We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
Here are some artist renderings of the luxury hotel where Charles Mason Jr will be manager.
Charles Masson Jr., although not a chef, is a culinary household name who spent the better part of four decades serving as the manager of the Masson-family-owned La Grenouille on East 52nd Street in Manhattan. Earlier this year, he abruptly resigned his post over a"a family issue" and was replaced by his brother Philippe. Masson is back in the restaurant business, however, having just been hired as the director of restaurants and bars inside the soon-to-be-opened Baccarat Hotel, a luxury hotel and apartment tower located across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. The restaurant will open in December, with executive chef Shea Gallante at the helm (formerly of Cru and Ciano).
“The restaurant will have 85 seats, similar to La Grenouille,” Masson told The New York Times.
Masson has hinted that his new position could be good luck, and remembers fondly the large crystal Baccarat vase that his father bought when he opened La Grenouille, which still sits inside the restaurant to this day.
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi
Charles Manson dead at 83
Manson and members of his “family” of followers were convicted of killing actress Sharon Tate and six other people during a bloody rampage in the Los Angeles area in August 1969. Prosecutors said Manson and his followers were trying to incite a race war he dubbed “Helter Skelter,” taken from the Beatles song of the same name.
Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she was killed at her hilltop home in Benedict Canyon on Aug. 9, 1969. Four others were stabbed and shot to death the same night: Jay Sebring, 35 Voytek Frykowski, 32 Abigail Folger, 25, a coffee heiress and Steven Parent, 18, a friend of Tate’s caretaker. The word “pig” was written on the front door in blood.
The next night, Manson rode with his followers to the Los Feliz home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, then left three members to kill the couple.
Manson initially was sentenced to death. But a 1972 ruling by the California Supreme Court found the state’s death penalty law at the time unconstitutional, and his sentence was changed to life in prison with the possibility of parole. He has been denied parole 12 times.
During his four decades of incarceration, Manson has been anything but a model prisoner. Among other things, he has been cited for assault, repeated possession of a weapon, threatening staff and possessing a cellphone.
Executive Chairman: Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong
Managing Editors: Scott Kraft, Kimi Yoshino
Deputy Managing Editors: Shelby Grad, Shani O. Hilton, Julia Turner
Creative Director: Amy King
Executive Sports Editor: Christian Stone
Assistant Managing Editors: John Canalis, Angel Jennings, Loree Matsui
Editor of the Editorial Pages: Sewell Chan
Op-Ed and Sunday Opinion Editor: Terry Tang
Director: Samantha Melbourneweaver
Deputy Editor, Audience: Seth Liss
Assistant Editor, Entertainment and Arts: Christina Schoellkopf
Off-Platform Editor: Kelcie Pegher
SEO Editor: Louisa Frahm
Audience Engagement Editors
Business, Travel: Rachel Schnalzer
Entertainment and Arts: Christopher Price
Metro: Mary Kate Metivier, Javier Panzar
National Politics/D.C.: Adrienne Shih
News: Gabriela Fernandez, Maneeza Iqbal
Sports: Fidel Martinez
Business and Technology Editor: Ben Muessig
Deputy Editors: Jeff Bercovici (Technology), Nour Malas (Strategy)
Assistant Editors: Nancy Rivera Brooks, Lauren Raab
Columnists: Michael Hiltzik, David Lazarus
Aerospace, Supply Chains: Samantha Masunaga
Autos: Russ Mitchell
Business Profiles: Ronald D. White
California Economy: Margot Roosevelt
Commercial Real Estate: Roger Vincent
Energy: Sammy Roth
Enterprise: Daniel Miller
General Assignment: Andrea Chang, Suhauna Hussain
Housing Market: Andrew Khouri
Investigations: Melody Petersen
Real Estate: Jack Flemming
Technology: Johana Bhuiyan (SF), Sam Dean
Tourism: Hugo Martín
Wealth and Dealmakers: Laurence Darmiento
Los Angeles City Hall: Emily Alpert Reyes, Dakota Smith, David Zahniser
Los Angeles County: Jaclyn Cosgrove
Public Health: Soumya Karlamangla
Transportation: Laura J. Nelson
Editors: Richard Martin, Joel Rubin
D.C. and Criminal Courts: James Queally
Federal Courts, Law Enforcement: Michael Finnegan
General Assignment: Leila Miller, Matthew Ormseth, Richard Winton
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department: Alene Tchekmedyian
Los Angeles Police Department: Kevin Rector
Editor: Stephanie Chavez
General Assignment: Paloma Esquivel, Melissa Gomez, Sonali Kohli, Laura Newberry
Higher Education, Community Colleges, Cal State System: Nina Agrawal
Higher Education, University of California: Teresa Watanabe
Los Angeles Unified School District: Howard Blume
Enterprise, State Bureaus
Editors: Steve Clow, Stuart Leavenworth
Accountability: Robert J. Lopez
Enterprise: Joe Mozingo
General Assignment: Anita Chabria
Healthcare: Marissa Evans
Housing Affordability: Liam Dillon
Narrative: Thomas Curwen
San Francisco/State Supreme Court: Maura Dolan
State Enterprise: James Rainey
Editor: Monte Morin
Air Quality: Tony Barboza
California Coast: Rosanna Xia
Southern California Environment: Louis Sahagún
Wildfires: Alex Wigglesworth
The Unabridged Esquire Masthead
Earl Selby, Helene Richards, Velma Burke, Edith Roberts, Mary Vested, J.L. Cates, Frederick Sternthal, L.E. Hobart, K.F. Martin, G.H. Poston, V.B. Rogers, George Wiswell, D.S. Reed, C.K. Conklin, Chase Herendeen, Charles Cook, William Dewitt, Gordon Fletcher, William Massee, Genevieve Pfleeger, Louis Sidran, Pierce Fredericks, Fred Freed, Donald Berwick, Donald Cormack, Kenneth S. White, Stelljes Nichols, John Berendt, Alice Glaser, Robert Sherrill, Jill Goldstein, Tom Hedley, Mark Zussman, Ben W. Pesta, Rees Behrendt, William H. Ryan, John Lombardi, Judy Jones, Scott Fagley, Florence Macy Stickney, John Tarkov, Cora B. Marcus, Marilyn Johnson, A. Craig Copetas, Peter W. Kaplan, David Epstein, Rob Fleder, Dominique Browning, David Blum, Eric Perret, Chris Raymond, Sam Grobart, Lauren Iannotti, Peter Martin
Amanda Urban, Consuela Golden, Andrew Wilkes
Pat Rotter, Susan Spiller, Anne Eliot Putnam, Jon Rizzi, Edward I. Harris, Lori Rubin
Berhard Geis, Gene Lichtenstein, David Solomon, Jean Stein, David Newman, Brock Brower, Sherry Murakami, Ann Bramson, Sandra Turner, Anne Wortham, Laura Tennen, Nancy Hertz, Lawrence Hoey, Joan Schatzberg, Michael Bennett, Janet Sass, Nedda De Grassi, William Wilson, Judith Hooper, Lou Ann Walker, Mary Carley, Nancy Klein, John Stoltenberg, Joyce Rubin, Michael Moore, Bruce Weber (Fiction), Mary Ellen Hannibal, Barbara Hey, Peggy Orenstein, David Wild, Laura C. Marmor, Paul Schneider, Anthony Barzilay Freund, Yishane Lee, Ben Dickinson, Colette McNulty, William Georgiades, Michael J. Agovino, Jim Adams, Elizabeth Einstein, Rebecca Armatis, Daniel Torday, Bryan Mealer, Doug Cantor, David Walters, Tim Heffernan, Buddy Kite
