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"I was a greedy, ravenous individual, determined to rise from the bottom to the top . . . It wasn't me!"--Jack Unterweger's final words to his jury Serial killers rarely travel internationally. So in the early 1990s, when detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department began to find bodies of women strangled with their own bras, it didn't occur to them at first to make a connection with the bodies being uncovered in the woods outside of Vienna, Austria. The LAPD waited for the killer to strike again. Meanwhile, in Austria, the police followed what few clues they had. The case intrigued many reporters, but few as keenly as Jack Unterweger, a local celebrity. He cut a striking figure, this little man in expensive white suits. His expertise on Vienna's criminal underworld was hard-earned. He had been sentenced to life in jail as a young man. But while incarcerated, he began to write--and his work earned him the glowing attention of the literary elite. The intelligentsia lobbied for his release and by 1990, Jack was free again. He continued writing, nurturing his career as a journalist. But though he now traveled in the highest circles, he had a secret life. He was killing again, and in the greatest of ironies, reporting on the very crimes he had committed. With unprecedented access to Jack's diaries and letters, John Leake peels back the layers of deception to reveal the life and crimes of Jack Unterweger, and in unnerving detail, exposes the thrilling twists--both in the United States and Europe--that led to Jack's capture and Austria's "trial of the century."
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John Leake was born in Dallas, Texas, and earned his MA in philosophy at Boston University. After winning a fellowship at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, he lived there on and off for six years, working as a translator and editor. This is his first book.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 1 On July 11, 1991, a solar eclipse occurred in the sky over Los Angeles. At 10:12 a.m., the moon began to move in front of the sun, and by 11:28 it covered 69 percent of it. That morning, a couple of men and their children drove up to Corral Canyon Road in Malibu, northwest of the city, to watch the event.
The Malibu hills are a landscape of rugged beauty, hostile to residential development. During the dry season the resinous brush, desiccated by the Santa Ana wind, sometimes sparks into swift-moving conflagrations that incinerate everything in their path. About two miles inland, an old fire road branches off to the right of Corral Canyon Road and ascends a steep hill. With its panoramic view and isolation, the grassy mesa at the top draws the occasional couple seeking the thrill of sex under an open sky. A few empty wine bottles and discarded underwear bear witness to their encounters.
The men and children were seeking the mesa’s high vantage point to watch the eclipse, but as they reached the top, they were too horrified by what they saw lying on the ground to pay attention to the sky. When they called the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department at 11:15 a.m., the first man to talk said he’d discovered a dead body, but as he started to give directions to its location, he became upset and started cursing. A calmer man then got on the phone and described where the body lay, and a couple of hours later, Deputy Sheriff Ronnie Lancaster was directed to the scene.
A cheerful native of Amarillo, Texas, Lancaster had seen much of the evil that men do, but he seldom allowed it to put him in a bad humor. Bodies shot and stabbed were part of the territory, and like all good detectives, he’d trained his mind to view them as evidence, not as the personalities they once were. The one thing he’d never gotten used to was decomposition. When the call came in about a murdered woman off Corral Canyon Road, Lancaster didn’t ask for a description of the crime scene, as he always preferred to approach it without preconceived notions. But he did have one question: “Is it a decomp?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Oh, man,” he said to his partner. “It’s a decomp. There’s gonna be maggots, and that means I’m gonna have nightmares.” They arrived at the base of the fire road at 2:45 p.m.—the hottest time of the hottest day he could remember. Reaching the top of the mesa soaked in sweat, he found the area cordoned off with a group of sheriff’s deputies and park rangers standing around. Deputy Knudson, the first to have arrived at the scene, filled them in.
“I got the call at 11:51 and headed here. An Aero unit flew over before I arrived and directed me to the site. The guys who found her called the Malibu Station, but they didn’t say who they were or wait for me to get here. The decomp is advanced, but you can see from her breasts she’s a female.”
The heavy-set corpse was lying on its back, twenty yards west of the dirt road, underneath a laurel sumac shrub. Her face was obscured by maggots streaming out of her nose, mouth, eyes, and ears. Her T-shirt was hiked up to her shoulders, exposing her bloated belly and breasts. Around her neck was a tightly knotted bra. Otherwise she was clothed. The pockets of her blue jeans were turned out; no I.D. was present.
“Boys, we’re gonna solve this one!” Lancaster exclaimed. “This is the work of a boyfriend or husband; all we gotta do is find him and case closed.”
“What if it’s a hooker?” his partner asked.
“What would a hooker be doing up here? They take care of business a block or two from where they get picked up, and we’ve gotta be twenty-five miles from where the nearest streetwalker would be.” The inspectors continued working the crime scene, and at 5:20 p.m., the coroner recovery team arrived to collect the body.
