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Title: Stabbing May Be Linked To Role Play
Source: Montgomery County Herald, 03/25/01
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From the Monterey County Herald
Serving Monterey County and the Salinas Valley
Sunday, March 25, 2001
Stabbing may be linked to role play
Investigators are exploring the possibility that two young Monterey-based Marines were involved in fantasy role-playing games that spiraled into violence when they set out to kill someone and allegedly attacked a woman on the Pacific Grove Recreation Trail.
Pacific Grove police detective Mike Henderson said Thursday that his department had not confirmed a link, although others say the attempted-murder suspects - Defense Language Institute students Pvt. Jason Blad, 21, and roommate Lance Cpl. Jessie J. Carson, 19 - were involved in such fantasy games.
In an interview conducted before a Monterey County judge restricted public comment on the case, Henderson said Pacific Grove officers were still interviewing staff and students at the Defense Language Institute and had not determined whether there was a connection between the action games and the attack.
"There could be, and we're still trying to track that down ourselves," Henderson said.
Carson and Blad were arrested March 15 on attempted-murder charges for the Nov. 11, 2000, assault on the 20-year-old woman. Accosted while walking alone on the recreation trail, she was stabbed repeatedly and her throat was slashed. Her attackers reportedly stood over her and wondered aloud why she was not dead.
The woman, whose name has not been publicly released, is said to live in fear of a repeat attack.
The suspects were arrested after a search of their
dormitory room at the Presidio turned up incriminating evidence, including
a journal in which Carson detailed the assault, according to court records.
When confronted, he admitted that he and Blad were responsible and had
been planning a number of murders, authorities said in court papers.
A source close to the investigation, who spoke on condition that his name be withheld, said he had reliable information that Carson and Blad had played in the group games, including one he described as a "satanic" version featuring "fantasized disemboweling" of other players.
That source said those games were held at Fort Ord and involved a number of military personnel stationed at the prestigious language institute. Such role-playing games, outgrowths of the better-known Dungeons and Dragons fantasy game, are popular with teenagers and young adults worldwide.
An organizer of the Afterholm fantasy game played regularly at Fort Ord said Saturday that Blad and Carson had expressed interest in joining the game sometime after last November's attack but did not actually participate.
"They heard a lot of people were playing it from
DLI, and they wanted to know more about it," said Julie Waters, whose husband,
Jeffrey, runs the game. She said she and her husband were shocked to hear
about the arrests, and relieved that the two suspects hadn't become involved
in their game.
Some games get too real
Henderson said it's not surprising that some local military personnel play the games.
"When you think about DLI (which has an enrollment of about 2,500), you're not talking about a typical military installation in that the primary population is very young, because they're going there pretty much straight out of boot camp to get the language training," the detective said. "So you're talking about the population that normally plays that type of game. They're ... more intelligent than your average troop.
"And, again, that game is composed of people who at least have some intelligence. You have to be able to fantasize and do all that role playing."
Though the vast majority of "gamers" are considered harmless and the games are generally viewed as benign fantasies, there have been some cases - including one in Monterey - in which participants were linked to criminal behavior.
In Monterey, a young gamer was convicted in 1998 of child endangerment in connection with activities that included cutting himself and having young people drink his blood. In that case, the man was turned in by fellow game players alarmed by his behavior.
In 1998, a group of Kentucky teenagers were convicted
for the beating death of a couple whose daughter was a member of their
Vampire Clan role-playing game. The leader of the group burned a "V" into
the body of one of the victims.
Searching for a motive
The November attack that led to the arrest of Carson and Blad bore similarities to another stabbing on the recreation trail in Pacific Grove in September 1997. In that case, fantasy gamer Kris Olinger, a 17-year-old Monterey High School senior, died after being stabbed multiple times and left for dead on the trail less than a mile north of where Carson and Blad allegedly encountered their victim.
Olinger's mother and stepfather, Shell and Loren Phillips, have maintained that their son's killers might be gamers who went over the edge, although police have focused their investigation on gang members from San Jose intent on robbery and carjacking.
Blad and Carson were still in high school at the time of Olinger's killing, in New York and Washington respectively, and are therefore not suspects in that case.
Blad's lawyer, Richard Weese of San Francisco, said last week that he had no information linking his client to the role-playing games.
Carson's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Art Kaufmann, said there appear to be some "bizarre undertones" to the case, but he would not provide details.
Kaufmann, interviewed before Judge Terrance Duncan issued the gag order Friday, said he has not "found anything even remotely resembling a motive."
"I don't think there is a motive," Kaufmann said.
Kaufmann noted that his client is a 19-year-old man who has no criminal record but is accused of committing a horrific crime. Considering those factors, he said he plans to have Carson undergo a psychiatric evaluation and is contemplating a "mental defense."
While investigators have declined to comment on the
contents of Carson's journal, Henderson said detectives believe they know
what happened even if they don't fully understand why.
'Chosen purely at random.'
"The motive was to go down there and kill someone," Henderson said. "She just happened to be there at the time. She was chosen purely at random."
There are other indications that both defendants had been involved in fantasy games.
A former classmate and friend of Blad's at Spencerport High School in Spencerport, N.Y., said his schoolmate had often engaged in the games at the time and tried to talk others into joining. That man also spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he did not want to be drawn into the investigation.
"Jason was very big into role-playing games," he said. "All the time I was friends with him, he tried to get me into that type of scene. Whether it was Dungeons and Dragons or superhero-type games, Jason was always trying to get me to play them with him.
"My parents, knowing all too well what those types of games have led to, told me never to play them and not to get involved with him."
He said Blad was shy and reclusive, and came from a relatively poor family. Other students would tease him for such things as wearing clothes from the Salvation Army. Eventually, the two boys drifted apart, and Blad started doing "crazy (things) like chasing behind the school bus in the afternoons, screaming like a madman."
Blad's relatives in the Rochester, N.Y., area have
refused to talk about the case, referring all calls to Blad's attorney.
Armed forces reflect society
The Herald has not been able to contact any relatives of Carson. Though booking records say he is from Richland, Wash., other Carsons in that area said last week that they did not know him.
Sometime after the November attack, Carson and Blad appeared at "vampire" role-playing games held on Saturdays in downtown Monterey but seemed to be there only to taunt the participants, according to John Paul, one of the organizers.
"They were avidly against the game," said Paul, who added that he recognized them when their photos ran in the newspaper after their arrests. He said some Marines participate in his group and were upset at the news of the arrests and the negative light it cast on the Marine Corps.
Paul said it surprised him to learn that Blad and Carson participated in some other version of the game because most gamers respect one another. He said the "Afterholm" game at Fort Ord differs from his and other role-playing games in that it features physical contact to simulate violence.
"They actually role-play it out by using foam (weapons) to hit their opponent, while in the vampire game we specifically state no touching, no physical contact of any kind," he said.
DLI Commandant Col. Kevin Rice also would not comment on the games, saying only that he had no information on Blad and Carson's involvement.
Former base commandant Col. Vladimir Sobichevsky, who was stationed at DLI from January 1993 to December 1995, said he knew of no Marines who were engaged in "any sick behavioral games or criminal behavior" during his tenure. While defending the military and DLI students, he said the armed forces can only reflect society, and therefore some criminals will inevitably slip through the system.
Sobichevsky said the arrests are shocking but should not tarnish the institute's reputation.
The school "graduated many thousands of military personnel of the highest standard, and this fact should be known and remembered," he said.
Herald staff writer Holly Davis contributed to this
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Ragsland Drive, Monterey CA. 93940 (831) 372-3311
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