Video Game Review: Murdered: Soul Suspect

LOVED IT: Solid mystery story, good puzzling mechanics, some interesting characters HATED IT: Action and stealth sequences feel out of place, portions of nonsense, little freedom or challenge GRAB IT IF: You enjoy Phoenix: Ace Attorney, and love old 'Matlock' and 'Columbo' There's nothing quite like a good mystery. Long before I was reviewing video games, maybe before I was even playing them, I was watching the likes of Matlock, Perry Mason and Columbo on TV. The classic murder mystery was always intriguing, as I tried to solve the crime before the lead gumshoe could do it himself. I wanted to feel that same way when I played through Murdered: Soul Suspect, Square Enix's whodunit video game, and in several moments, I did. But overall, this title isn't quite a good mystery. It's a mystery that's a bit too easy and a bit too lackluster, with its out-of-place combat and stealth, and its inconsistent character motivations. In its best moments, it makes you search for clues like a good old detective. But then you'll solve situations way too easily and you'll never quite feel the part of the ghost. You play as Ronan, a hard-edged cop from the streets. Because of his background, he's a guy with more tattoos than friends on the force, and he's on a case when the game opens. But he's thrown from a high window, then shot to death by an assailant whose face he can't see. Just moments later, a ghostly Ronan stands up, is introduced to the fact that he's a ghost (and takes the news shockingly well) and is off to solve his own mystery. Much like those old murder mysteries, which always seemed to get off and running with the murder being committed, Murdered: Soul Suspect gets going quickly. The gumshoe work is solid, in spite of its annoying limitations. The gameplay, at its best, is actually quite basic. You walk around the town of Salem almost at your leisure; as a ghost, you can pass through many walls and possess Continue Reading

William Balfour, suspect in murders of Jennifer’s Hudson’s family, refuses to take lie detector test

CHICAGO - The convicted felon suspected in the slayings of actress-singer Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew told police he is innocent but balked at taking a lie-detector test, a police official said.William Balfour, the 27-year-old stepfather of Hudson's nephew and estranged husband of her sister, told detectives he had a good relationship with the Hudson family, the police official said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.When detectives asked Balfour to take the polygraph test, he stopped cooperating and refused to take the test, said the official, who is familiar with the investigation.RELATED: SUSPECT IN HUDSON FAMILY MURDERS WAS ALMOST JAILED MONTHS AGOBalfour has been at the center of the investigation since shortly after the bodies of Hudson's mother, 57-year-old Darnell Donerson, and brother, 29-year-old Jason Hudson, were found Friday inside their home on Chicago's South Side. The body of Balfour's stepson, 7-year-old Julian King, was discovered Monday in an SUV on the city's West Side. All three had been shot.Balfour had not been charged as of Wednesday and investigators were still gathering evidence and following up on leads, the official said. However, the official said police do not believe anyone else was involved in the killings.RELATED: JENNIFER HUDSON'S SISTER MOURNS 'LIL' LOST SOULIt is possible that someone else drove the SUV with the boy's body inside and parked it on the West Side, the official said, but Balfour is "the only suspect in the killings (and there is) nothing to link a second individual" to them.A police spokeswoman declined to comment on the official's statements.Balfour's mother, Michele Balfour, has said Hudson's mother kicked Balfour out of the family home last winter. She denied her son had anything to do with the killings.It was unclear whether Balfour had an attorney.On Wednesday, police found a gun in a vacant lot around the corner Continue Reading

Jennifer Hudson’s sister mourns lost ‘lil’ soul’

Jennifer Hudson's suffering sister poured out her heart Tuesday as she mourned her slain mother, brother and - especially - her 7-year-old son. "His lil' soul is at ease," Julia Hudson wrote on her MySpace page - a day after the boy's bullet-ridden body was found on Chicago's West Side. "I take comfort in knowing Julian is with my mother and my brother." RELATED: HUDSON'S NEPHEW SHOT MULTIPLE TIMESThe wrenching words emerged amid revelations that the prime slaughter suspect - Julia's estranged husband, William Balfour - should have been in jail. Jennifer Hudson huddled with family and planned the funeral. Julia Hudson seemed to blame herself for the murders. "Now, because I chose to do what was natural to me and love someone, it cost me my beautiful family," she wrote. RELATED: JENNIFER HUDSON ID'D NEPHEW'S BODYJulia Hudson called Julian, "My innocent baby one that was sheltered from all the evil in the world because we loved him so much." No one has been charged in the murders of Julia Hudson's mom, Darnell Donerson, 57, her brother, Jason, 29, or Julian. Balfour, who did seven years in prison for attempted murder, was picked up after Friday's massacre and jailed for a parole violation. It happened four months too late. The 27-year-old ex-con was busted for cocaine possession in June. Under Illinois law, Balfour could have gone back to prison then. Instead, he was let go in July after a judge dismissed the case. Balfour was not the slain boy's father. In recent months, he had been shacked up with another woman and reportedly argued with Julia Hudson over car payments on the day of the murders. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

