TEAM KILLERS, PART TWO
In Pleasanton, California, on December 2, 1997, 22-year-old Vanessa Lei Samson was abducted while making her usual morning walk to work. A dark green minivan pulled up beside her, the door opened and she was gone.
Carlton Smith tells the story of what happened in Hunting Evil, about a male-female team of rapists who operated in the area for more than four months before they were apprehended.
The story, while unclear, appears to have begun in 1974 with another killing, that of 13-year-old Cassie Riley. She was last seen at a local grocery store. Her body was found on a bush-covered embankment along a creek, with her head pointing toward the water. Her pants were still zipped but pulled down to her ankles. Her shirt and bra were pulled up. Evidence was collected near the crime scene, but most important, investigators found sneaker prints, size 10. That would help to narrow down suspects. The autopsy revealed that Cassie had died from drowning. However, injuries to her head, neck and body showed that she had been the victim of a severe assault. There was no evidence of sexual penetration, but clearly someone had gone after her.
Eyewitnesses, including her own sister, claimed that before her disappearance, Cassie was speaking to a younger man wearing a green shirt with a patch on the sleeve. Jimmy Daveggio was named as one of the boys at the park where she had been seen, so police interviewed him on October 2, 1974. He later revealed that Cassie had once been his girlfriend, but since other boys had claimed the same thing, investigators did not consider this relevant information. In retrospect, it might have been.
Six months later on May 21, 1975, Marvin Mutch was accused of the murder. However, there was no hard evidence to convict and no shoe prints were ever presented to match the prints at the crime scene.
Carlton Smith believes that this may have been where Jimmy Deveggio, who became a violet sexual predator, got his start. He reports that Jimmy's sister recalled their mother lying to police about Jimmy's whereabouts on the day Cassie disappeared, saying that he had been home at the approximate time of Cassie's murder. Where he actually was is anyone's guess.
As a charming, blue-eyed young man, Jimmy liked women, but his volatile temper got him into trouble. Once he stole a girlfriend's mother's car. Another time, he got a young girl pregnant. He was constantly getting into fistfights. Because of his problems, he was sent to live with his natural father in Pacifica, California. But that worked out badly and he was soon back with his mother.
When he robbed a gas station, he was sentenced to a short term at the Alameda County boy's detention camp. He now called himself Jime, although he acquired another nickname, "Froggie."
Jime wasn't good at keeping himself out of trouble, and soon he was into gambling and drugs. He also committed numerous burglaries and was charged with abduction and rape, although because the victim had been intoxicated the charges were dropped.
After further incidents, Jime's parole officer decided to send him for a psychiatric evaluation. He was determined to be a sex offender and was sent to the California Medical Facility at Vacaville, but was released fairly soon. It wasn't long before he was arrested again, this time for picking up a female officer posing as a prostitute and offering her money for sex. He was also charged with disorderly conduct and fined for drinking and driving.
Jime moved to Sacramento where he became a member of the motorcycle gang known as the Devil's Horsemen. The only prerequisite was owning a Harley Davidson, so he stole one. He dyed his hair purple to match his bike and got fiercely tattooed. He soon met his next girlfriend, who was eager to join him in some sadomasochistic activities.
When high school dropout Michelle "Mickie" Michaud first met Jime, or "Froggie," she was already considered incorrigible. By age 16, she had run away from home and moved in with a drug dealer who beat her. She worked as a prostitute and was arrested in 1991 in a massage parlor. She was fined, went through several more lovers, and then encountered Froggie at a neighbor's house in 1997.
Mickie was impressed with his motorcycle, and after they got to know each other, with his protection of her. Nobody could treat her like a whore when she was with Froggie. She liked that.
Eventually he moved into her house and during the holiday months stopped her from seeing her parents. He wanted to isolate her for better control. During this time Mickie played house. She took care of her kids, rounded them up when "Daddy" came home, cooked dinner at which Froggie would say grace, and even prepared lunches to take down to the bar. It was good in the beginning, but soon nothing became good enough for Froggie. He would complain if she brought him lunch and he would complain if she didn't. He became impossible to please.
