Forget about the scenic route. We’re taking the roads less traveled—all of which lead to murder and mayhem. Introducing a four-part summer series we’re calling True Crime Road Trip. Join us over the next few weeks as we highlight the nation’s bloodiest roadside attractions—using the literary world’s best true crime authors as our guides. First up: the East Coast. So hop in and get comfy; we’re going on one helluva bumpy ride.
Portland, Maine: Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine, by Joseph K. Loughlin
Pit stop No. 1 is Portland, Maine’s Old Port, where the convivial nightlife also serves as a killer’s hunting ground. Old Port is one of the last places 25-year-old Amy Laurent was seen alive. One evening in October 2001, she danced, she ate pizza, then she left a club with two men and was never heard from again. Months later, she was found buried in the woods off Route 22 in Scarborough, beaten, assaulted, and shot to death. Then-Lieutenant Joseph Loughlin and former Assistant Attorney General Kate Flora deliver the facts in Finding Amy, as well as offer insight into the murder case that rocked the Pine Tree State.
Falmouth, Massachusetts: When Evil Rules: Vengeance and Murder on Cape Cod, by Michele R. McPhee
Cape Cod. It’s the hook-shaped peninsula that stretches off the southeastern tip of Massachusetts and flexes its sandy shores out into the Atlantic. It’s also the place where a bully named Melvin Reine thrived back in the ‘70s. As a pyromaniacal psychopath who used arson to settle his feuds and was the main suspect in several high-profile murder cases, everyone feared Reine. That is, except for John Busby, the officer who meddled in Reine’s sordid business and got shot in the face for it. Read all about it in renowned crime reporter Michele McPhee’s When Evil Rules.
Newport, Rhode Island: The Von Bülow Affair, by William Wright
It’s all about the mansions in Newport. Though in this case we’re only interested in one: the family home of Sunny Von Bülow, the heiress socialite who was found unconscious on the morning of December 21, 1980. Word is her husband, man-about-town Claus Von Bülow, was the culprit, allegedly poisoning her with an insulin overdose and sending hypoglycemic Sunny into a temporary coma for the holidays. But it gets worse: Claus didn’t allegedly try to kill his wife once, he allegedly tried to kill his wife twice. Get the full story in William Wright’s The Von Bülow Affair, which also includes photos.
Canaan, Connecticut: A Death in Canaan, by Joan Barthel
Okay, so Litchfield County isn’t your typical “hot spot.” But it is a hotbed for true crime enthusiasts due to the awful events that went down in a shabby abode on September 28, 1973. Barbara Gibbons, a single mother who yelled a lot and drank even more, was raped, almost decapitated, and left for dead. All of which put her son, 18-year-old Peter Reilly, eventually behind bars. But was it justice? Writer Joan Barthel doesn’t think so. As one of the “free Reilly” crusaders who believe his conviction was wrongfully pinned, Barthel breaks down the case in A Death in Canaan. She even includes transcripts of what many perceive to be Reilly’s coerced confession.
Poughkeepsie, New York: Body Dump, by Fred Rosen
Next up, we’re headed to a metro area nestled on the banks of the Hudson River that’s experiencing a bit of a cultural rebirth at the moment. It’s a good thing, too, because the 1990s misdeeds of Poughkeepsie man Kendall Francois were really stinking up the place. Known to many as just plain Stinky, Francois, a grade-school hall monitor, confessed to raping and killing several ladies of the night—then storing their bodies in his attic. In Body Dump, true crime writing legend Fred Rosen takes a deep dive into the cesspool that was Francois’s reality. And, yes, we’ll be stopping at the next full-service rest stop—in case you, too, are in desperate need of a lot of soap after that.
New York City: Wasted, by Linda Wolfe
Feeling cramped? How’s about we stretch our legs? We know a nice, little place on NYC’s Upper East Side. Dorrian’s Red Hand restaurant: the last place Jennifer Levin, a prep school grad, was seen alive on August 26, 1986. It’s also the last place Robert Chambers, a petty criminal charading as a standup guy, was known as just Rob. When Levin was found, spread-eagle and strangled in Central Park, Chambers forever became known as the “Preppie Killer.” Top-notch writer Linda Wolfe has all the details in Wasted.
Livingston, New Jersey: The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder, by Charles Graeber
Let’s do this one by the numbers: 16 years, 9 hospitals, 2 states … 300 victims. Dubbed the “Angel of Death,” prolific serial killer Charles Cullen was a registered nurse whose murdering marathon kicked off in Livingston, New Jersey in 1988, and finally ended when he was arrested in 2003 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It’s an odyssey that’s handled with deft care by investigative journalist Charles Graeber, who raids boxes of case files to deliver The Good Nurse.
Allentown, Pennsylvania: Blood Crimes, by Fred Rosen
The family who prays together stays together, eh? Not so much for the Freemans, whose religious household was more of a holy hell. Meet Bryan and David, brothers who were raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses, converted to white supremacists, and then murdered their mother, father, and younger brother—an evil act that launched a hot pursuit across state lines. Author Fred Rosen tracks the boys from childhood to murderous skinheads in Blood Crimes, a read that just may deliver a come-to-Jesus moment.
Washington, D.C.: The Making of Lee Boyd Malvo: The D.C. Sniper, by Carmeta Albarus
Now, assuming you still have some gas in the old tank, let’s hightail it down the Washington Beltway, the high-traffic interstate where 10 people lost their lives and several others were wounded in a series of horrific incidents. In October 2002, John Allen Muhammad and his 17-year-old protégé, killer-in-the-making Lee Boyd Malvo, shot and killed innocent commuters on the Beltway, forever changing the American landscape. Author Carmeta Albaraus is the court-appointed forensic social worker who met with Malvo, and this is her—and Malvo’s—intimate and truly chilling story.