Free Range Killers & Murder Unrehearsed by Roxanne Dunn

Please help me welcome today’s guest, Roxanne Dunne…..

Free Range Killers

Bad things—sometimes very bad things—happen to good people. And killers do go free.

I once worked with an intelligent, fun-loving woman who was putting herself through grad school. She finished her degree and went to work for a large, well-known organization where she discovered what she believed to be an illegal diversion of funds into someone’s private pocket. Believing in justice with all her heart, she began to gather evidence. After receiving warnings to leave it alone, she contacted some of us, her old colleagues, to tell us what was going on. She wanted us to know in case something happened to her.

Someone broke into her home and stole the evidence she had amassed, and shortly afterward, she was murdered. Her killer has never been found.

This story simmers in the back of my mind. So far, I haven’t found the courage to write it.

The fact is, a lot of people get away with murder. To get an idea of how many, I searched the web, and on the DC.gov website, found closure rates for the Metropolitan Police Department. (https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/homicide-closure-rates) They posted a chart showing that in fourteen of sixteen years (2003 through 2018), somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of murderers got away. Their closure rate was above 80 percent in only two years.

How do they define closure? A suspect must have been arrested, charged, and turned over to the court for prosecution. Or, alternatively, a suspect must be identified, located, and with enough evidence to support prosecution, but unable to be prosecuted due to circumstances beyond the control of the law, such as death.

So, murderers who were tried and not convicted or who were unable to be prosecuted should be added to the 20 to 40 percent who got away. That’s a lot.

I think about the victims’ friends and families; how sad, impotent, and frustrated they feel.

So, why do I enjoy reading and writing murder mysteries?

In fiction, as writers, when we make bad things happen to our characters, we give them allies, resources, and strengths they never knew they had. We grant them endurance and courage to get up every morning and face whatever must be faced and not cave. Because of their goodness, justice triumphs. The bad guys get their what they deserve. Finally, when their tribulations are over, we give them happy endings.

And I go to bed at night believing that justice will prevail; knowing that most of the time, good things happen to good people.

*******

Wow, Roxanne. Fascinating. I heard a little while back that nearly 40% of murders go unsolved, and I was shocked, but it’s true. So sorry about the woman who was murdered. Tragic. Thanks for being my guest today!

Heather Shelton has man problems: an unfaithful lover, a mysterious stranger, and a psychopathic killer.

Matt stopped. His mouth hung open for a few beats. “What are you doing here?”

The darkest parts of me, those that I kept stuffed way down inside surged to the surface. My face burned with indignation. I was Kate the Shrew at her best. “How dare you! You and your pretty little Live Like King Tut fable. You kiss me and tell me you liked it. You say you are my biggest fan. You pretend to bare your soul. You think I can’t figure out what’s going on? All you want is for me to believe that you’re a good guy, so you can leave me hanging out for a pack of wolves. So I can end up as dead as Mariella. Well, damn you all to hell!”

Slick as spit, Matt reached out and took my hands. “It’s not like that.”

I wrenched away. “Keep away from me, you – you Judas!”

 Kindle:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DHJ6TG7/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Barnes and Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/murder-unrehearsed-roxanne-dunn/1137387167?ean=2940162985846 

Kobo:

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/murder-unrehearsed 

https://seaportbooks.com/

https://www.thewildrosepress.com/books/murder-unrehearsed 

and via my website: www.roxannedunn.com

Roxanne Dunn has studied writing in Paris and Seattle, and writes the galley column for Pacific Yachting magazine. Murder Unrehearsed is her first novel.

She is a physical therapist, a foodie, a fanatic about good chocolate, and a private pilot. She lived aboard an old wood motor yacht for seventeen years, and in her dreams, is a famous author, a pianist of renown, an acceptable water-color artist, and a globe-trotting yogini.

Contacts:

www.roxannedunn.com

https://www.facebook.com/roxanne.dunn.127

https://twitter.com/roxanne_dunn

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Filed under Author Blog Post, New Release

#HobbyCareerPassion: Debby Grahl ~ Sundae My Love ~ at Sand Lake, Where Ghosts Bring Two Lovers Back Together ~ #WRPgrp #Blog #AHAgrp

Welcome to my weekly feature where authors share about the hobbies, careers, or passions of their characters.

I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest, Debby Grahl…

Sundae My Love – at Sand Lake,

Where Ghosts Bring  Two Lovers Back Together 

 Hi, I’m Samantha Murray, and Sundae My Love is the story of my family’s ice cream business. The Murrays have called Sand Lake, in the Irish Hills of Michigan, home since the nineteen fifties.

After my grandparents retired, I took over the running of the Dairy Delight. Lake-goers have enjoyed our Neapolitan Nectar milk shake for generations, but now Zack Hunter, the love of my life and the man who broke my heart, is back in town and threatens my business.

Hey there, I’m Zack Hunter, and I also grew up on Sand Lake. I left to go to college out west and have returned with a degree in architecture. You see, my grandparents built Frontier Town, a tourist attraction near the lake. The buildings have stood empty for years, and it’s been my dream to restore them and add an old-fashioned ice cream shop. The problem is the land I need to use adjoins the Dairy Delight. I have to confess I messed up pretty badly and hurt Samantha when I left. But I’ve realized my mistake, and I’m home and plan on winning back the woman I love.

When Wild Rose Press requested stories for their Two Scoops or One anthology, I knew my family’s home on Sand Lake was the perfect setting. Even though I’ve changed the characters’ names, the people actually exist. The house, built in the late nineteenth century, is as I describe, including the ghosts. I haven’t seen them, but, along with my cousins, we’ve heard them. Doors slam, floorboards creak, and footsteps go up and down the stairs.

Across the lake on US 12, there’s a drive-up ice cream shop, and down the road the empty buildings of a frontier town still stand. When I was young, my cousins and I would sit in the saloon wearing our western shirts and moccasins drinking root beer. We’d hop on the stagecoach which was always held up by outlaws. 

The Irish Hills is a rural area in southeast Michigan. There’s farm land, a number of lakes, woods of maples and oaks and dogwoods. I now live on Hilton Head Island, SC, but each summer I go home to the lake where I enjoy spending time with all my cousins, going out for ice cream, and reminiscing about growing up in such a beautiful place.

Can ancestral ghosts bring Samantha and Zack back together to fulfill all their dreams?

Sundae My Love Blurb

As manager of the Dairy Delight, Samantha Murray is dismayed to discover her past love is back and plans on building a rival business next door.

Zack Hunter returns to Sand Lake to win back Samantha and fulfill his grandfather’s dreams by restoring Frontier Town, a tourist attraction once owned by his grandparents, and adding an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

Samantha is heartbroken over Zack’s past betrayal and struggles, conflicted over the love she can’t deny, but resolved to stop his building plans.

Zack is torn between his love for Samantha and his determination to follow through with his grandfather’s legacy.

Convinced the two are desperately in need of help, the family ghosts intervene to bring them together and solve their differences.

Sundae My Love excerpt

In the living room, a female shape materialized. Her     long dress swirled around her ankles, and the heels of  her high button shoes tapped across the hardwood floor. “Good grief, Angus, I wanted you to make them meet on  the lake, not have Zack run Samantha down,” Patricia Murray said with exasperation.

In a Queen Anne style chair, a male form appeared. “Patricia, it wasn’t my fault. Thaddeus was sitting next  to Zack and took control of the wheel.” He removed his pipe from his shirt pocket. Puffs of translucent smoke soon filled the room. “But it worked out.”

