1. Buried Memories: The Bloody Crimes and Execution of the Texas Black Widow by Irene Pence
Betty Lou Beets enjoyed drinking, carousing with men, and, apparently, murder.
Her first marriage was a rocky one, full of physical violence and separations, but it lasted for seventeen years and the birth of six children.
Marriages two and three (and four, although the fourth to the same guy who was number three) were shorter lived than the first but no less dramatic. Betty was even arrested for attempted murder when she tried to run over husband 3 & 4 Billy York Lane with a car after he threatened to kill her during a domestic dispute.
When the fifth and domestic-violence-filled marriage to Ronnie Threlkold ended, Betty was a 42-year-old working in as a bartender topless bar. She experienced her second arrest when, one night off the clock, she decided to earn a little extra cash by “taking it off” like the other gals and was charged with public lewdness.
Betty married for the sixth time to Doyle Wayne Barker but when he started talking about divorce, he disappeared.
Then along came husband number seven: Jimmy Don Beets. More respectable than the other men Betty Lou had previously been married to, people thought the serial wife had finally found the man she’d grow old (er, older) with.
Until Betty Lou reported him missing.
Irene Pence tackles the convoluted and twisted story of Betty Lou’s life and marriages in her fast paced, gripping 2008 true crime Buried Memories: The Bloody Crimes and Execution of the Texas Black Widow.
Readers are invited to take an in-depth look at the life of Betty Beets as she grew up in poverty and was saddled with the care of a mentally ill mother and as she married and divorced numerous times while struggling to maintain a relationship with the children born of her first marriage.
Pence does an excellent job of making this an intense, no-stone-unturned book that keeps readers engrossed from beginning to end. Although not bogged down with every single detail of the trial, readers are still taken into the Courtroom hearings that led to a conviction and sentence that Betty Beets assumed could never happen to her.
2. Everybodys Best Friend: The True Story of a Marriage That Ended In Murder by Ken Englade
Life seemed to be perfect for Craig Rabinowitz and his wife Stefanie. They lived in a beautiful home in Philadelphia’s ritzy Main Line area and had been blessed the previous year with a beautiful, curly-headed daughter they named Haley Sarah Rabinowitz.
But things aren’t always what they seemed.
In April 1997, the truth about the Rabinowitz family would come to light with the seemingly accidental death of Stefanie as she bathed in the Main Line home’s tub. Further inspection, however, revealed that Stefanie had been strangled.
Her husband Craig had stated right from the beginning that no one had been in the house but he, Stefanie, and the baby. A police inspection of the home would prove that no intruders had come through the locked windows and doors. Craig was the obvious suspect, but why would he kill his wife?
As investigators worked to answer this question, they uncovered a myriad of information about a husband’s Ponzi scheme, excessive life insurance policies, strippers, and five star hotel rendezvouses. Craig wasn’t above using anyone to satisfying his sexual obsessions while avoiding any kind of real work.
Ken Englade recounts the tale of the pathetic man who was willing to kill his wife when his financial facade was ready to collapse in his 1999 true crime book Everybody’s Best Friend: The True Story of a Marriage That Ended In Murder.
3. Deadly Blessing by Steve Salerno
Vickie Loretha Carroll Moore was a single mother of two, working at the Liberty, Texas, Dairy Queen to make ends meet when she met Marion Price Daniel, Jr.
Price was himself a divorced father, the son of former Texas Governor Marion Price Daniel, Sr., and the great-grandson of Sam Houston.
It raised more than a few eyebrows when Vickie and Price began dating, and even more when they wed in November 1976; just a few months following Vickie’s divorce from her first husband, Larry Moore.
It was a whirlwind romance that came to sudden halt just weeks after the couple exchanged their vows.
Despite troubles that brewed between the newlyweds, they would add two children to their brood of three from their previous marriages before the marriage came to a fatal end.
Vickie Daniel alleged Price was abusive and she killed him in self-defense. Price’s family alleged Vickie wasn’t happy with divorce settlements offered by her soon-to-be-ex-husband -often comparing his offers of support to that paid to his first wife – and she killed out of anger.
A police investigation wouldn’t provide any answers, only entertainment.
Combine wealth, power, and murder investigation and what you’re going to wind up with is a regular three ring circus.
