Saturday, August 29, 2009

Beyond the Basics

Watch our story Sunday night on 9NEWS after the Bronco game or check it out Sunday on

Journalists, especially those of us on TV, like to talk. There’s no denying it.

This week we’ve been talking a lot about my story, “Beyond the Basics.”

Our newsroom is divided.

Many people applaud us for looking closely at what some families buy with their food stamp money. Others are outraged or upset, saying recipients can buy what they want with their own money.

We’ve had countless debates in 9Wants to Know and the entire newsroom discussing whether to run our story. And if we did run it, what examples should we include in it. In the end we’ve decided to let you make the decision on what is acceptable spending. Our jobs aren’t to censor. If I give you as much information as possible, you can draw your own conclusion. You don’t need me filtering your news.

We are not choosing a side.

Should families on food stamps be able to buy crab legs or $45 dollar birthday cakes? (A local grocery store checker told me she watched both happen recently.)

But what if that $45 cake or crab legs are for an extra special occasion? What if that family saved for weeks to be able to afford it?

Would you be mad if people used cash assistance (another program to help families buy non-food items) to buy cigarettes? It’s happening and we have the receipts to prove it.

Taxpayer money funds both programs. That means you are essentially paying for everything that’s purchased.

What do you think?

Follow me on Twitter: jacelarson

Friday, August 28, 2009

An hour with the Shaggy Bandit

I’ll admit, I was a little surprised when the man who claims he’s the Shaggy Bandit agreed to talk to me about his suspected 17 bank robberies or attempted robberies.

We talked for an hour in a very small visitor’s cubical at the Denver City Jail. He sat behind thick glass and we spoke over a telephone.

Michael Kincade was kind. He smiled. He looked me right in the eye. He didn’t come across cocky.

He seemed very average. He has long hair and wore a shirt with a camouflage print.

He came across as a man who realized the magnitude of what he claims he’s done.

Kincade said he’s sorry and told me he didn’t want to hurt anybody.

"I have standards. It might not seem like it much," he said. "I didn't see myself hurting anyone."

Follow me on Twitter: jacelarson

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Your taxdollars

Check this... U.S. Government keeps paying a landlord who rents to low income/Section 8 tenants even though landlord is not paying his own mortgage! What is this landlord doing with YOUR taxdollars?

Sound wrong? You're not alone. I first aired this story at 9 p.m. on tonight's news. I didn't even get my microphone taken off and people were calling, outraged. Nicole from Aurora even called to say the exact thing happened to her!

Read the story by clicking here.

And if you want to see something else that made a whole bunch of people angry, take a look at another foreclosure story I did recently. We titled it "Everything Must Go."

Click here to read that story.

Follow me on Twitter: jacelarson

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's happened yet again

So yet another nurse is fired from a hospital for supposedly stealing drugs. This time at Denver Health Medical Center.

It's Interesting to see how different hospitals handle the situations. Denver Health Medical Center and Swedish Medical Center have clearly been open with their information. They have been upfront in addressing the arrests and issue.

Not all hospitals have chosen to take that approach.

Follow me on Twitter: jacelarson

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Meeting ponzi schemer Shawn Merriman

From the cul-de-sac in front of his Arapahoe County house, I couldn’t miss the U-haul parked near the garage. His 3,115 square foot million dollar house sit about 50 feet back from the street.

I called out hello. No one answered back. I peeked around the back of the U-haul, nothing. Nothing after a knock at the front door.

“Was he hiding from me? Most likely,” I thought. “I’ll gave it one more try.”

I walked back to the U-haul offering more loud, friendly hellos.

All of a sudden there was Shawn Merriman.

It’s always a bit odd when you cover someone for months having never met them and then meet face to face.

Shawn is shorter than I expected but was very pleasant.

He didn’t yell at me to leave, he didn’t walk away.

We chatted for a few minutes and I offered him a chance to tell his side of the story. He declined.

I asked if he was moving. I probably should have asked WHERE he was moving. (People don’t really pack up their stuff just for the fun of it.) He didn’t want to tell me.

Maybe it was because he knew what I didn’t yet know… his next home would not be exciting.

Wednesday a federal judge ordered him held in jail while he faces a charge of mail fraud. Click here to read the story.

Should he have to go to jail while he waits for his charges to be worked out? Vote in the poll to the right.

Follow me on Twitter: jacelarson

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wild, and I mean wild, accusations

A co-worker described tonight’s story as what might be the creepiest story ever! It involves an old man, a young boy, a remote cabin and a surgical knife!!!