Hands on her hips, Patricia glowered. “Worked out! Are you kidding? What should have been a romantic reunion has made Samantha even more upset.” Patricia shook her head. “Samantha and Zack are perfect for  each other. It’s beyond me why that boy broke her heart and now is making matters worse by threatening the  Dairy Delight.” She narrowed her eyes. “You don’t seem too surprised over Zack’s plans. Did you already know about this?”

Angus squirmed in his seat. “Ah, well.”

“You did. Angus Murray, I can see it in your eyes. You’ve known all about this and didn’t tell me. This is why you’ve been gone so much lately. I’ll bet you and Thaddeus have been over there watching every move he’s made.”

“The boy is doing a top-rate job restoring the buildings. I can’t tell you how pleased Thaddeus is. You  know how much that place meant to him.”

“What about Zack’s disregard for Samantha and the  Dairy Delight?”

“Patricia, we’ve watched over our family for three generations. And no matter what problem occurs, they manage to work it out.”

Patricia threw up her arms in exasperation. “Sometimes situations need to be helped along. Samantha is on her way to confront Zack. Go over there and see what happens.”

“You want me to spy on my great-great-granddaughter?”

“Yes. It’s for her own good.”

 “Why don’t you go?”

“Because Thaddeus is your friend, not mine.      Besides, I promised Virginia Bradly I’d visit this afternoon. You know how lonely she gets when her  family is gone.”

Angus sighed, then stood. He placed his pipe in his pocket, adjusted his suspenders, straightened his bow tie, kissed his wife’s cheek, and vanished.

  Amazon Author Page — https://www.amazon.com/Debby-Grahl/e/B00B34HM26

 

Bio:

Debby lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with her husband, David. Besides writing, she enjoys biking, walking on the beach and a glass of wine at sunset. Her favorite places to visit are New Orleans, New York City, Captiva Island in Florida, the Cotswolds of England, and her home state of Michigan. She is a history buff who also enjoys reading murder mysteries, time travel, and, of course, romance. Visually impaired since childhood by Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), she uses screen-reading software to research and write her books.

Sundae My Love, in the Two Scoops or One anthology from The Wild Rose Press, will be  released June 30. Her other books  are Mountain Blaze, His Magic Touch, Decorated to Death, Rue Toulouse, and The Silver Crescent.

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/debbygrahlauthor?ref=br_rs

 

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Filed under Author Blog Post, For Writers, Hobbies...Careers...Passions, New Release

#CrimeTime ~ American Monster ~ “Have You Seen This Woman?” – #AHAgrp #Blog #CrimeTime

#CrimeTime with Alicia Dean ~ 

I love watching true crime shows…as long as they are about murder…, and I watch them every night. (Since I write suspense, thriller, and mystery, it’s not a waste of time…it’s research, right? 🙂 Each week, I blog about some of the recent episodes I’ve seen and I’d love to know your thoughts. (this is a 20/20 episode, rather than an Investigation Discovery episode)

One of my short stories, Blood and Breakfast, is about a crime junkie who gets a little closer to murder than she anticipated. You can buy the Kindle version here for only $1.99 Blood and Breakfast – It’s also part of a print book with 6 other scary stories: A Collection of Friday the 13th Stories

American Monster, Season 5, Episode 7, “Have you Seen this Woman?”

Calera, Oklahoma. January 10, 2009

I’m always surprised and intrigued when I begin watching an ID show and learn the murder took place in Oklahoma, as happened with this episode of American Monster. I’ll have to say, the first half of the show was a bit slow. As American Monster often does, much of the episode focused on the family’s past and showed several home videos before it got to the murders.

Vivian Pierce grew up in a home where her father, when drinking, was abusive to her mother. She met and married Kevin and they had two children together. Their marriage didn’t work out, and they divorced. Vivian began seeing Damon Butler, who had two children of his own. They moved in together and all seemed to be going well. Vivian’s family liked Damon and was glad Vivian had found someone who treated her so well. (Damon appeared in several of the home videos.) One night in January, Vivian went out with her friends. She told her best friend that she and Damon were having trouble and she was planning to leave him and getting back with her husband.

Vivian’s sister, Kimberly and her husband Dustin kept Vivian’s kids overnight while she went out. When Vivian failed to pick the kids up the next morning, they tried to reach her but couldn’t. They called Rebecca, Vivian’s mother, and asked her to check on Vivian. Rebecca arrived at the house and Damon told her that Vivian and he had argued and she took off walking. The two of them got into Damon’s truck and went looking for Vivian.

Later that day, the employees of the steakhouse where Vivian worked were concerned because she hadn’t shown up for her shift. They called her friend, who went to Vivian’s house to check on her. There, they found a horrific sight. Vivian was in the bathtub with her throat cut. In another room was another body, but they didn’t know who it was.

Police arrived and were working the scene when Kimberly and Dustin showed up. Dustin was asked to identify the victims. He ID’d the second body as that of his mother-in-law, Rebecca Pierce. Both women had been stabbed and severely beaten. A baseball bat and knife were found at the scene. Vivian’s neck wound was so deep, she was nearly decapitated.

The Chief of Police, Don Hyde, called in the OSBI to help with the case. Their first priority was to find Damon. They didn’t know if he was a suspect or another victim. The next day, they received a report of a man walking along the side of the road. Chief Hyde approached him and discovered it was Damon. He took him into custody. On the show, the police chief was interviewed. He said he was actually afraid while he was driving Butler to the station. I found that a little odd, that a police chief would be frightened of a hand-cuffed suspect.

Photos were found at the scene that showed Damon dressed in drag. He’d shaved his goatee and put on make up and women’s jewelry. The photos were strange and creepy. At first, Damon claimed that he didn’t kill the women. He claimed that two men broke in and murdered them, making him watch, but he was able to escape. Later, Damon called and said he wanted to confess. He killed Vivian because she was leaving him. Then,  after he and Rebecca had gone looking for Vivian and Rebecca returned to the house with him, he attacked and murdered her, most likely afraid that she would find Vivian.  

He worked out a plea deal to avoid the death penalty and was given two consecutive life sentences. Vivian’s sister, Kimberly, asked the DA if she could speak to Damon. He agreed to talk with her. She had two questions for him, one – Did their mother see Vivian? He told her that she had not, which brought a measure of comfort. Then she asked him why he did it. He told her that he didn’t want to lose Vivian. I’m always flabbergasted at the mindset of killers. He didn’t want to lose her so he savagely murdered her??

Ironically and sadly, in 2015, Kimberly’s sister Amanda lost her life to domestic violence. Her death was ruled a suicide, but Kimberly and others are certain she was murdered by her abusive boyfriend at the time, an illegal immigrant who disappeared while she was still on life support. “Amanda that night called a friend and said he’s going to kill me if I’m not gone. She had her bags packed; she had a ride,” Mullens said.

Amanda Pierce

Their father died in 2000 and their brother in 2007. What a series of tragedies poor Kimberly has had to endure.

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#HobbyCareerPassion: “Dance to a Wylder Beat” ~ Author Marilyn Barr ~ Leather Tanning #WRPgrp #Blog #AHAgrp

Welcome to my weekly feature where authors share about the hobbies, careers, or passions of their characters.

I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest, Marilyn Barr…

Leather Tanning

Nartan Sagebrush has the most revolting job in Wylder, Wyoming Territory but in 1878, his prospects were limited when he chose to join the setters instead of head to the reservation. As an Arapaho Shamanic apprentice, Nartan grew up enjoying his vision quests in the forest and the freedom to follow the bison as they migrated around the US. However, in 1874, this all changed. The US Government placed his tribe on reservations and banned the teaching of all Shamanic practices. Nartan and his brother, Ikshu, claimed a piece of Wylder and struggled their way to a thriving leather tanning business, sheep flock, and homestead.

