Jim Varagona

Month: February, 2008

>Riding in Cars with Diabolical Rapists


Before tossing out an unread newspaper a week or two ago, I browsed through, making sure I didn’t miss out on a celebrity scandal, a relative’s death, or a new way that the President has devised to screw this country. While I didn’t find anything like that, one headline did catch my eye: Rapist Gets Life Plus 25 Years. Granted, it is kind of vague but you wonder what kind of brutality could lead to such a sentence, so I read on.

Rapist gets life plus 25 years
Robert Patrick

St. Louis — A man who brutally raped a woman in her Dogtown home and beat her with a baseball bat — then called her boyfriend to gloat— was sentenced Friday evening to life plus 25 years in prison.

James Thomas Fujimoto, 26, broke into the home of the woman, then 23, in the 6300 block of Berthold Avenue on Sept. 1, 2002, struck her repeatedly in the head with a bat, then sodomized and raped her for three hours. At one point he said, “Tell me you love me,” Assistant Circuit Attorney Mary Pat Benninger told St. Louis Circuit Judge Philip Heagney.

After Fujimoto left the woman’s apartment, he called her boyfriend. “He wanted him to see it,” Benninger said. “He wanted him to know what he’d done.”

Fujimoto pleaded guilty last month to forcible rape, forcible sodomy, assault and robbery charges on the day his trial was supposed to begin.

The attack was so violent that the woman had to have about one-third of her face reconstructed. She still suffers vertigo from crushed ear canals, officials said, and has since moved.

Benninger called Fujimoto a predator and a sadist and said he was excited by violence and fueled by control. He had stalked the victim and was also stalking other women, she said, and was “beyond rehabilitation.”

Fujimoto apologized for the “horrible thing” he’d done and told Heagney that he had broken into the woman’s apartment to burglarize it, not to rape her.

Fujimoto was arrested in 2005 after a DNA sample from the crime scene matched a sample collected from him as he was being paroled from prison on other charges.

I immediately recognized the name. I went to high school with this nut job for 3 years. I sat at the same lunch table as this cocky S.O.B. with this the chess team and computer club, neither of which I was a member of, yet they were one of the few groups I felt comfortable around. He didn’t fit in with them either, but if how I felt about him was any indication, he was too annoying for any others to deal with him. He wasn’t complete reject though. He tried to have his way with the ladies, and I’m sure he did at times.

Did anyone see this coming though? I certainly didn’t think too much of him, but hardly ever do you consider people around you to be capable of such psychotic episodes. I mean, I now know of someone that is in prison for life for some heinous things.

When I saw Jim’s name though, I thought back to around 2005, when I was working as a fertilizer merchandiser, such a respectable profession. I was having lunch at a nearby Burger King with a coworker. As we left, I noticed Jim on a pay phone outside, so I mumbled “Hey Jim” as I passed him. He screamed back some name that wasn’t my own, but that got us talking about high school.

Now I try not to hold how folks were in high school against him, so I was congenial with the guy. He told me that he didn’t have a car and that his sick grandmother was not answering the phone. He proceeded to ask me for a ride home, which was about 15 minutes away. Since my job didn’t necessarily require my presence, I agreed. He told me he’d give me some gas money once we got there. My coworker didn’t have much of a choice and tagged along.

I don’t remember too much of the conversation. I’m sure it was your typical small talk about the good ol’ days. Who do you still talk to? Have you heard about or have you seen so-and-so? And of course, he still rubbed me the wrong way.

When we arrived at his destination, he left his orange windbreaker in my car and ran inside. He left the front entrance open and left us waiting. We proceeded to wait for at least 10 minutes. After some discussion with my coworker, we decided to take off. We couldn’t figure out what was going on. He obviously wasn’t in a hurry to give me gas money and if something was wrong with grandma, I would assume he would run back out to us for assistance.

After reading the article, which deals with an incident that happened before this occassion, I wonder if that was his house, if there was a grandma, and even if that windbreaker was his, which I gave away to a friend of mine.

I researched further on his crime.

Man pleads guilty to brutal rape in Dogtown
Robert Patrick

St. Louis — James Thomas Fujimoto, 26, admitted Monday that he was responsible for the violent rape and baseball-bat beating of a woman in her Dogtown neighborhood home in 2002.

Fujimoto, of St. Louis County, acknowledged that he broke into her home in the 6300 block of Berthold Avenue on Sept. 1, 2002.

He beat the then-23-year-old woman in the head with an aluminum baseball bat, then sodomized and repeatedly raped her for three hours.

Fujimoto’s trial was supposed to begin Monday, but he pleaded guilty of forcible rape, forcible sodomy, first-degree assault and first-degree robbery rather than face a jury.

Assistant Circuit Attorney Mary Pat Benninger told Circuit Judge Philip Heagney that she plans to ask for two consecutive life terms for the crime.

