Thursday, August 28, 2014

 
All Hail The True Crime King
- Gary C. King!
 
Gary C. King is one of the world's foremost true crime writers and serial killers expert, a reputation he has earned over the last 33 years with the publication of more than 500 articles in true crime magazines in the United States, Canada, and England. King's many television appearances include Entertainment Tonight, Larry King Live, E!, BBC, Court TV, Inside Edition. I could go on but let's talk to man himself. 
Madame Perry: Welcome to Madame Perry’s Salon, Gary, it’s an honor to have you here. Please make yourself comfortable. My first introduction to true crime books was the reigning queen of the genre – Ann Rule. Let me share a quote from your website. 
 
King took over Ann Rule’s job as Pacific Northwest stringer for True Detective, Official Detective, Inside Detective, Front Page Detective, and Master Detective magazines, writing hundreds of nonfiction articles under various names until those magazines ceased publication in the mid-1990s.” 
Did you personally know or work with Rule? 
 

Gary C King 

Gary C. King: I do know Ann. I’ve met her several times at conferences. However, I’ve never worked with her, and have never wanted to work with her. Also, I cannot and do not endorse her work because I do not care for it. It’s for those reasons, among others, that I have never asked her for a blurb and would turn down one from her if ever offered. After her days at True Detective ended, she tended to go off in a direction that I find difficult to support. Now that I’ve gotten older, however, there are several things I do not concern myself about: death and dying, book sales, and Ann Rule! Some true crime authors seem to want to emulate other true crime writers which is a mistake, in my opinion, and many have certainly had their introduction to the genre via Ann’s books. A true crime writer needs to find his or her own voice, and his or her own style. I try to avoid most true crime writers as most have only self-serving interests and will do just about anything to further their own careers, including breaking trusts with other writers. A well-known true crime writer who also writes in the Young Adult and fiction genres recently broke trust with me on Facebook, shortly after DEAD OF NIGHT was released.  As a result I’ve had to reassess the importance, or perhaps lack thereof, of being friends with those in the business! 
MP: I’ve read several of your books, Gary, and I’d like to ask you about some of them. How do you choose to write about a particular crime or killer?  
GCK: Yes, I know, Jennifer, lol, which I do sincerely appreciate. It’s always great to connect with readers who like and appreciate one’s work. As for picking a particular crime or criminal, I always try to choose crimes and/or criminals to write about simply by picking those that interest me personally. If a case or a killer does not interest me on some personal level, I simply do not write about. That’s not to say that I’ve never written about a crime or criminal that hasn’t interested me—I have, thanks to editors and their poor choices. When an editor has picked cases for me, that interest at a personal level is missing and it often shows in the finished product and reader acceptance. Editors think they know everything, but I can say with all honesty and sincerity that they do not. Sometimes, more often than not, the author knows best. I tend to prefer writing about serial killers because, frankly, they are more interesting than a typical murder, though there are always exceptions.
MP: Approximately how much time is spent from deciding to write about a specific story, researching it, and the finish line? 
GCK: Usually I spend anywhere from six months to a year researching and writing about a case. That was the typical time spent when writing under contract for a traditional publisher. Now that I’ve gone indie there’s no need to rush because there are no deadlines to meet. I expect that I will be taking longer to finish projects in the future because there is no longer any need to rush.

MP: Are some stories more difficult than others? I’m thinking of Angels Of Death, about 13-year-old Derek King and his 12-year-old brother Alex King who were arrested after their father, Terry King, was bludgeoned to death as he slept. The boys certainly had a less than ideal childhood being abandoned by a drug addict mother and moved around to various foster homes. Yet I got the sense that Terry was trying to keep his boys with him and out of trouble. How does it feel to examine a case of coldblooded killers who are still just children?
 
