Fatal Friends, Deadly Neighbors and Other True Cases, p.1Ann Rule
“AMERICA’S BEST TRUE-CRIME WRITER”
AND HER #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SERIES
ANN RULE’S CRIME FILES
Now celebrating sixteen essential collections!
“Chilling cases. . . . A frightening, fascinating rogue’s gallery of mercenary murderers.”
“The prolific and talented Rule brings to life a rich case.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Gripping. . . . Fans of true crime know they can rely on Ann Rule to deliver the dead-level best.”
—The Hartford Courant
“Fascinating, unsettling tales. . . . Among the very small group of top-notch true-crime writers, Rule just may be the best of the bunch.”
“Rule’s ability to depict both criminals and victims as believable human beings is perfectly embodied in this sad, fascinating account.”
MUST-READ TRUE CRIME FROM ANN RULE—DON’T MISS THESE CELEBRATED NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERS
IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
“Make yourself comfortable—at the edge of your seat! That’s where you’ll be throughout this chilling true story of infidelity, lies, and murder. . . . Another Ann Rule masterpiece.”
“An interesting case, a real-life whodunnit. . . . addictive.”
—True Crime Book Reviews
TOO LATE TO SAY GOODBYE
“The quintessential true-crime story. . . . The mesmerizing tale of how law enforcement coordinated information from two deaths separated by nearly a decade to convict Bart Corbin of murder. . . . Prepare yourself for a few late nights of reading.”
GREEN RIVER, RUNNING RED
“[Rule] conveys the emotional truth of the Green River case.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Riveting. . . . Rule infuses her case study with a personally felt sense of urgency.”
Ann Rule worked the late-night shift at a suicide hotline with a handsome, whip-smart psychology major who became her close friend. Soon the world would know him: Ted Bundy, one of the most savage serial killers of our time. . . .
THE STRANGER BESIDE ME
Now in an updated edition!
“Shattering . . . written with compassion but also with professional objectivity.”
—The Houston Post
“Ann Rule has an extraordinary angle [on] the most fascinating killer in modern American history. . . . As dramatic and chilling as a bedroom window shattering at midnight.”
—The New York Times
HEART FULL OF LIES
“A convincing portrait of a meticulous criminal mind.”
—The Washington Post
“Fascinating. . . . The sheer weight of [Rule’s] investigative technique places her at the forefront of true-crime writers.”
EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE
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—The Washington Post Book World
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Fire and Ice: The Powell Family Tragedy
Two Strange Deaths in Coronado
Double Death for the Kind Philanthropists
An Obsession with Blondes
The Last Valentine’s Day
The Man Who Loved Too Much
Terror on a Mountain Trail
No One Knows Where Wendy Is
‘Practice to Deceive’ Excerpt
About Ann Rule
For Susan, Charlie, Braden, Max, Becky, Opal, Burle, Marci, Nadine, Sonia, Dina, Sue Ann, Kit, Rose, Jeffery, and Wendy.
In the hope that losing you and your innocence will teach us to save others.
Most murder victims know their killers. Some were afraid of the stalkers who would one day rob them of their very lives; some had no idea of the danger that waited quietly for them. Stranger-to-stranger homicides are committed by serial killers and rapists, or during the process of other crimes such as armed robbery or violent home invasions.
Still, the last face the majority of murder victims see is that of someone they know—intimately or casually. And so superior detectives look first for connections, the interweaving of lives that may have led to homicide. Those who are naïve and inexperienced prefer to believe that they can discern some hidden menace in those who intersect their paths.
I used to think that. Now, I look back and see how smug I was when I believed I was foolproof. I had many courses in abnormal and criminal psychology at the University of Washington. After I graduated, I worked at Hillcrest, the Oregon State girls’ reformatory, was a Seattle police officer, and studied for weeks in basic homicide investigation school. I have both attended and lectured at scores of law enforcement seminars, and I’ve pored over what seems like miles of police reports to research thirty-three books and over a thousand articles on criminal cases. After so many years of writing about true crimes, I still haven’t been able to grow a thick enough emotional hide so that tragic stories don’t affect me. And I’m glad that I haven’t; black humor abounds in the homicide units I visit when I’m researching a book—but I know the detectives there joke to keep from crying. The sadder the case, the more they joke.
It never means they don’t care. And I have never reached a place where I don’t care deeply for the people I write about. But I am also an avid student of human behavior, always wondering how and why lives interconnect in scenarios that end in violence.
Despite all that, as the years have passed, I have come to realize how limited my own powers of perception are when it comes to really knowing what someone else may be thinking . . . or hiding.
