Sunday, April 18, 2010

"The Road to Hell" Documents the Infamous "Chicken Coop" Murders With Details From One of the "Victims"; "False Arrest" is the First True Crime Book t

It's two True Crime book reviews, one of an older book and one brand new.

The so-called "chicken coop" murders detailed in "The Road to Hell" left me mesmerized and spell-bound with excellent writing and a compelling story.

"False Arrest" is about a woman who was innocent of the murder charged against her. At least the author convinced me.

Pic of the Day

The Old and the New

It was just the weirdest thing. I’d posted a book review on a web site I frequent. It was of an older book but I do book reviews on all books that I read, even those whose dust I must blow when yanking it off the library shelf.

One individual, who could have, just throwing it out there, went right on by my post as it was plainly labeled on the header page, book title and all, got on the thread and thought it a great hoot to mock the presentation of an older book review.

I mean you’d have been yukking all over the place at this woman’s (dim) wit. She even made the hilarious comparison that dag, suppose’d you’d have read “Moby Dick”, hahahaha, a book that is, I agree, quite old. As if no school child today should ever do a book review of “Moby Dick” because…well the book is older as I imagine this dim bulb considers.

At any rate, I did read an older book and I read a new book and I decided to do a review of both lest I offend. At least I assume the book about the Wineville so-called “chicken coop” murders is new in that it was on the library bookshelf under the placard stating “NEW ARRIVALS”.

The older book is “False Arrest” and was written sometime in the 80’s. It was an okay kind of read. This books claim to fame as it fits in my experience is that it is the first book I’ve ever read in my almost 60 years of life written about an alleged “innocent” person wrongly convicted of a crime that I believe IS REALLY INNOCENT!

“The Road Out of Hell” is a great read, a great true crime story, a book I could not put down yet forced myself to put down so I wouldn’t use it all up at once. These sorts of books are rare in my life.

Let’s move on to the reviews.

"The Road Out of Hell"…Anthony Flacco with Jerry Clark

Jerry Clark is Sanford Clark’s son. Sanford Clark is the protagonist of this book. He was 13 years old when his uncle Gordon Stewart Northcott took him from his Canadian childhood home to live in California to help out on the uncle’s newly acquired chicken farm.

The entire Northcott family is insane, let’s get that out of the way. Uncle Stewart was the most insane of them all.

Sanford Clark was very sane but his two years at the hell of Uncle Stewart’s chicken farm almost sent him over the brink. It is a testament to the human spirit that Sanford Clark survived it.

Anthony Flacco is likely the composer of the prose for this book and here’s a fellow who writes beautifully. Non-fiction books don’t lend themselves all that well to fluidity and pretty words, especially the true crime type of this particularl book, but Anthony Flacco managed to pull it off, kudos to him.

The terrific writing coupled with the totally captivating story of the tale kept me immersed for several days. This was one of those rare books that has me looking to see how much I have left to read and hoping the thickness of the remaining pages will stop decreasing that I may enjoy it longer.

And though a crime of a horrific nature, the book had a nice ending with Uncle Stewart getting his due as he deserved, dear Lord, that had to be the best scene of the book.

Wineville was the name of the California town in which Uncle Stewart had his chicken farm. The crimes of Stewart Northcott were so heinous that Wineville residents changed the name of their entire town.

Adolescent Sanford did as his Uncle Stewart commanded, taking care of the chickens, doing all daily chores, fixing Uncle Stewart’s meals and, of course, helping to murder and dispose of Uncle Stewart’s young victims.

Ah yes. Uncle Stewart was one mean, mean, mean son of a bitch. He got his jollies by being mean and Sanford was also the object of Uncle Stewart’s mean-ness. Young Sanford suffered more than any child his age should ever have to endure.

With beautiful prose and a continuing theme of a young boy surviving an aching “heaviness” as he buried young boys alive, was himself often thrown into a small pit to survive days on end, had to swing an axe at a young boy’s skull to aid in the kill, the book carries the reader through the days and mind-numbing hours of Sanford’s survival.

His own grandparents, who were full aware of Uncle Stewart’s strange-ness, left Sanford to suffer so horrifically until the young boy lost all touch with reality and a civil world.

Through a series of mis-steps, that crazy family, including the nutty grandmother and insane Uncle Stewart were finally stopped from their crimes.