Warren Brown, Nevin Gage, Robt H. Loeb Jr., Katherine Martin, Sam R. Fogel, Edmund Burke, Arnold Glanz, G. Boulkind, Ezra Bowen, J. Forbes, L. Taylor, Milton Weiss, N. Darge, M. Fechheimer, Anne Fuchs, Jane Healy, Margaret Heiman, Constance Olmstead, Natalie Bates, Irene Loew, Pamela Landou, Pauline Piekarz, Joan L. Thomas, Miriam Chapin, Byne Lohmann, Rachel Gallagher, Sylvia Goldstein, Jed McGarvey, Annette Ault, Roseanne Burke, Carolyn Ferrante, Roberta Bendavid, Jeanette Cone, Nuala Pearce, Bernadette Revest, Tina Christopherson, Susan J. Schmetzer, Kaylinda Essig, Phyllis Goldfarb, Caroline Clephane, Jean Cullen, Livia Goldring, Jill Whedon
Marian Thurm Axelrod, Adele Hoenig, Frumie Selchen, Martha White, James Lewis, Linda Cool, Roger Parloff, Mary Mills, Christiane Bird, Stephen Forsling, Janet Rab, Sara Maltz, Roseann Martirano, David Kelly, Dulcie Leimbach, John Homans, Lois Smith Brady, Jean-Christophe Castelli (Fiction), Jennifer Farbar, Lawrence Gallagher, Benjamin D. Reiss (Fiction), Jaye Hendel, Joseph Mallia, Will Dana, Charene Zalis, Robin L. Yoder, Susan Kaplow, Mark Marvel, Jeffrey Davis, Lea A. Saslav, Brendan Foley, Jay Stowe, Thomas Hudson, Daniel Steinman, Monica Mehta, Danielle epstein, Makini Davis, Wayne Northcross, Emily Robichaud, Genevieve J. Roth, Rebecca Schulman, Penny Wrenn, Kathryn Wilson, Meryl Rothstein, Erik D. Price
SPECIAL ASSISTANTS TO THE EDITOR IN CHIEF
Beverly L. Xua, Fran Kessler
ASSISTANTS TO THE EDITOR
Constance Wood, Sandra Kuropatkin, Carolyn Marsh, Margaret Holmes, Megan Baldridge Murray, Cregihton Taylor, Mimi Brennan
ASSISTANTS TO THE EDITOR IN CHIEF
Ursula Obst, Elizabeth McAlister
Ann Fortenzer, Betsy Israel, Ellen Livingston, Barbara Hoffman, Anthony H. Brown, Jenny Gleich, Barry D. Frank, Sue Hirschman, Noy Holland, Elizabeth Gleich DeMonte, Louise Washer, Michael L. Sion, Richard Perez-Feria, Julia Califano
Unpacking Donald Trump's Ties to Jeffrey Epstein, as Shown in Netflix's Filthy Rich
Here's how the president was connected to the late sex offender.
Netflix&rsquos Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich focuses on the most important figures in the Jeffrey Epstein saga&mdashsexual assault survivors. But it also tells stories of the late multimillionaire financier and convicted sex offender&rsquos ties to some of the most influential men in the world. And though there were plenty of big names in Epstein&rsquos little black book, he at one point counted two presidents among his friends: Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
Trump and Epstein&rsquos friendship ended in an apparent falling out, but the Epstein story still intersected with the future president&rsquos political life. Here&rsquos what you need to know.
Both Trump and Epstein were fixtures in New York and Palm Beach society circles.
The wealthy pair were fixtures of the 1980s and 1990s society scene. &ldquoIn those days, if you didn&rsquot know Trump and you didn&rsquot know Epstein, you were a nobody,&rdquo famed attorney Alan Dershowitz, who&rsquos served as a lawyer for both men, told The New York Times last year.
The same Times article told of a party the future president hosted at his Mar-a-Lago club in 1992. The guest list? Epstein, Trump, and 28 &ldquocalendar girl&rdquo competition contestants. Ten years later, Trump told New York Magazine that he&rsquod known Epstein for 15 years. &ldquoTerrific guy,&rdquo said Trump. &ldquoHe&rsquos a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.&rdquo Trump&rsquos name appears on the flight log for Epstein&rsquos plane, and Epstein&rsquos brother claimed that Trump flew on the aircraft &ldquonumerous times&rdquo
When the allegations against Epstein became national news in 2019, Trump distanced himself from the convicted sex offender, saying that he &ldquowas not a fan&rdquo of the disgraced financier and eventually banned him from Mar-a-Lago.
And it does seem to be true that the two had a falling out in the years following that now-infamous New York Magazine quote. The Washington Post reported that in 2004 the two men each tried to buy the same Palm Beach mansion. Trump eventually won the auction, and later sold the home for more than twice the $41.35 million he spent on it. But the Post reported that the competition over the beachfront property spelled the end of Trump and Epstein&rsquos friendship.
During the 2016 election, an anonymous woman filed and then dropped a lawsuit accusing Trump of raping her at a party hosted by Epstein in 1994, when she was just 13-years-old. Trump denied the allegations as being &ldquocategorically false,&rdquo and reporters have also deemed the account to be potentially unreliable, as it was shopped to the media by fringe figures that included a former Jerry Springerproducer. According to Vox, the sole journalist who was able to interview the anonymous accuser, &ldquocame away confused and even doubting whether [she] really exists.&rdquo
Epstein&rsquos plea deal became a scandal for a member of Trump&rsquos cabinet.
In 2005, a Florida woman told police that her stepdaughter had been molested by a rich local man. That tip led to an investigation by Palm Beach police and the FBI that uncovered multiple alleged victims who told of a &ldquosexual pyramid scheme&rdquo in which girls were hired to recruit other young women to be molested, with victim counts numbering in the dozens.
In 2007, Epstein was indicted on sexual abuse charges that could have garnered him a life sentence. But instead, then-Miami US attorney Alexander Acosta cut Epstein a deal that found the financier of pleading guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor in exchange for serving just 13 months in Palm Beach county jail. He was allowed to leave the jail for 12 hours a day almost every day of the week under a work release program that was supposed to exclude sex offenders.
&ldquoAcosta can talk until he's blue in the face about what they had and what they couldn't do,&rdquo Joe Berlinger, director of Netflix docuseries Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, told Esquire. &ldquobut it was an unprecedented, unheard of sweetheart deal.&rdquo
That deal would catch up with Acosta, who eventually became President Trump&rsquos labor secretary, more than a decade later. Amid outrage over the leniency of the deal granted Epstein, Acosta stepped down from his cabinet position in 2019.
&ldquoHe felt the constant drumbeat of press about a prosecution which took place under his watch more than 12 years ago was bad for the Administration, which he so strongly believes in,&rdquo tweeted Trump, &ldquoand he graciously tendered his resignation.&rdquo
Call It Murder
One of the few medical examiners who specialize in neuropathology, Dr. Mary Case uncovers homicides that were signed off as accidents alibis that make no medical sense and untrained county coroners who miss what, to her, is obvious.
