The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing.

~~~ Albert Einstein

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Serial Killer's Apprentice

Investigative journalist James  Renner (Amy: My Search for Her Killer: Secrets & Suspects in the Unsolved Murder of Amy Mihaljevic, My Search for Amy Mihaljevic's Killer ) has once again put pen to paper to bring cold cases to the lime light.

Renner's newest book, The Serial Killer's Apprentice: And 12 Other True Stories of Cleveland's Most Intriguing Unsolved Crimes covers 13 cases from Northern Ohio, all of which will leave you pondering 'who did it?' and tempted to do a little investigative work yourself. Renner does an excellent job of bring new life to cases many seemed to have given up on, and his clear passion for solving the Amy Mihaljevic murder case seems equally met with his passion for the 12 newly highlighted cases.

Picking just one of the 13 (in all) cases  Renner investigated to highlight is difficult, as he's managed to personalize the victims in each case to the reader. But if I have to pick one, I'd be tempted to say the most compelling case -to me- was that of the cold blooded murder of 16 year old Lisa Pruett from Shaker Heights. The 16 year old had had plans to see her boyfriend late in the evening one September day in 1990. She'd had an appointment to get her drivers license, and after a day filled with much excitement, was looking forward to seeing then 16 year old Dan Dreifort.

Dreifort , a seemingly troubled young man then who fancies himself something of a rock star now, would play an odd part in the discovery of Lisa's body- ... but despite lingering questions about his actions that night- he wouldn't be picked as the main suspect in the case. The disturbing letters he'd written to Lisa, his time in a mental ward, even the fact that after finding the body of his dead girlfriend- he'd taken off to go to bed while police continued to search the area. None of this would carry enough weight to get detectives in the case away from pointing a finger at another troubled young man- Kevin Young, who'd once had a crush on Lisa. The case against him, has admittedly always lacked a smoking gun, but it didn't stop charges for Lisa's murder to be brought against Young- although it did prevent prosecutors from convincing the jury that he was indeed guilty enough to grant a conviction in the case. Renner follows the case- guiding readers from the beginning of Lisa's day through the events that lead to the horrible discovery of Lisa's body, and the aftermath that lead to the case remaining unsolved.

Nineteen years later, Lisa's Pruett's unsolved murder still haunts those that knew her, and has left lingering thoughts on whether the main suspect, while no angel, was the personal responsible or not. It's really a case that if you haven't heard about- you're sure to be intrigued by once you read it. The other cases highlighted, including Amy's, are equally as intriguing, and Renner does a great job of bringing their stories out from the cold case files and into the here in now.

Renner's website, has information on some of the other must read cases included in the book- but I'd have to say that you truely have to get the book to appreciated his style of writing, and to get the real sense of his passion to bring closure to these cases.

(Sidenote to readers: Although Renner has guest blogged here previously, it was by a sheer fluke that I was invited to review his latest book- the offer didn't come from him. And, while I'm a fan of his writing, I must say I would have liked the book just as much,  had I not known who wrote it.)