From Jackie Cantwell
Author: Mark Fuhrman
Murder in Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley?
This is the true crime account of the murder of 15 year old Martha Moxley on her own property in the exclusive area of Belle Haven, Greenwich, CT. on October 30, 1975. Her neighbors were the Skakels, who are related to the Kennedys. From the beginning, many people suspected that someone from the Skakel household must have committed the crime, as the murder weapon was a golf club matching a set found in the house. Thomas Skakel, the 17 year old son of the widowed Rushton Skakel, emerged early as a suspect, since he was the last known person to see her alive. Ken Littleton, the 23 year old tutor who moved in that day, was a suspect for many years. Not only was the police investigation incompetent, but they tiptoed around the wealthy Skakels. It seemed the only way the crime would be solved would be a confession, because the police weren’t about to uncover anything useful themselves! Not until the existence of “the Sutton file” (a report by a private investigation firm, paid for by Rushton to clear Thomas’s name) became known did Michael Skakel (15 y/o at the time of the murder) become a suspect.
I like how Fuhrman explained how a murder investigation is supposed to be conducted, as he is a former detective with LAPD, most notable for being associated w/ the O.J. Simpson trial. A cast of characters would have been useful.
From Jackie Cantwell
Author: Joan Lownds
Man overboard : inside the honeymoon cruise murder
This is based on the 2005 still-unsolved murder of George Smith IV during his Mediterranean honeymoon cruise with his wife Jennifer Hagel Smith. They were a Connecticut couple who had it all: good looks, money, lots of friends, and a seemingly good relationship. After a night of heavy drinking and gambling in the casino of the Brilliance of the Seas ship, Jennifer ended up passed out on one end of the ship, while George was in his stateroom with 3 or 4 male acquaintances. Reports differ as to what may have occurred in the room, but we do know a loud thud was heard by “ear-witnesses” and then George went missing, and was presumed overboard. The next morning, passengers saw a bloodied awning below the Smith cabin. There was a cursory investigation conducted by the Turkish authorities. George’s parents and sister feel that Royal Caribbean was negligent in their investigation and that the evidence was compromised. The book follows the actions and lawsuits that the Smith family pursued to find out the truth about what happened to their son, and to find the perpetrators. There are also summaries of other cases where passengers were killed, raped or went missing. The book serves as an indictment of not only the Royal Caribbean cruise line, but the entire cruising industry. Overall, I felt the author overly relied on secondary sources, such as transcripts from TV programs and quotes from websites and newspapers. To my knowledge, she did not interview anyone close to the case. The author does not give her opinion as to who she thinks may have murdered George Smith. This is a cautionary tale for would-be cruisers.
From Jackie Cantwell
author: Wood, William P
The bone garden : the Sacramento boardinghouse murders
This is the true story of Dorothea Puente who was one of our country’s most prolific female serial killers. The author has first-hand knowledge of the crimes, as he was a deputy D.A. in Sacramento when she was tried for drugging and robbing elderly people in 1982. After jail time, she continued her life of crime in earnest. She opened a boardinghouse where she “cared for” the sick, the elderly, and the mentally ill. She got referrals from local social workers. She took the tenants’ monthly government checks and cashed them. If any of her charges got difficult, they were drugged, strangled or smothered to death, and buried in the backyard. This is definitely a page-turner. “The bone garden” will chill you to the bone.
From Jackie Cantwell
author: Standiford, Les
Bringing Adam home : the abduction that changed America
This is the heartbreaking story of the 1981 abduction and murder of Adam Walsh, the son of John Walsh, the host of America’s Most Wanted (AMW) T.V. program. According to the authors (and later the Hollywood (FL) PD), the case is now solved and closed. Les Standiford is a well-known author and Joe Matthews is a retired detective and polygraph expert from Miami-Dade PD and is now an investigator on the AMW program. Joe assisted the detectives early in the investigation of the murder, and was called upon by John and Reve Walsh in 2006 to conduct a complete, methodical private investigation to solve the crime once and for all. Joe was given access to all the original police files. The Walshes suspected all along that Ottis Toole, a drifter and admitted serial killer, was Adam’s murderer. Toole had confessed to the killing several times over the years, and then recanted. But he knew things that only the killer could know.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Toole died in prison serving other charges in 1996. He was never charged with the murder. The book serves as an indictment of the Hollywood PD, the Broward County authorities, and of the incompetent investigation of the murder.
The most dramatic evidence is a photo taken of Toole’s Cadillac floorboard carpeting. You absolutely must see this photo, enhanced by Luminol to detect blood, to believe it. Incredibly, this (and other damning) evidence was there for the detectives to see all along. Some passages were difficult to understand due to the coincidence that many surnames began with “H”, such as, “Hoisington made an effort to do what Hessler ordered, but by the time Hoffman and his partner Hickman had finished with Toole … “. (There are also characters named Hart, Hughes, Haggerty, and Hardaman, I kid you not). Another confounding aspect of the book was the typographical errors. There is reference made to a Gerald Schaffer, Toole’s one-time cellmate. Schaffer’s name is misspelled twice later in the book. There is a Cast of Characters section in the back, but it is of limited usefulness. Fans of true crime will most probably like this book.
