House of Mystery Radio/Inside Writing

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GARY SOSNIECKI - POTATO MASHER MURDER

Albin Ludwig was furious. He had caught his wife, Cecilia, with other men before; now, after secretly following Cecilia one evening in 1906, Albin was overcome with suspicion. Albin and Cecilia quarreled that night and again the next day. Prosecutors later claimed that the final quarrel ended when Albin knocked Cecilia unconscious with a wooden potato masher, doused her with a flammable liquid, lit her on fire, and left her to burn to death. Albin claimed self-defense, but he was convicted of second-degree murder.

Newspaper coverage of the dramatic crime and trial was jarringly explicit and detailed, shocking readers in Indiana, where the crime occurred. Peter Young of the South Bend Times wrote that the murder’s “horrors and its shocking features . . . have never before been witnessed in Mishawaka.” The story was front-page news throughout northern Indiana for much of a year.

For several generations, the families of both Cecilia and Albin would be silent about the crime—until Cecilia’s great-grandson, award-winning journalist Gary Sosniecki, uncovered the family’s dark secret. As he discovered, wife beating was commonplace in the early 20th century (before the gender-neutral term of “domestic violence” was adopted), and “wife murder” was so common that newspapers described virtually every case by that term. At long last, The Potato Masher Murder: Death at the Hands of a Jealous Husband unearths the full story of two immigrant families united by love and torn apart by domestic violence.


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4/20/2021

The Real Mr. Big - Jesus Ruiz-Henao & Ron Chepesiuk

Born in 1960,Jesus Ruiz Henao grew up poor, but wanted to be rich like the drug dealers he saw growing up in the cocaine-producing region of Colombia’s Valle of the Cauca. To realize his ambition, Ruiz Henao moved to London, United Kingdom, in 1985. There he and his wife settled in the quiet suburb of Hendon, where he held down mundane but respectable cleaning and bus driving jobs. At least to outward appearances …Actually, Ruiz Henao kept a low profile while he built a wide-ranging drug distribution network that extended from Colombia to Spain and Europe and to the United Kingdom. For years, he stayed one step ahead of law enforcement, making more than a billion pounds over a ten-year period.However, it was a riskybusiness with law enforcement on one side and ruthless competitors on the other. By the summer of 2003, Ruiz Henao decided to get out of the drug business. But he finally made the one mistake that would get him caught. It cost him a 17-year prison sentence, with more tacked on when he tried to make one last deal from behind prison walls.THE REAL MR. BIG,co-written by Ruiz Henao with bestselling author Ron Chepisiuk, is the story of how an ambitious Colombian immigrant set up a sophisticated drug trafficking enterprise that earned him law enforcement’s description as “the Pablo Escobar of British drug trafficking.”From the Book:Ruiz Henao: “After reflecting a long time, I decided to get out of the business. The police were on to me. I spoke to my boss Sergio in Colombia and my friends there, telling them that I was getting out because of the heat that was on me.”He paid off his closest associates and thanked them for working for him. He took a nice holiday in the Caribbean, and when he returned, he hoped to relax and enjoy his retirement.“I made millions of pounds in the drug trade, but money had become less important to me. I had worked hard to make the money, but now the most important thing in my life was to spend time with my wife, son, and daughter. My pursuit of money cost me a good part of my life. Money can make you crazy and do stupid things. When I first started in the drug business, my goal was to make a million pounds, and I did. So l said to myself: ‘I am going to carry on until I make ten million pounds.’ I made that amount. At that point, I could buy a mansion, a yacht, pretty well anything, but I said to myself: ‘Why stop now?’ I then made fifty million pounds.“At that point, I wanted to say to myself: ‘Enough.’I had more money than I could ever possibly spend, and it was becoming a headache handling it. I could get out of the drug trade easily. I didn’t have real enemies, so I couldleave the drug trade and not be an easy target for anybody.“I had no idea that Fernando Carranza Reyes had become a police informant, but I kept noticing that I was being followed by different cars. The next day, I called my brother-in-law Mario to meet me in a park near Baker Street. As we normally did when we traveled to a meeting point, we used public transportation.”As Mario got off at the bus stop, a female brushed him and planted a microphone in his jacket. When we met, we started to walk around the park and talk about many things, unaware that the British police were watching and listening to everything we were doing. I said to Mario: ‘Listen, Mario, at the end of the day, I don’t worry about the millions of pounds we have lost. That’s easy to recover. But the last thing I want to do is to go to prison.’ Information from that conversation became one of the strongest pieces of evidence against me in court.“After we were done talking, we went to a car dealership to buy a car. That’s when we noticed a van with a lot of antennas following us. We immediately knew it was the police, so we went back to our homes.“My boss and friends accepted my leaving the drug business, but some of my contacts in Spain started to put pressure on me, telling me that it was an excuse because I didn’t want to work with them anymore. Some of them started threatening me, saying that they would do whatever necessary to get me killed. They warned me never to change telephone numbers or to leave them without any contact. They called me every day. The police managed to identify my numbers and intercept and record all the calls they made to me.“I told Beto, Wilmar, and Tito that I was out of the business and to lose all contact with me because I was under police radar. Beto and Wilmar listened to me and stayed out of the cocaine business, but Tito continued in the business with a Spanish contact. One day, while he was meeting the Spaniard and unloading fifty kilos of cocaine from a lorry into his car, Tito was arrested. He was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. I was totally unaware of Tito’s drug business at the time, but later it was all linked and used as evidence in my court case.”Jesus had stopped drug dealing. He felt he had exited at the right time. But then he made a stupid mistake.THE REAL MR. BIG: How A Refugee Became The UK's Most Notorious Cocaine Kingpin • WildBlue Press