The moonlight murders

Mary Hucks, an architect's secretary from Atlanta, scrimped for months to save for a summer getaway to Daytona Beach. It was 1948. The war was over, and America was doing its best to slough off its terrible troubles abroad. For Hucks, that meant two weeks of fun in the Florida sun. She and a girlfriend rented an apartment in the shore town for 14 days that August. During her first week at the ocean, Hucks met Greg Blount, a young Kentuckian whiling away the summer as a beach bum. An Air Force veteran, Blount had driven his old Jeep to Daytona after finishing his second year of college. He earned spare cash towing tourists whose cars got stuck along Daytona's famous oceanfront sand boulevard. That work came with a fringe benefit: proximity to an unlimited supply of bathing beauties, like Hucks, who found herself riding shotgun in his Jeep one day as Blount trawled the beach for stuck tourists. Both 23, they were bright, blond, good-looking Southerners with aspirations. He was a charming cutup, and she was a vivacious, confidant young woman. Their summer romance would be brief. Beach blanket blood On their second evening together, Saturday, Aug. 14, the young lovers drove to a remote spot north of Ormond Beach. They crossed the dunes and lay out a blanket on the sand. There in the moonlight, they drifted off to sleep as Blount's radio cooed romantic ballads - Perry Como's "Because," Doris Day's "It's Magic." Later that night, a teenager strolling the beach stumbled upon the blanket. There lay the body of Blount, shot in the eye while he slept. The youngster summoned authorities, and deputies followed footprints in the sand - a barefoot woman and two men in shoes - into the palmetto scrub in the dunes. There they found the naked, bloody body of Hucks, her green swimsuit discarded nearby. She had been raped and shot. The motive seemed clear to Sheriff Alex Littlefield. "The murderers were sex perverts, pure and simple," he declared. Even Continue Reading

Another major crisis, and as usual, there are no suspects

The big shots are never to blame. We fail to prevent the attacks on 9/11, but nobody is held responsible. RELATED: DOW PLUMMETS 449 POINTSWe charge into Iraq, heedless of the consequences, and nobody is made to answer for it. Now, Wall Street implodes and nobody is held accountable. RELATED: MAC, BAM TRY TO GET FIX ON CRISISThe people who precipitated the worst financial crisis in memory walk away megarich while the taxpayers are left to cover billions of bad debts. Once again, the big shots skate and the decent, honest, working people suffer. The top guys at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and AIG knew they were dealing shaky mortgages. They also should have known that some of the brokers were hustlers with a predatory eye for those made vulnerable by bad credit, old age or infirmity. The fact that these mortgages were so chancy was what made them so profitable - and the executives were thinking only of the short-term profit that generates the annual bonus. So, the same way drug kingpins launder the proceeds of street sales, the Wall Street firms bought up subprime mortgages and turned them into supposedly primo securities. They then overvalued these laundered mortgages and used them as collateral to leverage their firms beyond all reason. The immediate result was that top executives such as Lehman CEO Richard Fuld became as wealthy as in their wildest dreams and moved about as the titans they imagined themselves to be. Never mind that the fabulous profits originated in hustling decent souls such as 86-year-old Simeon Ferguson, a retired chef from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who fell prey to a robbery disguised as a loan while suffering from dementia. Ferguson ended up with payments that exceeded his income, as did millions of other hustled homeowners. The individual result was the homeowner faced foreclosure. The cumulative effect was the laundered debt was deemed Continue Reading

