The real Charlie Free

Hazen You may have read Sunday's story about Jack Hazen (left), a man who robbed a Pompano Beach 7-Eleven back in 1975, escaped from prison, then lived 32 years on the lam under the name Charles Danny Free until being caught again in 2008.

 He's being released today from Dade Correctional Institution in Florida City and will be paroled to Panama City, where he'll have a job and his wife and grown daughters will take care of him.

A colleague who read my story raised a good question: Has anyone ever tracked down the *real* Charles Danny Free, the man whose ID Hazen lifted in order to start his second life? 

A few keystrokes later, I found Charles Danny Free, 63, a nice Southern gentleman living in his hometown of Anderson, S.C. He picked up on the second ring. 

 "I lost my driver's license, and several people used it as their own," he said, explaining he had never been to Jacksonville, where Hazen said he picked up Free's ID at a motel.

Hazen's quiet life as Charlie Free in Las Vegas turned out to be the least of the real Free's problems. Free was a truck driver, and he got fired from two jobs because other people who stole his identity racked up several DUIs.

"It took several weeks to clear that up, but by then they had taken my truck away from me," Free said.

He didn't seem too impressed by Hazen's double life.

"What he did doesn't concern me," Free said.

A county employee searches for help

Looks like someone using a Miami-Dade County government computer searched for "How to set up a police +perimter" [sic] and wound up at the crime blog of our sister paper The Tacoma News Tribune.

Could it have been a MDPD officer looking for advice unavailable in the department's how-to manual? Maybe someone in the county manager's office trying to switch careers and studying for the police academy test? We may never know.

*Thanks to colleague (and former Herald intern) Ian for the tip. Maybe one day he'll teach me how to look up IP addresses and search terms from our blog? 

'Tis the season to protect Jesus

18235027_240x180 Holy cow, there's a lot of crime news out there with religious twists:

Example 1: Someone stole two bags of cash from a church in Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Bill Hegedusich darted out of the 11 a.m. Mass to chase the crook. The priest recovered one bag with about $60 inside, but the thief got away. 

Example 2: Churches are keeping a close eye on their Baby Jesus and Virgin Mary figurines after a rash of Nativity-scene thefts last holiday season. Some are even installing expensive GPS devices and hidden cameras to deter pranksters. 

Example 3: A church vs. state battle is playing out in Oakland Park, where city officials want a Catholic mission to take down a concrete Jesus statue (left) they claim is hindering passing motorists.

*Thanks to Andrea for the tip

It’s official: Jury duty is not fun

Angry I managed to get through the first 29 years and change of my life without receiving a summons for jury duty.

Most likely, it’s because I haven’t had the same address for more than two years at any point in my life since 1997.

Or perhaps it’s because I’m too smart for the jury pool.

Now look, I’m not a braggart. There are people at the Herald who run intellectual circles around me. (However, I run equally impressive circles around them when it comes to imbibing. Everyone has a gift.)

But you really don’t get a true appreciation for the population's wide range in intellect until you’re forced to spend a day with them, debating the virtues of the Fifth Amendment and the necessity of self-defense.

But that’s exactly where I found myself Wednesday, on a Miami-Dade jury panel for a first-degree murder trial.

The man on trial has been accused of stabbing to death a former love interest. Maybe he did it. Maybe not.

But I'll never know for sure. I was one of 40 perspectives, of which 12 jurors and two alternates were picked.

I was not one of the 14 – probably because of my profession.

But judging from some of those that were picked, I pray for our legal system.

Many thought that pleading the Fifth was a defacto admission of guilt. Others swore there was no scenario under which a man could use self-defense against a woman. One even pretended she didn't speak English in an attempt to get off the panel -- a ruse the judge quickly spotted.

It took me 10 hours to remember what I had forgotten years ago: There are a lot of, how should I say this, narrowly thinking people out there.

But I didn’t need a daylong civics lesson for that. All I needed to do was watch how our presidential nominees are picked.

Here endeth the lesson. Rant over.

Latest Fla. craze: Nude jaywalking

Naked_me1 Yes, it’s hot, but …

… Can’t people just keep their clothes on?

Yesterday, I wrote about the guy who died in police custody after they found him strolling down Northwest Second Avenue in the buff.

Then comes this gem from the Tallahassee Democrat:

A 40-year-old man walking his dog in the nude Friday night in northwest Tallahassee was Tasered by police when he became belligerent and refused to follow an officer’s commands.

I ask, selfishly: Why don’t any women ever feel so voyeuristic?

Good policework leads to suspect

Seven_mile_bridge Miami detectives are hot on the trail of a man who they believe fled to Nicaragua after killing his wife and dumping her body off the Seven Mile Bridge.

