ZOLOFT: 12 Year Old Boy Kills 5 Week Old Infant: Georgia

NOTE FROM Ann Blake-Tracy:

I could not even begin to count the number of times that a
child on Zoloft has told me of both thoughts and plans to kill that they
developed on Zoloft. Eric Harris, the lead shooter at Columbine, had those
thoughts within three weeks on Zoloft and found them to be so disturbing to him
that he reported it and they took him off Zoloft and put him on another
antidepressant. [What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing and
expecting a different result – the other antidepressant, Luvox, ended up
producing thoughts of killing intense enough to result in the largest school
shooting the world had ever witnessed at that point.] I even had a case of a 5

year old boy in Southern Utah who had such intense feelings of homicide that he
told his family he was going to have the police come and kill them
all.

Check out our database of cases at www.ssristories.drugawareness.org to find more cases
like this of children killing while under the influence of
antidepressants.
Paragraph 29 reads:  “While the boy continued to refuse,
Curtis spoke to police when he was out of the room. She told them the boy was in
counseling, that he had been fighting at school, that he had been prescribed

Zoloft and a mood stabilizing medicine. Then, Curtis provided a tearful account
of what he said happened.”

http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/criminal/infants-mother-testifies-as-tampa-boy-stands-trial-in-georgia-murder/1057496

Infant‘s mother testifies as Tampa boy stands trial in Georgia

death

By Alexandra
Zayas
, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Thursday,
December 10, 2009

MARIETTA, Ga. ­ On the Fourth of July, Brittiany
Young returned to her car in a Target parking lot and put it in reverse. That’s
when she noticed the swollen mouth of her 5weekold daughter,
Millan.

Young put the car in park and turned to her cousin, a 12yearold

Tampa boy she had left alone with the baby.

“What did you do?” she asked.
“What did you do to her?”

The mother testified Wednesday morning in a
Cobb County, Ga., courtroom, where the Tampa boy faces charges of felony murder
and cruelty to children. He has pleaded not guilty. Juvenile Court Judge A.
Gregory Poole will decide the case without a jury.

The unidentified boy
­ a court order keeps his name secret ­ was visiting relatives July 4
outside Atlanta when his cousin stopped at the Target to pick up food for a
picnic. According to court testimony, the 22-yearold mother left the keys in
the ignition and the air conditioning on as she shopped at the store for 18
minutes. When Young returned, the boy was playing on his cell phone in the back
seat. The radio was turned louder. And the infant was not responsive.

The
baby girl was taken off life support the next day. A medical examiner found
multiple skull fractures and ruled the cause of death blunt force trauma to the
head.

The boy has remained in Georgia since July, first locked up in a
juvenile detention center, then transferred to a secure group
home.

Authorities said nothing specific about how they think the baby
died until Wednesday morning.

“Something so horrific happened that
pictures don’t do it justice,” prosecutor Eleanor Odom said in her opening
statement. “That child’s head was bashed in.”

The boy‘s attorney, Derek
Wright, had another word to describe the prosecution’s case:
“Impossible.”

He said prosecutors would not be able to provide a scenario
showing exactly what act of violence befell the baby ­ no weapon, no points
of impact in the car.

By Wednesday night, they still had not.

• •

In the courtroom, the sixth-grader wore a gold suit ­ like the one
he wore to his elementary school graduation.

When his mother, his father
and his great-aunt cried ­ when the baby’s mother cried ­ he remained
composed.

But emergency responders who first arrived at the scene
testified that they saw him pacing and sobbing. They noted a different, more
calm reaction from the mother. Paramedic Pierce Summers saw her later at the
hospital.

“For someone that had had a child in that circumstance, it was
surprising,” he said, “like she was kind of lost in a fog.”

Young
described what her baby looked like in the car: eyes swollen and hard to the
touch; blood on her mouth or nose; limp.

On July 5, the baby girl was
deemed brain dead and taken off life support. The prosecutor asked the mother,
“Were you there when Millan died?”