Photography by Whitney Curtis
Walter Scott, thought Case. The lead singer for Bob Kuban and the In-Men—the man who’d belted out “The Cheater” in 1966 and watched it soar to No. 12 on the pop charts—had been missing for more than three years.
It was about 8 p.m. and already dark. Case had to keep unclenching her hands from the steering wheel as she left Highway N, out near Crooked Creek, and drove past a cemetery and down an empty stretch of Gutermuth Road. What if the call had been a fake, somebody trying to lure her out here?
A mile later, she saw flashing lights and relaxed. A small fleet of police cars, crime-scene vans, and media vans clogged the road in front of the house. Everybody was out back. Deputies had used crowbars and ropes to pry a custom-built wood flower planter, about 5 feet wide with a concrete bottom, off the cistern. Then they’d dragged away the concrete lid.
About 2 feet below the earth, a man’s body, partially decomposed, floated on the cistern’s scummy water.
Lt. Rick Luetkenhaus shot video as his colleagues lowered a firefighter’s wire basket beneath the body. As they began to lift, the skull disconnected from the spinal column. Case lay down on the chilly, damp ground and, with her bare hands, grabbed it. “For fear that it would somehow get away,” she said afterward, her smile wry. “I don’t know where I thought it was going to go!”
What was left of Scott wore a blue-and-white jogging suit his parents had bought him for Christmas. Back at the morgue, Case removed the yellow rope that bound the hands, legs, and ankles. There was a hole in the jogging suit, but not enough flesh to determine a gunshot wound. Case took an X-ray and saw a telltale scattering of metallic fragments. He’d been shot in the chest with a high-powered rifle.
They’d just solved a double murder.
Television has conditioned us to like our pathologists quirky, maybe because their eccentricities distract us from the crack of bone and ooze of innards. But Mary Case wears St. John suits and quiet statement jewelry. Conscientious as a schoolgirl, she finishes everything early because she can’t stand deadline pressure. She wears her seatbelt, avoids germs, and changes the batteries in her smoke alarms with religious precision. She’s cut into 11,000 cadavers, and it’s left her cautious.
On the other hand, her significant other’s a millionaire entrepreneur who started his career playing rock ’n’ roll. And her own life is hardly tame. Chief medical examiner for St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin, and Jefferson counties, she’s one of 15 or so medical examiners with dual board certification in forensic pathology and neuropathology, so she consults on complex medicolegal cases all over the country.
Case uncovers homicides that were overlooked by coroners with no medical training. Violent deaths that went unrecognized by hospital pathologists. Babies she’s sure were shaken to death in a rage, even though defense experts argued it was an accident. As her reputation grows, the science gets more complicated and controversial, but her challenge stays simple: Figure out why someone died, and make that clear to everybody else.
She gets frustrated when the rest of the system fails to reach such clarity.
Look Out for the Cheater
Case’s connection to the Walter Scott case began with an unrelated death in 1986. She was four months into her new responsibilities as St. Charles County’s medical examiner, and county residents weren’t yet convinced her expertise was worth the money.
Then the body of Earl Dallas Finn rolled into her morgue.
Finn’s car had run off the road and crashed near the Interstate 70 overpass by Mid Rivers Mall. He was dead by the time the ambulance reached the hospital, and the pathologist there wrote up the death as an automobile fatality. Police figured he’d fallen asleep at the wheel.
Case did the autopsy, stripped off her double gloves, and dialed the officer who’d written the report. “You need to come over,” she said. “This is not a car-accident death. Somebody shot this man in the head with a shotgun.”
It turned out that a man named Michael Wayne Jackson had been driving across the country killing people. His most recent spree was near the Saint Louis Galleria. The police were after him. And the unfortunate Finn drove a nondescript silver Ford that looked a lot like an unmarked police car. Jackson played sniper, firing at him as he drove down the road.
Once Case exposed the shooting, a manhunt began. Jackson was on the loose in Warren County. People fled their homes for a week while police searched. They eventually found him dead in a barn.
Bold headlines about the new medical examiner’s discovery changed people’s minds fast. Maybe it really was worth the added expense to use a forensic pathologist. How many other murders slipped by unnoticed?
The newspaper ink was still smudgy when her phone rang. The county sheriff was wondering whether she’d take a look at an old case for them. She assured him that people brought her cold cases all the time.
Deputies showed up with a stack of medical records for a woman named Sharon Williams. Underneath were police reports about the disappearance, possibly related, of a pop-rock singer named Walter Scott.
On a rainy evening in October 1983, Sharon Williams’ Cadillac Seville had gone off the road, slid a few feet down an embankment, and landed in a ditch. She was found wedged under the dashboard on the passenger side, unconscious. Thirteen hours later, doctors told Jim Williams that his wife’s brain was irreparably damaged, and he gave permission to take her off life support.
People’s hearts went out to Jim. A big guy, stocky and affable, he was an electrical contractor, and he did a lot of pro bono work in the community. He also coached a women’s softball team and had been known to bake cookies for college-dorm care packages.
On December 27, two months after Sharon died, Walter Notheis (Scott was his stage name) left his house on Pershing Lake Drive. His wife, Joann Notheis, said he’d gone to a mechanic’s garage to get a battery. He never came back.
Jim Williams moved in instead.
The coincidence wasn’t lost on the local sheriff’s department, already troubled by certain details of Sharon’s accident (a whiff of gasoline on her body a driver’s seat pushed back to accommodate legs far longer than hers). But in 1983, St. Charles County didn’t have a forensic pathologist. Sharon Williams’ death was signed off at the hospital as a head injury caused by the car crash.
Now, three years later, Case paged through the records. Lacerations and massive skull fracture, she murmured to herself, yet the car only went nose down. It didn’t roll.
“A mild frontal collision isn’t consistent with massive head injuries at the back of the head,” she told the sheriff. “We need to exhume the body.”
She wrote to the state’s attorney in Williamson County, Ill., asking him to take her request to a judge. Five months and several calls later, nothing had happened. So Case contacted Sharon’s mother. It was one of the heart-wrenching conversations Case finds infinitely harder than dealing with dead people. They present solvable scientific puzzles. The bereaved offer only inconsolable grief.
In the end, the mother admitted she’d always had doubts about her daughter’s death and gave permission for the exhumation. It wasn’t exactly proper procedure, but Case knew she could always go back and re-exhume through the court system if she found something.
She found that Sharon had received two powerful blows to the back of the head, and the weapon had been a long, heavy, blunt object.
As soon as they saw Case’s report, detectives flew to Florida and pulled Jim Williams’ estranged son, who was serving time for a minor drug crime, into an interrogation room. They worked their way up to the real question: Where might his father have hidden a body?
He’d have thrown it in the river, the young man tossed back. But they’d already checked the weather for 1983. Temperatures dropped so low that winter, the river froze.
They pressed harder. The son mentioned the cistern in his father’s back yard, and how, in the spring of 1983, his dad had a heavy flower planter custom-built to cover it.
The detectives thanked him and flew home.
Jim Williams received a life sentence he died in prison in 2011.
And Case uses the Walter Scott story with her students at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, where she’s a professor of pathology. “This is how forensic science works,” she says. “You take the evidence, and it leads to a piece of information, and that piece leads to another, until at some point, the key is found.”
Even if it’s as innocuous as a flowerpot.
