An independent bookseller has been deluged with thousands of requests after offering to send anyone who feels they need one a copy of Matt Haig’s memoir about depression, Reasons to Stay Alive, in an initiative the author called “such a positive thing on what was a pretty bleak weekend”.
Simon Key, who runs online retailer the Big Green Bookshop, was contacted by a reader, Emma, offering to buy a couple of copies of Haig’s book for people in the wake of TV presenter Caroline Flack’s death. Haig’s book details his own descent into depression, and his climb back out of it.
Key, who already runs a weekly “buy a stranger a book” club, told his Twitter followers about her offer, and said he’d “try to cover any others that are requested”. As thousands of requests poured in, readers were also quick to support him with donations.
“People have been very generous – some have given a pound or two; others more than £100,” Key said. Donations now stand at around £6,000 and are still coming in, with Key having sent out more than 600 books. He is still making his way through the requests he’s received – “I’m posting about one a minute,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday – shortly before he leaves for a half-term holiday.
“I’m getting thousands of DMs from people who need the book, and who are telling me why,” Key said on Monday. “This book has made a difference – lots of people have said it saved their lives. And this is not just about people getting the book, it’s about how they’re getting it. They’ve been brave enough to ask for it, and that’s a step forward.”
Blackwell’s in Oxford has also been giving away copies of the book to those who have asked for it, also funded by readers. Deputy manager Charlie Bush said the shop now had 40 books donated by readers, with the retailer discounting the price for donors and covering the postage costs.
“We really believe that books have the power to be life-changing and we also know that lots of people are going through tough times for all sorts of reasons. So we hope that people can gain some comfort and inspiration from Matt’s book. We tip our hats to Big Green Books for getting the ball rolling and offer huge thanks to customers who are making this possible with donations,” said Bush.
Flack had described Haig’s book as “honest and beautiful” on Twitter in 2015 and in the aftermath of her death, the author said that “when I had a bout of Twitter-fuelled depression just as Reasons to Stay Alive came out, this was the tweet that first lifted my spirits. We need more kindness.”
On Monday, Haig told the Guardian that the giveaways were “amazing … such a positive thing on what was a pretty bleak weekend. The response was phenomenal, and the generosity of so many people who volunteered to give copies to other people – online strangers – was, well, there are no words. It was just very touching and shows that the internet, and life in general, are a lot better when we try to look after each other. I am also pleased that this book, which I wrote over five years ago, is still able to help people in some small way.”
• In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
The official death toll from the Whakaari/White Island eruption has risen to 17 after a victim died in hospital on Sunday.
Deputy Commissioner John Tims confirmed the death on Monday morning.
He said the person died while in Middlemore Hospital on Sunday night, with police being advised shortly before 11pm.
The person’s death brings the official number of deceased to 17. Of the deaths, 16 died in New Zealand and one in Australia.
Whakaari/White Island erupted at 2.11pm on December 9.
The official toll, from the December 9 eruption, does not include two people still missing, presumed dead, in the waters around the island.
They are Kiwi tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, 40, and Australian teenager Winona Langford, 17.
Marshall-Inman was farewelled in a memorial in Whakatāne on Friday where he was remembered as a “superman”, a “hero” and, now, a “guardian of Whakaari”.
The search for the two missing was scaled back late last week when Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement admitted they’d so far been unsuccessful in their search.
The search was now being handled by Bay of Plenty police.
District commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said an extensive aerial search for further victims of the Whakaari/White Island eruption between the island and the mainland was conducted by Coastguard and police over the weekend.
No further items of significance were located, he said in a statement on Monday.
Police will review the search area to date and make a decision on further search activity, he said.
In a press conference on Thursday Clement described how much it hurt his staff that they hadn’t been able to return them.
The official toll does not include Winona Langford and Hayden Marshall-Inman who are still missing, presumed dead, in the waters around the island.
They are Kiwi tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, 40, and Australian tennager Winona Langford, 17.
“It hurts us and it hurts our people,” he said.
He also revealed that police divers at one stage were “within metres” of recovering Marshall-Inman’s body when it was believed to have been sighted in the water near Whakaari’s jetty on December 11.
“The reality was the conditions of the ocean meant they could not get close,” Clement said.
“The people on that day have thought long and hard about that. It’s what they come here to do. They’re disappointed. They backed themselves to retrieve a body and they missed out.”
Last week, Middlemore Hospital announced that more than 600 elective surgeries were set to be delayed as they dealt with the eruption’s aftermath.
Hayden Marshall-Inman’s brother, Mark Inman, spoke during Friday’s memorial.
In the first week following the eruption, the National Burns Service – hosted by south Auckland’s Middlemore, but including centres at Waikato, Hutt Valley and Christchurch hospitals – saw more burns than it typically would in a year.
On Friday John Cartwright, incident controller of Counties Manukau DHB’s incident management team, said the extent of burns the Whakaari patients experienced required many operating theatre hours, on multiple days, by large surgical and anaesthetic teams.
The nature of the burns suffered was complicated by the gasses and chemicals present in the eruption. That meant surgeries had to be carried out more rapidly than was the case for “thermal only” burns.
Waikato Hospital took in the largest load of patients, eight critically injured, on the evening of the disaster.
Last week trauma director Grant Christey said it appeared as masks protected the lungs of people caught in the eruption.
“We thought there would be a lot more lung injuries, as well, from inhalation,” Christey said.
“What we learned later, from the people who went out there, was most of [the tourists] had gas masks on,” he said. They put their gas masks firmly on their faces and closed their eyes and tried to get through it.”
Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani the Saudi shooter at Florida naval base
Shocking revelations have emerged in the aftermath of the shooting at a Florida Naval base by a Saudi military student Mohammed al-Shamrani. One of the surprises was that three other Saudi students filmed the entire attack.
A total of six Saudis have been detained over the shooting, in which four persons were killed, including al-Shamrani. Eight others were wounded in the shooting which took place in a classroom building at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. Among the wounded were two sheriff’s deputies who responded to the attack.
According to the New York Times, the Saudi gunman was armed with a Glock 9mm handgun that had been purchased locally. The gun had an extended magazine and the shooter had four to six other magazines in his possession before he was himself gunned down by Florida policemen.
Al-Shamrani reportedly condemned America as a “nation of evil” in an online manifesto prior to opening fire Friday at a US naval base, killing three people before being shot dead by police.
The Florida Naval Air Station
The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist media, said he had posted a short manifesto on Twitter that read: “I’m against evil, and America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil.”
“I’m not against you for just being American, I don’t hate you because your freedoms, I hate you because every day you supporting, funding and committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity,” he wrote.
ABC News reported that investigators were working to determine if it was in fact written by the shooter.
The Twitter account that posted the manifesto — which also condemned US support for Israel and included a quote from Al-Qaeda’s deceased leader, the Saudi Osama bin Laden — has been suspended.
DeSantis told a news conference that “the government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims. And I think they are going to owe a debt here given that this is one of their individuals.”
Commanding officer Captain Timothy Kinsella said the shooter was an aviation trainee, one of “a couple hundred” foreign students at the base.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman telephoned US President Donald Trump to denounce the shooting, affirming that “the perpetrator of this heinous crime does not represent the Saudi people,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi Arabia has long been a major US ally in the Middle East, thanks primarily to security considerations and oil.
Trump said King Salman “called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida.”
There was a deja vu about the Florida attack. Shamrani shares the nationality of 15 of the 19 men involved in the 9/11 attacks, some of whom attended civilian flight school in Florida.
Police were first called about the shooting shortly before 7:00 am (1200 GMT), Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said.
“Walking through the crime scene was like being on the set of a movie,” Morgan said. “You don’t expect this to happen.”
Only members of the security forces can bring weapons on base, Kinsella said, and it was not clear how the shooter got the gun onto the premises.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he is “considering several steps to ensure the security of our military installations and the safety of our service members and their families,” but did not provide details.
Just two days earlier, a US sailor fatally shot two people and wounded a third at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii before taking his own life.
“This has been a devastating week for our Navy family,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday said. “When tragedy hits, as it did today, and Wednesday in Pearl Harbor, it is felt by all.”
The Pensacola naval air station hosts 16,000 military personnel and more than 7,000 civilians, and is home to a flight demonstration squadron.
It is an early training centre for naval pilots, and is known as the “cradle of naval aviation.”
The base is the centre for the US Navy foreign military training programs, established in 1985 specifically for Saudi students before being expanded to other nationalities.
Michael Ifemosu, a student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), expelled over his critical Facebook post made about the institution, says he was only trying to bring the school’s attention to the students’ plight.
Ifemosu, who is the convener for the Youth In Good Governance Initiative (YIGGI) and an Ogun state secretary for African Action Congress (AAC), recently made the headlines after he received a letter of expulsion for criticizing the university authorities in an open letter addressed to the VC.
Speaking with TheCable Lifestyle on Monday, the student activist described the school’s move as a “collective slap on the face of Nigerian students” and an “infringement” of his rights.
He stated that he only wrote the piece to bring the authority’s attention to the “lingering issues affecting” the students — not to fight the powers that be, “as the school interpreted it.”
According to him, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the Student Union Government (SUG) in FUNAAB, have moved to dialogue with Felix Salako, the vice-chancellor of the institution, but there are fears that it might not yield the desired outcome.
“The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in line with the Student Union Government (SUG) of my school told me they would meet with the vice-chancellor today to solve the situation. But I’m not sure the result would be positive. It is the aftermath of the meeting that would determine the next line of action,” Ifemosu said.
“The picture they’re painting now is that I’m trying to fight the university authorities. I was only trying to bring their attention to what is happening. On the basis of all that I’ve done so far, I’m not convinced I should be expelled because I held an opinion on something that personally affected me and the rest of the students. I’m not happy.”
While the struggle to reinstate me is ongoing, I want to take up the internship training by Leventis Foundation (Nigeria) One-Year Training Programme 2019 / 2020 in Modern and Sustainable Agriculture (Fully Funded). #ReinstateIfemosu
— Ifemosu Michael Adewale®️ (@ifemosumichael) November 3, 2019
Bola Adekola, the FUNAAB registrar, had, on Friday, confirmed Ifemosu’s expulsion after the 200 level student of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management had been summoned to “defend himself” in front of the institution’s disciplinary committee.
“You would recall that in July 2019, you posted an open letter on the Internet to the vice-chancellor of the school in which you raised allegations and misrepresentation of fact about the university,” the letter read.
“At the Student Disciplinary Committee meeting held on August 29, 2019, you were invited for the purpose of giving you fair hearing on the allegation of an act perpetrated through the Internet, that is inimical to the integrity and corporate image of the university.
“Senate, at its 217th Statutory Meeting held on Thursday, October 17, 2019, considered the report of the Student Disciplinary Committee on the allegation and thus decided that you have been found culpable of insubordination to university officials, defamation of character and act perpetrated through the Internet.
“That is inimical to the integrity and corporate image of the university based on the extant rules and regulations on penalties for various offenses by students of the university. Consequent upon the decision of Senate, you’re hereby expelled from the university as provided for the offenses committed by you.”
It is Saddening and Weakening!
