An Acre of Fools by Aden James

By Ellen Wallace, True Crime Reader reviewer

Verdict: “A Novel That Rings True to the Raw Reality of Addiction”

I don’t read fiction often and the only way I’m able to review a novel is to see if it resonates with me. That is to say, after I’ve finished reading it, does the story leave footprints on my spirit?

I purposely waited to write my review after completing An Acre of Fools by Aden James to see what my reaction would be after the book settled a bit in my mind. A week after completing it, I know I’ve just read an outstanding, important novel.

The novel is beautifully written and engages the reader early and easily. The foundation of the novel poses supremely human characters facing the conflict of their actions versus spiritual teachings, the struggles of parenthood, and the manipulative devil of addiction.

The larger message of this book is to define how the addiction of one family member takes down not only the addict, but also every member of the family.

James crafts his message through a beguiling tale of an upper-class family in crisis. The format of the book is brilliant — using a literary vehicle of a family vacation home, writing the story in installments of annual vacations spent by the Stewart family at River Soul (the name they give their second home) on the Okatie River in South Carolina. The restful retreat welcomes readers just as it becomes a touchstone for the Stewart family and the stage for much of the story.

The Stewarts could be any family (and that’s somewhat the point) – Peter, the father who is a driven man who builds his career not to obtain wealth but to provide for and protect his family as he feels is his Christian duty; Mimi, Peter’s wife and the love of his life who is a Southern lady; Grace Elisabeth, the sensible older daughter; and Austin, the youngest daughter plagued with a critical illnesses who and then gets sucked into the vortex of drug addiction.

The book presents the ageless struggle of good versus evil without delivering a patronizing sermon. An Acre of Fools simultaneously softens and hardens readers to the raw debris of addiction by weaving a story about characters whose brutal choices are those that many of us fantasize about taking, but do not because we hold ourselves to society’s standards of lawful conduct.

Aden James, a pen name, Is an author of talent and conviction. Don’t skip this book. Buy it, savor it and let it crawl through your soul. I promise it will.

In a valiant gesture rarely seen in the publishing world, James is donating 90 percent of the sale proceeds from the book to causes focusing on addiction, human trafficking and family restoration.

An Acre of Fools is published by Elevate Publishing and available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A Murder over a Girl: Justice, Gender and Junior High

On Feb. 12, 2008, at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, CA, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot and killed his classmate, Larry King, who had recently begun to call himself “Leticia” and wear makeup and jewelry to school.

New York Author and psychologist Ken Corbett was disturbed and intrigued by the case. So much so he delved deep into the issues of gender norms and traveled to California to follow the case and attend the court appearances of King. Larry King was also black and his killer was from an extremely violent background and had emerging Neo-nazi ideas.

The issues facing LGBTI people have never been more in th public arena. People who may never have had any reason – or care – to know about issues of gender are now able to know about the human rights and violence issues facing people who identify as LGBTI.

This book was interesting and disturbing. It’s a blend of  true crime and a look at how society creates the breeding ground for a crime like this to happen.

I’d recommend reading this article and interview with the author published in The Atlantic for  more background.

A Murder Over a Girl is published by Henry Holt and Company.

Invisible Women

This is an important book. It’s a collection of 65 stories of murdered sex workers in Australia.

  
Written by Kylie Fox and Ruth Wylie, Invisible Women: Powerful and Disturbing Stories of Murdered Sex Workers gives some voice to these victims who were voiceless in life.

Many of the stories are short – some only a few paragraphs and that is the stark reality of the lack of attention the murders of prostitutes rate in the media.

There are cases that were well publicised like the murder of grandmother Johanna Martin, whose working name was “Jazzy O”.

Johanna’s murder got a lot of coverage because she was a wealthy woman from her stripping and sex work  (it was reported she would do things that many other strippers would not and was a popular footy club performer). Outside of her work, Johanna was a devoted mother and grandmother who lived a quiet life.

There’s the story of the horrific 2004 killings of Darwin women Phuangsri Kroksamrang and Somjai Insamban, Thai nationals who were bound and dumped in crocodile infested waters. Two young men, 19 at the time, who murdered the women in what the prosecutor believed was a thrill killing. 

Then there’s the women you’ve most probably never heard of – Lisa Moy, Zanita Green, Colleen Moore, Michelle Copping…there’s so many more I could list from the book.

Page after page of this book is a gruelling reminder that the lives of women who are ad workers mean nothing to many people, especially those who murder or assault them.

I’m glad the authors wrote this book. I urge people to read it. 

Invisible Women: Powerful and Disturbing Stories of Murdered Sex Workers is published by Echo Publishing. 

The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

 Review by Ellen Wallace

  
 Crime often mingles with the well-to-do.  The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey is a story of pride, valor, ciphers and deceit in a British family of nobility during the years surrounding World War I.

 The setting is the majestic Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire owned by one of the richest men in Britain — John Henry Montagu Manners (1886-1940), the 9th Duke of Rutland. The book begins with his death and how he spent his last hours — destroying family letters to protect his reputation for history.

 What would possess an English Duke to face his death holed up in a windowless room full of family records and letters? What would haunt him so much that he wanted to alter the record of his life and that of his family?