At the age of 5, Mary borrowed her uncle’s chemistry set, half terrified and half thrilled by the prospect of blowing something up. At 6, she dissected insects and one of the “pickled worms” her dad kept in a jar as fishing bait. “I don’t know what fish would eat a pickled worm,” she says now. “Maybe they were just in a jar. It was the only thing I had—or I might have been Jeffrey Dahmer!”
By high school, she was interested in nu-clear physics and space exploration, but she knew herself well enough to know she could never leave the Earth. At the University of Missouri, she declared herself premed and majored in psychology. By the time she reached Saint Louis University School of Medicine, she’d chosen the intellectual detective work of forensic pathology. But when she did her residency at Saint Louis University Hospital, there was no forensic pathologist she could study under. She chose a neuropathologist,Dr. James Nelson—a man so dedicated that he delayed an offer from Washington University for a solid year until she finished her training with him.
Case also filled notebooks with insights from Dr. Charles Hirsch, for many years the chief medical examiner in New York City. She attended every conference where he spoke, and the crystalline clarity of his explanations shaped and refined her understanding of head injury. She can still quote him line for line.
After her residency, she worked as a consultant in neuropathology at several local hospitals. She still wanted to do forensic work, though, and she needed experience. In 1975, she went to work for—and learn from—Dr. George Gantner, St. Louis County’s first medical examiner. In 1977, when the city of St. Louis abandoned its coroner system and also began using Gantner, Case worked part-time in his city office, too.
There, she saw a disturbing new pattern: case after case of child abuse. Infants shaken in frustration because they wouldn’t stop crying—until they lost consciousness and died. Toddlers whacked on the back of the head who either died instantly or lost consciousness and died soon after.
Child abuse was a guilty, open secret. Pediatricians had been warning of its dangers for decades, but the law had no way to prosecute: no eyewitness, no weapon, no bullet or stab wound. And most physicians had only the murkiest understanding of the biomechanics of head injury.
Case started studying traumatic unconsciousness.
“Because our brain is the consistency of unset gelatin, it moves at a different speed than the skull that encases it,” she explains. “Think of water sloshing in a glass.” The brain bangs against the skull, and the impact can tear blood vessels and axons, causing concussion, loss of consciousness, permanent dam-age, or death. Ironically, not even the safety helmets parents beg their children to wear can protect against this kind of acceleration injury. “It can lessen impact and keep the skull from fracturing,” Case says. “But the worst thing you can do is cause the head to move very abruptly.”
Even crushing does less damage, she adds. “If you are crushed in a machine that closes on your head, you can stay conscious while your skull is breaking. And if it doesn’t squash all the way to the center, you can actually recover.”
Two Baby-Stealing Burglars?
On June 17, 1986, a hysterical Paula Sims said she’d been home alone with her 13-day-old baby, Loralei, when a masked gunman came into the basement while she was watching the weather on the 10 p.m. news and stole her baby. A week later, Loralei’s decomposed body was found in the woods behind the Simses’ house in Brighton, Ill. The area used a coroner system, so there was no forensic pathologist examining the body, and the hospital pathologist just said the cause of death was “undetermined”—not a homicide.
Three years later, a hysterical Paula Sims told police that she’d been home alone with her 6-week-old baby, Heather, and had gone to take the trash out around 10:30 p.m. She said a masked, armed intruder had knocked her unconscious with a karate chop and kidnapped her daughter.
This time, the baby was found in a trash can in Missouri, just across the Mississippi River from the Simses’ Alton home. That changed the jurisdiction, so Heather’s body came to Case’s morgue.
Police knew when the trash can had been emptied, so the body couldn’t have been there more than a few hours. It was well-preserved, the skin a bright red that made Case wonder whether Heather had been frozen. Police went off to investigate the freezers at Paula’s house and her parents’ house. Meanwhile, Don Weber, who was assistant state’s attorney for Madison County at the time, wanted to know more about the karate chop Sims said had knocked her out for 45 minutes. He went to the FBI and asked for an expert who’d be able to tell him about the effects of such a blow. His FBI contact said there were two people in the country who were certified in neuropathology and might be able to help him, and one was a woman in St. Louis, Dr. Mary Case.
“That’s the woman who just did Heather’s autopsy!” Weber exclaimed. He called her immediately. When they sat down together, he took her through various points, asking if Sims’ version was possible. “She’d say, ‘Well, yeah, it’s possible.’ ‘Probably not, but remotely possible.’ Finally I said, ‘After she woke up, she remembered the guy hitting her on the head.’ And Mary looked up and she said, ‘Now that is impossible.’” Even if Sims had seen a blow coming, Case explained, her brain would not have had time to form an impression and a lasting memory before she lost consciousness.
Sims’ karate chop, Case says now, “was probably something she saw on TV. Have you ever seen a movie where somebody gets a head injury and wakes up with total amnesia, can’t even remember who they are? It doesn’t happen. Now, when you are concussed, you do not remember the blow, and you may lose memories of what happened just before and after the injury. But total memory loss? No. And have you ever seen a cowboy movie where somebody gets hit on the head with a gun and slithers down—then wakes up and jumps on their horse to chase the bad guy? No. It’s like hitting somebody in the head with a beer bottle. While I don’t recommend it, it’s not going to knock you out. For something to hit you on the head and cause you to lose consciousness, the mass of what hits you has to be very great, or have enough momentum to rock the brain.”
Sims’ defense team—two attorneys Weber liked and respected, Donald Groshong and Jim Williamson—deposed Case, who’d just become Weber’s star witness. “You have to answer their questions honestly,” Weber told her ahead of time, “but don’t volunteer anything.” Williamson handled all of the medical questions, and he interrogated Case about everything but the karate chop. When they walked out of the deposition, he glanced over at Weber. “Well, did I get it?”
“Nope,” said Weber. “You didn’t get it.”
Case took the stand last. She looked straight at the jury and announced that Sims’ story was medically impossible. “Groshong was spitting cotton,” Weber says now, grinning. “But the judge let me go on.”
Next, Case told the court that three years earlier, the coroner should have ruled Loralei’s death as resulting from homicidal violence. The baby hadn’t gone into the woods on her own, and she certainly hadn’t committed suicide.
That evening, Sims summoned Weber to her prison cell and confessed that she had drowned both babies in the bathtub. She was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
St. Louis County hired its first forensic pathologist in 1969. Until then, it used a coroner system, as much of the country still does. Coroners are responsible for determining the manner of death—by violence, under suspicious circumstances, or from na-tural causes—and it is their ruling that determines whether the death gets investigated. Yet the coroner gets elected by popular vote and needn’t even be a physician, let alone a forensic pathologist. “In outstate Missouri, we have actually had a blind man elected as coroner,” says Case, sighing. (More recently, a 17-year-old high-school senior was appointed a deputy coroner in Indiana.)
“In the coroner counties, if an autopsy’s even done, a pathologist does it—but doesn’t have access to the circumstantial evidence in the background,” she notes, her voice crisp with impatience. “And a fair number of the coroners are funeral directors, so if a family doesn’t want an autopsy, they might not insist, for fear they’ll lose that family’s business.”
