Philadelphia hotel fire is murder cover-up

There was violence at the center of a recent hotel fire in Philadelphia. A repeat guest of the Center City Omni Hotel, Patrick Brady was found beaten, strangled and set ablaze. The 49-year-old stayed at the property when in the area on business.

On Saturday, the local fire department was called to the hotel because of an eighth-floor fire. It was put out quickly and limited to Brady’s room. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told the local ABC affiliate, “The fire was probably set to cover up the homicide. That’s not all that unusual in cases like that.” Information about the suspect hasn’t been released.

[photo by Edward Vielmetti via Flickr]

Qantas flight attendants restrain would-be murderer

A man threatened to kill the other passengers on a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong, forcing flight attendants to restrain him. An airline spokeswoman wouldn’t confirm what some were saying – that the would-be murderer was praying before threatening to kill himself and others and said, “You will all die.”

The Sydney Morning Herald continues:

But an Australian passenger, Helen, said another woman on the flight told her a man, whom she believed was praying in Hebrew, suddenly started shouting: “I’m going to kill myself, you are all going to die, it will be God’s will, what will be will be, I’m going to open the door.”

Helen noted that the crew was “fantastic,” adding, “the boys held him down and subdued him and one of the female crew cuffed him.”

The crew turned the passenger over to the authorities in Hong Kong. Apparently, they are trained to handle these situations.

So, if you get annoyed about not getting your beverage service quickly enough, keep your mouth shut while you’re flying Qantas.

[photo by notsogoodphotography via Flickr]

What ever happened to the missing 22-year-old American teacher in Germany?

Reading that Laura Dekker has been found safe and sound in St. Maartin made me think of Devon Hollahan, the American teacher living in Prague who disappeared after a Portugal and the Man concert in Frankfurt, Germany. When his friend’s back was turned, Hollahan went missing.

I wrote about Hollahan in a post about the worst nightmares of parents whose children travel overseas. I’ve been busy these last few weeks, so I forgot about him until I read about Dekker.

Hollahan’s story is not so splashy as Laura Dekker’s. It might be because his family seems like most of us. They appear to be normal, regular people whose lives tend to flow through the days like anyone else’s unless something bad happens on a slow news day. On a slow news day, normal people’s stories can make the international news. Hollahan’s bad news story was a fleeting blip on the media radar. A day or two after he was reported missing, he didn’t show up again in a big news way.

Amanda Knox’s story has had more press time than Hollahan’s. She is the other person of note in my parent’s worst nightmare post. But, when a person is found guilty of murdering her roommate which results in a 27 year jail sentence in Italy, it’s no surprise that we’d hear more about Knox–at least until Tiger Woods’s story eclipsed everyone’s bad news.

What about Hollahan, though? That’s who I want to know about–the guy who could be any one of us. After a search, I found this bit of news in The Huffington Post. Hollahan has not been found, but possibly the shoe found floating in The Main River in Frankfurt belongs to him.

It is thought that Hollahan was drunk and fell into the river. As a sad, devastating part of this tale, it’s possible that he was seen alive at 4 a.m. lying on a sidewalk. Unfortunately, whoever was on the sidewalk, got up and ran away when someone said that an ambulance was coming.

Hollahan’s body has not been found. His parents are still in their nightmare, and I wonder if Hollahan’s body is found, will there be a news story about it? My thoughts go out to his family.

Parents’ worse nightmare: Their child is in trouble overseas

For the past couple of days, two stories have been appearing in various forms in the media–one splashier than the other, but both are what parents nightmares are made of. These are the situations they hope they don’t get a phone call about. One is about Amanda Knox, the college student who is in an Italian jail waiting to see if she will spend years there if she’s found guilty for murdering her roommate in a crime that reads like an outlandish tale– perfect for a murder mystery novel. Evidence is not conclusive.

