Thursday, February 21, 2008

True Crime: In the Name of Satan

(Wensley Clarkson, St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1997, USA)
Another true crime book written before the entire case had even gone through the system and become yesterday's news and thus less commercially viable. Not much depth to be found in the writing, as is normal of a Wensley Clarkson quickie, but the book is as readable as the crime is sordid and unbelievable.
The most interesting and disturbing aspect of the crime is that after the fact, everything plays out like a real-life version of The River's Edge, the favorite film of the three bored youths who do the killing. That the local cops are too lazy to take the case seriously and prefer writing off Elyse as a runaway is easy to understand — cops are cops after all — but one does swallow hard when one realizes that dozens of kids knew her to be dead (and probably knew where her body was to be found) but no one came forward.
Elyse, a young fun-loving girl in her teens, a party-loving virgin just beginning to explore her boundaries, gets killed by three local outsiders and losers — schoolmates — out to make a sacrifice to Satan. As normal, the case leaves more questions than answers in its wake, with no easy solutions to be found. What drives bored teenager boys to kill (and possibly rape) a teenage girl they know? (Or, as on-line sources now say, have sex with her corpse.) Death metal? The lack of parental guidance? Drugs? The Internet? Satan? A lack of proper parental guidance?
Dunno, but all the kids involved come across as being similar to a huge number of other faceless kids who eventually grew up to become normal functioning adults, so what went wrong? Methinks that the youngest, Joseph Fiorella, is simply a self-centered, amoral psychopath with leadership tendencies who happened to find a few weak, confused, pliable souls. And, as to be expected since he is probably the most innately amoral, asocial and least likely to change, he gets the lightest sentence.
(Since the publication, the three young killers are serving 25 years to life, Fiorella’s pot-dealing brother Anthony shot and killed a cop, and Elyse’s parents have twice tried to sue the death metal group Slayer claiming that the group’s music incited the boys to kill.)

The cover and a photo of the victim, looking just like anyone's teenage daughter. Do you know where your child is right now?

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