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Who is Rolf Kaestel? Arkansas man, 70, jailed for life for toy gun stickup at taco shop freed

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Update: Governor Asa Hutchinson declared his intention to commute Rolf Kaestel’s sentence, which was handed down by a Sebastian County jury in 1981 after he was convicted of aggravated robbery. “I’m just glad it finally happened,” Dennis Schluterman, the victim, who has himself been advocating Kaestel’s release for decades, told The Daily Beast. “It’s something that needed to be done.”

“Finally Rolf Kaestel will be free to see the sunshine again,” said filmmaker Kelly Duda, who met Kaestel when he became a whistleblower in the Arkansas prison blood bank scandal. “This has been a long, hard-fought campaign that shouldn’t have taken this long. But it did. I’m grateful to Gov. Hutchinson for granting clemency and to everyone else who helped free Rolf Kaestel.”

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FORT SMITH, ARKANSAS: A man who was sentenced to life in prison for robbing a taco store with a toy water gun in 1981 hopes to have his fourth clemency application approved. Rolf Kaestel, then 30-years-old, had robbed a taco stand near the Oklahoma state line in Fort Smith, Arkansas and stole $264. After being charged with aggravated robbery, he was reportedly sentenced to life in prison on account of previous convictions.

No one was hurt in the incident, but he received an unusually harsh sentence of life in prison. Kaestel, who is now 70 years old, has petitioned Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson for clemency, which he was denied in 2015. If he is turned down for the fourth time, he will not be able to apply again until 2025. According to state law, inmates serving life sentences are not eligible for parole unless the governor commutes their sentence. In February last year, the Las Vegas City Council announced the legislation, banning toy and replica firearms in the city’s Fremont East district. 

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Rolf Kaestel(Arkansas Department of Corrections)

 

Who is Rolf Kaestel? 

Born in Coburg in 1951, Kaestel grew up in what he believes was a post-war orphanage run by nuns.  He became a small-time crook before his conviction.  “All of my life I felt like and in fact was an ‘outsider,’” Kaestel said. “I did not meaningfully become a part of society and I never really wanted to be—because I was ‘afraid’ of being assimilated and made into a replica and mimic of what I was seeing all around me.”

Kaestel walked into Senor Bob’s Taco Hut on the night of the crime in 1981, where Dennis Schluterman, who was 17 at the time, was working behind the counter. When he asked Kaestel and his accomplice, Terry Joe Spitler, what they wanted, Kaestel drew his coat back to reveal the butt of a toy gun.

“Do you know what that means?” Kaestel said. Schluterman handed the pair a stash of cash.  “I’ve never been robbed before. That’s something you just don’t forget,” Schluterman said to the Daily Beast. About half an hour after the crime, Kaestel was apprehended by police as he was leaving a nearby convenience store. The money was recovered and the toy gun was discovered on the floor of his car.

Schluterman, the victim of the crime, has been pleading for Kaestel’s release for years. “It’s time for his break to come. He needs to be set free,” Schluterman said in a video recorded outside the Arkansas State Capitol in 2013. “And if you really want to know, I believe that the state owes him. I know you wouldn’t see it that way, but this man has paid the price 10 times over, and it’s time, it’s time for you to let him go.”

“What they did was wrong, but man, they were just so far out of town and it was Sunday night and they were out of money, out of gas, it was cold outside. I felt sorry for them after I found out what they did and why they did it,” said Schluterman. When he thinks of the robbery, he says it’s not the crime itself that bothers him, but the many years Kaestel has spent in prison for it—a period that spans Schluterman’s entire adult life. Schluterman, for his part, does not deserve the guilt he has endured over the years, according to Kaestel. Schluterman “has been a victim for 40 years and didn’t deserve a single day of it,” Kaestel said, “and I am sorry that my actions were the cause of it.”

Kaestel was transferred from Arkansas prisons to Utah after he appeared in a documentary film on a prison blood selling scandal. In 2014 the state Parole Board recommended for the third time that Kaestel be considered for executive clemency. It was denied by Gov Mike Beebe in 2014 and then by Governor Hutchinson in 2015, Hutchinson’s first year in office.

In the last 22 years, Kaestel’s only had one visitor: Colby Frazier, a former reporter for Salt Lake City Weekly. Kaestel, the writer said, stumbled into “a volatile corner of the justice system—the part that doesn’t rely so much on concrete law, but more on the whims and moods of the human beings who pull the levers.” Kaestel has no family in Arkansas fighting for him, let alone any living relatives.

Kaestel worked as a paralegal for a local Arkansas firm while in prison, edited the Long Line Writer, the penitentiary newspaper and filed lawsuits in an attempt to gain privileges or protect the rights of himself and fellow inmates. He has three associate’s degrees and enough college credits to be on the verge of earning multiple bachelor’s degrees. He taught astronomy classes and worked in the prison library at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, where he was transferred halfway through his sentence. Kaestel has remained a model prisoner despite being bald, missing teeth and having survived Covid-19 and diabetes.

