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Sitdown Sunday: The best crime longreads of 2018

We’ve rounded up the best stories of 2018 for you.

Image: Shutterstock/Prath

EVERY WEEKEND WE bring you Sitdown Sunday, a round-up of the best longreads of the week.

Without fail articles that look at some aspect of the gritty world of crime are among the most popular stories of the year.

Because of that we’ve put together a round-up of the best crime longreads from 2018. Readers should be aware that there may be some disturbing or upsetting stories included in the list.

What happened to the Salomons?

July: In 1982, the Saloman family disappeared from their home in LA’s Valley area. What happened to them? A former neighbour writes about their story.

(LA Mag, approx 40 mins reading time)

After a patrol sergeant arrived with permission to enter, Marty showed them how to get inside through a bathroom window in the back. The police went in first, followed by Marty and then my mom and me. The doors were locked, but the burglar alarm hadn’t been activated. Marty phoned Dorene from the master bedroom. Everything looked fine, he said, surveying the room; even the bed was made. That’s when Dorene panicked. “Elaine never made the beds,” she told me later. “Something was wrong.”

The oral history of the Bobbitt case

June: The Bobbitt case was a very famous one – Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s penis one morning with a knife, and was soon in the tabloids and on trial. Here’s an oral history of the whole thing.

(Washingtonian, approx 25 mins reading time)

Lorena’s criminal trial was broadcast into America’s living rooms on Court TV, hooking the nation on courtroom dramas six months before O.J. Simpson climbed into his white Bronco. More significant, her ghastly act—committed, she testified, because her husband had beat and sexually assaulted her throughout their marriage—kick-started a national conversation about gender and power that presaged controversies that continue to swirl today.

The murder that shook Iceland

April: Iceland is a safe country – so the murder of 20-year-old Birna Brjánsdóttir was absolutely shocking.

Birna Birna Brjansdottir

(The Guardian, approx 28 mins reading time)

She was walking alone, which was not unusual behaviour in Reykjavík, even for a young woman. More so than in most other countries, Icelanders feel they know their own people; it is a peaceful place where entire years have passed without a single murder. It was -9C with the windchill, but Birna seemed unperturbed. She wore Dr Martens boots – regular black ones, not her knee-high pair with the glow-in-the-dark skeleton foot on the side – black jeans, a grey sweater and a black hoodie draped over her shoulders. Her hair hung loose and a pair of white earbuds dangled around her neck.

The ghosts of Highway 20

December: In the space of two decades, four women disappeared and one was raped along the same stretch of road in rural Oregon. One man is linked to all of the crimes.

(Oregon Live, approx 10 mins reading time)

Marlene flew out of the pickup, a blur moving toward the house. He drove off as she banged frantically on the door. She clung to her boots, which she’d grabbed from the clearing. Her hair was matted with sticks and dirt. “Oh my God,” her mother-in-law said, opening the door. “What happened?”

Blood will tell

May: A teacher named Mickey Bryan is murdered. Her devoted husband is charged with killing her. But did he do it?

(ProPublica, approx 55 mins reading time)

They were different from other married couples, a number of women who knew them noted appreciatively; Mickey and Joe seemed more like a team. They both loved being around children but were never able to have their own — an immutable fact of their marriage that seemed to only draw them closer. Nearly every evening, they went on long walks around Clifton, where it was common to see them strolling hand in hand down the town’s wide residential streets, absorbed in conversation.

When cops become robbers 

April: Police officers Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor are brought to court on multiple counts of extortion, racketeering and fraud. Here’s their story.

(BBC, approx 44 mins reading time)

McDougall formed a rough theory about what had happened – a Baltimore police officer, using the tracker, waited until Anderson’s vehicle was far away from his home, then used the opportunity to rob the apartment. The home invasion had some of the hallmarks of a police raid – the kicked-in door, the methodically tossed apartment. McDougall picked up the phone and called the FBI.

Stealing for company

March: Shiho Fukada writes about the challenges facing older women in Japanese society – challenges so big that women are stealing so that they can go to prison and find company.

(Bloomberg, approx 10 mins reading time)

Ms. O, 78. Has stolen energy drinks, coffee, tea, a rice ball, a mango. Third term, sentenced to one year, five months. Has a daughter and a grandson. “Prison is an oasis for me—a place for relaxation and comfort. I don’t have freedom here, but I have nothing to worry about, either. There are many people to talk to. They provide us with nutritious meals three times a day.