Fujimoto had the victim try to bathe away any physical evidence and then raped her again, Benninger said in court. He stole money from her piggy bank and took the keys to her car before leaving.

Fujimoto was not the first man arrested in connection with the crime. A drifter found near the crime scene confessed to the attack but was released after his DNA did not match semen found at the scene.

Fujimoto was arrested in 2005 based on a DNA match. His DNA was in the Missouri database because of a recently changed state law that expanded DNA taking to all convicted felons in Missouri, not just the violent ones.

He was serving time on second-degree burglary and attempted burglary convictions from 1999. He also has been convicted of tampering with a motor vehicle in Franklin County, and fraudulent use of a credit device in St. Louis County.

Fujimoto, who dropped out of school in the 11th grade but later got his high school equivalency certificate and attended some college classes, still faces a stealing charge in St. Louis County.

The victim sat about 10 feet from him during Monday’s plea hearing, at times staring at him and at times crying. The attack was so violent that she had to have about one-third of her face reconstructed, and she still suffers vertigo from crushed ear canals, officials said.

She has since moved.

So to make it creepier, he was originally arrested for this incident the year I gave him that ride and probably not too long after, considering that was during the summer that I did him the favor. You never know with people, but you should probably follow that intuition. I didn’t have the intuition that he was a brutal rapist, but that he was generally a loser, and perhaps that should have been good enough.

When I broke this story to those I went to school with, I received quite a few messages from shocked females, some even stating that they had crushes on him back in the day. It’s fortunate that they left it at that, but makes me wonder what else he may have done out there.



>In Memoriam


8 years ago on this day, my brother Matt passed away.

Remember to cherish those you have while they’re here and even when they’re gone.

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>Are We Going Mad?

>I’ve been out of comission for the past several days with the flu, so I’ve taken to catching up on some movie watching. Meanwhile, another school shooting has occured, this time only one state away from me in Illinois at Northern Illinois University. Yawn. We’re so used to this in America.

Another thingthat I’m sadly used to is the argument that more guns would solve this problem. The police had record response time in this recent incident, yet Second Amendment advocates say if students could have concealed weapons on campus, they could have ended it sooner. So because people go insane and do these dispicable acts, we are to justify arming others and provoke further incidents?

Why do we have gun rights in America anyway? The second Amendment in the Bill of Rights states: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

So let every white man that owns property have firearms then. What’s that? Woman and other races must have equal rights as well. I suppose so. As time goes on, we do have the freedom to change things as we see fit for the betterment of our people, which is why we as Americans slowly did away with slavery, segregation, and keeping anyone that wasn’t white or a man from voting. That’s progress–and genuinely American!

I live in a city that year after year is in the top ten for violent crime which helped us win the tops for America’s Most Dangerous City in 2002 and 2006. To keep us up there, we need more guns. And we need them in the hands of more people, including desperate individuals that could slip through a background check or into the decent folks hands that pass them along through the black market to those that cannot get them legally on their own. I hope you sense my sarcasm here, but I doubt that for you hard core 2nd Amendment kids.

There’s a time and a place for that kids, and it’s called College.

What is the Wild Wild West, Alex?

I realize we have the right to defend ourselves and those that died didn’t have the opportunity, or the glock, to. Say you let the other student carry concealed weapons. What about all of those high school shootings? Or even the grade school shootings? They may be underage, but don’t they have a right to be defended. So let’s arm the teachers! Try explaining that to the parents when something goes wrong. And that’s saying everything’s a-okay on those college campuses, which I scoff at.

Here’s a novel concept. Do away with handguns and automatic weapons altogether. Hell, I’d want to do away with firearms altogether, but we’ll take baby steps, you “hunters” you. In a place where 67.9% of murders were caused by firearms, think of the dramatic drop. Granted some will stash theirs away. It will be another Prohibition of sorts, but with strict penalties, we shall overcome. In 2006, 14,990 were murdered in the U.S. More than half of that number is from handguns (7,795), which could be deemed completely unnecessary. What’s the point of handguns again? Ah yes, to defend ourselves–from others that are defending themselves? Total firearm deaths in the U.S. reached 10,177, which we can hopefully beat in the coming years. We are the land of opportunity and dreams.

The only civilized country that is in our league, and in fact can beat our numbers, is Brazil. They do however have better alternative fuel sources there, so I think it balances out. While Brazilians won’t agree to banning gun sales outright, mainly due to fear of others still armed, stricter gun control laws and buyback programs have lowered their firearm murder rate by at least 8%.

Unfortunately, money speaks in our country, especially through the gun lobbyists. Fear works well here too, which may forever make folks feel like they need to be armed. Maybe we can work to eliminate that need instead of snowballing one of the more primitive aspects of our society.


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