GCK: Cases involving children, whether they are the murder victims or the killers, are always the most difficult to research and write about due to the emotional aspects involved. Terry King was not an ideal parent, but based on the information I found he was trying to raise his boys as best he could as a low-income single parent. I believe he protected his boys, but they saw things differently, possibly due to outside influences such as Chavez and drug experimentation at such an early age. They saw Terry King as being unreasonably strict, but that was clearly not the case. Those boys came and went as they pleased. In spite of Terry King’s shortcomings, many of which were through no fault of his own, he did not deserve to be brutally beaten to death by his sons and set afire afterward in an effort to cover up the crime. Those two boys seemed incorrigible to me, and had turned into monsters by the time they killed their father. You can read more about this case and the boys after their release from prison on my blog.
 
 
MP: A different situation involving children, and one that the country followed on the news as people kept a lookout for them, was recounted in Stolen In The Night. The relatives and friends of young Shasta Groene and her brother Dylan were thrust into an unthinkable nightmare when their family was murdered and the two children were missing. Shasta was rescued when she was recognized in public and sexual psychopath Joseph Edward Duncan III was arrested, charged and sentenced to death. During your research did you find many situations in Duncan’s history that should have alerted people to the kind of monster he was? Were there things people should have noticed that, had the proper authorities been notified, could have saved this family from such tragedy and heartbreak?
 
GCK: Like many pedophiles, Duncan managed to slip through the cracks of a system that was designed to keep monsters like him out of circulation. His earlier crimes, such as those in Tacoma, Washington, should have been ample warning that he was a danger to children. Sometimes, even with the best efforts of law enforcement, the system fails. It failed with Westley Allan Dodd, subject of my book DRIVEN TO KILL and who I interviewed at length before his execution, and it failed with Duncan. As with Dodd, there were several instances in which Duncan should have been kept behind bars but was not. I still have problems with why more information could not have been developed years earlier when the Martinez child was killed in Riverside County, California. They had a description of the man, as well as a description of the car he was driving. Perhaps the descriptions were inadequate to bring about identification and arrest, but one can’t help but wonder if the ball may have been dropped somewhere along the way. At least we can now be reasonably assured that Duncan will never hurt another child. No family should ever have to endure the tragic consequences that the Groene family, and other families like them, have gone through.

 
MP: MURDER IN HOLLYWOOD is about the killing of BonnyLee Bakley, wife of actor Robert Blake with whom she had a child. There are people who have followed Blake since he was a young actor and have all manner of speculations about him and his life. I was surprised at the complicated back story on Bakley. Gary, was her background, failed ambition and career as a con and extortionist fairly well known among Hollywood insiders?
 
GCK: MURDER IN HOLLYWOOD is a book that my editor at St. Martin’s Press chose for me to write about, and it was one chosen by an editor that I actually enjoyed doing despite the fact that the publisher only gave me 30 days to write the book. The publisher helped with the research, and I worked day and night to complete the manuscript. The book was published before Blake’s trial, in which he was acquitted. Though Blake himself was an interesting subject, even without a murder investigation, it was Bakley’s activities or antics that really carried the story. Due to the time limitations involved in writing the book, it was clear to me that a number of people in Hollywood knew about her but boiled the question down to just how much people may have known about her. Bakley’s scam victims knew what she was to be sure, but how much of what she was doing that may have filtered out to the so-called insiders may never be known.
 
MP: A very sad story of another type was that of Yale graduate Kathryn Ann Martini, a young beautiful woman with a bright career ahead in banking. Smart, focused and
 
hardworking, it seems her mistake was falling in love with and marrying Michael David Lissy. Murder In Room 305 details the foul plan of this sleazy, coke-addicted miscreant who planned the violent death of his bride of only a year in order to collect the hefty life insurance policy he’d taken out on her. Did you talk to many of Kathryn Ann Martini’s family and friends? So many people are affected deeply for life after a tragedy like this, aren’t they?
 
GCK: I talked to some of Kathryn’s family and friends, but most of the information came out of public files. Her family was deeply affected by her murder, especially her parents. One of her sisters contacted me after the book’s publication, and related some of their feelings to me. In respect of their privacy and since the information was not contained in the book, I feel I should keep those revelations private. David Wilson, the killer, was paroled in the late 1990s. Lissy, I’ve heard, was paroled in April of this year. Both of those paroles must have added to the hurt and pain experienced by Kathryn’s family.
  

