Friday, March 19, 2010

True Crime: A Deadly Silence

A Deadly Silence
(Dena Kleiman, Signet, 1989)
Another masterpiece of true crime reporting, telling the oh-so-shocking tale of 16-year-old Cheryl Pierson who decided in 1986, once she saw her Daddy looking at her little sister "that way"—"that way" being the way he used to look at her before he started jumping her bones when she was 12—that the time had come to rid the world of her respectable, loving and fanatically possessive and overbearing Daddy, James Pierson. Using all the brains expected of a suburban Long Island high-school cheerleader, she not only hires a classmate named Sean Pica to do the dirty deed but just can’t do anything afterwards but act suspiciously. Needless to say, the crime rocked the community in which it happened, dividing it deeply into those who believed Cheryl and those who thought she was a conniving liar out for Daddy Pierson’s money. Still, more than one person had seemingly suspected that her Dad had long been loving his daughter the wrong way—but like good neighbors, they didn’t want to rock any boats.
In the end, Cheryl is caught lying so often that one can’t help but wonder if she wasn’t stretching the truth to get away with murder—considering that she only spent six months in jail in the end and could also still inherit, she did get away with it. That the dingbat she got to kill Daddy got 8-24 years seems more than unfair in light of how easily she got off—one can’t help but think that there must have been other options open to Cheryl to stop her father other than a contract.
If nothing else, this book does briefly reveal once again the inert baseness and deeply hidden moral rot and hypocrisy that are so much a part of the modern US middle and working class society.

Addendum: A Deadly Silence went on to become a TV movie in 1989. Sean Pica, the classmate who did Cheryl’s dirty work, was paroled in December 2002 after 16 years in prison, during which he studied and received his high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. In 2007 he was working as a counselor with tenants in an East Harlem housing project and working on a second master’s on social work. Cheryl Pierson went on to marry her intelligent boyfriend Cuccio; they have two daughters and are still happily married.
Photos: Trawled from the Web.
Top: the book.
Middle: The young Pica.
Bottom: An older and wiser Pica, proof that rehabilitation is possible.

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