Two Book Reviews: She's Innocent, Really! And The True Story of the "Chicken Coop" Murders. Guest Writer's Mother, Low Blood Sugar and Car Accidents

It's two True Crime book reviews, one of an older book and one brand new.

The so-called "chicken coop" murders detailed in "The Road to Hell" left me mesmerized and spell-bound with excellent writing and a compelling story.

"False Arrest" is about a woman who was innocent of the murder charged against her. At least the author convinced me.

Guest Writer Michelle tells an intriguing tale of her mother, erratic blood sugar, automobile mishaps, missing cars and beginning a new life without a driver’s license.

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The Thrasher

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The Old and the New

It was just the weirdest thing. I’d posted a book review on a web site I frequent. It was of an older book but I do book reviews on all books that I read, even those whose dust I must blow when yanking it off the library shelf.

One individual, who could have, just throwing it out there, went right on by my post as it was plainly labeled on the header page, book title and all, got on the thread and thought it a great hoot to mock the presentation of an older book review.

I mean you’d have been yukking all over the place at this woman’s (dim) wit. She even made the hilarious comparison that dag, suppose’d you’d have read “Moby Dick”, hahahaha, a book that is, I agree, quite old. As if no school child today should ever do a book review of “Moby Dick” because…well the book is older as I imagine this dim bulb considers.

At any rate, I did read an older book and I read a new book and I decided to do a review of both lest I offend. At least I assume the book about the Wineville so-called “chicken coop” murders is new in that it was on the library bookshelf under the placard stating “NEW ARRIVALS”.

The older book is “False Arrest” and was written sometime in the 80’s. It was an okay kind of read. This books claim to fame as it fits in my experience is that it is the first book I’ve ever read in my almost 60 years of life written about an alleged “innocent” person wrongly convicted of a crime that I believe IS REALLY INNOCENT!

“The Road Out of Hell” is a great read, a great true crime story, a book I could not put down yet forced myself to put down so I wouldn’t use it all up at once. These sorts of books are rare in my life.

Let’s move on to the reviews.

"The Road Out of Hell"…Anthony Flacco with Jerry Clark

Jerry Clark is Sanford Clark’s son. Sanford Clark is the protagonist of this book. He was 13 years old when his uncle Gordon Stewart Northcott took him from his Canadian childhood home to live in California to help out on the uncle’s newly acquired chicken farm.

The entire Northcott family is insane, let’s get that out of the way. Uncle Stewart was the most insane of them all.

Sanford Clark was very sane but his two years at the hell of Uncle Stewart’s chicken farm almost sent him over the brink. It is a testament to the human spirit that Sanford Clark survived it.

Anthony Flacco is likely the composer of the prose for this book and here’s a fellow who writes beautifully. Non-fiction books don’t lend themselves all that well to fluidity and pretty words, especially the true crime type of this particularl book, but Anthony Flacco managed to pull it off, kudos to him.

The terrific writing coupled with the totally captivating story of the tale kept me immersed for several days. This was one of those rare books that has me looking to see how much I have left to read and hoping the thickness of the remaining pages will stop decreasing that I may enjoy it longer.

And though a crime of a horrific nature, the book had a nice ending with Uncle Stewart getting his due as he deserved, dear Lord, that had to be the best scene of the book.

Wineville was the name of the California town in which Uncle Stewart had his chicken farm. The crimes of Stewart Northcott were so heinous that Wineville residents changed the name of their entire town.

Adolescent Sanford did as his Uncle Stewart commanded, taking care of the chickens, doing all daily chores, fixing Uncle Stewart’s meals and, of course, helping to murder and dispose of Uncle Stewart’s young victims.

Ah yes. Uncle Stewart was one mean, mean, mean son of a bitch. He got his jollies by being mean and Sanford was also the object of Uncle Stewart’s mean-ness. Young Sanford suffered more than any child his age should ever have to endure.

With beautiful prose and a continuing theme of a young boy surviving an aching “heaviness” as he buried young boys alive, was himself often thrown into a small pit to survive days on end, had to swing an axe at a young boy’s skull to aid in the kill, the book carries the reader through the days and mind-numbing hours of Sanford’s survival.

His own grandparents, who were full aware of Uncle Stewart’s strange-ness, left Sanford to suffer so horrifically until the young boy lost all touch with reality and a civil world.

Through a series of mis-steps, that crazy family, including the nutty grandmother and insane Uncle Stewart were finally stopped from their crimes.

