A jury in Chambers County, Texas took less than 30 minutes to convict Kevin Edison Smith of capital murder in the 1996 sexual assault and strangulation of a 13-year-old Texas City girl. While that is significant, authorities think there is a possibility Smith is a serial killer. Prosecutors said they didn’t seek the death penalty because investigators want to question Smith about other unsolved murders in an area of I-45 between Houston and Galveston that became known as “The Killing Fields.” Dozens of girls and young women, including Baker,vanished from that area, beginning in the 70s. Most of the cases remain unsolved.
Krystal Jean Baker was last seen at a convenience store in Texas City on March 5, 1996. In a taped confession, Kevin Edison Smith admitted he gave her a ride, then choked her with a leather strap when she “started freaking out on me.” Smith received an automatic life sentence for killing Baker and dumping her body underneath the Trinity River Bridge on I-10 in Chambers County. Smith’s jury began deliberating at about 10 a.m. Thursday and reached a decision by 10:30. Smith didn’t testify in the trial, which began Monday, but they did hear his videotaped interview.
During closing arguments, prosecutors told the jury the evidence against Smith was overwhelming. “It comes right out of his mouth,” said prosecutors. “You heard it on tape. ‘She wouldn’t be quiet. She struggled. So what do I do? I picked up a strap.’” Baker’s family, Smith, and others in the crowded courtroom began crying at the end of closing arguments, according to KFDM reporter Lindsey Kovacevich. “I didn’t do that. I didn’t do that,” Smith cried out. “Collect yourself, Mr. Smith, or I’ll have you removed from the courtroom,” the judge told him. Smith was linked to Baker’s deaththrough a national DNA database after he was arrested in Louisiana on a drug charge in 2010.
After the arrest, Krystal’s mother, Jeanie Escamilla, said she had given up hopeher daughter’s killer would be found. “I wish I could wake up out of this terrible nightmare and hold my little girl in my arms again,” Escamilla told the Galveston County Daily News in 2010. “None of this is going to bring her back.” Smith, 47, graduated from Galveston’s Ball High School and lived near Baker at the time of her disappearance. Since the 1970s, over 30 young women and girls have disappeared or been found murdered in the 50-mile desolate area between Houston and Galveston – a stretch of land that some call a highway of hell.
“This bridge up ahead had a sign on it when you came out in this direction…it said, ‘You are now entering the cruel world,’” federal agent Don Ferrarone pointed out as he drove along Interstate 45 with “48 Hours Mystery” correspondent Erin Moriarty. “And it’s just, you know, it’s just a perfect place [for] killing somebody and getting away with it.” “If you can just imagine having one of these little girls out here…one of these young girls out here…and there’s no chance for them to be rescued, to be helped. And they’re on they’re own,” said Ferrarone.
One by one, young women were kidnapped and murdered. But it took the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl in 1997, to wake up the community. When Bob and Gay Smither talk about their daughter, Laura, they sound like every other proud parent. “She just lived to dance, she went to dance six days a week,” said Gay Smither, looking at photos of her daughter. “You’re not supposed to be friends with your kids, but believe me, I was,” said Bob. “And it’s just a hole that can never be filled.” “…we miss her,” a teary-eyed Gay added. Their photos end just as Laura was about to turn 13.
In 1997, Erin Moriarty was with the Smithers, covering this story for “48 Hours,” just days after their daughter went missing. “How could I forget it,” Moriarty said. “I have a child on my own who was the same age as Laura was when she suddenly vanished 14-and-a-half years ago.” Laura had gone out jogging that morning. “Bob became alarmed first,” Gay recalled. “We were serving pancakes and he said within a couple of minutes, ‘She should be back, she should be back.’” “Laura would not be 10 minutes late,” said Bob. “So we called the police immediately,” said Gay.
This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen here. This is the middle class community of Friendswood, south of Houston — a place that had once been chosen one of the safest places in America. This time, unlike the Krystal Baker case, the police and the community mobilized quickly. “Our family really needs your assistance. Somebody, somebody must have seen something that morning,” Bob Smither told reporters at a press conference. “Whoever has her could take another child. We don’t want your families to go through this,” Gay said.
Knowing that every moment counts, helicopters were called in; Then, even the marines. Seventeen days after Laura disappeared, Gary Tugwell and his son were walking their dogs near a pond 12 miles north of town. “And we thought it was like a dead animal in the water,” Gary Tugwell explained. “And my son Jason, he says, ‘No, he said animals don’t have socks.’” It was Laura Smither’s nude, decomposing body. She had been murdered. “I mean, our lives as a family were totally shattered,” Gay told Moriarty. Bob added, “It took a long time for it to really be internalized. We probably still pretty much in denial when you were in her before.” And coming a year after Krystal Baker’s murder, the cops now knew these were not isolated incidents. Finally, police from different jurisdictions all started comparing notes. “So it’s like, ‘Wow, this doesn’t stop. Everybody let’s get a grip on it,” Goetschius said. “And we couldn’t — there was no end.”
