Jane Howatt

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.

Blog

Best Man in a Bow Tie

Best Man in a Bow Tie

The detective who worked with John on the Bradford case – a hard-working, diligent, bachelor –finally found the girl of his dreams,...

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A Frightening Visage

A Frightening Visage

February 4, 2024. Camarillo, California. I looked at our dogs nibbling at their breakfast like finicky ladies displeased with their salad...

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The Man Called “Jigsaw”

The Man Called “Jigsaw”

What grabbed me wasn’t a photo. It was a rumpled green fishing license I’d saved. Next to the license was a scrap of yellow paper that had my writing – almost illegible – hurried, jumbled, messy. I leaned in closer to see what I’d written and what the connection was between a fishing license and a yellow piece of paper that had suddenly caught my attention. Why now?…Then I remembered.

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Jigsaw and Jane Fish and Write at the Klamath River  

Jigsaw and Jane Fish and Write at the Klamath River  

The chaos and clutter of Christmas filled my house, my brain and my life with unreachable deadlines. My original plan for this blog was not to focus on Detective St. John’s crime-solving expertise but to write about St. John – the person behind the Badge. Where to start?

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The Wise Person Spoke

The Wise Person Spoke

While I waited for our lively, energetic, and resourceful professor to arrive in her usual flurry of cheerful observations about anything from the latest movie, thoughts about a book she’d just read or a new and delicious recipe, I reviewed her comments on a paper I’d written titled: How a Conversation on the Back Porch Led to Passages.” She wrote: “This is fascinating. Did you work with your client Bob to see if this would be a viable plan?”

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Dining with a Serial Killer? Murder’s on the Menu.

Dining with a Serial Killer? Murder’s on the Menu.

The reason may seem far-fetched at first, but the more I thought about those thirteen years I spent working alongside and writing about the Los Angeles Police Department’s legendary homicide detective, John “Jigsaw” St. John – bearer of the LAPD’s Badge Number One – I found myself amazed at how those brutal, bloodthirsty killers he hunted, arrested and brought to justice in his beloved city often had the same friendly habits and relationships I did.

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Feet Under the Table – Dinner in Italy.

Feet Under the Table – Dinner in Italy.

I realized my sweet coffee sanctuary had turned into an empty room half the size of a gymnasium that on this Friday morning had ten customers (I counted them) staring into or tapping on their laptops not far from four men lounging on couches staring at their cell phones.

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Bill Bonin: “An Arch Evil Person” or Just an Ordinary- Guy?

Bill Bonin: “An Arch Evil Person” or Just an Ordinary- Guy?

Bonin was convicted of often of the murders linked to the “Freeway Killer” in two separate trials in 1982 and 1983. He spent fourteen years on death row before he was executed by lethal injection at San Quentin Prison 1996. He was the first inmate in California to die by this method. (California’s ‘Freeway Killer’ Executed.” February 23, 1996. Retrieved November 27, 2018.)

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