In this book, the sixteenth in my Crime Files series, I relate some of the weirdest and the most chilling cases I have ever come across. Some are recent, even current. There are others that I first came across three decades ago. The first two investigations are novella length.
The first case is “Fire and Ice: The Powell Family Tragedy.” This began with the baffling disappearance of Susan Powell from her Utah home in December 2009. A blizzard raged outside on the last night anyone saw Susan. The main “person of interest” in this case was her own husband, the father of their two small boys.
Months ago, I promised Susan Powell’s parents that I would write her story, and I am honoring that promise. None of us knew then how horrifically the Powell story would play out in 2012. Had I known, I probably would not have attempted it.
The second case—“Two Strange Deaths in Coronado”—is only a year and a half old, and it raises the question of why the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office closed their July 2011 death investigation after only seven weeks. There are myriad theories on how and why Maxfield Shacknai, six, and Rebecca Zahau, thirty-two, perished in a billionaire’s mansion in Coronado, California, within forty-eight hours. Are any of these possibilities the true story?
And then, almost as suddenly as it happened, Max’s and Becky’s deaths faded to newspapers’ inside pages and from the top of the news, only to be quickly replaced by other mysteries, leaving family members of the deceased with an overwhelming sense of emptiness.
I am still wondering what could possibly have happened to two very unlikely victims. And I am not the only one still pursuing answers in a baffling case that cries out for a final chapter.
“Double Death for the Kind Philanthropists” explores the deaths of two lifetime philanthropists. It is such a sad case for almost everyone involved that it still haunts me.
“Fire!” tells the story of a real-life towering inferno, the end result of a dangerous arsonist’s fantasies. No one was safe in the many-storied hotel, and the casualty count could have been disastrous. When the smoke and flames were finally extinguished, the prime suspect was most unlikely.
In the case I’ve titled “An Obsession with Blondes,” I cover a serial rapist’s lust and deception as he carefully targeted his victims. He found them in seemingly safe venues, but he took them to locations where they were ultimately vulnerable. Luckily, an astute Oregon detective proved to be an adversary he could not overcome.
“The Last Valentine’s Day” recounts an inexplicable tragedy that took place back in the seventies and was eventually stored away in cold-case files as unsolved, and probably unsolvable.
After a very long time, one of several suspects I wrote about at the time of the crime finally emerged as the real killer of a trusting sixteen-year-old girl.
“The Man Who Loved Too Much” describes a murder case that embodies the familiar—and selfish—threat, “If I can’t have you, then no one can!” Those words can be an idle warning, but too often they are voiced by someone who means every word. Human beings are not possessions to be caught in an inescapable net. In this case, what once was love gradually became desperate entrapment for a frightened woman named Sue Ann.
“Terror on a Mountain Trail” pits a highly trained and powerful military man against two vulnerable women. A member of the U.S. Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, the stalker may have killed more women, including an airline ticket clerk who left her job one day and has never been seen again. As I traced this Ranger’s life since, I was surprised at what I found—and concerned for all women who fail to realize the perils of being alone where human predators watch them.
“No One Knows Where Wendy Is” is about every parent’s worst nightmare. All too often, people who seem to be safe, kind, and trustworthy are anything but. After Small Sacrifices, I vowed that I would never again write about the death of children, but there are some cases where I need to write cautionary tales that may save other children. Wendy’s story is one. Susan Powell’s sons’ fate is another.
Over time, many of the unsolved cases that I believed would never come to a satisfactory conclusion have been closed successfully. Often, the person or persons arrested were the last individuals I—and the initial investigators—suspected. After the fact, they make complete sense as all the gears mesh and physical evidence provides proof. It wasn’t nearly this easy from the other side.
The emergence of DNA testing and advanced forensic science in general are primarily responsible for these latter-day arrests and convictions. We can also thank the cold-case squads that have been added to major crime units in larger police departments throughout America.
One of the earliest theorems in the art of solving homicide cases is that the chance of a successful conclusion diminishes in direct proportion to the passage of time. If a murder isn’t solved in the first forty-eight hours, chances are that it never will be. That is still true today, but detectives who investigate murder have more of a head start now.
Sherlock Holmes—if he were real and not fictional—would be amazed by the new tools that can track and trap killers. Still, I don’t count out the homicide detectives whom I wrote about back in the day when I had to use my male pen name: Andy Stack. I was supporting my five small children by writing for magazines such as True Detective and for several Sunday newspaper syndicates. These publications fascinated crime buffs long before infamous murders were instantly covered on the Internet. But no one believed a woman could possibly know much about solving crimes, so I had to choose a male pen name. I became “Andy” for many years.