Nartan Sagebrush lacked the chemicals used for commercial leather tanning (invented around 1902), so he relied on cow brains and urine to soften the skins. He’s ahead of his time in that he creates a system of vats and frames so three skins are ready for shipping every day even though only two men are working. Every day six skins, staggered three and three, are rotated through vats of urine. When they are pliable the skins are stretched on frames to dry in the sun. This is the worst smelling part. Three skins are dry each morning and ready for tufting (hair removal) and fleshing. Nartan describes the way his new bride, Olive, fleshes leather in Dance to a Wylder Beat:

“The steer’s horn handle of the flesher looks longer than her forearm. I always thought I made the tool too small, but maybe I serendipitously made it for her. Her tiny hand almost fits around it. She kneels before the hide and begins to hammer the center with deft strokes. She has the perfect corner angle to release the fats and flesh from the skin. It rolls into a neat coil using the same gravity that pulls my jaw to the ground.”

 Just when the smell of urine threatens to burn off her nose, Nartan introduces her to the next step in tanning. Braining. Nartan doesn’t have the land for a cattle herd, so he barters lamb chops and steaks to the butcher for cow brains. From the brain, he makes the conditioning liquid which changes rawhide to leather.

“Olive, to her credit, doesn’t flinch when I scoop the sheep’s brain from its skull and add it to the boiling fat. She even holds the scalp back so I can use two hands. It isn’t until we added the half-pound of soap shavings and cedar oil the smell subsided.”

The braining fluid must be massaged into the leather before fluffing which breaking up any hardening parts of the skins. If tanning leather is gross, how does the leather itself smell so good? The secret is in the final step where the leather is smoked. Nartan uses a mixture of spruce and hemlock wood chips in a smoking teepee. Nartan is proud of the finished product and the business he has built around it. However, it will take a special type of woman to appreciate his efforts. Will Olive live in the stench for him? Find out in Dance to a Wylder Beat.

He was uncomfortable in his skin before she crawled under it. Now he burns…

Blurb:

Nartan Sagebrush’s name may mean “to dance” in Arapaho, but he dances in secret. Forced to abandon his Shamanic apprenticeship, he is overwhelmed with homesteader life, and even his spirit guides are at their wit’s end. Nartan takes fate into his own hands. Instead of divine intervention, a wife will help with his responsibilities and in assimilating into the Wylder community. 

Olive Muegge answers Nartan’s “wife wanted” advertisement. Fiercely independent, she has secretly dreamed of a family to call her own. The secret she carries inside makes her an outcast and her wild ways don’t fit the quiet wife Nartan thinks he desires.  

Despite their differences, they are drawn to each other but a mistake may drive them apart.  Will Nartan embrace his Shamanic past to save them both or will he choose to rid himself of Olive forever? 

Excerpt:

When I turn back, the men are wrestling in a cloud of dust. Dead Eyes’ friends hoot like owls while a small crowd gathers around the scene. Being half-drunk, Dead Eyes is two steps slower than Nartan, who is landing punches on both sides. When Dead Eyes slams his gun on the ground in surrender, the dust settles, and I can study my future husband.

Nartan’s muscular body straddles the smaller man while his broad chest billows. His hat has blown off in the scuffle, revealing two thick black braids adorned with feathers. Tendrils of raven-black hair wave around his head. “Quiet wife for a quiet life” my bloomin’ butt. This man is a sweet lick of passion wrapped in a delicious exterior. I think I’m gonna like being Mrs. Sagebrush just fine. I can handle an odd stick as long as he has the countenance of Nartan because I’m not as normal as I appear myself.

Author Bio:

Marilyn Barr currently resides in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband, son, and rescue cats. She has a diverse background containing experiences as a child prodigy turned medical school reject, published microbiologist, special education/inclusion science teacher, homeschool mother of a savant, certified spiritual & energy healer, and advocate for the autistic community. This puts her in the position to bring tales containing heroes who are regular people with different ability levels and body types, in a light where they are powerful, lovable, and appreciated.

When engaging with the real world, she is collecting characters, empty coffee cups, and unused homeschool curricula. She is a sucker (haha) for cheesy horror movies, Italian food, punk music, black cats, bad puns, and all things witchy.

Social Media Links:

website

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Amazon author profile

Goodreads

BookBub

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Filed under Author Blog Post, For Writers, Hobbies...Careers...Passions, New Release

#CrimeTime ~ 20/20 ~ “The Accused” – #AHAgrp #Blog #CrimeTime

#CrimeTime with Alicia Dean ~ 

I love watching true crime shows…as long as they are about murder…, and I watch them every night. (Since I write suspense, thriller, and mystery, it’s not a waste of time…it’s research, right? 🙂 Each week, I blog about some of the recent episodes I’ve seen and I’d love to know your thoughts. (this is a 20/20 episode, rather than an Investigation Discovery episode)

One of my short stories, Blood and Breakfast, is about a crime junkie who gets a little closer to murder than she anticipated. You can buy the Kindle version here for only $1.99 Blood and Breakfast – It’s also part of a print book with 6 other scary stories: A Collection of Friday the 13th Stories

20/20, “The Accused”

Wilmington, Illinois – June 6, 2004

On the weekend of June 6, 2004, Melissa Fox and a group of friends participated in the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago, where she stayed for two nights. Her husband, Kevin, stayed home with her son, Tyler and her three-year-old daughter, Riley.  Riley was a beautiful, happy, cherished toddler, who was especially close to her daddy.

Early Sunday morning, Tyler woke up Kevin to tell him that Riley was missing. Thinking she had to be somewhere nearby, Kevin searched the house and yard. After 30 to 40 minutes, Kevin called the non-emergency number for police. He reported finding his front door open and Riley’s yellow blanket still on the couch, where she had been sleeping.

Melissa called in to check on the kids, and Kevin told her Riley was missing.

“He sounded so startled. I knew immediately something was wrong,” Melissa said. “He just said, ‘Riley’s gone,’ and I immediately hit the ground and the phone fell out of my hand.”

Melissa hurried back home. Word of Riley’s disappearance had spread and multiple search parties were out looking for her.

After several hours, the police separated Melissa and Kevin into two different police cars. Melissa had no idea what was going on. What she didn’t know, what neither of them knew, was that volunteers had found little Riley’s body in Forked Creek.

The baby was lying face down in the water wearing only a shirt. Duct tape covered her mouth and there was duct tape residue on her wrists, indicating she’d been bound. An autopsy later determined she’d been drowned and sexually assaulted.

From that moment forward, Melissa never stepped foot in the house where Riley had disappeared from again.

A pair of adult tennis shoes were found in the water nearby. On the tongue were three letters, EBY. Police never followed up on those shoes. Additionally, there was a break-in reported at the house next to the Foxes’. That was also never followed up on nor connected.

At Riley’s funeral a few days later, attendees wore pink, the little girl’s favorite color. Nearly 6,000 people attended.

Police focused their investigation on Kevin as Riley’s killer.  After the funeral, police came to Melissa’s house and asked her if she thought Kevin was capable of doing this. She immediately said, “No.”

Almost three weeks after Riley’s murder, the detectives asked to speak to Riley’s brother, six-year-old Tyler. Melissa and Kevin agreed.

For over an hour, a forensic interviewer questioned Tyler about Riley’s disappearance. On a videotaped recording, Tyler was seen crouching into his chair, covering his face and crying while the interviewer questioned him. He told the interviewer 168 times that his father had nothing to do with the disappearance of his little sister. When Melissa saw the recording later date, she was distressed. She only allowed her son to be questioned because she trusted the detectives. She had no idea he’d be treated in such a manner.