This is my Reward for calling the attention of the Vice Chancellor on lingering challenges rocking Funaab ecosystem! This is
We play Politics with everything in this country 💔😭😭 https://t.co/6SY7fANBY1
— Ifemosu Michael Adewale®️ (@ifemosumichael) November 2, 2019
Read the Facebook post that prompted the expulsion below:
“It’s no more news that Funaabites queue, fight, and struggle to attend classes or leave the school premises. However, the vice-chancellor and the university management team are seen with one or two official car(s). This makes transportation easier for them while students languish in an unending tragedy,” he wrote.
“The Funaab Bureau of Transport (FUNAABOT) has performed below expectations despite millions of naira allotted and allocated to the department for the purchase and renovation of MANCOTS but all went down the drain. Those monies remain carpeted till this moment.
“Again! I read in the News that the Vice-Chancellor of Funaab wrote to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that they are free to arrest students found wanting and guilty of cybercrimes.
“I would have said it was a good move not until I became a victim and also received report of the arrest and detention of innocent students who were unjustly harassed, extorted and brutalized. This is what you get when people who, if managing poultry, would make sure eggs are stolen, are given a University to manage.
“It is rather unfortunate that we have accepted the sad reality that relegates our ‘scholars’ to chasers of political appointments — people who are ready to lick butts to be made INEC returning officers, political aides, VCs, directors, deans, and even Head of Departments.”
Four years ago, Hollywood director Rob Cohen invited 28-year-old Jane to a business meeting in Manhattan to discuss collaborating on a TV pilot. Cohen chose the cigar lounge where they met and ordered her a drink, even though she didn’t ask for one, Jane would later recall. He then moved the meeting to a restaurant that happened to be situated right by the hotel where he was staying, ordered a carafe of wine and encouraged her to drink some more, she said.
By the night’s end, Jane said she found herself regaining consciousness in Cohen’s hotel room, naked, while the director sexually assaulted her. She jolted out of bed and threw up.
Medical records reviewed by HuffPost show that Jane sought treatment for sexual assault after meeting with Cohen. Two people close to Jane confirmed that she told them about the assault both immediately after it happened and again about a year later.
HuffPost also reviewed text messages between Jane and Cohen, sent about two-and-a-half years after the alleged assault, in which she told him, “The night we met, you really hurt me and fucked me up.” At the time, Cohen wrote back that he was “so sorry to hear this.” He later told HuffPost, through a lawyer, that he was apologizing for what he believed was a dispute over compensation for her work on the TV pilot.
In response to a detailed list of questions from HuffPost, Cohen’s lawyer Martin Singer sent a 13-page letter denying any wrongdoing.
“The proposed Story is an outrageous defamatory hit piece, making extraordinarily offensive assertions that my client engaged in heinous sexual misconduct, criminal wrongdoing, and other inappropriate behavior, which are vehemently disputed and denied by my client,” wrote Singer, who is well-known in Hollywood for representing Bill Cosby and other men accused of sexual misconduct in that cutthroat industry. Singer cautioned HuffPost against “publishing this Story in an effort to feed the ‘Me Too’ media frenzy with this salacious Story.”
Cohen is best known for directing the first “Fast and the Furious” film back in 2001, which spawned a $5.8 billion global franchise with seven subsequent installments and two more planned. He directed “xXx,” released in 2002, and “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” released in 2008, along with a number of other frenetic films packed with handguns and high-speed car chases.
In February, his daughter, 32-year-old Valkyrie Weather, publicly accused him of molesting her when she was a toddler. Weather, who is transgender, also recalled trips with Cohen to visit sex workers in overseas shooting locations when she was a teen and still presenting as a boy. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the director described his daughter’s allegations as “categorically untrue.”
The molestation allegation was not new to Cohen — Weather’s mother brought it up in divorce proceedings more than two decades ago. Cohen, through his lawyer, told HuffPost that his being awarded sole custody of Weather in the divorce proceedings demonstrated that the allegations were not valid. At the time, evaluators could not determine whether abuse took place, according to documents reviewed by HuffPost.
Jane contacted Weather this year shortly after reading Weather’s public statement. Jane wasn’t interested at the time in making her story public, but the two women had worked together, and Jane wanted Weather to know she wasn’t alone. She agreed to talk to HuffPost as a way of supporting Weather and has now decided to go public with her experience.
Cohen met Jane, who requested anonymity to protect her privacy, in early 2015 to discuss her role consulting on that TV pilot with his daughter Weather. The director had offered to use the industry contacts he’d accumulated in his four-decade-long career to shop the pilot around to the networks. Emails reviewed by HuffPost confirm that Cohen collaborated with Jane and Weather on the television project, although it never came to fruition. A major network representative also confirmed to HuffPost that she had discussed the project with Cohen.
Jane felt weird about the meeting with Cohen almost immediately. Cohen flirted with her and volunteered details about his sex life, she recalled. But she needed the money and was excited about the career opportunity, so she tried to ignore his comments.
Although Jane’s memory of the later parts of the evening is incomplete, there are details she remembers vividly. She remembers feeling suddenly alone with Cohen in the large restaurant after the other diners had trickled out. She remembers starting to feel “fuzzy.” She remembers him leaning over to kiss her cheek and thinking that was strange. She remembers being at another bar with Cohen — she distinctly remembers the checkerboard-patterned floor.
The next thing she remembers is waking up naked, she said. She remembers Cohen’s face in her crotch and his fingers inside her. She had not consented to any of this.
She made her way to the bathroom to vomit and stumbled back to the bed. Cohen tried to penetrate her, but he stopped when she told him to, she said.
Meanwhile, Jane’s boyfriend at the time was starting to worry, he said in an interview with HuffPost. Jane had told him about the meeting with Cohen and said she expected to be home around 10 p.m. By that time, he hadn’t received any text messages from her in a while. He thought it was strange for an older man (Cohen was then in his mid-60s) to turn a business meeting with a 28-year-old woman into a late night of drinking, but he knew the show was a good opportunity for his girlfriend — who was struggling to find work — so he tried to be supportive.
Jane finally arrived at her boyfriend’s house in a taxi around 1:30 a.m. He wanted to know what had happened that night, but they were both tired and just went to bed. When they woke up in the morning, Jane was distant. Her boyfriend still remembers her “thousand-mile stare.”
At first, Jane didn’t know what to make of her experience with Cohen, she told HuffPost. She had a vague uneasy feeling about the night before but her memory of the encounter was hazy.
The night after the alleged assault, Jane went out to dinner with her boyfriend. Once they were seated, Jane’s gaze settled on the checkerboard floor. She panicked as memories of the previous night flooded into focus. Unable to conceal her anxiety, she told her boyfriend what had happened after her meeting with Cohen.
The fact that Jane says she vividly remembers being assaulted but has a hazy recollection of other parts of the evening is not unusual, Patricia Resick, a psychiatry professor at Duke University, said in an interview. Jane would not have been able to form any memories during the time she was unconscious, Resick noted. And even when she was conscious, she would have no reason to remember parts of the evening that did not seem unusual or dangerous.
Jane told HuffPost that she was a social drinker at the time and does not recall consuming enough alcohol to black out or lose consciousness. “It did not feel like being very drunk,” she said.
Within a matter of weeks, Jane went to a health clinic to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Medical records reviewed by HuffPost show she sought treatment as a victim of sexual assault. Jane told the medical professional who treated her that she continued to work on show development and communicate with her alleged assailant, medical records show.
Cohen recalls meeting Jane at a bar in 2015 to discuss the television project, but he denies being in a hotel room with her or sexually assaulting her, Singer wrote. According to his lawyer, Cohen also denies that Jane was unconscious in his presence and claims that Jane left immediately after their meeting ended.
After the health clinic visit, Jane tried to move on. She still wanted the TV project to work out. And she hoped that what Cohen did to her was a one-time mistake by a man of an older generation, rather than part of a pattern of predatory behavior. Maybe he felt deep regret, she thought. Maybe no one had told him about the importance of confirming consent. But the assault continued to weigh on her, she said.
In 2016, more than a year after the incident, Jane’s current boyfriend — who didn’t yet know about her experience with Cohen — made a joke about one of the “Fast and the Furious” movies while they were waiting for a train. Jane winced at the joke and her boyfriend could tell he’d said something wrong, he recalled in an interview. Jane told him that she had been raped by Cohen but that she didn’t like talking about it. She asked him not to tell anyone.
hearing all this shit about harvey is really hard and i can’t stop thinking about what you did. i keep wondering if you even know or care how much you hurt me. im guessing no.Jane, in a text message to Rob Cohen after the Harvey Weinstein story broke
Then, in October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker exposedHollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decadeslong pattern of sexual misconduct. The news made it even harder to put Cohen out of her mind. She was frustrated that she was still affected by him, even years after the assault, she said. The next month, she decided to confront him.
“The night we met, you really hurt me and fucked me up. hearing all this shit about harvey is really hard and i can’t stop thinking about what you did. i keep wondering if you even know or care how much you hurt me. im guessing no,” Jane texted Cohen, whose number HuffPost confirmed. “Anyway, im not tryina be in the news or anything, i don’t want anything from you, but an apology would be nice.”
Cohen texted her back about an hour later. “I’m so sorry to hear this,” he wrote, according to texts reviewed by HuffPost. He asked if he could call her the following day and she agreed.
When he called, Cohen apologized for causing her pain but framed the incident as a misunderstanding between two people who had drunk too much, Jane said. At the time, she wanted to believe that was true.
Shortly after the phone call, Jane recounted the conversation with Cohen in text messages to her former boyfriend — the one who had been waiting for her to return home the night of the alleged assault. Jane told her ex-boyfriend that Cohen didn’t “challenge [her] account” and “seemed to understand that he needs to be careful about consent especially when drunk in the future,” according to the contemporaneous messages reviewed by HuffPost.
She felt a little better after the call, she told her ex. She felt like she had passed the guilt on to Cohen. She didn’t want her name in the news and she didn’t think “canceling” him would help her. She just wanted him to understand what he had done to her so that he wouldn’t hurt anyone else.
Asked by HuffPost about his apologetic text to Jane, Cohen claimed he’d thought she was talking about money. “My client recalls receiving an odd text or email from [Jane] inferring that she had been taken advantage of, which my client understood to be a complaint that she had never gotten paid for consulting on the defunct project,” Cohen’s lawyer Singer wrote. “Significantly, my client categorically disputes that [Jane] said anything to him during that call about any alleged sexual assault.”
Presented with a screenshot of the text conversation between Jane and Cohen — in which Jane referenced “the night we met” and Harvey Weinstein — Singer said that “nothing in the alleged text exchange you provided is inconsistent” with Cohen’s explanation of events.
Earlier this year, Jane learned she wasn’t the only person with sexual assault allegations against Cohen. On Feb. 21, Cohen’s daughter Weather accused him of having used her body “for his own sexual gratification” when she was 2 years old. Weather posted her statement on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit ― where Jane eventually found it.
She always had the sense that she had been sexually abused as a young child, Weather told HuffPost, and it was a feeling that confused her since she couldn’t recall a specific incident of abuse. That feeling grew more acute as she got older, particularly after she came out as transgender and started working with a therapist. In April 2017, when Weather was 30, she decided she needed to ask her mother directly. She wasn’t comfortable discussing it over the phone, so she reached out to her mom on Facebook Messenger.
“Was I raped?” she asked her mother, Dianna Mitzner.
“When you were a toddler,” Mitzner wrote back, “I walked into the bathroom you were in the bathtub with him he was usu g [sic] your body to masturbate.”
