5 Writers & Reporters Who Helped Solve The Cases They Investigated
If you've read Michelle McNamara's bestselling book I'll Be Gone in the Dark, then you already know that author was driven to write it by a desire to catch the Golden State Killer (a name she coined) above all else. Like so many other writers who wade into the murky waters of unsolved crimes, McNamara wanted her work to bring her more than just money and fame; she wanted it to help deliver answers, to uncover the human face behind the mask of the monster that terrorized California with rape, murder, and burglary for a decade. That is why her husband Patton Oswalt was celebrating on Twitter on Wednesday morning after news broke that Golden State Killer has reportedly been caught and McNamara posthumously became one of the many writers whose work helped catch a criminal.
While you're waiting on bated breath for news about whether or not the man recently arrested in California is indeed the Golden State Killer, check out these five other times writers and journalists were crucial to solving a crime. From instances of political corruption to stories of serial murders, these cases couldn't have been cracked without the hard work of determined writers. They didn't all help catch an elusive killer like McNamara likely did, but they did assist in making sure justice was served.
The Boston Globe investigative team exposed corruption in the Catholic Church
If you've seen Spotlight, you already know that journalists are intrepid crime solvers, and not just when it comes to cold case murders. Thanks to the dogged work of the incredible investigative team at The Boston Globe, the systematic cover-up of sexual abuse in the church was exposed, and five Roman Catholic priests were found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors were convicted and sentenced to prison. After you watch the Oscar-winning film (again), you can read all about their groundbreaking investigation in Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church.
Reporter Christine Pelisek helped catch the Grim Sleeper
The City of Los Angeles awarded journalist Christine Pelisek the Certificate of Appreciation for her help with the case of the Grim Sleeper, a serial killer that claimed the lives of 38 black women over the course of three decades in California. Her extensive reporting for LA Weekly, which included in-depth interviews with hundreds of women, aided the LAPD in the apprehension of Lonnie David Franklin Jr. In 2016, he was found guilty of the murder of 10 women and sentenced to death. Pelisek wrote all about her fascinating investigation in The Grim Sleeper, which includes gut-wrenching details about the brutal crimes, the failure of justice, and the lives of the victims she dubs "Lost Women of South Central."
Woodward and Bernstein exposed the Watergate break in and Nixon's connection to it
Perhaps one of the best known cases where journalistic reporting lead to actual criminal charges and real change, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's 1972 investigation into the Watergate scandal rocked American politics and put dozens of people behind bars. Their on the break in of the Democratic National Committee Offices for The Washington Post exposed the political crimes of the Nixon White House, and lead to the indictment of 40 officials and the resignation of the president himself. Everything you need to know about their Pulitzer Prize winning investigation is in their bestselling book, All the President's Men: The Greatest Reporting Story of All Time.
Journalist John MacCormack uncovered the truth behind Madalyn O'Hair's disappearance
When the founder of the American Atheists Madalyn O'Hair went missing (along with her son, John and granddaughter, Robin) in 1995, everyone assumed she left on her own free will. A year later, though, reporter John MacCormack revisited the case while writing an anniversary piece for the San Antonio Express-News, and it lead him down a three-year investigative rabbit hole that eventually revealed the O'Hairs may not have left willingly afterall. With the help of a private investigator, MacCormack eventually connected the headless, handless corpse found in 1995 with the O'Hairs disappearance, and uncovered a dubious kidnapping and murder scheme that left the family dead. MacCormack's in-depth reporting also helped lead to the arrest of two men who were arrested and charged with the shocking crime. If you want to know more, you can watch a fascinating biopic about "The Most Hated Woman in America" on Netflix.
Mabel Norris Reese helped clear Jesse Daniels of a crime he didn't commit
When the wife of a prominent citrus baron was raped in 1957, she told police her attacker was a black man, yet, days later, a poor, white, mentally disabled boy was arrested for the crime. Without a real conviction or a proper trial, Jesse Daniels was locked up in state hospital for the insane. But the story didn't end there, because once journalist Mabel Norris Reese caught wind of the conspiracy of injustice, she worked tirelessly to get to the truth. With the help of Jesse's mother — who incessantly wrote to J. Edgar Hoover pleading her son's case — Reese eventually helped get Jesse out of the hospital and clear his name. Although Reese didn't help put a criminal behind bars, she did rescue an innocent man from an even worse fate, and you can read all about it in Gilbert King's newest book, Beneath a Ruthless Sun.