Months went by with nothing happening on the case. On Oct. 26, 2004, Melissa and Kevin received a call from the sheriff’s office asking them to come in as there were new developments in the case.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it. They found the person,” Melissa said. “We were just grinning from ear to ear like we’re finally going to know what happened.”

But when they arrived, they were separated and Kevin was taken to a backroom for questioning. Something didn’t feel right to Melissa.   She’d been telling police for months to stop looking at her husband. He had nothing to do with Riley’s murder but it sounded like he was their main suspect.

About eight hours into Kevin’s interrogation, police told Melissa Kevin had agreed to take a polygraph exam and that he had failed. Melissa said she then spoke to her husband. She said the sergeant overseeing the investigation pulled her out of the room, yelled obscenities in her face and insisted to her that Kevin had murdered their child. The Will County Sheriff’s Office has denied these claims.

At approximately 8 a.m., Will County detectives said Kevin had confessed to killing his daughter. He had been questioned by police for 14 hours and hadn’t slept in more than 24.

According to the detectives, Kevin confessed that he had accidentally killed Riley when he opened the bathroom door and struck her in the head early Sunday morning and that he then staged her death to look like an abduction and murder. Police said that he sexually assaulted Riley as part of the cover-up and dumped her body in the creek.

Melissa still stood by him. She was certain his confession had been coerced.

I have never really understood how people end up confessing to something they didn’t do, even with the grueling interrogation by police. To me, they should just ask for an attorney and the interview would stop. But I guess people don’t always think about doing that. I’ve heard that only the guilty think of asking for an attorney to prevent an interrogation. I guess I think of it because of all the murder shows I’ve watched.  But it’s disconcerting to know I think like a criminal. 😊

Kevin’s brother, Chad, contacted famed attorney, Kathleen Zellner, one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country, who had helped exonerate nearly two dozen innocent people.

The Will County State’s Attorney filed first-degree murder charges against Kevin Fox and announced they were planning to seek the death penalty against him for the murder of his daughter. Kevin vehemently denied killing Riley, claiming the detectives threatened and coerced him into giving a false confession. The investigators have denied threatening Kevin and coercing him to confess.

Zellner and her PIs began to investigate. They went to Wilmington where they reenacted the crime.  The DNA results from the state crime lab were initially inconclusive but Fox’s attorney sent it in for more sophisticated technology, which determined the DNA was not a match.

She quickly began poking holes in the Will County Sheriff’s Office investigation and Kevin’s confession. For example, she alleged that the current of the creek wasn’t strong enough at the spot where Kevin said he’d placed Riley’s body to move her to the location where she was found. As she stated, a confession is not a slam dunk. It is only one piece of evidence and it has to be investigated and corroborated. However, to most jurors, a confession alone is enough for a conviction.

When DNA results came back, they excluded Kevin, but did not identify the real killer. He was released from jail the next day and the charges against him were dropped. He had spent eight months in jail wrongfully accused of his daughter’s murder.

I can’t imagine how traumatic this must have been for a family grieving the horrific murder of their child and then to have the father jailed for nearly a year.

Upon Kevin’s arrest, Zellner filed a civil rights lawsuit against Will County, the Will County Sheriff’s Office, multiple sheriff’s detectives who investigated the case, the former Will County State’s Attorney, the polygraph examiner and the forensic interviewer who spoke with Tyler, and others.

Zellner’s claims for Kevin Fox included violations of due process, false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and conspiracy. For Melissa Fox, claims included conspiracy, loss of consortium, and a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against one detective.

“This was not about incompetence. This was a case where we had to show that there was some malicious intent,” Zellner said.

Just before the trial, the former state’s attorney who filed charges against Kevin negotiated a resolution with the Fox family without admitting wrongdoing. They ended up awarding the family 15.5 million but it was later reduced to 8 million.

The attorneys for the detectives had said one of the reasons they suspected Kevin was that they found no sign of forced entry into the Fox home and that he didn’t immediately call police. Melissa and Kevin said the lock on their back door had been broken and wouldn’t lock.

After the civil trial, the Fox family turned its attention to finding Riley’s real killer.

In 2009, the FBI took over the case. A woman came forward and said that they needed to look at her boyfriend at the time. He was living with her and he acted strangely when Riley was murdered. They were walking past a memorial and she said, “So sad about that little girl.” And he replied, “Yeah, what a shame.” But it was said in a cold manner.

The FBI followed up and learned the boyfriend, Scott Eby, was serving time for a sexual assault against a relative. They went to see him in prison. He was cooperative but denied any involvement. When they were leaving, they shook hands. The female FBI agent remarked to her partner, “That’s the clammiest handshake I’ve ever felt.”

Eby placed a call to his mother after the agents left. The call was recorded. He told her to drop whatever she was doing and come see him. He said it would be the last chance he had to hug and kiss her. She asked if he’d done something bad and he said he did something really really really bad.

FBI agents spoke to him again and, at first, he asked for an attorney. So, they had to end the questioning. They left him alone in the interview room. After about 75 seconds, he looked up at the camera and said, “I changed my mind. I’ll talk to you.”

They went back in, and he confessed everything. He told them in detail about how he’d taken Riley from her couch and stuck her in his trunk. He’d just broken into the house next door and went in to the Foxes’ house with the intent of robbing them also. He found nothing of value but spotted the sleeping child, and something compelled him to snatch her. He took her to the park into a restroom where he assaulted her. At one point, the bandana he wore slipped from his face, so he knew he had to kill her. He said one of the last things she said was, “I want my daddy.” He drowned her in the creek and tossed his shoes, because he was afraid his footprints would be matched to them. He said that, right after he’d done it, he realized how stupid it was. He expected any moment to be arrested. So, the shoes found near her body with ‘EBY’ written on the tongue belonged to him, and literally had his name on them. It was also learned that Eby attempted suicide the day Riley went missing. He was living in the same neighborhood and police came out after being called about his suicide. He asked them about the missing girl. He vomited while talking to them. And they never investigated him.  Additionally, a red Chevy Beretta was seen Saturday night driving through the neighborhood. That was not investigated, but it turned out that it was the car Eby drove.

Eby pleaded guilty in 2010 and Melissa finally faced her daughter’s killer in court. She described him as “pathetic.” Speaking directly to Eby in a victim impact statement, Melissa called him a monster, a coward and a “disappointment to his mother, family and society.” She requested that he not be given the death penalty so that he had to spend the rest of his life thinking about what he’d done.

I can’t say that I agree. Monsters like that likely don’t have a conscience and won’t suffer over what they’ve done.

Eby was sentenced to life in prison without parole. For Melissa, justice was bittersweet.

Years after Riley’s murder, Melissa and Kevin had another child — a daughter — but their marriage couldn’t survive the trauma their family had endured. They moved, got divorced and are both now remarried with new families.

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May Featured Books – Find New & Amazing Authors!!! #AHAgrp #BookWorm #AmReading #Ebooks

Looking for something new and fabulous to read? Try these…

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When celebrated international purse designer, Katherine Watson, hosts a gala for her Purse-onality Museum, she never expected the next day’s headline to read: ‘Murder at the Gala Premiere.’ But after a dead body is found during the event, that’s exactly what happened.

Working to solve the murder, Katherine matches wits with local cop Jason Holmes and his K-9 partner, Hobbs. Although Holmes and Watson disagree often, they discover an undeniable attraction building between them. But they’ll have to put their feelings on hold and focus on solving the murder, before Katherine becomes the killer’s next knock off.