If I had one complaint about this book it’s how unclear it was to me just why Sanford Clark was guilty of any crime. Yes it was frustrating to this reader that young Sanford would avoid escape or reporting the horror around him but knowing the story even in this day of age with phones and email of young people captured and held when it would seem that escape was very possible, I know these “prisoners” accept their captive fate that a casual observer would fine bizarre. Sanford Clark lived through his hell during an era when most people didn’t even have telephones. In fact, it was Sanford’s sister who finally had to drive down from Canada to save Sanford for the lack of communication available in the early 1900 era that the chicken coop crimes occurred.

Sanford was sent to an American reform school of some sort and I deduce that it was as much to keep him away from that insane family of his as any “crime” this victim might have committed.

I can’t recommend this book enough to True Crime afficiandos or any devout reader appreciative of fine prose and a captivating story.

Amazon code for this book

Wiki link to a movie made about this story…”The Changeling”

"False Arrest"-Joyce Lukezic and Ted Schwarz

Amazon link for this book.

Let us begin by asserting firmly that this book was written confidently, orderly and logically. It is not the stuff of pretty prose but there is a certain sanity in the presentation of the facts.

For the most part.

The author obviously believed his co-writer to be innocent of the crime for which she was accused. The book is written firmly with that belief and the reader is expected to know that Joyce Lukezic was not guilty of arranging the murder of her husband’s business partner and this book is simply an orderly compilation of the facts.

It might be giving away the ending but Joyce Lukezic was found not guilty, finally, at a third trial. She was found guilty at her first trial. She was granted a second trial. That trial ended with a hung jury, ten jurors believing Joyce to be innocent and two not budging from a guilty vote.

This is hardly a monsoon of belief of innocence and besides, a “not guilty” verdict does not necessarily mean the defendant is innocent of a crime but that the state failed to prove the case.

Still and so, I believe that Joyce Lukezic did not plot to have her husband’s business partner killed. This is the first time I have ever read one of these “he/she is really innocent” books and believed that assertion. I have no statistics but I’d bet a small fortune that most folks who end up in jail are usually guilty. I certainly have no problem with such as re-trials or any relook at the facts. The innocent don’t belong in jail. Jurors are very responsible people, much more responsible than crooked politicians who cheat and lie to keep their jobs. This True Crime afficiando has read entirely too many books and seen too many documentaries featuring jurors and I hear what they say. We all can identify with the terror of having our freedom, even our lives, taken away for a crime for which we are innocent. The OJ jury, notwithstanding, of course. Jurors want to get it right.

I will never understand why the investigators went after Joyce Lukezic for arranging the contract murder of her husband’s business partner. Her brother was involved in nefarious activities and was mixed up with Ron Lukezic’s partner, William Redmond. Joyce’s husband, in fact, Ron Lukezic, had way more reason to have his partner murdered than Joyce.

First, Joyce had a prenuptial agreement that left her getting nothing out of her husband’s business if her marriage with Ron Lukezic didn’t work out. Second, Joyce paid very little interest to her husband’s business affairs. Third, there was a bevy of folks around William Redmond far more likely to want him dead than his business partner’s wife.

The biggest source of evidence presented against Joyce was some jailhouse snitch. There was also a bunch of bad facts presented at trial and, in fact, because of this Joyce was granted a new trial.

I have two issues with this book. First, the author starts out straightaway with a horrible story of a lesbian attack of Joyce during her first few weeks in jail. I suppose that the author immediately wanted to put the reader in sympathetic mode that right from the start poor Joyce Lukezik suffered in jail for a crime she did not commit.

I thought that scene to be more prurient than informative. While the lesbian rape had every right to be part of the documentation of Joyce’s jail ordeal, to feature it at the beginning of the book, in your face, was confusing to this reader.

My second concern is that the author really didn’t give enough information about just why all the investigators, the entire first jury and two folks on the second jury, all seem to think Joyce was guilty. The author did a fine job of convincing ME that Joyce’s jailhouse accuser was a liar so why couldn’t he give me some idea why so many folks were out to get Joyce Lukezic?

There had to be something about this woman, the evidence, something, something, that had so many folks so eager to lock up her innocent self.

This book is a good read but going back to my original contention, it’s an older book. By me, it will be a stand out as being the first book I’ve ever read trying to convince me the book’s subject is innocent of the crime as charged.

And I believed it.

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