MP:  You already know that every time I start one of your books I want to read the whole story at once! That’s when I send you tweets saying once again you kept me up all night, and your reply is usually along the lines of “It’s my job!”  

Thank you for the excellent research and writing in your books as well as the sensitivity to the loved ones on all sides of the stories who carry the grief and pain for a lifetime. When I first interviewed true crime authors, there were people who accused me of glorifying or sensationalizing crime. So I always add the reasons I read and share the books.  

Yes, I’m fascinated by the unpredictability of human behavior, to put it very simply. However, I don’t believe I’ve ever read an account of true crime where there weren’t several hints, red flags and outright warnings of someone’s potential for violence maybe for years before a crime occurs. And for whatever reason no information was shared or action taken which could have prevented it.  
So I repeat the simple words that if you see something, say something. And if you see or know something but don’t want to get involved – too late, you’re already involved and have a responsibility. 
I wish you much continued success in your career, Gary, and hope you’ll return soon.
GCK: Thanks, Jennifer. I’ll be happy to return here anytime!

MP: Gary C. King's website keeps readers up to date on his books plus videos, podcasts, blog posts, and a page of victims' resources.  Follow him on Twitter and 'Like' him FaceBook. He likes communicating with his readers so leave a comment here. Like most of our guests he'll probably reply.

Buy his books! Oh, and don't forget to keep your flashlight by the bed.
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In The Mix With Joey Stuckey

 
Readers, it would take an entire blog post to list the awards, affiliations, and celebrity clients and collaborators of this guest. I'll just have a little talk with him, then you can visit his website. Trust me, you'll do that.
 
Madame Perry: Hello, Joey, and welcome to Madame Perry’s Salon. Please make yourself comfortable. Joey, I had heard people rave about your mad talent as a musician for many years. Actually our mutual friend, musician, songwriter and vocalist Sue G. Wilkinson was the first person to tell me about you. When did you begin to play music, and on what instrument?

Joey Stuckey: Sue is amazing and a true one of a kind talent, we have a lot of respect for each other and I am honored she brought me to your attention.

I first took piano around seven years old, but, only took for six months. As a kid I had a lot of health problems, the result of a brain tumor, and just wasn't ready to give of myself to make music. I was more interested in feeling better and doing kid stuff. My Mom also tried to give me guitar lessons at around five years old from a local college professor; that lasted one lesson, again, I just wasn't ready and again, I had to overcome so many health related obstacles. At that age I had yet to understand the power of music.
Joey Stuckey

My Mom was convinced that I was a musician. My parents played non professionally, by that I mean it wasn't their profession, just something they loved to do when the opportunity presented. My Dad believed that when I was ready to play, if I ever was, she wouldn't have to make me practice. They were both right!

My first real foray into the world of music was about the age of fifteen as the sound tech for a local planetarium. I had started recording and fooling around with recording gear at thirteen and found I had an affinity for it. Many of my co-workers, who were about eighteen and had bands, asked if I would record them. Once I heard the power of original, live music it was my epiphany! Music was my destiny. 
 
James Brown with Joey Stuckey
My career as a recording engineer and producer was born, and at seventeen I started taking guitar lessons from guitarist and teacher Terry Cantwell.

Terry had never taught a blind person before--oh, did I mention I am blind? Well that was another result of the brain tumor. Anyway, Terry said he would and could teach me and that he would find a way to impart the information I needed to be a musician. He did and he is truly one of the people I love best in this world and part of my family. He even went so far as to draw in a box of sand the musical staff and notes so I would have an understanding of what they looked like.

So that is how it all started on the guitar. I also found over the years that I was handy on bass and vocals and had an adequate amount of talent on keys and percussion.

In most of the full productions I produce in my studio these days, I often play all instruments for my clients. 



MP: You’ve had quite a career playing and producing music. What are the achievements of which you are most proud?

JS: Hmmm, that is a hard one. I have had so many wonderful opportunities and experiences, but, I'll tell you a few quick things that over the last few years have meant a lot. First, I love to teach and take true pleasure in feeling like I am assisting others reach their potential. So teaching at Mercer University where I also attended college is a real highlight. I also travel a lot and do guest lectures--this year I had an amazing time in Hattiesburg, Mississippi  with the students and faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi.