 Historian and author Catherine Bailey’s original intent for gaining access to the archives which had been sealed since the Duke’s death in 1940 and kept in a series of rooms wedged into the servants quarters at Belvoir was an idea for a book she wanted to write chronicling the humble soldiers who volunteered for service in World War I from the villages encompassed by the holdings of the 8th Duke of Rutland. Of the men who went to war from the estate, 249 did not return.

 While digging through the fastidiously kept records, Bailey uncovers a crime which the 9th Duke of Rutland tried unsuccessfully to blot from the records.

 The story has complex subplots (as most wealthy families mange to create) mingling the mysterious death of the first born son, the rightful heir; a mother who sends her surviving son away from home immediately after his brother’s death; and the affect of her actions on her son in adulthood.

 The book is not cops and robbers true crime, but rather a look at how the rich are different and their crimes more subtle but all the same crimes.

 Bailey’s writing style is that of a measured historian whose excitement grows as she realizes what she’s uncovered and takes readers along in the labyrinth of clues buried in dusty boxes to find out what the Duke was hiding. Bailey also provides delicious details of how the very wealthy lived in the years just prior to World War I up through the 1940s.

 The unfolding plot and the author’s effort to unravel the mystery buried in the Duke’s private rooms keep you engaged and wanting more with each subsequent page. The Secret Rooms is glimpse back in time and into the eternal struggle of duty to one’s country verses duty to one’s family.

 Published by Penguin Books. 

 

DEADLY TRIANGLE: A True Story of Lies, Sports and Murder

 

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Review by Clarence Walker

Deadly Triangle author Fran Parker writes a page-turning saga about love, sex, jealousy, race, and Southern justice in a small town involving two young college students who were star athletes.

The story delves into the drama of the inner workings of, a three-way affair that ended in cold blood murder.

Monroe Louisiana: Joel Tillis future appeared bright and promising as a star athlete. Tillis, a 22-year-old African American woman, was highly respected as a crack-smart college student and outstanding Basketball Player at (NLU) – the prestigious Northeast Louisiana University College located in Monroe, Louisiana, the eighth largest city in the state. A tough, ambitious, student, Tillis played on the NCAA Lady Indians Women’s Basketball Team at NLU. NLU women’s basketball team was once the second best college team in the nation.

While attending NLU college, Tillis met and fell in love with a tall, curly-haired, handsome, African American, pre-med student named Irvin Bolden. The whirlwind courtship between Tillis and Bolden blossomed into an engagement to marry upon graduation.

Problems and sporadic discord entered the picture between Bolden and Tillis after Bolden discovered that Tillis spent too much quality time with a classmate and teammate named Brenda Spicer.

Bolden thought Spicer, blonde and pretty with sparkling blue eyes, was infatuated with his girlfriend Tillis. In Deadly Triangle, Fran Parker retell the incidents of how Spicer affectionately gave Tillis expensive brand name clothes and stuffed animals.

Rumours spread like wildfire throughout NLU campus indicating Tillis and Spicer were secret lovers, although both women denied and dismissed the rumours as untrue, and further, Joel Tillis defended her closeness with Brenda Spicer as a “sister-to-sister” type relationship.

But Tillis denials failed to soothe Irvin Bolden’s jealousy over the thought that whenever he sought to spend leisure time with Tillis, the white girl Brenda Spicer tagged along.

During a heated confrontation, Bolden, as he’d previously done, questioned Tillis about her close relationship with Spicer. Tillis swelling with anger, rebuked Bolden for trying “to dictate my life”. Feeling a degree of distance between himself and Tillis, Bolden reached out in desperation and contacted the NLU women’s team coach, imploring the sympathetic woman , “to help me get Joel back”.

Then Bolden wrote and sent a threaten letter to Spicer that said, “Stay away from Joel or I’ll handle it“.

When asked what motivated her to write a 304 page book about one of Louisiana’s most infamous crimes, author Fran Parker,  an English graduate from Louisiana State University, said, in a email sent to True Crime Reader, “I’ve been asked numerous times why I chose murder to write about”.

“I knew that sports ranked higher in priority than academics, and that NLU would do anything to keep the lid on lesbian scandals involving coaches and players,” the author explained.

Previously, according to news media reports, the NLU Female Basketball Team had been placed on probation over questionable recruiting and evidence of a female coach having a lesbian affair with another female player.

FIRST MURDER

Brenda Spicer
Brenda Spicer

Deadly Triangle details how Brenda Spicer’s lifeless, partially nude body, was found in a dumpster on NLU College campus on March 5, 1988. Spicer’s murder sent shockwaves of terror among NLU students and faculty members. Evidence showed the victim suffered strangulation.

Following Spicer’s brutal murder an outpouring of grief and fear engulfed Monroe residents. Newspaper headlines asked a chilling question: “Who Murdered Brenda Spicer?” As Monroe’s widespread communities teetered on edge, majority African American citizens feared the police would arrest the first African American who may appear guilty because the victim was white.

Investigators targeted Irvin Bolden. Joel Tillis boyfriend, due to reports of his suspicious behaviour including peculiar unanswered questions surrounding the case:

  • What Irvin Bolden actually knew about Joel Tillis and Brenda Spicer’s relationship that nobody else knew about?
  • Was it true that a NLU coach once discovered Spicer in Tillis private hotel room under suspicious circumstances?
  • And when Bolden heard about the bedroom incident involving Tillis and Spicer:did Bolden go into a rage in the lobby of a Beaumont Texas hotel?
  • Did jealousy turn Irvin Bolden into a ticking time bomb that set him off to rape and murder his lover’s best friend?
  • Fears of the African American community came true when Monroe homicide investigators charged Mr. Bolden with Brenda Spicer’s murder.