Cohen denied the allegations when Weather confronted him via email days later. “NONE OF THAT WAS TRUE,” he wrote in an email, which HuffPost has reviewed. “It was SHE who had you on top of her naked body in the bath tub when I came home unannounced.”
Cohen offered a more measured statement when Weather went public with her story this year. “I hope and pray that one day, my child will come into the realization that no matter what anyone says or tries to convince her was the case when she was a child, it is both untrue and unimaginable,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in February.
When Mitzner brought up the alleged bathtub incident during her divorce from Cohen in the early 2000s, he denied the allegations but did not accuse Mitzner of being the abuser. He also made no mention of abuse by Mitzner in his communication with HuffPost.
After a yearslong custody battle, Weather was sent to live with Cohen in Los Angeles, which had more schooling options than the rural area where her mother resided. Weather chose to move back in with her mother less than a year later, she told HuffPost.
Through his attorney, Cohen pointed to the custody outcome of the divorce proceedings as vindication. Because there were no other witnesses, HuffPost could not independently corroborate Mitzner’s version of events. But to Weather, her mother’s description of the abuse rang true. It felt like the answer to a question she had been struggling with for most of her life. And it resonated with her memories of her father thrusting his pelvis in front of her face when she was a child and taking her to see sex workers in Thailand and the Czech Republic when she was a teenager.
The “narrative that I was somehow tricked into believing he abused me, that I was too young to remember my experiences at that age, falls short when talking about a barely adolescent child in Prague and Bangkok,” she told HuffPost.
Weather felt it was important to come forward because she suspected her father had mistreated others. “My greatest hope is that others who have been hurt by Rob Cohen feel that they are able to come forward as well,” she wrote in her statement earlier this year.
When Jane saw Weather’s post on Reddit, she was angry that she had convinced herself that her experience with Cohen was an anomaly.
Oh, what the fuck, she thought.
By then, the television project had fizzled. Jane and Weather were no longer in regular contact but they still occasionally swapped podcast recommendations or movie trailers. Jane had never told Weather about being assaulted by Cohen because she didn’t want to damage Weather’s relationship with her father. And she still didn’t want to go public with her story. But she did want Weather to know she wasn’t alone.
“Hey,” Jane wrote on Facebook Messenger.
“I kinda never wanted to tell u cause i thought it’d be super awkward for u and i couldn’t imagine how it’d be helpful, but, uh me, as well.”
Do you have information you want to share with HuffPost? Here’s how.
After five months of struggling to find his place in the crowded Democratic field, a campaign reboot following the early August shooting that left 22 dead in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, has moved O’Rourke into a position where he appears more comfortable than he was in the first five months of the race: An outsider attempting to lead a movement.
His message, in campaign stops, emails to supporters and social media posts, has shifted in a way that shows his campaign has found an animating cause. His language has changed, with O’Rourke — an at-times profane campaigner in Texas who early in the race promised he’d stop dropping f-bombs — now back to cursing regularly, a decision being heard by supporters as plainly communicating the urgency of the issue and by critics as an attention-grabbing gimmick.
So has his travel schedule: O’Rourke is setting aside the traditional path through the early voting states in favor of a new emphasis on those that vote on Super Tuesday. He’s campaigning with down-ballot candidates, visiting downtrodden Democratic Party organizations and stopping in cities and towns facing tumult.
It’s tough to tell whether Democratic voters are giving O’Rourke a fresh look in light of his new approach: A recent CNN poll found him with 5% support, which his backers hoped was a sign O’Rourke was beginning to climb out of the low single digits. But an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this week showed him with just 1% support. Given the margin of error, it’s possible O’Rourke hasn’t moved much at all.
Battling with Buttigieg
O’Rourke has drawn headlines since Democrats’ third primary debate in Houston last week — the one his aides said he prepared for the least, with zero sessions behind a podium and the one day that had been devoted to readying him for the showdown scrapped in favor of a last-minute trip to Midland, Texas, after a shooting there.
Days before the debate, the Democratic National Committee passed on a warning to campaigns that ABC would be broadcasting the debate with no delay — which meant no chance to bleep out curse words. The warning didn’t name O’Rourke directly, but there was little doubt why it had been issued.
On stage, O’Rourke delivered one of the night’s most memorable moments when he advocated for mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles, telling a cheering audience: “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We are not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.”
The comment led to criticism from Republicans and Democrats — and it gave O’Rourke an opportunity to brawl with the foe his supporters have been angry at since he mocked O’Rourke’s habit of “standing on things” in New Hampshire in early April: Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Coons’ prediction proved accurate on Wednesday, when Trump did just what he’d warned of, tweeting: “Dummy Beto made it much harder to make a deal. Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away. Will continue forward!”
As Buttigieg built establishment support and fundraising might, O’Rourke’s camp has seethed. His aides and backers note Buttigieg’s private flights and point out that O’Rourke often drives himself around the campaign trail (and recently took the Bolt Bus from New York to Boston). They see — and want voters to see — a clash that’s geographical, with Buttigieg representing the industrial Midwest where Democratic support has slipped and O’Rourke from the Sun Belt, a more diverse region where the party is gaining strength.
Even as O’Rourke supporters relish the fight with Buttigieg, the bigger picture of the race shows the steep hill O’Rourke must climb. Buttigieg a week ago released his first television advertisement in Iowa — a luxury O’Rourke likely cannot afford, since Buttigieg raised $25 million in 2019’s second quarter to O’Rourke’s $3.6 million.
O’Rourke’s campaign sees evidence this new approach is working. Aides said the three days following the debate were O’Rourke’s best fundraising days since April, the month after he launched his presidential bid.
The day after a gunman who police say had posted online a racist screed warning of a “Hispanic invasion” killed 22 people in an El Paso Walmart, O’Rourke had a moment he worried might have ended his chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
He was on his way to his van after a vigil outside Las Americas, an immigration advocacy center in El Paso — already emotional and unable to find his wife, who had been there, too — when he found himself boxed in between two cars and a handful of reporters behind the building. One asked him whether there was anything Trump could do to make things better.
Everyone there knew they had seen a significant moment. Two O’Rourke aides nervously approached this reporter, asking about what had happened. Soon afterward, on Twitter, O’Rourke’s comment went viral.
O’Rourke, meanwhile, was on his way to another vigil. He looked at his wife and said, “Look, I f—ed up,” he told The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere in a podcast interview this month.
In the moment, O’Rourke said, it felt “like maybe this is over.”
“Nobody spoke in the van. I didn’t speak. I was pissed. I was pissed at myself, I was pissed at the world, I was pissed at that question. I was pissed that we were even having this conversation — like, how in the world could we be asking ourselves these questions as civilized, intelligent human beings, who report the news, make the news, you know, report on the policy, make the policy? Why are we even asking, is Donald Trump racist? Did he have something to do with this? Could he make this better?” O’Rourke said.
“I think I was mostly mad at myself: Why have I not been able to figure this out? And why have I not been able to make these connections more clear? Why have we not been able to change this?”
O’Rourke said he didn’t consciously work through what he might do other than run for president. Instead, he said, his thought after the shooting was, “What am I doing, at all?”
Did he consider dropping out? What had happened in his hometown, he said, “just down in my bones or my essence, made me question myself. And so to some degree, yes.”
There were also decisions to be made — such as whether O’Rourke would join the rest of the Democratic field and visit the Iowa State Fair, one of the rituals of the presidential campaign trail.
“I was like, f— no, uh-uh,” he said. “I can’t pretend. I would be pretending.”
“And to some degree, you’re performing when you’re running for office, right?” O’Rourke said. “You’re never fully, wholly, truly yourself, warts and all. You are on a stage and you’re projecting and you’re acting in a way that you want people to read and form their picture of you. No one can help that. … We’re all actors on that stage, and no one more so than perhaps someone running for president. But I couldn’t go do that.”
His decision to skip Iowa forced O’Rourke and his aides to have bigger-picture conversations about where he would go and what kind of campaign he would run moving forward.
At the same time, Trump’s administration had targeted undocumented workers in Mississippi in an immigration raid.
“The two seemed very connected to me in a very obvious way — this manner of terrorizing people and trying to terrify the country about immigrants and Hispanics and people who are really the most vulnerable and the most defenseless in America,” O’Rourke said. “And I said, I want to be there. I want to go there. And I want to go anywhere where people are being kept down or made to be afraid.”
His return to the campaign trailnearly two weeks later started with a speech in El Paso in which O’Rourke for the first time called for mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles, and said he would take a new route — with fewer performative stops in the early states and more visits to vulnerable or forgotten places across the country.
Since then, he has spent less time in the first four states to vote in the presidential primary process — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and more in the Super Tuesday states.
Among those Super Tuesday state stops: O’Rourke has campaigned with down-ballot candidates in Virginia. He visited Skid Row in Los Angeles. He delivered a speech that drew a large online audience in front of Democrats in Arkansas. And he visited the Oklahoma City bombing memorial in Oklahoma.
The changes suggest O’Rourke’s strategy is merely to survive the first month ofprimary season and then begin racking up delegates in March, with Super Tuesday including his home state of Texas. In May, he tapped Jeff Berman, a delegate strategy veteran of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, as a senior adviser.
The new approach to his schedule, the gun control advocacy and the more direct — and sometimes foul — language are all part of his reaction to the shooting that he told The Atlantic “just, at a really deep, fundamental level, made me wonder what I’m doing or what I’ve ever been doing or what we are doing.”
“And all of the, you know, performance, the ritual, and the — you know, I don’t know, all the editing, that goes into speaking when you’re running for office,” he said, “just really evaporated or didn’t seem as important, or I didn’t even really know that I cared at that point.”
Thing was, none of them had given much of a fuck about Elvis while he was alive.
When you got right down to it, all Dead Elvis meant by the last week of summer was a congested Memphis, what with all the out-of-towners and news vans bunched together at the gates of Graceland to pay their respects and leave behind bouquets and teddy bears.Shit was everywhere, just take a look on the TV.
What they were always sayingfifty thousand Elvis fans cant be wrong?News claimed over thirty thousand of those fans showed up, just to wait in line, see his body laid out at the Memphis Funeral Home. Rumor was that a few of the Beatles had even flown in all the way from England. Burt Reynolds and Ann-Margret, too. President Carter had to call in the National Guard, for Chrissakes.
Raymond Bubba Green wondered who was supposed to clean up all that shit. Taxpayer money, or cons handed Graceland details as Community Service.
To Bubba, there was only one thing that Dead Elvis meant: money.
The way the man from Cincinnati told it, it sounded like the King of Rock and Roll was worth more dead than aliveor at the very least, his body seemed to pay by the pound.
Bubba Green, who at 25 had been expelled or suspended from every school hed ever attended throughout Tennessee, had grown accustomed to a life in and out of county lock-up, usually for selling drugs or for using them. By August 1977, he had grown more than accustomed to living for heroin, the same drug that had killed his Rhonda less than a year ago.
Theyd met right after Bubbas stint in Angola, that Louisiana state penitentiary named for the plantation and cotton fields that once occupied the land. Never married but thick as the thieves they were long enough for the State of Tennessee to label them as common-law. It had been Rhonda turned Bubba on to the harder drugsthe chippingBubba first figuring if she was going to be doing it, better she be supervised than unsupervised.
