Murder, Velasco, America discussed on WIBC Programming
Say, the keyword free bottle. Bill James works for the vises the Boston Red Sox. And so it is that he spends a lot of his time in the sports world. Lingers is talking before the top of the hour, but the difference between being in that sort of positive place with very positive energy around people involved doing positive community things and writing them from the train because he likes to write about crime. So do you want to finish that? You're you're painting out the and I was not able to hear a lot of them. I'm fading out. No can have that just saying that you were presenting the sort of a dichotomy of working in the sports world by day and writing crime at night. Yeah. I was saying that crime stories are fascinating too. Because they they come from the parts of ourselves. So we don't like to talk about and dog on my talk about in the specific case of the man the train. I didn't make a deliberate and thoughtful entry into the subject, I just got like a fish. I was I was I saw documentary about the murders. Envelopes guy called Velasco living with a mystery. It's an extremely well done documentary far above them, mama levels of crime documentary. I was interested in it. And it was clear that there was a part of the story that was missing which is that it's relatively obvious that the bliscoll murders are apart of a series. So I started I was just going to put an hour into into trying to learn more about the series. But the the hour became a week and the week of actually became five. Five or six years. I didn't I didn't decide to get into it. I just wandered into. It shows you. You can do you consider this a true crime book? Sure. Yes. It is. And that's the interesting piece too. Is that true crime? The tradition for true. Crime is discovered in my research goes all the way back to execution sermons. Right. Sort of shares a similar DNA with American journalism. Except that in the case of true crime. It was the it was the preachers was the circuit riding preachers. The ministers that would come to these towns in on the day of somebody's execution, and they would do a sermon just before the execution that would try to provide the context for why this person was being executed in the community overall would benefit from his or her death. And became an important part of trying to understand executions in America. And and this is where when the preachers decided there they used to just print up their sermons and people would snap them up. And then he thought well, heck, I'll just sell it for a nickel. And so they started to sell their execution sermons, and then they will get passed around and these became some of the early bestselling true crime narratives, it fulfills the same function is what you're doing in in the man from the train you're trying to bring in even though it's a hundred plus years later, in some cases, you're trying to bring a kind of a kind of healing. Anyway, not that anybody's still alive that was directly involved, but for these communities, maybe this this lingering sense of some tragedy that had happened. Maybe some closure. An exactly what happened to their town. And how their town was involved or not involved in the deaths of of somebody that at one point. You know, we're popular members of the community. The. That happened just a few weeks ago. I actually got a letter from a man in London England who was a a his great great aunt had been was one of the victims of the crime interest. Here at always believed that the man who was accused of her murder and was locked up without any evidence for two years before he was released as he always believed that he had gotten away with it. And he said that reading it in my book that in our book that it wasn't. That was not actually what had happened was just a tremendous relief to him. That was a shock to me. I hadn't thought about. It was it was a shot. He said he was just tremendously relieved to realize that it was just a random crime. And that this man had actually that madman haven't actually gotten away with this other fellow, and I don't know why it was important to him. Who I understand? It was important to to know what had happened, but you know, one guy getting away with it or another guy getting away with it. Unpunished, I've I've I don't know that there's a lot of difference. But he's still have that reaction to. Go ahead. Please. No. A lot of the book book is about is is all all books. All good books are search for understanding a lot of the book is is trying to get people to understand the America in which these crimes occurred they could a hundred years ago, and I grew up in a small town very much like the crimes that these that these murders occurred in and I grew up in fifty sixty years ago. So it's sorta equidistant from me and them, and that's one reason that the story was powerful to me. But I am trying to get people to understand what what the criminal Justice system is like how fantastically primitive. It was. What how people lived that? They they lived rich meaningful lives. People in urban areas today think of people who lived in small towns a hundred years ago or often take people who lived in small towns a hundred years ago, living he's boring lives, which nothing ever happened. All of the things that happened to you and million people in our lives happen to people in small towns. I mean, they got married they fell in love and got married, and they got divorced, and they started careers and got promoted and got fired they moved and they went on long trips and brought back souvenirs, they they had entertainment. So they went to literally every night all of the things that that happened to happen to us happened to them. And I was trying to create a a picture. Unfortunately, it is a picture of their death. So that's a terrible picture because they died terrible deaths. But also is trying to create a picture of how they live and and and give the reader. An understanding of what it was like to be an American in a small town years ago. I think he did that very effectively. In fact, I think that's one of the interesting things about true crime in general is that the the focus can be on things which Rian Vert the inverted pyramid of journalism, and you can spend a lot more time on the things which are less important to telling the story in proper journalism. You can spend a lot more time talking about the atmosphere of town or the the things that people eight or the way that houses were constructed or communities were laid out you can you can do that. And it brings a fresh context to these murders as opposed to the traditional way that the crimes are covered in in straight storytelling in journalism context. That's what I really like what you were doing especially when you were getting into the fabric