1. Deadly Divorces: Twelve True Stories of Marriages That Ended in Murder by Tammy Cohen
In today’s society where 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce, it doesn’t seem that marriage vows are taken as seriously as they were a generation ago. But is that really the case?
In Tammy Cohen’s Deadly Divorces, she recounts twelve couples in which one spouse believed in being together until death….at a time s/he chose, not nature.
Whether the motive was greed, jealousy, or they’d found another love, these husbands and wives decided the only way out of their marital obligations was to kill their spouse.
The short but sweet (for lack of a better word) stories of deadly matrimony from the United Kingdom will be a breath of fresh air (did I really just say that?) for American readers, however readers from the UK may find the stories a tedious repeat of media sensationalized crimes.
Additionally, those who enjoy the intensity of an investigation and trial may as well be disappointed because Deadly Divorces is big on drama, little on procedure. Personally, I loved it but I know not everyone does – so just a warning!
Deadly Divorces will make the single ponder if marriage is worth the risk and the married reader look (suspiciously) at his/her signification other in a new light, with a new question in their head: “Could s/he ever kill me?”
2. Killer Dads: The Twisted Drives that Compel Fathers to Murder Their Own Kids by Mary Papenfuss
For years we’ve been bombarded with stories of mothers who kill their young but it seems more stories are beginning to emerge of killer dads.
In the book Killer Dads: The Twisted Drives that Compel Fathers to Murder Their Own Kids by Mary Papenfuss, readers are invited to learn about recent (and one not-so-recent) cases of death-by-dad. Profiles include (but not limited to):
- William Parente, a New York real estate attorney, decided to commit suicide and take his family with him when investors began demanding their money – money Parente didn’t have.
- Maurice Brown, Sr. beat his three year-old son to death and tossed his body into a dumpster near is South Pauline Street home in Memphis.
- Aaron Schaffhausen murdered his three daughters and then called his ex-wife, telling her, “They’re dead now, you can come home.”
- Kaliq Michael Mansor searched the internet using terms “How do I stop abusing my baby?” but it was to no avail as he eventually murdered one of his eleven week-old twin sons.
- Rahim Alfetlawi feared his stepdaughter was going to report him to police for rape so he drove to her grandmother’s home, where she was residing, and shot her.
Each of these stories are relatively short but provide a facts-only, in-depth look into the increasing phenomenon of killer dads.
Which ever it may be, author Mary Papenfuss brings to the forefront the horrific crimes of parents who have long been thought of as strength and protectors of their offspring.
In the last chapter, Papenfuss explores what actions society could possibly take to prevent such atrocities, including the worn out issues of more government involvement, gun control, and tougher domestic violence laws. Then the author compares the crime stats of Finland to that of the U.S. as relates to filicide and remarks on changes in Finland laws has created a decrease of these type killings. My only issue with that is the population of the United States versus Finland makes it an unfair comparison; the smaller the population, the fewer incidents a country will have. Nonetheless, it was interesting to at least learn of the prohibitive measures they’ve used.
Additionally, the two chapters on the study of male filicide in primates was very intriguing and provided a great deal of insight into human behavior (whether you believe in evolution or creationism, you have to admit our DNA proves humans are close in relation to anthropoids).
Simply said, Killer Dads is a true crime book and a educational experience rolled into one.
3. True Crime Online: Shocking Stories of Scamming, Stalking, Murder, and Mayhem by Jayne A. Hitchcock
The introduction of the internet opened a door for a slew of crimes which our laws are struggling to match. And while we await the legal changes we hope curtails these crimes, the evening news and newspapers continue to bring us stories with disastrous endings whose roots can be traced to the world wide web.
Internationally recognized cybercrime expert Jayne A. Hitchcock compiles some of the most interesting internet-related crimes in her new book True Crime Online: Shocking Stories of Scamming, Stalking, Murder, and Mayhem, which includes:
- The murder of Amy Boyer by a psychotic, lovesick young man with whom she had attended high school. Through his online diaries, Liam D. Youens made it clear if he couldn’t have Amy, no one could.
- When a bored housewife goes astray online, she pretends to be her much younger daughter and begins a cyber affair with what she believes to be a young man but who is actually a 47 year-old married father of two. When the desperate housewife learns the truth, she decides to hook up with one of the pretender’s online friends and things go from bad to worse.
- Joanne Ruffner thought she’d finally found the love of her life inMichael Myers… until she learned he was already married. When she reported the military chaplain for his duplicity, he sought revenge by signing her up for adult-oriented websites using her real name and photos.