She’s not the first to be troubled by the coroner system. In March 2009, Judge Harry Edwards, chief judge emeritus of the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C., reminded a senate judiciary committee that scientists have been calling for the abolition of the coroner system since 1928. But John Fudenberg, assistant coroner in Clark County, Nev., and president of the International Association of Coroners & Medical Examiners, says the debate’s just not practical. First, he says, there aren’t enough physicians to replace every coroner with a medical examiner. Second, “about 82 percent of the coroners in this country are elected officials, and to think you are going to abolish elected officials is just not realistic.”
Geographically, he says, county coroners cover about 75 percent of the country, although by population, most deaths occur in large metropolitan areas that have fully trained medical examiners. “I know Mary Case,” he adds. “She’s one of those medical doctors that really just despise the coroner system, and frankly, in the state of Missouri, the coroners despise her. She looks down on them, and I don’t know why. I’m not going to tell you they have a big heavy medical background, but a lot of the coroners in Missouri are doing it as a community service. It’s not uncommon for them to have a budget well under $20,000, and out of that comes their salary and their expense for autopsies. A lot of the coroners are funeral directors, and the reason they do this is, if they didn’t do it, nobody else would.”
As long as the autopsies are done by a forensic pathologist, Fudenberg continues, what’s wrong with letting a coroner run the death-investigation office? “Let’s face it, doctors are not always good managers,” he says. Besides, they’re overworked already: A Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report noted that of the nearly 1 million deaths referred to coroners or medical examiners in 2004, only 51 percent were accepted for additional investigation or autopsy.
Does Fudenberg worry at all, as Case does, that homicides might be overlooked? “Oh, absolutely,” he says. “But that isn’t the result of it being a coroner system. It’s the result of it being a system that has untrained staff.” His organization does want states to require coroners to be certified death investigators. And instead of all of this infighting, he’d like to see coroners and medical examiners coexist amicably. “Missouri is a perfect example of how horrible it can get if they don’t cooperate. The medical examiners need to embrace the coroners and train them. And the reason they don’t do that is because they are advocating abolishing the coroner system.”
Case isn’t arguing with that. “Why do we need the elected coroner?” she asks. “What needs to happen is to regionalize areas so many counties are encompassed by a system with several forensic pathologists to handle the cases. MEs have administrative and investigative staffs to run the office and do investigations. Let the coroners apply for those jobs.”
A Fatal Slip
Drew Peterson served as a police officer in Bolingbrook, Ill., for 30 years. Early in his career, he was even named Police Officer of the Year.
His home life was less stable. His first wife divorced him for infidelity when their two sons were still small. The second wife divorced him for infidelity a decade later. Two months after that divorce was finalized, he married Kathleen Savio. She stayed 11 years and bore him two more sons, but divorced him in 2003. Less than a week later he married Stacy Kales.
Drew Peterson and Savio were still squabbling over the financial terms of their divorce the following spring. Then Savio was found dead in her bathtub.
Her death was ruled an accidental drowning—by a coroner’s jury that included a police officer who, according to the New York Post, knew Peterson personally and assured the other jurors he was “a good man who would never hurt his wife.”
In late summer 2007, Stacy Peterson confided in both her pastor and her divorce attorney, saying she suspected her husband of killing Savio. That October, Stacy disappeared. In December, Peterson resigned from the police force—but not as an admission of guilt. He hired a publicist and went on national TV to proclaim his innocence. Meanwhile, Savio’s family—and Fox News—had her body exhumed and autopsied by Fox’s forensic consultant, Dr. Michael Baden, who’d investigated the deaths of President John F. Kennedy, John Belushi, and Czar Nicholas II.
Baden said the bruising on Savio’s body could not have come from a fall in the bathtub. Case, who was called in by the prosecution, agreed. But defense experts said there was no bruising the discoloration was only “an artifact of decomposition.” They maintained that Savio fell, got a concussion, lost consciousness, and drowned.
“Well, that doesn’t really happen,” Case says. “It’s very possible for a football player to be concussed by a fall—these are big men moving fast, and when they collide, there is tremendous force. But a person falling in the bathtub? She couldn’t have fallen fast enough to hit her head hard enough to knock her out.”
Even if she had, she would have come awake, Case adds. “They’ll put ammonia, a noxious odor, under a football player’s nose to revive him. Don’t you think getting water into your airways would be a noxious stimulant? Also, she had no internal brain injury. When you tear the axons, there’s a little bit of bleeding that’s apparent in an autopsy.
“There are a number of murders in the bathtub,” Case adds. “I’ve since seen two or three others from Illinois, and we just had one here in St. Louis. These murders are not easy to detect, and we need to make sure we don’t write them off. It’s nearly always a woman who’s killed, and the murderer’s nearly always a family member, and it’s nearly always over money.”
At Drew Peterson’s trial, Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen, director of Autopsy and Forensic Services at the University of Michigan Medical School, said he believed Savio had slipped and fallen. He even rose to demonstrate, on his own body, how the gash at the back of her head and the bruising on her hip would have corresponded with the impact of a fall in the tub. Another pathologist, Dr. Vincent DiMaio, blamed the absence of a rubber mat and the possible use of bath oils.
Case testified for a solid day. She said Savio would have had to fall hard three times to account for the deep bruises on her hip and chest and the injury to the back of her head. The defense objected to that statement, and the judge told the jury to disregard it. Case continued. She said the 2-inch cut penetrated the thick layer of skin around the skull, but didn’t go deep enough to damage Savio’s brain. So it would not have caused her to lose consciousness and drown.
“I disagree vehemently,” Jentzen said when the defense called him back to the stand. “She’s wrong.” He insisted that it was perfectly possible for someone to lose consciousness from a concussion that left no sign of trauma in the brain.
“Show me the evidence,” Case says now. “It’s not there.”
Drew Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the murder of Kathleen Savio.
Stacy Peterson has never been found.
Case keeps her autopsy room at about 65 degrees, and she shields herself, psychologically as well as physically, with scrubs, an operating gown, a thick apron, a cap, and a mask. But when she looks beneath the chilled skin of a dead child, she can sense the old heat: the violent shaking that caused an infant’s head trauma, the onslaught of blows that left massive bruises, the hard shoves and banged heads and lacerated faces of an unfit parent’s rage. She’s seen hundreds of examples of fatal abuse. Talia Williams’ was the worst.
Talia, 5 years old and 40 pounds, died in 2005. Case was called in as a consultant in 2010. By the time the case came to trial four years later, only one point was in dispute.
Talia’s father, Naeem Williams, admitted that after getting custody of his daughter, he’d been frustrated by her inability—which he saw as a stubborn refusal—to control her bowels and bladder. He admitted beating her from November 2004 until July 2005 and leaving her alone, naked and hungry, in a room stripped of furniture, the walls splattered with Talia’s dried blood. He even admitted that on the day of her death, he’d hit her so hard that she fell, smashing her head, dislocating her shoulder, and losing consciousness. His wife, Delilah Williams, admitted that two weeks earlier, she’d stomped so hard on her stepdaughter’s stomach that she heard bone crack, then shoved her onto the toilet, pushed hard on her stomach, grabbed her by the hair, and slammed her head back so hard it left a dent in the wall.
What was at issue was which episode had killed her.
This spring, Case flew to Honolulu to testify as an expert witness in one of the most dramatic cases in Hawaii’s history. Because Talia’s father and stepmother lived on base housing at Wheeler Army Air Field, Alberto Gonzales, U.S. attorney general at the time of Talia’s death, was able to insist that Naeem, if convicted, would be eligible for the death penalty—even though Hawaii had outlawed it in 1957.
