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,...
I pulled the article closer and wondered how a hunch (which Websters defines as “a feeling or guess based on intuition rather than known facts) led to the series of breakthroughs responsible for the COVID vaccine.
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?”
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.
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.
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.)
All of my guests had left but one – a friend I treasured because after our weekly doubles match, we’d find a shady spot under a tree and put down our rackets. Mary would fluff her sensible short haircut and light a cigarette. I’d take a sip of lukewarm coffee as we enjoyed the quiet space. The topics could range wild and free from books we were reading, the political scene, our goofy dogs or what our kids were up to.
Day One. Meeting Chef Laura was like shaking hands with the CEO of a large, multinational company. She managed to exude all at once an in-charge personality (even if the business was culinary), a pleasant Italian hominess with the edge of that tight-lipped fifth grade teacher who scolded you for keeping an untidy desk.
The drive to Casa Ombuto through the lush, magnificent countryside of Tuscany thrilled me: dusty, dirt roads, well-cared for vineyards, hundred-year-old estates brought up-to-date with swimming pools and tennis courts gave me hope that if the cooking didn’t pan out there was plenty to explore outside the classroom. I learned Casa Ombuto was owned by a wealthy, English businessman who used the cooking school as an investment he could also use to entertain clients.
Get in Touch with Jane
Sign up to learn where Jane will be speaking, signing books, new blogs, and her upcoming newsletter. Most important, when her book is published.