True Crime Writer
My life as a housewife and mother was ready for a change. The boys were eight and ten, and my husband was devoted to his career as a physician. The time had come for me to follow my dream and write.
The journey took an unexpected turn one morning when I read a newspaper article about how Detective John “Jigsaw” St. John had just won a medal for solving a major murder case. Here was the story I wanted to write. After several phone calls, he finally agreed to meet me.
For the next thirteen years, he led me into a world I imagined existed only in crime novels: dingy motels, scary crime scenes, startling autopsies, and maximum-security prisons. Along the way, I grew to know and be fascinated by not just murder business, but a man whose compassion for victims, passion for justice, and unmatched sleuthing ability earned him the LAPD’s Badge Number One.
The Cop & Me
Detective John St. John was a nationally recognized serial murder expert. He not only solved over one-thousand murders but also worked on twelve serial murders, including the Trash Bag Murders, the Freeway Killer, the Elderly Women murders, and was one of the original detectives on the Black Dahlia case. When we met, I was a neophyte writer, a woman half his age who’d never seen a dead body. Slowly, as I earned his trust, he led me into Dante’s Inferno, where I learned much more about life than death. Both of us were forever changed.
The Killers & Their Victims
They were young adults with their lives still ahead of them. Steven was sixteen, Tracey was fifteen, and Shari was twenty-one. John took me to each of their crime scenes, introduced me to mothers whose stories I chronicled, and the District Attorneys who prosecuted the Bill Bonin and Bill Bradford cases.
The detective who worked with John on the Bradford case – a hard-working, diligent, bachelor –finally found the girl of his dreams,...
The first stop after landing was the document drill followed by watching a parade of suitcases on a carousal go around and around. The lucky passengers grabbed their bags and departed. The unlucky passengers held their breath wondering what it would be like to begin their vacation wearing the clothes they traveled in.
Finally, the day arrived. We hugged our dogs, took one last look at the spacious house and newly landscaped backyard with an aviary, pizza oven and cabana we’d be leaving for a 500 square foot apartment with a dish rack, living room sofa and teensy loft bedroom.
March 1983, I was preparing a quiche for the informant, Scott Fraser, who gave Detective John St. John the piece of critical information he needed to arrest The Freeway killer, Bill Bonin. As I poured the cheese mixture into the dish, smoothing the dough at the edges then crimping those edges, I wondered what it would be like to walk into the same room where Fraser smoked one Camel cigarette after the other and Bonin drank his non-alcoholic beverage of choice: Raspberry Kool-Aid with one ice cube.
There’s nothing like coming face to face with a drooling, snorting, pile of shaggy black fur that looked like a primitive rug from Tibet. Instead, this creature was living on a ranch just an hour and a half from a glitzy gambling mecca: Reno, Nevada.
I can’t remember the year or even the season when I looked out the passenger window onto a grassy field on the outskirts of Calpine (another mountain town) and saw my first Yak. Jim and I were on the home stretch of our two-week vacation on the log cabin we owned in the Lakes basin, tired from a ten-hour drive with our five furry passengers who’d been grumbling and growling, into and out of my lap, thirsty and hungry and generally miserable for all that time.
Why is it the day a dream finally happens is a day like all the rest? I fixed the dogs their breakfast of Farmer’s Dog mixed with kibble, then I headed outside past the fire pit and the red bougainvillea vines draped over a fence. Next stop, the aviary where two hundred Zebra Finches awaited my arrival with fresh water, bird seed and millet. The October sun felt too hot, and the few patches of lawn left in our drought resistant landscape were a dingy yellow. I looked into the blue sky and wished for rain. And maybe a cloud or two.
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