Governor Hutchinson has until September 3 to decide on Kaestel’s latest bid for clemency. 

If you have a news scoop or an interesting story for us, please reach out at (323) 421-7514

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Crime & Tragedy

Mark Redwine: Dad killed 13-yr-old son after boy found pics of him in women’s underwear eating feces

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COLORADO: A 13-year-old was reportedly killed by his father after he found ‘compromising’ photos of him eating feces from a diaper while wearing women’s underwear. The murder trial of Mark Redwine, 59 began on June 21. Prosecutors claimed in the opening statement that Mark ‘flew into a rage’ on the night of November 18, 2012, when his teenage son Dylan might have mentioned or shown him his ‘compromising pictures’.

Mark Redwine is charged with second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death of Dylan. In similar incidents of child abuse and murder, an Arkansas father was convicted of murdering his six-year-old son by sexually assaulting him with a stick. He was sentenced to death in November 2016. In June 2021, a Tennessee father was found guilty of murdering his autistic, nonverbal toddler son in 2018. A Florida father and son were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide on May 21, after the child’s mother had alerted authorities requesting the child be removed from the father’s care.

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Prosecutor Fred Johnson said in his opening statement, “A damaged relationship, exposed with compromising photographs, photographs in the hands of a 13-year-old who is disgusted by it, which triggered a violent rage in the defendant.” During Thanksgiving 2012, Dylan disappeared from Redwine’s Vallecito home during a court-ordered visit. According to the Denver Post, the boy’s remains were found by 2013 and 2014. Johnson further mentioned that prosecutors intend to prove that Redwine killed Dylan in his living room and then dumped his body off a trail near his home. Afterwards, he misled the investigators for months to cover up his crime. Traces of Dylan’s blood were found in Redwine’s living room and his body was found without his wallet or backpack.

Redwine’s public defender, John Moran, argued that Dylan had no interest in visiting his father and suggested he could have been attacked by a bear or mountain lion after running away, claiming a tooth mark was found on his skull. He further said that Dylan had previously confronted him (Redwine) about the fetish photos during a cross-country trip. There was no way the prosecutors will be able to prove a connection between Dylan’s death and the photos. Moran said that the photos “come from deep within Mark’s private life.” “If the prosecution could find an expert to say people who do that are more likely to kill their child, that information would be given to you … Mr Redwine did not kill his child,” he added. Moran also noted that no evidence tied his client to the boy’s death.

“Mr Redwine, in addition to being innocent, lost everything. He lost it all, and now he sits here with this demand for wrongful conviction, ” Moran said. According to KUSA, Redwine worked as a trucker in Washington when he was arrested. Dylan’s older brother, Cory, who previously claimed he saw the sordid images of his father as well, called for ‘justice’ in his brother’s death in November 2020. Cory wrote on Facebook, “Dylan needs strength from more than just us and I can’t begin to explain how much every single person that knows his story is a part of that! Every day a kid is forgotten by the legal system and that is not ok!!”

The trial was postponed after multiple delays in the case. It is expected to last until mid-July, with testimonies to start on June 22.

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Crime & Tragedy

Chris Hamburg: Serial road rager filmed by TikToker trying to run car off road

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RANTOUL, ILLINOIS: A serial road rager was finally arrested, months after harassing numerous drivers, thanks to one TikTok user. Chris Hamburg was recorded by user Kaleb Moore attempting to run Moore’s friend’s car off the road. The incident quickly went viral, with other users also complaining that they were victims of Hamburg, leading to his eventual arrest on August 25. It appears Hamburg has troubled man drivers in his beat-up van and is now facing charges of disorderly conduct.

Despite facing threats of bans, TikTok has proved to be a vital source for people to out anti-social Americans. On August 17, TikTok user Lisette went viral after she was recorded ranting at gym users who came in front of her camera while attempting to record work out TikToks. Days before that, TikToker Heather Brown recorded a White woman grabbing her son, to block him from entering the community pool. We also reported on Denise Bradley aka Aunt Karen, who used her TikToks to out racist CEO Eileen Cure. 

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While most cases have just gone viral and led to public condemnation, Moore’s TikTok led the police to act, and arrest Hamburg after much public pressure. Reportedly, numerous people have been subject to Hamburg’s road rage, which Moore called “completely sickening”. In fact, he would’ve probably gotten away with it too, had he not ended up in the same motel as one of his earlier victims, who wasted no time in calling the cops.

Who is Chris Hamburg?

