Hauptmann’s Ladder by Richard T. Cahill Jr

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If you want an exhaustive and meticulously researched account of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping the Hauptmann’s Ladder is THE book to read.

If you’re not familiar with the case (it’s probably one of the most notorious and sensational crimes in American history), in 1932, the infant son of American aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped from the nursery on the second floor of the family’s New Jersey home. A ransom note for $50,000 was found on window sill. (A second ransom note for $70,000 came days later).

The body of the baby, Charles Jr., was found a few months later.

A German immigrant Bruno Hauptmann was arrested for extortion and later charged with the murder of Charles Jr. He was executed in the electric chair in 1936.

The significance of the book’s title is a reference to the ladder that was used to gain access to the child’s bedroom.

The author Richard T. Cahill Jr has researched the case for over 20 years. It is a case where there are theories that Hauptmann was innocent and the victim of corruption and a cover-up. However Cahill presents the cold, hard facts of the case and draws upon documentary evidence, even including evidence and information that has never before been revealed.

The Lindbergh case is fascinating, frightening and an important part of America’s social history. This book is a very intelligent read that transcends true crime.

Hauptmann’s Ladder is published by Kent University Press

Cold Justice Season 2

There are some great true crime programs out there and Cold Justice is one of them. I am absolutely intrigued by cold cases and am in awe of the dedicated professionals who help to solve these crimes.

Produced for cable network TNTDrama, Cold Justice is a few episodes into the second series and runs (on US TV) until July 25.


 

The cold cases featured on the series get investigated as you watch. The crack team of prosecutor Kelly Siegler and CSI Yolanda McClary travel to towns across America to help solves cold cases where families and loved ones had otherwise given up hope.

One upcoming episode “Sunspot Highway” (to air July 25) focuses on the case of a discarded body along a remote mountain road. The team race to determine who in the woman’s life could have committed the heinous crime.​

(In Australia Cold Justice Season 1 is currently on air on the Crime + Investigation Channel.)

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Hawaii Unsolved Murders

 

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Hawaii has always intrigued me.

I have been fortunate to have visited Oahu twice – when I was 9 and 15 and it was beautiful. I especially loved the night markets and the friendliness of people. I’d like to return to Hawaii for a holiday now that I am an adult.

Of course, there are the television shows that have been set in Hawaii – Magnum PI and one I loved (but didn’t last long) The Byrds of Paradise.

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But for all the beauty and seeming casualness of Hawaiian life, there is a dark side to the island life and that’s most evident in the unsolved murders that police are still actively trying to solve.

I was intrigued by a more than decade-old article by the Honlolulu Advertiser about unsolved murders from the 1970s and 1980s.

It appears that a serial killer was active in 1985-1986 as there are five cases of women murdered in Honolulu. The killer has been dubbed The Honolulu Strangler and has not been caught. The victims were aged from 17 to 36.

There is also the horror case of eight-year-old Roiti Dias (below) who was kidnapped while walking to school on May 27, 1980, and later found dead with her throat slashed. No one has ever been arrested for her murder.

Another girl, Jiezhao Li, 12, was last seen on Feb. 11, 1988, selling fundraiser tickets near a 7-Eleven store in a Honolulu suburb called Nuuanu. She is still missing.

These unsolved crimes haunt detectives.

And a recent report on the Kauai cold case unit to say that they have not forgotten victims and investigators are actively working with the island’s prosecution office to crack these cases.

- The 1981 gunshot slayings of Californians John Klein, 28 and his wife Michelle, 25 who were vacationing on Kauai. Their bodies were found on a tourist trail and had been shot seven times.

Their murders unsettled tourists and was a set back to state officials and locals, who were trying to reassure people that Hawaii was safe to visit after some other high-profile instances of attacks visitors. There had been a gang rape of a Finnish woman, 23, by a gang of local teenagers in 1979, which attracted national coverage and condemnation over the shoddy handling of rape cases by the State.

One theory for the murders of the Kleins is that the couple – he a lawyer and she a publicist – stumbled across a marijuana crop. An Associated Press article from January 3, 1982 called “Marijuana Blight: Hawaii Paradise Threatened by Hidden Cultivation” reported that six months after the couple’s death, police harvested almost a tonne of weed within a mile of where their bodies were discovered.

Information on these cases and more can be found on the website of the Kaua’i Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.

Anyone reading this blog who has information that could solve any of these homicides should contact Honolulu Crime Stoppers or the Kauai County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney at 808-241-1888 or via email: coldcase@kauai.gov

A mother’s torment – the disappearance of Suzie Lawrance

Today is International Missing Children’s Day and I wanted to share with you all the story of Liz Westwood, an Australian mother whose daughter Suzie, 16, went missing in 1987.

On February 7, Suzie went to a party at Healesville Memorial Hall. She was last seen the next day, before disappearing without a trace. Healesville is a rural town and tourist attraction in Melbourne’s outer east and in 1987, it was very much a place where everyone knew one another.

As part of a multimedia project I did in 2012 called Unsolved East, photojournalist Eugene Hyland and I travelled to Liz Westwood’s home to speak with her about Suzie’s disappearance. The video interview can be found here on YouTube.

It is a baffling case. Liz has never heard from her daughter since, nor has any of Suzie’s brothers. As Liz told us, Suzie was very close in particular to one brother and she said it made no sense that she wouldn’t have at least contacted him over the years.

