I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
1. Death of Innocence: The True Story of an Unspeakable Teenage Crime by Peter Meyer
Thirteen year old Megan O’Rourke and 12-year-old Melissa Walbridge made the fateful decision to take the shortcut through the woods rather than the more visible route on their way home from Lawton Middle School in Essex Junction, Vermont.
In the middle of the woods’ well worn path, the girls would be abducted by 16-year-old Louis “Louie” Hamlin and 15-year-old Jamie Savage. Before it was over, the girls would be raped, tortured, and stabbed. And one of them would die at the hands of her teenage assailants.
In Death of Innocence: The True Story of an Unspeakable Teenage Crime, author Peter Meyer weaves a provocative tale of violent teens with too much time on their hands and the investigation details that would eventually bring them to justice. And the injustice of one killer going free because the law hadn’t yet acknowledged youthful violence.
Meyer has an unique ability to so vividly describe people, places, and actions that readers will feel as though they are witnessing things first hand; which at times can be pleasant but sadly, considering the subject at hand, most often not.
The details are many, the storystelling strong, and the updates (current as of the publication date in 1985) are very informative. My only complaint – if you could call it that – is that there are no photographs. I would really have liked to be able to put faces to the victims and killers, especially since there are not any I could located only (not surprising being that it is 30 years later).
Death of Innocence is out of print but if you can locate a copy, snatch it. The cover may be a little plain but the story inside is anything but.
2. Cruel Sacrifice by Aphrodite Jones
Madison, Indiana, is the epitome of a small town, USA. Yet among the picket fenced yards lurked evil that would rock this midwest community.
Melinda Loveless may have looked like your average teenage girl. Yet she was anything but. Her bouncy brunette curls and big brown eyes caught the attention of many boys, but it was the girls Melinda wanted to be with.
Laurie Tackett was a severely mentally disturbed bisexual who frequently dabbled in the occult and talked about what it would be like to kill someone.
When Laurie and Melinda met, a deadly union was born and Shanda Sharer‘s days were numbered.
With help from friends Toni Lawrence and Hope Rippey, Shanda was lured from the safety of her father’s home. With Melinda’s jealousy and rage at the forefront and Laurie’s blood thirst running a close second, Shanda was dragged around Indiana and tortured for hours before being burned alive.
Author Aphrodite Jones tells the story of a lesbian love triangle ended in a young girl’s death in her 1994 true crime Cruel Sacrifice.
From beginning to end, this book is riveting; extremely difficult to put down. And a real eye opener for anyone with children, a reminder that you should never get too lax in your parenting.
Readers of Cruel Sacrifice will find themselves enraged at the teenage arrogance, heartbroken at the waste of young life, and question why so many backs were turned that resulted in the creation of a monster.
3. I Am Cain: A Harrowing True Story of Murder, Compulsion, and Unrepentant Evil by Gera-Lind Kolarick and Wayne Klatt
Richard and Nancy Bishop Langert were well on their way to being another North Shore success story. And the baby they were expecting in six months was icing on the cake.
On the night of April 8, 1990, however, the Langert’s lives would come to a brutal halt; their murders seemingly motiveless.
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Was Nancy’s sister’s involvement with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to blame? Could the murders be mob related? Did Richard, a man who enjoyed gambling, fail to make good on a bet?
These questions would haunt police for six months as they searched for the answers and may have gone unanswered if not for the conscience of a teenage boy who realized he knew too much.
Police would realize the killer had been right in front of them all along. And the murderer’s motive is absolutely sickening!
I Am Cain is true crime written by journalists Gera-Lind Kolarik and Wayne Klatt about the high profile Langert murders that rocked a quiet, well-to-do suburban community of Chicago.
This 280 page factual recounting from 1990 is well-written and a real page-turner right out of the starting gate, but I was a little disappointed in how much praise was heaped upon the Winnetka police when, in all actuality, had it not been for the detailed information provided to them by 18 year-old Phu Hoang.
I mean, come on, with all due respect, I’m sure Patty McConnell was a fantastic officer but the missing piece of the puzzle just fell into her lap. Quite frankly, Winnetka police were certain it was linked to the IRA and didn’t seem inclined to look outside that box. So…
Ok, rant over. That particular pet peeve aside, I give I Am Cain: A Harrowing True Story of Murder, Compulsion and Unrepentant Evil a big thumbs up.
4. Conspiracy of Silence by Lisa Priest
Helen Betty Osborne was an ambitious young Aboriginal woman whose life dream was to be a teacher but she had to leave the reservation in Norway House and move to The Pas, Manitoba, to do so – not a small task for a girl with minimal education and who spoke very little English.
Betty’s first year in The Pas was relatively unremarkable, but her second year would find her becoming a symbol for Aboriginal women across Canada.
On the cold, dark evening of November 12, 1971, Betty was walking home alone when four young white men pulled their car along side her and began soliciting Betty for sex. When she declined, the drunken lads stopped the car and one of the boys, Dwayne Archie Johnston, snatched Betty from the street and forced her into the car.
Driving aimlessly through desolate roads of The Pas, Dwayne along with Lee Colgan, Jim Houghton, and Norm Manger, tried to force Betty to engage in multi-partner sexual escapades but she fought them furiously.
No one may ever know what really happened that night, but one thing is certain: Betty Osborne was brutally beaten and stabbed to death with a screwdriver.
