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Abduction the minivan mu.., p.5
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       ABDUCTION: The Minivan Murders: Killer Couple Michelle Michaud and James Daveggio, p.5

           R. J. Parker
 
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  He reminisced about his sister right from her childhood days, remembering the times he used to pay her to wrap Christmas presents. Vincent Samson also recalled the beautiful and responsible adult she had grown up to be, caring for everyone and never backing out of a commitment. All of Vanessa Samson’s family and friends jam-packed the courtroom while the trial lasted, and they always showed up wearing purple ribbons to commemorate Vanessa Samson’s memory as it was her favorite color.

  Vincent Samson also questioned Daveggio, stating that what could he possibly say to a person who ‘raped, molested and killed’ his younger sister. He referred to him as a ‘demon’ who had committed ‘vile’ acts against innocent children.

  The brother of Vanessa Samson was not the only man referring to the monsters as vicious and vile in open court. Alameda County Superior Judge Larry Goodman, who handed out the death penalty sentence, also referred to the incident of Vanessa Samson’s murder and brutal torture as ‘cruel, senseless, vicious, and depraved.’ He stated that the death penalty was indeed appropriate for the heinous crimes for which they were responsible.

  On the day of the sentencing, the dark and morbid tale of the slaying and torture was narrated by the jurors one last time. Just before the proceedings began, Vincent Samson expressed his confidence that ‘justice was going to be served.’

  While recounting the details of the murder, Alameda County Senior Deputy District Attorney Angela Backers stated that the duo had ‘promised’ Samson that they were going to let her go just like the victims prior to her. However, after driving around the area, they decided upon a murder site and eventually strangled her with a six-foot-long nylon rope.

  The District Attorney told the jury, comprised of five men and seven women, that Vanessa Samson's murder capped the couple’s six-victim spree that had spanned over a couple of months. They had subjected young innocent girls to abuse and sexual assault, not even leaving their own daughters unharmed. Backers presented the discovered evidence in court that included the pornographic video from the adult shop, a book about serial killers entitled ‘The Dead of Night,’ bloodied curling irons with Michaud’s fingerprints on the duct tape, and a pack of serial killer cards. She stated that the couple was mostly inspired by the Gallegos with the cards featuring both Gerald and Charlene prominently.

  Their rape and abuse of victims followed a similar pattern to the notorious criminal serial killing and rapist couples of the 1980s. Backers further said that the couple had probably upped the stakes and progressed to murder as they also aspired to have their pictures immortalized in serial killer cards, just like the Gallegos.

  The initial arrest was made in the case of Juanita Rodriguez’s assault in Reno, where Michaud pleaded guilty and was sentenced to fifteen years, while Daveggio was handed a twenty-five-year sentence.

  The District Attorney added murder to the charges, thereby convincing the jury to recommend a death penalty.

  Michaud initially contested the terms of her sentence, but the court dismissed all such objections and proceeded as scheduled. The forty-three-year-old and her lover were being investigated jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Placer County Sheriff's Department for assault and kidnapping. The police officials tracked them down to a motel in Stateline, Nevada, and isolated the two, arresting them on the premises.

  In a twist of irony, the Sheriff's Department had secured the arrest warrant on the very day Vanessa Samson was abducted and murdered, December 2, 1997. When Special Agent Ferrin ordered his team to secure the area and lock the place down, he strategically planned the arrest. Michaud claimed in her appeal that her arrest had been on unlawful grounds and hence she was challenging her conviction.

  One of the agents in the team was sent up to Michaud’s room, claiming to be the hotel manager and asking her to come outside as her boyfriend needed assistance. This was a way to bring Michelle Michaud out and arrest her. In reality, James Daveggio had already been found at the slots and taken into police custody. Soon after, his partner also met the same fate. Once Michaud was surrounded by the law enforcement officials, she was quietly apprehended and taken into another hotel room where the agent cuffed her to the chair.