An aspect of the case that i found really strange was that the party dress that Suzie wore to the 21st birthday party – a white taffeta dress – has never been found (see story below. The picture is from a television recreation of her case). Suzie would have had to change from her party clothes as she was seen the next day at a music festival in nearby Yarra Glen.

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Someone must know what happened to Suzie?

Mothers whose murders are still unsolved

It’s Mother’s Day in Australia and North America. A time to celebrate mothers. Children give their mums/moms homemade cards and gifts. It’s a day for mum to be spoilt with a sleep-in and breakfast in bed.

But there are many families who are still waiting for justice. Their mothers have been murdered and the killer/s have not been brought to account…yet.

Here are some cases where families are desperate for answers:

>>The children of murdered Melbourne woman Nanette Ellis hope a $500,000 reward, announced in February, will bring the vital clues needed to solve their mum’s murder 30 years ago. Nanette’s murder was brutal and baffling. Who would want to kill her? Read the detailed account of the crime here, written by Melbourne journalist and crime writer Keith Moor. (Australia)

Nanette Ellis.
Nanette Ellis.

 

>>The naked, bashed and strangled body of 29-year-old factory worker and single mother of two Annette Steward was found in the bedroom of her Geelong West, Victoria home on March 18, 1992. Police believe this now 22-year-old cold case is solvable and they have a “strong suspect”. A 2007 coroner’s inquest named a suspect. (Australia)

Annette Steward
Annette Steward

 

>>The murder of Pennsylvania mom Joy Hibbs in 1991 is still unsolved. her 12-year-old son David came home from school on April 19, excited to tell her he’d made the school honor roll, only to see his home enveloped by thick smoke. Joy had been strangled and stabbed to death before the house fire. The killer, no doubt, trying to cover the crime by setting the house alight. (United States)

Joy Hibbs
Joy Hibbs

 

>>The brutal bashing of 53-year-old mother Julie Paskall as she was waiting to pick up her teen son from a hockey game shocked Canadians. Julie was beaten to death outside a Surrey, B.C., hockey arena on December 29, 2013 and when son Cailean came out to the parking lot, he found his mother surrounded by paramedics trying to save her life. Julie’s husband of 35 years said he wants to find the person responsible, but not for revenge. He simply wants to know why anyone would attack his 4-10″, 125-pound wife. Canadian detectives said in March that they were confident they would find her killer. (Canada)

 

Julie Paskall

 

 

 

Dig the Archives event

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I couldn’t have written  my true crime book Murder in Suburbia without the help of newspaper archives. And the thing is, I stumbled across it rather than actually knowing how to navigate my way through available resources. Finding out more about research and resources is something I am really keen to do.

The Victorian Archives Open Day is on Saturday, May 17 in Melbourne and is a fantastic way to discover how to “dig” into the resources available.  There will be a series of informative talks on offer all day from property research with Adam Ford of the ABC’s Who’s Been Sleeping In My House? to finding out about how to research your family history. You will also have the opportunity to get a behind the scenes tour where you will discover the “Treasures of the Archives”.

Of particular interest to me is veteran crime journalist and author Russell Robinson who will run a session on “Archives of intrigue”. Robinson has written about some of Victoria’s most notorious crimes that have not been in the public eye for many, many years.

The event and sessions  are free but bookings are essential.

For more information go to prov.vic.gov.au/dig-the-archives

The Victorian Archives Centre is at  99 Shiel St, North Melbourne.

Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo

I am really, really enjoying Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo. I am trying to read more crime fiction (when I find an author I love get so excited!) at the moment and while I still love my true crime, I like to keep an eye on what’s happening in the world of fiction.

I was sent a great selection of crime fiction by the good people at Dymocks booksellers. I was really excited to receive this surprise package and Jo Nesbo’s Cockroaches was among the selection.

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I have never read Jo Nesbo before. I don’t know why it has taken me so long (that’s kind of what happens when you read so much true crime!).

Cockroaches is one of Nesbo’s early novels featuring Harry Hole. Like most great crime protaganists, Hole,  an Oslo-based detective  is a loner, a loose cannon and he has some really unorthodox investigation methods. In Cockroaches, Hole arrives in Bangkok to investigate the death of the Norwegian ambassador.

I’m about a quarter way into this book and it is riveting.

Nesbo is Finnish and has sold more than 3 million of his books in his homeland – 23 million in other parts of the world. Nesbo is one of the leaders of Scandinavian Noir (ScandiNoir) as the genre is popularly known.

I’m looking forward to reading more Jo Nesbo

Source: Dymocks.com.au
Source: Dymocks.com.au

Been a bit quiet here

Hi everyone. I felt the need to explain why posts have been a little sporadic at True Crime Reader.

I am head down into writing my second book, which will have more of an international crime flavour.

My first book Murder in Suburbia is going well and I’m getting lots of feedback from readers. Thanks to everyone for the support.

Writing books is HARD. I’m finding is harder to write my second now that i know how much work and research goes into it. I had absolutely NO idea (which was probably a good thing) when I embarked on writing Murder in Suburbia.

I’ll get back into regular posts asap. In the meantime, please keep in touch and let me know what books you are reading at the moment!