I have also been blessed to work with two outstanding young ladies that are starting their musical careers at the age of sixteen and are amazing talents. I am proud to be their co-writer, producer, engineer and have played all the instruments on their releases, you should for sure check them out, in the genre of country Savannah Alday and in the genre of pop Katherine Daniel.

Finally, my last album Mixture which is my first full jazz release, charted at number nine on the CMJ top 40 Jazz charts for North America and got a lot of great reviews in fusion magazines across the globe.

My friend and co-writer on the project Tom Rule who performed piano/keys on the album and is a long time band member in the Joey Stuckey band was a big reason this record was so successful and I can't thank him enough. We also had two masters of percussion on the record, Marcus Reddick and another long time Joey Stuckey band member and ARC recording artist Miguel Castro, again, the record wouldn't be the same without them. 
 
JS with Trisha Yearwood and
his father, Talmadge Stuckey

MP: Would you tell me a story about a situation or gig that turned out quite differently – for good or bad – than you expected?
JS: Well, this is one of my favorite stories!

I was playing in my mid twenties at a bar in Milledgeville, GA. This was a rock and blues version of the Joey Stuckey Band which brings a new definition to the word eclectic. Anyway, we were performing the Steve MillerBand song  The Joker. I love this song and the lyrics that say "I really love your peaches want to shake your tree" I always smile a lot when singing this line, it just fits my sense of humor. 

So, being blind is always an adventure and on this night while singing this song and smiling like I do, I attracted the attention of a young lady that wanted to take someone home with her that night. She thought I was smiling at her. Of course, I wasn't, I had no idea she was there, I was just singing. She thought I was flirting with her and started dirty dancing for me as part of her mating ritual. 

After that song, she thought I started ignoring her. I of course wasn't--again, I had no idea she was there. Four or five songs later we took a break and then came the smackdown! 

She stormed up to me and asked me who the hell I thought I was. I was shocked.

The Breakdown
 
Me: What are you talking about? 

Solid Gold Dancer: You started flirting with me and then after I danced for you you decided I wasn't good enough and just started ignoring me! 

Me: I am blind, I didn't see you. 

Dancing Queen: Whatever! 

My friends: No, he really is blind.

Well, after telling me some more of how little she thought about me she stormed off and ended up finding someone else. Likely a more appreciative candidate. 

This story exemplifies how no one ever thinks of me as blind and some people never believe it. We should recognize our limitations so that we are able to compensate for them, yet not define ourselves in terms of those limitations. Just as I am more than a musician, I am also more then a blind man, though both things are a part of me and should be acknowledged.

MP: You’ve added another career as a teacher. I believe when I saw you last you had a class of your students from Mercer University coming into your studio for final exams. How do you like teaching?
Joey Stuckey and band perform
Give Five from Mixture

JS: I love it! It is something you need to have a passion for or you can't do it effectively as there are many frustrations that go with the job. Fortunately I love educating others about music and also enjoy the role of inspirational speaker about living a successful life and overcoming adversity. I teach at the college level here in my hometown of Macon and of course as I mentioned above, I travel the country teaching at other colleges and have a cadre of private students that I love!

MP: Give me your impressions of the younger group of musicians who are coming into their own now with such a wide range of influences.

Joey with Omar Hakim

JS: For sure the music biz has changed and of course many of the sounds have changed as well, though I think for the most part they are reiterations of the past--like the big-synth sounds of Lady Gaga, really just modern sounds of the late 70s and early 80s. But, that being said, I love music of all genres and time periods and am glad that there is so much talent in the biz still. I am most especially proud of the talent here in Georgia! I just wish we had the same kind of infrastructure that Los Angeles or Nashville has to get that talent exposed to the world.

MP: Tell us about your show Studio 41.

