The Bundy Secrets: Hidden Files on America’s Worst Serial Killer by Kevin M Sullivan

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Ted was  well-behaved, well-dressed, intelligent, and acted extremely proper at all times.

Growing up in Florida I still remember the day Bundy was executed in the electric chair as it was announced on a radio station I was listening to. I remember the dj telling a joke about there being a power bump because Bundy was on old sparky, certainly no one I knew was grieving. I go from thinking labeling such horrific murderers as monsters gives them too much power and removes them too far from humanity for us to attempt to understand them to feeling this has to be evil. There is information in this third and final book in Sullivan’s triology about Ted Bundy that I didn’t know. It makes sense that Liz was an anchor to his sanity, what remained of it anyway. I have to wonder why or how someone becomes Ted, with his urges? Do we study it, can it be explained, prevented? I don’t know, I really don’t know. Were there more victims? There certainly must be more we don’t know about Bundy than what we’re sure of. There are records of surveillance in this book, it starts off with Ted being followed. Such books serve a purpose, because when authors comb through the police records, victims testimony, interrogation of Bundy in the cases, speak to those who knew him well and those who just had a run in with him there is an extra pair of eyes that may well connect more dots, or find new evidence, make sense of the old.

This book really takes you knee deep into interviews, and what happened to his victims. It is horrifying, how can it not be, doubly so reading this as a mother? I cannot imagine what the families suffered in the aftermath, suffer still anymore than I can imagine the heartache his own family must face, friends who once trusted him. It’s terrifying how charming, educated, friendly he seemed to others. Why wouldn’t someone trust him, in all honesty, knowing so many felt he was always proper, sounded well-educated and looked like the sort of person we’re told to trust? It was as if there was this switch that turned off whatever was human inside of him. Where did his rage come from? Why one person and not another?  He seemed so blasé about everything he had done, though of course he didn’t want to talk about the victims, that would make them real people. I cannot get the thought out of my head of Bundy as predator, ‘observing people everywhere he went’. Not every stranger was fooled though, like the older bank teller who immediately thought he was a killer- why do some of us have the correct instinct and others of us fall for the act? Do our eyes trick our brain so much? These are just questions that hit me when I read anything about his sickening crimes.

The victims, let’s not forget the victims were people with lives, families and friends. Beautiful human beings who happened to attract Bundy’s attention through no fault of their own. Liz was his victim of a different sort too, but did he love her? Was he really capable of love, it seems she was more than a ‘cover’ to camouflage his blood-lust because again and again he turned to her. Was any part of him genuine? No one can act all the time, right? I cannot imagine having to face that the person you shared your life with, or given birth to is someone like Bundy.  “What did I miss, what is wrong with me that I didn’t see the signs?” There aren’t words to really describe the chaos that reigned in his wake, even today it lingers.

Kevin Sullivan’s book gives the reader the feeling of what it must have been like to piece together information from so many sources, trying to put it all together to tie Ted with his victims, the ones we know about anyway. In real life it isn’t all laid out in an orderly fashion and from the interviews to testimony and Ted’s own words it’s dizzying. Those who knew him best (if that were even possible) to strangers, many of their epiphanies came far later after he was caught and things added up from his presence in certain locations, to attempts at abductions and his nervous behaviors. This certainly speaks of years of research on the author’s part. Now I have to go read something else that reaffirms my faith in humanity.

Out Now  Published April 23, 2019

Wildblue Press

 

 

 

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In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent’s Relentless Pursuit of the Nation’s Worst Predators by Jeffrey L. Rinek, Marilee Strong

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“To handle the horrors we must deal with on a daily basis, many in law enforcement become hardened and compartmentalize their emotions, which has its own deleterious effects. I was not able to do that, nor could I stand at a clinical distance and rely on some technique or one-sixe-fits-all theory of criminality and remain untouched by the horrors I saw.”

During his 30 year career working as a FBI agent, Jeff Rinek witnessed the most vile crimes against children from sexual abuse, torture, abduction, murder and child abuse, sometimes from their family members. I had to read this book in parts, human depravity is beyond belief at times and I had the option of putting it down until I could catch my breath, Rinek and other’s in his line of work don’t have that privilege. I have the utmost respect for the brave men and women that work in this particular field. Not many have the stomach for it, and it isn’t surprising that the work he has done has stayed with him, for how could it not?  This is the stuff of nightmares, but Rinek isn’t writing in the vein of sensationalism. This is a man who has kept every victim and their families within his heart, everything he has experienced has touched his own wife and children. Jeff shares not only the horrific cases he has helped solve, but the troubling ways it effected his family life. How could he not be overwhelming concerned for the safety of his own sons, having seen the darkness that befell so many innocent children? How could he sleep peacefully at night with the images of crime scenes floating in his mind, just as horrible the confessions of child molesters and serial killers thundering in his ears? It’s impossible to truly separate the two worlds.

