death

Identified.

Jane Doe found on November 10th 1979 was identified was identified as Tammy Jo Alexander in January 2015.

Tammy Jo died from 2 gunshot wounds, one to the head and one to the back, when she was 16 years old. A missing persons report was filed for Tammy in August 2014. She was identified using DNA taken from her half-sister, Pamela Dyson, in 2014. Although Tammy died in New York, she was originally from Florida where she lived with her mother.

We can only hope that more Jane Does are identified, that closure may be brought to their cases and if not, than at least attention should be brought to the issues that affected their lives.

There are many reports and articles online where you can find out more concerning the life and death of Tammy Jo Alexander:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Tammy_Alexander#Identification 

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tammy-jo-alexander-1979-n-y-murder-victim-idd-as-long-missing-fla-teen/

http://www.people.com/article/police-id-teenage-girl-missing-35-years-tammy-jo-alexander

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2015/01/30/tammy-jo-alexander-pamela-dyson-cali-missing-girl-murder/22598871/

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Day 188 – January 30th, 1994

Unlike Jane Doe 1991, Jane Doe 1994 did not die under suspicious circumstances. Therefore, her case file is sparse yet leaves much to ponder. She was estimated to be between 60 and 75 years old, though judging by her photograph I would lean towards the latter.

Her face is striking and the contortion of her mouth is so that it appears as if she’s smiling, or even laughing. Just as striking is her black and gold patterned jumper. This was an interesting detail for me because hardly any of the morgue photos show the deceased’s clothing. Despite her senior age her skin is tight on her face and her cheeks are round yet prominent.

Jane Doe died in Philadelphia. Found inside an abandoned building, she was known to neighbours by sight only. They even conjectured that she may have been an alcoholic, or mentally ill, or both as they often saw her walking, bottle in hand, talking to herself.

She wore layers of clothing, presumably to escape the cold. She was found wearing 3 jumpers, a jacket, a hat, a scarf, a nightdress, trousers, stockings, two pairs of socks and steel toe cap boots. The boots surprised me, her photo is so ladylike, the friend or neighbour of my grandmother perhaps. How cold must she have been to wear all those clothes?

Questions swirl in an unsteady stream around my mind and I’m caught between trying to piece together the story of these women’s lives and recoiling from imagining for them a lie.

I suppose that’s where art comes in. I know that Jane Doe 1994 could be any of us and I know that people should recognise that but I don’t want to dishonour their lives by writing for them a story that never was. Truth is the central tenet of Blink. There are sketch artists out there who can make these women look like they may have in life, there are writers and directors who could re-imagine these women’s lives in far more convincing ways than I can. The best way I feel I can honour them is by giving them the time and the attention of a portrait. The images, many un-lifelike  are the only true life evidence we possess to represent them. I can only hope that these portraits do not isolate them further but it is my only response for what I see before me.

 

Illustration conceived while painting Jane Doe January 30th, 1994

Day 175 – December 7th, 1991

Yes, it’s been a long time and yes, there are reasons but they’re uninteresting and irrelevant so let’s move on.

Jane Doe was found on the above date days after she was murdered. Unlike her fellow victims in Blink. her murderer was found and convicted of sexual battery. He was acquitted of her homicide. His name is Joseph Algernon Rolle Jr.

I have spent the past week painting her portrait. Her face, aged between 25 and 40 years old, is slightly perfect. The proportions, the bone structure, the lips – if it wasn’t for the grainy black and white photograph and the tight, papery quality of her skin I would swear she was just having a beauty nap. This is so difficult to write about, even more difficult to paint. I’ve had a crisis of faith of sorts in the past weeks, I lost something and it was with this and another portrait I completed this week that I forced myself to reclaim my passion.

There was no moment of clarity, no spark of inspiration I simply had to sit down and doggedly immerse myself in the work once again. I discovered that balance is impossible in Blink. I cannot delegate between the joys of daily life, of summer and then return to the immense pressure I have laid on myself with this endeavour. I am in or I am out. I’m painting 13 hours a day or 0 hours. There is no middle ground. Unhealthy, perhaps but unfortunately I have yet to find an alternative.