Joey with Diana DeGarmo
JS: If you are fortunate enough to get a slot performing on a local TV station, the audio can be quite challenging. TV studios, at least at the local level aren't usually set up for musical performances. I was tired of not sounding like I knew I could when I performed on TV and I knew that I wasn't the only person not having the sound they deserved. So instead of complaining, I decided to do something about it. 
I produce the show which is broadcast on the local NBC affiliate. I am set up for music production and TV stations typically aren't, so it just made sense to tape it in my studio. However, I don't try to get a recording studio sound, but keep it live sounding so the audience knows what the band really sounds like with out a lot of studio trickery.
Joey with Gregg Allman

It is important to me to support local/indie music from GA. I've been doing that in print, on the radio both web and terrestrial and it was time to do it on TV.

We have wonderfully talented folk here in GA and I encourage folks to check out the program via web if they don't live in our broadcast area. You can look for episodes on YouTube and also on Shadow Sound Studio and at Studio 41 NBC.



Joey and Carole King
MP: Let’s talk about your newest CD, Mixture, which has a permanent place in my car. It has a pop jazz feel and yet I feel like I’m listening to a soundtrack for a 70s or 80s television show with a private investigator and several glamorous guest stars. So, yeah, what was the inspiration for the songs and are you a fan of vintage TV actions shows?

JS: I love TV, though I am blind. So many TV shows -  Magnum PI and Night Court just to name two - have great theme music. And who doesn't like those sexy guest stars, or in my case starlets.

There was no conscious effort to bring that kind of sound forth, but, I care about good melodies. As a 70s baby my musical influences really began in the 80s. Still, the music is really about trying to find melodies that folks could hum along with or get hooked on.



Joey with Michael Stipe
MP: What’s next for you, Joey, musically and personally? 
JS: Fame, fortune and then retirement! Seriously though, I am happy as long as I can continue doing just what I do now.

I am always on the look out for the next adventure life has in store. One thing is for sure however, I will continue with music and the recording sciences in some way. My intention is to serve as a source of inspiration and assistance for others and never let my light go out.


MP: Thank you for being here at Madame Perry’s Salon. Please visit again.

JS: Thanks so much for having me, it is a true pleasure to chat with you any time!

MP: Click on over to Joey's website, his facebook page, and tweet with him. And get your very own copy of Mixture and Joey's other CDs.








Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mermaid Picnics, Computer Gaming, and Dismembering The Past! Yes, We Have The Award Winning Helen Ginger In The House!



Settle in, folks, this is going to be a ride with a lots of twists and turns with this fascinating guest. Helen Ginger is the author of five books: three non-fiction, a short story anthology and a contemporary fiction, Angel Sometimes which won the 2013 USA Best Book Award For Fiction. She maintains an informational and interactive blog for writers and a weekly e-newsletter that has been going out to subscribers around the globe for thirteen years. She is an owner-partner and Women’s Marketing Director for Legends In Our Own Minds®, which specializes in creative networking opportunities for companies and groups.

And how could I not be enchanted with someone whose blog is titled Straight From Hel!

Madame Perry: Welcome to Madame Perry’s Salon, Helen. We’re delighted to have you here. 

Helen Ginger: I am so glad to be here, too. Thank you for inviting me. 

MP: It’s remarkable to find that after following your blog and being twitter pals for years, plus reading about you and your work, I’m still astounded at all that you do. Among the list is blogging, ghostwriting, public speaking, author, editor, and you teach most every skill that you do. How many times a day are you asked how you do it all?

HG: Rarely does anyone ask me how I do it all. I think authors are all busy every day. If we're not writing, we're promoting, or connecting with readers or plotting out the next book or the next book tour.

MP: I love your book Angel Sometimes. Angel was taken 800 miles from her home in Oklahoma to South Padre Island, Texas and abandoned with only $50 just before her thirteenth birthday. Years later she hitchhikes to AustinTexas where she makes a life and makes plans for revenge while working as a mermaid in a restaurant/bar. 
The mermaid part of the story was a window into a world completely unknown to me, and quite captivating. The training, extraordinary tricks like eating underwater, special contact lenses and even getting in costume pull the reader in to a world as strange to us as being homeless was to Angel. I learned you were also a mermaid. Please tell us about it. How did you start, what were some of the best – and not so fun – parts?