(Read the story here.)

When Anna Hewson and I first heard the name John Taylor, it didn’t mean much. Now it’s synonymous with some of the wildest allegations either of us have ever heard.

Early in the year police sources urged me to look into the case of a man recently charged with molesting kids.

“There’s more to the case,” several people told us.

After weeks of repeated phone calls, days of digging through court files and hours double checking facts, we figured it out.

Police don’t just think Taylor molested two boys as he’s charged in Denver District Court, police believe he abused and then chemically cremated a third victim.

We knew the allegations at first, but when an anonymous letter arrived at 9NEWS containing a search warrant sealed by the courts, 9 Wants to Know learned the WHOLE story.

The allegations involve a remote cabin in Clear Creek County.

You’ll see, in the story, we packed our camera equipment more than a mile up a steep trail to investigate the cabin. .

What you won’t see is that the first day we hiked to the WRONG place. Wrong trail, wrong cabin and wrong information.

We had to do a retake the next day.

The area is picturesque but in February, the weather was cold.

Yes I said February -- We’ve been investigating for six months.

The details we uncovered in our story shows why it took so long.

We’re proud of it even though we understand it might be hard for some to watch. We’re proud because without a source urging us to dig deeper in what seemed to be a routine crime story, you might never know what happened to 16-year-old Ian Richardson. It’s our hope that now his family might take a small amount of comfort in at least knowing what may have happened to their son, brother or cousin.

No one deserves to die the way police believe Ian did.

I have to give a lot of credit to our fantastic producer/editor Anna Hewson and both executive producers, Nicole and Tiffani.

We told an important story tonight.

Even though Ian disappeared 17 years ago, no one should be forgotten.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

9Wants to Know

Hey check out what a great job our promotions guys, Drew and Andy, did on our new 9Wants to Know promo.

Nurses arrested

More than 80 responses to the story we broke about yet another nurse fired for allegedly stealing drugs from a hospital.

And, as the last time when I reported on this story (see previous blog entry,) many of you say this gives nurses a bad name. And you want to point out that there are thousands of hard working, good nurses out there.

In fact the Department of Regulator Agencies, which regulates nurse licenses, notes that there at 99,575 RNs, LPNs and certified nurse aids in Colorado and 261 were disciplined last fiscal year, (July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009.) The licensing board received 584 complaints.

In the comment section of our story at, Jdenver wrote, “

My wife is a great nurse in a challenging unit at DGH, she has never used any drugs. She does her job because she has compassion for the population that they work with and wants to provide them good care. It is her way of giving back to the community. How many of you would clean feces off of a homeless guy or hold his hand while he died alone in an ICU? I laugh when people say they are compassionate or that they would do anything for their religion, go work a day in an ICU. This is not an easy job folks and there are good nurses out there.

And some of you had words for St. Anthony Central.

TruthfulGuy wrote, “St. A's needs to get their act together. Medical staff arrested.

Thanks for the comments!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Caption this!

Some very nice girls were putting on a funny show as I filled up with gasoline Tuesday afternoon.

After a few minutes, I took their picture to see what captions my Twitter friends could create for the photo.

@wynterose: "rainbow children gone bad"
@sarah_lee: "You can take the girl out of the short bus, but you can't take the short bus out of the girl."

I want to hear some more captions, just click on the picture. (And this is all in fun.)
It's never comfortable, as a journalist, to have an interview go this way or end this way. It shouldn't happen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lots of news today!

From Former President Bill Clinton helping get two journalists released from North Korea and a new radio station called “The Pole” marks its fifth day on the air, it's a busy day. The Pole – as in a stripper pole -- supposedly plays “stripper hits from the 80s, 90s and today.”

And if that’s not enough, Deborah and I made it through our promo shoot this morning. We didn’t forget our lines even once. Look for the commercial produced by our awesome promo guys sometime later this week.

Here are a couple of pictures. Man, I have to wear a lot of makeup.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Implosion gone wrong

Someone is without a job this morning, I'm guessing.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Turf wars

Who would have thought that a hummingbird feeder could provide so much entertainment...

I must have put it up just on the turf boundary of two different hummingbird gangs. One bird will come drink and within seconds it is bombarded by another one. Playing? Possibly, but I doubt it.

The look like they are attacking each other.

Whatever the case is, it is a great day at the cabin to relax and watch nature.

Sent from my mobile device.