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Silent Night, Deadly Night

When Christmas really can be murder——and other violent crimes

WHEN SAN DIEGO–BORN KILLER Scott Peterson murdered his wife and unborn child on Christmas Eve three years ago, his was hardly an isolated case.

San Diego police records suggest the holiday season—particularly Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—is a peak time for murders, particularly those stemming from domestic violence. It’s a time of year when emotions and passions run high, and financial burdens tend to weigh on fragile psyches more than at other times.

“A lack of money, wanting to buy things, the kids are screaming and wanting this and that—all that can add up,” says San Diego Police Department spokesman Gary Hassen. “It can be a happy and joyous time for some, but for others it’s a very stressful time of the year. And the crowds—I remember being up at Disneyland right before Christmas, and there were fights on Main Street. Tempers flare, and there you are.”

Last year, the city of San Diego recorded 62 homicides, or roughly one every six days, according to SDPD’s Dave Cohen. Two, he said, occurred within 48 hours of Christmas.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on December 23, police officers responded to a North Park apartment after getting a report that a woman had been stabbed. They found Roxanne Mark, 47, suffering from a stab wound, and learned her husband had stabbed her during an argument.

Angelo Mark, 49, had plunged a kitchen knife with a 6-inch blade into his wife’s back. He was arrested at the scene and booked into county jail for assault with a deadly weapon; his wife was transported to a trauma center, but her condition worsened, and she died shortly before 11 p.m. Prosecutors said in court that Mark, who had two prior domestic violence convictions, stabbed his wife because she “wouldn’t shut up.”

Early in the afternoon of December 24, 54-year-old Brenda Bohannon asked a neighbor to call police after she allegedly discovered her 70-year-old companion, Mose McClain, unconscious on the floor of the East San Diego apartment they shared. Paramedics pronounced McClain, a retired General Motors laborer, dead at the scene. A day later, autopsy results prompted police to open a homicide investigation.

Bohannon was arrested and later charged with murder.

Elsewhere around the country, some of the grisliest murders in the annals of crime took place at Christmas. Two years ago, Louis DeBerardinis beat and stabbed his girlfriend to death on Christmas Day in the home they shared in Niskayuna, New York, and then set the house on fire. He drove to an apartment less than a mile away and fatally shot two members of his girlfriend’s family before turning the gun on himself.

In 2000, San Jose police arrested a man accused of stabbing his wife to death with a screwdriver on Christmas Day in front of the couple’s three children.

And it was on December 26, 1996, that JonBenet Ramsey’s crumpled body was found in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado. The 6-year-old beauty queen had been strangled.

The case has never been solved; police suspect Ramsey’s parents, who have repeatedly maintained their innocence.

CITY BEAT

Spin City

DEVIN WADE KNOWS 20 TRICKS. Three weeks into a job as a sign spinner, he’s pretty good at a “one-handed catch.” The 20- year-old from Ocean Beach is still working on his “helicopter,” “typewriter” and the infamous “Bruce Lee.”

What’s a sign spinner? Those people—usually young ones—who hyperkinetically tout wares or services by standing on busy street corners waving advertising signage. Actually, wavingis an understatement. Some of these kids perform.

Wade and his ilk are the consumer street division of Cirque du Soleil.

Arrow Advertising has 75 spinners working the streets of San Diego, says director of marketing Justin Brown. Arrow deploys its workforce in Southern California, Las Vegas and cities in Maryland and Virginia.

“We produce results,” says Brown.

Mary Middleton concurs. “We didn’t have a spinner one Saturday, and our traffic was half what it usually is when they’re here,” says Middleton, sales manager at the downtown Palermo condominiums.

Palermo——on a Wednesday ——is where we espied Wade. For a seven-hour shift, he makes $8 an hour. “But if I learn 90 tricks, I can make $15 an hour,” he says. “It’s not boring. I have fun all day—by entertaining. I love the honks.” He’s been tipped, given food and water, and once was handed a flower.

Willing to share the love, Wade notes that Arrow is currently hiring.

——RON DONOHO

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