- A single Mom looks for love online. She meets several nice gentlemen, but one stands above the others because he is exceptionally kind to her daughter: Donald Scott Brunstetter. However, when this mother learns why her new husband cares so much for her daughter, she refuses to keep quiet and shouts her warnings to the world.
- When a high school student tries to help a friend out with a cyberstalker, she becomes the target of his harassment…for three years!
- When members of the TAPS Ghost Hunting team begin receiving strange, threatening emails, the FBI follows a virtual path to 51 year oldBarry Clinton Eckstrom.
- The FBI thought they’d shut down a huge child pornography ring when they arrested Royal Raymond Weller, known online as G.O.D. but within just a few days the site was up and running again by a man known as “Son of G.O.D.”
A total of sixteen fabulous stories serve as a reminder the internet can be a fantastic tool but it can also be an incredibly dangerous place as well.
With each story spanning an average of four pages, True Crime Online is a quick read, allowing readers to dive into only the facts without the dullness of the investigations and trials.
As a fan of true crime short stories, I give this one five stars and definitely recommend adding it to your reading list.
4. Fatal Friends Deadly Neighbors and Other True Cases: Ann Rules Crime Files: Volume 16
Featuring the worldwide headline case of the missing Susan Powell and the tragic deaths of her young sons at hands of possessive, abusive husband Josh Powell, eight other interesting cases, predominately from the 1970s, are also chronicled; including –
- The questionable accident of six year-oldMax Shacknai and the death of his father’s girlfriend, Becky Zahau, which followed within a couple of days. Police initially said Becky’s death was a suicide but the bound hands, the strange message painted on the wall, and more said otherwise.
- Elderly philanthropists Burle and Olive Bramhall were brutally murdered in their Windermere community home. Neighbors and police alike wondered who would do something so horrible to such a well-like couple. The answer was closer than anyone realized.
- When fires continue to break out at the University Towers Hotel, investigators think they know who is responsible but there just simply isn’t enough to arrest him – until he strikes again, in an even deadly locale.
- In 1975, Dina Peterson was found murdered only sixteen feet from her own backdoor. It would more than three decades to bring a man to justice.
- Sue Ann Baker was trying desperately to end her marriage but her husband was unwilling to let her go.
- Wendy Ann Smith was an exceptionally beautiful nine year-old when she went missing from her McChord Air Force Base home. As her family searched, one “volunteer” was a bit too eager to be near her family and they would soon learn why.
The “Queen of True Crime” does a fan-freakin’-tastic job of recounting the Powell case; neatly outlining the important evidence rather than tossing the same old minutiae as the 24 hour news channels. I truly walked away with a clearer understanding of a case I have long followed.
And the Spreckels Mansion double mystery really rocked my boat. This was a case I had never heard of (where have I been?). It’s a true mystery which will remain with me for quite some time and for which I will most definitely be adding to my “updates list.”
Then the pace slows down. Rule throws us back a few decades with old files from the latter years of the 1970s. For some, it’ll be a let down but, for me personally, I love old true crime stories and found it a nice slow-down from the page grippers in the first two stories.
5. Murder Behind The Badge: True Stories of Cops Who Kill by Stacy Dittrich
As children we’re taught to trust the officers who patrol our streets and neighborhoods. We’re told, in our greatest times of need, an officer will lend a helping hand in setting things right.
And for the most officers, this is the absolute truth. They are there to protect and serve, caring for the citizens of their communities.
But every now and again, one officer will be revealed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a cruel and vicious being who hid his or her hideous nature behind the badge.