Deadly Triangle explores heavily how the conclusion of Bolden’s murder trial was as shocking as the murder itself.

Parker’s amazing true crime book further delve into what many eyes don’t see: that Southern Justice don’t always go astray to convict a Black person accused of committing crime against whites.

“Another deterrent to justice was that so many involved had their own inside agenda for lying to help the defense,” the author said in her email to True Crime Reader.

From a critical viewpoint,  the only downside with Deadly Triangle is that the author occasionally shifted from one scenario to another without making the appropriate transition, but this is minor when compared to the totality of the superb writing.,

SECOND MURDER

At Irvin Bolden’s trial for the murder of Brenda Spicer, the infectious and charming Joel Tillis betrayed her loving friend in death and stood by her man, contributing false  testimony that contributed to Bolden’s freedom.

Now the couple would start over again. But the nightmare wasn’t over yet.

On June 11, 1989, Joel Tillis’s decomposing strangled  body was found in a grassy field in Arkansas, 25 miles from Memphis, Tennesse. After Bolden’s acquittal in Spicer’s murder, Tillis and Bolden had packed up and  moved to Memphis to pursue dreams of marriage and success in the business world, and possibly have children. Again, Irvin Bolden drew immediate attention from police once they discovered Bolden filed a bogus missing person report on Tillis. Investigators subsequently charged Bolden with the Joel Tillis murder. In a bizarre twist, the murderer that Tillis had gave her love and loyalty, had now turned on her like a Dr. Jerkyll and Mr. Hyde and murdered  Tillis in the same manner he’d murdered Brenda Spicer.

Deadly Triangle is a must read for true crime fans who savor to probe into darkest deeds within human nature. This compelling story exemplifies an unstable love affair, filled to the brim with jealousy, unbridled passion, lesbianism, shattered manhood, and betrayed loyalty; the kind of toxic ingredients that ends in a deadly twist of double murders, the murders of two precious lives; Joel Tillis and Brenda Spicer extinguished forever.

Ace crime writer Fran Parker rips apart complex layers of a tragic story to finally expose the naked soul of a depraved mind. The book reveals how the search for true justice in America’s criminal justice system can go awry. And for the families of Joel Tillis and Brenda Spicer, many years have passed since the tragedies but they finally came to realise there would never be a peaceful closure and no real justice for some murderers.

Editor’s Note: Although Book Review Author and true crime journalist Clarence Walker resides in Houston Texas, Mr. Walker is a native of Southeast Arkansas located near Monroe Louisiana. Mesmerized by this sensational case down through the years this journalist followed the twists-and-turns of the Tillis-Spicer murders.

Journalist Clarence Walker can be reached at: Newswriter74@yahoo.com

Crims in Grass Castles by Keith Moor

  
The 1977 murder of NSW business man, political candidate and anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay is one of Australia’s most notorious crimes. Mr Mackay’s body has never been found but what is known is that he was killed on the orders of the Mafia in Australia.

This book by prominent Melbourne journalist Keith Moor is an incredibly researched book on Mafia figure Robert Trimbole, the notorious “Mr Asia” drug syndicate and Donald Mackay’s disappearance.
If you want the definitive look at Australia’s organised crime world then this book is a must-read.

  
Moor physically tracked down key figures – including one player who was in hiding in Italy and was so impressed with the lengths the reporter went to that he granted his only interview. 

“While it concerns me that you were able to find me, I will talk to you because you went to so much trouble,” the man told Moor. 

Moor, who is a veteran journo, covered this case from the start and  included first hand interviews, police transcripts and excerpts from a Royal Commission to tell the true story of the influence Robert Trimbole (pictured below)  and  the Mafia in Australia.

Donald Mackay’s widow Barbara died without ever knowing where her husband’s body was buried. 

  

Crims in Grass Castles is published by Penguin and available from bookstores and iBooks (review copy purchased by reviewer on iBooks) 

The Missing Beaumont Children

The Missing Beaumont Children

 

Australia Day 2016 (January 26) marks 50 years since the disappearance of three children from a beach in Adelaide.

The mystery of the missing Beaumont Children is probably this country’s greatest and most tragic unsolved crime. The case is burned into the psyche of a generation.

On January 26, 1966, the Beaumont children Jane, 9, Arnna, 7 and Grant, 4 caught a bus to Glenelg beach from their home (only a short trip) for a bit of sun and fun. It wasn’t unusual for children that young to go off by themselves back then and eldest Jane was a responsible girl. (My mum, who was a teenager at the time, remembers that she and her siblings and cousins would often go down to the beach without adults and be there all day). The children never returned home. Vanished without a trace.

The Beaumont Children

The book The Missing Beaumont Children by Michael Madigan is a very thorough overview of the mystery and details the investigation, the suspects, the leads, the dead ends…

It’s fascinating and disturbing reading. My heart broke during the book as I kept thinking about the parents of the children, Grant (known as Jim) and Nancy, and how they survived this tragedy…this evil.

I recommend this book. It’s a well-paced read that covers the twists and turns of the case and is also told with great compassion for the children and parents Nancy and Grant who are now 88 and 90 respectively. Madigan manages a fine balance of detailing the “mystery” of the case that people around Australia have been transfixed by but also the “misery” that has affected Nancy and Jim for the rest of their lives.