In fact, four months later, another young girl disappeared. This time it was 17-year-old budding actress Jessica Cain. “She would not go somewhere without calling. She’d call one of us at least, that’s why we know something’s wrong and we gotta find her!” a friend of Jessica’s told reporters. Jessica’s pickup truck was found abandoned beside Interstate 45, just like the ominous opening scene of the movie “Texas Killing Fields.” “What do you have? You have a car beside the road. That’s it, that’s your crime scene,” said Goetschius.
Once again, police had little to go on. “Frustrating beyond belief,” Goetschius said of the case. “I mean how do you find out who was out on the road in the middle of the night? You don’t.” Jessica’s disappearance was one too many for Mike Land and Brian Goetschius. The cases of abductions going back years had to be stopped. But how was the killer able to lure these young girls and then seemingly disappear into thin air? “You had Jessica Cain, with just the vehicle beside the road. Was it a policeman? I mean, was it one of us? …Was it a wannabe policeman, you know a volunteer fireman? I mean somebody we’re close with, somebody we drink coffee with? And, you just didn’t know,” Goetschius told Moriarty.
As efforts to find Jessica Cain intensified, even grieving parents Bob and Gay Smither joined the search. “We knew exactly what the family was going through,” Gay explained. “Of course we were gonna go help, just like people came to help us.” So did Tim Miller. “Anytime there is another missing person, it brings it all back,” he told Moriarty. Jessica Cain was never found. For Miller, this was all too close to home. His own daughter, Laura, had gone missing in 1984. “The particular area where your daughter was found has kind of gained a name over the years, hasn’t it?” Moriarty asked. “Yeah,” Miller replied. “Now they call it the Killing Fields.” And over the years, a frightening prime suspect emerged.
“Mothers would see him in the grocery store and immediately back pedal,” said Skip Hollandsworth of Texas Monthlymagazine and a CBS news consultant. “Or they would take their daughters and hide them in a different aisle. …you couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this the guy?” Wherever there’s a search for a missing child, you will most likely find Tim Miller. His own daughter, Laura, was kidnapped and murdered when she was 16. “One thing worse than having a murdered child, and I know this for a fact — it’s knowing that they’re out there dead somewhere and never being able to say goodbye. Never having that little bit of closure,” he told Erin Moriarty.
Motivated by his loss, Miller started the rescue group Texas Equasearch. Miller went to Aruba to search for Natalee Holloway and Florida for Caylee Anthony. Equusearch has helped look for missing people and located scores of bodies. “Tim found his calling,” according to Skip Hollandsworth of Texas Monthly magazine, who has followed Tim Miller’s story for years.. “…a psychologist might think that Tim is still searching for his daughter.” “Laura was just so into music, and she had so many friends, and she was gigglin’ and laughin and jokin’ all the time,” Miller recalled fondly. It was September 1984. Laura Miller disappeared after making a phone call from a League City, Texas, convenience store. “And then,” Miller explained,” next morning, went to the police department and reported her missin’, and — they said, ‘Laura’s a runaway.’”.
Seventeen long months would pass until the Millers finally learned what had happened to their daughter: Laura had been murdered, her body dumped in an old, secluded oil field. Tim Miller put a cross in the field that still stands today. “I come here more than I go to the cemetery,” he told Moriarty. “I don’t know. It’s Laura’s little special place…Right here,” he pointed out “this small little indentation is — right here’s where her little body was found. And I couldn’t believe it… This place lives up to its name… ‘the killing fields.’” “It’s about a mile from I-45 and the wind cuts through the mesquite trees and rattles the little leaves,” explained Hollandsworth.
It was the remote, 25-acre patch that first earned the name “the killing fields.” Laura was one of four young women murdered and then dumped here; two of the women have never been identified. A perfect place for a serial killer. “It’s a kind of environment that’s sultry and sinister,” Hollandsworth continued. “Easy to get to. You jump off of I-45. You drive down one of the — dirt rutted roads. You dump the body. And you’re gone for good.” That’s what made investigating the murders so difficult. “There’s lots of little towns through this area,” Hollandsworth continued. In the mid 1980s, police in those towns weren’t known for sharing information. “So a body found in one town, the news doesn’t get out to the other town. There’s no major coordinated effort to figure out how to stop this,” he said.
The Millers felt like they were on their own. “There was never even a tiny article in a newspaper, there was no media, there was no search, and nobody gave a damn, except me.” By Tim Miller’s account, there were problems with the investigation. “This shirt was actually found on her body?” Moriarty asked Miller holding a picture of a shirt. “Right beside her,” he replied. “Was it ever tested for DNA? …Ever sent to a lab?” “No.” “Just lost?” “Just lost.” Eager to find his daughter’s killer himself, Miller scoured the killing fields looking for clues. But his search was in vain. Then finally, in 1993, nine years after Laura’s disappearance, an unlikely suspect emerged: Robert Abel, a retired NASA engineer. “Robert Abel helped figure out how to get the Saturn rocket to the moon,” Texas Monthly reporter Skip Hollandsworth explained. “He was this brilliant scientist.”
