Saturday, October 20

The Tragic Disappearance of Harmony Jude Creech

Update: 10.21.07

Johni Michelle Heuser has been arrested and charged with first degree murder in reference to Harmony's death. She is currently being held without bond, and her other three children, all under the age of 5, are in foster care.

"She has been telling us a lot of lies for a long time," Sheriff Rollins said of Heuser. "It finally, through some good interview techniques, brought the truth out."

I will post more as the story continues.


Ronald Earl Creech II is a soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. While he was overseas, his wife gave birth to a daughter, Harmony Jude Creech. Ronald was to see his baby girl for the first time on Friday, Oct. 19 when he returned from a 15-month deployment in Iraq.

Harmony's grandmother picked Ronald up from the airport Friday morning, and when they returned, Harmony was gone. It appeared that Harmony Jude Creech just vanished from her home at 1680 Ray Rd, Spring Lake, NC after her mother, Johni Michelle Heuser, put her down to sleep. A pink sheet, a handful of bibs and nearly all of the child's clothes were also missing.

A window in Harmony's bedroom was open, and the screen was propped against the house outside. The girl was last seen wearing pink footie pajamas with "Daddy's Girl" written on one arm. News releases said she weighs 18 pounds, and is 2 feet, 7 inches tall.

The disappearance of 11-month-old Harmony sparked an Amber Alert that aired on websites like MySpace and on television stations airing football games. An FBI team of child abduction specialists joined local police officers in hunting for Harmony, and the girl's picture and story were found in local news stations' top stories. Tonight, the girl's story is still at the top of the headlines, but for another reason. One day after Harmony Jude Creech was reported missing, she was tragically found.

While speaking with investigators, police said, Heuser told them she found Harmony dead in her crib several weeks ago, and hid Harmony's death out of fear. The remains of the girl were found in the attic of the house she lived in for 11 months.

Neighbors have said a foul smell has bothered them for several weeks, which subsided recently when overnight temperatures dropped. Some neighbors, reacting to the smell, had even searched their yards for dead animals. These same neighbors described Heuser as secretive and private, as someone who rarely left home.

Heuser is still being interviewed and the investigation is still active. Charges against Heuser have not been determined, and an autopsy will be performed on Harmony to determine her cause of death.

"It's a tragic end to a sad situation for this family and for the community as well," Harnett County Sheriff Larry Rollins said.

I'd like to know what the grandparents and/or the other children (all under five years old) know. More pragmatically, I want to know why the grandparents didn't suspect anything, or if they knew anything, why they didn't come forward.

I'm interested to see the charges filed in this case.

I will update this blog as more information becomes available.

Sources: "Leads scarce in search for missing baby," News and Observer, Oct. 20; "Missing Harnett County Baby Found Dead in Attic,", Oct. 20; "Body of missing baby found in her home," News and Observer, Oct. 20

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Saturday, October 6

Danny Goldston: Homeless Predator

This is a followup entry to yesterday's "Man in Custody on Rape, Torture Charges Has Previous Arrest Record."

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Danny Goldston is accused of cutting and stabbing another man multiple times on the front porch of a church where the man and his female companion, who becomes his victim, were sleeping. The man was stabbed near the center of his chest, was cut on his chin and suffered lacerations on his forehead, right elbow and right wrist.

He then forced the woman into a wooded area, where he raped her and abused her for two days before letting her go.

News reports today have revealed that Goldston was living at the men's homeless shelter near downtown Raleigh, the Wilmington Street Shelter, located at 1420 S. Wilmington Street.

This shelter is not a new place for me. I have done some research about the shelter and its inhabitants, and it is not what I would consider a safe place to be.

The South Wilmington Street Center for men is open to any single man 18 years old or older.This includes sex offenders. Carson Dean, director of the shelter, has said criminal background checks are not performed, and sex offenders are not prohibited from using the shelter.

"Our job is to help guys who want our help to become self-sufficient," Dean said.

The shelter has 234 beds, 110 of which are for the emergency part of the shelter, where anyone who's never stayed there before can come in anytime to get a bed for the night. The shelter is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but most men are not allowed in the shelter for most of the day.

"Most guys can't be in here during the day time," Dean said, "because we want them looking for work or going to doctor's appointments."

As a result, the men leave the shelter after breakfast, and do not return to the shelter until 4 or 5 p.m., when the shelter re-opens.