The Missing Beaumont Children is available at Amazon, Booktopia and all good bookstores.

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka: The Ken & Barbie Killers

homolka

 

I’ve long been fascinated (and horrified) by the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. The pair is often referred to as the “Ken and Barbie Killers” because they were young and attractive.

This is probably the Canadian case that I know best, (apart from Robert Picton the pig farmer serial killer) and this book by Peter Vronsky, volume three in the Crimes Canada series,  is a very interesting read. It’s not too long but is packed with lots of detail that will give a thorough overview of the case of the married couple who raped and killed three young women (including Homolka’s little sister Tammy. There is distressing detail about what happened to Tammy. You just cannot believe that anyone, let alone a sister could do that. it’s utterly sickening). in the early 1990s.

I knew a bit about the case but just from news reports and some tv shows.

Homolka and Bernardo were arrested in 1993 for the murders and rapes of two teens and the death and rape of Homolka’s sister. Bernardo was also a serial rapist known as the Scarborough Rapist who had been attacking women since the the mid 1980s.

I was most interested to know about the details of the plea bargain deal Homolka did with authorities to secure a lesser jail term. The pair videoed their horror crimes against their victims and before these were known to exist, Homolka cut a deal and gave evidence against Bernardo, (it was dubbed by Canadian media as “The deal with the devil”). I won’t post any spoilers if you’re not familiar with the case but basically Homolka got off very lightly…her true involvement in the rapes and murders were revealed in those video tapes. Vronsky delivers the details on this well. I felt like I was really up-to-speed with it from this book.

 

Vronsky does a really good job of telling the story of these crimes. If you want a good overview then I’d recommend it as a read. it’s not for the faint of heart…but then again not many true crime readers are of that ilk anyway!

And you’ll be shocked that Homolka was released from prison in 2005 and now has her own children. Does she deserve privacy? well she’s served her jail time but she is so notorious and the people of Canada were scandalised by her seeming light punishment. There’s more detail on that in the book too.

I was gifted this e-book by publisher RJ Parker for a fair and honest review.

The book is available via Amazon.

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Silent Night Deadly Night

Being Christmas I had a thought about the controversial 1984 film Silent Night, Deadly Night.

I was eight years old in 1984 and I remember some new reports about the furore the film’s release caused in the United States, Australia (where I’m from) and other countries.

We were frequent visitors to our local video store and I remember as a kid glancing at the horror movie covers, including Silent Night, Deadly Night and wishing I could watch them. (May sound weird but I do like a decent horror film.)

This slasher film is about a young man, who after witnessing his parents murdered by a criminal donning a Santa Suit and surviving childhood in an orphanage turns into a spree killer.

The film’s advertising was what causes the worldwide outrage. The film poster depicted a hand of Santa emerging from a chimney and clutching an axe. The tagline was: “You’ve made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas”.

A Milwaukee protest at the opening of Silent Night, Deadly Night in November 1984.
A Milwaukee protest at the opening of Silent Night, Deadly Night in November 1984.

The R-rated film was released in the United States on November 9 1984 and immediately the public was in uproar. By the end of November, the film’s distributor Tri Star Picturs dropped plans for a wider release. The film had performed poorly in the selected markets it was shown (The Northeast and Midwest of America) due to the media attention on the protests and complaints. An article “Christmas horror film dropped from distribution” (Gadsden Times, November 24, 1984) stated the film’s earnings declined after Tri Star stopped the controversial television ads for the movie. The commercials had shown a man in a Santa suit swinging an axe and shooting a gun.

But according to Box Office Mojo on the film’s opening weekend it screened in 398 theatres in the US and made USD$1,432,800. The film’s budget was reportedly USD$750,000. The opening weekend takings  actually more than the now legendary horror film Nightmare on Elm Street, which opened the same weekend and made USD$1,271,000 (it played in 165 theatres).

Local television stations were reportedly bombarded with complaints from parents who said the commercials for the film were too scary for children who could not discern the fact that the person in the film was not actually Santa.

Tri Star marketing vice president Steve Randell (who would have truly earned his money doing issues crisis management) told The Pittsburgh Press (November 16, 1984) “The picture doesn’t present Santa as a killer. It’s the story of of a man who dresses as Santa Claus who is the murderer”.

A pressure group called Citizens Against Movie Madness picketed the film’s opening and were vocal in the local media about their objections to the movie. Their campaign was picked up nationally. The founder of the group, Kathleen Eberhardt said of their efforts: “I guess all of my griping did some good”. Ms Eberhardt told a reporter from Los Angeles Times said she did not believe the group was practising censorship but would lobby any future sequels to the original film.

All the controversy went on to give the film somewhat of a cult status.
All the controversy went on to give the film somewhat of a cult status.

The film went on to get a cult status, mostly due to the controversy around the film’s marketing. But according to reviews, it was really a storm in a teacup. The movie wasn’t actually that scary or more violent than any other of its ilk.

A review in the Schenectady Gazette called it “cinematic garbage”. The Boston Phoenix said: “…it’s not a particularly gory film, or even a particularly suspenseful one…”.

The Toledo Blade’s film critic at large said “To say ‘Deadly Night is blasphemous would be an understatement. It’s an absolute travesty…”.

There were several sequels made.