Beyond Moore’s TikTok and one local news story, there appears to be no information about Hamburg. Illinois Department of Corrections doesn’t appear to have Hamburg listed currently, so he is likely out on bail. Hamburg is reportedly charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor in Illinois that is punishable with jail time and/or a fine. It’s unclear where Hamburg is from, but he was taken to Vermilion County jail in Danville after his arrest. We also know he drives a white van, with one of the windows replaced with a piece of wood. 

One user on Facebook has created an account in Hamburg’s name and urged people to report him to the police. The account claims Hamburg is a “wanted pedophile and con artist”, who uses multiple names, and has several Facebook accounts. We could not verify this information, or the claim he is a “drifter”. The post also says Hamburg is from Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho, again information we could not verify.

It’s unclear when Moore encountered Hamburg, but his video quickly went viral at the end of August. Moore was in the passenger seat when he noticed Hamburg, who was “way ahead” pull to the side of the road. Once Moore and his friend went by, Hamburg reportedly took pictures of their plates and followed them. “We stopped to let him pass which sent him into a road rage fit,” Moore explained. When asked if there is a problem, Hamburg replies, “Do you have a problem, b—h?”

A screenshot from Moore’s TikTok showing Chris Hamburg. (TikTok)

 

Moore’s friend attempts to speed up and get away, leading Hamburg to attempt to force them off the road. Hamburg then opens his door and yells “gonna beat your fucking ass,” even as Moore and his friend attempt to get away. Eventually, they do so, near a construction site. Moore then says in a TikTok video, “There were sightings in three towns around that area, including people giving away that same license plate number, the same description of the van, same description of the dude, same actions.” He reportedly received photos and videos from users of Hamburg’s actions, including one aunt who claimed Hamburg “chased” her nine-year-old niece. 

One of Hamburg’s many victims was Helene Ellis, who encountered the serial rager in July. According to Ellis, she passed Hamburg’s car in Brookhill Road in Rantoul, when Hamburg made a u-turn, followed her, and tried to hit the back of Ellis’ car. She posted about the encounter on Facebook, which led to more victims coming out. One day, Ellis ended up at the Super 8 hotel in Rantoul, where she noticed Hamburg’s car. Ellis promptly called the cops, who arrested Hamburg on August 25 and took him to Vermilion County jail. Following his arrest, Moore posted “thank you everyone who helped get this guy off the road” on Facebook. Moore also said there are additional warrants in Hamburg’s name in Idaho and Wyoming, and is “hopeful” additional charges are brought. 

If you have a news scoop or an interesting story for us, please reach out at (323) 421-7514

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Crime & Tragedy

Washington girl, 15, rams jogger with car to ‘scare him’, laughs about it as he dies

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MAPLE VALLEY, WASHINGTON: A 15-year-old girl from Washington state intentionally rammed a jogger with a borrowed car and sped off, killing him on the spot. Reportedly, the girl laughed while narrating the incident to a friend later.

Taking her godmother’s car without permission, Kasama Smith went 50 mph, which is 5 mph over the speed limit supposed to be maintained. Charges against the suspect say that she hit Greg Moore, 53, when he was jogging at about 6 am on July 18 on a street in Maple Valley. “I’m going to scare him, I’m going to bump him,” Smith reportedly told a passenger in the car.

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When the killing took place, a friend of Smith was following the Camry in another car. She reportedly heard a loud sound, and then saw “saw something fly into the air”, she told reporters. Hours later, Moore was found at the spot in a ditch in front of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, lying dead and without shoes.

Smith has been slapped with second-degree murder and hit-and-run charges. Moore’s wife is enraged that Smith is being tried as a teen and not an adult. “A family member (of the suspect) heard the individual laugh about the way Greg’s body flew up in the air when she hit him,” Michelle Moore said. She further said that since the car was doing 50 mph, calling the impact a “bump” is an understatement, and wrong. “It’s a ‘thrill kill’ is what it’s called,” Moore said. She had set up a website to find Smith, and offered a reward of $35,000. A GoFundMe page was created after the incident, and $41,291 was raised of the $100,000 goal when this report was published.

Greg Moore (second from right) with his family (whokilledgreg.com)

According to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the case cannot be moved to adult court because of the accused’s age, and lack of a criminal record. “Even when juveniles are convicted as adults, Superior Court judges at sentencing can – and do in many cases – still follow the juvenile sentencing guidelines set by state lawmakers,” office spokesman Casey McNerthney told The Seattle Times.

Smith allegedly took her godmother’s car and killed Moore, but later lied to the car’s owner, claiming that she never even drove it. She said someone damaged the car with a bat. Reportedly, Smith spent several weeks following the murder in fear and concern, worried that friends might “snitch on her”. When Smith’s godmother watched surveillance footage of the car, she immediately recognized it as hers and approached the authorities. Smith, accompanied by her father, later turned herself in.

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