If I had one complaint about this book it’s how unclear it was to me just why Sanford Clark was guilty of any crime. Yes it was frustrating to this reader that young Sanford would avoid escape or reporting the horror around him but knowing the story even in this day of age with phones and email of young people captured and held when it would seem that escape was very possible, I know these “prisoners” accept their captive fate that a casual observer would fine bizarre. Sanford Clark lived through his hell during an era when most people didn’t even have telephones. In fact, it was Sanford’s sister who finally had to drive down from Canada to save Sanford for the lack of communication available in the early 1900 era that the chicken coop crimes occurred.

Sanford was sent to an American reform school of some sort and I deduce that it was as much to keep him away from that insane family of his as any “crime” this victim might have committed.

I can’t recommend this book enough to True Crime afficiandos or any devout reader appreciative of fine prose and a captivating story.

Amazon code for this book

Wiki link to a movie made about this story…”The Changeling”

"False Arrest"-Joyce Lukezic and Ted Schwarz

Amazon link for this book.

Let us begin by asserting firmly that this book was written confidently, orderly and logically. It is not the stuff of pretty prose but there is a certain sanity in the presentation of the facts.

For the most part.

The author obviously believed his co-writer to be innocent of the crime for which she was accused. The book is written firmly with that belief and the reader is expected to know that Joyce Lukezic was not guilty of arranging the murder of her husband’s business partner and this book is simply an orderly compilation of the facts.

It might be giving away the ending but Joyce Lukezic was found not guilty, finally, at a third trial. She was found guilty at her first trial. She was granted a second trial. That trial ended with a hung jury, ten jurors believing Joyce to be innocent and two not budging from a guilty vote.

This is hardly a monsoon of belief of innocence and besides, a “not guilty” verdict does not necessarily mean the defendant is innocent of a crime but that the state failed to prove the case.

Still and so, I believe that Joyce Lukezic did not plot to have her husband’s business partner killed. This is the first time I have ever read one of these “he/she is really innocent” books and believed that assertion. I have no statistics but I’d bet a small fortune that most folks who end up in jail are usually guilty. I certainly have no problem with such as re-trials or any relook at the facts. The innocent don’t belong in jail. Jurors are very responsible people, much more responsible than crooked politicians who cheat and lie to keep their jobs. This True Crime afficiando has read entirely too many books and seen too many documentaries featuring jurors and I hear what they say. We all can identify with the terror of having our freedom, even our lives, taken away for a crime for which we are innocent. The OJ jury, notwithstanding, of course. Jurors want to get it right.

I will never understand why the investigators went after Joyce Lukezic for arranging the contract murder of her husband’s business partner. Her brother was involved in nefarious activities and was mixed up with Ron Lukezic’s partner, William Redmond. Joyce’s husband, in fact, Ron Lukezic, had way more reason to have his partner murdered than Joyce.

First, Joyce had a prenuptial agreement that left her getting nothing out of her husband’s business if her marriage with Ron Lukezic didn’t work out. Second, Joyce paid very little interest to her husband’s business affairs. Third, there was a bevy of folks around William Redmond far more likely to want him dead than his business partner’s wife.

The biggest source of evidence presented against Joyce was some jailhouse snitch. There was also a bunch of bad facts presented at trial and, in fact, because of this Joyce was granted a new trial.

I have two issues with this book. First, the author starts out straightaway with a horrible story of a lesbian attack of Joyce during her first few weeks in jail. I suppose that the author immediately wanted to put the reader in sympathetic mode that right from the start poor Joyce Lukezik suffered in jail for a crime she did not commit.

I thought that scene to be more prurient than informative. While the lesbian rape had every right to be part of the documentation of Joyce’s jail ordeal, to feature it at the beginning of the book, in your face, was confusing to this reader.

My second concern is that the author really didn’t give enough information about just why all the investigators, the entire first jury and two folks on the second jury, all seem to think Joyce was guilty. The author did a fine job of convincing ME that Joyce’s jailhouse accuser was a liar so why couldn’t he give me some idea why so many folks were out to get Joyce Lukezic?

There had to be something about this woman, the evidence, something, something, that had so many folks so eager to lock up her innocent self.

This book is a good read but going back to my original contention, it’s an older book. By me, it will be a stand out as being the first book I’ve ever read trying to convince me the book’s subject is innocent of the crime as charged.

And I believed it.

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Loss of a License

It's Wednesday afternoon at work, and I hear a cell phone distantly ringing. "Hmm," I thought, "someone has a cell phone on ring instead of vibrate." It wasn't answered, and the song stopped.

Only to start up again immediately. "Hmm," I thought, "someone really must have something important to say." Again it wasn't answered, and the song stopped.

