American teenage girl charged with murder of her mother

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

CRAIG, Alaska – Rachelle Waterman, (aka Rachelle Ann Monica Waterman and "smchyrocky"), a 16-year-old girl from Craig, Alaska, USA, has been charged with the first degree murder of her mother.

The case has rapidly received a wide following on the Internet, partly because Waterman kept a public record of her thoughts and activities on LiveJournal, a popular blogging service. The last entry, which has since been removed from public view, was posted on November 18, 2004 and read:

Just to let everyone know, my mother was murdered.

I won't have computer acess [sic] until the weekend or so because the police took my computer to go through the hard drive. I thank everyone for their thoughts and e-mails, I hope to talk to you when I get my computer back.

A diverse group of users, both friends and strangers, have posted over 5,000 comments on the journal, positive and negative, transforming the case into an Internet phenomenon. Every entry since March 2004 has apparently now been deleted or hidden, but a ZIP archive of the entire weblog, from before the entries were deleted, is available on Deadly Blogging.

Waterman was a tenth-grade honor (A-average) student in her second year at Craig High School. She was also a member of the Academic Decathlon team (ACDC) and sang in the choir, a profile that has left many people questioning her involvement in the killing and asking what motive there might be. At the time police say the killing occurred, Rachelle Waterman was apparently playing in a volleyball tournament in Anchorage, Alaska.

Apart from the online diary Rachelle kept, the case is also unusual because matricide committed by female minors is extremely rare.

Family background

The Waterman family is a locally prominent, middle-upper class family. Born on August 26, 1988, Rachelle showed an interest in acting, computers, movies and music, and was an honor roll student, involved in many extra-curricular activities, including choir, volleyball, and the decathlon team - advancing to upper levels and winning prizes in almost every endeavor. Her mother, Lauri, was a teachers' aide and served on the board of the Little League and the town library. Rachelle Waterman's 60-year-old father, Carl "Doc" Waterman, is a real estate agent and serves as president of the Craig School Board. Rachelle's older brother, Geoffrey, lives out of town and is a student at Tacoma College.

The case

Waterman and her alleged accomplices, Jason Arrant and Brian Radel, both 24 years old, are accused of murdering and conspiring to murder Waterman's 48-year-old mother, Lauri Waterman.

Reportedly, Arrant dropped Radel off near the Waterman home shortly after 12:00 a.m. Sunday, November 13, 2004 (local time) where Radel proceeded to kidnap Lauri Waterman, force her into a minivan owned by the Waterman family, and kill her with a blunt object.

Arrant and Radel then allegedly met at Forest Service Road 3012 at about 2:30 a.m., and Arrant followed Radel to its dead end, where Radel had driven the Waterman's van.

Arrant then allegedly watched as Radel doused the body and van with gasoline and then used a roll of paper towels to set it on fire, in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

Police investigation

Alaska State Police Lt. Rodney Dial has stated that a hunter discovered Lauri Waterman's body and her burnt-out van, while driving on Forest Service Road 3012, a remote logging road, early in the afternoon of Sunday November 142004.

On Saturday, November 202004, Alaska State Police Trooper Robert Claus stated:

During ... interviews all three made admissions as to their involvement in the murder. Physical evidence recovered at the various crime scenes corroborated many of the defendants' statements ... Radel, Arrant and Waterman have been charged with murder in the first degree. Due to the severity of the charges, Waterman has been waived into adult court. Additional charges of solicitation, conspiracy, tampering with physical evidence and other charges are pending. Arrant and Waterman will be arraigned in the District Court in Craig this morning.

Arraignment

On Saturday, November 20, 2004, Rachelle appeared in Craig District Court, dressed in an orange CCJF jumpsuit, for arraignment on the charges. Waterman and her alleged co-conspirators, Jason Arrant, and Brian Radel, faced a 10-count indictment, listing 26 felonies.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that, "the complaint against Rachelle Waterman relied on statements by all three co-defendants. The complaint says the girl told one of the suspects when she and her father would be out of town."

A report in The Ketchikan Daily News stated that, "The first seven counts of the indictment allege that all three defendants committed the crimes of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder; first-degree murder; second-degree murder; kidnapping; first-degree burglary; first-degree vehicle theft and tampering with physical evidence." Other charges were made against Arrant and Radel. The same report went on to state, "Trooper Robert Claus, Klawock resident Jan Bush and Deputy State Medical Examiner Susan Klingler testified before the grand jury."

Magistrate Kay Clark presided over the arraignment and set bail at $150,000. Clark also appointed a public defender to represent Rachelle, who was sent to the Juneau Department of Corrections facility.

The trial

Judge Patricia Collins, of the Juneau Superior Court, has been assigned to run the trial for the case. Judge Collins originally set a date of February 3, 2005 for the trial, but, at an arraignment that week, the trial was rescheduled for August 22. According to court officials, another postponement is likely.

Rachelle Waterman's court-appointed attorney for the trial is Assistant Public Advocate Steven Wells. Assistant District Attorney Daniel Schally is assigned to prosecute the case.