At the time of the murders, Abel also leased a horse stable adjacent to the killing fields. Two of his former wives told investigators that he had a dark side. “His second wife says that one night sex and he went into a near-violent rage and says, ‘If you don’t have sex with me, I’m going to kill you,’” Hollandsworth said. “His third wife arrives at the League City Police Department, and says, ‘Abel should be one of your suspects. He beats his horses with a pipe.’” Hollandsworth interviewed and wrote about Abel. “And he seemed so humble and so diminutive in stature that I was distracted and thought, ‘There’s no way.’” But the more he talked to Abel, Hollandsworth says, the more he began to wonder. “We sat down for a cup of coffee and he looks at me and says, ‘I had this bad rotator cuff injury, so there’s no way I could have shot one of these girls, put her in my car, driven her to my — land, and then carried her body out.’ And it just seemed like it was one detail too much.” “Everything pointed to Robert Abel,” said Miller.
As word spread about a potential serial killer, Abel became an outcast. “Once his name came out, he was this pariah in south Texas,” Hollandsworth said. “Teenage boys would drive past his stables…and shout out, ‘Killer. You’re the killer.’” Brian Goetschius says that’s when police started looking into any connection between Abel and the other murders along I-45. “Was there any thought that the same person who may have killed Laura Miller and these other three girls might be responsible for Krystal Baker?” Moriarty asked. “Oh, at that time, yes,” Goetschius replied. “But sure, the person that did that could have done Krystal, Jessica, and Laura.” Tim Miller began following Abel’s every move. “I made Robert’s life miserable,” he said. “…I’d stalk him.” And as police began to close in on Abel, Miller said, “I was out of control. I was obsessed.”
Would Tim Miller take the law into his own hands? “There are a lotta people that thought Tim would definitely kill him,” said Hollandsworth. “A smart serial killer, one who knows how to cover his tracks, can baffle any police department…” explained Texas Monthly reporter Skip Hollandsworth, “and this one at the killing fields was taking years between his killings. He was patiently waiting before bringing another body under the tree and laying her out…How could such a monster exist?” But Tim Miller was convinced that the monster was very real and his name was Robert Abel. “I certainly wondered,” he told Moriarty. “In fact, I more than wondered. I knew.”
There was just one problem: Police had nothing to connect Abel to the killings. He just fit an FBI profile. “There has never, to this day, been a shred of physical evidence linking Robert Abel to the four killing field murders or to any of the murders,” Hollandsworth said. “There has never been any eyewitness that has said he saw Abel with one of the girls. There has never been any kind of evidence found in massive searches of his property, of his home, his self…there’s been nothing.” Robert Abel was never charged. “Well, even though they didn’t find anything, my sick mind told me that it was him anyway,” Miller explained. “It’s all the pain. You know…it just eats at you and eats at you.” Years would pass before Miller finally gave up on Abel as a suspect. He says he even apologized. “I said, ‘Robert, I am so very sorry,” Miller said. “And I hugged him and we both cried.” But the damage had already been done.
“So for six years he lived this lonely grief stricken life,” Hollandsworth said. “And in July of 2005, he drove an old golf cart onto a railroad track just as a train was approaching.” At first, rumors suggested it had been a suicide; But it was ultimately ruled an accident. Writer Skip Hollandsworth believes Abel was himself a victim of the fear and paranoia that consumed the community.”I think Abel is a tragic character,” he said. “I know we helped destroy his life,” said Miller. “Do you feel some responsibility?” Moriarty asked. “I do. I do. It’s not a good feeling.” Tim Miller’s anguish was about to get a whole lot worse. Five months after Robert Abel died, Miller received a chilling letter, put together like something straight out of a mystery novel.
“I got goose bumps right now thinkin’ about it when I first opened it …” he said. It starts out, ‘Tim Miller, Boo! It’s me you’re lookin’ for. You have not seen me but I was the last man to see your Laura. And I am too smart and I tampered with evidence.’ …And it’s like he’s takin’ responsibility for many of the murders on Interstate 45.” Asked if he thinks the letter was for real, Miller said, “I mean, it’s extremely, extremely strange and disturbing. But we’ll never know.” “What was that letter about? …It didn’t give away any real information that led to the killings. But it adds to this haunted story. It’s just one more turn and you keep wondering, when’s the next one coming?” said Hollandsworth.
The writer has never been identified, but if the letter was a message from the killer, it wouldn’t be the first time. Over the years, investigators like Brian Goetschius and Mike Land were taunted with confession letters and phone calls. One call was so harrowing it inspired a scene in the film. “The movie was as real as any of the different tapes that we’ve heard,” Goetschius said. “And if you can’t see the devil, you can certainly picture him from the — the emotions and — and feel the violence and the — and the rage over that phone.” “How frustrating is that for you as an officer?” Moriarty asked. “Oh, I think it was — it was horrendous to — to know that you’re hearing it, but there’s nothing you can do. Nothing,” Goetschius replied.
The outcome of the phone call Goetschius received would be one of the few bright spots in this investigation. The attacker was caught and his victim saved. “And– and she was luckily alive — she was allowed to live,” he said. The attacker was convicted, but never linked to any of the cases of the dozens of young girls murdered in the Interstate 45 corridor. Most remain unsolved — a fact that weighs heavily on the heart of Brian Goetschius, a father of seven children himself. “In this movie, your character becomes obsessed with these cases. Did you? Is that pretty accurate?” Moriarty asked. “We just lived, ate and drank to…let’s clear one of these cases, let’s see what we can do, what’s out there, what’s next,” said Goetschius. “Brian wants to solve every case,” Tim Miller told Moriarty.” Brian cannot wait for the day to come when he’s working these cases that he can go knock on that family’s door and say, ‘Listen we made an arrest.’”