It comes with a warning, however: the subject matter is very disturbing and sometimes graphic.
From Edna Susman
author: Borowitz, Albert
Musical Mysteries: From Mozart to John Lennon
Author Albert Borowitz, a graduate of Harvard and a true crime historian, presents us with a fascinating interplay between crime and music. The book is divided into two parts: the first explores eight famous crimes and crime legends including the alleged killing of Mozart by Antonio Salieri and the murder of John Lennon by Mark Chapman. The second part examines crimes within various musical settings including Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. True crime aficionados as well as students of music history will enjoy this book.
From Andrea Kalinowski
author: Smolla, Rod
Deliberate intent : a lawyer tells the true story of murder by the book
Deliberate intent : a lawyer tells the true story of murder by the book by Rod Smolla was a fascinating read on many levels. It tells the story of a manual published by Paladin Press, which offered instructions on becoming a Hit Man. The manual, which Paladin Press published, was actually a fictional story written by a woman and never meant to be seen as a how-to guide. Lawrence Horn, an executive with Motown Records, hired an assassin to kill his wife, his disabled son, and his son’s nurse. Paladin Press, when they were brought to court, argued that the First Amendment protected them. The First Amendment guarantees free speech and Rod Smolla, who eventually accepted the case for the defendants, was a major proponent of the First Amendment but the case was such a flagrant misuse of the First Amendment, he felt comfortable arguing against Paladin Press and Lawrence Horn. Paladin Press lost their case and had to withdraw copies of Hit Man. The book was a true cr ime murder story but also touched on points of legal interest. Very captivating.
From Chris Garland
author: Sides, Hampton
Hellhound on his trail : the stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the international hunt for his assassin
James Earl Ray and Martin Luther King were at existential crossroads in 1968. Each was looking for a new path to the next phase of his life. Ray was seeking a way to give his life focus after his escape from prison. King, struggling in his personal and professional life, was trying to jump start his movement in a new direction- away from Civil Rights and toward the issue of poverty. Chance found both men in Los Angeles where Ray had his epiphany. He would kill the Civil Rights leader and become a hero. Thus, their paths led them to Memphis and to their ultimate fate. Hampton Sides weaves together a fascinating account of these two men which led to the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968 and the historic manhunt for James Earl Ray that followed.
From Jeninne O’Callaghan
author: Larson, Erik
The Devil In The White City
Erik Larson’s, The Devil in the White City, has readers exploring Chicago and the madness of the World’s Fair circa 1893. This non-fiction book follows the lives of two men – one being an architect who strived to create the most elaborate celebration in the whole world and the other a psychotic serial killer who uses the fair to claim his victims.
I thoroughly enjoyed how Larson was able to intertwine and show similarities between the lives of these two drastically different men. I initially picked up this book for a suspense thriller, but found myself very interested in the historical aspect of it all.
From Jackie Cantwell
author: McDonald, Brian
In the Middle of the Night
In the Middle of the Night tells the horrifying tale of two parolees who go on a crime spree in Cheshire, CT on July 23, 2007. The instigator was Joshua Komisarjevsky, a convicted serial burglar, who met his partner in crime, Steven Hayes, in a halfway house. Joshua began burglarizing homes in his teens, and sometimes he didn’t take anything. Instead, he’d listen to the occupants as they slept, or rearranged pictures or furniture.
Joshua was adopted as an infant into a wealthy family. As a child, he lived in southwestern Cheshire on a 65-acre estate that was part horse farm. His parents, Ben and Jude, were loving and very religious. Joshua was given every opportunity to succeed in life, and coupled with his very high I.Q., he would have gone far if he hadn’t chosen crime as his vocation. It is especially cruel that he stalked the family of Dr. William and Mrs. Jennifer Petit, a nurse. They were a well-loved, community-minded couple whose daughters, Michaela and Hayley, held so much promise. It was very difficult to read the details of the crime. The governor, M. Jodi Rell, changed laws to toughen penalties for home invasion and tighten parole procedures after this crime.
author: Scott Higham and Sari Horowitz.
Most of you already know the ending. But you probably don’t know about
what happened behind the scenes. Chandra Levy, a 24 year old woman, was
working as an intern at the National Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C.
to fulfill a requirement for graduate school. She went missing on May 1,
2001, about one week before she would have graduated from the University
of Southern California. It was revealed that she was having an affair
with an older, married congressman, Gary Condit, who represented her
hometown of Modesto, CA. The media insinuated that he was responsible for her disappearance, and the police focused on him as well. And then 9-11
happened, and the case was overlooked until her remains were found in Rock Creek Park on May 22, 2002 by a man walking his dog. The authors
interviewed most everyone involved in the case willing to talk. The
eventual suspect had attacked other women in the park that summer.
Apparently, the investigation was bungled in every way it could have been.
The authors, who are reporters for the Washington Post, explain that the
media frenzy was due in part to the fact that summer is a slow time for
news in D.C. They give an interesting history of the Metropolitan police
department, which was founded by Abraham Lincoln. They explain the unique nature of prosecuting crimes in D.C., where the jurisdictions of many
federal agencies overlap. The most poignant sections are the interviews
with Chandra’s parents, who still await justice.