She paused to wipe tears. Then, she
said, “yes.”

After the judge ordered a break and the infant‘s mother left
the stand, the boy burst into tears. He stood up, turned around and looked at
his mother, who stood up from a bench and kissed his forehead.

• •

For much of the day and into the night, the prosecution focused on
three videotaped interviews the boy gave detectives.

The third was the
subject of an hourslong debate. The defense fought hard to have it suppressed,
saying the boy was forced to give incriminating statements.

During the
first, the boy told detectives what he told the baby’s mother: The baby began to
cry, so he tried to give her a pacifier. She spit it out, so he tried to give
her a bottle of water. She kept screaming, and was scratching her face. He
turned the radio loud, and it appeared she went to sleep.

The boy‘s story
didn’t stray far from his original account in his second interview, which he
gave the day after the baby was pronounced dead.

“If you accidentally
hurt Millan, would you tell us?” the detective asked.

“Yes,” the boy

said. “I didn’t accidentally hurt her. . . . I don’t want to hurt a
baby.”

But a couple of hours after he gave that interview ­ while
their entire family was gathered at the baby’s mother’s house ­ the boy‘s
mother, Camille Curtis, brought him back to speak with police. This time, she
was crying. She said he had told her something.

“It was just an
accident,” Curtis said. “He said he was scared. I asked him. He told me. He
thought I was going to be mad.”

Detectives asked the boy if he wanted to
talk. The boy shook his head.

While the boy continued to refuse, Curtis
spoke to police when he was out of the room. She told them the boy was in
counseling, that he had been fighting at school, that he had been prescribed

Zoloft and a mood stabilizing medicine. Then, Curtis provided a tearful account
of what he said happened.

She said he told her the baby started choking
when he tried to give her the bottle. He lifted her to his chest to burp her,
and she fell out of his hands.

The boy told the baby’s mother he was
sorry, Curtis said.

At that point in the videotape, the police told her
that this story didn’t match the injuries. The video shows her pleading with her
son to tell the police the truth, that he wouldn’t be allowed to go home until
he did.

He tells her he wiped the baby’s blood with a blanket, and that
he accidentally hit her with his elbow while trying to pick her up off the
floor.

Just before midnight on the videotape, when it appeared the boy
was about to talk, the judge stopped the tape.

“I find this to be
inherently unfair,” the judge said. “This child is so scared . . . literally in
a corner. His mother is pressuring him. How many times does the kid say he
doesn’t want to talk?”

With that, the judge struck the entire third
interview from the record. None of it will factor into the decision he will make
this week.

The trial continues today.

Alexandra Zayas can be
reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 310-2081.

[Last modified: Dec
09, 2009 11:29 PM]

________________________________________

Judge’s
Verdict: Guilty, but not of murder

Dressed in a shirt and tie, the skinny, dimpled boy stayed calm as the
judge delivered his verdict: “I find beyond a reasonable doubt that Millan
suffered major trauma during the 18 minutes the juvenile was alone with the
baby. … I find that the juvenile caused the injuries and that the baby later
died as a result of the trauma.

“Now, what do I think happened? This child was left alone with the baby.
I don’t know that should have happened, but it did …

“Millan, a child he really didn’t know, started crying, and it got louder

“He didn’t know what to do. I think he was scared. He tried using the
pacifier to make this baby stop crying. It didn’t work. What did he do
next?

“He got out the bottle of water … He gives it to the baby. The baby won’t
be quiet. Turns up the radio so he won’t have to hear this baby crying. That
didn’t work. He might have even turned it up again. Well, the pink pacifier
didn’t work. Let’s use the purple pacifier …

“This juvenile was trying to get the baby to quit crying. … He was
scared, and he didn’t know what to do. … I wouldn’t expect him to know what to
do.