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Running away isn’t necessarily the answer.

In her mad rush to escape a failed marriage, Sara Woods takes the first job available and lands in the middle of a mystery. Her first assignment as a news reporter for the Ralston Courier is the investigation of a string of deaths, all young women, all her age.

She becomes a patient at the Goldstone Clinic, a local mecca of healing, to deal with chronic pain from her past. But all is not as it seems at the Goldstone, its doctors and nurses are all the picture of perfect beauty and health. Patients at the clinic first seem to get better, then they deteriorate. Sara enlists the help of Dr. Rick Paulsen, who teaches her how to access her internal power, skills she never knew she had, revealing secrets from her past. Police officer Brendon Zale also takes an interest in Sara, but he acts like a stalker, watching her every move, and he won’t leave her alone.

As she digs deeper into the story, and more young women die without explanation, she tries to choose allies wisely, but not till the last confrontation does she discover the identity of her true enemy.

By then, it’s too late.

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Wilderness guide Crystal Rainey leads a group of college students to a private campground amidst the awe-inspiring Olympic Rain Forest. The excursion is ruined when the charming hostess Roxie is discovered standing over the land owner’s body, murder weapon in hand.

Enlisted to investigate the crime to absolve her friend, Crystal descends on the quiet city of Forks to find loggers, developers, and eco-protesters circling the property, intent on either exploiting or protecting the bastion of old-growth forest. The list of suspects is intimidating. Can Crystal find answers in a community determined to keep her in the dark?

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Former professional football player and coach Duncan “Hatch” Hatcher fumbled his career and marriage. Now divorced and ready to tackle his future, he has an opportunity to redeem himself as coach of his college alma mater’s football team. But how can he turn the team’s losing streak around and keep the secret of his downfall buried when the school agrees to a documentary that will allow a lovely journalist to dig her way into his past…and into his heart?

Olivia Grant’s ex-husband almost wrecked her journalism career while he definitely did a number on her self-esteem. The documentary on Duncan Hatcher is the perfect way to rebuild both. As a freshman in college, she’d had a crush on the senior football hero, but he hadn’t known she existed. She never expects the sparks that fly between them as they work on the project nor the struggles they must face if they both want to win.

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When Richmond, Washington librarian, Nina Foster, and newspaper owner Stephen Kraslow attend his high school reunion in Parker’s Landing, Idaho, the event turns tragic when Stephen’s good friend, Mark MacTeague, suddenly drops dead at a picnic. Nina has reason to believe he was murdered and vows to uncover the culprit. Meanwhile, Stephen’s high school girlfriend, Angie Delaney, reveals a long kept secret that brings a big change to his life. Can Stephen and Nina’s relationship survive this new turn of events? Will Nina uncover the murderer before he or she commits another crime?

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Tamara Ledbetter, dumped by her arrogant husband, travels to Cornwall, England, to research her ancestors. A trip first planned with her soon-to-be ex. While in a neglected cemetery, she scrapes two fallen headstones together to read what’s beneath, faints, and awakes in 1789. Certain she’s caught in a reenactment, she fast discovers she’s in the year of the French Revolution, grain riots in England, miners out of work, and she’s mistrusted by the young farmer, Colum Polwhele, who’s come to her aid.

Can a sassy San Francisco gal survive in this primitive time where women have few rights? Could she fall for Colum, a man active in underhanded dealings that involve stolen grain, or will she struggle to return to her own time before danger stalks them both?

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Hired as the town’s school teacher, Maria O’Donnell and her sister Abigail arrive in the Colorado Territory in 1875, only to find the uncle they were to stay with has been murdered.
Rancher Tye Ashmore is content with life until he meets quiet and beautiful Maria. He falls in love at first sight, but her reluctance to jeopardize her teaching position by accepting his marriage proposal only makes him more determined to make her part of his life.
When their lives are threatened by gunshots and a gunnysack of dangerous wildlife, Tye believes he is the target of an unknown enemy. Not until Maria receives written threats urging her to leave does she realize she is the target instead of the handsome rancher.
With the help of Tye, Abigail, and a wily Indian called Two Bears, Maria works to uncover her uncle’s killer and put aside her fears. But will she discover happiness and true love under Colorado’s starry skies?

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When widower Rich Redman returns to Pennsylvania with his young daughter to sell his deceased grandmother’s house, he discovers Grandmother Gertie’s final request was for him to find a missing relative and a stash of WWI jewels.

Torrie Larson, single mom, is trying to make her landscape center and flower arranging business succeed while attempting to save the lineage of a rare white rose brought from Austria in the 1900s.

Together, the rich Texas lawyer and poor landscape owner team up to rescue the last rose and fulfill a dead woman’s wishes. But in their search to discover answers to the mysteries surrounding them, will Rich and Torrie also discover love in each other’s arms? Or will a meddling ghost, a pompous banker, and an elusive stray cat get in their way?

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Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn’t a “he”, it’s a “she”, a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag’s apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother’s final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for “happily ever after” have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

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Can he trust his instincts, or is she playing him for a fool. . . . .

Driscoll Rose and his two brothers own and run The Rose Room, a well-known and profitable gaming club in London. Unknown to those who visit and spend their money there, the brothers also work for the Crown in positions only known to a mysterious man at the Home Office.

Miss Amelia Pence is on the run from her step-brother who has nefarious plans for her. Late one rainy night she crawls into Driscoll’s office window and falls at his feet. Intrigued by the woman, he offers her a job as the only female dealer in the Rose Room.

Much to Driscoll’s frustration, Amelia is secretive about who she is, and where she lives since she can trust no one. The growing attraction between them and his desire for her is causing him to dismiss the fact that crowds of gamblers swarm her table each evening, but the profits she turns in are not what they should be.

Can Driscoll convince Amelia to trust him with her secrets or will he discover a deception that contradicts everything he believes about her in his heart? Just when he decides to confront her, she disappears. . .

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When Talmadge Hammond drifts into the Idaho mining camp he has no intention of using his law degree. He’s there for whiskey and the gold he can win at cards. Instead, he must save the life of the woman who’d once vowed to love him until…
Noletta Kittridge begins that day covered in a man’s blood and accused of murder. She has sinned to stay alive. Redemption can come only by giving her life to save the person who accidentally killed the man. Even Tal’s reappearance in her life can’t revive Letty’s will to live.
Determined to keep her from the hangman’s noose, Tal must either convince her to tell who did kill the victim or solve the mystery himself. If he fails, he and Letty will finally reach that unvoiced destination beyond until…

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Designer Katherine Watson is enjoying a delectable frozen pistachio treat at Ginardo’s beachside ice cream shop when her friend issues a playful dare. Katherine can’t resist accepting the challenge and finds herself tasked with creating a designer purse out of pistachio shells. But the fun day takes a chilling turn when Katherine uncovers a clue in the ice cream store to a decades old missing persons case–and she suspects there may be a killer in their midst.

Katherine is soon up to her shoulder bag in danger, but she’s determined to see that a murderer gets his just desserts.

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Eleven Days—The Life Expectancy of a World War One Pilot & New Release ~ Heart of Ash by Kathy Otten #AHAgrp #WRPbks #blog

Please help me welcome Kathy Otten with her new release,  HEART OF ASH, a  M/M Historical Romance Short Story…

 

Eleven Days—The Life Expectancy of a World War One Pilot

Captain Elliot Bainbridge and Lieutenant Harry March, the characters in my new, historical romance short story Heart of Ash, are British pilots in the Royal Flying Corps, fighting during World War I.