Only to start up again a third time. "Hmm," I thought, "it must be something *really* urgent." And wham! I realized that sounded like MY cell phone, which was in my purse locked in the cabinet at the end of my desk. I waited for the song to stop and got my cell phone out.

NOTIFICATION, the screen said. MISSED CALLS: 3.

Oh, crap. I tapped on View, and saw three attempts from a Private number. That was no help. As I looked at that, wondering who I knew with a private number (besides my own house, where no one was), the phone chirped its "you've got voicemail" tone. Quickly I keyed in the voicemail retrieval commands.

A man's voice - which I didn't recognize - said he was trying to call Michelle Huh Kallah. With that mispronunciation of my name, my heart dropped. Anyone who knew it was my phone without knowing how to pronounce my name couldn't be calling for a good reason. And I was right.

The unknown man introduced himself as a city police officer, and he needed to tell me my mom had been involved in a diabetic-induced automobile accident. She was okay and wanted me to come to the hospital to pick her up. The car could be driven, but it was downtown, and my mom would be losing her license. He then gave me the hospital
name and address, the address where the car was, and the information I would need about the police report. (I have to admit he was very thorough, but he didn't give me the hospital phone number.)

I saved the message and looked up the hospital number online. Gotta love the Internet! With number in hand, I took my cell phone into the hallway and called the hospital. I must have sounded callous, asking the hospital emergency room staff if I needed to come "right now" or if I could go home and let my dogs out first. Harry wouldn't be home
until Friday, and the dogs had been locked up almost all day. If my mom really was okay, I knew I had time.

I did. The person who answered my questions told me they were going to keep my mom for at least another couple of hours. I thanked her, hung up, and went back to my desk to pack it in for the day. I shot a quick email to my boss and teammates, and as I was powering down the PC, my cell phone rang.

The cop was calling me back, to tell me he was taking the car keys to the hospital and to make sure he'd actually reached me. (Good cop. Conscientious, and he must have a mother, too. I need to listen to the first message again and see if he gives me his name, or get a copy of the police report so I can let the department know how helpful he was.)

I scurried home, let the dogs out, grabbed a book (hospitals can be slow), let the dogs out again and then locked them back up. They weren't very happy with me. Then off to the hospital, a forty minute drive.

At the hospital, I had to look hard for a parking place, and then I couldn't find the way in. I found the way in, and then I couldn't find the way to the rooms. The woman at the kiosk told me to talk to the security guard. Aren't the kiosks for customer/patient assistance
anymore? The security guard used the "Security Only" phone and called in to where the rooms are. I gave him my mom's name. He waited a minute, then hung up. He told me he'd check and to wait. Then he went through the locked door (how did *he* open it?) and I wait.

Around me are the sick, the injured, the hopelessly bored. One kid had a temporary sling, several people had breathing masks on, everywhere were notices that said, "COVER YOUR COUGH." There were no empty seats so I leaned against the wall by the Security Only phone. The waiting room looked like something from the Soylent Green movie and I was sorry my mom had to come here.

The locked door opened and the security guard beckoned me in. "Room 12," he told me, and pointed me in the right direction.

There was my mom, in Room 12, looking fine, but attached to an IV and blood pressure cuff. I got the rest of the details from her.

She'd been to see her "other" doctor, the one that is tracking her diabetes and in charge of her diabetic meds. She left the doctor's office around 11:20, and the next thing she knew two guys were asking her if she was okay. She was still in the driver's seat of her car.
Apparently she'd had another low blood sugar episode, and was driving the car without being aware of anything. Without being given gas, the car (a Ford Focus) goes about 10mph, and the steering is in alignment so it just kept going straight until it ran out of road. She missed - thank God - the freeway onramp she'd been heading for; just drove
right past it, unseeing. The car eventually hopped a curb and hit - gently - a parked car.

The EMTs reported her blood sugar level at 23.

There are so many ways in which this could have been worse; my mom is just one lucky son of a gun. However, the cop had been by to drop off her car keys and had also told her she'd not be able to drive anymore.

The Department of Motor Vehicles would suspend her license, because she'd had a medical episode while driving. While waiting for me to show up, she'd been thinking about options and what she'd need to change.

She'd need to quit her job, she said. Taking the bus wasn't an option she was willing to do and I'm too far away to drive her to and from work. That's not the loss it might seem, though, since her employer had cut hours a lot this year. My mom went from full- to part-time a few months ago, and over the last couple weeks had been getting as low as eleven hours per week.