While Bubba was finishing up another jail stint, Rhonda took off for Dallas.When he was sprung, Bubba got word shed been raped and killed in a roadside motel room, left to be found the next morning by housekeeping.
We was not as good for each other as we should have been, Bubba told people later, but regardless, you know, I loved her.
Back on the street by August of77, Bubba hadnt much time for grieving. Let the world mourn Elvis, let him mourn Rhonda when he could. He had bonds to make, and Rhonda had taken what little money was left when she split for Dallas.
Bubba was thinking about just thatthe girl, the money, the debtwhen Blue Barron called him up Wednesday afternoon.
Bubba, you looking to make some money? Blue was a local bondsman Bubba had come to know all too well. He knew Bubba was looking to make some money, knew he was always looking.
Good, said Blue. Meet me at the Luau.
Like everyone in Memphis, Bubba Green knew the gaudy, Polynesian-themed exterior of the Dobbs House Luau on Poplar Avenue. Its sugary, fake island food was cheap and popular with the local college kids and the students from East High School across the street. He parked his motorcycle and, once inside, let his eyes adjust to the dim lighting of the large dining area.
Tiki torches flickered around the tourists lined up at the buffet. Mounted wood carvings shaped into sinister grins and framed stills of Elvis in Blue Hawaii were mounted along the walls. Blue Barron was seated at a family-sized wooden table under hanging plants and bamboo tufts. He was sitting next to another man. This one Bubba didnt recognize. White, looked big, husky, although he was sitting. Both men had their hands folded on the table top. They watched Bubba walk in and waited while he pulled his trucker cap low and sat down across from both. Neither spoke until Bubba was settled.
Are you interested in making a million dollars?It was the big one beside Blue, the stranger. He said it more than he asked it.
Bubba didnt know if hed heard that number right, looked at Blue, who just nodded.
I am mostly certainly interested in making a million dollars, Bubba said.
There was a pause before the large man leaned in.Well, what would you do for two million dollars?
Bubba could hear it now in his speechhe was definitely a Yankee. Well, sir, Bubba said, my mama aint safe for two million dollars.
The man said he was from Cincinnati. Just about all he said, so Bubba thought of him as just thatMr. Cincinnati.
Bubba Green followed Mr. Cincinnati down Union Avenue to the Holiday Inn, the one in walking distance to Beale. There, he parked his bike on the side, saw the man lumber up the metal staircase leading up to the second story of the two-story hotel, then unlocking the door to one room and standing outside the threshold for Bubba to see him. Got any weapons on you? Mr. Cincinnati asked, raising Bubbas arms up in a frisk just inside the door.
Yessir, a knife, Bubba said, making eye contact and slowly handing over a butterfly knife from his right back pocket.
Wait here, the man said, pointing for Bubba to take a seat on the edge of the sparse rooms twin-side bed. Bubba folded his hands on his lap and studied the green carpet and the ugly gold geometric shapes in the design, the white Venetian blinds, the writing table: an ashtray loaded with Mr. Cincinnatis cigarette butts and a small Holiday Inn stationery pad and matching pen.Crumpled balls of the stationery littered the desk.
He listened to the sounds of Mr. Cincinnati in the bathroom, not sure what was going on inside but hearing movement like the shower curtain being slid, followed by some exhausted grunting. The man emerged, each hand clutching an identical brown suitcase.He tossed both onto the bed behind Bubbas back. Look here, he said, flipping a case open.
Bubba had already decided the money had to be counterfeit.All that cash in one place? Had to be fake.
Bubba stood beside him, on his toes to crane over the larger mans shoulder.He stepped aside for Bubba to see: maps and large, full-color photographs, mostly aerial views of Shelby County. It was easy for him to make out the shape of Memphis, the grid of its arteries punctuated by the muted tint of bayous and the blue wall of the Mississippi River to the west. There were more papers stacked underneath, and Bubba caught on to the bold type at the bottom of one enlarged, color map. Forest Hill Cemetery. The name was familiar, Bubba remembered it from the news.
Mr. Cincinnati pulled out tighter diagrams of the cemetery property, these with hand-drawn lines linking A and B points. White tape lines met at a specific mausoleum in the center.
The man began to sift through the other contents, handing Bubba papers in bunches, explaining as he went along. There were copies of receipts for a casket weighing 948 pounds; a nine-pound brass lock made special in Oklahoma City; the dimensions of a large, plexiglass bubble. Take a look through these, he said. Bubba leafed through the stack and the man bent to open the other case. Look here, he said and lifted the lid.
Bubbas eyes nearly teared up.He was looking down at stacks of paper-belted hundred-dollar bills, each belt marked with 1,000 in black, felt-tip pen.
Before Mr. Cincinnati uttered another word, Bubba had already decided the money had to be counterfeit.All that cash in one place? Had to be fake. If not, this meeting was some kind of sting, Blue setting him up for another skip of his, needing an easy fall-guy. Who did he know, or who had he borrowed from who could rope him into some RICO thing?
Bubba had served enough time, he decided hed never be anyones fall-guy.
But he also considered the bills looked real enough to pass along on the street.Rent, smack, bonds, and a ticket out of Memphis.
He felt Mr. Cincinnatis eyes on him, watching him look down at the money. If all that money is real, Bubba now thought, this Yankee is carrying it around, he ought to be more afraid of more than just my little old knife.
Im going to ask for 10 million dollars in ransom for the body, the man said.He was cool, calm, and collectedeven the way he said the words like ransom and the body, like they was everyday words in a normal, everyday sentence.
Right in that there briefcase was a million dollars in belted bills, Mr. Cincinnati explained. It, along with another briefcase just like it, he went on, was all Bubbasbut only if he could execute a single task: smuggle the body of Elvis Aaron Presley out of its final resting placethe little cemetery just off Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Forest Hills Cemetery, Lot #796A; about four and a half miles from Graceland.
The mausoleum constructed for Elvis Presley was a massive building, more than double the size of the single-family shack in Tupelo, Mississippi, that had been his childhood home. This was a monumentairy rooms housing six vaults, a palace of many chambers. Elvis was the one directly to the left, Corridor Z: 9 feet long and 27 inches high. All white, columns and tile. You walked in, all you heard was your own footsteps and breathing, the echoes of eternity billowing throughout a maze of granite and marble.
On August 18, the burial started with a long procession down the street bearing Elvis namea white hearse leading 17 white limousines, all booked at a moments notice by Elvis daddy, Vernon Presley himself. Police had to carry away screaming fans attempting to charge his sons hearse on foot. The copper coffin, weighing nearly a thousand pounds, was carried by the six people who were the closest the performer had to friends: road manager Joe Esposito, members of Elvis entourage, the self-proclaimed Memphis Mafia, and Dr. George NichopoulousDr. NickElvis longtime personal physician, known to get the King anything required for nearly twenty years of maladies: road fatigue, dehydration, high blood-pressure, and the twisted colon that brought on the fatal heart attack.
Before the crypts gates were locked, a cylinder with Elvis' name, birth, and death dates was placed in the casket, ensuring easy identification during the Rapture.
A small service was held at the mausoleum for a select group of family and professional VIPs, those who had known Elvis Aaron Presley in real life. They, too, were enough in number to line up for hours. Vernon was the last out, kissing the coffin and promising his famous son that Daddy would be with him soon.
Vernon saw to it that Elvis was buried wearing a white suit and a blue shirt, and had personally brought his sons beloved TCB ring into the mausoleum to slide on his finger. Between the booking of the limos, the custom casket, and the all-important emblematic ring, Vernon had demonstrated that his son wasnt the only Presley who could take care of business in a flash. Nine-year-old Lisa Marie helped her grandfather place a metal bracelet on her fathers lifeless wrist. Lastly, before the crypts gates were locked, a cylinder with Elvis' name, birth, and death dates was placed in the casket, ensuring easy identification during the Rapture. Elvis hated waiting in lines.
The crowd long gone, five workmen then cut through the three-thousand floral bouquets strewn among the lawn and entered Elviss tomb. They went in pushing a wheelbarrow full of sand and carrying a five-gallon bucket of water and cement, churning into a double slab of concrete to seal the crypt.They then covered it all over with a large marble sheet, Elvis name and lifespan to be chiseled later.
Like every other newscaster in Memphis, Russell Ruffin covered the death of Elvis Aaron Presley, just as he had covered every related update to come out of Graceland since word of the death first broke. That day, Russ and his crew had been two hundred miles outside Memphis, covering a routine legislative meeting that dispersed as soon as a civic employee entered the boardroom to announce Elvis had just been pronounced dead over at Memphis Baptist. Russ led the caravan back to WMC-TV Memphis Midtown studios on Union Avenue.
After moving down from Nashville in late 1975, the 36-year-old Ruffin learned quickly that working for the NBC Memphis station would mean covering just about anything having to do with the citys favorite son. Not that he was complaining; Russ had grown up an Elvis fan himself, seeing Jailhouse Rock in theaters as a kid and painting sideburns on the sides of his face, strutting them around school before puberty allowed the real thing to grow in.
Around the newsroom, Russ was privy to all the Presley gossip that long predated the death. It had been rampant throughout Memphis pretty much Elvis entire career, as hed bought Graceland only a year after signing with RCA in 1957. Superstardom in a year, and with it, one of those heavenly mansions Jesus mentioned.
Russ was quickly told the one about Elvis presumably breaking up a real bar fight right here in town, telling a shocked drunkard, Why dont you pick on someone your own size? just like in one of his own movies. He then followed up on sightings of the King flying over Graceland in a private plane, surveying his kingdom below and amused at the sight of the crowd, unaware he was watching from above. Russ had looked into rumors Elvis had nearly been arrested for driving a go-kart down Elvis Presley Boulevard, saved only from the indignation of handcuffs by flashing the badge given to him by Richard Nixon.Elvis always had it on him.
And then there were all the Cadillacs. Russ covered each of those, too.
Russ had arrived in Memphis just in time to cover the third of Elvis widely-publicized stays in Memphis Baptist Hospital, always under the banner of road fatigue or exhaustion. The truth about the prescription drug addiction would only come out later during Dr. Nicks trialthe scandalous affair finding Nick forever branded a pharmaceutical rubber-stamp for high profile patients like the late Presley and his darker contemporary, Jerry Lee Lewis.
It was during that stay in Memphis Baptist that the King got the bug to bestow his riches upon select members of an adoring public. See, if Elvis saw you on TV and didnt like you, hed pull out the small revolver always in his right boot and blast a hole right through the screen projecting your moving image. But if he saw you and he liked you, liked your face, then Elvis would pick up the gold phonethe one next to the couchand dial a few numbers, have a new car sent to your house. That July, hed bought a total of 13 Cadillacs from the local Madison dealership, then sent them out to random worthy citizens throughout Memphis. With love, Elvis Presley.
Or so Russ had heard. He was still working as a general correspondent for the network, hadnt made weekend anchor just yet, the day Elvis called up the station room and asked for him by name.
Russ snatched the phone from his station managers hand, immediately recalling the one about Elvis buying some lucky Denver news anchor a brand new Eldoradohis reward for airing a human interest piece on him, making the performer sound more like Mother Teresa.
Mr. Ruffin, an unfamiliar voice spoke back to him. Joe Esposito here. Mr. Presley is next to me and he really enjoyed that piece you did You did a great job demonstrating his generosity
Presley had handed the receiver to his loyal road manager before Russ could get on the line. Insult to injury: the Cadillac wasnt for any WMC-TV anchor.No, Elvis wanted the address for a girl Russ had interviewed earlier that day, one going through hard enough times she deserved a new Eldorado.
