A Death in White Bear Lake: The True Chronicle of an All-American Town

A Death in White Bear Lake: The True Chronicle of an All-American TownA Death in White Bear Lake: The True Chronicle of an All-American Town by Barry Siegel
Published by Ballantine Books on November 28th 2000
Pages: 544
Genres: Criminal Justice, Nonfiction, Politics & Social Sciences
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"We want to talk to you about my brother who was murdered twenty-one years ago--can we come in?" The veneer of tranquility in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, began to crack the day Jerry Sherwood and her son showed up at the police station to inquire about her first-born son, Dennis--adopted by Lois and Harold Jurgens and dead before his fourth birthday. The autopsy report ruled peritonitis was the cause, but the startling photos of the boy suggested murder.
How could the Jurgens kill a small child and get away with it? Determined to find answers, detectives Ron Meehan and Greg Kindle tracked down old witnesses and rebuilt the case brick by brick until they exposed the demons that drove an adopted parent to torture and eventually murder a helpless child. Just as compelling, they investigated why so many people watched and did absolutely nothing. A vivid portrait of an all-American town that harbored a killer, A Death in White Bear Lake is also the absorbing story of two detectives who refused to give up until they had the killer cold.

My thoughts on this book

Interesting book that encapsulates a national tragedy, child abuse was pretty well neglected by both the medical profession and law enforcement up until the 1960’s.  The attitude was who would do something like that and it’s really none of our business.  Once the scope of the abuse of children began to come to light both the medical profession and law enforcement stepped up to face the challenge.

What is so very sad about this book is that it is not about an isolated instance but rather it is just an example of what was going on through out the country.  Even in today’s world abuse of children continues, unabated.  The year Dennis Jurgen died, White Bear Lake became the All-American city of 1965.  The irony of this, is what makes this story so compelling.


Manifest Justice

Manifest JusticeManifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom by Barry Siegel
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on January 22nd 2013
Pages: 400
Format: hardback
Genres: Criminal Justice, Nonfiction
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In this remarkable legal page-turner, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Barry Siegel recounts the dramatic, decades-long saga of Bill Macumber, imprisoned for thirty-eight years for a double homicide he denies committing. In the spring of 1962, a school bus full of students stumbled across a mysterious crime scene on an isolated stretch of Arizona desert: an abandoned car and two bodies. This brutal murder of a young couple bewildered the sheriff 's department of Maricopa County for years. Despite a few promising leads—including several chilling confessions from Ernest Valenzuela, a violent repeat offender—the case went cold. More than a decade later, a clerk in the sheriff 's department, Carol Macumber, came forward to tell police that her estranged husband had confessed to the murders. Though the evidence linking Bill Macumber to the incident was questionable, he was arrested and charged with the crime. During his trial, the judge refused to allow the confession of now-deceased Ernest Valenzuela to be admitted as evidence in part because of the attorney-client privilege. Bill Macumber was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
The case, rife with extraordinary irregularities, attracted the sustained involvement of the Arizona Justice Project, one of the first and most respected of the non-profit groups that represent victims of manifest injustice across the country. With more twists and turns than a Hollywood movie, Macumber's story illuminates startling, upsetting truths about our justice system, which kept a possibly innocent man locked up for almost forty years, and introduces readers to the generations of dedicated lawyers who never stopped working on his behalf, lawyers who ultimately achieved stunning results. With precise journalistic detail, intimate access and masterly storytelling, Barry Siegel will change your understanding of American jurisprudence, police procedure, and what constitutes justice in our country today.

My thoughts on this book

The first book I read by Barry Siegel was Claim of Privilege  , I was absolutely mesmerized by the book. Amazed that the government could withhold information from family members on the loss of their loved ones.

Manifest Injustice, like Just Mercy tells the story of a man caught in grips of a legal system gone awry. It is hard to understand exactly how our legal system gets so messed up. After reading Unfair I understand how juries are manipulated by lawyers,expert witnesses and judges that have agendas.

What interests me was it Bill Macumber who was the sociopath or was it his wife that lied? Nobody seemed to care that his wife lied. What was really going on between those two?

Obviously spending 37 years behind bars has to have an effect on one’s personality but it saddened me to find that Bill Macumber was found guilty of child sex abuse less than 12 months after he being released from prison, very sad indeed.