 

 

The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter

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The mad Sculptor is an absolutely fascinating book by author Harold Schechter. Released last week, the book tells the story of a grisly triple murder at one of New York’s most prestigious addresses. I am absolutely mad (pardon the pun) for researching historic newspapers so this book had instant appeal to me. Here’s the dish on this book:

Beekman Place had a curious way of making it into the tabloids in the 1930s: “SKYSCRAPER SLAYER,” “BEAUTY SLAIN IN BATHTUB” read the headlines. On Easter Sunday in 1937, the discovery of a grisly triple homicide at Beekman Place would rock the neighborhood yet again—and enthrall the nation. The young man who committed the murders would come to be known in the annals of American crime as the Mad Sculptor.

Caught up in the Easter Sunday slayings was a bizarre and sensationalistic cast of characters, seemingly cooked up in a tabloid editor’s overheated imagination. The charismatic perpetrator, Roger Irwin, was a brilliant young sculptor who had studied with some of the masters of the era. But with his genius also came a deeply disturbed psyche; Irwin was obsessed with sexual self-mutilation and was frequently overcome by outbursts of violent rage.

Irwin’s primary victim, Veronica Gedeon, was a figure from the world of pulp fantasy—a stunning photographer’s model whose scandalous seminude pinups would titillate the public for weeks after her death. Irwin’s defense attorney, Samuel Leibowitz, was a courtroom celebrity with an unmatched record of acquittals and clients ranging from Al Capone to the Scottsboro Boys. And Dr. Fredric Wertham, psychiatrist and forensic scientist, befriended Irwin years before the murders and had predicted them in a public lecture months before the crime.

Based on extensive research and archival records, The Mad Sculptor recounts the chilling story of the Easter Sunday murders—a case that sparked a nationwide manhunt and endures as one of the most engrossing American crime dramas of the twentieth century.

I asked Harold Schechter a question about how things have changed with the media since the 1930s:

QUESTION: Describe how you view the evolution of media and journalism since the time of the Beekman Place murders.

ANSWER: One word: technology. In the 1930s, the public was forced to gratify its prurient interest with daily newspapers. Now we have 24/7 cable TV coverage and the Internet.

 NOTE: if your are lucky enough to be in NYC, Harold will be appearing at The Mysterious Bookshop on February 27.

The Charley Project

My website traffic had a massive surge last week and looking at my stats it is all thanks to the excellent website The Charley Project.

I have long been a fan of this blog, which is named after a famous missing persons case from the 1870s of a 4-year-old American by Charles Brewster Ross (You can read about the case here).

I think the Charley project is the most exhaustive resource on the internet devoted to Missing Persons.

Check it out. It’s fascinating and a very important source of information.

 

 

Murder in Suburbia

Things have been busy so far this year. I wrote my first true crime book last year and it was published by the Five Mile Press in January. For a long time I have been reading true crime so it was a very new experience to be writing my own book!

The book is called Murder in Suburbia and it features over 20 cases of murder in Australia’s suburbs and small towns.

You can read an extract here about the shocking case from 1950 of the suburban Melbourne mother who axed her teenage daughter to death while she was in a sleepwalking state.

There’s also an interview with the parents of murdered Melbourne mum jane Thurgood-Dove, who was shot in front of her children in a mistaken identity hit in 1997.

You can also read another extract about the shocking triple murder of three young people in Melbourne in 1992. The killer, Ashley Coulston, is one of the prisoners in Victoria whose file is marked “never to be released”.  Find the extract here.

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Find out more about the book at emilywebbcrime.com

Fate: Inside the Backpacker Murders Investigation by Neil Mercer

Review by A. R. Muir

The Sydney ‘backpacker murders’ of the 1980 and early 90s stand as perhaps the most infamous and scary chapter in Australia’s criminal history. Numerous books have been written about these serial killings from all angles. Fate by Neil Mercer targets the case from the point of view of the victims’ families. It tells of their first inklings that something may be wrong to their attempts to find their loved ones, and finally their reactions to the murder trial of Ivan Milat.

As a book on the backpacker murders it is probably best read in combination with others that contain more details on Milat’s life and family, for example Sins of the Brother by Mark Whittaker. What Mercer, a veteran Aussie journalist, does in Fate is put a very poignant face on the victims’ families, and their struggle for answers. He uses personal interviews and quotes to help narrate the unfolding horror of the families as they discover what monstrous atrocities their loved ones were forced to endure at the hands of the psychopath who then took their lives. It is moving to read of the search made by Manfred and Anke Neugebauer, parents of Gabor Neugebauer, and Norbert Habschied, Anja Habschied’s brother.

This is not a long book, but it does a decent job of outlining the case, and adding more understanding of the suffering felt by the victims’ families. It is a good introduction to the very convoluted case of the backpacker murders.

Forever Nine: The untold story of Bondi’s missing schoolgirl Samantha Knight

Review by A.R Muir

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When nine year old Samantha Knight was abducted from Bondi Road in 1986, Sydney reacted with a frantic search for any trace of the missing schoolgirl. Tips flooded in to police who pursued many avenues of inquiry, but ultimately failed to find her.

It took 16 years for some sort of justice to be obtained. The case “officially” ended with a plea of manslaughter from known paedophile, Michael Guider. He was allowed to plea to manslaughter despite the fact that he refused to tell the police where her body lay. Samantha, he claimed, was given an overdose of sleeping drug (in preparation of his abusing her). He was sentenced to only 12-17 years.

This is essentially where the story in Forever Nine by Denise Hoffman and John Kidman  takes off as co-author and one-time friend of Guider, Denise Hoffman, attempts to get him to reveal where her body is hidden. Working for the police, Hoffman pretends to want to renew their rather fleeting relationship as bush surveyors.