The black dog murder mystery

Even for a cursed place, this was a scene of unspeakable horror. The body was sprawled at the foot of Meon Hill, in Warwickshire, England, just 8 miles from Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-on-Avon. It was an area surrounded by Druid artifacts, and long feared as the stomping ground for practitioners of the black arts. The victim was Charles Walton, 74, a farm laborer who had quietly lived in the town all his life, with a niece he had adopted after her parents died. Walton had left his cottage the morning of Feb. 14, 1945, heading for Meon Hill to trim hedges. Along with his walking stick, essential because of the old man's rheumatism, he carried a pitchfork, trimming hook and, for lunch, a fruitcake. The next time anyone saw him, he was on his back, the pitchfork thrust through his neck, pinning his bloody corpse to the ground. Such force had been used that it took two burly policemen to extract the pitchfork. The prongs were buried 6 inches in the soil. The cause of death was the trimming hook, which had been used to carve a cross in his throat and chest. His eyes were wide, and his face contorted in an expression of terror. "Hideous," Robert Fabian, a Scotland Yard detective, would write years later. "It looked like the kind of killing the Druids might have done in a ghastly ceremony at full moon." Supernatural links To Fabian, steeped as he was in the latest scientific crime-solving techniques, the idea of a witchcraft murder was preposterous. That is, until local police gave him reason to suspect forces beyond this world. He learned of the region's strong links to the supernatural in two books, "Folklore, Old Customs and Superstitions in Shakespeare-Land" and "Warwickshire." Meon Hill itself was said to have been Satan's handiwork, an ugly mound erected in a hellish fury. Even more interesting to Fabian was the history of witchcraft killings, going back three centuries to a Scottish witch burned at the stake for hooking a team of Continue Reading

Suspected killer fights extradition to Texas

AUSTIN, Texas - A man accused of a killing spree that began in Texas signaled Tuesday he will fight his extradition from New York, where a judge ordered him held without bail. The legal battle to bring Paul Devoe III back to Texas, where he'd been living, to face murder charges could take up to two months, a prosecutor said. Wearing a white coverall jumpsuit and looking disheveled in Suffolk County Court, Devoe was charged on a fugitive from justice warrant in connection with a murder charge in the Friday killing of a Texas bartender. His court-appointed attorney did not comment to reporters after his brief appearance before the judge. District Attorney Thomas Spota described Devoe, 43, as "a felon with a long history of arrests" in Suffolk County including aggravated harassment, criminal trespassing, petit larceny and drunken driving. Devoe's eyes scanned the courtroom, but no one in the gallery claimed to know him. He contradicted his attorney, who initially told Judge Joseph Santorelli that her client was waiving extradition. Devoe has been charged with killing an ex-girlfriend, 46-year-old Paula Griffith, one of four people found shot to death Sunday in a home near Austin. He's also a suspect in the slaying of an elderly woman in Pennsylvania. Police said he fled Texas in a car stolen from Griffith, then is suspected of stopping near the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line, where the woman was shot to death and her car was stolen. Devoe was arrested Monday after a brief standoff in New York. "He put a gun to his head and threatened to kill himself. After he failed to do that, we arrested him," said U.S. Marshal LaFayette Collins of the Western District of Texas, whose agency and other law officers apprehended Devoe. Investigators are looking into claims that Devoe shot at someone and attempted two unsuccessful carjackings in Tennessee during a cross-country trip, Collins said. At the Austin-area home over the weekend, detectives found the bodies Continue Reading

Texas murder suspect fights extradition battle

The Long Island native suspected of killing six people during a crime spree that stretched from Texas to Pennsylvania may now be fighting for his own life. Paul Devoe, 43, who could face the death penalty if convicted of murder in Texas, is fighting extradition to the Lone Star state. At his arraignment yesterday in District Court in Central Islip, Devoe refused to waive his extradition rights, triggering a legal quagmire that may last months. Shirtless from his arrest Monday at a friend's home in Shirley, the long-haired suspect wore a white coverall jumpsuit in court, where he was charged with being a fugitive from justice in connection with a murder charge in the killing of a 41-year-old Texas bartender on Friday. District Court Judge Joseph Santorelli ordered Devoe, who lived in Patchogue, Mastic Beach and Shirley before leaving for Texas in 2004, held without bail. Devoe is scheduled to be back in court on Friday. His court-appointed lawyer had no comment. In numerous Internet blog profiles, Devoe boasts of being caring, cuddly and down to earth, yet he is suspected in a trail of heinous murders. Accused of assorted lesser crimes in the past - drunk driving and aggravated harassment among them - Devoe snapped on Friday, shooting to death popular bartender Michael Allred at a tavern near Austin, police said. Devoe also is charged in Texas in the death of Paula Griffith, an ex-girlfriend and one of four people found shot to death Sunday in a Jonestown, Tex., home. Detectives also found the bodies of Griffith's 15-year-old daughter, Haylie Faulkner, 17-year-old Danielle Hensley and Griffith's boyfriend, 48-year-old Jay Feltner, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Authorities also suspect Devoe in the shooting death of a great-great grandmother in Greencastle, Pa. Betty Dehart, 81, was shot in the head; Devoe drove her car - a surprise Mother's Day gift - to Shirley. "Betty was the kindest soul you could imagine," her son-in-law, Jim Continue Reading