  Special Agent Ferrin got Michaud to sign consent forms for searching their vehicle and read out the Miranda rights to her. She waived them and was sent into an interview room where FBI agents and Place County Detectives were waiting to question her. However, once in the room, she asked for the bathroom, immediately halting the interview. Michaud was booked into the Douglas County jail in Nevada on counts of possession and hardcore usage of controlled substances. Meanwhile the police searched inside the Dodge Caravan and came up with more evidence of suspicious activity.

  Based on that, a warrant was issued for Michelle Michaud on charges of aiding, abetting and kidnapping. Just a day after the discovery of Vanessa Samson’s body, Michaud saw a police report which implied that, upon investigating, the authorities had been able to narrow down the suspected murderers. After seeing that, Michaud was in the cell with Teresa Agoroastos, her mate, and became increasingly disturbed that she was going to be in so much ‘trouble.’

  The cellmate contacted Deputy Douglas Conrad and asked him to come over and talk to Michaud. He ordered the women to come to the front of their dorm, after which Teresa Agoroastos revealed that Michaud had information regarding a murder. While the distraught woman remained silent and neither confirmed nor denied her mate’s statement, Conrad took the matter further and informed his supervisor, Sergeant Arnie Digerud. Upon his instructions, Conrad took Michaud into a holding cell and waited for Sergeant Timothy Minister and FBI Agent Christopher Campion to interview the woman.

  Agent Campion turned on the recorder and asked Michaud if she was aware of what was happening. He questioned whether she really did want to talk to him about a murder which had been bothering her and whether she would like to have an attorney present. After hearing her Miranda rights, she again waived them and submitted to further questioning. The interview lasted around nine to ten hours. Campion returned with Placer County Detective Desiree Carrington who had pursued the case relentlessly and made the arrest in her jurisdiction. After two more days of interviewing, Michaud was handed over to federal custody and prosecuted accordingly.

  She was charged with kidnapping and transportation of the victims across state lines into Reno. Michaud raised objections to her conviction, but the appeal was rejected by the courts and her sentence was upheld.

  Once again, she argued that her arrest had been unlawful due to incriminating circumstances. She stated in her appeal that the agents who had asked her to open the door of her hotel room violated her Fourth Amendment Rights. Her argument also covered the investigation in the Placer County jail. She said that her distressed state of mind blurred out any objectivity and she may have made the wrong statements.

  The court rejected all of her arguments and stated that the ruse employed by the police to get her to come outside was justified as an arrest warrant had already been issued. While as far as those statements were concerned, the details were not clear and led to a murder investigation, at that point the circumstances had changed.

  Both Michaud and Daveggio were separately arrested and taken into custody individually. As the court proceedings began, the twosome did not cross paths again. Michaud’s testimony was used in Daveggio’s trial but, other than that, it was the end for the murderous demons.

  The investigating officials were unable to comprehend how two twisted individuals had managed to evade the authorities for so long. Their spree was heavily influenced by drugs, lust and an out-of-control rage on the part of Daveggio. It was by pure luck that they escaped arrest and managed to claim several victims in their wake.

  Authorities across Nevada and California had been on the lookout for a couple in a green minivan but, despite numerous attempts, had failed to capture them. Ultimately, their arrest came after the murder of Vanessa Samson who had to give up her life for the couple to
end their reign of terror. As the court proceedings revealed, the meeting of these two evolved into something very dangerous.

  Michaud was a high-level prostitute, while Daveggio was a recognized sex offender who also worked with a gang. There was nothing good that could come out of their union. Nobody really knew what attracted them to each other. Michaud, from an early age, was the kind of individual who defied all social norms and went after what she wanted. The confident redhead was the kind of woman who was rarely turned down.

  After getting together with Daveggio, she realized that he was highly unstable and she would not hold his interest for long unless she gave in to the abuse and his outrageous demands. Soon enough, she became the torturous, murdering woman who was handed down a death penalty. It was as if every moral fiber in her was compromised by the overwhelming desire to keep her partner pleased. It progressed to a stage where she initiated and actively participated in the abuse.