And that’s exactly what became of the inquiry into the death of Marion Price, Jr.
4. She Wanted It All: A True Story of Sex, Murder, and a Texas Millionaire by Kathryn Casey
Steve Beard was a well-respected, very friendly man. And he was wealthy.
Which didn’t go unnoticed by Celeste Johnson, a divorcée with two young daughters. Before long, she’d wound Steve into her web of deceit and love of extravagance.
Steve loved Celeste and was very forgiving of her “faults,” including being part of an adulterous homosexual relationship withTracy Tarlton.
But more so, he loved her daughters and sympathized with them for the mother to which they were born. For their sake, Steve tried to make the marriage work. But a man can only take so much.
When Celeste openly flaunted her lesbian love affair while spending her husband’s self-made, hard-earned millions,Steve Beard‘s patience and forgiveness began to grow thin.
Unfortunately, he never have the chance to do anything about it.
Award winning true crime author Kathryn Casey divulges the dirty little secrets of Celeste Beard in her 2005 book She Wanted It All.
Readers are given the opportunity to really see into the soul (or empty pit that should contain a soul) of Celeste Johnson Beard.
From birth to prison, readers learn so much about this greedy adulterating wife and mother that it’ll make them appreciate their own mother so much more! (Assuming, of course, they weren’t stuck with a whack job like this one.)
Steve Beard isn’t the only victim in this book and Casey does an excellent job of making that clear. Celeste didn’t just kill Steve; she victimized her children, her stepchildren, and just about anyone who ever crossed her path as well.
5. While She Slept: A Husband, a Wife, a Brutal Murder by Marion Collins
Jill Russell had loved and lost as is typical of youth. In her late 20s, however, she was looking for a more permanent relationship – a relationship of the married, white picket fence, and children kind.
When she was met Jeff Cahill she believed she had met the man of her dreams. So what if his mother was an overbearing, religious zealot who controlled Jeff like a puppet. Jill believed she was the change Jeff needed.
(You see where it’s going already, don’t you?)
Ten years and two children later, Jeff wasn’t the man of Jill’s dreams. Claiming self-employment, Jeff seldom did a full day’s work. He hardly ever spent time with his wife or children. And Patty Cahill was still pulling the strings. For Jill, it was time to move on.
But just as she was about to make an exit, Jeff took a baseball bat to her head. Over and over and over and over. He smashed it into her skull until Jill was unconscious and near death. Then he called his Mommy and Daddy.
Being beaten into a comatose state was horrible, but this Mama’s boy will take domestic violence to a shuttering finale when he walks into his wife’s hospital room, while out on bond, and forces her to drink cyanide.
Marion Collins tells about the fatal Cahill marriage in her 2005 true crime book While She Slept. It seems to me most of the information was obtained from public records and interviews with Jill’s family. Considering that Patty Cahill liked to pretend her family was perfect, my best guess they wouldn’t give the author the time of day much less their “excuses” for Jeff’s actions.
Although it’s obvious from the first chapter the author’s feelings about Cahill, the information never ventures too far into the perfect victim/evil killer arena. While the author does magnify Jill’s good qualities, she doesn’t hesitate to disclose the less-than-stellar attributes either. On the hand, there is only so many good things you can say about a man who winds up beating his wife with a ball bat.
While She Slept is a fast-paced, intense read that will leave you questioning the concept of a criminal justice system where the victim is but a mere afterthought.
6. Murder At 75 Birch by Richard T. Pienciak
Edward Glenn “Glen” Wolsieffer married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth Tasker Wolsieffer, before he finished dental school. While he worked toward a professional career, Betty (as she was known) supported the household financially.
Soon the couple would be living financially comfortable, but for Glen it wasn’t enough. He needed women. Lots of women. The real life Mr. Duplicity that Alanis Morrisette sang about.
In one corner was his dental hygienist,Debbie Shipp and in another was Betty’s friend and party girl Carol Kopicki.
Betty found out about Debbie, but she would die without knowing a friend’s betrayal.
On an August morning of 1986, Glen Wolsieffer called his brother Neil Robert Wosleiffer to come over. When he entered, Glen was on the floor claiming to have been attacked. When police arrived, they’d find Glen was in good shape compared to the brutally beaten Betty.
