Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Good Wife: Kills Husband, Still Files His Taxes

On Feb. 18, 2010, a Web site representing television news station KRQE published an article that recounted the story of the Albuquerque woman who killed her husband in 2002, buried his body, then filed for taxes in 2006 in his name. Ultimately, the story was written very poorly, and is the worst I have seen in a while for several reasons.

First of all, the headline is somewhat confusing. "DA: Ex killed husband and did his taxes," it says. I read this as being humorous. It seems to imply that she was so used to filing for their taxes as a family that she still did it for him even after he was dead. The headline made it seem like the authorities thought it was a funny, rather than a sober announcement.

Also, the story is written in a very confusing manner. The lead reads, "The woman who admitted to shooting her husband and then burying his body deep in the ground is now charged with filing his taxes and cashing in on the return." When I first read this, I had several questions: when did she actually kill him, when did she admit to killing him, was there a trial, shouldn't she be in jail, when was his body found, how did she have access to file for taxes if she's in jail? The rather ambiguous lead left so many unanswered questions. So, I figured I was originally too impatient with the story, so I continued to read in hopes of having my questions answered.

Surprise! They were not answered.

"Ellen Snyder admits she shot and buried her husband Michael in 2002," the second graph says. "In 2006, prosecutors said she needed him again for his money."

The third graph continues. "Since the body was unearthed two weeks ago at his former home in the northeast heights, Snyder's secrets have surfaced with him," it says.

Okay, wait, what? The writing doesn't clear up any information. She admitted to killing him and burying him--cool, I understand that. But prosecutors say she needed him for money in 2006. Was this during her trial in 2006 that this was said? She needed his money in 2006? Or the prosecutors said this in 2006?

Now in the next graph the writer tries to get cutesy: "Synder's secrets have surfaced with him." Good try at alliteration, but the affect is lost because the message is unclear. Which "Snyder" had secrets? So the body was unearthed two weeks ago? Where? Who found it? How did they find it in the first place? And really, shouldn't she be in jail?

The story continues, talking about a trial and a grand jury, the woman's money problems, etc.

"Snyder's son admitted to police he wrapped his step-father’s body in plastic the morning of the murder and then helped his mother bury the body two days later," the story says toward the bottom. "He has cooperated with police, so at this time he is not being charged."

The story then ends by saying, "Snyder, 50, is still in jail on a $1 million bond."

Now, shouldn't this stuff have been placed more toward the top of the story? The fact that the woman's son helped to wrap up the dead man is pretty important information. The fact that he's not being charged is important. And the fact that the woman is in jail on a $1 million bond is crucial, I think.

Ultimately, what I have gotten from this story after thinking it over several times is that the woman killed her "abusive" husband and with the help of her son buried him somewhere in 2002. That was that and apparently no one cared or noticed or whatever. But somehow people knew he was dead. Then in 2006, she filed for taxes in his name, which is how people discovered she had killed him? I don't really know what's going on in this story.

The story does appear to come from a television news station in the Albuquerque area, which is where the crime was committed. There is an accompanying video, but I did not watch it. If there is a written story with a video, that story should be written well. Most likely, this story is well-known in the area and therefore the station had covered the case previously. The additional charges of tax fraud she faces now is the "news" this time. But, the station should have linked this story to the previous ones, so that outside readers could learn more. I found this story originally from CNN.com under their "U.S." tab. Because of this, I would think the Albuquerque television news station would provide outside readers with additional information if they're interested enough to click the CNN.com link. The news station should be more aware of this, for future reference.

Here is a Web video of a previous story about the woman from the same television news station:

If you are interested in reading more about this case, here is a much better and more detailed story, from a different news station. This was written before the other, and before the newer tax information. It does, however, fill in some of the gaps that other story lacked.

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