It culminates in her wearing a wire to prison visits with Guider. But he is a remorseless narcissist and in a child-like manner, refuses to play the game. This book is a well-paced narrative of Samantha’s disappearance, although the authors do not seem to have had much access to the family. The authors make a compelling circumstantial case for Guider’s guilt, although the decisive physical link in the evidence (such as DNA) is missing.

The story does not quite hold its momentum when it gets to the tete-a-tete between Guider and Hoffman. It seems a bit perverse that he is getting so much attention (which is what he craves) when it is clear that he will not give up his secrets so long as he can string Hoffman along. This is not a criticism of their attempts, as they have the best intentions of finding Samantha.

The reader can empathise with their frustration and disappointment. Perhaps the most chilling part of the case is that with a conviction for manslaughter, Guider could be out of jail sooner rather than later. This is a very well written and gripping true crime book, that will definitely leave an enduring image of Samantha Knight’s tragic story, as well as the hope that someday she may be returned to her family.

The Killer Next Door: Death in an Australian Suburb

Review by A. R. Muir

John Wayne Glover, know as "The Granny Killer". Pic from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wayne_Glover
John Wayne Glover, know as “The Granny Killer”. Pic from Wikipedia 

 

The Killer Next Door by  Lindsay Simpson and Sandra Harvey relates the so-call “Granny Killings” of 1989 to 1990, perpetrated by the late-middle-aged pie salesman, John Wayne Glover. The killings of 6 elderly women occurred in the upper-class suburbs of Sydney’s North Shore, and shocked residents with their brutality and senselessness. I had heard of this famous case from a number of other sources, and thought I have a pretty fair understanding of the case. However I picked up this used copy out of curiosity one day, and within three pages I knew I had found a pure true crime gem.

Glover’s method of killing was to bash his victims over the head with a claw hammer, followed by manual strangulation. The book vividly portrays the public’s fear and confusion as the murders come one after the other with the police seemingly impotent to stop them.

There is an excellent and detailed history of Glover’s childhood and early man-hood, something which I had not come across before. There is sympathy and respect when dealing with the deaths of the elderly women. Readers find themselves incensed that this monster was able to prey upon society’s vulnerable members, and yet there is also a sense of the courage of those who were able to fight back against a bigger, meaner attacker.

Due to its age the book is somewhat outdated in terms of its discussion of the serial killer phenomenon. The quotes from Colin Wilson and Donald Seaman at the beginning of every chapter smacks at hero-worship, and do not really add anything to the discussion. The authors try to get behind what motivated Glover to commit such senseless crimes, but his actions defied the contemporary understanding of serial killers.

For example, right up until the end, the “profilers” had convinced police that they were looking for a very young man who lived at home with his parents. Glover was married with children and approaching retirement age.

This book held my rapt attention till the very end, although I would have liked a bit more detail about the trial. Never the less this is a very high standard of true crime writing and a must read for anyone lucky enough to locate a copy. 5 out of 5.

Editor’s note: John Glover was found dead in his prison cell in 2005, having hanged himself. Police in NSW and Victoria (where Glover once lived) believe he could have been responsible for several unsolved murders of older women.

Houston’s Fatal Attraction Love-Affair Murder

This longform crime story is by Clarence Walker cwalkerinvestigate@gmail.com
A newspaper report about the case.
A newspaper report about the case.

PART ONE On January 31st 1988, a cold, windy chill plunged Glenview Illinois, a Chicago suburb, into an icy city with temperatures reaching far below 20′s, when 67-year-old Knut Einarsen received an ominous phone call at his suburban home.

Picking up the receiver, Mr. Einarsen greeted the caller with a cordial “hello”.

“Is Shelia there?” the woman’s voice spoke in a whispered tone into the phone.

“Who’s calling, please?” Mr. Einarsen inquired.

“Ann”, the woman answered gently.

Thinking the young woman was a friend of his lovely daughter Shelia, Einarsen replied, “she’s in Houston Texas.”

“Okay, thank you, the caller said, ending the conversation.

On February 1st, several hundred miles away from Glenview, way down in Texas, Lieutenant Richard Holland with Houston Police Homicide Division called Sergeants Waymon Allen and Doug Bacon into his office.

“Got a dead female at a Townhouse at 2600 Westerland street off Westheimer.”

“It looks like foul play, the woman been shot, Holland advised the sergeants.

“Alright we’re headed out there,” Allen responded.

The evening traffic was pretty heavy as Sgt. Allen navigated the unmarked police car down Memorial Drive until turning onto 610 South passing through the fabulous Galleria area, zigzagging around vehicles until exiting the cruiser onto Westheimer. Arriving at Woodlake Townhouses at approximately 6:40 p.m.– the Sergeants exited the vehicle and headed up to apartment# 1812. TV news media crews were already there to broadcast a “breaking news” story about the woman’s death. HPD (Houston Police Department Officer) James Walker (no relations to author), briefed the Sergeants on the preliminary findings.

“Apartment manager found the victim when she went to the home to discuss with the victim the changing of floor carpet,” Walker informed the homicide investigators.