Just before Christmas, the bar where Froggie worked was robbed of the Christmas presents, and a few nights later the safe was broken into $6000 was missing. Although he was never confronted, in February Froggie was fired on grounds of fighting with customers. He took a job as a security guard.
Froggie soon started bringing girlfriends home. Mickie allowed it to keep him happy, thinking that if she gave him his space, eventually he would get tired and she would have him back.
Yet Froggie eventually became abusive. He would beat her, lock her in his room, and leave for days and not tell her where he was going. He used speed, which put them in debt. To help financially, Froggie's friend moved in and together they sold crack from the house. It wasn't long before they were in trouble.
The Sacramento police came looking for Froggie's friend on a warrant, and while apprehending him, they discovered a stash of methamphetamine and a nine-millimeter pistol. Then they learned about Froggie's status as a sex-offender. Because there were children in the house, he was ordered to move out
After another suspicious burglary, Froggie was kicked out of the gang, and that's when he developed a fascination with serial killers, especially Gerald Gallego. Just as Gerald had done with Charlene, Froggie persuaded Mickie to pick up one of his daughter's friends and lure her back to where he was staying. There Froggie raped her.
Soon, Mickie was fully involved in Froggie's scheme and they became kidnappers. A 20-year-old night student, Alicia Paredes, was walking home one evening. As she crossed the bridge, a dark green minivan came up beside her. Froggie and Mickie grabbed her so Froggie could rape her. They then dropped her off, but not before she had overheard Froggie refer to the female driver as "Mickie." She reported it and worked with a sketch artist to develop the suspects.
Froggie removed the two middle seats from the van to better accommodate his plans. He also gave instructions for Mickie to get another woman. He forced this one to perform oral sex on him while Mickie held her head, telling her what to do to "Daddy." When it was over Froggie tried to console the girl and blamed Mickie for everything. He even sent her to go get ice for the girl's mouth.
A few days later the couple was back on the road, this time accompanied by Mickie's daughter. Mickie had told her of "secret lusts" she'd had and that one of them was a desire for them to have sex. Later that night, Mickie held her daughter down and undid her pants to allow Froggie to perform oral sex on her while she called for "Mommy." When it was over the girl went to sleep in the back of the van.
On another night, they gave drugs to a girl and then hit her over the head as she was hunched over trying to snort it. She tried to fight back, but they hit her again and then handcuffed her. In a safe place, Froggie removed the handcuffs and had the girl fellate him. He commanded her to act like she enjoyed it. She remarked that she couldn't because the experience reminded her of her stepfather. This ruined Froggie's fantasy so he stopped. Mickie took over while Froggie masturbated. The couple then took pornographic pictures of her and blackmailed her with them.
Mickie wrote bad checks and was soon arrested. On November 9, 1997, she was booked into the Douglas County jail. While she was there, Froggie removed the rear bench seat from the van. Once Mickie was released, the couple hit the road again with this stripped down van. They grabbed a prostitute. When Froggie attacked her, she fought back and managed to escape.
Things were finally closing in on this couple. A few days after Mickie's release from jail, the police took a statement from the friend of Mickie's daughter whom Froggie had violated. She mentioned the gun, the rape and the van. Mickie's daughter described how her mother had bragged of their rape in Reno as well. The officer on the case soon realized that Froggie was a sex offender.
On November 21, 1997, Mickie's daughter gave police information about where Mickie and Froggie were. She also told them about other victims.
Even so, the couple remained free, and that was bad news for their next victims.
