.

Around 4:15, local Fox (KTBC) television reporter Crystal Cotti was ordered by Judge Kennedy to appear as a witness. Cotti's attorney unsuccessfully argued to quash the subpoena, saying that Cotti's affidavit verifying the authenticity of her October 2007 17-minute phone interview with Devoe was sufficient and that Cotti shouldn't have to appear personally.

The defense did not agree and said they wanted her to appear to authenticate the tape--she'd been subpoenaed. Her attorney countered that Cotti is currently in "the middle of sweeps and is trying to get news on the air right now." Judge Kennedy dryly replied, "I hate to inconvenience her...but she needs to be here." A 10-minute recess was called so Cotti could get there.

The first witness was Sharon Wilson, a woman who met Devoe in March or April of 2007 and allowed him to stay at her house. However, when she encountered him in her yard and he showed her a handgun pulled from his back waistband, she told him guns were not allowed in her house. He allegedly told her the gun was for killing snakes. She told him that "you don't use handguns on snakes" and ordered him out of her house. She allowed him to stay in his trailer parked on her property.

In late August 2007, while Texas Rangers and representatives of the Travis and Llano County's sheriff's department were in her home searching for evidence, Wilson received a phone call from Devoe from jail. When Wilson indicated that the caller was Devoe, Texas Ranger Sgt. Garth Davis provided her with a recording device held between her ear and the phone. The recording of the call was played in court, but Devoe's voice was mostly inaudible and/or unintelligible.

Wilson testified that law enforcement only suggested one question for her to ask Devoe: was he involved in the murders of the children? During the conversation, Devoe says he loved Wilson. Wilson replies, "How could you say you loved me and still do what you did?" Devoe answers, "I snapped." Wilson asks why he did what he did, to which he responds, "I never meant to...he grabbed the gun. I didn't mean to shoot him."

Wilson then asks him, "What about Jonestown? Who are those people?" Devoe answers, "another ex-girlfriend." Wilson asks him how many ex-girlfriends he has, sounding somewhat shocked. Devoe says that he's been there "almost four years" and has lots of exes. Wilson asks Devoe if he killed the woman in Pennsylvania, "Did you?" Devoe replies, "Stop asking questions." She asks him how he expects her not to ask questions when he's scared her and is reported to have killed people. Devoe answers, "I didn't mean to." Wilson asks him how he can sleep at night. "I don't," he replies. Wilson presses on, asking him how many people he's killed. He answers, "I can't tell you."

Devoe says he'd been drinking all day (the day of the murders). Then Wilson tells him that the mothers of the girls have been calling and leaving messages and she needs to know what to tell them. He seems to avoid answering at that point and asks Wilson, "Did they go through my trailer?" She tells him, "yeah, and your car." Devoe says, "They took my trailer AND my car? Oh shit. They've got everything of mine."

Wilson tries again, asking him what she should tell "this girl's mother?" Devoe answers, "Tell her? Tell her I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do what I did. I snapped." He continues, "You kicked it off from the get go", at which point she argues, "Oh, so it's all MY fault?" He tells her no. Wilson asks him if he's going to send someone to hurt her. He tells her no. He asks her if she's okay and tells her he loves her.

Yogurt Shop Murders: today's hearing postponed

I checked the online docket last night and it showed the hearing still scheduled for this morning so I went. Several reporters showed up too and said they'd checked the online docket this morning and it was still scheduled. Anyway, it didn't happen this morning and it's now rescheduled for May 28th.

I'm going back this afternoon for the continuation of yesterday's Paul Devoe pretrial hearing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Today's Paul Devoe pretrial hearing: Part 2

The first two witnesses called today, two of four Suffolk County, New York police officers called, were fellow patrol officers Kenneth Bombace and Mike Alfieri. They transported Devoe from the Shirley, NY residence at which he was arrested to the 7th Precinct station and basically were in charge of watching Devoe for about three hours, including when he was put in a cell. They both testified that they did not ask Devoe any questions at any time but that Devoe made the following statements on his own during their watch.

According to these officers, Devoe said, "That's my mom" as they were driving him away from the arrest scene. Later, at the station, Devoe allegedly repeatedly asked if "that lady or guy are gonna come talk to me?", possibly referring to the two homicide detectives who later interviewed him. Devoe then allegedly said, "I guess they don't care about their lives or the people who are looking for them."

Once in his cell, Devoe allegedly asked the officers, "Do you know how many bodies they found? Five, six in Texas, maybe 12 bodies." Devoe also said, "I had a pretty fucking good thing going on in Texas--business, house, vehicles. If it wasn't (sic) for my stupid fucking mistake ruined my whole life." Later, he told the officers, "They're gonna extradite me back to Texas, then Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and back here (NY). I bet they found me when I turned the cell phone on. I had that bitch off the whole time, damn."

On cross examination, defense attorney Tom Weber asked if anyone had read Devoe his Miranda rights during that time the officers heard the alleged statements. The officers said no and that Devoe's demeanor had been calm.

The next two witnesses were Suffolk County homicide detectives Susan Nolan and Michael Milau, who, after reading Devoe his Miranda warning from a card and having him sign to indicate his waiver, interviewed Devoe and eventually took a verbal statement from him. Nolan testified that she asked him if he wanted a lawyer and he replied, "What the fuck is a lawyer going to do for me now?"

The detectives also testified that Devoe's demeanor was overall calm, responsive, aware, and not seemingly impaired. Nolan added that Devoe's demeanor did change at times, like when he cried and sobbed when talking about killing "Haylie and the other girl and the old lady" and when he seemed mad when he said, "Nobody had any fucking money." Devoe then allegedly told the detectives details of the Texas murders and the Pennsylvania murder and information about people he'd shot at in other states.