You wouldnt happen to have her address, now would you, Mr. Ruffin? Elvis sure would appreciate it.
Might as well get a story out of it. Russ had grabbed a mic and a cameraman, rushed to Memphis Baptist anyway. They got as far as Elvis private door, eye-to-eye with an off-duty cop and Esposito himself. He haggled for a few minutes of taping, promising a piece for that evenings broadcast: something about the outpouring of flowers, cards and, yes, teddy bears, all Elvis fans had been sending.
Good enough for Esposito, but Elvis was a little too tired at the moment to talk to the camera. Russ ended up reporting from beside the door, while over his shoulder, Elvis bare feet dangled off the edge of the bed, out-of-focus.
That was a year ago. By August 1977, Russ had earned a second title as weekend anchor and was a recognizable face around Memphis. Recognizable enough for an FBI informant to obtain his home phone number, letting him know someone was planning to steal Elvis Presleys corpse later that week.
Thursday, August 25, 1977
Two days wasnt all that much time for Bubba to plan for such a large-scale body-snatch, but it looked like Mr. Cincinnati had done his homework, making it all that much easier. He had a few names to get the ball rolling and would use his own promised payment for deferred expensesincluding the team he would need. Giving it some thought, he had the makings of a skeleton crew before the day was out.
He knew a safe-cracker, one who owned a set of cutting torches that could get through the mausoleums iron railing. If memory served, Mike also had his own acetylene torches and oxygen tanks, like those scuba divers go out in the islands. Over the phone, he had tipped Bubba to an appliance store downtown, said they didnt keep such a close watch on their loading docks early in the day.He could hotwire one of the appliance truckswould be ideal, pick up whatever the hell it was Bubba needed help lifting.
He promised Mike 75 grand but considered upping it to as much as an even hundred if all worked out and Bubba was feeling generous. He considered the fact they still needed two additional sets of hands to get the casket from the crypt and into the truck box. Two more workers meant further dipping into Mr. Cincinnatis briefcase. But Bubba had seen on the news that it took four pallbearers to carry Elvis casket; scaling back to only four was pushing it, he knew, but no way around it. Hed have to pay off three.
There was another old boy from the neighborhood, always needed cash for junk. Bruce Nelson was five years older than Bubba. They had scored together, for a while during the Rhonda years. They hadnt spoken since Bubba had come back to Memphis, but he called him up, offered him 40 grand right over the phone. Maybe 60, same conditions as Mike.
Counting it out in his head, Bubba told himself he wasnt necessarily being greedy. If he was in line to score two million for putting everything together, no reason he was expected to give it all away. He considered the outstanding bonds, the ones Blue Barron knew this type of one-time score would cover, and then some.
After that, Bubba thought, he would contact a few smugglers he knew from Angola. Theyd be heading to the Caribbean once they got out, he remembered, and remembered the offer was open to sail along.Get him far away from Memphis and its ghosts.
For that, Bubba needed every cent he could squeeze.
Bubba ended his Thursday night with a beer, knowing he had a well-equipped box man in place, and some needed extra muscle. All he needed now was a wheelman, the getaway driver to high-tail them out of the cemetery, allowing Mike to casually join the other truckers on the freeway, their thousand-pound cargo secure in the box.
Bruce suggested Bubba contact Ronnie Lee Adkins. Bubba recognized the name from high school. They had never been friends, Ronnie was a year behind.
Bruce vouched for him, handed his home number to Bubba.
Friday, August 26, 1977
Want to tell me where were going?
Ronnie Lee Adkins, behind the wheel of his beige Chrysler, Bruce Nelson in the passenger seat. Bubba Green sat alone in the back, watching the storefronts and street signs along Elvis Presley Boulevard through the window on his left.Ronnie looked up at the rear-view mirror, waiting for a response.
Just drive and Ill tell you where to go, Bubba said, not looking up when he said it.
Ronnie Lee Adkins had been the first to show up at the chosen meeting pointthe parking lot of a laundromat on Unionhis Chrysler idling as Bubba and Bruce pulled up along either side on their bikes. The men got in silently, Bruce finally saying, Howre you, brother, once the doors were shut.From the backseat, Bubba studied the back of Ronnie Lee Adkins head, watched his hands stay gripped on the wheel even while parked. He thought this was a good sign, a solid first impression. He didnt mention the fact that he recognized Ronnie from school.
'Bubba, I gotta ask you. We been circling Elvis Presleys cemetery for any particular reason?'
Bubba determined not to reveal to Bruce or Ronnie exactly where they were going just yet. Both had agreed to the job based on the money, tonights mystery tour being part of the deal. He was playing close to the chest, and thats exactly why his plancobbled together in less than 48 hourswas going to work out just fine. He was playing it smart for once. Hell, hed only needed Mr. Cincinnatis map of the cemetery interior and the casket schematics. Other than that, Bubba knew the streets of Memphis good as anyone else.
So far, it looked like Ronnie Lee Adkins did tooand he took directions just fine. Bubba told him to turn onto the expressway, then sat back and folded his hands in his lap. He watched the Memphis streets pass by, all lit up, as quiet as the city gets, then went over the steps again in his head.
Mike would be sitting tight in the appliance truck on Route 69Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expresswaywaiting in the shadow of the Kerr Avenue underpass just west of the cemeterys rear entrance. His industrial cutters and locksmith gear were stashed in the trucks cargo box, along with a mobile generator just in case the trucks battery couldnt supply enough juice to drill through the concrete.
As soon as Mike saw the Chrysler, he would park at Forest Hills west entrance, while the other three went around to Elvis Presley Boulevard on the east side. Theyd hop the fence on either side of the property, then Mike would use his flashlight to help them all meet in the middle. According to the map, Elvis crypt was in the center.
Only Mike was told the last part of Bubbas 48-hour plan. First thing tomorrow morning, hed call the man from Cincinnati through Blue Barron, have him meet in the parking lot of Poplar Plaza Shopping Center just after dawn.
Mr. Cincinnati, Bubba told Mike, would be bringing those briefcasesboth of them.
Ronnie took the car onto Elvis Presley Boulevard. Again he looked up into the rear-view mirror. Where from here? he asked.
Eyes still out the window, Bubba mumbled to keep circling around Kerr Avenue and Hernando Road, keep a lookout for the appliance truck.
Half a dozen passes already the last half-hour. No Mike. No truck. More circles. An hour passed. Bubba tugged on the brim of his trucker cap. Where the fuck was he?
You got a way to call your boy, check in on him? Ronnie asked.
Naw, Bubba said, giving a quick glance away from the passing streets.He dont get that truck, we just try again tomorrow.
Ronnie looked over at Bruce for a response, got nothing. He turned south on Hernando, all three men in the car glancing to their right, checking for a big, white truck one more time. Again nothing, just the darkness of the overpass shadow.
Bubba, I gotta ask you, Ronnie said, one arm over the other on the wheel as he made the turn passed Forest Hills iron gates. We been circling Elvis Presleys cemetery for any particular reason?
Before hed been handed a seemingly never-ending stream of Elvis Presley assignments, Russ Ruffins usual stories included community affairs and local politics. Both areas went hand-in-hand with the Memphis crime beat, ensuring not only the guards at Graceland knew Russ face on-sight, but so did the cops and bailiffs at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center, local District Court, and the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
Hed always dealt well with law enforcement. Back in Nashville, Russ had covered the local polices acquisition of their first Kevlar vests. The broadcast got him an invitation to the Press Clubs Gridiron show, an annual event for statewide news VIPs, all gathered together in a grand ballroom to rib each other, safely out of the public eye. Taking the stage, Russ demonstrated the bulletproof vest using a starters pistol.
Word spread about Russ Press Club appearance, and he got coerced by a network cameraman to recreate the stunt out in the studio parking lot. The cameraman was itching to test out the stations new video camera unit and already had a gun in the trunk of his car. They loaded a blank, but the velocity of the blastall the finite debris hidden in the fresh Nashville air, instantly ignited and shot at the speed of soundsent Russ reeling, slamming him against a brick wall.
The clip found its way onto one of Dick Clarks blooper specials. So far, that was the extent of Russ national exposure.
He moved to Memphis the following year, having taken enough bullets for one team. That November, he dodged a larger one. A few buddies linked through his NBC affiliate invited him to French Guyana, where they were covering California Congressman Leo Ryans visit to the Peoples Temple Agricultural ProjectJonestown.
'Hey man, dont use my picture. Im undercover.'
Russ knew it was a big story and packed his bags. He made it to the airport but missed his flight. None of his buddies returned.
After that, covering news out of Graceland didnt seem so bad, or covering the Memphis crime beat. It was never boring, and there were benefits to all the sheriffs knowing who he was, he could be trusted. Russ ended up with a lot of tips that way, all the cops and robbers both recognizing his face.
Like the first week of August, when Russ and a cameraman were on a routine assignment outside Shelby County Court.
He had his shirt-sleeves rolled up, the mic in his hand, watching the fresh arrests being escorted out of the courthouse. After all these months, Russ had started recognizing some of the faces. One in particular looked familiara white twentysomething male, sporting a days-old scruff and a dirty pair of jeans and tee shirt. Looked like a drop-out, his long hair falling down his face.
The kid stopped right in front of Russ, leaned in close to his ear. Hey man, he whispered. Dont use my picture. He nodded to the cameraman. Im undercover.
He hadnt seen him since, but Russ never forgot a face. Or a voice.
The last Friday of August, Russ was home with his wife. Penny had dinner ready just as soon as he had walked in, and they were already clearing the plates when the kitchen phone rang. He wasnt expected back at the station until early the next afternoon and was looking forward to a quiet night at home.
Is this Mr. Ruffin from the TV news?The mans voice was familiar, but Russ couldnt place it. I had to get your number from the station, the man said. I told them I had an Elvis story for you.
Another Elvis tipit never seemed to end.
Well, sure, Russ said, looking over at Penny drying the dishes alone. How may I help you, sir?
There was a pause on the line before the caller spoke again. Well, you helped me out a few weeks back and I thought Id help you out now, tooyou know, with a story.
Russ craned over to the countertop and reached for a pen and small pad, the phone cord twisting around his body. And how is that? I helped you out?
You were at Shelby Court a few weeks back, the man said. I asked you not to use my picture. I was undercover, working with Memphis PD
There it was, the drop-out with the hair. Of course.
Well, the man continued, my name is Ronnie Lee Adkins. You were good to me, and I want to give you a scoop on somethingsomething going down at Forest Hills Cemetery tomorrow night.
Saturday, August 27, 1977
If this Adkins fellow was telling the truth, Russ considered, that gang of misfits better be strongand be bringing plenty of gear for the heavy lifting.
He had said as much to Penny, placing the phone back in the cradle and reading her his notes from the strange phone call. For the past two weeks, Russ had covered the death of Elvis Presley from every possible angle, including the interment at Forest Hill. He knew intimately the near-impossibility of anyone getting through those gates, let alone driving off with a casket of that weight.
He turned to Penny. These fellas would need a crane to pull this off.
Russ also knew from contacts within the Memphis PD that Shelby County deputies were working in rotation, guarding the mausoleum itself.