While checked into a motel in Sacramento, Froggie raped his younger daughter while Mickie waited in the bathroom. Then he performed oral sex on her while he penetrated her with his finger. He went on like this for an hour and then called Mickie to come out of the bathroom and join them. When they were finished, they lay on the bed in the hotel room and Froggie said that he wanted to torture someone. His daughter declined to be his victim. That meant he had to find someone else, so he sent Mickie out to get a flashlight, a man's shirt and two curling irons.
A few days later, the couple circled the Pleasanton, California, area while Froggie fantasized about the girls he saw walking by. They stopped into a sex store and purchased a gagging device and video titled "Submissive Young Girls."
On December 1, FBI agents met with Alicia, the first rape victim who had seen them and overheard the female's name, and showed pictures of Froggie and Mickie. She was unable to identify them. She even went so far as to identify someone else as her attacker.
The next day, the police issued a warrant for the arrest of James Daveggio and Michelle Michaud.
Froggie continued to obsess about torturing and killing someone. One morning while driving around, he ordered Mickie to turn around, go back and pick up the "the one with the pretty black hair." A few minutes later, they grabbed Vanessa, the woman they would kill. Froggie had rigged the floor of the van by putting ropes through brackets so he could tie up his victim. He placed his new gag on her as well. Then while assuring her about what a good sex slave she was going to be, he sexually assaulted her.
Then Froggie took over the driving while Mickie went into the back. She noticed that one of the curling irons appeared to have blood and feces on it. Froggie got them all to a hotel, where they both assaulted the victim again. Then they got back into the van, where Froggie strangled Vanessa with a rope while he raped her, saying, "There, now we're bonded forever."
They dumped the body over an embankment and drove away.
Mickie had a court date the following morning, and the FBI had contacted her mother, who gave her up. The agents tracked down Froggie and Mickie to a motel and made the arrest, on charges of kidnapping and assault. At this time, no one knew that Vanessa Lei Samson had been murdered.
When Mickie was searched, officers found a nylon rope in her pocket. As they were doing this, the van was being searched as well. They discovered a receipt from a Pleasanton motel for November 30 through December 2. They did not yet know its significance, but soon would.
On December 4, Vanessa's body was discovered partially frozen by the road. It had a ligature mark around the neck. Her backpack was also retrieved, which helped with identification. It was clear that before she had died, she'd been assaulted over a period of timelater discovered to have been about 35 hours.
From the Douglas County jail, Mickie saw a news broadcast reporting that a woman's body had been found off the side of Highway 88. She confided in a friend she had made in jail, who turned her in to the authorities.
Froggie and Mickie were now suspects in a murder.
Mickie eventually waived her rights and talked to police. She discussed Vanessa and Alicia, but she often trailed off in a distracted way. She went on to say that the gag device should still have Vanessa's saliva on it because she had never wiped it off. She also told them about the bloody curling iron.
Eventually Mickie was transferred to federal custody and assigned an attorney. Part of her testimony was brought into Froggie's trial. Mickie pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and was sentenced to 12 years, while Froggie got 22 for the same crimes. Mickie eventually appealed.
They were both delivered to the authorities in Alameda County, where a grand jury indicted them for kidnapping and murder of Vanessa. They were ultimately convicted, and on September 25, 2002, five long years after the murder, Froggie and Mickie were sentenced to die. No arguments from their respective attorneys could soften the obvious depravity of their acts. They had tortured a woman for an extended period of time, and that was something that nobody could understand.
Even if a woman could claim that she participated in brutal acts out of fear of a man, it's beyond comprehension why she would not go to the authorities. Some say that the pressure for women to have men in their lives works even with such couplesbetter to have a killer than no man at all. Yet some women are just as strong, if not stronger, than the male member of the couple. It defies all reason why they think that being part of a killing couple is exciting, even erotic. The fantasy generally does not have the same force of compulsion that it would for a male, and yet certain females do develop an aggressive side that inspires them to act out. They may like that a male leads the dance, or they may initiate the action themselves. In any event, it's clear that being part of such a team does present a certain amount of positive reward for the female. It's just as clear that more research should be done on this dynamic.