“I find that in order to get the baby to be quiet, using his own means as
a 12yearold, that he committed batteries, plural, against this baby

“Did this child mean that his actions would kill Millan? No …

“Technically, I think I can find possibly if I wanted to go further, some
type of an involuntary manslaughter. In my mind, I’ve still got to place this
child with some expectation, some appreciation for the horrific damage that it
has done, and I find nothing along those lines.

“Did he do wrong? Oh yeah, he did. I wish it hadn’t happened, but it
did.”

Tampa
boy, 12, found not guilty of murder in infant‘s death

By Alexandra Zayas,
Times Staff Writer
In Print:
Saturday, December 12, 2009

MARIETTA,
Ga. — The 12yearold Tampa boy sat in the Cobb County Juvenile Courthouse
Friday morning, still an accused baby murderer. A few hours later, he chomped on
potato chips and Skittles and asked to go to the all-you-can-eat buffet at
Golden Corral. He told his family he had plans for his future.

“I want to
be a judge,” he said. “I want to go to Harvard.”

This
announcement came after one made by Judge A. Gregory Poole: The boy was not
guilty of murder and child cruelty in the July death of his 5weekold cousin,
Millan
Young. He was guilty of a lesser offense, two counts of battery, which could
carry a two-year sentence, served either in a detention center, a group home, or
as probation while living with family. The sentence will come with
counseling.

The judge
will decide it on Jan. 6.

Had the boy
been convicted of murder, he would have faced nine years in detention.

As they
prepared to leave the courthouse, the boy‘s grandmother wrapped him in a tight
hug and told him, “See how God delivered you?”

He
responded, “Yes, ma’am.”

• • •

For three
days, lawyers tried to convince a judge of what they thought happened inside a
parked car on July 4.

The boy, his
name kept secret by court order, was visiting relatives near Atlanta when he got
into a car with his mother’s 22-yearold first cousin Brittiany Young and her
infant daughter. Young stopped at Target to get food and left the car
running.

When she
returned, she testified, the boy was playing on his cell phone. The radio was
turned up. And the baby’s mouth was swollen. Her lips were blue. Her eyes were
hard to the touch. She was limp and not breathing. The baby died the following
day.

Three
doctors testified about the child’s injuries: two types of brain hemorrhages,
retinal hemorrhages, unrelated fractures on opposite sides of her head, and
bruising of the mouth and other parts of her body. Tissue on her upper lip was
bruised, something that happens when babies are force-fed.

They said
the injuries weren’t accidental but couldn’t determine who caused them. The
medical examiner called it a homicide, finding that the child must have been
held firmly, shaken and slammed at least twice against a hard, flat surface.

Crime lab
tests found no physical evidence in the car. Prosecutors had testimony that the
baby was acting normally before the mother left the car and was unresponsive
when she returned.

In closing
statements Friday, defense attorney Derek Wright tried to convince the judge
that prosecutors didn’t prove the boy was the murderer. He said he could make a
case against the baby’s mother, noting that several emergency responders said
Young was acting unusually calm when they arrived, but that the boy was sobbing
and pacing. He suggested the possibility that the baby was injured at the
mother’s home minutes away but didn’t show signs of trauma until the parking
lot.

The baby’s
mother sat in the courtroom on a bench closest to the door. She stared ahead
with tears in her eyes as Wright said she could have let her cousin take the
blame.

Prosecutor
Eleanor Odom argued that the baby’s mother didn’t appear distraught because she
didn’t yet know the extent of the baby’s injuries, but that the boy already
did.

Odom took a
blood-stained, pink onesie out of an evidence bag and showed it to the
judge.

“You can see
the size, how big Millan really was,” Odom said. “I think this speaks more words
than those pictures ever could.”

Dressed in a
shirt and tie, the skinny, dimpled boy stayed calm as the judge delivered his
verdict: “I find beyond a reasonable doubt that Millan suffered major trauma
during the 18 minutes the juvenile was alone with the baby. … I find that the
juvenile caused the injuries and that the baby later died as a result of the
trauma.