He hadnt enough time to wait for Saturdays shift. Right after the call with Ronnie Lee Adkins, Russ dialed his closest squad contact, Captain Tommy Smith. Listen, Tommy, I just want to make sure that you guys are aware of this, Russ had said.Before I run with this, I need to make sure Im not holding any information that could get one of your boys hurt. He repeated everything hed been told by Ronnie Lee Adkins. When he was through, Smiths answer surprised him enough that Penny froze cross the room just seeing his own reaction.
Yep, the grave robbery? Captain Smith had said. We know all about it.
Russ called ahead to his station manager at WMC-TV Memphis studios and requested a crew for a live feed later that night.
While working in Nashville, it was routine to chase down hot leads with the use of 16mm film; as an anchor here in Memphis, Russ now benefited from access to the NBC affiliates more modern equipment, namely its expensive live van.Still, hed have had to call dibs on it, since there was only the one for the entire network.
By the time he punched into his Saturday shift, Russ been on the phone with Memphis PD all day, pumping the officers for updates and keeping his name associated with the exclusivity of the story. The latter had proved easier than expected: You know, since I brought this to you guys, I was hoping we would be allowed to get up close, watch the arrest
The cops had agreed, but by Saturday afternoon, even they werent sure of the break-ins possible time. Theyd heard from their informant, but there had been no word on the time.
Not knowing didnt endear the story any further to Russ station heads, none of whom wanted their only mobile unit wandering the streets of Memphis with no guarantee of a scoop.
Russ made a deal with the manager: the stations best cameraman, Bernie, drove a white Crown Vicone that could pass for an unmarked squad vehicle.Russ grabbed him on his way out the door at 9 p.m. Hed ride to Forest Hill Cemetery with Bernie, and the mobile van would follow behind.
'Bubba! Dont move, man! Somethings wrongwe aint alone!'
Russ looked at his watch. He had the live crew for an hour and a half. After that, any grave robberies would have to be taped and edited for a later airing.
Climbing into the passenger seat of Bernies Crown Vic, Russ tuned the newsrooms communal police scanner to the familiar Memphis PD frequency, prepared to sit back and listen intently for signs of life.
He told Bernie to head towards Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Bubba Green had no choice but to consider the previous nights attempt as a dry run; no reason to tell the others it was a bust.At least now all three knew the lay-out: the streets and the checkpoints.
It was nearly midnight when, again in the backseat of Ronnie Lee Adkins Chrysler, Bubba finally spotted the appliance truck in the shadow of Route 69.
Bubba had felt furious all day. Seeing Mike in place at the underpass, the anger finally began to subside. He hadnt been able to get him on the phone until late last night, Mike apologizing, going on and on that the appliance store employees had still been working the loading dock late into the night. He couldnt have lifted any of the trucks until today, he insisted, but tonight should be fine. Sorry, brother
He had Mike recite the plan back to him over the phone, then quizzed him on the smaller details. Satisfied, Bubba hung up and called the other two, letting them know tonight was a go.
Ronnie careened off of Hernando Road south towards Forest Hill. Bubba turned his head and watched the headlights on the appliance truck flash on and off, as Mike took off the opposite direction, north on Person Avenue.
Theyd worked it out so Mike would bust his way into the cemetery through the back. Hed find Elvis massive mausoleum first, then signal the others with his military high beam. The assortment of cutting tools would be more than enough to bust the iron gate and all that marblebut theyd still have to cut their way through the fence to haul the casket itself out and into the truck.
There would be no way to cut through that undetected while they were inside doing their business, as any passing car would see the truck waiting by the west entrance. Bubba figured theyd have to bust it last on the way out.
Ten minutes to midnight. Bubba leaned forward, pointed to the coming turn street. Pull up right here like last night, he said to Ronnie, then to both Ronnie and Bruce, Wait hereIll hop in first, make sure Mikes in place.
Bubba pulled his cap low on his head as he exited to the roadside. He looked around, then hopped the cemetery fence.
Russ knew he was losing his chance at a live feed after the first half-hour had passed. It was too quiet, parked there in Bernies car outside the Forest Hill gates, even with the staccato bursts of muffled directives shooting from the scanner. With the car radio off so they could listen to the police communications, it was the first time Russ hadnt heard so much as a second of Elvis music in the past two hours.
Russ, did you hear that last part?Bernie reached over and turned up the scanners volume nob.
What did I miss, Bernie?
A Chrysler was just pulled over near the cemetery I think I heard an officer on the two-way ask his dispatcher if an undercover was in the car.
Russ bolted upright.What did he say?
It had to be them. Russ rolled down the window of the Crown Victoria and saw Hernando Avenue coming up ahead. Were going to lose the van any minute now, he said, his voice against the wind. Lets head towards the cemetery and keep an eye.
Bernie was back on Elvis Presley Boulevard in five minutes. He turned off the ignition.
It was nearly 10:30 p.m. Bernie, Russ said, lets keep that scanner cranked until they call back the van.
Bubba hit the ground running.
Hed instructed Ronnie to turn the car off, not let it idle. Best be safely inside the cemetery and set up with Mike at the crypt before hollering for the others.Scaling the cemeterys gate was easy enough, Bubba landing on his hands and one knee bent. The felt the grass cool under his hands and through the rips in his jeans. He looked up into the darkness and the sea of headstones. His eyes adjusted, and the stones slowly glowed a dull, pale gray against the black of the grass and the towering oaks and maples over a century old. Mikes flashlight would be simple to spot through the 200-acre abyss.
According to Mr. Cincinnatis aerial schematics, Elvis mausoleum should be west from his entrance over the fence. Staying low to the ground, Bubba looked around, inching his way towards the cemeterys center.
He froze in place. Was that movement up ahead? Bubba didnt see the beams of a flashlight, nothing but the dark swaying of the trees against the lighter darkness of the sky. But he could swear something had moved among the darkened shapes up ahead.
Finally, a lighta flashlight.
Mike setting up camp at the wrong fucking grave
He watched then as the small white beam vanishedthen appeared again, off to the left. He froze again. It was unmistakablenow there were two flashlights.
Either Mike wasnt alone, or it wasnt Mike at all.
There was no more time for silence: Bubba turned around on the spot, burning his knees against the ground as he scurried back towards the fence a hundred yards away.
He looked up, seeing the outline of Ronnie and Bruce in front of the gates railings and against the lights of the street behind. Theyd climbed their way inside, were both whooping and hollering, their hands in the air, making a scene.
Bubba! Ronnie called out again, his hands cupped to his mouth. Dont move, man! Somethings wrongwe aint alone!
Bubba climbed to his feet and ran towards the fence, noise and chaos be damned. Run, boys! he yelled, following behind as all three hopped back onto the street and made for the Chrysler. Ronnie ran around and took his place behind the wheel, gunning the engine before all the doors had slammed shut.
Just go, man, Bubba barked.Go straight and just keep on goin!
Ronnie took a right onto Person Avenue instead, lightning fast.
What you doin, man? Bubba cried.I said straight!
Didnt matter now. The beige Chrysler pulled onto Person, stopping short just as the inevitable came into the view for all three men: a barricade of at least half a dozen black and whites, all flashing their red and blue lights and cutting off any chance of passing through.
With them was an NBC news team.
For the better part of the last two hours, Russ had sat in the passenger seat of Bernies car, fidgeting with the wire of his mic, twirling it around his fingers like the tail of an animal. Every few minutes, Bernie double- and triple-checked the video camera on his lap.
As expected, the station had called back the mobile van. That was almost an hour and half ago. As they watched it drive off back to the network studios on Union, Russ and Bernie made themselves comfortable, both fearing a long stakeout.
Finally, five minutes after midnight, the fuzzy voice of a police two-way: Its going down.
Lets move! Russ said, unspooling the microphone wire between his fingers.Bernie revved the engine and sped to Elvis Presley Boulevard.
What with the lights and the shouting, Bubba couldnt tell just how many squad cars were actually settled in the trap, cutting off their escape. They all swarmed, taking each side of the Chrysler, pulling the boys out at once. All Bubba felt were the fists raining down.
Everything seeming to move in slow-motion, but those Miranda Rights being spouted, those were in real-time. As the officer spread Bubbas legs and laid his hands on top of the cars hood, he watched Ronnie being taken to one car and Bruce manhandled into another.
Bubba felt himself cuffed and thrown into the backseat beside Bruce. Through the window, Bubba watched Ronnie slink down in the backseat of the other vehicle.
Some reportera tall, blond fellow Bubba recognized from the weekend newswas aiming his microphone into Ronnies window, trying to get him to speak while some police were shouting at him to back off, step away from the vehicle. A cameraman was with him, the weight of a huge video unit pulling his shoulder slightly down. The two men looked tied together by electrical wires.
Bubba let out a defeated breath.There would be no money now, he knew.
There would be no Caribbean trip or paid-off bonds and loans. Matter of fact, now thered probably be a bunch more.
Fuck.Hed never get out of Memphis.
More reporters outside the window now, plus the cops and curious nobodies snooping arounda sea of snarls and grotesques. Bubba sucked wind back through his throbbing lungs slowly, each breath a little labored and deliberate.
While he focused on his breathing, Bubba wondered if Mike had gotten out of the cemetery all right, hoped he had hightailed it in the appliance truck and was already miles away. He hoped Mike would make it to Texas, where Mike claimed he had family and friends waiting for him with open arms.
'I aint no cop.' Ronnie said it low, his muscles tightened against the blade.
During the ride to Shelby County lockup, Bubba also wondered something else. Something like an itch that had been itching since Ronnie had taken it upon himself to break the silence of the night, yelling through that cemetery fence.
Bubba wondered why Ronnie was taken to a different car.
Then he wondered how Ronnie had somehow landed them directly into a barricade of waiting police cars.
POLICE CLAIM FOILING ELVIS BODYSNATCHERS!
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)Police on a stakeout at Forest Hill Cemetery captured four men after a chase Monday, foiling what authorities said was a plot to steal Elvis Presleys body and hold it for ransom.
But one of the men was freed for lack of evidence, the other three were charged with trespassing, and a police official said the plot might be hard to prove.
In a statement, Memphis police said information was received several days ago that a group of people was going to enter the cemetery, break into Presleys mausoleum, steal the body and try to ransom it.
Acting on the tip, police kept the mausoleum under watch.
On Saturday night, the statement said, suspects were seen near the cemetery but did not attempt to enter Forest Hill.Police were later informed, they said, that this had been a trial run.
The stakeout continued Sunday night, and early Monday morning, four suspects were arrested near the cemetery after having entered over the back wall, bypassing security guards, approached the mausoleum and shook the door when they were apparently frightened off.
Police Director E. Winslow Chapman said three of the men were arrested after a brief chase. The fourth was arrested at the emergency room in Baptist Hospital, where Presley was taken after he died on Aug. 16. Chapman said the fourth man apparently had sprained an ankle running from the cemetery.
Chapman said the police believe the men intended to use conventional burglary tools to break into the mausoleum, but he said no tools were recovered, although police searched the cemetery grounds and the route of the chase. The case against them would be weak without the tools for evidence, Chapman said.
Tuesday, August 30, 1977
Locked up again, facing felony charges of attempted grave robbery, body snatching, and trespassing.
A public defender had told Bubba in no certain terms: If it all stuck, grave-robbing would get him 99 years, but dont worrythe botched attempt would only get him 33.
