Category Archives: Politics

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison 2018 #5



Bob Shell: Letters From Prison



Letters From Prison: Part 5, 2018


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


Retuning, as promised, to 2003: On June 7 when I returned from attending Marion’s memorial service and wake in North Carolina I was arrested on charges that were later dismissed and thrown in jail, where I was held for thirty days until bail could be arranged and I was released on house arrest.

On September 10 a Radford grand jury indicated me based almost entirety on testimony of Dr, William Massello III, assistant medical examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Massello testified that Marion was dead in the last series of photos I had made of her on June 3, 2003. He was totally wrong, and destroyed my life with his arrogant nonsense. Massello is, in my opinion, an incompetent and dangerous quack, and this is hardly only my opinion. Let me illustrate:

Susan Jean Daniels, a Virginia Tech biologist, disappeared. A skeleton was found some time later in the ruins of an old cabin in Giles County, VA. The skeleton was sent to Massello for identification and he said that the bones were from “a stray animal.”. Forensic anthropologists from Radford University were called in by friends of the missing woman and immediately identified the bones as human, and they were later positively identified as Daniels. If her friends hadn’t questioned Massello’s statements, Daniels would simply have remained a missing person and her murderer probably never apprehended. But Susan Daniels was not Massello’s only major screwup.

In 2000 the body of “Mickey” Faville, a popular 5th grade school teacher in Christiansburg, VA, was found in her home. Massello performed an autopsy and stated that she had died from choking on a piece of chicken. Once more, friends and family were not satisfied, but it took them years to get anyone to pay attention. In 2012 the case was finally reopened and a new medical examiner, Dr. Amy Tharp, performed a new autopsy, and came to a radically different conclusion: Mickey Faville had been manually strangled. Massello had missed the obvious signs on her throat and inside her mouth. Her husband Ward was very belatedly charged with her murder. He was tried and convicted, but “cheated” the Commonwealth by committing suicide with a razor blade in the court’s holding cell after the jury found him guilty. He’d lived free for twelve years thanks to Massello’s incompetence.

In a remarkably similar case, in 2005 Mindy Dickerson was found dead in her home in Pulaski County. Massello again performed the autopsy but this time there was no convenient piece of chicken to blame, so he picked encephalitis, a rare brain disease, and said Mindy died from that! Again, it took years for anyone to pay attention, but Mindy’s family and friends finally got someone’s attention and Dr. Tharp again performed a new autopsy and, once again, said the cause of death was manual strangulation. Mindy’s husband, remarried and with a new family, was charged with her murder and extradited from Texas for trial. But he never went on trail because Massello had contaminated the brain tissue samples with material from at least two other bodies. He testified that no one should expect his autopsy samples to be uncontaminated because “there is nothing sterile about the morgue.”. (What about all those of us who had tests of those, probably contaminated, samples used against us?). Mindy Dickerson’s husband, who most likely murdered her, had all charges dismissed because the contaminated brain tissue was useless as evidence and the judge had no choice but to throw the case out. (Details of these cases were all taken from news stories that appeared in The Roanoke Times. You can read the original stories in their archives at Also you can find more on Massello via a Google search on his name.)

Now here’s an important point, the Commonwealth (Virginia is a Commonwealth, not a state per se) reopened those two cases only because Massello’s testimony had gone against their cases. In cases like mine, where Massello’s testimony bolstered their case – in fact WAS their case, they will fight tooth and nail not to reopen cases.

In early 2007 Massello left Virginia for a job as Medical Examiner for North Dakota, where his shoddy work has also come under fire. In an interview with the trade publication Energywire he said that his findings mean “absolutely nothing” when it came to settling legal questions. So why am I still in prison?

I’ve had good evidence since 2009 that Massello’s testimony in my case was BS. I contacted Dr. Cyril Wecht, probably the most respected pathologist in the USA, maybe the world, and he said unequivocally that Massello was completely wrong. I tried to use this in my postconviction attacks on my conviction. Guess what the court said? The judge said I should have had Dr. Wecht testify at my trial. That there was no reason I couldn’t have had him there. Try money – Wecht doesn’t work for free and by trial time I was flat broke and the judge refused to pay for any expert witnesses. Wecht won’t even deal with anyone who doesn’t have a lawyer. He told me Massello was wrong in an informal letter, but won’t go on the record unless paid. In trying to get my case back in court I have been frustrated by the fact that expert witnesses won’t even talk to someone who has no lawyer. Most don’t even answer polite letters of inquiry. I have wasted countless postage writing to people who don’t even have the common courtesy to respond.