Despite drink induced confessions by Lee Colgan to anyone who would listen, it would take police 16 years to make any arrests in the case. And the jury’s verdict would be as confusing and disturbing as the murder itself.
Journalist Lisa Priest presents the case of the Betty Osborne murder in her 1989 true crime book Conspiracy of Silence. It begins with the discovery of Betty’s body by a 14-year-old fisherman and ends with a Commission inquiry that would expose the dark secrets of living for Aboriginals in a white man’s settlement.
Fortunately, Priest doesn’t lay into personal opinions on race and presents only the facts as they were during the 1987 trial in a well organized writing style and, as such, it makes for a great read with zero fluff or filler.
5. Under the Bridge by Rebecca Godfrey
Under the Bridge by Rebecca Godfrey, tells the story of one of Canada’s most infamous slayings known as the “Schoolgirl Murder” or also frequently referred to as “The Shoreline Six.”
Reena Virk, a 14-year-old girl of Middle Eastern decent, was a young woman searching for her place in this world; unfortunately, the “place” she frequently chose was with a group of thuggish girls who enjoyed fighting, stealing, and bullying others. Unfortunately, as is so common in such groups, her “friends” turned on her on the theory that she “stole” another girl’s boyfriend. And a plan was hatched to teacher her a lesson.
While two members of the group, Josephine and Dusty, lured Reena to a common teenage hangout. Once there, Josephine and Dusty, along with several others, including Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski, began to beat Reena. At one point, she lost consciousness. And while most of the group walked away, that wasn’t enough for Kelly Ellard: a rich, spoiled brat whose pure evilness is what incited her to hang with this worthless crowd.
Ellard, after recruiting a self-proclaimed member of the Crips gang Warren Glowatski, along with his help dragged Reena to waters edge where she was subsequently drowned. The trials and sentences in this case are absolutely fascinating and will serve as a reminder to the American citizen why we live in such a land seemingly more willing to punish our youth with harsher penalties. Readers will undoubtedly find themselves appalled at the Canadian justice system.
6. Fiend: The Shocking True Story Of America’s Youngest Serial Killer by Harold Schechter
Jesse Pomeroy had strong urges; extremely intense urges which led him to little boys to secluded areas where he physically and sexually assaulted them.
Jesse was only 12 years old himself.
Sentenced to a home for juvenile delinquents, Jesse was made to cool his heels for a couple of years until, at the age of 14 and having manipulated authorities into believing he was “cured,” he was paroled to his mother’s home in South Boston.
Not only was Jesse still plagued by his evil urges but now he fully understood the fallacy in allowing is victims to live and still be able to get away with the crime.
When 10 year-old Katie Mary Curran went missing in March 1874, many thoughts turned toward the boy fiend but those suspicious were quickly dismissed because his crimes had been committed against young boys. But when 4 year-old Horace Holden Millen was found dead at Savin Hill Beach and an autopsy revealed he had been savagely beaten and sexually assaulted, eyes turned again to Jesse Pomeroy. And the suspicions turned to fact when an eyewitness identified Jesse by his physical malformation.
In his 2000 book, author Harold Schechter recounts the horrific crimes of Jesse Pomeroy in the latter 19th century in his book Fiend: The Shocking True Story Of America’s Youngest Serial Killer.
Let me get this out of the way right up front… It’s a petty issue, I know but with serial killer in the title, I expected their two be a third murder victim but there was not. And being the term wasn’t coined until the 1970s, it couldn’t have been what he was called then so…well, as I said, it’s petty. Serial rapists, serial offender – any of those would have been more appropriate.
Okay, my pettiness aside -
Fiend is a very interesting look into a child killer and serves as a reminder that kid crimes today aren’t really more horrendous, just more widely reported. I was definitely enthralled.
7. Little Girl Lost: The True Story of The Vandling Murder by Tammy Mal
On January 2, 1945, nine year-oldMae Ruth Barrett was walking home with sugary treats for her sister and younger cousin when she was viciously attacked.
Little Mae would never make it home and a town would live in fear until a killer was caught.
But when that day finally came, the towns people would never be the same; their lives forever changed. There would be no comfort in justice.
Not when the child killer was just a child himself.
Vandling, Pennsylvania, was never the same after 13 year-old Myron Semunchick confessed to murdering Mae. The shock that reverberated through the town then continues to do so today.
Tammy Mal, author of Little Girl Lost: The True Story of The Vandling Murdergrew up in the area, heard frequent stories about teenaged child killer Myron Semunchick and was fascinated by the tales but the one thing she always hated was that few people remembered the victim’s name. Mal decided it was up to her to memorialize Mae Barrett in written form.
Even if Mal didn’t make mention of such, it’s obvious a great deal of research went into writing this book and the results are that this is one of the best historical true crime books you will ever read.
Mal creates a vivid picture of a brave young girl who loved Christmas time and her family dearly; a little girl who had suffered too much for such a short life but who overcame the heartbreak to see the goodness life offers. Alternatively, readers are drawn into the world of a young boy growing up under the direction of an over-protective mother and too often absent father; the result: a socially, inept man-child with psychopathic tendencies.
Little Girl Lost is an absolute must read! Even if you’re typically not a fan of historical crimes, you will still enjoy this one. So eloquently told, so thoroughly detailed, you’ll savor every minute of it.
© 2016 Kim Bryan