Bubba thought: in the grand scheme of things, what the fuck was the difference?
The public defender went on, You could go up there and shoot an kill a guy, rather than let him testify against you, put your gun down, call the po-leece, tell 'em you just shot and killed 'em, come get 'ya, and youll get 30 years Or you can let him get on that witness stand, testify against you, and you get 33 yearsif they convict 'ya.
Bubba had made the error of asking what had happened to dear old Ronnie Lee Adkins. Lawyer told him, also in no uncertain terms: Leave that Adkins fella alone.
But that wasnt what Bubba heard. The way he saw it, the lawyer just confirmed Ronnie was worth more dead than alive.
Bruce knew where Ronnie lived, had his address written down. Having used what little money he had left to post bailBlue Barron always won in the endBubba went round to Bruce, told him the new plan, to be implemented immediately.
Were gonna put the fear of God into Ronnie, hed told Bruce. Let him think his life is on the line, he gets up on that stand and throws us all under a bus.
They rode over in Bruces car, playing it cool and getting Ronnie into the front seat of the car, in the passengers seat for once. Bubba got in back and instructed Bruce to drive them down Poplar Avenue all the way downtown.He told him not to stop until he could see the marshes and the Mississippi River out in front.
Parked, Ronnie felt cold steel come whip around under his chin.
You messed up real good, Bubba hissed, pressing the tip of his butterfly knife tight against Ronnies Adams apple. He ran it slow along the scratchy grain of Ronnies stubble. Real good, informing on the wrong people this time. Didnt you? he said.
Behind the wheel, Bruce kept a lookout for tourists. They came down here sometime to get a nice view of Mud Island. Ronnie kept his mouth tight, let Bubba keep talking. See, youre worth way more to me now dead than alive, Bubba said. Lawyer told me so. And I listen to the law, now on.
Bruce cracked the window. Near silence where they were, the wind through the marshes and the soft lapping of the shore nearby.
We got friends, Bubba said, his grip on the knife and its place at Ronnies jugular frozen still. And they got friends, and you know, friends of friends. Way I see it, youre in a no-win situation. You agree?
He loosened his grip just enough for Ronnie to slowly nod without cutting himself against the blade.
Well, thats good, he said, real good, Ronnie. So, heres what were going to do: were going to drive you up to Baptist Memorial Hospital, drop you off, and youre gonna tell them youre a Memphis City policeman suffering chest pains the last few days. But you hear me? You fucking tell them youre a cop.
I aint no cop.Ronnie said it low, his muscles tightened against the blade.
Dont matter to me, said Bubba. Not at this point. But youre gonna tell them that, get pinched for impersonation.
Why would I do that?We all already facing charges, man.
Bubba tightened his grip again. I want you discredited, got it? You even think about turning us out on that witness stand, I want you seen as a lying sack of shit whose word aint worth nothing. Your testimony wont be no good. I already know youre a liarbut I want it on fucking record youre one.
He paused, listened to the stillness surrounding the car. Seagulls hung over the river. I mean, he said, flicking the butterfly back into its sheath, theres more truth in that than anything else, right?
ELVIS RETURNS HOME!
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)In death, Elvis Presley returned to his mansion in much the same manner as he went in lifewith secrecy and tight security.
Two white hearses carried the bodies of Presley and his mother, Gladys Smith Presley, from Forest Hill Cemetery to the grounds of Graceland unannounced Sunday night.
The hearses, escorted by eight Memphis policemen and five Shelby County Sheriffs deputies, traveled south without disruption down Elvis Presley Boulevard, three miles from the cemetery to the mansion.
The Presley family received unanimous approval from zoning officials last week for the transfer. Lawyers for the family said security and privacy were reasons for the request as well as the inconvenience caused to other families with loved ones at the cemetery by Elvis crowds.
About 100 fans watched as the hearses entered the mansion grounds from the rear entrance shortly after 7 p.m.
Tuesday, October 4, 1977
The story ran on WMC-TV on Sunday morning. It wasnt the live feed Russ had envisioned, catching the grave robbers redhanded, but hed still gotten the scoop Ronnie Lee Adkins promised.
Russ observation that the Crown Victoria closely resembled an unmarked squad car proved correct: The cops had waved them right through the Forest Hill gates. At Elvis mausoleum, hed leapt out and quickly struck a pose with the mic, reporting the nights events against the mausoleums marble wall.They used the cars high-beams to light the shot. Russ then shot a clip inside Elvis private chamber.
Elvis grave would always remain the only part of the Graceland tour that was free of charge.
Spliced together with Bernies footage of Raymond Bubba Green, Bruce Nelson, and Ronnie Lee Adkins being carted away, the completed clip aired as Sundays lead story. Phone calls started almost immediately, Russ NBC parents and the National Enquirer within the first few hours of its airing.
The Enquirer should have known better than push Russ and Bernie to hand over even a single frame to a competitive news source. But when it came to the honchos at their parent network, any footage shot with studio equipment was up for grabs. They handed over the raw footage, seeing every NBC affiliate in America use the material for their own coverage on the story.
Forget taking a bullet on Dick Clarks blooper reel. On August 29, Russ finally reached a national audiencejust as he had promised the station managers.
As he had expected, new of the attempted theft of the Kings body quickly spread, especially in Memphis. Only weeks after Elvis had been tucked and shelved in his mink-lined crypt, the botched grave robbery proved another excuse for Elvis wide-reaching constituency to gather en masse around both Forest Hill and the locked gates of Graceland.
Also as he expected, Russ had to cover it all for WMC-TV Memphis: the arrests, the aftermath, the eventual arraignment and, finally that October, the most unexpected twist of it allthe dismissal.
It was months later that Russ was again at Shelby County District Court, watching in disbelief as a judge announced that Green, Nelson, and Adkins were to be set free, let go, the judge declaring Adkins as too unreliable a witness to even take his word at face value.
Only Russ knew Adkins had been the tipster, the informant the one to call him at home, for Chrissake. No one in law enforcement would say it in a courtroom, but Russ wondered if the judge been fed instructions to let Adkins walk, his clandestine status within the Memphis PD earning him some form of immunity.
Or, Russ also wondered, had someone gotten to the judge?
Russ never got the answer, but he did cover every detail of the grave robberys strange aftermath. The same week as the delinquent crews dismissal, Vernon Presley successfully circumvented the longstanding zoning codes in Shelby County, granting him permission for the legal transfer of his beloved son and wife, Gladys, back to Graceland. He wanted them home, under the shade of the trees in the backyard, right there beside Elvis swimming pool.
The Presley family later called it The Meditation Garden, even put up a plaque.
Later on, after Graceland later became Memphis greatest tourist attraction, drawing thousands of fans from around the world to take the tour, see his shag-carpeted living room and his famed white porcelain monkey, his gold Cadillac and personal jets parked outside, and his sequined jumpsuits and matching capes, all under glass next to a television set hed used for target practice Even then, Elvis grave would always remain the only part of the tour that was free of charge.
Elvis loved visitors.
Before he and Penny moved on to Denver a few years later, Russ Ruffin decided that MemphisElvis Memphishad been good to him.
Years later, long after his Memphis days, Russ remembered something.
He had been finishing up breakfast with Penny, thumbing through that mornings newspaper and saw an article that jogged loose memory from 1977: It was right before the dismissal at Shelby County Court.
That week in September, Russ had received another phone call at home and hadnt thought about it in over 20 years. When it had happened, however, he had half-expected the call to be from Ronnie Lee Adkins, since another hearing was coming up.
It had been a weekday, Russ remembered, Penny out running errands when the kitchen phone rang.
This Russ Ruffin from the TV?
It wasnt Ronnie, it was another voice, a new one only slightly familiar. It sure is, Russ said, What can I do for you?
There was a pause, the voice taking a deep breath before going on. Well, you know who I am, but we aint ever actually spoke Names Raymond Green.
Russ had watched Bubba Greens arraignment the previous week. Russ reached for his pad and pen. Well, hello there, Mr. Green. Yes, I do know your name, and Ive been covering everything about your case, as you may know.
I do, he said. Listen Just so you know, it aint nothing like you heard.
Russ didnt say a word, let the man continue.
You know, my story I mean, said Bubba Green. What you seen in the newspapers. Nothing like you heard. I got a story for youafter my hearing.
But after the hearing, Bubba Green was gone. So was Ronnie Lee Adkins.
Russ remembered all of that, sitting in his kitchen in Denver, reading the newspaper and tearing out an article to show Penny across the table.
The story in the paper was about a former FBI informant changing his name in Witness Protection. Ronnie Tyler.
FBI WITNESS: PRESLEY CLAN STAGED GRAVE-ROBBING
Informant says pop hatched plot to move Kings plot to Graceland
(WorldNetDaily) MEMPHIS, Tenn.
August 15, 2002
An FBI informant involved in a plot to steal Elvis Presleys body shortly after the rock idol died 25 years ago claims the Presley family staged the grave-robbing to persuade Memphis officials to move him from the public cemetery to Graceland, now a $15 million-a-year tourist attraction, a veteran FBI agent told WorldNetDaily.
The late Vernon Presley, the Kings father and executor of his estate at the time, wanted his son buried on mansion grounds, but it was not an area zoned for burials.
So three weeks after Elvis died of a heart attack, he had lawyers for the Presley estate petition the Memphis Shelby County Board of Adjustment for a zoning variance. They cited what they called an attempted theft of Presleys body several days earlier and the expense of round-the-clock security.
Three men were arrested Aug. 29, 1977, near the Forest Hill Cemetery mausoleum where Elvis was entombed in a 900-pound copper coffin. One of them was Ronnie Tyler, who later became an FBI informant.
Tyler had been in cahoots with a crooked deputy sheriff, who swooped down and captured the thieves, said Ivian C. Smith, former head of the FBIs Arkansas office. The scheme had been hatched after the Memphis board had refused the Presley familys request to bury Elvis at Graceland, he said.
The Memphis board on Sept. 28, 1977 OKd Presleys request to move his sons body to Graceland. And the singer, dressed in a white suit with dark-blue tie and light-blue shirt, was reburied there Oct. 2.
After the theft, the county made an exception to the lawand Tyler was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, said Smith.
AUTHORS NOTE ON SOURCES
This article was written with the aid of Russell Ruffin, who was generous enough to offer a comprehensive interview regarding his participation in the original arrests of Ronnie Lee Adkins, Raymond Green, and Bruce Nelson.
Likewise, the Shelby County Historical Commission was patient and helpful in supplying details and fact-checking for dates and details regarding the numerous events and media coverage of Elvis Presleys death and burial in August 1977.
Quotes and details regarding Raymond Green are courtesy of Tri-Marq Communications and WTMJ Television, Milwaukee, which provided the only existing transcripts of Greens initial interviews.
Ronnie Lee Adkins, now Tyler, remains an active informant for the FBI, and his background information and current whereabouts do not fall under the guidelines of the Freedom of Information Act.
Other sources include:
Guralnick, Peter. Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. Boston, New York, London, Little Brown and Company, 1999.
Smith, I. C. Inside: A Top G-Man Exposes Spies, Lies, and Bureaucratic Bungling Inside the FBI.Thomas Nelson Incorporated, Nashville, 2004.
Associated Press, Elvis Returns Home, October 4, 1977.
Associated Press, Police Claim Foiling Elvis Bodysnatchers, September 2, 1977.
