JoAnne Ticker has the answer for us today.
Writing True Crime:
First you must pick an interesting crime. I specialize in homicides in my home state of Ohio. Routinely reading newspapers will help the writer find murder cases. Find a homicide that has numerous good elements that will hold one’s interest.
Next you must start the investigation of your chosen crime. To find my information, I read newspaper reports of the homicide. I searched court documents for witness reports, and courtroom testimony. I interviewed witnesses. Persons that either were present when the crime occurred, or had after the fact information. Try to locate the victim’s family members, and see if they want their side of the story told. If the case goes to trial, the Defense’s job is to discredit the victim. To portray the deceased as the “bad guy.” This type of mud slinging does not sit well with loved ones of the victim. Give them a chance to speak for the deceased. Anyone that was involved with the case, will have something of interest to report. Don’t forget to locate the reports of the arresting officers and the homicide detectives. Try to locate the coroners report, any eyewitness, or person’s who reported hearing an altercation or gunshots.
Keep abreast of updates, and read everything that was written about the case. Build a relationship with the law enforcement officials who are involved in the case. I personally live in a very small town, where most person’s know one another, and many have relatives or close friends that are involved with law enforcement. Attend the trial and speak to everyone you can about the criminal, the victim and prosecution and defense witness.
Last but not least, sit down and write. Now it is time to tell the story of the crime. Hopefully you will find most of the information you need in your copious notes–if not go back and get the answers you need. Never throw away any notes or information concerning the case. Not even after the trial is over with, and the story is written. Most convicted felons apply for numerous appeals, which take years to dissolve. Some cases never seem to end; The Crime of the Century was such a case. When the accused was found guilty and sent to prison, he and his attorneys, who always believed him innocent, continued fighting for his freedom. That blessed event came after the convicted spent five years on death row. He was cleared with DNA, but it still took nearly thirty years to find the true killers. If you want your true crime novel to be believable, you can’t fudge the facts.
The residents of Rolling Hills, an economically ruined bedroom community of the Appalachian region of southeastern Ohio, were horrified when the dismembered bodies of missing teenage sweethearts, Shane Shoemaker and Babette Lloyd, were pulled from the murky and meandering local river. Multiply suspects surfaced, including relatives, ex-lovers, Satanists, and the Devil’s Disciple’s motorcycle gang, but only one was railroaded, Babette’s stepfather, Richard Allan Lloyd, a known nudist and hothead. The rumors of his and Babette’s incestuous relationship only electrified the townsfolk and local authorities’ hatred against him.
What really happened on that cool autumn evening of 1982? What began as an evening stroll turned into what found only in horror films, and dubbed ‘the crime of the century’. 18 year old Babette, a voluptuous beauty contestant, horsewoman, and aspiring computer programmer, and her 19 year old boyfriend Shane Shoemaker, a jealous and possessive unemployed printer, were last seen walking toward the C&O Railroad tracks, crossing a trestle bridge that overlooked the river, near an infamous 52-acrea cornfield. Twelve days later, a search party found their mutilated torsos. After another two days their heads and limbs were unearthed, suggesting satanic cult activity.
Richard Lloyd was the main suspect from the beginning. It took nearly a year, but in an investigation smeared with contradicting statements, and a botched crime scene, investigators built a flimsy case against him. A financially motivated local mistakenly fingered Richard, accusing him of forcing the teens into a car at gun point. The police alleged Richard then killed the victims at his mobile home seven miles from Rolling Hills, with his wife and other step-daughter as witnesses. They accused him of dismembering the victims before transporting them to the Rolling Hills cornfield for burial. The state insisted a ancestral relationship between Richard and Babette existed, and the reason for the jealousy killings, and Richard’s immense hatred for Shane Shoemaker. Richard’s multiply lies, his lust and jealousy for Babette, weapons availability, the hypnotized “eyewitness” and a disputed footprint expert bolstered the states misguided case against the now dubbed “evil stepfather.” Most of what was presented at the three-week trial was based on police corruption and ineptitude, melodramatic fiction, and forensic mishandling.
As a resident of Rolling Hills, Ohio, I, JoAnne Myers contrived “The Crime of the Century,” through case documents, newspaper clippings, signed affidavits, witness testimony, interviews, police reports, theories and rumors.
This heinous crime not only shattered the sense of security for Rolling Hills, but destroyed two families, marriages, careers, friendships, and forever scarred the town. This story is a detailed account of finding justice for Babette and Shane, of human injustice at the highest level, of one man’s perseverance to prove his innocence, and gain his freedom from death row, and righting a wrong.
Richard Lloyd was released on appeal after sitting on death row for five years. Prosecutors opted not to re-try him, but Lloyd and his family remained under a cloud of presumed guilt for 28-years. In 2008, two career criminals were indicted and convicted for the homicides.
NOTE: All names and places have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty.
I have been a long-time resident of southeastern Ohio, and worked in the blue-collar industry most of my life. Besides having several novels under my belt, I canvass paint.
When not busy with hobbies or working outside the home, I spend time with relatives, my dogs Jasmine and Scooter, and volunteer my time within the community. I am a member of the Hocking Hill’s Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. I believe in family values and following your dreams.
My books along with my original canvass paintings, can be found at: http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com/
Other books by JoAnne
Murder Most Foul-a detective/mystery book
Wicked Intentions-a paranormal/mystery anthology
Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between-a poetry collection written with love and respect for others
Loves, Myths, and Monsters-a fantasy anthology starring the Mothman, the Chupracabra, Mermaids, reincarnation, time travel, werewolves, and etc.
Flagitious-a crime/mystery novella anthology