On April 16, Case took the stand at 9 a.m. She acknowledged the severity of the many earlier assaults but testified that in her opinion, Talia had died from traumatic brain injury. She explained her findings. By 2 p.m., the prosecuting attorney had no further questions.
One of the two defense attorneys, Michael Burt, came forward. On a cart to Case’s left rested 15 binders, each about 8 inches thick. The last six were devoted to Mary Case: her articles on head injury, her testimony in past cases.
Burt led her through the binders’ content, reading quotes and asking whether they contradicted her current testimony. Case’s replies formed a litany: “Yes, I did say that, and it is not inconsistent.” “Yes, I did say that, and it is not inconsistent.” After three hours of this, jurors were rolling their eyes. But the unusual cross-examination resumed the next morning. The judge was allowing plenty of latitude, because he wanted this trial—Hawaii’s first capital case in half a cen-tury—to be ironclad.
Talia’s stepmother had already agreed to plead guilty to murder, on the grounds that her earlier actions contributed indirectly to Talia’s death. She would testify against her husband in exchange for a 20-year sentence. If the jury believed that her earlier assault was the direct cause of Talia’s death, however, Naeem would walk—at least on the capital charge.
Expert witnesses for Naeem’s defense had already testified that the stepmother’s assault could have been responsible, whether by causing organ system failure or by leaving dead tissue that then became septic.
“With sepsis from an abdominal injury, you have symptoms,” Case says, her voice sharp. “Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite. Well, the child ate breakfast that day. When they would give her food, she would certainly eat it.”
Case told the jury that when Talia’s father hit her hard enough to knock her down, there was massive impact to the back of her head. That kind of brain trauma shows up in a pattern of torn axons—part of the neurons that control the body’s activity. Using a special stain, Case explained, it’s possible to identify these torn axons under a microscope.
Burt grilled her about other cases of brain injury, comparing her descriptions. “Many were my own cases I’d done the autopsies myself,” she recalls. “I might have said, ‘In this child there is a thin layer of subdural blood.’ He’d find other phrases, like ‘a small amount’ or ‘a scant amount.’ He was trying to impeach my testimony.”
Case used the lunch break to tear back to her hotel for her suitcase. She returned, composed herself, and took the stand again, willing her stomach not to growl. The comparisons resumed. Just before 2 p.m., she snuck a look at her watch. Her plane left at 4:45. If she missed it, she missed it. She continued to answer calmly.
Burt closed the last binder just in time for Case to make it to the airport. She was back in St. Louis on Friday, and the jury began its deliberations the following week. She prepared herself for a long wait, but it took them only one day to arrive at their verdict: Naeem was guilty on all counts.
“It’s bad enough with a baby,” Case says now. “But I can remember being 5. Imagine living in a situation where they are withholding food and beating you and nobody loves you.” Neighbors heard the beatings, she adds, and military police came to the house more than once. “The day before Talia Williams died, the MPs saw the child. A chunk of hair on top of her head had been pulled out. She had about 40 scars. Almost half of her lower lip was missing. And nobody said, ‘She doesn’t look too good.’”
The jury debated the Williams case for seven days and deadlocked. The judge sentenced him to life in prison with no parole. Ater testifying, Case left home, reluctantly, for Paris. A homebody, she would have liked nothing better than to putter around in her new St. Charles house and garden with her longtime partner, Charles “Max” Million.
Case and Million have never married, which always amused the gossip columnists. She met him 27 years ago, standing in line at a restaurant in Union Station. A former rock musician (turned direct-marketing guru), he had a beautiful voice, so she turned around and started chatting. Million went on to make a fortune applying psychology to dating at The Relationship Centers. (Wags called him Dr. Love and nicknamed Case Dr. Death.) He sold the business to Great Expectations, retired, and became a minister. He gets a kick out of performing wedding ceremonies, which annoys Case because they nearly always cut into dinnertime.
A few years ago, she considered doing the typical golden-years thing and buying a place in Florida. Then she came to her senses. She’s still healthy and strong, she loves her job, and she hasn’t the slightest desire for her years to turn golden. So instead of heading for a condo in Naples, she fell in love—after 39 years in her home in Sunset Hills—with a contemporary masterpiece in St. Charles.
She and Million closed on the property in late winter, so they had no idea how amazing the gardens were. Come spring, they walked around in a happy daze. The owner before last had been a master gardener who worked her entire life at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Now they’re watering her hostas and repairing her landscaping, and they’ve created a tropical paradise around the pool, with Million’s palm trees (which do spend the winter someplace warm) and Case’s mandevilla and hibiscus.
That’s where Case wanted to stay. But the International Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma was being held in Paris, and she’s on the International Advisory Board for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.
It’s not why most people go to Paris. And shaken baby syndrome is controversial. No one wants to stand by while people shake an infant to death—but no one wants to see someone’s life ruined with a false accusation that damning, either. After more than four decades of study and experience, though, Case believes she can recognize, very clearly, the signs that a baby has been shaken hard enough to do fatal damage to the brain. She argues hard against the small cadre of expert witnesses who’ve been testifying around the country, saying the syndrome is overdiagnosed. She remembers how, “in the old days, before we got a child death investigation team, a coroner would look at a shaken baby and say, ‘Oh, it’s sudden infant death syndrome.’” So whenever there’s a chance to contribute her understanding of the biomechanics of head injury, especially in a fragile infant brain, she leaves her tiny tropical paradise to do her part.
“I’m not a fatalist,” she remarks. “People think forensic pathologists are all crazy, but I think the people in my profession are some of the soundest people I know, because we see how people get in trouble in the world. We see how easily you can die."
SLM contributor Jeannette Cooperman is intrigued by people's lives, ideas, relationships, and struggles.
Join & Support
Your support helps us continue to uncover and share compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality, and self-government.
Become a Member
Ways to Give
Every David Fincher Movie, Ranked
The provocative and perfectionist director only has one real miss in his filmography&mdashwhich makes evaluating it a painstaking task.
David Fincher is a polarizing provocateur, a painstaking perfectionist, and a prickly prince of darkness. But now, on the eve of the Academy Awards, he&rsquos also something else: the director of the most-nominated film in this year&rsquos Oscar race, Mank&mdashhis love letter to both Tinseltown&rsquos Golden Age and Citizen Kane screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz. Since cutting his auteur&rsquos chops on flashy music videos in the late &lsquo80s and early &lsquo90s for Madonna, George Michael, and Michael Jackson, the 58-year-old filmmaker has turned out 11 movies. Amazingly, there isn&rsquot a dud in the bunch. Well, okay, there&rsquos one. Still, it&rsquos fairly safe to say that Fincher currently owns the highest batting average in Hollywood. All of which makes ranking his cinematic oeuvre a pretty daunting challenge. But we here at Esquire love a challenge. So here they are, every one of Fincher&rsquos films ranked from worst to best&hellip
Thanks to his eye-candy sense of style and sinister wit, Fincher&rsquos music videos helped to elevate the medium from promotional hackwork to high art. His bite-size movies often went viral (long before &lsquoviral&rsquo was a thing). Naturally, it didn&rsquot take long for the major studios to come calling. However, the young director&rsquos first feature-length assignment was doomed before he even stepped foot on the set thanks to constant script revisions and studio indecision. In this gloomy third installment in the face-hugger franchise, Fincher battled for control with Twentieth Century Fox and it shows. Despite the returning presence of Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, this bleak, dystopian chase flick about grimy monks on a penal colony planet overrun with H.R. Giger beasties is, well, a mess&mdashalbeit a pretty awesome-looking one. Following Ridley Scott&rsquos original and James Cameron&rsquos follow-up, audiences and critics (and Fincher himself) couldn&rsquot help but be disappointed. There&rsquos only one whiff on Fincher&rsquos resume and you&rsquore looking at it, folks.