“Now, what
do I think happened? This child was left alone with the baby. I don’t know that
should have happened, but it did …

“Millan, a
child he really didn’t know, started crying, and it got louder …

“He didn’t
know what to do. I think he was scared. He tried using the pacifier to make this
baby stop crying. It didn’t work. What did he do next?

“He got out
the bottle of water … He gives it to the baby. The baby won’t be quiet. Turns up
the radio so he won’t have to hear this baby crying. That didn’t work. He might
have even turned it up again. Well, the pink pacifier didn’t work. Let’s use the
purple pacifier …

“This
juvenile was trying to get the baby to quit crying. … He was scared, and he
didn’t know what to do. … I wouldn’t expect him to know what to do.

“I find that
in order to get the baby to be quiet, using his own means as a 12yearold, that
he committed batteries, plural, against this baby …

“Did this
child mean that his actions would kill Millan? No …

“Technically, I
think I can find possibly if I wanted to go further, some type of an involuntary
manslaughter. In my mind, I’ve still got to place this child with some
expectation, some appreciation for the horrific damage that it has done, and I
find nothing along those lines.

“Did he do
wrong? Oh yeah, he did. I wish it hadn’t happened, but it did.”

Once the
judge stopped talking, the boy started to cry. His parents embraced him, also in
tears. His mother smiled.

The baby’s
mother left the courtroom after the verdict and declined to comment. The boy‘s
grandmother said the family planned to gather at Brittiany Young’s home later
that day.

The judge
needed to decide where the boy would stay until the sentencing. He was
originally locked up in a juvenile detention center, but later transferred to a
secured group home.

A
representative from the group home told the judge the boy had a tough transition
into his school and, due to the stresses of his case, sometimes shut down
emotionally. But he said the boy was a role model and standout student.

The judge
allowed him to return to the group home and said he was welcome to visit with
family. He told the boy his behavior in the next month will be important in
deciding a sentence. The boy promised to be good.

Then, the
boy‘s attorney told the family, “Y’all go breathe.”

• • •

The boy‘s
grandmother, Joyce Hightower, couldn’t sleep Thursday night. She’d driven from
Tampa earlier that day and spent the night reading news about the case and
praying.

Now, holding
her grandson’s hand, she asked him how he felt.

“Good,” he
told her. “Anxious.”

“Anxious for
what?” she asked.

He said, “To
go home.”

Alexandra
Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813)
310-2081.

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PROZAC: Soldier Stabs to Death Two Fellow Soldiers: New York

NOTE FROM Ann Blake-Tracy: Early this year we
learned that we are losing as many soldiers to suicide as we are in combat. But
before long we are going to find that we are losing far more soldiers at the
hand of their fellow soldiers than we are in combat. The numbers of cases at
this point are staggering!

Paragraph four reads:  “They also spoke of the little
they knew of their relationship with Spc. Joshua S. Hunter, 20,
Ona, W.Va., the
fellow soldier now accused
of their gruesome double murder.”

Paragraph fourteen
reads:  “Mr. Mills said soldiers who knew his nephew told him that

Spc. Hunter had been on antidepressant medication
and that his mental state had deteriorated noticeably over the past few
weeks.”

http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20091204/NEWS03/312049939

Victims’ families grappling with ‘nightmare’

By JOANNA RICHARDS
TIMES STAFF
WRITER
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2009

“It’s a nightmare,” she said. “I wish
it was a nightmare.”

Natalia Valbuena, 15, little sister of Spc. Diego A.
Valbuena, 23, one of the two Fort Drum soldiers found dead of stab wounds
Tuesday in their Evans Mills apartment, spoke Thursday by phone from her home in
Port St. Lucie, Fla. Her parents, Fernando and Guerty Valbuena, were too
distraught to speak to the press about the loss of their son, the second of four
children.

Family members of Spc. Valbuena and Spc. Waide T. James, 20,
Port St. John, Fla., spoke Thursday about the young men: their commitment to the
military, their friendship, their hopes for the future.