The poor girl, the rich boy – and the murder

dom-rep

May: A pregnant teenager was murdered in the Dominican Republic, and her story highlights issues around underage pregnancy and treatment of women in the country.

(Buzzfeed, approx 20 mins reading time)

Martínez stopped speaking, staring back down at the floor. He threw his head into his hands, and sat silently, as the reporters behind the camera began to ask questions. After a moment of quiet, the shot panned out to show his mother, who then began to talk.
“She was already a part of us, and she was my son’s girlfriend,” she said, before correcting herself, “is the girlfriend of my son. She was five months pregnant, and when we found out, we gave her our support.”

The tragic death of Jaco Pastorius

February: In 1987, a jazz musician was found dead in an alley in Florida. He was called Jaco Pastorius, and his life was utterly tragic. But who killed him?

(Stacks Reader, approx 37 mins reading time)

John Francis Anthony “Jaco” Pastorius III lay comatose in the intensive-care unit of a Fort Lauderdale hospital for nine days, unrecognized until he was spotted by the doctor who had delivered his children. Once he had been identified, local newspapers ran photographs to accompany stories headlined “DARK DAYS FOR A JAZZ GENIUS” and “JAZZ PERFORMER’S LIFE STRIKES A TRAGIC CHORD” and “THE LONG, SAD SLIDE OF A GIFTED MUSICIAN.”

Did he kill her?

January: Nathan Carman and his mother went missing on their boat, the Chicken Pox, after heading out to go fishing. But when Nathan was found, his mother Linda was gone. What had happened?

(New York Magazine, approx 33 mins reading time)

Around the docks and on maritime message boards, New England boaters shared theories about what had happened. Had the Chicken Pox collided with some unsurveyed shoal? Or suffered a catastrophic hull failure? Or encountered a massive rogue wave? People who had seen the boat before Nathan and Linda left said it was in good shape, and it was equipped with an emergency transmitter that could send a distress signal and location directly to the Coast Guard. How, in the age of GPS, had a vessel like the Chicken Pox vanished without a trace?

Was his daughter’s death a tragic accident – or murder?

September: Wendell Lindsey took his 10-year-old daughter out fishing – and she fell into the water and drowned. He was jailed for life in what prosecutors believed was a scheme to collect insurance money. But he claims he is innocent.

(The Intercept, approx 53 mins reading time)

Lindsey had taken his two young daughters, ages 9 and 10, to fish at a popular spot near Fort Worth. As they were preparing to head home, Lindsey’s oldest fell face first into the water. Lindsey didn’t know how to swim, but he jumped in to try to rescue her. He was unsuccessful, and his daughter drowned. At first everyone thought it was a tragic accident. But that soon turned into a homicide investigation and then a murder charge. Lindsey was convicted and sentenced to life based largely, it appeared, on a host of dubious claims about the science of drowning.

Why did a devoted wife kill her husband?
September: Sally Challen murdered her husband Richard eight years ago. People presumed the couple were devoted to each other, but the truth was darker than they imagined. Now, Sally is campaigning to get out on parole.

(The Guardian, approx 21 mins reading time)

Sally served breakfast and, as Richard ate, she took a hammer and hit him more than 20 times. In case he was still breathing, she stuffed a tea towel into his mouth, before wrapping him in some old curtains. She wrote a note that said “I love you, Sally” and placed it on Richard’s body. Then she washed the dishes and drove back to the home she shared with their son, David.

The billionaire murder
October: Pharmaceuticals billionaire Barry Sherman and his wife Honey had lived in Toronto for two decades. Last December, they were found dead by an estate agent preparing to show their house. Why were they murdered, and by whom?

(Bloomberg, approx 33 mins reading time)

Canadian high society is a small place, and everyone in it was familiar with the Shermans, not least because of their enthusiastic fundraising for the governing Liberal Party. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among about 6,000 mourners at a memorial service held a week after the deaths. During a long procession of eulogies, affectionate recollections mixed with a sort of stunned incomprehension. 

The Watcher

November: Finally, want to read a really creepy story? Here’s the one for you. It’s about a family who thought they bought their dream house, but then started getting very creepy letters…  

(The Cut, approx 50 mins reading time)

657 Boulevard has been the subject of my family for decades now and as it approaches its 110th birthday, I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming. My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. Do you know the history of the house? Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard? Why are you here? I will find out.

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About the author:

Ceimin Burke

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