Author Richard T. Pienciak details the whodunit case surrounding the murder of Betty Wosleiffer in his 1993 book Murder at 75 Birch. Was it an intruder or did Glen kill her so he could live the life of a Playboy?
The case is clouded with a lot of “he said, she said,” innuendo, and speculation. It’s enough to make your head spin at times but Pienciak does a pretty dang good job of it. But my real gripe comes in with the investigation and trial; talk about too much information. Seriously, it’s a lot of repeat from the first half then tossed in with the verbatim-from-transcript writing that I hate.
Fortunately, Murder At 75 Birch is an old book that can be picked up for less than $1 at various online retailers. I’d pay that price for the interesting story without feeling guilty that I skimmed half the book.
After you read Murder At 75 Birch come back and vote on whether you believe Glen Wolseiffer is guilty or not guilty. I can’t wait to see the results and your comments!
7. Love Her to Death by M. William Phelps
Jan Roseboro had everything a woman could want: a beautiful (and very large) home, four wonderful children, a financially secure future. Everything except a faithful husband.
Michael Roseboro was well-respected in his small hometown of Denver, Pennsylvania. He was a third generation mortician and majority owner of the Roseboro Funeral Home – a family business founded by his great-grandfather. Even his penchant for extramarital affairs couldn’t keep most townsfolk from liking the man with the creepy profession.
But all of that would change on July 22, 2008. For it was on this night that Jan was brutally murdered in the couple’s backyard.
While many were, at first, willing to give Mike the benefit of the doubt, an unsurpassed number of lusty emails between he and his mistress,Angie Funk – who would also soon announce that she was pregnant with Mike’s baby, would quickly change their minds.
And get the tongues wagging in the strictly religious – Amish, Mennonite, and Pennsylvania Dutch – communities making up Lancaster County.
There’s a lot of books on the market about men who have affairs and kill their wives, but I can assure you that Love Her to Death isn’t your standard cheating man true crime because Mike Roseboro isn’t your typical cheater.
The arrogance, deceitfulness, and outright narcissism of Mike Roseboro really pops in M. William Phelps’ book. Detailing the life of the Roseboro family as well as the insidious secret lifestyle of Mike and his mistress Angela Funk while not bogging down the book with continuous repetition or trial segment that’s better at putting one to sleep than counting sheep, makes Love Her To Death a must read.
8. Playing With Fire: The True Story of a Nurse, Her Husband, and a Marriage Turned Fatal by John Glatt
In Playing With Fire, author John Glatt recounts a case out of West Virginia about a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner turned murderess.
Michelle “Shelly” Goots Angus was a married mother of two young children working as a nurse at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown when she met James “Jimmy” Michael; also a married father of two young children.
Once Shelly had Jimmy in her sights, she wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
Following their respective divorces, the couple wed and blended their family in what appeared to be a fairytale setting to those outside looking in.
And it was. Jimmy had started his own business. Shelly had earned her master’s degree and acquired the position of Pediatric Nurse Practioner. They had purchased their dream home.
But this fairytale marriage would not end with them living happily ever after. No, instead it would end with Jimmy’s fiery death and Shelly behind bars.
Readers are lured in with an intense, very climatic prologue followed by strongly detailed chapters, written in chronological order, beginning with Shelly’s and Jimmy’s childhoods through his death; ending with Shelly’s conviction and sentencing.
9. First We’ll Kill My Husband by Lyn Riddle
True crime enthusiasts will enjoy Lynn Riddle's: First We’ll Kill My Husband. This book details the events leading up to the death of Doug Gissendaner, a good old, hardworking Southern boy whose wife decided she’d rather have him dead than lose her possessions in a divorce.
Kelly Gissendaner had a penchant for infidelity. As a result, Doug and Kelly divorced, remarried, and had separated several times in between but Doug always returned “for the kids.” (Only one of those being his biological child and the youngest having been conceived during one of their estrangements. However, Doug was notorious for loving all three children as if they were his own flesh and blood.) As a matter of fact, Doug had even discussed with his father plans to once again divorce Kelly just days before his murder.
Yet Kelly had a different plan. She wanted to keep the house the couple shared, so she convinced her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, to kill Doug. Of course, she didn’t tell Greg the whole truth about why she wanted Doug dead (the house, a paltry life insurance) so she told him she feared Doug would never leave her alone.