The detectives testified that Devoe ultimately gave them what became a written statement about the killing of 81-year-old Betty DeHart in Pennsylvania and consented to a buccal swab for a DNA sample. They also testified that they did not attempt to get a statement from Devoe about the Texas murders at the request of the Travis County Sheriff's office.

On cross examination, the detectives admitted that although they had the equipment on hand to video- or audiotape interviews, it is their policy not to do so. Their policy is to interview and get oral statements, which they take down as notes as close to verbatim as they can. After that, the defendant can consent to a videotaped statement, but Devoe did not consent to the videotaped statement after giving the oral statement. Also, Devoe told the detectives that he had been awake two to three days.

Defense attorney Weber also asked about Gerald Baldoni, who owned the home at which Devoe was staying when he was arrested. The detectives testified that Baldoni said he knew Devoe but when he saw Devoe with a weapon, he asked him to remove it. A loaded .380 automatic gun was recovered from the bedroom in which Devoe was staying at Baldoni's house.

During redirect, detective Milau testified that Devoe said he had slept at a truck stop in Tennessee on his way to New York.

The second-to-last witness today was Travis County corrections officer Brazell, who set up and corroborated the testimony of the last witness, inmate Steven Barr. Barr testified that he was incarcerated in the downtown jail facility last February for contempt of child support. He said he was alone in his cell when another inmate (Devoe) was brought in as his cell mate.

During Cobb's direct exam, Barr testified that he didn't recognize or know who Devoe was and introduced himself and asked Devoe's name. Devoe answered, "Wolf" and repeatedly said, "I got allot of time." According to Barr, Devoe said, "I killed six people." After that, Barr left Devoe alone and later reported his concern about sharing a cell with someone saying he'd killed six people to an officer who advised him to "protect himself" and told him he could fill out a request to be moved. It happened that Devoe was the one who was soon moved.

On cross exam, Barr said he had probably only spent around 40 minutes in the cell with Devoe. He said he was frightened and was sure that Devoe said, "I killed six people", not something like "I've been charged with killing six people."

The hearing resumes tomorrow afternoon.

Today's Paul Devoe pretrial hearing: Part 1

I had not been following this case much but decided to attend today's pretrial hearing on the defense's motion to suppress statements mass murder suspect Paul Devoe allegedly made to various people, including Suffolk County, New York police and a former Travis County jail cell mate.

Prosecutors Gary Cobb and Dayna Blazey called six witnesses today and the hearing resumes tomorrow afternoon with several more witnesses.

The grandmother of 15-year-old victim Haylie Faulkner held a framed 8x10 color photo of her granddaughter as she sat listening to the testimony. The father of 17-year-old victim Danielle Hensley sat at the end of the front row, staring at Devoe's back, mostly, almost the whole hearing. Right before a 10-minute break, I saw Devoe briefly look back over his shoulder at the victims' family members. Devoe is much smaller in stature than I would have thought just seeing his mug shot.

Judge Brenda Kennedy is allowing one pool camera in the courtroom to record the proceedings--kudos to her!

Gotta fix dinner, then I'll post what went on today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pleasantly nosey neighbor

Armed with a big wad of paper towels, a plastic drawstring Gap bag, and latex gloves, I managed to get the fresh half-eaten squirrel carcass out of the back yard and into the Gap bag. Apparently my dog's current kidney infection is no deterrent to her prey drive.

Determined to finish this unpleasant task, I rushed out the front door and practically ran over my neighbor and her toddler granddaughter, who had been walking along my front yard garden stone path and happened to be right by my front door at that moment.

I was more startled than they and gasped then apologized and muttered something about needing to get rid of the squirrel carcass. (I was still wearing latex gloves.) My neighbor smiled and said hello then calmly continued pointing out different plants and flowers to her granddaughter. I guess they've walked around our front yard garden before.

The extra cool thing is that this particular neighbor has the reputation of being "the plant lady" and was the first one to notice our first meager gardening efforts several years ago. She is also the only neighbor to offer us some cuttings and basic advice--one of those rewarding full-circle things!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lovely groundcover with the ugly name

It's a non-native, adapted groundcover called leadwort plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides.) Now beginning to bloom, the brilliant purplish-blue flowers are quite small but so dramatic, plus its leaves are a graceful shape and texture. For context, here are wider shots.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pretty morning squash blossom

A little extra watering does wonders. Now I need to find out if those white spots on the leaves are any big deal.

I wonder why those big turquoise and silver necklaces are called squashblossoms? They don't look much like real squash blossoms.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Update on Maurice Pierce arrest

From an hour ago:
...According to the probable cause warrants filed by Plano police, an officer stopped Pierce for speeding on April 16 and found he had an outstanding warrant in Irving. The officer reported that Pierce seemed nervous and told her "he had been accused of several offenses in the past that he had not committed."

According to court documents, Pierce tried to drive off, dragging an officer with him and knocking another one to the ground. The other officer wrestled with Pierce, but he managed to drive off.

The officers suffered minor injuries...

The outstanding warrant in Irving was for speeding, a class C misdemeanor.

Yogurt Shop Murders: Maurice Pierce is now in Travis County jail on an outstanding Plano warrant

Read the recently posted article from the Austin American Statesman here.
Or KXAN's story here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Our front-yard garden: the bigger picture

I was inspired by Pam's FAR more put-together front-yard garden. (I didn't even know other people used that term for tearing up one's conventional sod and converting it.) Since I've taken plenty of closeup photos of individual plants, I decided to follow her lead and show a few bigger pics that show a little more context--check out the "before" pic at bottom. Because my front yard garden is very wide & medium-shallow (72' X 22'), it's difficult to get a true picture, but I tried. (I'm working on getting a new camera, too.)

And here's the "before" picture from 2002-ish (taken from almost the same viewpoint as the very first picture posted):