Year-End Favorites: John Nova Lomax Perfects the Crime-Meets-Facebook Beat
Texas Monthly senior editor Katy Vine shares a few stories from one of her favorite writers of the year.
This year, any time I had a few minutes to kill on the Internet, I would hit the Houston Press‘s Hair Balls blog and scan for John Nova Lomax’s byline with the words “Crime” or “Facebook” in the post. When found a match, I would make myself comfortable.
Lomax may not be the first person to weave a person’s Facebook updates into a crime narrative, but he gives the play-by-play masterfully. A perfect case in point is a January 2011 post titled “Chase Langston Wiatt: Facebook Chronicles a Year of Alleged Petty (And Not-So-Petty) Crime.”
Wiatt, Lomax points out, is a nineteen-year-old white kid from a relatively wealthy suburb, facing a variety of charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, drug possession, deadly conduct, and credit/debit card abuse. Wiatt was also an avid user of Facebook, updating his status frequently, which allowed Lomax to report on the life of a “dumb criminal:”
Wiatt launched his new FB page in September, a few weeks after the deadly conduct bust, and for the first month, appeared to be trying to walk a righteous path, regularly quoting scripture and inspirational mottoes.
And then he changed his relationship status to single.
Tabatha [the mother of his child] sarcastically liked the change. And maybe feeling bested, Wiatt said he liked it too, and then upped the stakes, linking to Eminem’s ‘Kim,’ the rapper’s diatribe against his own baby mama. After venting thusly, Wiatt asked for permission to visit their infant daughter. Tabatha replied that he could do so the next day, and added that he should ‘grow up.’
‘Ha, Im grown homie,’ came his reply.
‘act like it,’ Tabatha fired back. ‘u been hittin on 16 year old lil gurl ha, u really took a step up.’
The next day found Wiatt manically reflective. In one hour’s posting, he quoted the Bible, slammed Eminem for being a Freemason, implicated Jay-Z in the deaths of Tupac and Biggie Smalls, and praised ‘Pac, Biggie, Bob Marley and Johnny Cash. (Say what you will about his behavior, and odd opinions, but the kid has pretty damn good taste.)
And then he crashed a few days later, writing this: ‘i wanna die ive never felt so much pain why??i feel like nothing.’
Two months later, as if to further prove he was a complicated man, Wiatt announced that he was looking to party, then he started quoting scripture, and in short order, he was busted for stealing someone’s credit card.
But Wiatt’s case, while personal, did not necessarily provide a clear motive for his crimes. We get to see that in “Nancy Jane Mancuso Gelber: Police Say Aspiring Crime Writer Wanted Estranged Hubby Whacked.” Lomax found that Mancuso wrote about the man she tried to have killed:
‘I’m going thru a divorce from a man I thought was my Santa Claus, (looked like him, too), smelt like Elmer Fudd, and who now thinks he is Tiger Woods! I have Essential Tremors, (an inherited shaking disease) that I am/was due to have brain surgery, but now I am going to court to force my soon-to-be ex-husband to put me back on his insurance. He dropped me from it 2 months before I was due to have the Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, because he needed the extra money to spend on all his other women.’
Let this—and the accompanying FB photos and mug shots—be a lesson to you on why you should lock those privacy settings up tight.
You can read more of Lomax’s crime-meets-Facebook stories from 2011 here (and here and here), but you should not miss his very best work in this genre, a piece from 2010 titled “Wankie McDoucherson’s Saga.”