They also spoke
of the little they knew of their relationship with Spc. Joshua S. Hunter, 20,
Ona, W.Va., the fellow soldier now accused of their gruesome double murder.

All three men returned in the spring from a 15-month tour in Iraq with
the 10th Mountain Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion. Spc.
Valbuena and Spc. James remained in that unit, where they were motor transport
operators, according to Fort Drum spokesman Maj. Frederick C. Harrell. Spc.
Hunter had since been assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s rear detachment,
meaning he remained at Fort Drum while the brigade completed a yearlong
deployment in Afghanistan.

The 3rd Brigade’s approximately 3,500 soldiers
are in the process of returning home from a deployment that left 24 dead and
about 300 wounded from combat-related incidents. Fort Drum medical officials
said this week that they had requested and will receive 15 new mental health
care providers to add to an existing staff of 54 to help meet the needs of those
veterans.

But Spc. Hunter’s family members told the Associated Press on
Thursday that it was the Iraq warthat had changed him.

“He saw his best
friend get blown up to pieces and he tried to put him back together,” said Emily
Hunter, Spc. Hunter’s wife, in a phone interview. “He was never right after
that.”

Speaking with a reporter at her home, Judy Hunter said her son, a
military police officer, was not the same after returning from the war. He had
trouble sleeping and would stay up for days on end. He sometimes suffered
flashbacks. Though her son never talked to her about his experiences, he did
confide in his father about “the trauma he went through,” she said.

“In
my heart of hearts, I think he snapped,” Ms. Hunter said.

Spc. Hunter’s
MySpace page was disabled Thursday, but the Associated Press reported disturbing
comments posted there while it was still up: “I am angry at the world and I will
take it out on anyone,” the soldier wrote.

Michael D. Mills, Spc. James’s
uncle, said by phone Thursday that he’d heard from other soldiers that Spc.
Hunter had been staying at Spc. Valbuena and Spc. James’s Evans Mills apartment
because of problems in his marriage.

“Josh wasn’t moved in or anything,”
Mr. Mills said. “I think what was happening was Josh was having issues with his
wife and they were in the process of getting separated, and he was staying over
there for a few nights.”

Mr. Mills said soldiers who knew his nephew told
him that Spc. Hunter had been on antidepressant medication and that his mental
state had deteriorated noticeably over the past few weeks.

Mr. Mills
spoke from the Port St. John home of Karen and Charles Mills, Spc. James’s
grandparents. Spc. James lived with the Millses for three years before he joined
the Army, in March 2007. The soldier‘s uncle described him as an enthusiastic
outdoorsman. Karen Mills said her grandson loved playing with his four young
cousins, ages 6 through 11.

“They worship the ground that he walked on,”
she said. “Whenever he was here, he became one of them. If they were rolling
around on the floor, they were all rolling around on the floor … But he looked
after them. He loved them, and they loved him terribly and that’s one of the
tough things we’re dealing with now.”

Sergio Valbuena, 31, described Spc.
Valbuena, his younger brother, as “driven.” Born in Colombia, he came to the
United States in 2001 and joined the Army in August 2007 because “he felt it was
his duty to give back. … We are all proud of this country, of the
opportunities we have received,” he said.

“We were very proud of him, but
we were trying to get him not to re-enlist,” he said.

The family was
worried for his safety.

Natalia Valbuena said her brother Diego had
encouraged her to do well in school and in life, and that made her all the more
determined to persevere through his death.

She said Diego was in the
midst of a divorce from his wife, Catherine, also a soldier at Fort Drum. The

two had joined up together, and remained close friends even though the marriage
hadn’t worked out.

Catherine Valbuena was planning to return to Florida
today, Natalia said.

Spc. James’s family said he would be buried in
Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, near Orlando. Neither family knew when
the bodies of the soldiers were due home

________________________________
Paragraphs 5 through 8 read:  “Investigators found the
23-year old’s body and along with the body of 20-year old Waide James of Port
St. John in Brevard County in their apartment just outside Ft. Drum in New York.
The two failed to report for duty on base.