The victim was officially identified as Shelia Doll, a school teacher from Illinois who’d arrived in Houston on January 29th to live with her husband. Meanwhile Sgt. Bacon canvassed the apartments, knocking on doors in hope of finding someone who may have seen or heard something unusual. CSU officer G.L. Burke retrieved a fired .25 caliber shell and tagged it as evidence. An examination of the woman’s body kneeling on the chair with her face turned sideways showed she’d been shot in the back near her upper-left shoulder.

With no suspect in custody, Allen and Bacon braced themselves for a real whodunit. But when the victim’s husband Paul Doll, an Enron employee, arrived on the scene the investigation focused in on one person. Doll told detectives he’d been married to the victim for four years and that after four months of marriage they separated for 14 months as result of marital conflicts involving his wife’s dalliance with another man. She arrived in Houston from Illinois on January 29th.

Doll said during his separation he met a woman also a school teacher identified as Christine Larson. Doll recalled having a satisfying sexual relationship with Larson but that suddenly she changed, becoming obsessive, and threatened to commit suicide when he broke the news to her that he would reconcile with his wife.

On two occasions, according to Doll, Larson purchased a weapon and threaten to commit suicide by putting a gun to her head if he ended their relationship. Doll relented, and decided he should at least remain as a friend with Larson.

Sgt. Allen took copious notes as Doll revealed more interesting details. “My wife said prior to coming to Houston that a female called her in Illinois and told her that if she moved back to Houston she would be killed.” On January 31st, Doll elaborated, “My in-laws in Illinois said they received a phone call from a female who told them she was a friend of my wife Shelia and wanted to know when she would return to Houston, and when the caller was told Shelia was already in Houston, the female hung up the phone.”

Doll said the last time he spoke with his wife was around 10:45 a.m. when she told him she was waiting for someone to change the locks and carpet at the place where they were staying. When Doll called back at 11:30 a.m., his wife didn’t answer the phone.

Doll admitted he accused Larson of making the calls to his in-laws and that the only way she got the Illinois numbers was when she used the key he previously gave her when they were together, and by having the key this is how she entered his apartment while he was gone. The house key matter explained why Doll had requested apartment manager to change the locks on his residence.

Allen and Bacon received another lead when the apartment’s maintenance worker Carlos Ariaza said shortly before noon that day he saw a woman on the property that he knew by sight as Christine Larson, Paul Doll’s girlfriend. “I thought it was strange that Larson was going to the front of the apartments instead of the rear because most residents entered through the back where parking spaces are.”

Ariaza said the last time he saw Larson was when he was headed to lunch in his car and that he saw Larson turned off on Westheimer onto Jeanetta street. To expedite the investigation, Lieutenant Holland assigned Homicide Sergeant investigators Steve Garza and John Castillo (now deceased) to pay a visit to the home of Christine Larson who lived at 7302 Alabonson street–apartment# 1002. Their routine game plan was to cordially ask the woman to accompany them back to police station where Garza and Castillo would question Miss Larson about the murder of Shelia Doll.

Upon arrival at the suspect’s apartment both officers politely introduced themselves to Christine Larson when she answered the door. Both sergeants explained the urgency to speak with her about what happened to her lover’s wife.

“Shelia Doll was killed today and we need to talk with you about it,” Garza explained.

Larson voluntarily agreed to accompany the murder squad sergeants back to homicide division located downtown Houston at 61 Riesner Street. Arriving at downtown station shortly before 10:p.m., the suspect was escorted to room# 363A. Prior to interviewing Larson, Sgt. Garza issued a miranda warning explaining her right to remain silent if she wished to do so. Garza already knew the dynamics behind the relationship the suspect once had with the murdered woman’s husband Paul Doll, and the fact Larson threatened suicide to blackmail Doll into not breaking off the turbulent affair. With no eyewitness to the crime, no murder weapon, and no physical evidence to put Larson inside the house, Garza needed a confession. Or even if the suspect gave a self-serving incriminating statement this also would suffice to file charges. “I have nothing to hide,” Larson said.

During interview Larson denied killing Shelia Doll but she fondly recalled how she first met Paul Doll back in November 1987. “It was love at first sight,” Larson spoke in a monotone voice. Paul would make remarks inferring that someday we would be married and that he loved me.” She acknowledged Paul being separated from his wife Shelia and that Shelia had returned to Illinois after the separation. Larson said the victim cheated on Paul and the couple split up.

Larson and Paul Doll lived together periodically at Paul Doll’s townhouse during his separation from his wife. Recalling how the relationship between herself and Doll went sour, Larson said she was so despondent over Paul’s intent to break off their relationship to reunite with his wife until she purchased a weapon and threatened to kill herself at the home of Paul Doll’s mother. Paul eventually convinced Larson to put the gun down, asking her to please return the gun back to the store where she purchased it from.

“What kind of gun was it?” Garza asked skeptically.

“It was a small type gun,” Larson replied. “A few weeks later we had another bad argument and I purchased a second gun from a different gun shop,” Larson pointed out.

“I was really going to kill myself this time–and I went through a long period of depression,” she added as if she wanted Garza and Castillo to believe they were her confidant. For a second time, Larson said, her lover Paul Doll coaxed her to put the gun down.

Although Larson’s love affair with Paul cooled off still they continued to spend time together and have sex. Doll would later testify in court that Larson would drive him to the airport so he could catch a flight to Illinois to visit his estranged wife. Larson insisted she had not been nowhere near Shelia Doll when she was murdered. But Garza knew she lied because a witness had already informed Sgt. Waymon Allen that he saw Larson on the property before noon.

