Everyone felt the same way: Small-town Nebraska widow Helen Wilson didn't have an ounce of meanness in her body. Then, on February 5, 1985, one of the coldest nights on record, the unthinkable happened. The 68-year-old resident was murdered inside her second-floor apartment. But why?
Local residents were horrified. What type of monster would target a vulnerable widow to fulfill his homicidal sexual fantasies? The crime scene was eerily ritualistic. The trail of evidence turned frustratingly cold until an astonishing breakthrough occurred four years later. A torn scrap of money recovered at the crime scene became the presumed smoking gun that helped solve the hideous crime. The news of six arrests was absolutely stunning to the locals in this easygoing blue-collar community of 12,000 residents. But why were six loosely connected misfits who lived as far away as Alabama, Colorado, and North Carolina being linked to the rape and murder of a beloved Nebraska widow?
As they sat in jail, the constant threat of Nebraska's barbaric electric chair frightened these troubled souls, except for one of them. Joseph White remained defiant in his fight to prove his innocence. It didn't matter. All six of the condemned were convicted of murder and sent away to prison for the ghastly crime. The town moved on, convinced that justice had been served.
For more than 25 years, the Beatrice 6 rotted in prison. In 2008, DNA tests proved that there'd been a terrible failure of justice, but what would it mean to the prisoners?
"John Ferak has carved his necessary true-crime niche with another fascinating exploration of unalloyed evil in overlooked places, and a dysfunctional judicial system. A chilling piece of journalism." (Ron Franscell, author of The Darkest Night and Morgue: A Life in Death)
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Fascinating true crime but needs focus
I didn't know anything about this crime or the convictions. The title indicates there was an injustice but that's about it. So I was disappointed the audio starts with a prologue which pretty much summarises the entire book. I strongly recommend you skip this.
The rest of the book covers in great detail, the community of the time, the horrific crime, search for a suspect, conviction and aftermath. There are a lot of characters and I found it tricky to keep track of who was who. Because it's told chronologically there's also the introduction of new characters throughout, sometimes just to make a point and then they disappear.
I realise there's a duty with non fiction to tell the story from many viewpoints and angles, but this just led to the feeling I was looking down at the scene and not involved. I therefore didn't feel any emotional attachment to the victim or the suspects, and didn't much care what happened (compounded by the prologue having already given away the ending).
So, is this book worth it? Yes I think so. The crime took place within my lifetime in the 1980s and I found it scary to hear how the investigation was handled. I remember when DNA testing was first used in a case in the UK and found it fascinating to hear how this new technology became incorporated into the judicial process of this case. It was also narrated well. This is the second book I've listened to by Kevin and I find he keeps a calm, steady pace with even tone, just right for such a serious non-fiction topic. Overall rating 3.5 stars.
Finally I must mention two things 1) I received a non-cost copy of this book in exchange for a review. 2) I can only read gifted books on the US site but I'm an avid reader and all my reviews (over 70 to date) can be found on the UK site.