One person&rsquos three-hankie heartwarmer is another&rsquos person&rsquos Gumpian sap-fest. Loosely inspired by an F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a man who ages in reverse, Benjamin Button reunited Fincher with his Fight Club muse, Brad Pitt. And he is excellent. As are the extraordinarily impressive aging and de-aging effects, which only occasionally stumble into the uncanny valley of creepiness. But Eric Roth&rsquos melodramatic script works your tear ducts with the subtlety of a crow bar. The result is a film that&rsquos easy to admire on a technical level and hard to resist on an emotional one (even if you may hate yourself in the morning for being suckered by its schmaltz). Fincher has always worked best when he balances visual wizardry with story equally. But here, his eye-candy tips the balance too far.
Another exercise in style (are you sensing a theme for the lower half of this list yet?), Panic Room is a master class in claustrophobia. The stripped-down screenplay from Jurassic Park&rsquos David Koepp pits a mother (Jodie Foster) and her daughter (a young Kristen Stewart) against three home invaders who are stymied when their victims lock themselves in the high-tech panic room of their Manhattan brownstone. There isn&rsquot really enough narrative meat on the bone here to justify a full-length movie (it would have made a killer Twilight Zone episode), but Fincher manages to make what little he has to work with feel like a white-knuckle workout worthy of Hitchcock.
Written by Fincher&rsquos late father, this Netflix-bankrolled black-and-white biopic about the brilliantly soused screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz chronicles the pre-production creation of Orson Welles&rsquo masterpiece, Citizen Kane. Picking up where Pauline Kael&rsquos infamous take-down of Welles (Raising Kane) left off, Fincher sets out to give the unsung Mankiewicz his due. As the alcoholic bon vivant, Gary Oldman gives a nicely layered performance mixing flashes of brilliance and longueurs of self-immolating regret. Amanda Seyfried soars as publishing magnate (and real-life Kane inspiration) William Randolph Hearst&rsquos lover, Marion Davies. And even if the film is a bit of an echo chamber targeted more at film buffs and cineastes than your average Joe Q. Popcorn, it&rsquos nonetheless a gorgeous and tragic tribute to a Hollywood that&rsquos long passed into the yellowing pages of history.
Considered a bit box-office let-down when it first came out&mdashespecially since its studio had bullish hopes of turning Stieg Larsson&rsquos bestsellers into a lucrative movie trilogy&mdashThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has aged better than expected. This was Fincher&rsquos third foray into the serial-killer mires and he fills the whodunit with assured control and twists. Daniel Craig is terrifically understated as a disgraced reporter who&rsquos hired by a wealthy Scandinavian family to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearance of one of their own four decades earlier. And as his punk-hacker partner in sleuthing, Rooney Mara is absolutely astonishing&mdashtoggling between unflinching force and vulnerability. (Christopher Plummer as the wealthy clan&rsquos chilly paterfamilias is also extraordinary) Like Fincher&rsquos slightly better Zodiac, Dragon Tattoo is a film about justice. Not just for the victims, but for the tireless seekers of truth as well.
A delirious puzzle-box thriller that feels like a &lsquo90s riff on The Parallax View, The Game is one of those conspiracy thrillers that delights in constantly keeping the audience on its hind legs, off balance and unsure what lays around the next corner. A lizardy Michael Douglas is tailor-made for the part of a shallow businessman whose ne&rsquoer-do-well brother (Sean Penn, also spot-on) gifts him with a mysterious present that will put him through his paces on a series of wiggy, paranoia-inducing challenges that feel like more than a game. Is it totally far-fetched? Sure. But if you&rsquore willing to let go and put yourself in the hands of maestro like Fincher, it&rsquos also a total blast. And the ending is pure giddy, WTF lunacy.
Twenty-two years after its divisive release, Fight Club has aged&hellipproblematically. Adapted from Chuck Palahniuk&rsquos bruise-black novel, it&rsquos hard to tell if this mad-as-hell movie is a last stand for toxic masculinity or a treatise against it. But coming as it did in a year where all of the old Hollywood rules seemed to be getting tossed out the window, it&rsquos also an important film regardless of which way you view it. A millennial statement whose thesis is still open to interpretation&mdashwhich is always an interesting place to view a film from. Edward Norton is the epitome yuppie-consumerist male impotence who finds power and purpose in an underground demimonde of likeminded guys beating the snot out of one another to feel something&hellipanything. And as his tour guide through that underworld, Brad Pitt oozes ripped-abs, alpha-male charisma. The final third of the film is the ultimate mindbender, a ballsy payoff that works brilliantly even though it probably shouldn&rsquot.
Coming off of the soul-crushing disappointment of his experience on Alien 3, Fincher bounced back with this stygian wallow into the diseased mind of a serial killer whose M.O. follows the Seven Deadly Sins (pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth). As the two detectives following the psycho&rsquos trail, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman have a lived-in give-and-take that leavens the film&rsquos gorier tableaus with the comfortingly familiar formula of a police procedural. And Gwyneth Paltrow gives the story some much needed counterweight as Pitt&rsquos lonely wife. For a film that&rsquos full of Grand Guignol crime scenes, mainstream audiences surprisingly lined up to be taken on Fincher&rsquos dark funhouse ride&mdasha ride that climaxes with one of the all-time great final-scene sucker punches. What&rsquos in the box?&hellipWhat&rsquos in the box!?
Adapted from Gillian Flynn&rsquos addictive beach-read sensation, Fincher&rsquos Gone Girl could have easily been a massive disappointment. After all, anyone who read Flynn&rsquos masterclass in female-fronted suspense already had their own fixed ideas about what the characters and storyline should look like in their own heads. But Fincher throws caution to the wind and admirably follows his own inner vision. It helps that Rosamund Pike is icy perfection as the &ldquoheroine,&rdquo displaying a range and spark she hadn&rsquot mustered before this. And Ben Affleck as the husband suspected of her murder couldn&rsquot feel more right with his put-upon, jackass grin. Fincher doles out Flynn&rsquos fractured, he-said/she-said narrative like a miser&mdashand a master, leaving us hanging on every next twist even though we already know the road map. Movie adaptations are rarely as good as the books they&rsquore based on. But here&rsquos one that is, or at least comes out as a draw.
Zodiac is a film that feels deeply personal. And that&rsquos probably because on some level it is. Fincher grew up in the Bay Area in the late &lsquo60s and early &lsquo70s, when a serial killer nicknamed the Zodiac tormented the region. The case seeped into his marrow at an impressionable age. But that&rsquos not the only reason why Zodiac feels like a movie only Fincher could make. You see, this is a movie about obsession&mdashand few filmmakers are as obsessive as Fincher is. Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, and Mark Ruffalo are all tremendous as the trio of newspaper reporters sniffing out the murderer&rsquos identity long after the case has gone cold. Not since All the President&rsquos Men has a film turned laborious shoe-leather sleuthing into such a tension-filled thriller. This is a movie about details, about process, about dead ends. And only an artist of Fincher&rsquos virtuoso skill could turn it into a nailbiter.