But one arrest won’t be enough. Based on the number of victims and the decades that the crimes have spanned, investigators are now convinced that evil wears many faces. “I think it’s clear to everybody now that various men did various things to various girls,” Hollandsworth said. “So there’s not going to be one killer that emerges that wipes all of these unsolved cases off the books.” And there’s no shortage of possible suspects — from transient workers to the many paroled sexual predators released from nearby prisons. “One time a police department did a survey of how many sex offenders live in that coastal area, and they came up with 2,100 names,” Hollandsworth explained. “So it’s a place where something can happen.”
And when something does, the fields conspire to keep the killers’ secrets. “The environment down here is just horrendous,” said Goetschius. “It’s harsh,” land added. “The weather…the areas where these bodies have been dumped are, you know, remote… If you don’t find it pretty quick, your ability to — to get usable evidence is diminished.” Asked if there was ever a time when he said ‘I just can’t do this anymore? It’s just too tough,’ Goetschius replied, “I haven’t come across it yet. I still want to do it. …These could still be solved…there’s still hope.” And Goetschius’ optimism is about to pay off. After almost 15 years of frustration and dead ends, one of his most haunting cases may be solved. There’s the Hollywood version, where the good guys win, the girl is saved, and one case is neatly wrapped up at the end.
And then there’s the real world… where so many cases of dead and missing girls remain unsolved. The actors in “Texas Killing Fields’ are hoping somehow, the film might make a difference. “People we never know might see the movie and go, ‘I remember that something went down in the fields and I remember this certain car and I remember this person seemed a bit dodgy,’ …and maybe a family then can know what happened to their daughters,” said actor Sam Worthington. Just months after the movie wrapped up, that’s just the kind of big break that came in the Krystal Baker case.
In late 2009, on a hunch, a savvy police officer in Texas submitted DNA from the dress Krystal was wearing when she disappeared. Around the same time in Louisiana, a man named Kevin Edison Smith was arrested on a drug charge. His DNA was taken as part of a routine procedure under Louisiana law and entered into a nationwide computer data bank. Last September, in an exceptional bit of police work, investigators were able to connect the two distant dots on the map – the DNA was a match. According to police, Smith admitted killing Krystal, but says it was an accident. Local police departments are checking to see if he can be linked to any other cases. The Smithers don’t have DNA evidence, but they think they know who killed their daughter Laura. Soon after Laura disappeared, a man named William Reece abducted another young woman just a few miles from Laura’s house. He was convicted for that crime. He’s a prime suspect in Laura’s case, but has never been charged. The case is still officially unresolved. Asked why, Goetschius told Moriarty, “We just don’t have the physical evidence at this time.” What some grieving families have done is try to save others from their fate.
The Smithers started what they call the Laura Recovery Center, a mobile office that goes on site around the country whenever there is a search for a missing child. Jeanie Baker is pushing for a law in Texas similar to the one in Louisiana that helped capture Krystal’s alleged killer — a law that would require DNA testing of all arrested suspects. “Like, whenever they stop somebody — or they put anybody in jail for any reason,” she explained. “Whether felony or not,” Moriarty added. “It doesn’t matter.” “Take their DNA sample. Put it on the system.” “Exactly,” said Baker. As for Tim Miller, there still has been no arrest in his daughter Laura’s murder 27 years ago. The loss has kept him focused on helping others. “Amazingly, out of that experience…he’s found in his agony, this — desire to live again,” Hollandsworth said. “And he is now one of the most world-renown searchers for missing bodies.”
But he can’t stay away from the killing fields where Laura’s body was found. “I would go out there where Laura’s little body was found, where I put that cross, and I would say, ‘Laura, please don’t hate your daddy, but I cannot come out here anymore. “And I would literally be walking to my truck — and I turned to the left and I’d hear this little voice, ‘Dad, don’t quit, please don’t quit.’ And I’d say, ‘Damn you, Laura, just damn you. Just damn you.” Despite the frustrations, police continue to chip away at all the unsolved abductions, case by case. “It’s become this kind of ghost story for South Texas,” Skip Hollandsworth explained. “For these parents, this mystery is not just a ghost story. It is a horrible reality.”
But at least the killings seem to have stopped–no young girls have been murdered in the past few years. “Does that mean it’s over, or do you still fear–” Moriarty asked Land. “Hope so. Always that fear,” he said. “But you hope that it’s over, and again — that’s another point of this movie. …you know if people see this…if young women will see this and go ‘that could happen to me, you know I’m gonna pay better attention to what I’m doing or where I’m going’ — it would be worth it.” But it’s an ongoing battle between that hope… and fear. “That monster’s still there,” Goetschius said. “He just hasn’t struck. It’s… it’s gonna happen.”
CBS Houston, CBS News and the Galveston County Daily News contributed to this report.