According to the Sex Offender Registry, 20 convicted sex offenders list the Wilmington Street Center as their place of residence. Of those 20 offenders, two were convicted of first-degree rape, four were convicted of second-degree rape, three were convicted of second-degree sexual offense, one was convicted of sexual battery, one was convicted of sexual offense with certain victims, and nine were convicted of indecent liberty with a minor.

In a screenshot of sex offenders within a 3-mile radius of the shelter, pictured to the left, the Registry lists 137 offenders.

Mike Rakouskas, a parole officer for sex offenders of Wake County, said homeless people don't necessarily stay in the shelter, so there could be others.

"It feels like a problem, I don't know how to classify that," Rakouskas said. "I feel kind of strange knowing that there's a bunch of sex offenders living at this homeless shelter."

The shelter, he said, was at one time a point of controversy, but he doesn't know if it's like that anymore.

"I can tell you that there was a stretch of time where all across the state, that shelter had a reputation for taking in sex offenders," Rakouskas said "So if somebody got released from prison anywhere in the state, if they knew about the shelter, they would … transfer down there."

Rakouskas's understanding is that that process has stopped, that only sex offenders who are convicted in Wake County can reside at the shelter.

"For a while, it seemed like we'd get calls from across the state from [sex offenders] being funneled into that shelter, which I thought was real scary," he said.

Every sex offender placed on probation has a set of conditions he or she has to follow, Raskhouskas said. Among those conditions are obvious ones, such as not communicating with or being in the presence of a victim of an offense and not residing in a household with a minor if convicted of child sexual assault. Parole officers are also required to check on offenders.

"We now do an assessment that tells us the risk level [of offenders], determines how often we see them," Raskhouskas said.

Offenders have to go to the parole offices once a month. If an offender is determined to be low risk, officers have to see them a minimum of every other month at their place of residence. If an offender is classified as high risk, officers are supposed to see the offender every other week, most of the time at their home.

In addition, sex offenders on parole may be required to undergo treatment. The best treatment for sex offenders, Raskouskas said, is group treatment, which is supposedly more effective than a private therapist because offenders can yell at each other and catch each other in lies.

"You might have two or three people who are in the same boat gang up on somebody and say that's not true," he said. "It's considered to be more effective."

Goldston was not a registered sex offender, though he was previously charged with assault on a female. But now, another homeless man who lives at the Wilmington Street Shelter is accused of sexually assaulting a female. Not all homeless people are dangerous, but sex offenders have a higher recidivism rate than all other criminals except drug dealers - sex offenders who are homeless are an extreme threat.

How many more women must be victims of homeless sexual predators before something is done to prevent this from happening?

One of my sources is an article written by me in the Technician entitled "Homeless cause concern, fear for students.

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Friday, October 5

Man in Custody on Rape, Torture Charges Has Previous Arrest Record

On September 17, Raleigh police arrived at WakeMed to find a woman who had been kidnapped and raped repeatedly over a two-day period. She was forcibly taken from her residence on Hillsborough Street near Glenwood Avenue to an unknown location in woods. The next two days, she was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted, and was beaten - the man shattered her teeth, then forced her to perform oral sex.

This week, a man was arrested and charged in the crime.

Forty-nine year old Danny (also Dannie) Thomas Goldston was charged with five counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sex offense, one count of first-degree kidnapping, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, and one count of assault inflicting serious injury. Goldston apparently knew the victim.

But the woman isn't his only victim. The woman told police she went to visit a friend on Sept. 15, but woke up during the night to find Goldston stabbing her friend. Then he kidnapped her.

Currently in custody, Goldston's bail is set at $3 million.

Goldston is not listed on the NC Sex Offender Registry; at least, not that I can find. He does, however, have a prior arrest record.

In June 2005, Goldston was charged with assault on a female, a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for this crime was a pathetic three months and 10 days; he didn't even serve two months in prison. In 1994, he was charged with drug possession, schedule two, which applies to serious drugs like cocaine and its ingredients. This was a felony, and he served nearly one year in prison.

I understand assault on a female covers a wide range of circumstances, but I'm frustrated that a potentially physical encounter warrants less punishment than possessing an illegal substance. Sexual offenders are more likely to recommit crimes than any other type of criminal, excepting drug users. Why are they given such a lax punishment?

In addition, sexual assault apparently runs in the Goldston family: his son, Danny Goldston, Jr., was also charged in 2006 for assault on a female. He only got parole.

Now, a man who received more punishment for having drugs than for assaulting a woman, is charged with a two-day kidnapping, rape and torture spree. Thank you, justice system, for doing your job and protecting your citizens.

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