The other story is about Devon Hollahan, an English teacher who vanished from the streets in Frankfurt, Germany at two in the morning when his friend was asking for directions after they attended a Portugal and the Man concert. Hollahan was about twenty feet away from his friend whose back was turned just long enough for Hollahan to disappear unnoticed.

In both cases, the parents of Knox and Hollahan, two people in their early twenties, are part of heartbreaking scenarios and a testimony to the worst that can happen when children grow up past childhood and travel miles past their parents’ admonitions to be careful.

Such news is hard enough when it happens within ones own country. When it happens in a foreign country, parents find themselves in positions dealing with horrific situations in places that may have different procedures than their own country. The legal system in Italy works differently than the one in the U.S., for example.

Knox’s parents and Hollahan’s dad jumped on airplanes in order to offer help. Being on the same side of the Atlantic is a start. It’s a way to be involved, to take action–to have a role in an outcome even if the action does not turn up a positive result.

Hollahan’s dad is not hopeful that his son will be found alive but the dad’s presence in Frankfurt is surely helping the investigation. Hopefully, he will not have to wait long to find out some answers. I can’t imagine what it would be like to take a trip back across the Atlantic without knowing.

In Knox’s case, the verdict will be coming soon. Her family is hopeful they’ll be bringing her home with them. Again, the alternative seems too dreadful.

Both parents’ stories are a reminder that when we travel, it’s important to keep in mind the loved ones we have left at home. Although there are no guarantees when we get up in the morning that our day will go swimmingly well without a mishap, when taking on a particular adventure or experience keep in mind that it’s better to keep ones wits about you and not let your guard down without being aware of your circumstances.

Consider the thought, if this situation goes wrong, what would my parents do? On the other hand, life in one’s own country is risky as well. Life is risky business. In Knox’s case, though, who would have ever dreamed up such a story?

Peace Corps volunteer murdered in Benin

“Did you hear that a Peace Corps volunteer was killed last week?” one of my friends asked me when we were at a restaurant with a group of returned Peace Corps volunteers. I hadn’t heard, and she didn’t have any information, only that the incident happened in some country in Africa and that the victim was a woman. The news was startling, particularly since I hadn’t heard or read anything about it.

After a bit of sleuthing, I’ve gathered some details. The information about what happened is sketchy, and the death is under investigation.

The volunteer, Kate Puzey was a 24-year-old living in Benin, West Africa. Last week on Thursday morning, friends found her dead outside of her house in the village of Badjoude where she was posted as an English teacher. It is believed that she was murdered, although, I haven’t found more details than what’s in this article at Finding Dulcinea. The official news is that she died sometime the night before she was found.

This story is one that resonates with me for a few reasons. One is because Puzey was the age I was when I was in the Peace Corps. It’s a time that I can recall as if it happened last week. There are certain sounds, sights and smells in a West African country that one doesn’t forget. There was also a coziness to being in a village with people who welcome you into their families and culture without reservation and an amazing amount of generosity. That the coziness could be dangerous is alarming. It doesn’t make sense.

From what I read, Puzey was one of those vibrant, loving volunteers who dove into her time in Benin with open arms and a giving heart. The fact that someone could have done such harm to her is hard to imagine. In general, a person who is an outsider but is welcomed into a village as a guest–and then brought into the fabric of village life, is given a high amount of respect and regard. The villagers would have seen ensuring Puzey’s happiness and safety as something to take seriously.

I can’t imagine what the 100 volunteers posted in Benin are feeling. This is not a death caused by not wearing a motorcycle helmet and having an accident–or becoming ill. This is maliciousness at work. People who may think their villages are safe may be thinking again. Families of volunteers who have heard the news most probably have the jitters.

For an occurrence that is so rare to have not made more of a news story is a bit stunning to me, particularly since both McCain and Obama praised Peace Corps as an important part of world development and volunteerism. Particularly when someone so engaging as Kate Puzey was killed in a place where such things virtually never happen.

My thoughts are with her family and the volunteers who have lost their friend, and possibly feel that the world is less safe than they thought before.

Here is another post I came across about Kate’s tragic death.