Garza played the game to trap Larson in more lies. Larson gave an alibi to prove she was not the killer. “This morning I went to school at Carr Elementary to get everything ready for the kids.”

Claiming stomach cramps forced her to leave early Larson said she returned to her apartment and later had the apartment manager to change her door lock. Next, she said she went to Houston’s Northwest Mall where she walked around, window shopping; then, she went to the home of Paul Doll’s mother to have lunch. Leaving there Larson visited a friend’s business place on Pinemont Street.

From there Larson further said she went to Willowbrook Mall to visit a friend at Zales’s Jewelry, a store where Larson also worked part-time. “I returned to my apartment to wait for a friend named Robert to arrive when you all came,” Larson stated. Garza pressed Larson about the second gun she purchased, asking her pointedly, “What kind of gun it was?” And, “where did she throw it to get rid of it?” Despite remembering specific dates, locations, and exact times she interacted with Paul Doll and other people, yet she feigned ignorance as to when she purchased the second gun, what caliber it was, and where she disposed it.

Sgt. Castillo took over the interview after questioning Paul Doll some more. Castillo said Doll remembered the first gun as a .38 and the second one as a .25. A .25 shell casing was found at the murder scene. Castillo pointed out Larson’s inconsistencies in her statement to Garza. He reminded her that a witness saw her on the property where the homicide took place around noon or shortly before. Larson’s eyes widened in surprise upon hearing she’d been spotted on Doll’s premises when she previously denied that she had not been there. “A witness saw you, he knows you from being there with Mr. Doll,” Castillo said. He also told Larson she’d been seen with a small caliber pistol similar to the one used to kill the woman.

“You need to get your business straight,” Castillo warned Larson.

“We know you first bought a .38 and then you bought a .25 caliber. “If you had an argument or a fight with the woman that caused you to shoot her, you need to tell us.”

Castillo went on to tell the woman that if they proved she first burglarized the house by using a key and then shot the woman, he said, “you could be looking at capital murder,” he warned her. The penalty for capital murder carried automatic life in prison or a death sentence. If a first-degree murder charge was filed against Larson the penalty carried less as five years and up to life in prison. A person with no prior felonies like Larson even qualified for probation under Texas law written at that time.

Castillo’s psychology worked. Christine Larson had another story to tell.

“I haven’t told the whole story. I want to tell the truth now,” Larson spoke tearfully. “After I left work this morning I went home to change my clothes and to have my door locks changed. Then I went over to Paul’s apartment.

“At first I walked around the front door to see if Shelia was watching TV in the front room. But I couldn’t see inside. Then I went around to the back door where the parking area is. I rang the doorbell and then put my finger over the peep hole so she couldn’t see.”

Larson’s story indicated when Shelia Doll opened the door, a wave of fear gripped the targeted victim when she saw this desperate looking woman standing there. Before Shelia closed the door, Larson pushed it open. “You must be Chris,” Larson recalled the woman saying. “And I said,” you must be Shelia.” Larson Continued. “I already had the gun in my hand and I asked her where Paul was, and she said upstairs. I know he wasn’t because I already talked to him at work.”

Larson’s versions of events further indicated that when the woman turned to go back into the apartment a shouting match between them erupted as the two struggled over the gun. As both women pulled on the gun Larson explained, the gun went off. Larson excitedly said she didn’t know if the bullet struck the woman because she ran through the living room, opened the patio door and felled on a chair.

“She was still breathing, I tried to talk to her but she didn’t say anything. I walked over to where she was and I could see all the blood on the chair.”

Next, suspect Larson described her exit strategy. “I locked the door that I came in, then went back out the patio door to make it look like somebody else committed the crime.” Trying to downplay the cold-blooded murder she committed, Larson offered this self-serving version.

“I thought if I had the gun in my hand that I could get her to talk without fighting. I didn’t want her (Shelia) to hurt Paul anymore–like she had the first time she left him. I love Paul.

“I didn’t tell the truth because I was scared; I’ve never done anything like this in my life.”

According to criminal investigative experts most killers usually give police self-serving statements to make their bad act appear not as bad as it seem. Or in many cases if there is a shooting similar like Larson’s case usually the suspect will claim self-defense or the gun accidentally went off. After studying the facts in Larson’s case, J.C. Mosier, a retired former city of Houston-Texas Homicide detective, said.

“Suspect in this case definitely gave a self-serving statement . It’s kind of hard to claim that during the struggle the suspect shot the victim in her back accidentally.”

“Guilty suspects want to make an intentional shooting look like an accident so they don’t get charged with murder,” Mosier said. Johnny Bonds, also a former Houston city homicide detective explained why it benefit an officer for a suspect to give a self-serving statement.

“Anytime(like in the Larson case) that you can get a suspect to talk it is a good thing even if the suspect tells a self-serving lie. In this case the suspect(Larson) admits the shooting; so this saves an officer from having to prove who did it. and the more lies they tell, the more you prove they’re lying.” Bonds continued.

“Best thing a guilty person can do is say nothing but most of them think they can talk their way out of it.” As a retired Lieutenant criminal police investigator with Harris County District Attorney office, Bonds, once the subject of a best-selling book, The Cop Who Wouldn’t Quit, can now be seen working true life cold case murder cases on TNT’s blockbusting reality show Cold Justice.

