First you must pick an interesting crime. I specialize in homicides in my home state of Ohio. Routinely reading newspapers will help the writer find murder cases. Find a homicide that has numerous good elements that will hold one’s interest.
Next you must start the investigation of your chosen crime. To find my information, I read newspaper reports of the homicide. I searched court documents for witness reports, and courtroom testimony. I interviewed witnesses. Persons that either were present when the crime occurred, or had after the fact information. Try to locate the victim’s family members, and see if they want their side of the story told. If the case goes to trial, the Defense’s job is to discredit the victim. To portray the deceased as the “bad guy.” This type of mud slinging does not sit well with loved ones of the victim. Give them a chance to speak for the deceased. Anyone that was involved with the case, will have something of interest to report. Don’t forget to locate the reports of the arresting officers and the homicide detectives. Try to locate the coroners report, any eyewitness, or person’s who reported hearing an altercation or gunshots.
Keep abreast of updates, and read everything that was written about the case. Build a relationship with the law enforcement officials who are involved in the case. I personally live in a very small town, where most person’s know one another, and many have relatives or close friends that are involved with law enforcement. Attend the trial and speak to everyone you can about the criminal, the victim and prosecution and defense witness.
Last but not least, sit down and write. Now it is time to tell the story of the crime. Hopefully you will find most of the information you need in your copious notes--if not go back and get the answers you need. Never throw away any notes or information concerning the case. Not even after the trial is over with, and the story is written. Most convicted felons apply for numerous appeals, which take years to dissolve. Some cases never seem to end; The Crime of the Century was such a case. When the accused was found guilty and sent to prison, he and his attorneys, who always believed him innocent, continued fighting for his freedom. That blessed event came after the convicted spent five years on death row. He was cleared with DNA, but it still took nearly thirty years to find the true killers. If you want your true crime novel to be believable, you can't fudge the facts.
Blurb for The Crime of the Century:
The residents of Rolling Hills, a hamlet in southeastern Ohio, were horrified when the dismembered bodies of two missing teens were pulled from the local river. Multiply suspects surfaced, but only one was railroaded, Richard Allan Lloyd, a known nudist and hothead.
What began as an evening stroll turned into what found only in horror films, and dubbed ‘the crime of the century’. 18 year old Babette, a voluptuous beauty contestant and horsewoman, and her 19 year old boyfriend Shane Shoemaker, a jealous and possessive unemployed printer, were last seen crossing a trestle bridge. Within fourteen days, their mutilated torsos and severed heads and limbs were unearthed, suggesting satanic cult activity.
With an investigation smeared with contradicting statements, and a botched crime scene, investigators built a flimsy case against Richard Lloyd. The three-week trial was based on police corruption and ineptitude, fairytale theories, and forensic mishandling.
This heinous crime shattered the sense of security for Rolling Hills, destroyed two families, and forever scarred the town. This story is a detailed account of finding justice for Babette and Shane, and of one man’s perseverance to gain his freedom from death row.
Excerpt: The Disappearance
October 4, 1982, started out as an ordinary autumn evening, for this mined-out Appalachian region in southeastern Ohio. The sticky summer was gone. The ground was blanketed with gold and red leaves, and the last full moon before All Hallows’ Eve, was complete. A cosmic cycle said to stir passions in some, anger and rage in others.
“Beggars’ Night,” was just around the corner. Homes were elaborately decorated with Paper-Mache witches and goblins, as carved pumpkins of all sizes sat on porches and in yards, made even creepier with lit candles.
Yes, it would have been an average evening, if not for two unnerving events. First, the arrival of the notorious motorcycle gang, The Devil's Disciples. The group frequented The Home Tavern, a sordid bar on the corner of Gallagher and Motherwell. According to police reports, having a thirst for alcohol, the bikers and their sweaty, leather-clad women produced numerous problems while in town. Calls from residents, concerning fistfights and disorderly conduct, flooded the police station. Locals reported spotting some members of the gang roaming the streets as the reports of vandalism kept the police busy.
Originally the Depot Hotel, The Home Tavern, sat directly across the street from a twenty-five acre “infamous” cornfield. A common place for knife-fights, pot parties, and hanky panky from all ages. Running through the cornfield was the murky and meandering Hocking River.
The second incident, involved sex, lies, lust, and murder as gunfire emanated from the opposite end of the cornfield. The sounds of shots echoing from the nearby cornfield was such a common sound that it caused them little concern.
What shortly followed was a frantic search for two missing sweethearts, 19-year-old Shane Shoemaker, and 18-year-old Babette Lloyd. Chief White immediately posted an announcement in that day’s newspaper, stating the “public was invited” Lt. Phillipes was put in charge of that search party.
The meeting sight was the old Kroger building on Round Street, near the home of Shane Shoemaker. At 4 pm., despite being a chilly and windy day, sixty to seventy people showed up for the search. Among the crowd, were Babette’s mother and stepfather, Nancy and Richard Lloyd, the local news team, deputy sheriffs, city police, and officers from the Masonville Vocational School.
Attorney Jack Jones was also present. He now represented the Shoemaker family, who were out of town. He used this time to tighten the noose around the stepfather’s neck.
What took place within a few hours became legendary for the close nit community.
At 5:45 pm., Chief White used his walkie-talkie, to radio Lt. Phillipes, who stayed at the command post with Richard and Nancy. Only a few short words were needed.
“We found something, but we don’t know what it is,” said the chief.
What searchers found . . . was unthinkable.
Just 150 yards north of the railroad trestle spanning the Bottle Neck River, Sheriff Reynolds and one of his deputies reported “something entangled in debris,” near their small boat.
The officers initially said they believed the object was an animal carcass. Once it was dislodged and floated down
stream, they realized it was human. Both torsos
were reportedly snagged against brush along the riverbank. Both torsos were
nude and so badly decomposed, officers said they were unable to determine their
The remains were pulled to shore and coroner Rausch was summoned to the riverbank. Many searchers, upon leaving the crime scene, were overheard by reporters asking one another “Are the authorities looking for one killer or two?”
After his initial examination of the bodies, the coroner said he was unable to rule on the cause of death. What he did say, was that if one man committed both murders, it was “during a great rage” and by someone with something “very personal” against one, or both, of the victims.
The discovery of the bodies shocked and silenced the group of volunteers. Some remained silent, while others were seen conversing in hushed tones, telling reporters they “expected the search to turn up nothing.”
When officers carried a body bag from the river, Lt. Phillipes approached Nancy and Richard, who he described as “the quiet couple.” He claimed Richard calmly asked, “Is it them?”
Lt. Phillipes reluctantly admitted it was two individuals. He claimed Richard then asked, “Are they all chopped up?”
Phillipes said he was shocked by that comment. He claimed when he asked Richard why he would ask such a thing, he said Richard claimed to be psychic. Phillipes said he was taken back by the man’s “strange statements and unemotional attitude” of the discovery of two murder victims. He said Richard then suggested officers should search the adjoining cornfield.
Note: All names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty.
JoAnne’s books along with her original canvas paintings, can be found at: http://www.booksandpaintingsbyjoanne.com
Contact JoAnne: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: Books and Paintings by JoAnne
Order your copy of “The Crime of the Century” by JoAnne Myers here http://www.blackrosewriting.com/non-fiction/the-crime-of-the-century-a-shocking-true-story
Other books by JoAnne:
Murder Most Foul-a detective/mystery
Wicked Intentions-a paranormal/mystery anthology
Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between
Loves, Myths, and Monsters- a fantasy anthology available April 24
Twisted Love-a biography true crime anthology available in May
Flagitious-a detective/mystery novella anthology