Police say the Army Specialists had been stabbed to death.

New York

authorities tracked their other roommate, military police officer Joshua
Hunter,
to Ohio.

“Hunter, 20, was expected to be arraigned on
second-degree murder charges Friday morning, three days after the bodies
of James and Valbuena were found in their apartment just outside Fort Drum,
a
bout 140 miles northwest of Albany. Hunter and the two victims served
in Iraq at the same time in the same battalion.”

Paragraph 11
reads:  “‘He was a gunner and he was active,’  says his father, Jim
Hunter.  ‘He said he saw some things he couldn’t get out of his mind. I
know he was seeing a therapist and taking

Prozac.”

http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2009/dec/04/slain-port-st-lucie-soldier-recalled-loving-person/

Slain Port St. Lucie soldier recalled as ‘loving person’ who put others
first

  • BY CAROLYN SCOFIELD WPTV NewsChannel 5
  • Posted December 4, 2009 at 6:18 a.m.

PORT ST. LUCIE ­ Nicole
Aviles will always remember his smile.

Diego Valbuena, a 2006 St. Lucie
West Centennial graduate, had a big grin and knew how to make his younger cousin
laugh.

“He was like the life of the party,” says Nicole Aviles. “He
always had a big grin on his face.”

There’s not a lot of laughter in the
family right now as they prepare for the funeral of the Port St. Lucie
resident.

Investigators found the 23-year old’s body and along with the
body of 20-year old Waide James of Port St. John in Brevard County in their
apartment just outside Ft. Drum in New York. The two failed to report for duty
on base.

Police say the Army Specialists had been stabbed to

death.

New York authorities tracked their other roommate, military police
officer Joshua Hunter, to Ohio.

Hunter, 20, was expected to be arraigned
on second-degree murder charges Friday morning, three days after the bodies of
James and Valbuena were found in their apartment just outside Fort Drum, about
140 miles northwest of Albany. Hunter and the two victims served in Iraq at the
same time in the same battalion.

They all were based at the wind-swept
Army post near the Canadian border, home of the much-deployed 10th Mountain
Division, and shared an off-base apartment.

Investigators have not
released a motive, but Hunter’s family says he served 15 months in Iraq and came
back scarred.

Relatives of Hunter said Thursday that he told them he saw
his best friend “blown to pieces” in Iraq and came back a changed man: abusive,
violent, sleepless, edgy and plagued by flashbacks.

“He was a gunner and
he was active,” says his father, Jim Hunter. “He said he saw some things he
couldn’t get out of his mind. I know he was seeing a therapist and taking

Prozac.”

Hunter’s wife, Emily Hunter, told The Associated Press in a
phone interview that her husband was outgoing before he went to war, but when he
returned stateside, he was an emotional wreck.

“He’d just burst into
tears; spouts of anger or sadness,” she said. “There’d be one emotion but it
would be really deep, just extremely happy or extremely sad. His emotions were
always on the rocks.”

“He’d take his rage out on the wall, or throw
something,” she said.

While he wasn’t violent toward his buddies, he was
toward her, she said, adding that she went to the hospital a couple of times for
treatment of an injured arm and thumb.

She said she moved out two weeks
ago because of his violence and is pursuing a divorce.

Valbuena also
served 15 months in Iraq. His family says he loved his country and excelled in
the Army.

He earned the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal
and Iraq Campaign Medal among other awards.

More important than the
medals was his love of family.

“A guy like him is like, one in a trillion
basically,” says Aviles. “He was just such a loving person, like he always put
others in front of himself.”

Sergio Valbuena said his brother was a good
man.

“He’s a pretty good boy, a pretty good kid,” he said. “He was loved
by everybody. He was a very good brother, a very good son.

“He was always
a problem-solver. He loved this country. That’s the reason he joined the
military.”

