“Alibi” used to mean some sort of evidence that proved a person was elsewhere when a criminal act had taken place. However, thanks mostly to police shows, the term has become so prevalent that both the Oxford and Cambridge Dictionary consider it, informally, an excuse for something bad. That prevalence has made most criminals think they always need to have an alibi at the ready. In some cases, they were better off keeping their mouths shut.
Photo credit: AP
July 2010, US Army Reserve sergeant Rashad Valmont walked into the Fort Gillem office of his supervisor, Master Sergeant Pedro Mercado, and shot him six times. He then went looking for another superior, Sergeant Tracy Mosley, who fled when she heard the shots. When he couldn’t find her, Valmont got in his car, drove to a nearby police station, and turned himself in. He was facing a premeditated murder charge, but during his trial, his lawyer, William Cassara, presented an odd reason for Valmont shooting his supervisor six times: his diet.
According to Cassara, Valmont had been on a crash diet over the last few weeks and was suffering from diminished capacity. Furthermore, he claimed that Sgt. Mosley told Valmont to lose additional weight over the required minimum in order to be eligible for a course that the Reserve sergeant wanted to attend. According to his attorney, all of this effort left Valmont “dehydrated, exhausted and delirious.”
The prosecution painted a different picture. They said Valmont was a lazy soldier who had received several poor reviews in the past. The weight loss was necessary for him to meet standard military requirements, and Valmont finally snapped when Mercado denied him a vacation request. The jury didn’t buy the dieting defense, and Valmont was sentenced to life without parole.
One night in May 2011 at the Timber Ridge Campground in Brownhelm Township, Ohio, a 20-year-old man named Thomas Stroup drank a lot of vodka and started getting into fights with other people. By the time deputies arrived, Stroup had left, but they didn’t have to go far to find him. They found him passed out in his trailer, surrounded by swords, knives, and other bladed weapons.
The deputies woke Stroup up and placed him under arrest when the man started to growl at them. When he did attempt to speak, Stroup could only muster a few slurred words in a fake Russian accent.
After the man sobered up a bit, he calmly explained the reason for his late-night violent outbursts: He was a werewolf. He was scratched by a wolf on a trip to Germany, and he would now turn into a monster and “[go] on the attack when the moon’s out.” As a strange sidenote, Stroup also warned one of the arresting deputies that he was going to kill the deputy’s cousin, Keith, even though the deputy had no cousin by that name.
Police checked Stroup’s passport and confirmed that he had indeed traveled to Germany. That was the only part of the story they believed.
On the night of January 16, 1997, Phoenix, Arizona, resident Scott Falater stabbed his wife Yarmila 44 times. He was quickly charged with murder and made no attempt to deny his actions, but Falater claimed that he had been sleepwalking throughout the entire ordeal.
According to Falater, during his somnambulistic state, he believed he was repairing the pool, except that he was really using a hunting knife instead of a screwdriver. When his wife approached to check up on him, she startled Falater, who began stabbing her.
This story alone didn’t sound so far-fetched. Sleepwalkers can have violent outbursts if startled, and people had been acquitted using the homicidal sleepwalking defense in the past. However, prosecutors pointed out that after killing Yarmila, Falater proceeded to take off his bloody clothes and boots and stash them in a plastic container along with the murder weapon. He then hid them inside the tire well of his car. These actions were too complex and too specific for a sleepwalker and indicated premeditation. Judge and jury agreed, and Falater was sentenced to life in prison.
In accordance with Swedish laws, the following 28-year-old criminal has remained unnamed, although he was referred to by the media as the “llama-man.” This is because on a previous occasion, he began accosting strangers in the city of Gavle and spitting on their faces like a llama.
The llama-man faced charges of harassment after sending rude comments and death threats via text to two sisters. During his trial in 2012, it was revealed that he’d had a violent outburst in a hospital and was responsible for assaulting two guards.
When the llama-man was acting wildly, hospital staff attempted to sedate him. This only enraged the man, who attempted to make a break for it. In the process, he tried to strangle one guard and dislocated the leg of another. His reason for his actions: a nutmeg-induced frenzy. Nutmeg contains myristicin, a psychoactive drug which the llama-man blamed for his rage. He was eventually sentenced for a multitude of charges.
At first glance, Rebecca Bargy’s explanation for her husband’s death in 2008 seemed plausible. They were just a couple of consenting adults who liked to engage in bondage, which resulted in James Bargy’s accidental asphyxiation. According to her version of the story, Rebecca first gagged her husband, taped over his mouth and eyes, and then wrapped a bandage over his head. Afterward, she tied his arms and legs behind his back. Rebecca claimed this was something the couple did regularly and that James consented to all of this.
This was believable. Detectives, however, found it harder to believe the events that followed. After her husband had been gagged and immobilized, Rebecca left home for 20 hours. Moreover, police suspected she left so that she could meet another man in a local motel. By the time she came back, James Bargy had died of suffocation.
Police charged Rebecca with reckless homicide with the possibility of upgrading it to murder if they found evidence that the act was premeditated. However, the lesser charge stuck, and a judge sentenced her to 18 months in jail for negligent homicide.