  Psychologists believed that Michaud definitely liked assaulting and raping the innocent victims. The sexual motivation is actually a huge factor which kept the couple going from one place to another, scouting for victims and then subjecting them to physical and mental trauma.

  James Daveggio, on the other hand, was a sociopathic disturbed individual since a young age. His past girlfriends and wives claimed that their loved ones had warned them about Daveggio’s volatile temperament. Throughout adulthood, Daveggio had been involved in various incidents which indicated that a life of crime awaited him farther down the road. Despite receiving several warnings from the police officers, Daveggio did little to find an alternate path. He was absolutely convinced that darkness was his destiny and nothing could change that.

  His firing from the job and removal from the gang, The Devil’s Horsemen, gave him plenty of time to obsess over the twisted sexual perversions he carried around. He brought Michaud in as a partner on his journey of crime, convincing her that they could become the next Gerald and Charlene Gallego.

  Regardless of their background and life experiences, nothing could justify the offenses for which they were proved responsible. Their respective attorneys may have argued for a lighter sentence and tried to defend the criminals, but it was evident that the only suitable justice would be capital punishment. When a witness brought in by Michaud’s attorneys claimed that she had been abused and traumatized as a young girl, the state argued that this couldn’t possibly be true as her father had been a military man with a strong character. Michaud had moved with her family like every other family in the forces from one place to another, settling down in a middle class neighborhood in California.

  It was alleged that, despite gaining stability in her family life, she was getting restless. Michaud wanted to keep moving and, in order to do so, she made the decision to quit high school. The teenager then somehow forayed into prostitution. It was presumed that as a young girl with striking good looks, Michaud was aware of the effect she had on men. She also believed herself to be of a higher intelligence and astute observation, which is why her outlook on everyone around her was dismissive. According to Michaud, she did not want to be around such ‘immature’ people.

  Psychologists and analysts examined the relationship between Daveggio and Michaud very closely. Once all the case facts and victims' testimonies came to light, it started to become clear that, whilst starting out, Daveggio was the one calling the shots, his partner quickly took over.

  The notorious couple was compared constantly to Gerald and Charlene Gallego, who had even subjugated their victims into being ‘sex slaves.’ It was Charlene who was responsible for choosing the victims and luring them over to the van where Gerald Gallego would be waiting with a weapon. However, that remained the only common aspect between the two serial raping pairs.

  After the Gallegos were caught, the case evidence which was presented implied that Charlene was not an active participant in either raping or assaulting the victims. In this case, there was Michelle Michaud who didn't back away from torturing or holding the victims down in all of the rapes, abductions, and then murder as well. There were instances when she chose the victims, lured them over and assaulted them subsequently. The authorities noted that this was a one-of-a-kind case where the female in a serial killer relationship was as much responsible for the abuse as her male counterpart.

  Analysts concluded that, considering her personality from the beginning, it was no surprise that Michelle Michaud turned out to be the ruthless killer that she was. Since she was a teenager, Michaud had become heavily dependent on hardcore drugs, including methamphetamines, and was often under their influence. Her experience with various men had taught the woman how to hold her own. Unlike her partner at the time, Michaud managed to keep the inner turmoil subdued for as long as she could. Her outward appearance did not from any angle give away her profession or hint toward the instability she harbored.

  When she and James Anthony Daveggio became romantically involved, they seemed like an odd pairing. While in the beginning, Daveggio might have been the ‘bad’ influence in her life, at the end, it was clear that Michaud had been enabling her own dark side all along. She dominated the relationship, taking over the acts of torture and making moves that previously were unheard of by a female perpetrator.

  It also became evident that she had no remorse for any of her crimes. During the court proceedings, James Daveggio was asked by Vincent Samson, the victim’s brother, if he had felt any guilt or remorse over his act. The grieving brother questioned Daveggio about the murder and whether he felt apologetic for the committed crimes. Vincent Samson did the same thing during Michaud’s hearing.