Lancaster was glad the day’s work was ending. He knew he wasn’t done yet—that he’d have to go over the whole thing again with a forensic pathologist. But at least he could take a break from it. He walked over to the edge of the hill, to where the fire road began its descent to Corral Canyon Road. The view of Santa Monica Bay was spectacular, and for the first time that day he thought about the beauty of the landscape. He’d always associated a pretty countryside with the feeling of peace. To have committed such a horrible crime in such a lovely place seemed especially perverse.
That night he had nightmares, and the next day, still feeling haggard, he bumped into Lieutenant Christianson at the Homicide Bureau.
“Just heard from the coroner. They fingerprinted that girl from Corral Canyon Road, and guess what? She is a prostitute. Nice call, Lancaster.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding!”
“She’s got numerous arrests on her record.”
“Well, what the hell was she doing up there on that hill?”
“That’s for you to find out. You can start with the coroner. The autopsy’s tomorrow morning at eleven o’clock.” Autopsies didn’t bother him too much, though it sometimes troubled him when a victim stared at him. A dead man’s eyes don’t close, and they may catch you in their gaze. Sherri Long didn’t have eyes to stare at him because they’d been eaten by maggots. In their place were empty black orbits. Lancaster felt his knees go weak as Dr. Ribe opened her skull to reveal “a large seething central mass composed of several thousand active maggots, mostly large.” They had devoured all of her brain except “50 cc of pale gray soup,” which was collected for toxicology, as well as a few live specimens of the larvae. From their species and length, a forensic entomologist could deduce how long the victim had been lying in the place where she was found, and if she had first lain somewhere else.
In Dr. Ribe’s estimation, the victim had been dead four to seven days. “From the anatomic findings and pertinent history,” he ascribed the death to “ASPHYXIA due to or as a consequence of LIGATURE STRANGULATION.” To Deputy John Yarborough, the girl strangled with her bra in Malibu sounded familiar, as he’d recently read LAPD teletypes about prostitutes who’d been murdered in the same way downtown. He showed the printouts to Lancaster, who contacted Detective Fred Miller at LAPD Homicide. When Miller heard the story of the girl murdered in Malibu, he figured the killer he’d been hunting had struck again.
The killer had struck first on the night of June 19, 1991. Twenty-year-old Shannon Exley was popular with the truckers who delivered groceries to the produce district off Seventh Avenue in downtown L.A. They liked her blond hair and youthful looks. Performing for them was rough and dirty work, but she needed the money to support her crack habit. On the evening of June 19, 1991, she called her father before she went to work and told him that she was trying to get her life in order.
Her last customer picked her up on Seventh sometime after midnight and drove east, across the L.A. River to the Girl Scout Center on Seventh and Fickett. In the vacant lot behind it, surrounded by eucalyptus trees, no one saw his car or heard her screams, so he could have taken all the time he wanted with her.
The location indicated he had planned the killing, because it wasn’t a place where Seventh Avenue hookers turned tricks. Normally they drove only a block or two with their customers and parked in the neighboring warehouse district. Shannon would not have proposed driving to an isolated place, miles from her corner. The killer must have scoped it out in advance, because he wouldn’t have spotted it at night. From where he picked her up, he knew where he was taking her, and when to slow down for the right turn into the narrow lane that dead-ended next to the wooded lot.
The killer had strangled her with her own bra. Detective Miller knew of prostitutes getting manually strangled, beat up, shot, and stabbed, but he’d never heard of a hooker strangled with her own bra, the bra left tightly bound around her neck. Not only was it kinky, it appeared to have been practiced. Miller sensed that whoever had murdered Shannon Exley had probably murdered women before, and would probably do so again. Miller had known from a young age that he wanted to be a detective. Raised in San Antonio, Texas, he moved with his family to L.A. when he was in high school. After a stint in the U.S. Army, with a tour of duty in Vietnam, he joined the LAPD. Those were the days of the television series Dragnet and Adam-12, when its officers had a reputation for being the best in the world. Only the toughest and smartest cops could police a city like Los Angeles, with its giant size, ethnic complexity, large amount of crime, and chronic shortage of police manpower.
At the downtown Robbery and Homicide Division, Miller had investigated cases with legendary detectives such as John “Jigsaw John” St. John, Badge Number One. By the summer of 1991, he’d probably worked on or been privy to as many serial murder investigations as any cop in the country. Over the years he’d supplemented his experience by reading the literature on serial murder that came out of the FBI, and he attended its seminars in L.A. He believed the most important lesson to be drawn from the ana...
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Book Description Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0374148457
Book Description Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0374148457
Book Description Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0374148457 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.0113097