Author Stacy Dittrich tackles some of the worst cases of killer cops in her 2009 book Murder Behind The Badge: True Stories of Cops Who Kill. Eighteen (18) short stories feature cases such as:
- Bobby Lee Cutts, Jr., an Ohio cop who murdered his girlfriend and unborn daughter, in the presence of his toddler son, then dumped their bodies in a remote area. Mother and daughter wouldn’t be discovered for nine days then this dastardly daddy and protector of the people claimed it was all an “accident.”;
- Mansfield, Ohio, police officer Charles Oswalt still proclaims his innocence in the death of Margie Coffey, with whom he fathered a child. Prosecutors believe Oswalt feared being exposed as the father of the former prostitute’s child to his wife, colleagues, and community;
- Ken DeKleine, an officer with the Holland, Michigan, police department, was outraged his wife planned to divorce him – and was having an affair with her therapist. The latter seems just a bit (okay, a lot) hypocritical considering his multiple affairs;
- Collier County, Florida, Sheriff’s Deputy Royle “Roy” Kipp, Jr. couldn’t bear the thought of his wife divorcing him or, most especially, the affair she was having with his colleague Jeffrey Klein. Murdering his wife, Sandy, and her boyfriend in a fit of rage one night,
- The case of Indiana State Trooper David Camm seems it will never end. In 2000, prosecutors claimed he murdered his wife Kim Camm and two children at their Indiana home. Convicted on all charges, the ruling was later overturned. A second trial resulted in a second conviction and another overturn on appeal. What is the surprise that keeps David Camm from paying the price for the crime so many are convinced he committed?;
- Antoinette Frank strong-armed her way into a position with the New Orleans police department and used the badge to commit petty crimes – until the day she murdered several members of a Koren family who considered her friends; and
- Fearful of being exposed by his homosexual lover, Officer Steven Rios of Columbia, Missouri, slashed Jesse Valencia‘s throat and left him to die in his East Campus apartment. What Rios didn’t know was that Valencia had shared their “secret” with enough people to put investigators on his trail.
6. Women Behind Bars by Wensley Clarkson
I’ve always enjoyed Wensley Clarkson as author, but this time I have to wonder what he was thinking – or maybe I should say, which head was he thinking with?
Women Behind Bars, sold under the former title of Caged Heat, is nothing but 241 pages of women doing time, whining about their “misfortune.” For example:
- Kathy Gaultney, a woman who killed her drunken unconscious husband after he discovered that she acted as a drug mule of some big-time dealers and threatened to turn her in to police. Of course, later she mentioned that he was abusive.
- Michelle Chapman, who blames the system for the death of her husband because she called the police and told them she was going to beat him if they didn’t remove someone. She was sane enough to warn others, but couldn’t summon enough sanity to stop beating her husband? Oh, by the way, she says he was abusive first.
- Precious Bedell shook her 18-month-old daughter to death in a restaurant bathroom because she wouldn’t stop crying. She’s been so well behaved in prison, active in parenting programs, that she even got actress Glenn Close involved in bidding for her parole. Close said in a letter to the court, “She has served many years for an incident that lasted about eight seconds.” Apparently, Close forgets that it was a lifetime for a baby girl; so forgive me if I’m not sympathetic to the legnth of Bedell’s sentence.
- The late Judy Benkowski, she hired her friend’s boyfriend to kill her husband. Why? He was mean and Judy was tired of dealing with it. Instead of just divorcing her husband of 20 year, she traded it for 100 years behind bars.
- Maureen McDermott, a former Registered Nurse, hired a coworker to kill her roommate so she could collect on the mortgage insurance. She’s angry because she was sentenced to death after the coworker and his accomplice only received life in prison after turning state’s evidence in a plea bargain.
- Mary Ellen Samuels, sentenced to death for the murder of her husband. She had done the math and realized she would received only $30,000 in a divorce but could received the entire $500,000 if she were widowed instead. She now claims it was in retaliation for Robert Samuel’s molestation of her daughter – for which there is no evidence ever occurred.
- Cindy Coffman, along with her boyfriend, abducted Corrina Novis andLynel Murray, sexually assaulted the girls, and then killed them. She says it was all the boyfriend’s fault, that she did was she was told because she was afraid to die. Well, seems those fears may have to be faced as Cindy sits on California’s death row.
- Diane Bogdanoff who, with the help of her daughter, hired a hitman to kill her husband. She couldn’t afford to divorce him, so she made up a story about physical abuse.
Wait – I have to make a correction. Not all of the 241 pages are whines by women done wrong. Wensley appears to have no sympathy for:
- Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita, who served time for the attempted murder of her boyfriend’s wife, Mary Buttafuco. Although, Amy does tell the author about being bitter because Joey Buttafuco walked away scot-free after brainwashing her to commit the crime.
- Pam Smart, the New Jersey teacher who convinced her fifteen-year-old lover to kill her husband by telling Billy Flynn that Gregg was abusive. Readers are invited to a birds-eye view of all her prison sexual excursions.
- Patty Columbo murdered her parents and brother along with her boyfriend because they did not approve of him. Patty also wanted to collect on the family fortune. Clarkson details the vivid details of the prison sex scandals, with Patty at the center.
Mixed amongst these stories is details suffered by women inmates doing time, from beat-downs by other inmates to sexual abuse by the guards. While the things that happen are atrocious, if Clarkson wanted me to feel sympathy, he should have used more sympathetic subjects. Quite frankly, women who kill in cold-blood are simply getting their just desserts.
© 2016 Kim Bryan