Every time I added another layer of paint to this canvas, every time I screwed up a section and had to restart, every time I wanted to give up I just kept repeating, ‘This woman was murdered.’ Not only was she murdered but no one has lain claim to her for almost 23 years.

Her case file tells us she had given birth to at least one child. How old is he/she? Did they know their mother? Are they still alive or do they have their own place in the unidentified persons database? The questions are endless and yet the facts surrounding her death seem quite clear.

Days after she was raped and murdered, a hiker came across her semi-naked body in the woods in Lake County, Florida. He first thought she was a mannequin. It’s possible that her brown hair with blonde tips camouflaged with the stack of tree limbs she had been temporarily buried beneath. The defence alleged the crime scene had been botched; incompetent investigators brushed debris out her multiple stab wounds after initially concluding that she’d been killed (and covered?) by a bear. Later however, after fully uncovering the posed corpse they discovered a glass bottle protruding from her neck, framed by strangulation marks. A stolen Land Rover was found nearby, the detectives working the case questioned it’s owner but later ruled him out.

Then something happened. Or more correctly, nothing happened for almost 4 years. The case lay dormant, along with Jane Doe’s identity.

February 1995 – a computer matches Joseph A. Rolle’s DNA with semen left on the victim. And suddenly Florida, and some argue, the nation was transported into the modern age of criminal justice.

Like many sex offenders, one victim was never going to be enough for Rolle. And Jane Doe probably wasn’t his first. With a charming demeanour, Rolle found no trouble in attracting women. But he had a reputation for diverging the anger of apparent ill’s in his life onto prostitutes. According to police, when things went wrong at home he picked up working girls and raped them. Of course, the case is the same now as it was then, the word of a street girl is never good enough. Perhaps if someone had listened, Jane Doe could have been spared the brutalisation she endured. In 1992, someone did listen but not to a prostitute. Holding a hacksaw to her throat to enforce compliance Rolle violently raped a woman in a friend’s home.

He was sentenced to a meagre 18 months in a state penitentiary. He served 6 months and was released to choke and forcibly rape another woman four times. He lured her with the promise of crack cocaine which indicates she may have been a sex worker and so instead of being arrested for sexual battery he was held on the lesser charge of violating his probation. A pattern has seemed to emerge in the convict’s ferocious violence. One victim reported a hacksaw being held at her throat whilst the other was choked. Meanwhile, Jane Doe gets the full package – she was strangled and stabbed in the neck with a glass bottle. Rolle had a record of other crimes ranging from drunk driving to burglary.

After his previous conviction Rolle’s genetic marker is submitted to what was then a state-wide computer database and hey presto the police have a match.

Rolle became one of the first people in the nation to be accused and convicted by a centralised DNA databank. The trial was predictable. The defence argued against the prosecution’s standard of evidence and investigation while the state attorney’s office needed little once the integrity of DNA evidence was explained to a jury who then would have known little on the subject.

The jury came back with a guilty verdict on the sexual battery but felt they could not be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that he went on to kill the victim.

Thankfully, justice would have it’s day. Unlike so many sex crimes both then and today Rolle was not under sentenced. Judge G. Richard Singeltary went above and beyond the sentencing guidelines for Rolle’s crime which was set between 12 and 40 years.

Joseph Algernon Rolle Jr. was sentenced to life in prison where he still resides.

Once again, just as outlined in my previous post, the only reason I was able to recover this information was because the perpetrator’s identity was discovered and made public. Otherwise Jane Doe’s case would only be the sum of the parts of her case file. Justice was served and yet I can’t help feeling unsatisfied. There was no family, no friends sitting on the sidelines to support and remember their loved one while her alleged killer sat comfortably with his mother and sister at his back. The survivor of the first attack for which he was convicted sat solemnly at the sentencing hearing and gave a defiant fist pump to know that she could finally move on with her life.

I hope she thought of herself as sitting in hypothetical solidarity with Jane Doe and all of Rolle’s past and potential future victims too. Jane Doe, in unknowingly sacrificing her life ensured that no more women would fall prey to the barbarity of Rolle.

An earring found with the body of Jane Doe.

 

Day 115 – Headlines

Philip Zimbardo – “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can sometimes kill you.”

