I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
1. Wasted: The Preppie Murder by Linda Wolfe
Robert Chambers, Jr. grew up in a home with an alcoholic father and an overbearing Irish mother who, coming from dire poverty, was intent that her son should have the finest of things including an education.
Phyllis Chambers often used her wealthy private nursing clients to secure recommendations and/or positions within New York City’s most elite private schools. Robert, however, wasn’t as determined as his mother and rather than focusing on his studies, he began stealing and abusing alcohol and drugs.
His mother was very upset by his failing grades but she had difficulty accepting her little angel’s other faults. It wasn’t until Robert was facing some serious charges that his mother finally began to acknowledge his issues.
But, in a manner of speaking, Robert was a lost cause. He didn’t want help, he only went to rehab to appease his mother. Much to the disappointment of Phyllis, Robert quickly returned to his old habits.
It wouldn’t be the greatest disappointment his mother would experience.
Jennifer Levin was young and bold and a party girl. One of her favorite places to party was at Dorrian’s Red Hand at the site of the former Studio 54. Robert Chambers too was a frequent visitor to the club. Robert and Jennifer were known to often get together for sex.
Then on the morning of August 26, 1986, Jennifer’s badly beaten, strangled, half-nude corpse was found in Central Park.
And all of Phyllis Chambers’ dreams for her son began to spiral downward.
Linda Wolfe chronicles the case which came to be known as “The Preppie Murder” because of Robert’s (presumed) social status in her book titled Wasted: The Preppie Murder.
Wolfe does an excellent job of recounting the less than meager beginnings of Phyllis Chambers, life in the dysfunctional Chambers’ home, how a teenage girl came to live in the big city, the fateful coupling of two young people at the mercy of their hormones, and a very tragic ending. Each phase is vividly detailed and readers will find themselves becoming intimate with the Chambers and Jennifer Levin.
2. At Mothers Request: A True Story of Money, Murder, and Betrayal by Jonathan Coleman
Franklin Bradshaw had worked hard to reach the level of success he had in 1978. For the owner of multiple auto parts stores throughout Utah, it had often meant sacrificing time with is family but his net worth was assurance they’d never want for anything.
Well, most of them.
Franklin and Berenice Bradshaw’s youngest daughter was a handful. Ever since she left Utah to attend college in New York, it seemed as if it was one thing after another.
First, Frances was kicked out of school for stealing and forging checks. Refusing to return home to Utah, she married Vittorio Gentile in 1959 and quickly gave birth to two boys. The marriage failed soon after the birth of their second child and Frances became dependent on her parents for financial support. When it seemed the well was about to be shut off, she married Dutchman Fredrick Schreuder and bore a third child during the couple’s separation.
Now twice divorced, Frances Schreuder, mother of three, refused to work and demanded her parents maintain her lavish New York lifestyle. For a while, the Bradshaws did so but before long Franklin, a man who had spent his life working hard to make his millions, grew weary of Frances’ demands and intended to cut her off.
But Berenice was another story. And it soon became a point of contention between Franklin and Berenice, especially after the summer of 1977 when Marc and Larry, Frances’ sons, spent the summer in Utah – and stole more than $200,000 from their grandparents at their mother’s command.
Yet Berenice continued to financially support her daughter. Franklin changed his will, disinheriting his youngest child and her offspring.
When Franklin is found murdered in one of his Salt Lake City stores on Sunday, July 23, 1978, Marilyn and Elaine, Frances’ sisters, are immediately suspicious of their sister and her boys and not hesitant to say so.
What follows in the next few years is a family disaster. Two sisters battle against a mother they come to suspect of being a murder conspiracy and another sister’s fight to continue living extravagantly at her mother’s expense.
In Jonathan Coleman’s 1985 book At Mother’s Request, readers are introduced to the Bradshaw family and in the insanity going on behind the scenes of Utah’s richest and somewhat famous as well as the incompetent detective first assigned the case, the clandestine meetings between Marilyn Bradshaw Reagan and Frances’ shadowy confidante, a greedy fake hitman, and two boys who would do anything to gain their mother’s acceptance.
Weighing in at more than a pound and over 700 pages long, At Mother’s Request is very detailed. Very. In my opinion, sometimes overly so. Every single incident is recorded in these pages. At times, it was unnecessary and could have been edited out, so there were portions I skimmed such as the verbatim trial testimony which was a repeat of earlier information in both cases.