Here's how things unfolded:

-On July 17, two tourists on a fishing trip found a woman's body in shallow water near the bridge.

-On July 20, the Herald's Cammy Clark reported that Monroe County detectives ruled the death a homicide because the woman had been bound at the wrists, waist and neck and the body weighed down so it wouldn't float.

-The break in the case, as reported today by the Herald's David Ovalle, came when Miami detectives heard about the unidentified body and asked Monroe County for a copy of the fingerprints.   

The fingerprints belonged Eliett Jarquin, who had a brush with the law in 2002 and had recently been reported missing by her aunt.

Miami homicide detectives searched Jarquin's home and discovered that her husband, Francisco, had fled to his native Nicaragua. They interviewed Jarquin's brother, who admitted he helped Francisco put 44-pound gym weights onto Eliett's body and dump it over the bridge.

Police didn't say how Eliett was killed, but they believe it happened around July 13. Police were working on an arrest warrant for Francisco Jarquin. 

Rick Ross: 305 hypocrite?

0721081rickross2 The Smoking Gun just dropped a fat one on Rick Ross: Hard evidence that the Miami rapper used to be a Florida prison guard.

This bomb comes a few days after Ross denied such allegations, claiming photos that surfaced on the Internet of him in a guard uniform (left) were "fake pictures ... created by the fake, meant to entertain the fake."

But TSG got Ross' personnel records from the Department of Corrections (back when his name was still William Leonard Roberts). He graduated at age 19 from the DoC training academy and went to work in 1995 at the South Florida Reception Center in Doral for $22,913.54 a year. He quit about two years later.

0721081inside1 Ross, now 32, likes to brag in lyrics and news articles about his days of slangin' weed, coke and heroin in Carol City.

Gotta wonder: Was that before or after he was a paid law enforcement officer, if it ever happened at all?

It's cleaner than crawling through sewage

ShawshankHat tip to Neighbors Editor Carolyn Guniss for this little gem that will appear in Thursday's Northeast section:

A thief stole four Miami-Dade County Corrections Department uniforms and other clothes after breaking a window on a 2007 Nissan in the 14800 block of Northeast Seventh Court between 12:30 and 4 a.m. June 25. The stolen items were valued at $500. Damage was
estimated at $200.

Anybody else think an inmate might be receiving an extra-heavy package in the next week or so?

Tired of dry, callused feet?

Pedegg If so, the PedEgg -- a device that buffs and files away warts and other foot imperfections -- might be for you.

But first, better check with Miami Beach-based models Kelly Parks-Corso and Jonathan Corso, who appeared in a cheesier-than-Easy Mac commercial for the foot-care gadget.

Apparently, they were none too pleased with the way their footsies came off on screen in an ad that has been broadcast all over the world.

And so, they've filed suit in Miami-Dade Circuit court. The Smoking Gun has the goods.

Named as defendants: PB and J Partners, a production company that made the commercial, and International Edge, which owns PedEgg.

The suit alleges that last July, PB and J sent out feelers for "hand and foot" models for a two-day shoot.

The job -- which paid $300 per model for the day's work -- was supposed to be for an Internet-only infomercial. The models were told they would be filmed receiving a pedicure and manicure, with only hands and feet shown, according to the suit.

When they got to the shoot, the couple quickly learned the plan had changed.

They were told that their feet were to be doctored with "horror" make-up for a dramatic before and after shot.

Parks-Corso and her husband were suprised, but decided to go ahead with the shoot.

That's a decision they would come to regret.

Pedeggreal Soon thereafter, they saw themselves on TV -- not part of the original agreement -- in a shoddy, low-grade ad.

It even appeared at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Check out the ad to see the plaintiffs for yourself.

Parks-Corso is the redhead in the ad's first shot and her hubby is the guy on the couch.

Our pumping party past

Pump Today's story about a Miami-Dade man accused of injecting people with silicone at underground, off-the-record parties brought up memories of South Florida's infamous pumping party death.

Vera Johnson, an office secretary from Carol City, died in March 2001 after attending a pumping party at a Miramar apartment, where she and others paid several hundred dollars each to have industrial-grade silicone injected into their breasts and butts. The silicone got into her bloodstream and caused her death, experts testified at trial.

Two men -- Mark Hawkins and Donnie "Viva" Hendrix -- were charged with Johnson's murder. The couple (Hendrix was living as Hawkins' wife) became well known for their South Florida pumping parties.

Their 2003 trial was colorful, with several transgender and transvestite witnesses and a prosecutor who at one point told jurors such people could not be trusted.

Hawkins was convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison, then his conviction was reversed and he was granted a new trial. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was released from prison in 2006. Hendrix was acquitted of murder charges but served a five-year sentence (in a prison for male inmates) for practicing medicine without a license.   

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