What happened next was a vicious attack on Doug and an endless search for him by his friends and family for many days following. All the while, Kelly cried and carried on with her church friends; friends who, in the end, would be shocked by Kelly’s secrets and just how far she was willing to go to get her way.
Readers will come to grieve Doug Gissendaner and loathe his harlot wife Kelly, all the while asking just how stupid someone like Gregory Owen could be.
10. Die, My Love: A True Story of Revenge, Murder, and Two Texas Sisters by Kathryn Casey
Few people believed the marriage between attorney Piper Rountree and Dr. Fred Jablinwould last but no one imagined it would end so fatally.
When the marriage started crumbling, Piper Rountree began using her children as pawns, as too may people do, to get back at the man she had vowed to love forever. But Dr. Fred refused to stand back and be steam-rolled by his lawyer wife and filed an injunction which prohibited her from removing the children from Virginia to Texas where Piper intended to relocate to be near her family.
Piper, however, just wasn’t going to accept no for an answer.
When Dr. Fred was found dead in his driveway one early fall morning in 2004, Piper is immediately a suspect. And when all the details surrounding Fred’s death are unveiled, it will be a stunning story of wigs, cell phone calls, and swapped identities.
Kathryn Casey chronicles an edge-of-your-seat story with the case of Piper Rountree who was convicted of killing her estranged husband, Fred Jablin, in her book Die, My Love.
Readers are made privy to the whirlwind romance of opposite personalities, the volatile marriage, and the three children who were the only real losers in their parents’ deadly divorce.
11. Her Deadly Web: The True Story of a Former Nurse and The Strange and Suspicious Deaths of Her Two Husbands by Diane Fanning
In 1991, William Edward “Ed” Dossett was a well-liked yet aggressive Knox County District Attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee. Ed wasn’t a perfect man, considering his philandering ways, but he was one heck of a DA. And since a lot of people found his wife, Raynella Bernardene Large Dossett, a native of nearby Oak Ridge, to be somewhat unlikable, it was easy to look past the mistresses.
By the middle of 1992, however, Ed Dossett was stricken with cancer and every day was becoming a struggle to survive. Friends and family could only watch as Ed, once strong and valiant, withered away before their eyes. They knew his days were numbered but they were shocked when those days came to a sudden, unexpected end.
According to Raynella, on July 9, 1992, Ed said he wanted to go out with her to feed the cattle. Suddenly something spooked the herd. Amid the commotion, Raynella ran to the house to get a gun. She said when she returned, Ed was lying in the gateway of the fence. She assumed he had been trampled by the scared livestock.
Many were leary of Raynella’s story, but an autopsy confirmed her story. However, years later, following the insane actions of the medical examiner and the criminal charges that followed, his professional findings would be strongly questioned.
It would take fifteen years and the death of Raynella’s second husband,David Leath, for the rumblings to explode. While on the surface David’s death appeared to be a suicide, it was soon declared a homicide when detectives found evidence of three shots and forensics revealed one of those shots would have been fired by a dead man.
There’s a common saying, “Lightening never strikes the same place twice.” But obviously Raynella Dossett Leath thought, with her political clout, she could beat that theory.
She was wrong. Very, very wrong.
True crime veteran author Diane Fanning recounts the case of State of Tennessee vs. Raynella Dossett Leath is her newest book Her Deadly Web: The True Story of a Former Nurse and The Strange and Suspicious Deaths of Her Two Husbands.
12. The Good Wife: The Shocking Betrayal and Brutal Murder of a Godly Woman in Texas by Clint Richmond
In 1996, Roger and Penny Scaggs celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. To outsiders, it appeared to marriage blessed by the hand of God. Roger was a successful businessman in the world of technology. And Penny, although considered a homemaker, devoted much of her time teaching young women how to be the perfect Christian wife and visiting with the elderly in nearby nursing homes.
Of course, things aren’t always what they seem.
Within the last few years, Roger was giving in to what seemed to be a midlife crisis. He grew distant from his wife and adult daughter, Sarah. He took up sail boating and flying. He carried on a rather torrid affair with a much younger woman.