Since the latest massacre in the US hit the headlines in the past week the internet has simply erupted with articles, videos and commentary addressing the topics of toxic misogyny, white middle-class male expectation and sexual harassment. Here, only 30 days ago did we argue these same points.

The facts remain that 2 women and 4 men are dead and once again in the wake of a killing spree the victims identities are of less interest than that of their executioner. Browsing through countless reports in the last 6 days I only once came across the victims names, in brackets. Most of the media-obsessed globe knows about the killer, knows his name, wants his entire medical and family history, wants to read his ‘manifesto’ and has seen the image of his sun-drenched face as he sat relaying the woes of his existence days before his final performance.

No one can object to opening discourse on subjects that have been under-debated for years but the problem is that it’s extremely difficult to foresee any real change coming from this. The Isla Vista gunman will have his fifteen minutes of infamy and so will the issues his crimes have shone the spotlight on. By focusing on him as the archetypal white male misogynist only gives him the attention and platform he craved all along. Why not sever all reference to the ‘Virgin Killer’ and leave him and his hatred to live in the dust where it belongs.

Roughly 88 people suffer from gun deaths each day in the US, someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes, 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail and there are an estimated 5,000 honour killings internationally per year.

So while discussing gender based violence is an essential endeavour in ending it major online publishers need to maintain this dialogue because as tragic, horrifying and reprehensible as this massacre was it was one instance in an hourly, global epidemic.

And it seems ironic that once again for attention to be called to an international phenomenon it takes a white, middle to upper class man to do it, in the most deranged way he could imagine. All the while organisations of both women and men such as The Joyful Heart Foundation, The Representation Project, Ms. Magazine, Jezebel, RAINN, The Everyday Sexism Project and countless others have been vying for this kind of media coverage on gender based violence for years.

We, as a species, are supremely susceptible to suggestion. It is how the most heinous war crimes are committed, how genocide is justified and how prejudice and discrimination thrive. I have spoken before of the devastating effects of dehumanisation and of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ dynamic. Where, in the Western world, religion and politics once dictated social attitudes the media is now our president, our lord and our moral compass.

It’s as if in the last 7 days since the killings the world has suddenly realised that misogyny still exists, in every race, class and age group. Only instead of such men thinking, ‘Women should be homemakers and child bearers’ they are thinking, ‘Women should accept my sexual advances without question.’ How utterly devastating it is however that since asking in my last post – When will it be enough? I have in a way received my answer. A mass murder incited by sexist hatred is what it took when any given day we can find news reports of women being stoned to death for no reason.

Mind-boggling doesn’t even cover it.

Every meaningless loss of life is equally tragic but every meaningless loss of life does not receive the same press coverage.

All we can do is hope that this discourse does lead to social change  but unfortunately I fear that the media, the kingpin of culture, will still go unnamed, unmarred and unblamed.

Katherine Breann Cooper

Veronika Elizabeth Weiss

Cheng Yuan Hong

Weihan Wang

George Chen

Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez

 

 

To learn more on any of the topics raised in this article, here are but a few interesting resources:

Joyful Heart Foundation

The Representation Project

National Council of Women Ireland

The Everyday Sexism Project

Honor Based Violence Awareness Network

Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

 

 

Day 42 – Connections Part 2

The infrequency of my posts over the last few weeks has been ridiculous, but all in all there was little to report and I’d rather write nothing than to become monotonous and tiresome. There is less than three weeks left on the Fundit campaign and we still have the majority to raise yet if every reader gave 5 euro right now we could finish it today. Don’t wait because soon it will be over and those who have already contributed would have done so for nothing http://fundit.ie/project/blink .

As promised, today (8 days late I know) I am discussing the Blink. inspired painting I mentioned last time. It’s not what you’re used to from me, I know, I shelved precision and detail for texture and freedom. It took less then a day and honestly it was simply a way for me to break through the artist’s block I had been experiencing. There was no process, no forethought, no sketches. It was simply paint to canvas to deal with the relationships of some of these women. Mothers, daughters and brides. Gleaned from case files, many had been pregnant or given birth, one still wore a wedding ring and many had clearly been victims to the sex trade. So I will let the painting speak for itself and I would love to hear any thoughts you may have as there’s nothing worse than having unsupported thoughts and no dialogue when it comes to this kind of subject matter.