of of these communities. What is it always sticks with me to the point you were just making and that has to do with the the taco in the case asako invent Zeti? One of them. I think it was SoKo. Had an alibi for the time of one of the crimes one of the crimes committed on December twenty four th of I think nineteen nineteen or nineteen eighteen and he had a. He had witnesses who said that on that particular date. He was delivering a to his neighbors in Italian community a pickled eels because tickled eels were a delicacy that were eating on Christmas day. And there were there was, but there was conflict testimony that said, no, no, no that couldn't have been done under similar twenty four th because you never by the pickle deals on December on Christmas Eve, you have to buy them on December twenty second or something. So that you have time to prepare them and put them in on on ice wreck. Couple of days before you eat them the. It's a tiny detail that you would never survive. I mean, you would never know that that was true of Italian talian American communities live two hundred years ago, except that it's important in a crime story. That's why crime stories are these little. There's a flash of light that illuminates the details of. Something that would otherwise be totally forgotten. I think that brings us very effectively to Iowa and the the crime story, which the as you pointed out earlier is the one that starts to to give away. The communities are already catching on at this point to the fact that there's a killer on the railways take us take us through what happened invalid. On the night of June nine one thousand nine hundred twelve. The lights were out in politica. Due to a dispute between the Velasco city council and the power company, so they had city lights and street lights, but they were out and the town was in complete darkness this Sunday night. That was a church service. I Sunday night church service organized by one of the victims have the woman who was the head of the house after the. After the service. I didn't get into this in the book. But I think it's true. I don't believe the murders would ever have happened when they did had the lights been on. And the reason that was true is that he had committed another atrocity just six days earlier about a hundred miles away. And he normally would not have. Had another outrage that quickly, but because the lights the city was plunged into darkness. It was a perfect opportunity for him. And he couldn't pass it up anyway, re two little girls named Anna Lena, still injure went home with a more family, the family of Henry Moore, they walked home after the church service, and and the little girl spent the night with their friends. The little girl is a member of the family on the morning of June ten is stirring around in the house. The and the his brother finally comes it breaks into the house finds a couple of bodies and runs out of the house scraping. They bring the town marshal. And he his name was Hank Horton, Horton courageously goes through the house. You have to understand. He has no reason to believe anything other than. Than that. A crazed murderer is hiding somewhere in this house. He as dark house he's holding matches in front of him. With no gun to know, former protection holding matches in front of in front of his himself going from room to room finding bodies there are eight dead bodies in the house and long towels in a small quiet, but western town, the and all of them hitting the head with an axe the access found as it usually is next to the body of a little girl. The man from the train was a pervert. And he was instead in little little girl. Little girl was usually found in a in an attitude suggesting that she had been. She had been outraged after death the. In any case. The crime was not there was a great uproar as you can imagine. But the crime was not solved. Two years later. A conman named Jay in Walkerton came to Valenica and realized that he could sustain a phony investigation of the crime by keeping people angry. He could keep donations coming in by keeping people angry. And he did that by accusing a very prominent local citizen. Frank Jones of financing the crimes. There isn't any chance in the world of Frank Jones was guilty or that he had any any connection to it. But this campaign to prosecute Frank Jones divided Felicita and a horrible and unprecedented way the city fought over whether or not Jones did it or didn't do it for several years and became a badly divided community, you know, families on one side of the line wouldn't play with families on the other side of the line. They wouldn't go they wouldn't shop at their stores. They wouldn't wouldn't have anything to do with them. This battle lasted Valenica for even though. Welcome STAN was eventually run out of town in nineteen seventeen. The the battle went on for a long time and the hard feelings emanating from it. Persist in the city. I I would say to an extent that they persist to the present day. You mentioned the piece about the the person whipping up sentiment in making a false accusation to profit from it. And even that creates a pattern for all. Too often. How crime stories unsolved crime stories are treated yet at the same time. It it speaks to the fact that there weren't cold-case police officers working the crime still the crimes at that time might have been solved by after that period of time by somebody writing a letter confessing or somebody knowing somebody that wasn't it went to almost literally like fall in their lap, which again comes back to the the power of storytelling and how key but just by keeping by telling a story the beginning middle and end of these events. It doesn't matter. How old the story is is that it will get people to listen again and to reconsider again and most likely to connect again to that sense of outrage about what had happened. And so a static police report. Won't necessarily anger people. But when you start telling the story again people's revealing. Yeah. Yeah, that's right. And and that's but also keeps kind of the idea of the murder alive. It makes it it gives you a sensation. Again, that is the core of sensationalism. But it does it makes make you feel it again, the fact that this crime in happened had they had they built a any kind of memorial to the family had there been any had there been what had the town done to try to come to grips with the fact that this murder had happened prior to even this conmen coming to town or afterward. The. Well, there was I don't know that there was that kind of sad about I don't know that anyone built a memorial to them. For many years of Alaska. Authorities and I would say this is still true today that people the the chamber of commerce types types in Velasco wish to ballista was known for something else. Right..