HG: I gave Angel the job of swimming as a mermaid because I knew she could do it. Although I swam while I was in college, you don't have to have a degree to be a mermaid. You just have to not be scared. When I wrote Angel Sometimes, I gave her the job that I knew the most about and I knew she could do. She wears special contacts. I did not. The mermaids at AquarenaSprings wore goggles. We took them off during the picnic.  

When I started college, I needed a job to help pay for books, classes, etc. I worked as an assistant for one of my instructors. Then I went and applied to swim at Aquarena Springs and got the job. You go through quite a bit of training, such as synchronized swimming, and eating and drinking underwater. We mostly ate celery, strings removed (nothing pretty about celery strings caught in your teeth) and drank punch (not carbonated). 

To tell you the truth, I can't think of anything that wasn't fun about the job. Well, there was one time it wasn't fun. The swimmers came in to work and were told that a huge wall of water would be coming in that day (The river that Aquarena was on was fed by hundreds of springs and where that water comes from had been having a flood of rain.) So we all got together to move what we could to high ground and anchor down what couldn't be moved. The Ralphs were moved. (If you were a visitor to Aquarena you probably thought there was only one Ralph, there were several. Unlike the swimmers, the Ralphs could only swim one show, then they had time to recover before doing another show.) So…after all that, we were told to get in the water and swim the show. The water was so murky that we could hold a hand up in front of our face and not see it. We had to move the synchronized swimming close up to the window of the submarine. For picnic, we held onto the screws on the submarine while we ate. After the show was over, we, as usual, went out on the volcano to wave goodbye to the visitors. One man came out of the sub. 


Aquarena Postcard with Mermaid
and Author Helen Ginger (Lower Left)
MP: You’ve written three books in TSTC Publishing's TechCareer Series on Computer Gaming, Avionics, and Automotive Technicians. We likely can see what differentiates these from your novels and short stories, are there similarities in writing techniques or skills needed?

HG: Usually, for both fiction and nonfiction, you have to do research. For my non-fiction writing, I had to do a ton of research on each topic, including interviews with instructors or people in the business, finding as many of the schools in the US that teach that degrees, finding what classes are needed to get that degree, and more. I had a three month turnaround time for each book. I did quite a bit of traveling and spent hours transcribing what I had recorded. For fiction, you mostly make it up. Angel Sometimes was based on my experience to a certain extent. But my second fiction book, Dismembering the Past, is not based on me or my experience. One thing about Angel is that I know her more deeply than any other character. I started writing her years before the book came out. I wrote her at twelve years old. Around that time, I received a scholarship to the Vermont Studio Center and spent a month rewriting her as a young adult. I literally felt as though she was talking in my head.
 

MP: I learned from your website that you are owner/partner and the Women’s Marketing Director for Legends In Our Own Minds®. Could you tell us what this is and what sparked its creation? 

HG: Legends is a company my husband started. We do hunting, fishing and golfing expeditions. Mostly, what I do is maintain the website.
Helen Ginger

MP: Your newest book is Dismembering The Past. Dare I ask what it’s about? Just looking ahead to October when I plan to feature a suspense, thriller, or horror novel every day. 


HG: Here's the back cover blurb: Private Investigator, Matti McAllister, is searching for a missing 67 year-old woman who got on her bicycle and disappeared at the same time The Texas Butcher came to Mesquite Cove. The Texas Butcher has already killed twelve women around the state, dismembering them and displaying the body pieces. While hiding among the thousands of visitors in town for the Texas Teacup Sailboat Festival, he'll add three more -- unless the FBI and Matti can stop him.

If he doesn't kill her first. 

MP: You offer so much information on your blog about technique, events, resources and advice for writers. How can writers retain your services as an editor or advisor on their work?

HG: I’m doing very little editing now. I have one or two returning writers whom I edit. My focus at the moment is on writing. I'm open to talking with other writers, though. Sometimes if you're stuck at a point in your book, it helps to just talk it out.
 



MP: I know I spoke of this earlier, Helen, but just reading your website makes me feel like a total slacker. You definitely make the most of your talents! Thank you for spending so much time with us here. I hope you’ll return.

