January 11, 2006

Man in a Box

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an all-time classic of hilarious true-crime reporting on Tuesday, a piece by staff writer Wendy Ruderman on a West Deptford, New Jersey, man who stands accused of holding women prisoner in a steel container in his backyard. The twist? In a case of either Stockholm Syndrome or drug-induced madness, the women appear to like it.

The piece's protagonist is Jerome L. Wigmore Jr., who stands accused of hosting multiple prostitutes in the steel container, sexual assaulting one of them and burning another with a blowtorch. But Wigmore and another of the women, Camden-based prostitute T.Y. "Terry Cake" Jones, describe the arrangement as more of a collaboration, which the piece describes as "an unlikely friendship between a Swastika-tattooed ex-con and black prostitute living together in an adult version of a clubhouse."

Other highlights:

1. As if the story weren't creepy enough without Nazi undertones, Wigmore has fluorescent swastikas painted on the ceiling of the "clubhouse," as well as a soccer ball-sized swastika tatooed on his chest. But this didn't stop the African-American Jones from being his friend, or from telling the reporter "He was cool peoples to me."

2. In addition to the kidnapping and sexual assault charges, Wigmore also stands accused of "manufacturing and selling drugs out of the container."

3. Wigmore and Jones called the container "a cozy one-bedroom efficiency protected by the pit bull, Snow."

4. Wigmore read Jones Nazi literature, and said that while he had nothing against blacks or Jews, he believed "their cultures are wiping out the white race." Nothing against them, though. Yet despite all that, Wigmore told the reporter that use of the n-word is "ignorant."

5. Wigmore described the meals he produced for Jones, including Chinese takeout and Hungry Man TV dinners: "I'd wine and dine her. Breakfast in bed, man. Just like in [jail]."

6. It's not until the 20th paragraph of the piece that we learn the container was "parked" outside of the home of Wigmore's estranged wife, Betty, and her mother, Alice Boozer. I knew a guy in high school who lived in a VW Microbus outside his parents' house, but this somehow is even sleazier.

7. Wigmore would sometimes enter his wife's home in order to do laundry for himself and various prostitutes. The mother-in-law believes Wigmore "is the wrong person for my daughter," though it's hard to imagine why.

8. In reference to a second woman who had stayed in the container for a spell in June and July and later claimed Wigmore burned her with a blowtorch, he replied, "I treated her like gold, man." When the woman refused to leave, Wigmore said, "I told my wife, 'Honey, I got this chick in the container, right. She won't leave. Can you tell her to leave? Just get her out."

9. Yes, despite living in a container in the backyard with a succession of prostitutes, he still addresses his wife as "honey."

10. As the piece concludes, "citing his good looks, Wigmore said he did not have to kidnap women. 'I had girls throwing rocks at that thing at nighttime, wanting to get inside,' he said."

Wow. Just, wow. Think any of that will hold up in court?

Posted by Stephen Silver at January 11, 2006 01:47 AM
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