While the notion of becoming a pilot at the forefront of aviation, these eager, young pilots, many of whom were in their late teens and early twenties, were only given an average of seventeen hours of instruction (expanded to fifty hours later in the war), with as little as five hours of flying time in planes they would not fly in combat. Approximately 8,000 pilots died during training between 1914 and 1918. If they survived, they were sent to France to fight Germans who had better planes and better training.

Once stationed in France, pilots engaged in dogfights in machines made of canvas, wire, and wood. They had few instruments and would have to flip the engine off and on to slow down for landing. They flew without parachutes. Averaged together, this gave a pilot in the early part of the war a life expectancy of eleven days.

Over confidence was usually fatal, while self-doubt could give a pilot the edge he needed to stay alive. Eventually, the more flight and combat experience a pilot gained, the better his chances of survival.

While these men played football, drank, and sang together, they seldom allowed themselves to grow close. Sometimes they never knew each other’s full name. Men were there and then they were gone. Speaking about death aloud was avoided at all cost. Instead, when a pilot was killed, they spoke of it in obscure terms, such as, “So and So has gone west.” They believed each man had predetermined amount of luck and worried about the day that luck would run out. Nightmares were common. Nothing was more terrifying to these young men, than the possibility of burning to death. Some men kept a loaded pistol in the cockpit, and a few chose to jump to their death rather than burn.

The plane Elliot, the hero in my story, flew was a French plane, the Nieuport 11, which had been designed to counter the Fokker Scourge in 1916, the summer my story takes place. The biggest disadvantage the Nieuport had was that it didn’t have an interrupter gear, which the Germans had developed for their planes, allowing the machine gun to fire through the propellor. The Nieuport had its Lewis machine gun mounted on the top wing. A cable ran from the trigger to the pilot enabling him to fire the weapon. The gun used a Foster mount system which allowed the pilot to drop the gun down to change the drum, rather than forcing him to stand in order to reload.

Another problem was that sometimes during high-speed dives, the lower wing would stagger and the fabric could rip off.

Despite the level of danger a pilot faced, to the men confined in the mud of the trenches and the terror of no-mans-land, looking up to see a plane soar through the sky was a life to envy. The newspapers glorified that notion by creating heroic Aces to encourage the people at home about the war rather than putting the focus on depressingly high statistics of infantry death rates. Thus, the myth of the heroic pilot was born.

But while the life of a pilot was easier than living in a trench, it was no less dangerous, and for the two heroes in my story, they each had to decide whether or not it was worth risking their hearts.

Blurb:

In the skies over France during the Great War, the life expectancy of a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps is measured in days. Captain Elliot “Ash” Bainbridge is certain he’ll be the next pilot sent spinning to earth in a ball of fire. Not because the Germans will shoot him down, but because God will punish him for daring to love another man. When Ash met Lieutenant Harry March, their attraction was instant. But Harry hates Ash’s fatalistic attitude. He believes in capturing the moment. Can Ash set aside his fear of death and take a chance on love? Or should he try to keep his heart safe from hurt forever?

Excerpt:

“You can’t…we can’t clutter our minds with lust or friendship, whatever this is. You can’t face the Huns if your perceptions are dulled thinking of me, or I you. Up there we must keep clear minded.”

March shook his head. The gold of early morning light reflected a glimmer of sadness in his eyes. “I can’t do that. Every time we go up, I watch your tail. I can’t think of you in the same way as the rest of this lot.”

“You must, because whether it’s a Fokker or another Albatros, it won’t matter after today.”

Buy link(s):

https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Ash-Kathy-Otten-ebook/dp/B08P7VW9TM

Heart of Ash by Kathy Otten | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Heart of Ash eBook by Kathy Otten – 9781509234844 | Rakuten Kobo United States

 

Bio:

Published author, book coach, and developmental editor, Kathy lives in the rolling farmland of Western New York.  Her novels and short stories are filled with wounded heroes and feisty heroines. Her Civil War novel, A Place in Your Heart was a Northwest Houston RWA Lone Star winner, and her historical western Lost Hearts, a Utah/Salt Lake RWA Hearts of the West finalist. An active member of Pennwriters, Inc., and leads an area critique group. Kathy teaches fiction writing at the local adult education center and presents workshops on-line as well as at conferences and author events. When she’s not writing, Kathy can be found walking her German Shepherd, Henry, through the woods and fields near her home, or curling up with her cat and a good book.

You may contact Kathy through her web site  https://www.kathyottenauthor.com or at kathy@kathyotten.com

 

 

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Open Door to Love by Amber Cross  ~ #Giveaway #AHAgrp #Blog

Please help me welcome today’s guest, Amber Cross…

**Giveaway: A copy of the first book in this series-Precedent for Passion

A name will be drawn from all those who comment

~*~

Amber Cross is from Northern New England, still lives in the same town she grew up in with her husband, two dogs, and two teens.

I was always meant to write David’s story; the handsome Chinese American who goes from being an only child to being the middle child in a blended, interracial family, and he is the quintessential middle child. His brilliant siblings come to him whenever they need “grounding.”

Jonnie has been “speaking” to me for some time. She’s an impulsive, colorful, affectionate sensory-seeker. I knew she would be an unusual heroine and wanted desperately to find love for her; I just didn’t know David would be her man!

The book’s title was easy. America tried for decades to find an “open door” to China, and Jonnie is trying to find an opening into David’s heart.

Writing the book was not as easy. I kept re-writing, revising, and rearranging the early chapters. David and Jonnie met three years ago, and I wasn’t sure if I should start then, or use flashbacks. In the end, I chose flashbacks.

It’s always a challenge to write about characters you’re emotionally invested in, and I wanted so much to give you, the reader, a love story. Not a book about ethnicity that also has romantic elements, but a romance about two people who just happen to be from different ethnic backgrounds. As David likes to say, “It’s that simple.”

A hot chef in a cold climate makes this wild woman want to settle down

Blurb:

Jonnie Moulton’s chance for a fresh start as Somerset’s marketing consultant might be over before it begins unless she can convince David Wang she knows what she’s doing and isn’t the desperate woman he met three years ago.

This confident new Jonnie makes David’s blood sizzle. He plans to keep her close and not just because she’s living in one of his resort cabins.

He “gets” her like no one else.

She excites him more every day.

But is this simply passion, or have they found an open door to love?

Excerpt:

They couldn’t run in the morning. Much as he wanted to spend time with her, the temperature had risen so much over the last two days the trail wasn’t safe. A thick layer of mud covered still-frozen ground. One misplaced foot could result in an injury.

“Makes sense,” she said when he explained this at the gazebo, the disappointment in her tone gratifying.

“You can always use the gym.” He wanted her to. Wanted to know she worked out one floor below his bedroom.

“Hmm. Thank you. And I will,” she hurried to add, as if he might not believe her. “It’s just that I need an aerobic workout in the morning, and being outside gives me a rush nothing else can match.”

David looked out over the hill, at the lake shrouded in fog and the white steepled church in the distance. He didn’t trust himself to look at her because he wanted to give her a rush, and he was afraid she’d see that on his face. She might find him attractive, but she hadn’t given him a green light, and he didn’t want to scare her off.

“Maybe I’ll just take a walk around the common.”

Under control once more, he met her gaze. She would never be content with a gentle stroll or simply stretching her legs for a few minutes. “How many times around?”

She grinned, and he couldn’t help smiling with her. “A few.”

