In Behind Sacred Walls, Michael Roberts tells the compelling story of how he was abused by Catholic priests. His story tells not only how he was abused by a priest for several years, but also how the Catholic Church turned its back on him when he finally reported the abuse. A naïve teen, he was sexually and emotionally dominated by the priest who was revered by his family and parishioners. Fear kept Roberts emotionally paralyzed. He feared hurting his parents, who were devout Catholics. He feared God. Most of all, he feared the wrath of the priest who demanded his obedience.
In 1958, nineteen-year-old Charles Starkweather became one of the nation’s first spree killers, murdering eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming. He kidnapped his fifteen-year-old girlfriend, Caril Fugate, forcing her to accompany him on the spree. He told Caril if she didn’t obey, he would murder her parents and baby sister. Little did she know, he had already killed them.
Days later, both were captured and went on trial. Starkweather claimed Fugate helped with the murders, but she was, in fact, innocent. Still, she was charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison; however, after eighteen years, she was paroled in 1976. In 2017 Fugate applied for a pardon. Three years later, The Nebraska Pardons Board refused to hear her case at a pardon’s board meeting in February 2020. Her request for pardon was denied.
Ernest Lageson, author of the bestselling book, Battle at Alcatraz, A Desperate Attempt to Escape the Rock, passed October 25, 2019, in Kensington, California. In his book, he told the story of the 1946 escape attempt by six inmates. It was one of the bloodiest uprisings in the history of American prisons. During the three-day siege, inmates took nine guards hostage. When it appeared their escape attempt was failing, the inmates shot all nine hostages. One of the guards, Ernie Lageson’s father, survived.
Ernie was fourteen at the time; he and his family lived on Alcatraz Island—in the apartments for employees. He drew from personal insights as he told the story.
For many years, Ernie traveled to the Alcatraz Island as the guest author, signing his books and sharing his unique knowledge of the famous island’s history with visitors and tourists. Ernie Lageson was 87.
Evil Harvest, the True Story of Cult Murder in the American Heartland, is still selling twenty-six years after it was first published. The true crime work, by Rod Colvin, was first published by Bantam Books as a mass-market paperback in 1992. Addicus Books published the book as a trade paperback in 1997. Author Rod Colvin said, “I am pleased that this book still sells as a paperback and as an e-book. It is especially popular in the Midwest, where the story took place.”
Dennis Ryan was a teenager when his father, Mike Ryan, became a cult leader on a Nebraska farm in the mid-80s. The cult became notorious after it was discovered that two people had been murdered on the farm. The story is told in Evil Harvest—The True Story of Cult Murder in the American Heartland, written by Rod Colvin.
In February, the Investigation Discovery Channel (ID) aired an episode of their program Evil Resides Here, called “Son of the Prophet,” featuring Dennis Ryan. The program premiered on Wednesday, February 12, at 10:00 P.M. The episode may be watched with the Investigation Discovery Go app or online here. (A cable subscription is required to view the content.)
The attorney for Brendan Dassey, a teenager convicted of murder in Wisconsin, cites the The Twelfth Victim—The Innocence of Caril Fugate in the Starkweather Murder Rampage, (Addicus Books 2014), as an example of a book with stories about individuals wrongly convicted of murder. (“Seventeen Books on False Confessions.” Read the article here.) Dassey is the nephew of Steven Avery, also convicted of murdering 25-year-old Teresa Halbach. The attorneys for Dassey and Avery lay out their case, claiming the men are innocent, in a 10-part documentary on Netflix. The program, The Making of A Murderer, has been so popular that producers are considering a second season.