HG: Thank you for hosting me! If anyone has a question, I'll try to answer.

MP: Naturally a person as busy as Helen has all the good social media so we can visit her website, follow her on Twitter, read her blog Straight From Hel, and learn more about her books, newsletters, coaching, and her long time vices. I have an Amazon link on the upper left corner of this site so you can order Angel Sometimes, or go straight to Helen's Amazon author page.

 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"The Corruption Of Innocence, A True Story Of A Journey For Justice" by Lori St. John





Today I welcome attorney and author Lori St. John to talk about her book The Corruption Of Innocence, A True Story Of A Journey For Justice.

Madame Perry: Welcome to Madame Perry’s Salon, Lori. We met last year at Book Expo America and I was delighted to see you again this year. I believe you are on another book tour at the moment.


LSJ: Yes, it was lovely to meet you last year at the Book Expo and again, this year. I am promoting my book in Australia and Japan where future publication and speaking opportunities are opening up for me to share my life’s work.


MP: The Corruption Of Innocence is a powerful non-fiction legal thriller documenting your steadfast resolve to prevent the execution of an innocent man. The story begins when you are at a crossroads in your life after years of marriage, motherhood, and a career as a CPA. Shortly after you began working as a volunteer for Centurion Ministries you are assigned a case that took you halfway around the world and set in motion a journey of discovery you could not have expected. Did you have even the slightest clue in the beginning of the effect this case would have on your life?


LSJ: I had no idea what I was about to embark upon in this journey. At the time I was simply a volunteer looking to do something meaningful to serve others. Some of our most rewarding gifts in life are when we step out of our comfort zone and follow our heart through a mission. Had I known the extent of the battle I came to take on I would have possibly run the other way. However, it is these moments that define us by challenging and inspiring in us an inspired purpose. As you know, this case consumed my life for almost four years and took me on a roller coaster ride through a very powerful and corrupt legal system.

Lori St. John And Sister Helen Prejean
MP: Joseph Roger O’Dell, III had been arrested and convicted on charges of rape and murder. Though he had a criminal record prior to this, it seemed that even an armchair detective who never got closer to a crime scene investigation than a television set could have ruled him out in the beginning. Why do you think he was pursued and evidence pointing in other directions was ignored?

 
LSJ: This is not unusual in cases in wrongful convictions. In the United States, the National Registry of Exonerations reports 1,281 known exonerations during the last quarter century, with over 363 documented cases in which DNA was used to exonerate the innocent. This is significant. I have said, and will continue to state, that as long as we fail to address the core issues in cases of wrongful convictions we will continue to see them unfold in our country. Truth, integrity and accountability are essential components to a fair and just system. It is not unusual for prosecutors and/or Governors to seek higher political aspirations, as in the O’Dell case, where the prosecutor was seeking a judgeship nomination and the Governor sought a seat in the Senate. A wrongful conviction would look bad on their political belt. It has been documented that once the police focus on an individual, and there is a heinous crime being publicly debated, the government is pressured to solve the case. Sometimes truth is not at the core of the game. It should be. Whether a prosecutor or defense attorney, our system is designed to discover the truth- but only if we share ALL evidence, don’t intimidate witnesses and if we afford indigent defendants competent defense attorneys. It was clear in the case of Joseph O’Dell that the truth was not an issue in an otherwise wholly circumstantial case, and that personal motives by those in authority took precedence over justice.
 
 
MP: Among the harsh tragedies in this story seems to be that O’Dell was doomed on all sides. His own attorneys appeared to not be working in his best interest, the justice system didn’t seem to keen on getting the actual facts straight, and even family and friends were out to condemn him. It’s amazing he had the strength to continue fighting for himself. Can you explain how he managed even a tiny glimmer of hope through this?



Joseph Roger O'Dell
LSJ: You touch upon something quite compelling. That fact always amazed me as I walked the journey with him for almost four years. When you are innocent you never give up hope. Faith is what carries you through the hell you live on a day to day basis. It is the only thing that can
sustain the human mind through such mental torture. I was astonished at the roadblocks which challenged Joe every step of the way; not incidental roadblocks, but massive and continuous roadblocks strategically placed in the path of justice. It was mind boggling to me, a novice prior to my having studied the law and litigating as a criminal defense attorney myself. I have always thought it was not only O’Dell’s innocence, but mine, that drove this case to international proportions. I, too, always believed the truth would prevail. 