Buy link(s):

https://www.amazon.com/Open-Door-Love-Kingdom-Book-ebook/dp/B0918VPNVX/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Amber+Cross&qid=1617752204&s=books&sr=1-2

https://books.apple.com/mt/book/open-door-to-love/id1561488551

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/open-door-to-love-amber-cross/1139174487?ean=2940162252184

Bio

Amber Cross was raised on a family farm in New England, one of a dozen siblings, each one inspiring her writing in some way. She still lives in that same small town with her husband and the youngest of their five children. She loves spending time in the woods, in the water, and watching people because every one of them has a unique and fascinating story to tell.

 ~*~

Find Amber online at: https://www.amber-cross.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ann.ruby.96

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Shadows of Doubt: Patricia McAlexander’s New Thriller-Romance & Author Interview ~ #AHAgrp #Blog #WRPbks

Please help me welcome today’s guest, author Patricia McAlexander…

 

Good morning, Patricia. Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets? 

I’m from Johnstown, New York, a town of about 11,000 in the foothills of the Adirondacks, where Sir William Johnson, British Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the northern colonies, built a home in 1763. In the nineteenth- and much of the twentieth century, it was a center of the glove-making industry; I worked in a glove factory myself for two summers during college. I now live in Athens, Georgia, where I went with my husband when he took a position in the University of Georgia’s English Department. I also taught English there, in UGA’s Division of Academic Enhancement. I have one grown-up son who lives and works in Atlanta.

Why did you choose thriller/suspense-romance (is it something you’ve written in before)?

I like romance but also like to spice it up with external conflict or drama. My first Wild Rose novel, Stranger in the Storm, was in this genre. This second novel was at first more straight romance, but my editor suggested adding more “thrill,” and my sister then suggested doing so by making its male protagonist a former student drug dealer threatened by his old supplier. That’s how it, too, turned also into a thriller.

Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book, the characters, title, process, etc, you’d like to share?

What directly inspired me was an early version of this novel, written in the 1980s when I’d taken a year off from teaching. I meant it to be a YA and so the main characters were in high school. But I went back to teaching, and not until I retired did I pull out the old, yellowed, literally cut-and-pasted-on typescript. I reread it and thought it had possibilities. I rewrote the novel, making the main characters college students and, as I said, adding the drug dealer elements for stronger drama.

What is the most difficult thing about writing a book? What was the most difficult thing about this one in particular?

I find the most difficult thing about writing a book is being sure you are accurate in what you portray. For this one, I had to do research about the youth drug culture—reading books, googling, clipping newspaper articles, interviewing people.

Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?

I’m now retired, but I taught literature and writing at the college level—first as an instructor at the University of Colorado, then as teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin, and finally as a professor going through the tenure and promotion process at The University of Georgia. In all these places, one thing stayed the same: I loved working with the students.

What do you love that most people don’t like and wouldn’t understand why you do?

As an English PhD and as an undergraduate Latin minor, I love good grammar and mechanics in writing. Some people might think a focus on good grammar hampers free expression. But bad grammar can hamper communication. An ambiguous pronoun can be confusing. (“Bob told Tom he had great talent.” Who has the talent—Bob or Tom?). A misplaced or missing comma can result in something you don’t mean (“Rachel Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog”). Unless used in dialogue to reveal character, the wrong pronoun case (“Me and my husband live in Texas”) or verb form (he laid on the bed) can be like—as someone on a Facebook writers’ page said—fingernails scraping on a blackboard.

What was your first job?

My first full-time job was in one of Johnstown’s glove factories during the first two summers that I was in college. I did what was called “blackedging.” I sat at a table with several other women, and with small brushes we painted the white seams along the edges of black leather gloves black. While we did this, we talked—and I learned a lot about life from my wise older co-workers.

What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

After reading the first draft of Shadows of Doubt, my Wild Rose editor said that although it had promise, it did not have a strong enough conflict.  This was tough criticism, and at first I couldn’t think of what to do other than set the novel aside, but then (thanks to my sister’s suggestion) I added the plot element of Jeff, the romantic hero, being a reformed drug dealer threatened by his old colleagues unless he rejoined the ring. This added more drama and conflict to the plot, and the novel was accepted. 

A favorite compliment was in an Amazon review of my first novel, Stranger in the Storm: “The novel takes on the qualities of a Hitchcockian psychological thriller [with] its intensity, its intricate plot, and its ominous, compelling style.” 

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

My characters are in part based on real people—including myself. Sandy, the protagonist of Shadows of Doubt, has some of my traits: I like photography and an alternate career for me would have been as a journalist. I admired a family who owned an upstate New York dairy farm near my parents’ lake house—an intelligent, strong, practical father and his sons. I am sure I based Jeff and his uncle at least in part on them. And Sandy’s mother is based in part on my teacher mother, who turned for support to my sister and me when our father died—and who sometimes did not approve of our boyfriends. 

What do your friends and family think of your writing?

I have to say they are my fans. My sister has always been always one of the first readers of my fiction—and likes it even as she gives me helpful suggestions. My husband, now retired, was a tough American lit professor. He says he is not afraid to be “mean” and would only tell the truth about my writing. He has, too, given good, constructive criticism. But I loved it when I walked in on him while he was reading the final scenes of Shadows and he didn’t even look up he was so engrossed.

How did your interest in writing originate? 

I think writing was in my genes. It began as soon as I could literally hold a pencil. After reading the Dick and Jane books in first grade, I wrote my own series, Jean and Jerry. In later grades my father let me use his typewriter to write stories on—and he never got it back. In high school my friends and my sister’s friends would read my “novels” (one-spaced typed pages stapled together). I wrote two endings to one and had them vote on the one they preferred. Sometimes artistic readers would create illustrations for the novel.

Despite warnings, should she take a chance on him?

 Blurb

 

Former grade school bully and, later, amateur drug dealer Jeff Hudson turns his life around and is pursuing a degree in agriculture. His future, as well as a budding relationship with fellow student Sandy Harris, is threatened when a former dealer threatens to expose Jeff’s past to university authorities if he doesn’t rejoin the ring.

Realizing that Jeff is no longer an angry, misunderstood boy, Sandy must take a stand against her family and friends who swear he is no good and will only cause her unhappiness. Together, can they escape the past in order to forge a future?

Excerpt

“Sandy—I need to tell you something about him.”

“I don’t want to hear it. You’d better take me home.”

Bill abruptly turned around in a parking lot he was passing and headed back toward her house. His expression was grim, almost angry. “I’d be better for you, Sandy. Your mother thinks so, too.”

Anger replaced her anxiety. “How do you know what my mother thinks? I hope you and she didn’t discuss this!”

“Just a little, last night before you came downstairs. She didn’t say much, but I could tell how she felt.” He pulled up in front of her house. “We both worry about you with Jeff. It’s not just that we think this won’t last…”

“Why else should you worry?”

Bill hesitated. “For one thing, he has a temper. He may physically hurt you. Remember how he was even as a kid.”

Her anger notched up higher. He was sounding just like her mother, expressing unfounded, outdated fears. “It was years ago that he got in those fights. He’s not like that now. I’m sorry, Bill, but I think it would be better if you and I don’t see each other for a while.” She got out of the car and slammed the door.

Bill started to pull away, then stopped, lowered the window, and called out to her. “Just remember, if you ever need me, I’ll be here.”

 Buy link(s):

Amazon kindle:  

Amazon: paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Doubt-Patricia-McAlexander/dp/1509235426/ref

Nook:https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-of-doubt-patricia-mcalexander/

Barnes and Noble paperback:https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-of-doubt-patricia-mcalexander/1138919956 

i-books: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9781509235438

Bio:

Patricia McAlexander earned a bachelor’s degree from The University of New York at Albany, a master’s from Columbia University, and a doctorate from The University of Wisconsin, Madison, all in English. After moving with her husband to Athens, Georgia, she taught composition and literature at The University of Georgia. Now retired, she has edited local newsletters and enjoys hiking, travel (when possible), and photography. But most of all she enjoys writing novels. Her first thriller-romance, Stranger in the Storm, was released by Wild Rose in June 2020. Shadows of Doubt was released on April 5, 2021.