NYPD OFFICER Eric Hernandez, who was mistakenly shot and killed by a fellow cop outside a Bronx hamburger joint, would have forgiven his shooter, his aunt said yesterday. "I know Eric's heart. He is a very forgiving soul," Hernandez's aunt, Denise Kichura, told the Daily News. "I believe Eric would not want that officer, that family, to suffer." Hernandez, 24, a star running back on the NYPD football team, was shot Jan. 28 outside a White Castle on Webster Ave. in a deadly case of friendly fire. Moments before the shooting, Hernandez was beaten inside the fast-food restaurant by six attackers. Dazed and drunk, according to hospital sources, he stumbled outside and pointed his gun at a man he wrongly believed was one of his attackers. When he ignored repeated orders to drop his gun, Officer Alfredo Toro shot him in his abdomen and both legs. Hernandez died Wednesday at St. Barnabas Hospital, 11 days after the shooting. Kichura said her family would welcome Toro at Hernandez's wake this weekend and his funeral Monday at St. Bernard's Church in White Plains, where he lived with his father. "Officer Toro is more than welcome to be there," she said. "The family has absolutely forgiven him." "He had to do what he had to do. I don't understand why he had to shoot three times. Maybe he could have shot the gun out of his hand. But he should not suffer," she said. "Everyone has suffered enough." Toro, a 19-year veteran, plans to pay his respects, sources said. Kichura said Hernandez's mother, Cynthia, has not read any newspapers or watched an amateur video of the fatal shooting filmed by a witness on his cell phone. She has been mourning alongside loved ones and recalling fond stories of her son's childhood. When he was 8, they moved from the Bronx to the rural town of White House Station, N.J., so he could avoid the dangers of the city's streets. "He milked goats. He had chores. He was taught responsibility," Kichura said. Several years later, Continue Reading

Doctor murdered wife, abused daughter, stole child’s identity — and nearly went free: book

She was a California beauty queen. He was a dirt poor kid from Camden, N.J. They were wed until death did them part: Her death, at his hands. A new book reveals the terrifying details in the headline-making Utah murder case where Dr. Martin MacNeill nearly beat the rap for killing his wife in gruesome fashion. “The Stranger She Loved,” by journalist Shanna Hogan, exposes the bizarre and disturbing swath cut through life by MacNeill — until he was finally brought to justice by his own children. One of the kids was sexually abused by their dad; a second was abandoned to a life of devastating poverty in Ukraine so MacNeill’s lover could use her stolen identity. His wife Michele MacNeill, despite their seemingly idyllic life, didn’t trust her spouse. Days before her death, she pleaded with daughter Alexis to do some digging. “If anything happens to me,” said the prescient wife, “make sure it wasn’t your dad.” The author suggests MacNeill used an enema to pump disabling pain medication into his wife’s system. He then held her head underwater in the bathtub before coolly returning to work and establishing an alibi. The heartless husband then returned home with their youngest child — and let 6-year-old Ada discover the unconscious body of her mother in the bloody water. Michele was home recovering from the plastic surgery that her husband had provided as a gift for her 50th birthday. As the husband and a neighbor worked to revive his wife, the doctor performed a bizarrely ineffective CPR on the dying woman. When the paramedics jumped in, Michele suddenly coughed up a substantial amount of water — but it was already too late. MacNeill only went to jail last year, even though Michele died April 11, 2007 — a tribute to his execution of what the chief prosecutor called an “almost Continue Reading