(L) bullet wound to victim's back. (R) Houston Police Department mug shot of accused killer Christine Larson.
(L) bullet wound to victim’s back. (R) Houston Police Department mug shot of accused killer Christine Larson.

Obsessive Love And Murder

Following Christine Larson’s first-degree murder charge arrest in Shelia Doll’s death, the lurid details of marathon sex, obsession, undying love, and Larson’s suicidal blackmails against her lover Paul Doll, the dead woman’s husband, all the drama exploded into a media sensation.

Front page news and TV coverage dominated the story prime time. News reporters dubbed the case a true life “Houston’s Fatal Attraction Murder.”Fatal attraction stories like Christine Larson’s involvement with Paul Doll, a married man, swept the nation during the 1980′s following the popular blockbusting movie Fatal Attraction. Released in 1987, actors Michael Douglas and Glenn Close played the star roles that highlighted the extreme danger of marital affairs. Like the characters in the Fatal Attraction movie, Paul Doll and Christine Larson first met at a social club atmosphere.

“It was love at first sight,” Larson lamented to homicide investigators. Fatal attraction stories are a common occurrence among people. It is the oldest form of violence and jealously when a person desire to control another person’s life. Fatal attraction stories are common occurrences among people whose desire to control another person’s life.

According to psychiatrists, killers who murder in this fashion are in fact psychopaths, unable to accept rejection. They usually claim they kill out of an intense love similar to the Shakespeare’s Sonnets. “Rejection is the trigger of toxic and obsessive love,” according to Melanie Canie. Canie is the author of a book Poisoned Love. “People with obsessive love disorder between only the person they fixate on can make them feel happy and fulfilled,” Canie further says.

“The obsessed is trying to hook you into loving them, but their concept of love is control–and you will end up feeling like you are on a scary, twisted ride if you join them, says Mary Jo Rapini, a Texas-based psychiatrist in Houston. “Christine Larson tried everything to hold onto this relationship including threatening suicide.”

When this ploy didn’t work her final weapon was murder. Author Gloria Lee wrote in her spiritual book You Are the Prophet Of Your Life. Psychological assessments of Larson’s actions towards Paul Doll has a large degree of accuracy particularly when he rejected her and telling her he wanted to reunite with his wife. Author Lee further wrote, “the greatest illusion in the world held by women is ‘I can supplant the wife by using sex’.” Still the million dollar question is: why would a woman like Larson persist in a relationship where she is the third party?

Author Lee’s book explains it this way. “It took a woman with low-self esteem with the sense of competition pure and simple. I am going to be the winner.” Psychological assessments of Larson’s actions towards Paul Doll when he rejected her, but still he continually had sex with Christine Larson, although Mr. Doll already told Larson he would reconcile with his wife Shelia.

Efforts to bring capital murder charges against Larson shifted in high gear due to the unclear statement she made indicating how she entered the home. There was  also the question of the exact position the victim was in to sustain a gunshot to the back and the fact Paul Doll suspected Larson of having keys to his home.

Lt. Holland assigned homicide sergeants Hub Mayer and A.J. Toepol to search Larson’s home for keys while CSU officer G.L. Burke searched Larson’s Honda vehicle. After searching Larson’s apartment Mayer and Toepol found keys but none matched the door where the victim was murdered nor did Burke’s search of the vehicle yield any clues. Sgt. John Adams (deceased) subpoenaed phone records that belonged to the victim’s parents’ landline service to determine if Larson’s phone records showed she had made the threatening calls to Illinois prior to pulling the trigger.

“If the suspects made the calls it shows intent,” Sgt. Allen said to fellow detectives while discussing the ongoing developments. But to file a capital murder charge they needed to prove Larson first burglarized the apartment. Christine Larson was released on a $10,000,00 bond pending trial for Shelia Doll’s murder.

An anonymous source reported to this author that while Larson awaited trial she accepted Christ as her savior and joined the same church that her parents belonged too. And when a spiritual friend of Larson asked how she felt about taking another human’s life the source says that Larson unleashed a stream of profanities to describe the character of the woman she murdered.

Next Installment: Jury Trial

Deadlier than the Male by Terry Manners

 

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I find op shops (second-hand, charity or thrift shops to my overseas readers) a great source for finding true crime books, and often ones that are out of print or hard to find.

I came across Deadlier than the Male by Terry Manners in a local op shop a few weeks back. I snapped it up, of course. It’s a case file book of female killers. Some I’d heard of like Beverley Allitt (the British nurse dubbed “the angel of death”), Canadian killer Karla Homolka and serial killer Aileen Wurnos but there were some chapters of women I’d not known about (and for true crime buffs it’s always good to discover new information).

There’s a chapter on teenage babysitter Christine Falling who was arrested in 1982 and convicted ofmurdering three infants. She’s also suspected of killing two more. It was a horrifying chapter. These babies were left in the care of the disturbed teenager and did not survive. She’s been dubbed the Florida “babysitter from hell”. Falling remains behind bars. (there’s a good article from NY Daily News published in 2012 about Falling and what they dubbed “the casual horror behind the case. Read more here.)

There’s also chapters on Dorothea Puente, the landlady who was convicted in 1989 of killing her elderly tenants and burying them in her backyard. Puente died in prison in 2011 aged 82.

This book was published by Pan Books in 1995. Terry Manners was, at the time, assistant editor of the Daily Express newspaper in London and most recently edited The Times of Malta.