But there has been one hopeful exception, Dr. William T. Gormley, current Chief Medical Examiner for Virginia. I’ll talk about him another time……


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here




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Bob Shell: Letters From Prison 2018 #4



Shutterbug Magazine



Letters From Prison: Part 4, 2018


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


Let me talk a bit about what happened to me, particularly because something similar could happen to almost anyone in today’s America. The year was 2003 and I was at the top of my game. In 2001 I had been “retired” from my long-time job as Editor of the photography magazine Shutterbug. Rather than force me out altogether, which would have looked bad to the photo industry, they made me Editor At Large, cut my pay to less than half, but on the bright side they freed me from my contractual obligation to write articles only for them. So I began writing regularly for Rangefinder (edited then by my old friend Bill Hurter), Professional Photographer, Photo Electronic Imaging, Photo Techniques, Digital Camera, Zoom, and several others domestically. I continued to do product reviews for (who also put together the Gadget Guru segments for NBC’s Today Show). Plus I was writing photo books for Lark Books, a division of Barnes & Noble, working as a consultant for National Geographic on their photo guides, and writing some product instructions for Kodak (if you have a Kodak Gray Card, those are my instructions). I also wrote a section of a book on how to use light meters for Sekonic.

I was happy, working on personal photo projects in my studio in Radford, Virginia. People used to ask why I lived in a small town, and I always answered that it was the lower cost of everything. I was able to have a large studio for peanuts, and since I very rarely did anything for local clients I did not have to scrounge for local business to support myself.

Everything was going great and I was working on photos for a book that was a departure for me, a book of photos of erotic bondage. The book was the idea of Marion Franklin, my girlfriend and chief model. She had the idea and I sold it to a publisher. (The book, Erotic Bondage: Art of Rope came out in 2004 under my pseudonym Edward Lee, a pseudonym I’d used since 1993 for my overseas work — Not really so much a pseudonym, since my full name is Robert Edward Lee Shell).

I’d never really done any bondage photography prior to the summer of 2002 when I did a shoot with bondage pro Maria Shadoes and a friend of hers who was also heavily into bondage, and we played at it a bit. Later I did some with Elkie Cooper, one of my favorite models that I’d photographed for years, ever since she turned 18. She’d gotten onto bondage and had worked for some very fine photographers, including Lee Higgs, whose book Generation Fetish was a favorite of mine.

On June 3, 2003 my world came crashing down. Marion and I had worked all day with Maria Shadoes and her boyfriend Lew Rubens, both bondage pros who spent the day teaching me ties and safety procedures. I’d never had a model injured during a photo shoot and wanted to make sure it never happened. Maria and Marion were our subjects and Lew did some elaborate ties and suspensions with them. I wanted a record of everything, so I took many still photos and also set a video camera up on a tripod to record everything. I’d developed a habit of setting up a video camera and recording all studio shoots.

After we finished for the day we were all bushed. Marion went to sleep on the studio bed, Maria and Lew left for the day, and I walked down the block to the Sonic to get some food, since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I was gone maybe half an hour and came back to the studio to set things up for a shoot planned for the next day. After a while when I walked by the bed I couldn’t hear Marion snoring (she always snored softly) and tried to wake her up. She would not respond, so I freaked out and ran to the phone and called 911. That’s when my nightmare began. To be continued…….


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here


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Bob Shell: Letters From Prison 2018 #3



Bob Shell: Letters From Prison


Letters From Prison: Part 3, 2018


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


Maybe my readers will be interested in what a typical day in prison is like. But of. course I’m not really in a prison. Virginia doesn’t have prisons anymore, they have “correctional centers.” The organization is no longer called department of prisons or something similar. It is now the lofty-sounding Department of Corrections and the state spends a billion dollars a year to run it. That’s right, billion with a “b”! The Department of Corrections is the single biggest item in the state budget. But the taxpayers don’t mind because we’re “tough on crime.”. So all that money has “corrected” me for ten years now. How do they correct us?
Here’s a typical day. They wake us up at 5:30 in the morning by yelling at us over the loud intercom and yell again in 15 minutes just in case we missed the first time. Then they make us stand up in our cells to be counted just in case someone disappeared during the night. Then we sit around doing nothing until about 6:30 when they open the cell doors and let us out into the pod. A pod is a big common room with cells in two tiers on three sides. So we go out into the pod and do nothing again until they call us to chow. Breakfast and other meals are served in the chow hall, a big room with metal tables, each with four stool seats permanently attached. The seats are round and hard, like sitting on an old auto hubcap. Breakfast today was waffles. Two frozen waffles with syrup, waffles we eat with a spork? Yep, a. spork is a plastic cross between a fork and a spoon that combines all the worst features of both. It’s like eating soup with a fork or meat with a spoon. Anyway with the waffles we had home fries (a scoop of semi-cooked potatoes) and cooked apples. Also a serving of oatmeal. Not surprising, since they spend less than two dollars a day to feed each of us. The idea that some people have that we get gourmet meals is wrong. Just after the Civil War the Federal Bureau of Prisons spent 75 cents a day to feed its prisoners, something like twenty dollars in today’s money! Some meals I simply can’t eat, so I eat food from the commissary. I’m very fortunate to have friends who send me money so I can buy commissary food, while many are not so fortunate and have to eat the state food.
Anyway, after breakfast we come back to the same boredom unless we have morning classes. I don’t have any right now, so I usually take a nap for a. couple of hours, then listen to music on my MP3 player and read. Right now I’m reading Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins, one of the major exponents of atheistic Darwinian evolution. I think he’s wrong, but this is not the place to argue that.
Back to the story: After breakfast we return to our pod or cells to either join one of the regular card games, work on a jigsaw puzzle, play chess, or sleep until they lock us down for another count until time for lunch.
After lunch I go to our law library for more research on law. I’ve been doing this for ten years now and have. learned a lot about the law, and am now a “jailhouse lawyer” member of the National Lawyers Guild. I’m also taking a Microsoft computer class later in the afternoon. After all this I have to go to pill call and stand in a long line to get my medicine. The pill line is outdoors and we stand there no matter what the weather. Then dinner, back to the pod for lockdown and another count, and more boredom until 9:30 bedtime. Then the same all over again the next morning. That’s been my life for the last ten years, and for something that never happened! More on this later…..