I never did end up seeing the original movie…

 

The London Underground Serial Killer

The book claims authorities covered up the killings to avoid public panic.
The book claims authorities covered up the killings to avoid public panic.

This book released in mid-2015 certainly boasts one of the most intriguing and explosive storyline of any book released this year.

In The London underground Serial Killer author Geoff Platt  claims Irish-born vagrant Kiernan Kelly told police he murdered 18 people by pushing them in from of trains on London’s Northern line but it was ‘covered up’ due to fears it would cause chaos among the public.

Kelly was convicted of murdering a fellow vagrant in 1975 and the killed a cellmate in 1983. It was during a 1984 interview with then-detective Platt about this jailhouse murder that Kelly allegedly confessed to killing the people on the train lines.

On further investigation of Kelly’s seemingly wild claims, Platt discovered there were many seeming suicides on the Northern Line and Kelly was a witness to a lot of them.

The revelations prompted much media coverage and newspapers in London reported the British Transport Police would investigate the allegations and invited more information from the public.

The book is a decent read, although I found there was a lot of padding to the story with general background about the London Underground. I felt this detracted from the explosive story Platt presented and it was a bit laborious in parts. I was keen to know more about the alleged murders.

I personally think this story would have worked better as a long form article or mini-book of around 4000-6,000 words.

But for sheer “I need to read this” the premise of The London Underground Serial killer is hard to beat.

The London Underground Serial Killer is published by Pen and Sword Books.

Murdered teen 40 year mystery

I wanted to give a shout out to an outstanding digital journalism project by Journal Sentinel reporter Gina Barton.

The series called “Unsolved” is in chapters and podcasts and focuses on the very cold case murder of Milwaukee, Wisconsin teen Johnny Zera in 1976.

I have a lot of respect for journalists like Gina who get passionate about a case and set about giving a digital footprint to cold cases.
Unsolved  A murdered teen, a 40-year mystery - Google Chrome_2015-11-27_11-55-40

 

Then no One Can have Her by Caitlin Rother

 

No_One_Cover

Review by Ellen D. Wallace

Caitlin Rother proves that a true crime writer must be many things: detective, researcher, legal expert and persuasive interviewer. In relating the case in Then No One Can Have Her Rother uses these skills plus gentle empathy for the victim, her friends and family.

The book is the story surrounding the murder of Carol Kennedy — a mother, artist, spiritual therapist and a wife in love with her husband despite her need to save herself by divorcing him. Just piecing together this case which covers a span of five years and has more ups and downs than the Swiss Alps proves Rother’s expertise and tenacity as a true-crime author.

On July 2, 2008, just 35 days after divorcing her charming stock-trader husband Steve DeMocker, Carol was found in her Prescott, Arizona, home bludgeoned to death. The investigation focuses on two possible suspects: her ex-husband and a male friend who occupied a guest house on Carol’s property.

Caitlin Rother

 

Rother (above) describes the early stop-start and slightly bumbling efforts by local authorities to unravel this crime that was veiled by misrepresentation from the start. To add to the complexity of events, the investigation was hampered at every stage — even the outdoor portion of the crime scene was obliterated by rain shortly after the murder.

By distilling reams of evidence reports that ultimately implicated the killer, Rother describes years of psychological mistreatment endured by the victim. Carol’s dream marriage to her “soulmate,” as she called Steve, began to crumble under the strain of watching him jeopardize their family year after year by his self-centered spending and crass womanizing.

Rother’s investigation reveals that Steve counted on Carol’s loyalty despite his despicable behavior and used her love as the ultimate weapon against her. Steve’s passive-aggressive control over Carol broke like a parched twig in the Arizona desert when she divorced him setting in motion the grizzly events afterward.

But what about the renter in the guest house? Was he really just a friend or a man who wanted more? Peel back the truth as Rother takes you along in this crisscross investigation.

Then No One Can Have Her also examines the challenges of prosecuting an educated, narcissistic suspect. In the hands of a less competent writer, the book could easily have become a tedious list of circumstances, but Rother keeps the story moving at a fast clip using a crisp, clear and detailed writing style she undoubtedly polished in her career as an award-winning journalist.

Rother also dissects a dark side of human behavior rarely seen — even in criminals — a parent who manipulates his children to protect himself. How the killer influences those that he should love and protect before and during his trial will both amaze and repulse readers.

One of the sections of Then No One Can Have Her not to be missed is the “author’s notes” because Rother reveals her personal reason for selecting this particular case for her book and why readers will feel that she was the perfect author to advocate for the victim.

This book, published by Pinnacle, illustrates how one man’s manic lust for control ended in murder. Then No One Can Have Her is a suspenseful read well worth your time.

Wynarka suitcase girl and Belanglo “Angel” woman are mother and daughter

Wynarka suitcase girl identified as Khandalyce Kiara Pearce.
Wynarka suitcase girl identified as Khandalyce Kiara Pearce.

HUGE development in two Australian murder mysteries with the remains of the Wynarka suitcase girl and unidentified female dumped in Belanglo State Forest in NSW found to be related.

AND these remains have been identified.

RELATED: REMAINS OF UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE FOUND IN BELANGLO FOREST

For months the of the identity of a little girl’s remains found in a suitcase on a roadside in South Australia has been one of Australia’s most baffling cases. Detectives have worked tirelessly to identify the little girl whose bones were found alongside clothes and a quilt in the suitcase, dumped along Karoonda Highway near Wynarka, SA in July this year.