But Penny Scaggs was a Godly woman. She did not believe in divorce. She believed that marriage was “until death we do part.”
Sadly, death would come sooner than she expect.
On March 6, 1996, as Penny played her beautiful baby grand piano in the couple’s Austin, Texas, home, she was bludgeoned in the back of the head. Then her killer slashed her throat and stabbed her repeatedly with one of her own kitchen knives. Hours later, Roger Scaggs would discover his wife’s body.
But did he really discover her, or was it just a smokescreen? After all, who else could have wanted Penny did? She was well loved by the young and old alike but her husband stood to lose half of all he owned and be burdened with a lifetime alimony payment should he leave marriage.
Would a man who spent 35 years in a marriage to a wonderful woman reach that far for freedom?
Author Clint Richmond shares the story of Mr. & Mrs. Roger Scaggs and the secrets that lay behind their closed doors. Although the story seems to have all the elements of a dime store romance novel, Richmond shares the story in such a respectful, elegant manor that it is anything but cheap.
The Good Wife is a well written, detailed and expertly organized account of the life of Penny Scaggs and the sins and eventual conviction of her husband, Roger Scaggs.
Updates to these Books (as available). Warning! May Contain Spoilers
- Craig Rabinowitz is currently incarcerated at the prison in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania.
- Information about the now almost sixteen-year-old Haley Rabinowitz was nonexistant; unusual in this age of social networking extremely popular among teens. It is rumored her name was changed to Haley Newman, but this is unconfirmed.
- Governor Price Daniel, Sr. passed away in August 1988. His lovely wife Jean Houston Baldwin Daniel left this world just four short years later in December 2002.
- Franklin Baldwin Daniel followed a long standing tradition in his family by becoming a member of the Texas Bar in 2005. Looking very much like his father, he is now associated with the Houston law firm of Essmyer, Tritico & Rainey.
- Thomas Houston Daniel, Price Daniel Jr.’s oldest son from his first marriage, is also an attorney and living in the Austin area.
- In 1992, ABC aired Bed of Lies, a made-for-television movie about the Vicki Daniel trial, which many people close to the case say was generous with its creative licensing. On rare occasion, this movie will re-run on Lifetime Movie Network. It is not available on DVD.
- Jeff Cahill will remain in prison until at least April 2036. If he were to stay until then and gain parole, he would be 75 years old.
- Jill’s sister, Debbie Jaeger, continues to push for the passing of Jilly’s Law. You can check the status of and support the cause, by visiting the Jilly’s Law Facebook page.
- In 2005 Glen Wolsieffer came up for a parole and this time he tried something different: he admitted to murdering his wife. Was he admitting this to please the parole board or just unburdening himself? No one may never know. Glen was released to a Scranton, Pennsylvania, halfway house on May 9, 2005. It is believed that he is currently residing in Wilkes-Barre. (Although another source says he moved to Virginia but no evidence could be found to back it up.)
- Married and a Mom, Danielle Wolsieffer (Mullery) is working as a beautician in Wilkes-Barre.
- Having remarried, Nancy Woods Wolsieffer (Atherton), lives in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania. Nancy and Neil’s daughter, Bryn Wolsieffer (Healey)married Bryan Healey in September 2010.
- One has to assume Glen’s “original” mistress had enough of the spotlight because she’s keeping a very low profile these days, but I was able to uncover that Deborah Ann Shipp (Golden) is married with children and living in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania.
- Now married to Thomas Buss, Carol Kopicki (Buss) is a Zumba fitness instructor at Odyssey Fitness in Wilkes-Barre. Kelsey Wolsieffer, the daughter born to Carol and Glen shortly after his incarceration, graduated high school in 2011 and is now attending college.
Suzie from Carson City on July 29, 2016:
Kim.....Excellent mini-reviews of this long list of true crime books...(a continual interest of mine.) No doubt I will begin to search out these books at the best prices. Just what I need to add to my growing stack of Books-in-wating. During summer months I read only 2 books a week rather than 3 or 4.
It never ceases to amaze me that such a high percentage of these killers are educated and not expected to be so foolish (actually the word is, "stupid!") It is beyond all comprehension how today, in this age of mega forensics and super technology, someone thinks they can commit the perfect crime. Sorry folks, it ain't happenin! You LOSE.