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 11th years of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here


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A.H. Scott: Honor’s Retreat



Honor’s Retreat


Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2018


Even after bald-face lies about Rep. Fredericka Wilson and musing about Dreamers being lazy asses; John Kelly still receives reverence in being given the hallowed presence of constantly being called General Kelly. For me, it seems the journalists calling him that are always giving a false salute of his past glory. As for the present, he is just the CIVILIAN White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. No higher or lower than any other person who has held that position.And, with that Mr. John Kelly has fallen at ease in Honor’s Retreat. And, for those who say, that Kelly is the adult in the room to bring discipline to the White House; I say that is a joke.

Oh, don’t get me started on plans for that military parade, cuz’ I surely don’t want to throw too much shade.




Honor’s retreat

Oh, yeah

It can be beat

Honor whistles past Arlington

Reputation relinquished for false prophet of patriotism’s need

Proclaiming protégé of being a man of integrity

Even as dirty deeds of the past have been teased in the spotlight

Porter’s supporter feigns ignorance of who this secretary truly is

But, what do you expect when wrong is stroked as right

We need the Honor Whisperer to show us the light

Too damn bad that dishonor has become wed to this plight

Yet, Honor retreats once again

Make me a parade with pomp and pride

And, of course make damn sure my enormous missile glistens for the satellites above to see

Honor’s retreat all the way it’s gotta be

What was normal before has gone far, far away

Verbal sparring and belittling of those who are beneath the platinum plateau

From lying about Representative Wilson to yakkin’ about lazy ass Dreamers, the smearing of civility grows

Is Honor in the house of white anymore?

Retreated and reloaded for the March of the Righteous to be led

General you were before

Now, just Mr. Kelly is who ya’ are

Not so different from ya’ boss

Honor’s retreat is propriety’s loss

Duty has become doody, as the Tantrum Toddler sits in his high chair

Common sense has become like mercury, slick to the grasp of a stillness of serenity

Once upon a perch of what was saluted with solemnity, as faltered to shallow

Hallow transforms to hollow, as the tightrope snaps – and Earth is left without a net

Honor’s retreat is decorum’s defeat


About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by A. H. Scott, go here


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Bob Shell: Letters From Prison 2018 #1


slave collar fetish fashion black latex asian submissive

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

Letters From Prison, Part 1 2018


Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


The other day one of the young men here handed me a book to read. I looked at it and was transported back in time more than fifty years. The book is Story of O. In 1966 I was nineteen years old, in my second year at Virginia Tech, working part time in a bookstore/coffee shop wrapping shipments for mailing, and trying to find a girlfriend. To make extra money, I was selling subscriptions to Playboy and Evergreen Review. I ordered a book I’d read about in Evergreen, called The Story of O, which had just been published in the US. The book had created quite a stir! There was much discussion about Pauline Reage, the credited author. Was this a pseudonym? Was the author really a man? Would the publisher end up in prison alongside the publisher of Screw?

This book was my first introduction to serious S and M erotica. To say it had a strong impact on me would be a massive understatement. Ever since I first read the book, I’ve had a dream of filming, still or movie, this story. There is a “band designee” version by the masterful French artist Guido Crepax, and a pretty awful movie and serialized TV miniseries, but they’re far too toned down. Anyway, I was surprised to find the book here where everything is so heavily censored. Apparently explicit verbal sex is OK, but even a bare breast is forbidden pictorially. I recently had an issue of Vogue magazine confiscated for containing nudity, and got an institutional charge for having it! I was given 45 days telephone restriction as punishment. Imagine that in the good old U.S.A.! Such is life here in the DOC.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 10th years of his sentence. To read more articles by Bob Shell, go here


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