Today it was revealed the girl is Khandalyce Kiara Pearce, born in Alice Springs, Northern Territory in 2006.

And in a major breakthrough police have also found that remains found in Belanglo State Forest in August 2010 are those of Khandalyce’s mum Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson.  She had been dubbed “Angel” by police and media because she was found with a t-shirt bearing an angelic motif.

Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson is the "Angel" found in Belanglo State Forest.
Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson is the “Angel” found in Belanglo State Forest.

In a medial release from SAPOL today the significant development began on October 8 when a call to Crime Stoppers suggested Khandalyce as  possibly being the little girl in the suitcase. The caller had not seen Khandalyce or Ms Pearce-Stevenson for some time and believed they were missing.

Major Crime Detectives obtained Khandalyce’s records which showed she was immunised at 18 months.  There was no further record of her after that.

Investigators then located a witness who had seen Khandalyce and her mother at Marion Shopping Centre, Adelaide in November 2008. She had taken photos of Khandalyce wearing a pink dress.  That dress is identical to that found with the remains in the suitcase.

Police were also provided with photos of Khandalyce in a stroller with the handmade quilt that was also found in the suitcase.

The quilt became a significant part of the investigation and police sought the help of quilters from around Australia to try and identify the young child.

The quilt found with the remains of Khandalyce.
The quilt found with the remains of Khandalyce.

According the police the last known sighting of the pair was on Saturday, 8 November 2008 when Ms Pearce-Stevenson was driving on the Stuart Highway near Coober Pedyin south Australia.  Khandalyce was aged just two.

Family and friends of the victims said they were from a loving family but in 2008 Karlie moved away from the family and started to travel.

Head of Major Crime, Detective Superintendent Des Bray said: “Contact with the family became less over time and on 4 September 2009 Ms Pearce-Stevenson’s mother raised a Missing Person Report with the Northern Territory Police.

“It is understood that report was closed on 10 September 2009 after it was believed Ms Pearce-Stevenson was safe and well but did not want family contact,” Det-Supt Bray said.

According to newspaper reports Karlie’s mother had since passed away.

NSW Police Homicide Commander, Detective Superintendent Mick Willing said there were now many lines of enquiry to follow.

“While we will do our best to keep the community informed, we need to first establish fact from fiction and ensure we avoid speculation, which could damage our investigations,” Det Supt Willing said.

Det Supt Bray said: “It is with community assistance that we have reached this very important breakthrough, but it is important to note the identification is only the beginning of the investigation.”

Anyone with information should contact crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

 

19th Century Barnsley Murders

Review by Ellen D. Wallace

Pen and Sword Books

19th Century Barnsley Murders is a look back at a town caught in beginnings of economic failure, the Industrial Revolution, and the emergence of working class movements in Britain. All three of these major influences converge in poverty and crime, including murder of the boldest sort in Barnsley, a town located between Sheffield, Leeds and Doncaster.
 
Amid descriptions of rat-ridden slums populated by numerous pubs, author Margaret Drinkall describes the darker side of progress in this small town. She recounts 17 murders or near-misses that occurred during the tempestuous 19th century in Barnsley. Drinkall reveals cases of bodysnatching, an early case of stalking which ended in murder in the street, the loss of a child and murder by pudding.
 
Interspersed in the copy are black and white photos, maps and drawings of places described in each of the cases. These photos and maps help draw the readers into the narrative. One impressively stark photo is that of a jail cell door in Leeds — in an underground jail with ominously thick stone walls.
 
Court practices of the period are also described in the book. For instance, often in the 19th century, an inquest was started almost immediately and the body of the victim was not moved from the scene until jurors viewed the body were it was dropped. 
 
Drinkall describes the cases she has selected each in a separate chapter, allowing every case center stage. One thing that is lacking is a character development of the victim and murderer, but this is understandable since Drinkall relies on court records and newspaper accounts to retell these stories.
 
If you are lucky enough to be traveling to Great Britain, based on the intrigue of the this book, you might wish to read this book first and then add Barnsley to your itinerary to soak in the local colour and the sites of murders long ago. 

Published by Pen & Sword Books
 

 

Tynong North Killings – unsolved Australian murders

 

Catherine Headland.
Catherine Headland.

I wrote about the unsolved Australian crime known as the Tynong North Killings which was published online and in the local newspaper Berwick Leader.

READ: Tynong North-Frankston killings remain some of Australia’s worst unsolved murders

I spoke to the childhood best friend of one of the victims Catherine Headland. Reading about this series of murders is as shocking now as it would’ve been in 1980 when the skeletal remains of Catherine, 14, were found along with those of two other victims — Ann-Marie Sargent, 18, and Bertha Miller, 75 — at a secluded bush track off Brew Rd, Tynong North. There were also the murders of two other women from Frankston (a south-east bayside suburb of Melbourne) and another woman whose remains were found in Tynong North. The killings are believed by many to be by the same killer.

The memorial plaque to Catherine Headland at Akoonah Park, Berwick, Victoria.
The memorial plaque to Catherine Headland at Akoonah Park, Berwick, Victoria.

Catherine’s best friend Cheryl Goldsworthy is making another plea for anyone with information to tell the police. Time is ticking to solve this case. Victoria Police have had a prime suspect for years, there’s just not enough evidence to charge the man. This man is in his 80s now, if he is still alive.

Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

 

 

Galbally for the defence by Frank Galbally

 

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In Australia, the name Galbally is synonymous with criminal law.

Frank Galbally was (and probably still is) Australia’s best-known lawyer. Galbally died in 2005 but in his later years published two books, autobiography Galbally! and a follow-up Galbally for the defence.

These books can usually be found nowadays if you hunt around secondhand book shops and op shops (this is where I found my copy of Galbally for the defence).

Quick Background on Frank Galbally:

Galbally made his name in criminal defence in Victoria but was known around Australia. He defended his first murder case in 1950 and by the end of his career had an extremely high acquittal rate by the later years of his career. He started at the law firm of his brother Jack and then established Galbally & O’Bryan, which is still going today.

Galbally died in 2005 after many years with Alzheimer’s disease, which seems such a cruel end for one of the sharpest legal minds in Australia.

In an obituary  colleague Phil Dunn, QC, was quoted: “No murder trial in the 1970s or ’80s was complete without it being announced that Mr Frank Galbally had been retained for the defence.”

frank galbally old pic
A picture of a young Galbally and a client outside court in 1954. Source: TROVE

Now, to the book Galbally for the defence (published 1993) – this features some of the most notable cases Galbally worked on and, in particular, how events unfolded in the courtroom, which was his theatre.

Galbally loved the underdog. it probably stemmed from his childhood as part of a large Irish Catholic family during the Great Depression. Galbally, who trained as a priest before taking up law and himself had eight children – defended those who were hard scrabble, on the fringes and also was a great advocate for Victoria’s migrant communities.

There’s the Italian mother and son, whose English was barely existent, who were charged in 1966 with the murder of their brute of a husband/father. This is one of the longer chapters in the book called “Two sparrows fly to freedom”. And then there’s the stabbing murder of a Pentridge Prison inmate “Snowball”. This is an intriguing chapter because it delves into prison culture and Galbally’s quest to improve conditions for prisoners.

If you can get your hands on a copy of this book it’s well worth the read. (I’m hopefully going to find the memoir Galbally! one of these days.)

Lingering Doubts: Going inside Brisbane’s Arcade Murder

The authors of Lingering Doubts: Going Inside Brisbane’s Arcade Murder represent the heart of true crime investigative writing.

Deb Drummond and Janice Teunis are the granddaughters of a man named Reginald Brown. Brown, a respected Brisbane accountant, had his world turned upside down in 1947 when he was arrested for the murder of his 19-year-old typist Bronia Armstrong. Bronia’s partly-clad body was found on January 11 in a room of the Brisbane Associated Friendly Society in the Wallace Bishop Arcade building where Brown worked.

Authors Deb Drummond & Janice Teunis. Picture: Lingering-Doubts.com
Authors Deb Drummond & Janice Teunis. Picture: Lingering-Doubts.com

 

The case was a sensation in Australia’s newspapers and his family and friends could not match the loving, moral and community-minded man with who was being portrayed in newspapers and by police.  In March 1947 Brown was sentenced to life imprisonment. Throughout he had maintained his innocence. He spent just nine days in prison before being found in his cell, hanging by his belt.

Brown’s last ever note read: “To Whom it May Concern,“I did not kill Bronia Armstrong. My conscience is clear. RWS Brown”.

Source: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127074031
Source: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127074031

The book delves into exhaustive detail about the case and trial and interwoven is family history, interviews with those who knew Brown and Miss Armstrong, people involved at the time and the aftermath of the tragedy on those left behind. The authors never knew their grandfather but this book is a testament to the man who they believe was innocent of the murder.

There is plenty to back up their belief that Brown was framed for the murder – Queensland was a hotbed of police and political corruption for decades during the 20th century (for readers google “The Fitzgerald Inquiry” to start read about Queensland corruption). A senior police officer in the case, a man called Frank Bischof,  looms large as a central figure and as the authors detail, he was named as a key player by The Fitzgerald Inquiry in the “unscrupulous conduct” by Queensland Police. (By the time of the inquiry in 1987, Bischof was deceased.)

The passion and dogged determination of the authors make Lingering Doubts a fascinating read. The memory of Bronia Armstrong is also sensitively dealt with and it is never forgotten that this young woman’s life was cruelly taken.

This is a standout Australian true crime book. My utmost respect to the authors.

Read more at the website Lingering Doubts.

 

 

Deadly Hero by Jason Lucky Morrow

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Reviewed by Ellen Wallace

Put on your fedora, sit back and enjoy one of the best period true-crime books to be released recently.

“Deadly Hero” by Jason Lucky Morrow takes the reader back to the heartland of America — Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the mid-1930s. The book illuminates how power, money, and a killer who is right on the edge of sanity combined to produce a tragedy that rocked Oklahoma for decades after the crime.

“Deadly Hero” is the story on two “rich kids” from Tulsa and a scheme involving get-rich-quick-money and a damsel in distress. Setting up this convoluted convergence of story lines takes Morrow’s gift to cut to the chase and boil the story down. The heart of the book reveals how the killing of one of those boys occurred, a brazen claim of self-defense and how the parents of both young men reacted to the crime and the ensuing trial.

Morrow is the perfect storyteller for this crime. His prose is crisp, no-nonsense and uses just enough period lingo to shed light an era when the justice system was easily swayed not by what was right, but by the connections of the criminal. Morrow’s research and careful examination of hundred of pages of court notes, newspaper archives and first-person interviews are handled with care and accuracy.