We discussed keeping or selling the car, how to deal with groceries,and what to do about doctor's appointments. It was surprisingly easy, and I was grateful for that. One relative who lost driving privileges wasn't so compliant and we had to take his car away. I didn't want to do that to my mom.

Nurses came in and took blood sugar readings twice, and checked other things a couple of different times. The ER doctor came in twice, too. All of the staff were pleasant, friendly, and helpful. I wondered at the difference in how I felt as an observer in the "inner sanctum" as opposed to the waiting room. The atmosphere was very different, and
now I was grateful that this was the place they'd brought my mom. Weird, isn't it?

A little after 4pm the ER doctor released my mom. He said the driver's license might come back in six to twelve months, if her doctor could prove the blood sugar levels were stabilized. Of course, by then, my mom might not want to drive. She never really liked doing it anyway.

As we were walking out, a large family group was gathering and coming in, for what looked like very, very bad news. I was reminded again how lucky we were.

We went from the hospital to my mom's job to let her quit. She was scheduled the next morning at 8am and wouldn't make that shift, and without transportation couldn't keep the job. No sense in waiting. It wasn't easy watching my mom quit her job. She liked the work, and some of the people, and she would miss it. The manager would obviously miss
her, too.

After that we went through Kentucky Fried Chicken to pick up dinner. Who wants to cook after this kind of day?

Now we had a dilemma. Her car was downtown, in the not-so-good area. It's relatively new, just a couple of years old, and I didn't want to see it stripped or stolen. But we couldn't find anyone to help drive. So I had my mom hold off on her dinnertime insulin, and she would drive the car home (she hadn't lost the license yet!). I'd lead and we'd be careful.

Now, mind, we've been through this sugar drop before. Once the levels are back up and there's been no other drop for several hours, she's good to go. She was fine, and we had no worries about her ability.

We'd just had lots of carbs at dinner, and she hadn't taken any insulin. Worst case, if she had a problem, she'd run into *my* car, since I was leading.

We had a really hard time finding the car. I don't know that area very well, and my map in the Honda wouldn't recognize the address as existing. It said the numbers were too high. So we checked out one end of the street, followed it to the other end of the street as best we could - it's one of those streets that stops and starts, made more complicated by all the one-way streets downtown - and no luck. I'd just about given up when we topped a hill of some kind (drainage ditch overpass, maybe?) and my mom saw the sign of the establishment where the car was parked. Woot!

So we went that way and it was on the other side of the freeway. How in the world did her car end up on the opposite side of the freeway (and *blocks* north) of her doctor's office? Wow.

We found it, though, parked out there all by its lonesome. I made sure my mom was still feeling okay and we took off for home. It was dark, it felt late, but it was really still the tail end of rush hour, about 6pm. We had to get on the freeway for at least a short distance because neither of us knows any way around the river.

So I led us onto the freeway and my mom did fine. On the freeway, she dropped back too far and I couldn't keep cars from coming between us. Over the river, and I can get off the freeway. I saw a road I know pretty well, and took that exit. My mom came with me. However, the turn I need is too close to the freeway exit, and the traffic is too heavy to cross to the left turn lane. So I turned into the restaurant on the right after the intersection.

My mom cruised straight on by.

Frantically, I flipped the Honda around and sailed back out of the restaurant lot, in pursuit of my mom. I couldn't tell which car was hers. She, no doubt, couldn't tell which one was mine. I'm peering into every car I pass like a pervert (I wonder how many calls the cops
got?) and can't find her. Then as I pass a car in a left turn lane, I thought it was her. But I couldn't turn from this lane, so I go on until I can. By the time I get back to that intersection, the car I thought was hers is long gone. Did she turn left or turn around? I don't know.

But... if she turned around, she knows where she is and how to get home. If she turned left, she might not. So I follow where the carwould have gone if she turned left.

And I saw no cars that might be hers, even though I'm still looking into cars right and left.

It was dark, it felt late, and I've lost my mom. I have a cell phone, but she doesn't. There's nothing else I can do but go home and hope she finds her way. I'm thinking about what my options might be if she's not there, but I'm coming up blank. I'm calling myself names and wondering why I didn't just let the car get stolen.

I'm turning the corner and seeing her garage door open, the light on, and her car in it. She made it home! She was fine, of course. And knew her way back from the turn around she'd done. She thought she must have lost me because why would I have taken her that way?

So I guess we sort of lost each other. But the car is home, my mom is - relatively - fine, and while life will have some minor rearrangements, it's still good.

Does anyone have any tips about living without a car?

The Desk Drawer writer's exercise


A Brain Infection? A Medical Journey Surpassed by Few

A Medical Odyssey to a Quadruple Heart Bypass

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