  The court allowed James Anthony Daveggio to respond to Vincent Samson just before he was to be sentenced. The forty-one-year-old, who was wearing the bright red jail attire, turned and faced the family of his unfortunate victim. He stated, “I, in fact, did not kill Ms. Samson. By law I am as guilty of her death as Michelle is.” Daveggio went on further to say observing Vanessa Samson’s family and realizing the love they had for her made him feel horrible about what he had done.

  He looked at the 22-year-old’s friends and family and admitted that he ‘had never seen such love’ before in his life. Daveggio closed his statement by acknowledging that he thought about his actions every day and does feel remorse over them. Michaud on the other hand, adhering to her attorneys’ advice, did not respond to any statement or make a comment.

  Vanessa Samson’s mother, Christina Samson, spoke about the irreparable damage her daughter’s death had caused in their lives. She stated that her daughter had a lot to live for. Her friends spoke about how she brought joy into a lot of people’s lives and nothing would ever be the same again.

  Before the sentence was given out, Nicole Samson, the victim’s sister, was questioned outside the court about the possible punishment for the killers; she stated that it was ‘in the hands of the jury, the judge and God.’

  Sentencing

  In September 2002, Michelle Lyn Michaud and James Anthony Daveggio were sentenced to death by a jury consisting of four men and eight women at the Alameda County Superior Court. The jury decided upon a death sentence for the couple in the light of all the evidence of torture and rape in twenty-two-year-old Vanessa Lei Samson’s murder.

  Throughout the proceedings, both the law enforcement agencies and the state prosecutors emphasized that it would be the right outcome considering all the atrocities. The verdict came after a long wait for the family of the victim. Despite the fact that capital punishment is frowned upon across the country, this was one case where perhaps nobody protested against it. Everyone was sympathetic to the plight of the dead girl as well as the other victims.

  The question in the minds of the people was, how could anybody possibly do this to an innocent girl? During the sentencing hearing, the state prosecutors revealed that Vanessa Samson had almost averted the couple, but Daveggio made his partner turn around so he could pick up the beautiful young girl walking by herself.

&
nbsp; On the day the penalty was given, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman presided over the proceedings of the court and announced the final verdict. The jury responsible for the conviction raised the possibility of capital punishment in June. After the decision had been read, Judge Goodman went on record to say that he agreed with the jury and it was the right thing. They had been responsible for a heinous crime that was unfathomable in all ways.

  The couple was sadistic and absolutely merciless, which ultimately led to the argument that no mercy should be shown toward them. Both Daveggio and Michaud had ensured that there was no way Samson could have been rescued or found alive. During the assault and torture, she had been forced to wear a rubber ball gag so she could not call out for help or make any noise.

  The gruesome details which came forward led the jury to recommend the death sentence for the couple. Initially, James Daveggio and Michelle Michaud had been arrested on account of rape as they had been found responsible for assaulting a young girl in Reno. As more victims came forward, the Reno case proceeded to the U.S District Court where Michaud was eventually sentenced to confinement. Daveggio was brought up on the same charges with double counts of rape as well as assault.

  During the Vanessa Samson murder and rape trial, the Reno victim, along with the couple’s previous targets, agreed to testify in front of the jury. They were going to recount the details of what had happened with them so that the court could come to an adequate decision in the case of Samson’s murder.

  Throughout the proceedings, Vincent Samson had strong faith in America’s justice system. He knew that his sister’s death was not going to go unpunished and even stated in open court that Daveggio ‘deserved to die.’ On the day of the sentencing, the courtroom was filled with Vanessa Samson’s friends and family members. Deputy District Attorney Angela Backers had led the prosecution side and presented key evidence that ultimately resulted in the jury deliberating over a death penalty for two days and finally handing it out.

 
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