McCabe, Scott. The Plot to Steal Elvis Body Gets Weirder, The Washington Examiner, August 28, 2012.
Sperry, Paul.FBI Witness: Presley Clan Staged Elvis Grave-Robbing, WorldNewDaily.com, August 15, 2002.
(CNN)The mass shootings in Texas and Ohio have turned the 2020 presidential campaign into an increasingly visceral referendum on the nature of Donald Trump’s presidency and the message that delivered him to the White House.
The strategies and tactics adopted by the candidates have provided new insight and clues into how they would govern if elected, and the ways — over the coming months — they will seek to defeat not only Trump, but the principles underlying Trumpism. Their reactions have also signaled an a new willingness to draw a straight line between the President’s words and racist violence.
Biden and Booker lash Trump in speeches
Former Vice President Joe Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker laced their calls for unity on Wednesday with lacerating attacks on Trump in specially scheduled speeches, Biden’s in Iowa and Booker from the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, where nine black parishioners were killed by a white supremacist gunman in 2015.
From the beginning of his campaign, Biden has cast the 2020 election as a “battle for the soul of this nation.” But in the video announcing his candidacy, and in subsequent talks, he also suggested that Americans might look back at a one-term Trump presidency as “an aberrant moment in time.”
Biden’s words on Wednesday in Iowa suggested he is moving toward a more historically complete message — reminiscent of the view that has been advocated most often by more progressive candidates, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
“I wish I could say that this all began with Donald Trump and will end with him. But it didn’t — and I won’t,” Biden said. “American history is not a fairytale. The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push-and-pull for 243 years between the American ideal, that says we’re all created equal, and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.”
The former vice president also offered a taunting dismissal of Trump’s recent, scripted remarks condemning the violence in Texas and Ohio.
“In both clear language and in code, this President has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” Biden said, before baiting Trump — successfully — by describing the comments as a “low-energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him.”
Trump, who was traveling between stops in the Ohio and Texas during Biden’s speech, obviously caught wind of Biden’s remarks and responded on Twitter.
“Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring!,” he wrote, before suggesting a Biden presidency would please the Chinese government. Before setting out on his trip, Trump outside the White House drew an equivalence between white supremacist and antifascist groups.
“I have concerns about the rise of any group of hate,” Trump said. “Whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy, whether it’s Antifa, whether it’s any group of hate I’m very concerned about it and I’ll do something about it.”
Hours before Biden’s speech and almost a thousand miles away, Booker in South Carolina also cast the violence of the past days in a more sweeping context. Like Biden would, the New Jersey senator referenced the similarities between the language used by Trump to describe immigration and immigrants and the words found in the manifesto of the alleged Texas killer.
“The act of anti-Latino, anti-immigrant hatred we witnessed this past weekend did not start with the hand that pulled the trigger,” Booker said. “It did not begin when a single white supremacist got into his car to travel 10 hours to kill as many human beings as he could.”
Though he did not address Trump by name, Booker accused the President and his allies of emboldening racists and inciting the El Paso attack.
The alleged killer’s dark fervor, he said, had been “planted in fertile soil, because the contradictions that have shadowed this country since its founding remain a part of our body politic. It was sowed by those who spoke the same words the El Paso murderer did: warning of an ‘invasion.’ It was sowed by those who spoke of an ‘infestation,’ and ‘disgusting cities,’ ‘rats and rodents,’ talking about majority-minority communities.”
O’Rourke stays at home to fight
While Booker and Biden purposed their remarks to specifically address the recent violence, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native whose life and campaign is still based in the city, has clung tight to his frightened community, effectively leaving the stump to lead the way back home.
O’Rourke, whose 2018 Senate campaign became a national cause for Democrats following his viral defense of activist professional athletes, has spoken over the past few days with a moral vigor and clarity that seemed to have eluded him during a stagnant to-date presidential bid.
Asked by a reporter after a Sunday in El Paso if there was anything Trump could do “to make this any better,” O’Rourke — emotional after a vigil for the victims and their families — shot back in frustration.
“What do you think? You know the s–t he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know, like, members of the press, what the f–k?,” he said. “You know, I — it’s these questions that you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country. He’s not tolerating racism, he’s promoting racism. He’s not tolerating violence, he’s inciting racism and violence in this country.”
O’Rourke’s profanity might have drawn the initial attention, but his message to the public echoed the indignation of voters who argue that the time for speculating over or trying to predict Trump’s behavior — when it has become so plain to see — should be over.
The Texan will not go to Iowa this weekend, as previously planned, and has not yet decided when he will return to the campaign trail. But like the other candidates, he has been firm in connecting the President’s words to the bloody attack launched against his city.
“(Trump) is trying to intimidate this community, to make us afraid of the border, of immigrants,” O’Rourke told reporters in El Paso on Wednesday morning.
Like Biden, O’Rourke during a morning memorial at El Dorado High School, looked back to the founding of the country — pointing to its aspirations and how, despite great strides, “we have never fully lived up to that promise” — before turning to a defense of El Paso and similar places.
“We are one of the safest cities, if not the safest, cities in the United States of America,” O’Rourke said. “We must remind ourselves and tell the rest of the country that we are safe not despite the fact that we are city of immigrants and asylum-seekers and refugees, people who came from the planet over to find a home here in El Paso, Texas, but that very fact is what makes us strong and successful and safe and secure in the first place.”
Later on, as Trump made his way from Dayton, Ohio, where he visited shooting victims in the hospital, to El Paso, O’Rourke joined protests against the presidential visit, which local leaders like Rep. Veronica Escobar had advised against. In Trump’s last appearance in the city, for a political rally, a supporter attacked a BBC reporter and the President spread misleading claims about the city’s safety.
After speaking at a demonstration, O’Rourke told CNN he planned to attend victims’ funerals and make a trip to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where seven of the 22 victims lived, before continuing on with his national campaign. Later on, he gave a young, tearful man who said he was at the Walmart during the shooting his personal phone number, and a promise to help him in any way he could.
A week after fierce debates, Dems unite
Only a couple weeks ago, Booker and Biden were engaged in a heated debate over the former vice president’s record on race. And during the debates last week in Detroit, Democrats were at one another’s throats, sometimes warning the country that their rivals were unelectable, while sparring over health care, foreign policy and, in the case of immigration, former President Barack Obama’s record.
But those arguments have largely evaporated from sight since the Saturday shooting in El Paso. Trump, who has mostly stuck to his inflammatory rhetoric on Twitter, did for the Democrats what he could not for the country: inspired solidarity.
Candidates other than Biden, Booker and O’Rourke have mostly kept to their previous commitments, while flooding television and social media with increasingly pointed denunciations of Trump and notes of solidarity with the victims — and one another. California Sen. Kamala Harris’ campaign bought lunch for the O’Rourke staff in El Paso and Harris spokesman Ian Sams told CNN the campaign has raised nearly $100,000 for gun violence prevention organizations since the shootings.
They also roundly condemned the White House over a CNN report, published Wednesday afternoon, that the White House had rebuffed a push by the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize domestic terror threats, like those posed by white supremacists.
“Homeland Security officials battled the White House for more than a year to get them to focus more on domestic terrorism,” one senior source close to the Trump administration told CNN. “The White House wanted to focus only on the jihadist threat which, while serious, ignored the reality that racial supremacist violence was rising fast here at home. They had major ideological blinders on.”
Harris linked to the story on Twitter and said, “People are getting killed, and this President is turning a blind eye to America’s national security threats.”
The former prosecutor has, in the aftermath of the shootings, repeated her promise to use the power of the presidency to implement strict new gun control measures within the first few months of her term.
“Whether at a festival, place of worship, school, movie theater, or Walmart, you should always be able to feel safe,” Harris tweeted. “As president, I’ll give Congress 100 days to send gun safety legislation to my desk. If they refuse to act, I’ll take executive action to protect our communities.”
The killings in El Paso have also brought added attention to former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, the only Latino in the primary.
Speaking to NBC, Castro underscored the heightened intensity of the campaign and painted a stark image of Trump’s political maneuvering.
“For a President now to base his entire political strategy on turning the Latino community, and especially recent immigrants, into ‘the other,’ into the danger toward America — it doesn’t belong in this country, he doesn’t belong as President,” Castro said. “And that’s one of the reasons I know that I’m running to replace him and I bet that a lot of other people who are in this race feel the same way.”
Outside of Texas, the gravity of the El Paso killings has emboldened Democrats to be more direct, and in the case of Sanders, more personal in how they describe their reasons for running.
Sanders, who has repeatedly denounced Trump as a “racist” and “xenophobe” on the campaign trail this year, also kept to his planned campaign stops — though he, like others, will now attend a forum on gun control in Iowa this weekend. But in a Medium post on Sunday, he took the unusual step of tying the current situation to his own, painful family history.
“I am personally all too familiar with the barbarity that comes from hateful ideology,” Sanders wrote. “Most of my own father’s family was brutally murdered at the hands of Hitler’s white supremacist regime. That regime came to power on a wave of violence and hatred against racial and religious minorities. We cannot allow that cancer to grow here.”
His fellow progressive, Warren, issued a similar warning against what the campaigns have almost uniformly described now as a wave of hate drawing strength underfoot from the White House.
“White supremacy is a domestic terrorism threat in the same way that foreign terrorism threatens our people. And it is the responsibility of the President of the United States to help fight back against that,” Warren told CNN. “Not to wink and nod and smile at it and let it get stronger in this country.”
Latest series of the US hit show will recount the former White House interns affair with the then president that led to his impeachment in 1998
Monica Lewinsky is among the producers on a new series of American Crime Story focusing on the Bill Clinton sex scandal.
Titled Impeachment: American Crime Story, the Ryan Murphy-helmed anthology drama will recount the notorious affair between the then US president Clinton and former White House intern Lewinsky, and the subsequent impeachment proceedings called against him by the US House of Representatives.
Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein will star as Lewinsky, with Sarah Paulson playing Linda Tripp, the civil servant who secretly recorded phone calls the 22-year-old made about her affair with Clinton, who was 27 years her senior.
The series will premiere in September 2020 in the US, and is expected to air in the UK soon after. The previous two series of American Crime Story have been shown on BBC Two in the UK, as part of the broadcasters syndication deal with the US.
Impeachment has been adapted by Murphy from Jeffrey Toobins book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President. Murphy originally optioned the book in 2017, but shelved plans to bring it to TV last year as he felt that such a project would be gross without the contribution of Lewinsky.
However, with Lewinskys involvement, Impeachment is now going ahead. In a statement to Vanity Fair, she said that she had been hesitant to sign on to the series, but was swayed by the opportunity to reclaim my narrative.
People have been co-opting and telling my part in this story for decades, Lewinsky said. In fact, it wasnt until the past few years that Ive been able to fully reclaim my narrative, almost 20 years later.
This isnt just a me problem. Powerful people, often men, take advantage of those subordinate to them in myriad ways all the time. Many people will see this as such a story and for that reason, this narrative is one that is, regretfully, evergreen.
FX chairman John Landgraf said that the network would not be reaching out to Bill and Hillary Clinton for their input.
American Crime Story has attracted critical acclaim and high ratings for its retellings of landmark events in recent US history. Its first season, 2016s The People Vs OJ Simpson, won a total of nine Emmy awards for its account of the 1994 murder case against former American Football player and actor OJ Simpson.