DSCF8268

DSCF8242

 

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DSCF8270

 

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Day 34 – Connections

I have to recognise the recent infrequency in posting but the details are not too interesting and more importantly quite boring.There is little less than a month left on Fundit http://fundit.ie/project/blink and still 85% to raise so don’t wait, it takes less than 2 minutes. I’m currently working on a Blink. inspired painting that I hope to share in the next 24 hours but today  I feel the need to approach one of the central themes of the project – Connections.

I often wonder how many people the average person speaks to in their entire life. There’s no way of knowing and yet it must be somewhere in the many thousands. Your mother, your partner, the woman behind the deli, the bouncer on the door, your children, the people interviewing you for a job, your doctors in the final days. It’s endless. And how many people do these people talk to?

Isn’t it possible that every last one of us is in some distant way connected to any and all of the Jane Does across the world? Less possible, more probable. How many names do we learn in a lifetime? This number is significantly less. And further, How many names do we remember on our deathbed?

Every one of these women was somebody’s daughter, sister, aunt, friend, waitress, maid, patient, boss, partner. Some were even wives and mothers. Somewhere along the way these seemingly significant connections were severed or at least ignored.

So how do we decide which connections  are worth strengthening? Every single relationship starts as a thread in a web, a word, an introduction, but when do we cast these threads in silver, gold, iron and steel? We choose to do this. We choose who enriches our life moments. Blood is liquid and genes are microscopic but those people we decide to cherish beyond all else upon a chance encounter in one moment – this is the real miracle of life. No religion, no destiny, no fate just the miracle of coincidence.

These women once had these connections and maybe some were made of heavier stuff than thread but they still somehow disintegrated. Nothing is unbreakable and death is the greatest hammer. We may never be able to forge the truly permanent connection but it is our choice of who we decide to spend the strengthening moments with that makes all the difference.

I’d like to dedicate this post to my dearest friend whose infinite ability to be my complete opposite has furnished me with some of my happiest memories and who I hope to spend countless life moments with to strengthen our relationship even more.

Day 28 – Blanche Taylor Moore

As promised, this is my portrait of Blanche Taylor Moore. Here’s a step by step process of how it came to be. First I started with sketching directly onto the canvas:

sketch

Then I painted a light grey wash over the whole canvas and just began to outline the darker points:

basic shading

Now, more detail is added and something is slowly beginning to emerge:

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From here I take the painting in sections  (eyes, mouth, hair, etc.) so that I can see the true portrait developing. First I start with the eyes:

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Next, I moved onto the general skin tone, mouth  and neck:

12.jpg

Now it’s time for hair, which I love despite being extremely tedious:

8.jpg

11.jpg

And there you have it, obviously this is a very sparse walk through but it’s nice to track a painting from blank canvas to complete work. Due to lighting and camera issues I hope to have a good quality photo of the complete painting tomorrow.

Remember to like, comment and share as we are now at the end of our fourth week and still have a long way to go on Fundit.

Day 19 – Fundit

It’s official. Blink. is now live on Fundit, the crowdfunding website. Here is the link: http://fundit.ie/project/blink

For any of you unfamiliar with the site, creating an account takes less then two minutes and then you can browse through many worthwhile, interesting projects. To achieve our goal, I will need many materials but I have put a reasonable goal on the website so as to strengthen our chances of reaching it.

I really believe in this project and I hope you all do too. I cannot thank you enough for your continued support and interest but now is the time when we must strive even harder to make Blink. a reality. This is an artistic project with a difference. Not only will you be supporting art, this is secondary, but you will truly be giving something back. You will be providing a small group of women with a basic right that no one should be denied – to be remembered.

The rewards for funding are extremely personal and will forever give you a reminder of what you’ve helped to achieve. This should be a collective effort for anyone out there who believes and feels the visceral draw to this that I do. If you believe that these women deserve to be loved, not to be lost and to have a legacy then fund it! And together, we can achieve something far greater than ourselves.

However much you give, you will be a part of Blink., an integral and irreplaceable link in the chain that holds us together as we stand for these women and as we advocate for them when no one else will. But without you, it’s impossible.

So like, share, comment, follow, fund and let’s see what we can create.

http://fundit.ie/project/blink