Holes and illogic everywhere
Lauren Ritchie at the Orlando Sentinel continues to do the best reporting on the Melinda and Trenton Duckett story. Her work today is just the latest example. Was last weekend's press release by the Marion County Sheriff all a deliberate stunt for CNN's Nancy Grace?
Leesburg police said in mid-September that the toddler likely is dead. Then, two days before Grace arrived, Marion County sheriff's officials blared the news in a gushy release that the boy is alive. The final line on the release: "It's all about Trenton Duckett -- nothing else!"Melinda's cell phone records call into question the whole Wendy's sighting. You do have to wornder why police in such a high profile case would withhold that info if it was really true also. A boy is out there dead or alive, and information that could help find Trenton needs to be made available quickly, not a month and a half later.
Sheriff's officials acted offended when reporters asked whether the "new development" was timed to coincide with Grace's shows. Surely, they cannot wonder at the question. After all, the "news" that prompted the announcement was seven weeks old. The more appropriate question from reporters should have been whether Grace's publicity agent wrote their release.
During a news conference that followed, Marion investigators revealed that a Wendy's server in Belleview told them Sept. 27 that she saw Trenton's mother, Melinda, at the restaurant three times on Aug. 27, the day Trenton was reported missing. The first was at 11:15 a.m., and Trenton was with her. The second was 20 minutes later, about 11:35 a.m., and he wasn't, and the third was Melinda alone again at 4 p.m. On Tuesday, they brought forward a co-worker who remembered seeing Melinda and Trenton.
If true, this information would be significant, because the last time anyone saw Trenton alive was 4:30 p.m. on the previous day, Aug. 26.
Marion sheriff's Maj. Chris Blair appeared on Grace's program to talk about the sighting. Nobody bothered to ask him why it took seven weeks to confirm a tip. Or why the witness waited a month to come forward. Or why anybody should believe her first two sightings when it is impossible that her third one was correct. (Melinda made a cellular-telephone call that shows she was nowhere near Belleview at 4 p.m. as the witness stated. She was, in fact, in south Lake County.)
But in their haste to hype the story, Grace and Blair raced on, spewing erroneous information about where Melinda was at what time and fueling more illogical speculation about what happened to the child. The spectacle was degrading.
Marion officials had said Melinda, who fatally shot herself Sept. 8, likely handed the child off to someone. They have not explained why it's not equally likely that the child was killed in that 20 minutes. Or why a friend couldn't have been watching him for Melinda. Or why anything pivotal at all had to happen to him in that time rather than later.
It's a much sexier story to scream that a missing child is alive, isn't it?
If Marion County's "new" information and a private investigator's witness touted on the Grace program are to be believed, Melinda Duckett was one hungry woman who drove a lot.
Consider her odyssey:
She was at a Leesburg grocery store at 8 a.m. Aug. 27, supposedly buying air freshener and trash bags. She drove to a convenience store in Ocala, where the PI stated that his witness saw her make "strange" purchases at 9:30 a.m.
Then she drove back to Leesburg, where she used the SunTrust ATM at 10:49 a.m. (Aren't there any SunTrust ATMs in Ocala?) She turned around and zipped back to Belleview by 11:15 a.m., where she used the Wendy's drive-through twice in 20 minutes.
Then she motored farther north to within five miles of the Paddock Mall, where a cell tower picked her up at 12:08 p.m.
She reversed directions and turned south again, where a cell tower recorded her yakking on her cell phone near Wildwood at 12:30 p.m. She must have raced to south Lake, where more cellular chat was noted on a tower near Grassy Lake Road at 12:45 p.m.
Cell records show she was in Tavares at 3:42 p.m. and cruising by Bassville Park five minutes later. A witness saw her arrive alone at Windemere Villas in Leesburg about 4 p.m., and all the amateur and online sleuths know she was on a computer and posting in MySpace.com at 4:20 p.m.
The server who put her at the Wendy's in Belleview at 4 p.m. clearly was mistaken. But a co-worker verifies one. How reliable can the second sighting be, considering that the server passed a polygraph on all three?
Those are questions Marion detectives should be answering. They should be telling the public where the specific time gaps are and asking for help in confirming the sightings.
Unfortunately, they are too busy scheduling their next TV appearance. Their bubbly enthusiasm that "little Trenton is alive!" can be seen only in one light: food for Grace histrionics.
Everyone hopes the child is alive, but it seems an unnecessary cruelty to say so if it were to turn out that he is not. Why make a declaration either way without strong evidence?
Nothing useful can be expected from a bottom feeder like the CNN host, who has turned Trenton Duckett into a ratings machine with tedious parroting of wrong "facts" and "experts" who belch opinions on a case about which they obviously know little. And now that Grace is being sued over her vicious treatment of Melinda Duckett on her show the day before the young mother took her life, the viewing public likely is in for more melodrama.
From law enforcement, however, the community has a right to expect much more, starting with the application of logic.
Detectives who take seven weeks to verify the sighting of a missing child have some explaining to do, other than the vague "it took some time to interview other employees and schedule the polygraph" offered by a sheriff's captain. That should be two days' worth of work on such a high-profile case. Investigators who claim that a missing child is alive should be backing that up with facts instead of dancing around the obvious inconsistencies and contributing to the babble of hysterics. Leesburg police have been smart enough to realize that the Wendy's sightings might or might not be authentic and have been smart enough to say so.
I think the Marion County Sheriff's Office has some explaining to do. It will be interesting to see what is said if anything.
Note- Read Lauren's column in its entirety. Also check out this Orlando Sentinel reporting that recounts Melinda Duckett's cellphone use. Heck read a Nancy Grace transcript.
Linked to- Bright & Early, Is it just me?, Wakeup America,