In September, James and Valbuena graduated from Fort Drum’s
Warrior Leaders Course, which teaches skills required to lead, train, fight and
accomplish the mission as noncommissioned officers. The two and Hunter all
listed each other as friends on their MySpace pages.

Valbuena wrote on
his MySpace page that he was born in Bogota, Colombia, and had joined the
military in August 2008.

James and Valbuena served as motor transport
operators with the Headquarters Battalion of the 10th Mountain Division,
according to Fort Drum’s public affairs office.

James arrived at Fort
Drum in July 2007, while Valbuena joined in August 2007 and came to Fort Drum in
January. Both have received awards and decorations including the Army
Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq
Campaign Medal and overseas service ribbon.

James’ grandparents, who live
in Port St. John, described him as an avid outdoorsman who loved
fishing.

James lived in Brevard County for three years before joining the
Army in March 2007. He arrived in Fort Drum in July of that year.

“He
returned from his first tour of Iraq about seven months ago,” said his
grandfather, Chuck Mills. “If he could go fishing every hour of the day, he
would. He loved four-wheeling, being out in the mud.”

Valbuena’s family
is making arrangements to hold his funeral in Port St. Lucie.

Staff
writer Eric Pfahler, Kaustuv Basu of Florida Today and The Associated Press
contributed to this report.

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DEPRESSION MED: Woman Turns Into a “Botox Bandit” Florida

Paragraph 19 reads: “In April, Tampa police reported they took Merk into protective custody for mental evaluation after she sent her ex-boyfriend a text message indicating she was suicidal. Police noted she was taking medication for depression.”

http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/article1015369.ece

Spa manager believes she is a victim of the Botox Bandit
By Justin George, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, July 3, 2009

TAMPA ­ The woman came in looking to peel off her past.

Blond hair, blue eyes, gym shorts. Like the girl next door, thought the manager of Skin NV, a med spa that opened in May.

The client said her 10-year high school reunion was around the corner and she wanted to be the envy of everyone else.

The spa obliged.

Chemical peel: $50. Laser treatment: $348. A protein-rich recovery cream: $155. Clarisonic Skin Care Brush: $195. Prescription-grade Vitamin A: $74.

Then came the bill: $851.68, not uncommon in South Tampa, where looks matter and women have the means, said Anne Nelson, Skin NV’s manager.

The client wrote a check and signed it Jaimie Merk.

Five days later, on June 15, the check bounced. It bounced again on repeat tries. Nelson has the bank paperwork to prove it.

That’s when she learned the story of the Botox Bandit.

“What kind of girl does this?” she asks now. “I just don’t understand.”

• • •

On Jaimie Merk’s Facebook page, her profile photo flashes an even, bright white smile.

She’s single, 32, and says she works as a weight-loss clinic director.

She majored in psychology at the University of North Florida.

Yoga is her new obsession, she notes on Facebook. She loves lying in the sun, hearing a baby laugh and getting facials.

She has nearly 400 friends. Some write her daily.

She doesn’t like to be called “ma’am.”

Elsewhere, a different picture of Merk appears.

Once, in a courtroom, a doctor testified that her self-esteem was so low that she resorts to stealing Botox to feel better, according to an attorney who was part of the proceedings.

In April, Tampa police reported they took Merk into protective custody for mental evaluation after she sent her ex-boyfriend a text message indicating she was suicidal. Police noted she was taking medication for depression.

People victimized by Merk do not have much sympathy.

Their names show up in lawsuits and court judgments.

• • •

In August 2007, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office asked the public for help catching the “Botox Bandit.”

A woman had shown up at Rejuva Plastic Surgery Center and Medi-Spa, received a facial and cosmetic procedures, and then disappeared leaving an $850 bill. She used an alias.

The Sheriff’s Office had a picture of the suspect ­ made possible because the plastic surgeon had taken a “before” photo.

A tip led deputies to Jaimie Merk, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials said at the time.