This one gets my vote as the greatest movie of its decade. And to be honest, no one was surprised more than me by that pick since a little of its screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, usually goes a long way for me. But Fincher&rsquos warts-and-warts portrait of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is not only a straight-up masterpiece, it&rsquos also a remarkably perceptive reading of the era we live in, for better or worse, a decade later. I&rsquom not usually a fan of Jesse Eisenberg&rsquos particular brand of jittery, motormouthed geekitude. But he&rsquos never been better cast than he is as this brilliant-but-lonely misfit whose ambition and arrogance managed to connect the world and lose his soul in the process. The final scene, in which Zuckerberg, more on his own island than ever, keeps hitting refresh on his laptop to see if he has any friends is the perfect capper to both his story and our desperate-to-be-liked age. It&rsquos a masterpiece.
New HR director hired for city
The city of Mount Airy is bidding a reluctant farewell to a key staff member while at the same time eagerly welcoming a highly regarded individual as her replacement.
This transition has been triggered by the retirement of Human Resources Director Becky McCann after serving for about eight years in that position, which encompasses a variety of personnel responsibilities. McCann&rsquos departure is effective at the end of this month, according to City Manager Barbara Jones.
Jones announced the appointment of a new staffing professional Monday night during a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting.
&ldquoI am excited to have Susan Jones join our city team in the role as HR director,&rdquo she added in follow-up comments after that disclosure.
Susan Jones, no relation to the city manager, has more than 10 years of experience in the human resources realm and holds a degree in business administration with a concentration in HR management.
The incoming staff member also has Senior Professional in Human Resources and Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional certifications.
&ldquoMost of her experience has been with the Credit Union in Winston-Salem and in private business as HR manager for Modern Automotive,&rdquo the city manager added in detailing the new director&rsquos qualifications.
&ldquoI feel Susan will be a great fit with our staff and management team.&rdquo
The city human resources unit provides support functions for municipal workers engaged in vital public services.
About 170 full-time employees have been budgeted for in recent years, but the city manager said in 2020 that some vacancies in those ranks were going unfilled to help Mount Airy better cope with COVID-19 financially.
&ldquoThe pandemic is a situation none of us thought we would ever encounter,&rdquo the new HR director commented Thursday. &ldquoWe are taking the precautions to make sure that our employees stay safe as well as those residents that they may encounter as well.&rdquo
In such ways, &ldquoHR is vital to not only employees of the city but city residents,&rdquo Jones added.
Human resources responsibilities, as listed on the city government website, include the recruitment and selection of employees, organizing training sessions and coordinating job fairs, among others, toward goals including the maintaining of a safe work environment.
&ldquoWe have provided employees with information regarding when to quarantine, information on the FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act), making sure they have adequate resources, such as EAP (the Employee Assistance Program) to handle the pandemic stress, personal protective equipment and safety measures as it relates to the public,&rdquo the new director mentioned.
McCann to be missed
While excited about the human resources change, City Manager Jones also reflected on the retirement of Becky McCann from the position.
&ldquoShe is a great HR director and has been such a pleasure to work with,&rdquo Jones remarked, pointing out that McCann was willing to go the extra mile. &ldquoShe had originally planned to retire in December and graciously worked with me until the end of this month.&rdquo
McCann joined the municipal ranks in 2013, which was announced during a commissioners meeting in late February of that year.
She previously logged 33 years with Perry Manufacturing Co. and was serving as its vice president of human resources when Perry shut down several years before as part of a rash of textile industry departures from the local economy.
&ldquoWhen Perry Manufacturing closed, I thought, &lsquoit&rsquos over for me,&rsquo&rdquo McCann said when starting her city government job.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.
Philanthropist and Weyerhaeuser heir Sarah-Maud Sivertsen dies at 100
Sarah-Maud W. Sivertsen, the last surviving granddaughter of lumber magnate Frederick Weyerhaeuser, was buried Tuesday in a private graveside service.
She died at her St. Paul home Saturday at the age of 100.
Sivertsen and her husband, Robert, played a crucial philanthropic role in the community, including making the first big donation to the St. John’s University radio station that would later become the Minnesota Public Radio network.
“Without them, it would absolutely not have worked,” said MPR President Bill Kling.
Though the Weyerhaeuser family was one of the prominent influences on the development of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, the Sivertsens’ impact has been largely behind the scenes.
“They did good things, but they were very quiet about it,” said Charles Twining, author of four books on the Weyerhaeuser family. “She was a very gracious lady.”
Sarah-Maud Sivertsen was born in Little Falls, Minn., the daughter of Charles A. and Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser. Her father had been dispatched to the central Minnesota community as a young man by his father to run the Pine Tree Lumber Co.
Frederick Weyerhaeuser, a German immigrant, came to St. Paul in 1891, where he directed a massive business empire. In 1998, American Heritage magazine placed him eighth on its list of the 40 richest Americans of all time. It estimated his personal fortune of $200 million would be the equivalent of $43.2 billion today.
Sivertsen’s family moved in 1920 to St. Paul, where she spent the rest of her life.
In 1930, she married Walter S. Rosenberry Jr., the father of her four children. They divorced in 1949. She married Robert Sivertsen in 1954.
During her life, she served on numerous boards, including Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and Presbyterian Homes. Sivertsen and her husband also made key donations that helped produce:
â€¢ The sanctuary organ in the House of Hope Presbyterian Church at 797 Summit Ave. The organ was built by the world-renowned Charles Fisk and is considered by some as the state’s finest.
â€¢ The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum in Little Falls. With the help of the Sivertsens, the Morrison County Historical Society moved its facilities from a courthouse basement to a modern facility considered one of the strongest local history museums in the state.
â€¢ The transformation of a little classical radio station at St. John’s into Minnesota Public Radio, a broadcasting powerhouse with 37 stations. Kling said the Sivertsens’ timely donations allowed the network to take important steps in its growth, including launching a powerful signal in the Twin Cities in 1973 and setting up its offices and studios in St. Paul in 1980. MPR studios in Collegeville, Minn., and St. Paul are named for Sarah-Maud Sivertsen’s mother.
“Minnesota Public Radio owes an enormous debt to her and Bob,” Kling said. “The (Weyerhaeuser) family made a good deal of its fortune in Minnesota, and she and Bob gave a lot of it back to the people of Minnesota.”
Robert Sivertsen declined to be interviewed, but Sarah-Maud Sivertsen’s two surviving daughters – Elise Rosenberry Donohue, of Clyde Park, Mont., and Lucy Rosenberry Jones, of Wayzata – said Tuesday that public recognition didn’t matter to their mother.
They recalled how when the late Bruce Carlson, longtime executive director of the Schubert Club, approached the family about naming its international concert series after Sarah-Maud in recognition of her contributions, she declined and suggested it be named after her mother.
“They would see places of interest and need and quietly go about getting things done,” Donohue said. “She’d probably be mad at us for doing this interview.”
Said Jones: “If you had asked her what she was most proud of, she would have just looked at you. She did not think that way.”