I like Bill O’Reilly. I don’t always agree with him, in fact it is fair to say that I probably disagree more than I agree with him but that being said, I find him genuine in his beliefs and sometimes very accurate in his assessments. O’Reilly has some interesting observations on the 2012 Presidential election. Appearing on CBS This Morning, he opined that “it doesn’t matter” who the conservative presidential candidate is, because the GOP will back him no matter what because he will stand in opposition to President Barack Obama.
“The (GOP) despise(s) Barack Obama so much, it doesn’t matter who it is,” O’Reilly said Thursday on “CBS This Morning.” “They’re going to vote against…Barack Obama not for somebody.” When asked if conservatives would have the have the same enthusiasm for another candidate, O’Reilly said, “It doesn’t matter, it’s the lever you pull. Whether you’re pulling it hard or you’re pulling it soft, it gets pulled.” After winning the latest Republican primaries this week, frontrunner Mitt Romney said he’s now focused on the November election. And so is President Barack Obama, with his re-election campaign announcing he will speak at two campaign rallies next Saturday.
I agree with O’Reilly. Conservatives will hold their nose and vote for Romney. That has never really been in doubt and O’Reilly is correct in that the driving force is the collective loathing of President Obama. The debates, according to O’Reilly, are going to be decisive in this election. “Whoever does better in the three (debates) will win,” he said. “That’s how close it’s gonna be.” I also agree with O’Reilly on this because those of us truly in the middle this election cycle are looking for the answers that have so far been non-existent.
Who is the better debater? O’Reilly said, “It’s hard to say. I’ve interviewed Barack Obama twice and I got to tell you, the guy is quick. I’ve interviewed Mitt Romney maybe four times. The governor is much more studied, much more rehearsed.” So does “quick” or “studied” win? O’Reilly said it would be hard to say, then added, “This week has been Romney’s best week. You know, all of that, you know, ‘I’m getting attacked by Gingrich, this one, that one,’ that’s all gone. He’s much more confident. His speech writers are good. Whether he can bring his ‘A’-game up against a guy that’s naturally quick, Obama – he’s quick, I don’t know.”
Romney, O’Reilly said, is channeling Ronald Reagan in his campaign strategy. “He’s going to run the exact same campaign that Reagan ran in 1980 against Carter,” O’Reilly said. “He started this week, You’re better off than you were four years ago. I’m sure they’re watching tapes right now of how Reagan handled Carter. It’s almost the same – it’s eerie, the bad economy, liberal president, gas prices through the roof, they gas lines back in Carter, and here comes Romney, he looks like Reagan, got the hair going on, he’s got the authority, he’s a governor. It’s eerie. So, whatever Reagan did in ’80, you can count on Romney doing this year.”
But, O’Reilly said, Obama is not like Carter, who was “hapless and defeated” during that 1980 campaign. “Barack Obama is not defeated and he’s a much better campaigner,” O’Reilly said. “I expect it’s going to be a nasty campaign. However, it’s going to be done by surrogates,” O’Reilly said. “Romney’s not going to do it, and Obama’s not going to do it. But their (political action committees) are going to go in and slaughter the opposition. So, it’s going to be very intense.” In addition to interest in the president of the future, O’Reilly has an interest in the past. He’s the author of the bestselling book “Killing Lincoln.” O’Reilly called Lincoln the nation’s best president. “I wrote the book because I wanted to show America what true leadership is. Because we need true leadership,” O’Reilly said. “This isn’t a party thing for me. I’m an independent. I selected Abraham Lincoln, I’m a history major, because I admire the man and I know the pain he went through to lead the country out of the division it was in and to win the Civil War.”
O’Reilly is a breath of fresh air on the otherwise rancid FOX Network and I mean that. He is true to his core beliefs and doesn’t pander to either political party. When asked about himself and why people are drawn to him on TV, O’Reilly said he brings “authenticity” to his cable audience. “You like me or you don’t. That’s OK,” he said. “I don’t mind if you don’t like me, but you know when I say something, I mean it. And I try to back it up with facts. And we’re authentic. I haven’t changed, when I worked at Channel 2 in New York, they hired me because I was a rough hewn guy out of Levittown. I knew the area and I knew the city. I haven’t changed. People are looking for authenticity in a sea of phoneys on television.”
When asked if he sees authenticity in Romney, he said, “It’s hard for me say. I’ve known the governor for a long time. I think he did a decent job in Massachusetts. Is he authentic? He’s a politician.” And what about Mr. Obama – is he authentic? O’Reilly said, “Somewhat. But again, he’s a politician. You know, these guys are going to tell you what they think you want to hear. You know, are they bold and fresh like me? No.” O’Reilly recently inked a new, three-year deal with Fox News. “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News has been the most-watched cable news program for more than decade.
Our fast “food” display is now 2 years old. The word food is questionable, since the bread-like and meat-like substances have not molded or spoiled in any way. Bugs won’t even bother with it. Please think twice about giving this to your kids. You have a choice, but they don’t. We truly are what we eat. (From LiveWell Wellness Centers)
The photo above got my attention today on Facebook. The photo from LiveWell Wellness Center of Belleville, Illinois, is making the rounds on the social networking giant. The photo, just shy of two years old when it was posted on April 17 shows the lack of any decomposition of “food” from four restaurants. This is not the first time pictures like this have rounded social circles on Facebook but this one got my attention so I did some digging. Author and obesity activist Julia Havey stored a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries for 4 years, and Joann Bruso, a 62-year-old grandmother, held on to a McDonald’s Happy Meal for a whole year. All of these events were either videotaped or photographed. To illustrate what real food looks like when it spoils, Julia Havey’s video visually compares pristine looking four-year old McDonald’s french fries with a regular decomposed potato.
