Or more particularly, why murder? Not why do people do it. If you’re looking for superb investigative journalistic writing, this is not that blog. What I mean is, why write about deaths, obsess over the details, rehash famous murders—why talk about it at all? Why even have famous murders? Shouldn’t we want to forget the horrible things done to our fellow humans? Instead we seem to revel in them.
I’m not talking about the people who venerate serial killers to rock star status. There is something deeply disturbing to me about celebrating the evil and washing away the victims like grit from the path. I’m talking about the fascination ordinary people have with evil and what prompts someone to commit the ultimate taboo.
Perhaps these stories serve as cautionary tales. Lock your doors. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t get into cars with strangers. Follow all the rules so you can stay safe. But do they make us more careful or just paranoid?
Maybe it’s all an elaborate revenge fantasy. Point the finger. Find the evil and root it out. Take back our world so that we can leave the house alone, with the door standing open, and get into the car with anyone we please.
I don’t have any answers. Again, not that blog. I just know that I can’t look away.
For me, my true crime roots stretch back to my childhood. I was a weird child. I learned to read early and so I read everything I could get my hands on. By Kindergarten I was happily devouring chapter books. From there it was Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. Mysteries were an obvious choice because that was my mother’s addiction.
My mother was an R.N. and my father was a police officer. Our dinner conversations were unfiltered and that knowledge, that interest seeped into my brain. Yesterday’s surgery and today’s fatal accident were all fair game for discussion. Over the years, my prurient interest was fed and watered with both fictional and true crime.
When I went to law school, the one thing I knew was that I didn’t want to practice criminal law. I was aware how flawed the system was and I had seen the deep groove marks it left in peoples’ lives. The person most likely to be shot by a police officer’s gun is the police officer. They have high rates of PTSD and suicide. More officers die each year by suicide than gunfire or traffic accidents combined. When you see the results of crime not as an interested bystander but as a participant in the process, you don’t get the option of looking away. There is no case too horrible or disturbing for you to read that report or look at those photos or meet that survivor. It’s your job. It becomes part of your life.
As you are probably guessing, the one area of law I wasn’t going to practice has been my life for the last quarter of the century. I can’t really explain it other than I tried criminal law one time and I was hooked. There have been times I really wanted to look away, but I just can’t. Staying the course, seeing things through feels like victory. I can make a difference as a prosecutor. I can advocate for victims. I can help keep dangerous predators off the street. I can also temper justice with mercy and my righteous anger must always remain bound by fair play.
So there are images I still see when I close my eyes. There are families and victims who have left marks on my heart.
I’m not sure if I’m doing this to purge the bad or share the good or just as an intellectual exercise, but separate from my work, I’m still just plain fascinated by murder and death. If you’re still reading this, welcome to Cowtown Crime. I’m going to be blogging about true crimes that occurred in the DFW or surrounding areas. I can’t promise a new post every week. I’m trying to work and pretend to have a life as well. I think monthly or bi-monthly is a more realistic goal, but we will see how it rolls.
I hope anyone who reads this will take a moment to drop me a comment and tell me how you came to be a true crime addict. Feel free to reach out by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to let me know if I can share any of your email content (names and addresses redacted, of course.)
Starting next week I’ll be blogging about one of those crimes I couldn’t look away from, a crime with devastating consequences that spread far beyond the initial violence, like ripples in a pond—the machete murder at White Rock Lake.