5 The Matrix
In 2000, 27-year-old San Francisco State University student Vadim Mieseges confessed to a grisly crime. He had killed, skinned, and chopped up his 47-year-old landlady, Ella Wong, and scattered her body parts across town.
Mieseges made the grim confession after being picked up by mall security guards for wandering around with a knife. Given the amount of meth the Swiss student had on him, police believed the murder to be a drug-induced killing. However, Mieseges had a more novel explanation: He was afraid of getting sucked into “the Matrix.”
According to the eponymous hit movie, this world is just a simulation, an idea that played well into Mieseges’s paranoid personality. He had already been institutionalized in his native Switzerland. It was this delusion compounded by his crystal meth addiction that finally pushed Mieseges over the edge and led to him attacking his landlady for emitting “evil vibes.”
The strategy worked, sort of. Mieseges was declared insane and institutionalized. Two years later, Tonda Lynn Ansley used a similar excuse after shooting her landlady in the head. Ansley believed she was already in the Matrix, and therefore, her actions had no real consequences. She was also declared unfit to stand trial.
Compared to other entries on this list, 26-year-old Richard Relliford’s crimes seem small-time. However, the sheer audacity of the alibi he provided in his defense prompted the St. Mary’s Police Department in Georgia to make an incredulous Facebook post mocking his brazenness.
In 2015, Relliford was pulled over by police during a traffic stop. Officers then found a sandwich bag in his car with 455 grams (1 lb) of marijuana. Instead of simply admitting to his deed, Relliford actually tried to convince trained law enforcement officials that the green, leafy stuff was a salad he had just purchased from the store.
It’s hard to say whether Relliford was trying to trick police into thinking the marijuana was actually salad or if he was suggesting that the salesman gave him cannabis instead of his desired salad greens. Either way, cops didn’t buy it, and Relliford was convicted and sent to jail for drug possession.
Romantic movies can often be unrealistic. They tend to show us that persistence always pays off and that nothing solves relationship troubles faster than over-the-top, crazy gestures that would carry significant consequences in the real world. One man used this exact argument as his defense against two stalking charges in Australia in 2015.
Sandesh Baliga, a 32-year-old security guard originally from India, was accused of stalking one woman in 2012 for 18 months and another one in 2013 for four months. Even after they told him to leave them alone, Baliga kept calling and texting them, even approaching them in public and repeatedly referring to the women as his “girlfriends.”
Baliga’s lawyer asserted that the security guard’s doggedness came courtesy of Bollywood movies, which taught men that going after a woman over and over again will eventually make her say “yes.” He also claimed that Baliga’s behavior was “quite normal” for Indians. The judge agreed, to an extent. He let Baliga go, on the condition that he behave himself for the next five years.
In 2015, Pamela Downs was arrested for paying at a store with a counterfeit $ 5 bill. Both the clerk and the police officer on-scene immediately spotted the bill as fake. It was clearly printed on normal paper using a regular printer, and the two sides were glued together poorly. When the cop searched Downs’s handbag, he found another fake $ 100 bill, which wasn’t even printed using green ink.
The woman never denied printing the counterfeit bills. When she found herself under arrest, Downs replied, “I don’t give a s—t, all these other b—ches get to print money, so I can too.” Later on, when Downs was asked to elaborate on what she was talking about, she said that President Obama passed a new law which allowed people on a fixed income to print their own money.
After police found a Walmart receipt for a new printer and copy paper in her bag, they realized Downs was serious. They searched her apartment and found up to $ 50,000 in counterfeit money. The “law” Downs was referring to came from an article from satirical publication The Skunk. According to the piece, Obama’s plan for the economy was to distribute a printing press to every American so that they could print US currency in their own home. Downs was charged with counterfeiting and criminal simulation.
1 Evil Twin
There have been more than a few people who’ve tried the “evil twin” defense in order to get away with various dirty deeds. The reasoning is that police and prosecution have to determine exactly which twin was responsible for the crime, as they cannot send the innocent twin to prison. Unless they can establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge has to declare both men innocent.
In reality, though, the strategy rarely works because the innocent twin often has an alibi. In 2013, Colorado war hero Aaron Lucas was charged with sex crimes against minors and tried to blame his brother, Brian. Pennsylvania robber Steven Felton also attempted to pass the blame for ten heists to his “evil twin.” Neither strategy worked, and the men received 20 and 60 years of jail time, respectively.
Interestingly enough, the tactic worked in a 2009 drug trafficking case in Malaysia. Either Sathis or Sabarish Raj was caught transporting 166 kilograms (364 lb) of cannabis and 1.7 kg (3.7 lb) of opium. A conviction meant mandatory execution. Fortunately for the brothers, police didn’t know they were dealing with twins and failed to note which Raj drove the car and entered the house where the drugs were stashed. During the trial, each brother blamed the other one. The judge acknowledged that one of the twins was undoubtedly guilty, but it was impossible to determine which one. Both brothers walked away free.