Then there’s Leo Foley’s Bionic Burger video. Foley has allegedly been saving McDonald’s hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and Big Macs from McDonald’s for over 19 years, and “they look EXACTLY the same!” says Foley. “These hamburgers are not food substances (the way we normally think of food), says Foley, “they are chemical concoctions that contain the look, taste, and smell of food but don’t be fooled. There is nothing ‘food-like’ about these substances at all.” For nonbelievers, Foley has this so say: “I don’t want you to believe me. I would rather have you buy a couple hamburgers from your local McDonald’s and follow our instructions on how to create a Bionic Burger for yourself.”
McDonald’s issued a statement claiming: “No preservatives are added to the beef patties in McDonald’s hamburgers.” But according to Foley, what you will find is 1,1,1 – trichloroethane, 1,2,4 – trimethylbenzene, BCH, alpha Chloroform, chlorotoluene, chlorpyritos, DDE, p, p, DDT, p, p, dieldrin, diphenyl 2-wthylhexyl phosphate, and ethyl benzene, among a host of other chemicals found in fast food. Some suggest that since fat makes up about 50 percent of the fries’ caloric content and 35-to-54 percent of the burger patties’, “high levels of fat leave less room for moisture, which prevents mold from sprouting.”
The McDonalds bun is enriched bleached flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, reduced iron), water, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, yeast, contains less than 2 % of each of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, calcium silicate, wheat gluten, soy flour, baking soda, emulsifier (mono- and diglycerides, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of fatty acids, ethanol, sorbitol, polysorbate 20, potassium propionate), sodium stearoyl lactylate, dough conditioner (corn starch, ammonium chloride, ammonium sulfate, calcium peroxide, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, enzymes), calcium propionate (preservative).
For those of you who consider these eternal McDonald’s hamburger claims over the top, consider this: McDonald’s chicken McNuggets contain tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a petroleum-based product also added to varnishes, lacquers, resins, and oil field additives, and dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent used in Silly Putty. And prior to 2003, there were even more toxic chemicals in McDonald’s chicken McNuggets that so shocked a federal judge, the chemicals were ordered to be removed. In 2003, a federal judge dubbed the food “a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook.” The ingredients allowed to remain are tBHQ and dimethylpolysiloxane.
Preservatives alone may not be responsible for the fungus-resisting powers of a Happy Meal. Marion Nestle, chairwoman of New York University’s food studies program, said that McDonald’s would have to use “really a lot of” sodium propionate to prevent bacterial or mold growth. McDonald’s French fries, for example, which have repeatedly proven their hardiness to spoilage, contain citric acid as a preservative. But a bigger factor might be the fat content of the fries. About 50 percent of the total 250 calories contained in a small order of fries come from fat. “Anything that is high in fat will be low in moisture,” says Barry Swanson, a professor at the Washington State University department of food science. And low moisture means less room for mold to grow. They’re crisper and thinner than regular fries, which means that they’re exposed to greater heat per surface area, killing pathogens and reducing water content. McDonald’s fries are also coated in a nice, thick layer of salt, something we’ve been using as a natural preservative for the last 2,500 years.
Some ingredients that health conscious consumers consider unacceptable are MSG (or free glutamate, or free glutamic acid, including anything hydrolyzed or autolyzed), trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils ), artificial colors, artificial flavors, and most preservatives. Many so-called healthy fast food menu items, upon closer inspection, do not live up to the health hype. Most of the meat from any of the major chains has anything but a simple ingredients list. They add emulsifiers, preservatives, MSG, artificial colors, trans fats, and hidden ingredients under generic labels such as spices, or natural and artificial flavors. Some of these food additives are not foods at all, but are chemicals that are generally recognized as safe. Most of these additives cannot be found at your local grocery store, probably because they aren’t food. But some can be found at your local hardware store, though in inedible products like low tox antifreeze, silicone caulk, soap, sunscreen, and play sand.
The egg’s reputation is recovering, but scrambled eggs as a part of McDonald’s breakfast include much more than egg. Their pasteurized whole eggs have sodium acid pyrophosphate, citric acid, and monosodium phosphate (all added to preserve color), and nisin, a preservative. To top it off, the eggs are prepared with liquid margarine: liquid soybean oil, water, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils (trans fats), salt, hydrogenated cottonseed oil (trans fat), soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, and beta carotene (color). Though not all bad, these added chemicals may be the reason why homemade scrambled eggs taste so much better than McDonald’s.
