Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review of "Murder in the Family" by Burl Barer

This is a true crime story about a horrific multiple murder that occurred in Alaska.

On March 15, 1987 the bodies of Nancy Newman and her two daughters - Angie (3 years old) and Melissa (8 years old) were found in their Anchorage, Alaska apartment. The three females had been brutally murdered, and Nancy and Melissa had also been raped in a very disgusting fashion. Suspicion soon fell on Nancy's nephew - 23-year-old Kirby Anthoney - a rough customer who had a history of violent behavior.

Anthoney was a drifter who was often down on his luck. At one point, being broke, Anthoney was taken in by John and Nancy Newman - his uncle and aunt. Even after moving out, Anthoney kept a key and felt free to drop by the Newman apartment to shower, eat, hang out, etc. The cops suspected that Anthoney - after being rejected by his girlfriend - vented on Nancy and her daughters.

This book tells the story of Anthoney's arrest and trial. Most of the narrative is composed of interrogation and trial transcripts, interspersed with comments from the author. As the tale unfolds it becomes clear that Anthoney is a psychopath and pathological liar who easily called up fake emotions (crying, grief); twisted the facts; and fashioned 'alibi' stories.

Anthoney's excuses came to naught, however, because of the physical evidence connecting him to the crimes. Anthoney's trial was a long, difficult affair, with much wrangling between the capable prosecutor and excellent defense attorney - who worked hard on behalf of his client. There were competing experts, contradictory testimony, and much confusion - especially because DNA science was in its early stages at that time.

During the trial Anthoney didn't really help himself. He interrupted during other people's testimony and even took the stand - opening himself to rigorous cross-examination. On top of that, Anthoney gave his own closing argument - a rambling, three-hour-long diatribe. Anthoney seemed convinced that, using his 'gift of gab', he could explain away all the condemning evidence.

It's not clear why Anthoney would commit such monstrous acts, but being abused and neglected as a child might have been contributory factors. An in-depth analysis of Anthoney's criminal mind would make an interesting book, but would probably be impossible to write. Anthoney seems incapable of admitting to any wrongdoing or taking any responsibility for his actions, and wouldn't be likely to cooperate with a psychiatrist or author.

I'd recommend the book to fans of true crime as well as budding attorneys who plan to prosecute or defend homicide cases. They might get some good tips.

Rating: 3 stars

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