Crime news roundup

Some crime news and links from around the web:

Missing in America – There are over 87,000 adults and children listed as missing in the United States and most of these cases receive no media coverage. Read more.  (HuffPost Live, November 9, 2013)

Karen Williams cold case - In Australia, South Australian detectives have mad an arrest in the 23-year-old mystery of 16-year-old Karen Michelle Williams’s disappearance and presumed murder. On  November u, 2013, police charged 42-year-old Nikola Novakovich with murder. He was the last person to see Karen alive and had been interviewed numerous times over the years. Police are currently searching for Karen’s remains in Coober Pedy, where she was last seen. Read more. (News.com.au, November 8, 2012)

Siberian serial killer Mikhail Popkov - A former policeman known as a ‘perfect husband and father’ led a secret life as serial killer who murdered at least two dozen women in Siberia. Read more. (Dailymail.co.uk, November 7, 2013)

Hunt for French Riviera Serial Killer - A hunt for a serial killer is underway after the skeletal remains of four people, including a skull with ‘Death to paedophiles’ written across it, were found off the French coast. Read more. (Dailymail.co.uk, November 8, 2013)

Young detective turns mass killer - English writer and journalist David Thomas writes the true story of a talented German detective who catches a serial killer in Wartime Berlin, but then goes on to become a Nazi war criminal. The book is called OstlandRead more. (chichester.co.uk, November 8, 2013)

On Father’s Day by Megan Norris

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On Father’s Day is a devastating and powerful book by Megan Norris that tells the definitive story of one of the worst Australian crimes of recent years.

In 2005, Victorian father Robert Farquharson’s car – with his three little boys in it – veered into an icy dam. The children, Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, and Bailey, 2, all died and the traumatic impact of the tragedy made headlines around Australia. The children’s mother Cindy Gambino (pictured below with the author) was left completely broken by the crime and, at first, believed her ex-husband that it was a tragic accident.

But Farquharson’s crime is the most extreme, and little understood,  example of family violence – the murder of children to punish the mother. It took seven years, two trials and three appeal hearings (Robert Farquharson was jailed for a minimum of 33 years) for this story to finally be heard and it contains details never before revealed in the trials or media coverage.

Norris, who worked for many years with Cindy Gambino to tell this story, has written the story with such detail and narrative power that the reader is compelled to continue reading, even though the content is so tragic. There are also the stories of other women whose children have been murdered by their fathers in revenge killings intended to punish them forever.

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On Father’s Day is published by The Five Mile Press and available from all good bookstores.

 

 

Dead Run by Dan Schultz

Dead Run

Dead Run: The Murder of a Lawman and the Greatest Manhunt of the Modern American West is a journey into the modern wild west of America. Author Dan Schultz has written the definitive account of an extraordinary crime and three survivalists fugitives who would not be out of place as outlaws in American frontier times during the 1800s.

I found this book compelling. It’s exhaustively researched and that’s why it took me a while to read. I didn’t want to miss any detail. The backdrop of America’s “west” is fascinating and Schultz’s detailed writing provides social and geographical history as well as the story of the crime – the killing of a policeman in small town Colorado by three “desperados” Jason McVean, Robert Mason and Alan “Monte” Pilon,  which resulted in a manhunt across 10,000 square miles of American wilderness.

The story did not end with the murder of Officer Dale Claxton – the mystery of what happened to his killers spanned a decade and I loved the detail about the workings of the various sheriffs offices and state and federal police and army units. The turf wars and failings of government agencies really add to this tale. The fugitives, all interested in survivalist pursuits, evaded even the most up-to-date technology and investigation techniques. The manhunt made international headlines.

This is one of my top true crime reads of 2013.

Dead Run is published by St Martin’s Press.

Here’s a few other review of Dead Run that are of interest from The Durango Herald and Cortez Journal.

 

The Pyjama Girl Mystery by Richard Evans

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Review by A. R. Muir

August 1934, a body was found in a culvert off a country road in Albury, a town on the border of NSW and Victoria. The body was that of a once voluptuous young woman. It was badly burnt and wrapped in a sackcloth. But the attempt at concealment had been unsuccessful, and the woman’s striking features were not erased by the fire. What followed was one of the largest murder investigation in New South Wales to date. The police and an avid media followed every available lead to identify their once beautiful victim. Yet surprisingly they were unable to match her to any missing women.

To aid in identification the NSW coroner took the unprecedented step of preserving the body entirely in a bath of formalin. Thus the mysterious Pyjama Girl (so named because of the oriental-style pyjama’s she wore) lay in state for the next ten years waiting for identification. Remarkably the case was re-opened in 1944 when new evidence and suspicions came to light. The Pyjama Girl’s body was so well preserved in the formalin that, after a liberal application of makeup, she was finally identified by those who once knew her as Linda Agostini. An Italian immigrant and hairdresser, Linda had been living with her husband in Sydney when she went missing in 1934. With these new revelations the police were able to track down her killer and pursue justice. Richard Evans’ book is excellently written, very much from the perspective of contemporary police investigators and the massive media response. The reader is invited to share the unfolding tale of mystery as police undertake a quest to put a name to the Pyjama Girl. It makes for addictive reading. Another advantage of the book is the astounding photographs of the preserved body (tastefully done but somewhat macabre). It would have helped to have some more explanations to go with the pictures to explain their context, or at least references in the text. However a quick search of the internet can quickly uncover extra detail and photographs.

This is a captivating read that is very hard to put down. 4 out of 5