Website: https://patriciamcalexander.weebly.com 

Email: mcalexanderpatricia@gmail.com

Facebook: facebook.com/patriciamcalexanderwriter/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/PatMcAlexWriter

Instagram: www.instagram.com/patriciamcalexander/

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#CrimeTime ~ On the Case with Paula Zahn ~ “Little Lamb” – #AHAgrp #Blog

#CrimeTime with Alicia Dean ~ 

I love watching true crime shows…as long as they are about murder…, and I watch them every night. (Since I write suspense, thriller, and mystery, it’s not a waste of time…it’s research, right? 🙂 Each week, I blog about some of the recent episodes I’ve seen and I’d love to know your thoughts.

One of my short stories, Blood and Breakfast, is about a crime junkie who gets a little closer to murder than she anticipated. You can buy the Kindle version here for only $2.00 Blood and Breakfast – It’s also part of a print book with 6 other scary stories: A Collection of Friday the 13th Stories

 

On the Case with Paula Zahn, Season 20, Episode 5,  “Little Lamb”

Port Arthur, Texas, May 2010

On the night of May 4, 2010, in Port Arthur, Texas, a couple found the SUV belonging to their neighbor, Allison Clark, on the side of the highway with its hazard lights flashing. They approached and found her slumped over the wheel, covered in blood. They were horrified to discover her three-year-old daughter, Cadence, asleep in her car seat in the back seat. They picked up the child and called police.

The child was uninjured. Police found a bullet hole in the driver’s side window. The twenty-four year old mother of two was shot once in the chest. The bullet was found lodged in the driver’s seat, and investigators concluded it was fired from a Glock.

They determined robbery was not the likely motive. Her purse was found in the floorboard and, next to it, was a ten dollar bill with a drop of blood on it. Her cell phone was on the floor as well. It seemed clear she was trying to call for help while she was dying.   

They found no DNA or fingerprints at the scene, very little evidence at all. 

It appeared she was driving when she was shot. She was able to stop, park and put on hazard lights, most likely for the sake of her child. Even while she was dying, she had the mindset to protect her child. The police were especially affected by the tragedy of this young mother’s death and were determined to find her killer.

Her family said she was a wonderful mom. Her three and one year old children were her world. She planned to go back to school to be a teacher. And she and her husband wanted another child.   

In the examination of her body, stippling was found on her shoulder. That indicated the shooting was from up close, which ruled out their theory that she was shot by a stray bullet from someone target practicing. It left investigators with one conclusion—Allison was the target. A vehicle had to have pulled up close to her window and shot her.

Police turn their attention to her husband, Josh Clark. His demeanor raised their suspicions. He was emotionally detached. He told them his wife was headed to the store and that she only took the oldest child. When asked if someone could verify his whereabouts, Josh said he was at home and his brother was there. But the brother stated he was in the room watching a movie with the volume up so he couldn’t know whether Josh left the house.

On the night of the murder, it took a while to reach Josh. He didn’t answer any of the calls her family made to him. He claimed he had logged onto a computer game and had headphones on. He saw a call from his brother-in-law but ignored it. When another call came in, he decided to answer. That was when he learned Allison has been murdered. About forty minutes elapsed that he couldn’t account for.

They brought him in for questioning. A detective asked if he was right or left handed. He replied, “I’m right handed but I shoot a gun left handed.” This struck the investigators because no one had mentioned a gun.

The detective asked if Josh had killed Allison, what would he have done with the murder weapon. He said, “On the way back to the house, I would have thrown it in the canal.” They found this odd. Most people wouldn’t answer like that, they would just emphatically deny they’d killed their wife.

They asked him to take a polygraph and he agreed. It was inconclusive. He showed deception on one question, “Do you know who killed Allison?”

Josh was interviewed on the show. He said the detective told him, “I think you did it. You’re the one who did it.” They were firing questions at him, such as, “Where do you think would be a good place to drop weapon?” He told them probably the canal. The police dragged the canal but came up empty. 

Josh’s explanation for the issue on the polygraph was that the exact question they asked was “Do you know who killed her?” He was thinking that gang members did it, but all he could answer was yes or no. He couldn’t tell them what he was thinking. They gave a second poly and changed the question to “Did you kill Allison?” This time, he passed and they were able to clear him.

A witness came forward who saw someone in a gray pick up fifteen minutes before Allison was shot and about four miles away. The person was firing a gun out the vehicle window. The officers went to a nearby gas station and saw a gray F150 in the video surveillance. They were unable to make out the license plate.

They put out an alert and made traffic stops but there were 450 Gray Ford F150s in that county alone. The investigation stalled. While it disappeared from the media, the detective said it never disappeared for them.

Six years later, an informant heard two individuals talking about the West Port Arthur murder. The two men, Sabino Orlando Martinez and Ozzie Nelson Ibarra were known to police. In Ozzie Ibarra’s rap sheet, they found a possible connection to Allison’s murder.  He’d been arrested for robbery a month after the killing and he drove a gray truck. They were able to track down the truck. It had been sold, and the new owner allowed them to search it. The owner’s wife made an offhand remark that caught their attention. She said that her husband had cleaned the truck when they bought it. He found a shell casing and had kept it. They were able to match the shell casing to the bullet that killed Allison.

Police learned that Ibarra and Martinez had been terrorizing and robbing women for years. They targeted women who were along and referred to them as ‘little lambs.’

All the police had was circumstantial evidence and it was not enough for an arrest. Then, investigators got an unexpected break when Ibarra’s girlfriend Jessica Bellas was arrested on an unrelated charge.

She told police she had been behind the wheel on a dark Friday night. She said, “Pino was in the passenger seat. I’m driving, I hear pow, and the window is down. I remember seeing a young girl. A young female. Pino shot that girl on West Port Arthur Road.” After the shot was fired, she was told to turn around. She pulled behind the SUV which had drifted to a stop with hazard lights on. They looked inside the window. Then walked around to passenger side of car. She said Pino said something about a baby in the back.

She gave other critical details only someone involved could know. She told how they pulled up to the vehicle, side by side. And were close when Pino shot the woman. They interviewed Ibarra, who claimed they didn’t plan to kill her. They wanted to scare her so she would pull over and they could rob her. He said when he found out there was a baby in the car, he was furious with Martinez.

The prosecutor was worried the testimony wouldn’t be enough, so she offered them a deal. Ibarra took the deal and was sentenced to thirty-five years. Martinez sent word that he wouldn’t accept anything with a ‘three’ in front. So they went to trial.

Assistant attorney Leslie Woods found a unique path to justice. She discovered a law that allowed her to combine Allison’s murder with the other robberies .

During the trial, Martinez labeled Jessica a snitch. They ended up using that against him. The prosecutor said, “Would you agree that only guilty people have snitches?” He said yes and then realized he’d made a huge mistake. But it was too late to take it back.

He never showed any remorse. He was sentenced to eighty years in prison. I am sure he now wishes he’d accepted something with a ‘three’ in front of it. 😊

The prosecutor said she cried for two hours. She said she’s never taken a case that personally.

Allison’s husband, Josh, is raising their two girls and keeping their mother’s memory alive. He holds no grudges against law enforcement for suspecting him. He knows they were just doing their job, trying to find his wife’s killer. 

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