Alleged motive

No motive for the crime has been suggested. Readers are closely scrutinizing Rachelle's online journal for clues.

As early as February 24th of 2004, she posted the following:

"Don't you hate it when the little pieces of shit pile up to the point you're at the breaking point, and you want to scream and cry at the same time. I don't know weather to kill somebody, myself, or just curl up into a fetal[sic] position under my covers and lay there for a couple of days. Either way . . . I'm not good . . . "

Numerous readers have pointed to Rachelle's negative comments concerning her mother's wishes to send her to a "fat farm" to lose weight.

"My mom finally gave me back the right to eat but wants to send me to fat camp this summer. I think it's rather hallarious[sic]. I mean, I agree I'm chunky but if she sends me off I"ll be the skinny girl and get sat apon[sic]. That part wouldn't be funny, but overall it's quite amusing. Silly mother," (verbatim spelling).

In another incident, her mother grounded her (restricted her to home) for receiving an 89% score on a test. Rachelle posted these comments to her journal in response to this situation (verbatim spelling):

"well I'm grounded, last ngiht[sic] my mom went psycho bitch on me and cast me out. So I went to crash at someone's house then she freaked [out], wanted me home incase[sic] I told someone. Wee for loving parental units"
"I even got to fly...down the stairs...."

Other readers have pointed to the title of Rachelle's journal, "My Crappy Life (The Inside Look of an Insane Person)", and her negative description of her hometown as "Hell, Alaska, United States":

"I live in the suckiest[sic] place on earth, a shit hole in alaska[sic]."

Rachelle posted the following poem to her journal on August 24, 2004, with an indication that she was depressed:

they hold the key to my chamber
locked within it's depths.
never to see the sunlight,
and contemplating death.
starving more than one way
soul and body combine,
the pain curses through
sending chills up the spine.
will I live to see the stars?
the sunrise once more?
or will I wither and rot
my heart gone forevermore

She also had a strong desire not to be at home:

"I just want a job, keep me occupied and not at home"

and even posted an "Ode to Suicide" under the following post:

"Ever feel completely alone? All the people who you care about and you thought cared about you just leave and you're....just alone...nobody to connect with, nobody to comfort you when you find out you might die, nobody...nothing...."
Ode to Suicide
Pain consumes my body,
eating away like lye.
Tearing at my flesh,
no more tears left to cry.
Nobody loves me,
nobody cares.
Why continue on?
I want out of these snares.
Relief and release,
is what you bring to me.
No more matters to cry for,
I can finally be free.
"wow I suck amazingly at poetry"

Finally, the weekend before Rachelle left on a trip, during which time her mother was allegedly killed, she noted in her second-to-last entry, "I had a migraine from about 9am-6pm".

Incarceration

Rachelle Waterman is currently incarcerated at the Lemon Creek correctional facility, in Alaska. She signed an agreement to be placed into the general population. Corrections Deputy Commissioner Portia Parker indicated that Waterman "is an adult in the eyes of the law."

Alaska law places persons charged with first-degree murder at the age of 16 or older in the adult court system, and most of the records concerning this case are open to the public for inspection.

Aftermath

One of the last entries in Rachelle's journal wonders whether anyone is reading her comments (verbatim spelling):

"Well not a lot has happened lately I jsut thought I should let people know I"m still alive, not like too many people care cus I'm not even sure if anyone reads these from me anymore."

Although Waterman has not yet been convicted, sociologists and forensic psychologists are beginning to study her journal and the circumstances of her writing it. (The police have seized her computer and are examining the contents of its hard drive for evidence.)

LiveJournal has subsequently restricted the viewing of her journal.

When interviewed by Alaskan television station KTUU about the nature of online journals, (in late November, 2004) forensic psychologist Susan LaGrande commented that "[i]t's such an anonymous vehicle that you can be whoever or say whatever you want. You don't have all the responsibilities that are inherent in a face-to-face real, legitimate relationship.

This same report pointed out that Rachelle Waterman had mentioned suicide in her online journal.

Juvenile crime

Criminologist Susan Magestro was interviewed by KTUU on the subject of juvenile crime, in late November, 2004, after Waterman became the second teenager within two months to be accused of murdering her own parent. She stated that "I think that we're starting to see more violence with kids who are younger, and the behaviors that they're exhibiting are more aggressive and more violent." Magestro also opined that "we've got a lot more fetal alcohol and drug children who are growing up, and they don't understand the consequences of some of their actions." (There is no indication that Waterman was a so-called "fetal alcohol" or "drug" child.)

KTUU reported that Magestro "...blames violent movies, TV shows and videogames for desensitizing young people, making them unable to understand the consequences -- or even the reality -- of their actions."

Although Waterman has been waived into the adult justice system due to the nature of the crime, the Governor of Alaska, Frank Murkowski, has proposed increasing the number of personnel assigned to the juvenile justice system.

See also

References

Rachelle Waterman on LiveJournal

Police report on the case

Press reports about the case

Press reports which mention the case within a larger context

Scholastic Accomplishments

External links

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