For coffee drinkers, it would seem fairly safe to just grab a quick cup of coffee at McDonald’s on the way to work. But many health conscious people would object to it also including this list of ingredients: sodium phosphate, sodium polyphosphate, Di-Acetyl Tartrate Ester of Monoglyceride, sodium stearoyl lactylate, tetra sodium pyrophosphate, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium citrate, and carrageenan. Do health nuts still drink coffee? Salads can usually be counted on to be a “what you see is what you get” item. But McDonald’s adds some interesting ingredients. The salads with grilled chicken also have liquid margarine.
Several salads have either cilantro lime glaze, or orange glaze added. Along with many of McDonald’s sauces, both the cilantro lime glaze and the orange glaze contain propylene glycol alginate. While propylene glycol is considered “GRAS” for human consumption, it is not legal for use in cat food because the safety hasn’t been proven yet . Propylene glycol is also used “As the killing and preserving agent in pitfall traps, usually used to capture ground beetles” .
The chili lime tortilla strips that are included in the southwest salads have several ingredients used to hide MSG. They also contain two ingredients that advertise the presence of MSG: disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate. The chicken has sodium phosphates (of an unspecified variety). It could be trisodium phosphate (a cleanser), monosodium phosphate (a laxative), or disodium hydrogen phosphate . Why would McDonald’s add sodium phosphates (a foaming agent), and dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agentin their crispy chicken breast fillets? It isn’t dishwasher detergent.
It’s interesting to note that the BK Veggie Burger has six ingredients commonly used to hide free glutamate (MSG): calcium caseinate, hydrolyzed corn, yeast extract, soy protein isolate, spices, and natural flavors. At the end of the ingredients list, it states This is NOT a vegan product. The patty is cooked in the microwave. Was that a warning statement? Burger King has three salads to choose from. The TENDERCRISP Garden Salad, the TENDERGRILL Garden Salad, and the Side Garden Salad.
A salad may be a little boring without a dressing like Ken’s Fat Free Ranch Dressing which includes titanium dioxide (an artificial color, or sunscreen, depending on use), preservatives, and the ingredient seemingly mandatory in all ranch dressings: monosodium glutamate. Once again, as is typical with the fast food industry, they took a simple thing like chicken, and added a long list of ingredients.
TENDERGRILL® CHICKEN BREAST FILET
Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Seasoning (Maltodextrin, Salt, Sugar, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Garlic Powder, Spices, Natural Flavors, Onion Powder, Modified Corn Starch, Chicken Fat, Chicken Powder, Chicken Broth, Disodium Guanylate and Disodium Inosinate, Citric Acid, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Dehydrated Garlic, and Artificial Flavors.), Modified Corn Starch, Soybean Oil, Salt, Sodium Phosphates. Glazed with: Water, Seasoning [Maltodextrin, Salt, Sugar, Methylcellulose, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Partially Hydrogenated Sunflower Oil, Modified Potato Starch, Fructose, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Dehydrated Garlic, Spices, Modified Corn Starch, Xanthan Gum, Natural Flavors, Disodium Guanylate and Disodium Inosinate, Chicken Fat, Carmel Color, Grill Flavor (from Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil), Chicken Powder, Chicken Broth, Turmeric, Smoke Flavor, Annatto Extract, and Artificial Flavors], Soybean Oil. 
Taco Bell’s website didn’t have much emphasis on health. Under the nutrition guide, at the bottom was a link to Keep it Balanced, a token nod to health. It had no serious information on how to really eat healthy. They recommend foods like pizza and tacos (no surprise) because they may include ingredients from several food groups at once. Including several food groups does not necessarily mean it’s a healthy food.
The seasoned beef, carne asada steak, spicy shredded chicken, and even the rice all include autolyzed yeast extract (hidden MSG). Disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate are flavor enhancers used in synergy with MSG [7,8]. Therefore, menu items with disodium inosinate and/or disodium guanylate also contain MSG. This includes the avocado ranch dressing, southwest chicken, citrus salsa, creamy jalapeno sauce, creamy lime sauce, lime seasoned red strips, pepper jack sauce, and seasoned rice. According to Wikipedia, dimethylpolysiloxane is optically clear, and is generally considered to be inert, non-toxic, and non-flammable. It is used in silicone caulk, adhesives, and as an anti-foaming agent . Appetizingly enough, it’s also included in Taco Bell’s rice.
At Wendy’s, there are several tempting salads. The mandarin chicken salad seems healthy at first glance. It has diced chicken, mandarin oranges, almonds, crispy noodles, your choice of dressings, and five different varieties of lettuce. Then reality takes a bite when you check the ingredients list. The almonds are roasted and salted. The crispy noodles are not whole grain. The mandarin orange segments are not freshly peeled oranges; most likely canned. The diced chicken has added autolyzed yeast extract (MSG), disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, sodium phosphates (soap?), salt, more salt, sugar, modified cornstarch (sic), and the universal umbrella ingredient list: spices, natural flavors, and artificial flavors.
In the ingredients lists for the salad dressings, one surprise was titanium dioxide in the Low Fat Honey Mustard Dressing and the Reduced Fat Creamy Ranch Dressing. It’s a very versatile chemical. It can be used to manufacture paint, sunscreen, semiconductors, and food coloring . Wendy’s Southwest Taco Salad is a salad with Wendy’s chili. Once again, the chili has hidden MSG: autolyzed yeast extract, spices, artificial flavors, natural flavorings, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate (MSG give-aways). It’s puzzling to try to understand why their chili would need to include an anti-caking agent such as silicon dioxide (also known as sand, or glass powder).
