Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Deliver Us"

Kathryn Casey is an award-winning journalist, who has written for Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Reader's Digest, Texas Monthly, and many other publications. She's the author of several previous true crime books and the creator of the highly acclaimed Sarah Armstrong mystery series. Casey has appeared on Oprah, Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen network, Biography, Nancy Grace, E! network, truTV, Investigation Discovery, the Travel Channel, and A&E.

Casey applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, Deliver Us: Three Decades of Murder and Redemption in the Infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields, and reported the following:
From page 69:
It would later seem that brief investigation set the tone for their future encounters. “I leaned on Mike real hard about it,” Morris testified, describing the first time he interrogated Self. “He respected me as far as what I could do to him.”

“Was Mike Self afraid of you?” a lawyer asked.

“That’s a fair statement. Yes,” he responded.

At other times, Morris said much the same in even stronger terms, admitting that Mike Self was “scared to death of me.”

When it came to the question of where the bad blood originated, some said that Morris resented Self because he was a friend of the former police chief, whom Morris made it clear he couldn’t abide. Weeks before he was even questioned about the two murders, Self, who’d had psychiatric treatment after he’d been accused of being a Peeping Tom, told a Webster police officer that Morris had “threatened to get him.” It was around daybreak less than a month after Morris took over as Webster’s police chief, when Tommy Deal and another officer were dispatched to the Texaco station where Self worked to talk to him about the girls’ murders.
This excerpt from page 69 is, in a sense, representative of the book. Deliver Us: Three Decades of Murder and Redemption in the Infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields explores the murders of dozens of teenage girls and young women over three decades along a stretch of I-45 south of Houston and going onto Galveston Island. For decades, the girls’ photos have been published on a chart of notorious cases that’s often run in newspapers along the Gulf Coast, under headings like “Unsolved” and “I-45 Mysteries.”

Eleven of the murders took place in the 1970s, six of the girls dying in pairs. Mike Self, who pumped gas in an era pre-dating self-serve, was convicted of two murders, those of fourteen-year-old best friends Sharon Shaw and Rhonda Renee Johnson. Sadly, Self died in prison for the murders, although the prevailing opinion is that he wasn’t guilty.

This passage is representative of the book because it illustrates the doubts and the hysteria surrounding these cases. Many wonder if the girls’ murders would have been solved with better police work – obviously absent in the Self case, where lawmen allegedly played Russian roulette to get him to confess.

By the time Shaw’s and Johnson’s remains were discovered in early 1972, months after their disappearances, five other girls had vanished. That put the body count at seven. In response, parents throughout the Houston-Galveston area panicked. They locked their daughters in their homes, refusing to let them walk unaccompanied outside. And they demanded answers. Police, seen as ineffective, were highly criticized. The pressure built, and Self, it appears, became a scapegoat. This, of course, only multiplied the tragedy.

How do we know Mike Self was innocent? One possible indicator is that while he sat in a Texas prison proclaiming his innocence, girls continued to die along I-45.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Casey's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Singularity.

The Page 99 Test: Blood Lines.

The Page 69 Test: The Killing Storm.

--Marshal Zeringue