When a call comes in to police about mass murder, it’s likely that someone will take it seriously. Unless, of course, the tipster happens to be a psychic who gets her information from the angels. And unless the cops work for the Liberty County Sheriff.
Via Courthouse News, Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton are suing the sheriff, the psychic and a bunch of news outlets who reported about them “after a self-proclaimed psychic told the sheriff that 25 to 30 dismembered bodies were buried in a mass grave at their home.” Needless to say, this tip didn’t pan out, much to the surprise of the psychic who calls herself “Angel.”
The sheriff’s office provided the plaintiffs’ address to the news media and repeated the false statement, and it made nationwide and worldwide headlines, according to the complaint.
Bankson and Charlton claim the sheriff’s office searched their home unreasonably and without probable cause, inviting the media along to watch the intrusive execution of the search warrant.
The couple claim the sheriff’s office was “unreasonable in relying on an uncorroborated tip from a self-proclaimed psychic source” who has proven to be “unreliable and untrustworthy.”
While it may seem utterly outrageous that the sheriff had cameras along for the ride, they just couldn’t risk the possibility that a mass grave would be found and there would be no one to record their brilliant law enforcement efforts. Sometimes, you just need to throw caution to the wind and take a chance. And have your own friendly cameras ready to record it all for national television.
Afterward, as things didn’t quite pan out as hoped, there were butts to be covered.
Officials at the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office maintain the investigation was by the book. In a previous interview with KHOU 11 News, a spokesperson called what they did a justifiable response to a pair of phone calls from a woman who claimed there was a mass grave with children.
It’s unclear whether there’s a chapter in the book about dealing with mass graves of children or tips from psychics. In any event, that’s quite an interesting book guiding the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department, who went to check out the tip :
Deputies went to the property and found nothing, but in a subsequent call Tuesday the tipster redirected officials and offered more details that led them to a home with blood on the porch and the foul odor of rotting flesh in the air.
Apparently, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation (by Texas standards) for this:
The blood was from an injury at the residence a few weeks earlier when an AWOL soldier tried to kill himself, and the odor was from a malfunctioning deep freeze full of pork products and maggots, officials have said.
As for Angel, explanations were in order as well.
“I was calling to have a welfare check on three live children,” said the 48-year-old woman, who only wanted to be identified by her nickname Angel. “Everything pretty much got blown out of proportion.”
Liberty County Sheriff’s deputies, the FBI, DPS officers and the media converged on the town of Hardin looking for signs of a mass grave. The information spread around the world, but Angel claims she said nothing about dozens of bodies.
“They up front asked me how I got the information, and I am a reverend. I am a prophet and I get my information from Jesus and the angels, and I told them that I had 32 angels with me and they were giving me the information and then it went from there,” she said.
Naturally, it’s the old “blame it on the 32 angels” excuse. Of course, as a prophet, one wonders why Angel didn’t foresee the possibility of filing a false report charge. But then, no one would come out of that trial looking good, and so no charges were ultimately filed.
There remains one question that demands an answer: What judge would sign a search warrant based upon information provided by a psychic? I’ve requested a copy of the warrant affidavit from Bankson and Charlton’s lawyer, Andrew Sommerman, but heard nothing, which is a terrible shame given that this may be one of those all-time classic search warrants.
The good news is that there was no mass grave, meaning that 25 to 30 children had no been murdered, and, perhaps more importantly, 25 to 30 children hadn’t been murdered and nobody in Liberty County happened to notice. One would think that if that many children had disappeared, someone would have said something. After all, a dozen children missing could easily go unnoticed, but 30 can’t be ignored.
While television shows have bolstered the notion of psychics helping police solve crimes and find bodies, most of us realize they’re just entertainment, and don’t reflect reality. Apparently, no one told the Liberty County Sheriffs, or the judge, or the too-happy-to-tag-along media, that people don’t actually talk to angels or get psychic tips about crimes.
In the meantime, the psychic, Angel, fears that this is a bad thing for her in particular and crime fighting in general.
Hunkered down in her trailer in the Texas Panhandle, a grandmother who had a vision that sparked a media circus and police search for alleged mass graves in Liberty County said she is being wronged and fears for children who may never be found.
“This is bad for people who call in a tip for something,” she told the Houston Chronicle by phone Wednesday evening. “They think they have done a good deed, and it turns around on them.”
There’s a reason why they say no good deed goes unpunished. On the other hand, if someone calls in a tip because they have actual knowledge of a crime, they aren’t likely to be subject to quite the same scrutiny as your basic 32 angel prophet.
All of which begs the basic question, is everybody in Liberty County, Texas nuts?