If you have wondered why you feel sick after eating fast food…you can probably find the answer here. Worrying about pink slime seems like the tip of the ice-berg.
Another Secret Service sex scandal? Say it ain’t so! A day after U.S. lawmakers were briefed on an alleged prostitution scandal in Colombia involving Secret Service members, a report emerged Thursday of similar allegations, this time in El Salvador. KIRO-TV in Seattle cited cited an unnamed U.S. government contractor who worked extensively with the Secret Service advance team in San Salvador prior to President Barack Obama’s trip there in March, 2011.
The source said he was with about a dozen Secret Service agents and a few U.S. military specialists at a strip club in the city a few days before Obama arrived, KIRO reported. The men drank heavily at the club, and most of them paid extra for access to a VIP section where they were provided sexual favors in return for cash, the source told the station. KIRO said the owner of the strip club corroborated the allegations. The owner confirmed that a large number of Secret Service agents, and some military escorts, “descended on his club” that week and were there at least three nights in a row, KIRO reported.
The owner said his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador as well as visiting FBI and agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, KIRO said. The owner said his reputation for “security” and “privacy” makes his strip club popular with “those who want to be discreet.” The source said he told the agents it was a “really bad idea” to take the strippers back to their hotel rooms, but several agents bragged that they “did this all the time” and “not to worry about it,” KIRO reported. KIRO investigative reporter Chris Halsne told CBS’ “This Morning” Thursday that he considers his source very credible because the source told him about the alleged scandal last year, while Halsne was in El Salvador on a different story.
Halsne said he pressed the source for details at the time, but the man refused to go on the record. After the Colombia allegations surfaced, Halsne again pressed his source, who then agreed to talk. CNN cannot independently confirm the allegations. The Washington Post reported Thursday that an unnamed source says such behavior is part of the culture at the Secret Service and not a one-time occurrence. The Secret Service said it has no comment on the Post story, but a Secret Service official, who was not authorized to comment on the continuing investigation, said “it’s difficult for the Secret Service to defend against this,” referring to the Post’s article. “The reaction by our leadership speaks for itself,” the official told CNN. “Everyone was sent home. There’s an investigation. We have taken action regarding the agents.”
News of the alleged activity in El Salvador follows an investigation into an alleged prostitution scandal in Colombia before the president’s trip this month to a summit in Cartagena. The scandal involves Secret Service and U.S. military members who allegedly consorted with prostitutes. Nine Secret Service members have resigned or are being forced out as a result of the scandal. A separate military investigation has yet to announce any measures against U.S. service members allegedly involved. Two U.S. lawmakers said Wednesday they have heard reports of other incidents similar to those alleged to have happened in Colombia.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Wednesday that since the Colombia scandal broke, several whistle-blowers have called his committee with what he called “credible” reports of other incidents. Lieberman would not provide details but said he intends to hold a committee hearing focusing on potential Secret Service misconduct beyond what allegedly happened in Colombia. Shortly after those comments, however, a committee spokesman said Lieberman had misspoken, and that the committee had received a call from just one person claiming to have information on possible misconduct. But Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Tuesday that his committee has heard allegations of similar misconduct by Secret Service agents dating back years. Issa offered no specifics.
There was a time when the Secret Service represented the best of the best, dependable men beyond reproach and most importantly, they were incorruptible. They were the chaps who would do anything in order to keep their country safe. In short, they were America’s finest. How fast perceptions can change with news of agent-orgies in Colombia and now El Salvador. Tony Perkins, President of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, has it all figured out. Tony is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
Perkins says the fault for the Secret Service orgy in Colombia is because of…the gays. I kid you not! Tony’s position is that a heterosexual prostitution scandal is caused by gay people. To be specific this heterosexual prostitution scandal is caused by gay people in the military. Here is his logic: President Obama shouldn’t be surprised that the Secret Service solicited prostitutes during a trip to Columbia, Tony Perkins says, because that’s what happens when you repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “You cannot maintain moral order if you are willing to allow a few things to slide,” said Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, on his radio show. The comments, caught by Right Wing Watch, came during a discussion about why Republicans should do more on “the homosexuality issue,” as fellow commentator Janet Mefferd put it.
This one really leaves me scratching my head. I wasn’t going to mention it but, honest to God, it is so far out, I could not ignore out. Gays have served in military forces since the days of King David. Gays have served in the Armed Forces and held top-secret security clearances. I am living proof. To be fair, we are talking about a heterosexual orgy-romp in Colombia and possibly one in El Salvador as well. ~~INSERT SARCASM~~ Gays, for decades, did a better job of keeping their sexual orientation secret so using Perkins logic, perhaps we should make the Secret Service all gay. That’s right. Kick out the heterosexual agents and turn security of the President over to gays who can, apparently, keep it in their pants. ~~EXIT SARCASM~~ Seriously, Perkins argument is as illogical as mine. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with misbehavior on the job by the Secret Service but getting extremists to realize that they don’t own the franchise on morality is a work in progress.