Smoke & Mirrors

Shortly into my research in this case, I found that there were a great deal of elements that were not as they appeared. Byrd Billings was NOT a pillar of city. The mirage of thoroughly investigated case was broadcast nationally.  But it really wasn’t investigated at all. Like I have said in the past, it was like being down the rabbit hole in “Alice in Wonderland”. Right was wrong and wrong was right.

A very curious thing that I had never questioned came to light. The last name Gonzalez. My perception tells me that is a Hispanic or Spanish name. In this case, it isn’t. It is Italian. So when DNA is “consistent” with that of someone with Hispanic heritage, I must step back and realize that the smoke and mirrors of this is there to mislead people. Patrick Gonzalez’s heritage can be traced back Spanish heritage. No trace of Hispanic blood.

Another thing that I studied quite a bit at Eastern Michigan University was something called a “cross-race effect”. It is a simple concept really. In the first 30 seconds of coming into contact with a person, heuristics take over. The definition from Wikipedia is a very good and simple one. “Heuristics refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery that give a solution which is not guaranteed to be optimal. Where the exhaustive search is impractical, heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution via mental shortcuts to ease the cognitive load of making a decision. Examples of this method include using a rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, stereotyping, recalling past experiences or common sense.”

It is what we use to sum up someone as a friend or foe. It is what makes us nervous about a homeless man talking to himself as he walks towards us on the street. It may be absolutely benign but the mind recalls all the stories of encounters with homeless people, schizophrenics, or just someone who may have looked like that person without us being conscious of it. That’s the were cross-race effect comes in. All of us ,in general, of course, have walked met someone who reminds you of someone else. Maybe your grandfather’s nose or the fine looking man or woman walking towards us. Very few of us notice people’s features that are not those we commonly see. Think about the common cliche that all Asians or Hispanics look alike. It’s because those of us not in that race, simply don’t recognize the subtle differences unless we have become extremely familiar with people.

This is what I believe is happening in this case. I believe it is possible that the Rakeem Florence and Frederick Thornton, who only picked Pat Gonzalez out of a lineup once, may have been less likely to remember a face they only saw a few times in a layout of similarly looking men. Also what if the investigators told them the Pat he knew was Pat Gonzalez? Would that possibly be a cue to them to try to find the person in the lineup who has a darker complexion? If I know I am looking for a Hispanic male, I would identify with the one that strongly looks more Hispanic vs the others in a lineup. It is human nature.

These boys called Lenny by the name “Frank” who was Lenny’s brother. Why? Did they ever meet Frank and due to the subtle differences mix up the two men. This fact alone leads me to believe the person these boys knew as “Pat” may have been another man who could have been altered to appear more like Pat.

An example: Wayne Coldiron.

Wayne Coldiron circa 2008

This Wayne Coldiron after his arrest for the murders:

This is Pat Gonzalez the day of his arrest:

I know that to those of us who know Pat there is no denying which of these pictures are him but to someone who only knew him in a very tenuous way, under a great deal of pressure, may have misidentified him. There is no question the first pic of Coldrion put next to Pat looks nothing like him but the day of the murders he looked a lot more like Pat than he had in the Pat.

Last thought, think about the very first issues with the internet. The chat rooms were full of people showing people pictures of themselves that wasn’t them at all. They assumed a better look because of the anonymity of the internet, unless they met face to face, how do you know who is behind the fake profile and picture? You don’t. If you meet someone and are told his name is Joe for instance. You see him a couple of times, maybe didn’t even really notice much about him. When you are under pressure and the face put in front of you looks similar to 5 others, could you know how Joe is for a fact? What about the guy at the fast food window or the clerk at the post office, could you pick them out of a lineup with absolute certainty? Probably not. I think that is what happened here.

2 thoughts on “Smoke & Mirrors

  1. you are right on. I read your article with great interest, read it twice. If smoke and mirrors is what you wanted to convey then you did. Was there something though you wanted us to add? In genealogy one could assume an Italian guy may have changed his name to fit in or hide (because of immgiration laws) or maybe was young and taken in by a spanish family and they either adopted him or maybe even there aren’t any adoption papers. I don’t know that there are any Italians named Gonzalez but maybe it was aliken to Ellis Island records where someone prior came off the boat and was assumed to be with another family, or maybe the name was changed, spelled near Gonzales, or was mispronounced and they thought it sounded like Gonzales. Maybe the dna showed a little spanish or maybe there were spanish in Italy for whatever reason. But yes we all make determinations from what we were brought up with or from minimal knowledge we learned over the years.


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