Morrow’s earlier career as a reporter provides him a solid footing to approach this type of book. “Deadly Hero,” however, is more than this — it’s a look at the dark side of the newspaper business in the 1930’s and how it fed hysteria as reporters worked fast-and-loose to cover the murder.

It also describes the painfully slow legal process that is as true today as it was then, and how political power may or may not help when a parent is protecting his child who has done something unspeakable.

The story is filled with many characters (even some who gave police false names), the rumors of unknown illegal past behavior of the victim and his killer and a town all too eager to spread gossip as gospel. Morrow’s attention to detail is evident on every page. The book includes footnotes, maps and photographs that help readers understand a time that few lived in. The story unfolds at a great clip, and the author makes additional impact by providing insights into an era when being a cop, detective or reporter were just beginning as true professions in America.

“Deadly Hero” is a great read that reminds one of the black-and-white films that we all love to watch on dark, stormy nights. Enjoy.

VISIT Morrow’s website Historical Crime Detective HERE.

A mystery solved

 

Simpsons_Gap

WHILE researching for my books and blog I came across one article from 1984 about a West German tourist named Iris Kadau who had gone missing in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Iris, who was 29, went missing while on a cycling day trip in Alice Springs on November 6, 1983.

The dental nurse was a very fit woman and set off on her bicycle to Simpsons Gap – 17km from the Alice Springs city centre. The site is one of natural beauty and spectacular landscapes and there is a bike path that is popular with visitors. Iris had cycled back from Simpsons Gap but then carried on for another bike ride north of Alice Springs. When she didn’t return to her motel that evening, police were alerted.

I got in touch with the investigating officer at the time, Graeme Charlwood (now retired from the police force), to see if I could have a chat to him about Iris’s mysterious disappearance.

Graeme very generously chatted to me and recalled the events around Iris’s disappearance:

“We had witnesses who saw her cycling out and back. We conducted extensive investigations, searched for evidence of her and found nothing. We really reached a dead end by Christmas 1983. Iris had just vanished off the face of the earth…”

In February 1984, Iris’s body was found.

Mr Charlwood said he was travelling to either Darwin or Tennant creek in a police helicopter when the pilot intercepted a call from the musterer who said he’d spotted something – the glint of chrome from what appeared to be a pushbike.

“We looked at one another and said ‘Iris’. When we got there we saw there was the bike and the mummified remains of Iris. She was chained to her bike…”

The newspaper article I had found was from The Canberra Times (February 11, 1984) and titled “Body found chained to bike”.

The fact that the chain was around her waist seemed strange but Mr Charlwood explained that the pathologist deduced that Iris had simply done what was common practice in Europe.  Cyclists would chain themselves to their bikes when they went to have a rest. (This was to deter bike thieves.)

It turns out that Iris would have been severely dehydrated – even though she was very fit, she had cycled a great distance that day and the weather was very hot. Iris died from dehydration.

“She would have felt tired and not known how dehydrated she was and stopped to have a rest. She was found near a Small sparse tree. Iris would have gone to have a rest and never woken up.”

Mr Charlwood said police had looked into the possibility Iris had met with foul play and when they were searching for her in the days and weeks after she seemed to vanish, journalists had focused on that theory.

“When you’ve got a young woman touring the highways of Alice Springs alone you can’t discount it,” Mr Charlwood told me when I asked whether police initially thought Iris had been murdered.

 

 

The Day the Catskills Cried

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The Day the Catskills Cried recounts the 1977 kidnapping and tragic murder of Trudy Resnick Farber in a rural New York town near the Catskill Mountains. Trudy, a young wife, was the daughter of millionaire industrialist Harry Resnick and niece of the former U.S. Representative Joesph Y. Resnick.

She was abducted at gunpoint from her home by a masked intruder then buried alive in a pit while her abductor demanded one million dollars ransom for her return. The crime was devised by the schizophrenic mind of Ronald H. Krom and motivated be greed and revenge. Krom and Trudy knew each other as youngsters because their parents had a business relationship at one time. Krom is revealed as a man who has a grandiose self-image combined with a propensity to demand social respect that resulted in a senseless murder. The slight that starts this bizarre spiral is that Krom is not invited to Trudy’s wedding.

The book describes the arduous process of bringing Trudy’s killer to justice. It’s only after Krom has confessed and brings authorities to Trudy’s  earth-bound cell that they all realize that Trudy died alone and terrified while in captivity. Then the legal circus begins and is drastically slowed down when allowances have to be made due to Krom’s previously diagnosed schizophrenia.

Throughout the book, Beyea, a former state investigator for New York, shows his respect for authorities and prosecutors involved in the case by highlighting the nature of the exacting work done by the team. He also shows his compassion toward for the victim’s family as they restrained their emotions and focused only on bringing Trudy’s killer to justice despite endless delays.

There is a distraction in the book, however, that is created by choppy writing and insertion of the author into the story via “notes” to the reader. Meaningful character development is lacking and the author characterizes those involved are clearly all good or all evil. Bringing the courtroom drama alive at the trial of Ronald Krom is where Beyea’s grit and skill as an author shines.

The book makes two strong points: evil exists in this world, and the American system of justice protects the rights of everyone — even those who are accused of unthinkable criminal acts until proven guilty, despite how long that process takes.