It was just one of several cases that landed her on probation until 2012 for several convictions of grand theft and worthless checks in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Her civil court and probation files contain claims from pet supply stores, renters and even an adoption agency saying she owes them money.

Those who have dealt with Merk wonder whether there are other victims.

• • •

Pregnant in 2004, Merk agreed to turn over her unborn child to adoptive parents through Heart of Adoptions of Tampa, according to a lawsuit the agency filed.

She told the adoption agency that she had no idea who the father was, the lawsuit stated. She said she met him at a bar.

Medical records stated that Joshua Sean Squires was the father. But Merk signed a notarized statement disputing that, the lawsuit said.

The adoptive parents and the agency paid her more than $5,000 for living expenses, attorney fees and other costs.

A few weeks later, the agency heard from Squires.

In an interview with the Times, he said he was in a weeks-­long relationship with Merk when she became pregnant.

“She knew she was pregnant with my child,” he said. “There was no one-night stand with anyone, and I was in the delivery room on Dec. 23, 2004.”

Squires, 30, now has custody of the 4½-year-old girl.

In 2006, a judge ordered Merk to pay the agency $6,113, court records show.

The agency’s executive director, Brigette Barno, said Monday that Merk has paid nothing.

• • •

In January 2008, prospective renters responded to an ad on Craigslist advertising a Seminole Heights house that belongs to Merk’s mother, according to Hillsborough property records.

Two of them, Angela Hart and Eric Younghans, wound up suing Merk in small claims court. Hart also sued Merk’s mother.

They say Jaimie Merk showed them a house and collected $1,900 from each of them.

Hart, suspicious after Merk delayed the move-in date, looked her up on Google and learned of her Botox Bandit past. She asked for her money back. In a court document, she said Merk agreed.

Younghans, meanwhile, learned from Merk that the house wouldn’t be available. Merk told him she would refund his money, he said.

Neither got a refund. Merk made excuses, they said. Sometimes she didn’t return calls.

In 2008, a judge ordered her to pay each $2,075. In Hart’s case, Merk’s mother was also held responsible, according to the final judgment.

So far, Hart, 30, has received $150, she said.

“She’s never going to learn her lesson,” Hart said of Merk. “People say people change. They don’t.”

Younghans, 56, has received $150, he said.

“She seemed very believable,” he said. “She’s very good at it.”

• • •

Merk did not respond to a voice mail message from the Times for this story. A note was left at her door seeking comment. An attorney who represented her did not call back.

“I’m not giving any comments,” said her mother, Debra Merk, who owns a $1.1 million waterfront house in Clearwater Beach. “As far as I know, what you’re saying is not true.”

• • •

In hindsight, the Skin NV manager said she felt a little wary about Merk’s June 10 check when she noticed the address in a neighborhood of rentals.

After the check bounced, she tried to call Merk. The phone numbers Merk left didn’t work.

Nelson sent her business partner to Merk’s stated address, a pink apartment building. The partner left a note.

No one called back.

Nelson contacted the Hillsborough County Victims Assistance program. A counselor helped her start the process of filing a bad check complaint. That process is now under way. No charges have been filed.

Nelson even tried to connect with Merk by inviting her to be a “friend” on Facebook.

Merk didn’t respond.

On June 25, after a Times reporter left messages for Merk, she sent an e-mail to the spa.

“I’m very sorry I did not contact you sooner,” she wrote. “I have not had a phone since you left that letter at my apartment, and I just received another letter in the mail today.

“I just want you to know that I am very sorry for this, and of course I’m going to pay for the services I received,” she wrote. “I am just not sure why you have chosen to take this further without even giving me the opportunity to rectify the situation.”

Merk said she would bring the money in this week.

Nelson told her the spa would be closed Friday.

By the end of the day Thursday, Merk hadn’t paid.

• • •

On a Facebook quiz, Merk writes that she loves the smell of flowers and wants to meet the man of her dreams.

Two things she is proud of? Her daughter and family.

Two things she is not proud of? “Let’s keep those in the closet,” she wrote.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368.

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