MP: During the time you worked on this case, you also were attending law school and expanding the reach of your battle against the justice system. Your commitment develops into an international cause in which you and O’Dell receive public support from Sister Helen PrejeanMother Teresa, the Pope, and both the Italian and European Parliaments. How did it feel to bring together such high profile support?

 
LSJ: I was functioning on pure adrenaline during that time, simply fighting with all I had to get the world to listen when the prosecutor threatened to sue the newspaper, ultimately shutting down the only median to expose the truth in the U.S.. It seemed logical to take Joe’s cause to the world. I did not look at it in that form at the time. In retrospect it was quite amazing the way it unfolded. I believe that when you have truth in your pocket and are authentic, an inspired woman on a mission is a force to be reckoned with, as the Richmond Times Dispatch wrote when they referred to my tenacity.


MP: I’m certain I am one of a huge number of people with great respect for the hard work, perseverance and sacrifices you made on behalf of Mr. O’Dell and your belief in his innocence. As I continued reading I imagined times when you were utterly overwhelmed. Still you could have pulled back and handed the work over to someone else, but you didn’t. How did you manage to keep the strength, of body and mind, to continue for so long?

 
LSJ: Thank you so much for you kind words. It was not easy, and yes I was overwhelmed to say the least. In the end I was mentally and physically exhausted. But as I mentioned earlier, when you are on a mission you will embrace both support and challenges equally. You don’t give up. I was determined not to give up because what I saw was so very unfair and was a distinct concerted effort to dust the truth under the carpet of the grave. The harder the opposition fought me, the harder I fought back, the greater my perseverance allowed me to find strategic ways to sustain the battle. More than once I felt I was “chosen,” so to speak, to do this work, as I did not know where my strength came from. I was simply a vehicle of justice for O’Dell and the hundreds of others who have been wrongly imprisoned for decades and decades of lost years.
 
Lori St. John In Front The Vatican
MP: It has been such a pleasure to have you here. I wish you much continued success, and hope you’ll return.

LSJ: Thank you for having me and for caring about this issue.
It is in fact a worldwide issue, not contained to the United States. It is my goal to continue to pursue my mission to expose the backstory of this highly controversial case, both to inspire and to educate others with the knowledge and experience I acquired over the past quarter century. Thank you using social media to reach millions of people around the world. Together we make a difference.

MP: This interview was more difficult for me than most because I wanted to ask questions to share the intensity and magnitude of the entire story without giving too much away. After interviewing many authors of true crime books I was accused once of glorifying criminal actions. I was grateful for the question so I could explain that though I'm rather curious about human behavior I had quite another motive. The authors reveal, in every book, incidents where people had an opportunity to intervene and prevent a crime but did not. A frequent excuse is not wanting to get involved, yet I believe strongly that if you see something, or know something, you are already involved.

The Corruption Of Innocence has a similar lesson. Many people had the opportunity to stop this heinous miscarriage of justice before it went off the rails, but did not. Many had the opportunity to do what was right morally, but chose to do what took the least effort.

Joseph Roger O'Dell III was an average man who went about daily life as a middle class American. He worked, had dreams of better things but dealt in reality, made some bad decisions, had regrets and still maintained a measure of optimism. In other words, he was a real, feeling human being, and he mattered.

Lori St. John did not have to spend years of her life researching law, taking apart the case against O'Dell, knocking down brick walls and going where she wasn't wanted in order to stand up for an innocent man whom she'd never met. Beautiful, intelligent, talented, and from an upper class background, she surely could have enjoyed those years playing tennis, lunching with the ladies, being a trophy wife and such. Once you've read The Corruption Of Innocence you will understand why I am one of the vast number of people who greatly admire and respect Lori St. John, and why I wanted all of you to meet her, too. 

Please follow Lori St. John on www.facebook.com/loristjohnauthor and www.loristjohn.com