Jeff Rinek had a way about him that made the criminals feel comfortable enough to confess, I think it is most evident in his dealings with Cary Stayner. Not many could keep their emotions in check enough to empathize with someone who has committed monstrous acts. I know when we label something evil or monstrous it makes it impossible to understand how someone can commit such atrocities and maybe prevent them, but it’s hard not to feel this way. Without his ability to reach into whatever humanity resides in the criminal, we may never know the truth. It is important to be able to understand the psyche of man as much as we can, whether we’re repulsed or not. It matters to the victim’s family, particularly when bodies are missing. Maybe there is truly no such thing as closure, maybe the ‘knowing’ is more horrifying than what the mind can imagine, but living without answers is to be further victimized.

In reading about these tragic, horrifying crimes, it made me think about why it is so important for people to report crimes that happen to them, or things they witness that don’t sit well within them. Nothing truly happens in a bubble, and often in abusive relationships, be they physical or sexual, often men or women go further in victimizing others, especially children (the most helpless and vulnerable of us all). The hard truth is, if someone has harmed you, you aren’t the first, nor likely to be the last. One of the most shocking realities is how often child molestation is enabled by other adults, such as wives. I’m not surprised children don’t come forward more often, the feelings of shame involved, the stigma boys in particular (especially as they become adults) are met with in coming foreward about sexual abuse is heartbreaking. I’m reading another book right now about Evil, it’s more from a  psychological standpoint, but when I read true crime books, or listen to a victim recount their harrowing experiences it is damn hard to want to understand the psyche of criminals. How do you remain removed from cases, its human nature to empathize, particuarly being a mother or father yourself. Of course seeing the body of a child that has been defiled in every way imaginable one would think of their own son or daughter, fear would be rooted inside your being. Rinek dealt with the worst of human nature, how could he not imagine the worse if a phone line home is busy, or his child doesn’t get off his bus?

The violence, ritualized sexual abuse, physical, and mental trauma, torture the children suffered under the ‘religion’ Allen Harrod (their own father) started is as hard to stomach as every story within yet it is with the tenderest of care Rinek, along with others, helped the children find their strength to seek justice and have kept watch over the children long after the case ended. The bravery of Harrod’s eldest daughter in coming forward is incredible, though shocking that it took her going through three different police agencies to get anyone to look into the matter. Without her, who knows how long Harrod and Labrecque’s crimes would have continued, under the guise of religion. Much like the people involved in seeing justice served, it’s gut wrenching to know the truth of how the children suffered, but worse to imagine being the children involved. Human depravity is boundless but it’s knowing the children (their victims) will carry not just physical evidence of their nightmare for the rest of their lives, but have to cope with PTSD, have to navigate the world without an example of healthy family relationships, and in a sense deprogram from what for them was ‘normal’  that remains with you long after reading their story. That these things happen in our so-called ‘modern times’ is worse than any fictional horror I can conjure. You don’t have to be close to the case to feel the frustration and anger at the justice system, how easy it seems for criminals to continue their abuse once captured, still victimizing everyone involved through ‘legal manipulation.’ Then there is the game of going to trial. Evidence is a peculiar thing, what is left out as to not ‘prejudice the jury against the defendant.’ Ridiculous in many cases, such as pictures of adults raping children in this situation shouldn’t it be admissible, doesn’t the victim deserve to see justice served? It’s one thing to hear it, but when there are photos to back the child’s confession, well? Statute of limitations is infuriating in and of itself, if a child comes into adulthood and finally has the ability to seek help, to expose the abuser only to find out they can’t be charged anymore, how is that just? Something is certainly broken. It’s hard not to feel like children don’t matter enough, it certainly feels like criminals often get a slap on the wrist, are released only to commit even more gruesome crimes. But I feel heartened that men and women like Rinek work hard for them, it seems to even the balance, at least a little.

Retired now, Rinek remains just as passionate about making the world a safer place for children and for us all, as he did when he was working full-time. He has remained in contact with the children victimized by Harrod and Labrecque. It is obvious his job was his life, and he is the sort of agent the world needs, someone who puts all of his being into solving crimes, and caring for the victims. It’s hard to review this type of memoir, because it comes from a deeply personal part of Rinek’s life. It’s enough to say that if you can’t even read it, because it’s our natural instinct to close our ears and eyes to terrors, imagine how the victim’s loved ones feel, how the men and women in law enforcement have to go home every night with the knowledge of such horrors branded in their minds. It’s important to be a voice for those who have been silenced, and to see those who have harmed children caught, so they can’t leave more families destroyed.

This truly is an unflinching look into the life of FBI Special Agent Jeff Rinek and how his job effected every facet of his life.

Out today!

BenBella Books