Nonetheless, At Mother’s Request is an outstanding, old-school true crime that I highly insist any lover of the genre read. And since most copies available at Amazon are only one cent, there’s no reason not to read it.
3. The Charmer: The True Story of Robert Reldan – Rapist, Murderer and Millionaire – and the Women who Fell Victim to his Allure by Richard Muti and Charles Bu
Robert Reldan grew up in the lap of luxury. His maternal aunt had married a wealthy man and when he passed, leaving his widow Lillian Booth more than 50 million dollars, she lavished her nephew and his siblings with all the finer things in life.
And when “Bob” grew into a young man with an over-inflated sense of entitlement and dark side that enjoyed preying on women, snatching his victims from streets or barging into their homes, to rape and murder them, Aunt Lillian was there to pay for the best defense money can buy.
Never suffering any real consequences for his actions, Reldan was set free time and time again to brutalize women just as several Court psychiatrist and other officials had warned he was capable of doing.
Reldan’s crimes are a maze of million-dollar fortunes, injustice, the family ties that bind – in more ways than one, forgiveness and denial, and the crusade by victims’ families to stop a killer from gaining an inheritance which could possibly buy his way to freedom…again.
Authors Richard Muti and Charles Buckley tackle the convoluted tale of Ronald Reldan in their 2012 true crime book The Charmer: The True Story of Robert Reldan – Rapist, Murderer and Millionaire – and the Women who Fell Victim to his Allure.
These prosecutors-turned-writers offer up the story in a manner of fact style, not reliant on fluff and filler, and discloses a lot of behind-the-scenes matters previously ignored by the media.
4. Hooked Up for Murder by Robert Mladinich and Michael Benson
Mark Fisher was excited about a night out on the town in Manhattan with a few of his friends from Fairfield University.
After hitting a few of the bars, nineteen year old Mark ran into a girl he knew from school and she introduced him to her friend. When Mark’s group of friends was ready to move on to the next club, Mark made the fateful decision to stay with his other friend and her friend that he was really crushing on by now.
As this new group met up with another bunch, Mark met John Guica, a white boy gangster wanna be from Brooklyn and eventually the clan wound up at Guica’s home.
At Guica’s Ditmas Park house, Mark was introduced to Antonio “Tweed” Russo, a seventeen year old thug who also served as a drug dealer.
When the pot smoke cleared the morning after Guica’s sporadic party, Mark lay dead on a Brooklyn sidewalk. A little investigating would lead detectives right to the doorway of John Guica and Antonio Russo.
Hooked Up for Murder by Robert Mladinich and Michael Benson is their 2007 true crime book about the Mark Fisher case.
5. Son: A Psychopath and His Victims by Jack Olsen
Frederick Kevin (formerly Harlan) Coe was a mama's boy of the worst kind.
Following childhood years of a life with an eccentric mother and a lackadaisical father, Coe would exhibit signs of being a sexual deviant in his teenage years; yet it would be at the age of 34 that he would begin a reign of terror on the women of the South Hill community of Spokane, Washington.
Believed to have raped and brutalized as many as 43 women, Coe would eventually be tried for five of those rapes, and convicted of only three.
His sentence was one of the harshest handed down for such crimes in the history of Washington state.
But the drama wouldn't end there.
Coe's mother, Ruth, couldn't accept her son's convictions. She sought justice by hiring a hitman to eliminate those she perceived as enemies of her son; specifically, the Prosecutor and Judge.
Son: A Psychopath and His Victims is a 538 page true crime book detailing the chaotic life and crimes of the man dubbed The South Hill Rapist written by one of the greatest authors to have ever lived, Jack Olsen.
Just as Coe's life never experienced any lulls, neither does this book. Addicting from the very first page,
© 2016 Kim Bryan
Suzie from Carson City on May 21, 2016:
Interesting reviews of 5 True Crime Books....
The video on the Robert Reldan crimes is extremely fascinating as well as upsetting. Can't help but feel deeply for the victims of the 2 Susans. I'm inclined to consider a "born to kill" probability in the monster known as Robert Reldan. His pathology screams of the high possibility of congenital neuro-defect....