MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22 Hello and welcome back to original-recipe Last Days. We begin with thanks to the ludicrously funny Ann Romano for filling this space in our absence and continue with a story straight out of Last Days for Dummies™, featuring the optimism-crippling trifecta of child abuse, religious psychosis, and mundane yet fatal depravity. The setting: Baltimore, where today, three members of the (defunct) religious cult 1 Mind Ministries reported for day one of their trial on charges of murder after allegedly allowing a cult member's son to starve to death in late 2006/early 2007. Why the date is iffy: Following 16-month-old Javon Thompson's death by starvation and dehydration, prosecutors say cult members prayed for his resurrection, and when prayers failed, they allegedly destroyed all evidence of the death and packed the boy's body in a suitcase. It gets worse: As prosecutors allege and the Associated Press reports, Javon's death was the direct result of the barely verbal boy's "refusal" to say amen before meals—a failure that so outraged the cult's leader that she allegedly ordered her followers to deprive the boy of food and water until he died. For her allegedly deadly instructions, 41-year-old cult leader Toni Sloan—aka Queen Antoinette—stands charged with first-degree murder, with two other alleged cult-member accomplices facing second-degree murder charges. As for Javon's mother, 23-year-old Ria Ramkissoon: According to prosecutors, she was recruited into the cult as a teenage single mother who wanted to become a Christian and soon found herself "forced to abide by an increasingly strict set of rules," including, eventually, an order to do nothing while her son died a slow, agonizing death. For her grave maternal failures, Ramkissoon pleaded guilty last year to child abuse resulting in death, for which she's expected to receive a 20-year suspended sentence with five years probation. Ramkissoon's plea deal came with two key provisions: mandatory testimony against Queen Antoinette and her two alleged accomplices, and dismissal of her guilty plea should her son come back to life. (Yes, this is true.) With Queen Antoinette and her cronies representing themselves, the horrifyingly crazy trial continues.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23 Speaking of horrifying crimes: The week continues with the galling saga of Biurny Peguero, the 27-year-old woman from Union City, New Jersey, who came forward in 2005 with a story of being raped at knifepoint by a group of men she'd met in a Manhattan nightclub. The alleged ringleader of Peguero's alleged rapists: William McCaffrey, a 32-year-old construction worker who swore to judge and jury that he'd only given Peguero a ride home, but who was nevertheless found guilty of rape. "Justice has finally been served," Peguero said as McCaffrey was sentenced to 20 years in prison—a sentence that ended last December when Peguero admitted she'd invented the whole rape story. As the Associated Press reports, Peguero came forward to clear McCaffrey after her appropriately guilty conscience refused to let her rest after sending an innocent man to prison. In December, Peguero pleaded guilty to perjury, admitting to prosecutors that she made up the rape accusations to "make her friends feel sorry for her." Today, Peguero was sentenced to one to three years in prison. "I question myself every day as to how I could have done this," she said at her sentencing, after which she was handcuffed and transported to jail. As for the innocent McCaffrey: His conviction was overturned and he was released after spending nearly four years in prison. "Although we are upset about her lies that caused, in part, his conviction," said McCaffrey's lawyer to the AP, "we do applaud her courage in coming forward."
•• Meanwhile in Washington State: Only days after his selection to become the next county treasurer, Olympia's mayor pro tem, 37-year-old Joe Hyer, was formally busted for selling pot, with Thurston County prosecutors charging the city council member with two counts of unlawful delivery of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school zone and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a school zone. As KIRO TV reports, "Upon his arrest, Hyer told police that he did sell marijuana, but only to close friends." Hyer remains free on $20,000 bail.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24 The week continues with the headline-making tale of a killer whale living up to its name, as a 12,000-pound show whale at Orlando, Florida's SeaWorld snatched a trainer by her ponytail and thrashed her about underwater until she died. Condolences to the family and friends of felled trainer Dawn Brancheau, as well as the hundreds of horrified onlookers.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25 Nothing happened today, unless you count the collapse of New York governor David Paterson's political career following allegations the governor's office inserted itself into the investigation of a domestic-violence case involving one of the governor's aides.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26 In much worse news, the week continues with the absolutely heartbreaking saga of Jennifer Paulson, the 30-year-old special-education teacher who early this morning reported for work at Tacoma's Birney Elementary School only to be confronted by a gun-wielding man who'd been stalking her for years. As the Seattle Times reports, Paulson's stalker had spent the previous weekend in jail for violating the protection order Paulson filed against him in September 2008. Released on bail on Monday, Paulson's stalker soon tracked her down. This morning, he fatally shot her before being gunned down by cops. Deep condolences to the grievously wronged Paulson along with her friends and family, good riddance to the psycho stalker, and confidential to all women driven to file protection orders: Please consider filing simultaneous gun licenses—this shit is ridiculous.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27 Speaking of tragedies: Today brought a world of destruction to Chile, where early this morning, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed more than half a million homes and left an estimated two million people homeless. As scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey told the Associated Press, this morning's earthquake was 500 times stronger than the quake that decimated Haiti in January. One mitigating factor: Chile's earthquake was 22 miles underground, while Haiti's was a mere six miles underground. (To paraphrase Cosmo, depth matters.)
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28 The week ends with the 21st Winter Olympics, which came to a close today with numerous bangs (including a smashing final hockey match between the United States and an ultimately triumphant Canada, and the U.S.'s history-making haul of 37 total medals) and one icky whimper, as NBC preempted the Olympics' closing ceremonies for a reality show in which Jerry Seinfeld and Alec Baldwin attempt to give people marriage advice with a straight face.
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