Police work is tough on the body and tougher on emotions, and many of those great detectives who were so kind in the beginning as they helped me find cases to write are gone now—retired or deceased. Without almost-miraculous forensic science updates, they solved crimes just as horrifying and seemingly impenetrable as those in today’s media. They knew how to gather and preserve evidence, and they also “hit the bricks” or went out “heel and toeing” as they canvassed neighborhoods looking for witnesses and clues. Moreover, they had the native-born intelligence and empathy—even psychic sense—that all first-rate detectives use to winnow out suspects.
In the seventies and eighties, most police departments had an 85 percent homicides-solved rate. What we now call “cold cases” were referred to as “losers,” an appellation homicide investigators dreaded.
It takes a special kind of police officer to become a detective; it always has.
Over the years, the killers themselves haven’t changed all that much; they remain convinced that they won’t be caught—ever. Sometimes their consciences bother them—if, indeed, they have consciences. More often, they barely think of the lives they end. Even when—especially when—their victims knew and trusted them.
If it wasn’t so trite, I might have called this book “Too Close for Comfort,” because it is full of violent crimes committed by people whose faces and voices were familiar to the victims. They all shared their lives in certain ways, sometimes for years and occasionally for only a brief period when fate placed both murderer and victim at the same crossroads in time and space.
FIRE AND ICE
THE POWELL FAMILY TRAGEDY
One of the questions I am asked frequently is “Don’t you have nightmares about the cases you cover?” Usually, I don’t. There is nothing as cathartic for me as emptying my brain of the awful details I learn about murders and pouring them onto a blank screen. Yes, I have had nightmares over the last forty years—but only a handful.
The twisted maze of horrendous events that began on December 6, 2009, in West Valley City, Utah, however, has given me dark images as I slept. I will never forget writing about what has been deemed “pure evil.”
Only in retrospect can I see where many of the tragic aspects of this story could have been and should have been prevented. If only they had been.
Of the nine cases in this book, I have put off writing this one until the very last. I know why. I didn’t want to think about it day after day, as I knew I would have to once I began to dig into the mental cesspools of two depraved minds.
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Loving parents treasure their babies and watch over them as they grow. The irony of parenthood is that as much as we want to protect our children from any kind of harm, we have to prepare them to leave us and enter a world where there are dangers we can neither perceive or prevent. It can be so worrisome the first time children walk to school by themselves, or have a sleepover at a friend’s house. And, before we know it, they are old enough to date and to drive a car, or ride in a car with drivers we don’t really trust.
But we bite our tongues and give them wings to fly by themselves. When grown children fall in love and choose someone to marry, we hope that person will be good to them. Sometimes we can see trouble ahead, bu
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Chuck and Judy Cox, who currently live in Puyallup, Washington, married for love, and they raised their four daughters in a happy and safe home. Mary was their firstborn in 1977, then Denise in 1979, Susan in 1981, and finally, Marie in 1984. Although many men might have been disappointed that they had no sons, Chuck was quite happy with his quartet of daughters. From the moment they were born, he was a protective father, doing his best to look after his girls.
The Coxes are devout members of the Mormon faith. They met in eastern Washington, at Medical Lake, and Chuck soon decided the pretty young woman with long dark hair was the one for him, and it’s obvious that he sees Judy today as he did then. He finds her as lovely as she was when she was a teenager, and she clearly cares for him the same way. As often happens, Chuck is the extrovert and Judy is the quiet one. Their likenesses and differences have bonded to make their marriage very successful over the years. At this point in their lives, they should be enjoying the retirement years most couples look forward to.
Instead, they have lived with terror and despair.
Chuck Cox is a pilot and a flight instructor, and Judy has made a home for him and their girls in many places around America: Denver; Minot, North Dakota; Holloman Air Force Base in Alamagordo, New Mexico; and Anchorage, Alaska. When he was in the air force, Chuck was an air traffic controller—a “Tower Flower,” as he puts it—and he scanned the boards constantly when he was on duty to be sure that all the planes he was responsible for were “laddered,” and that no two planes were ever on the same altitude and flight path at the same time.
It is a high-stress job, of course, but Chuck was good at it. He learned to live with having the responsibility for so many lives in the air, and he never lost his cool. Back in civilian life, he had to choose whether to be a full-time pilot or a civilian air traffic controller. He chose the latter and worked at Portland International Airport and Troutdale Airport in Oregon. After that he was an Aviation Safety Inspector in Renton, Washington.
Fatal Friends, Deadly Neighbors and Other True Cases by Ann Rule / Mystery & Detective have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes