Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review - The Murder of Maggie Hume: Cold Case in Battle Creek

This week while at the Willard Library I picked up a copy of The Murder of Maggie Hume: Cold Case in Battle Creek by Blaine Pardoe and Victoria Hester. Like many people I enjoy reading a true crime book sometimes, and this was an excellent one.

Battle Creek, Michigan is not my hometown, but I have lived here five years, and I thought I would learn some interesting history about the city where I now live.

On August 16, 1982 Maggie Hume at age 20 was raped and strangled to death in her apartment in the middle of the night. The tragic death of this daughter of a well-known football coach at Saint Philip High School appalled the city.

An intense investigation took place but was plagued by mistakes and missed opportunities as a detective with minimal homicide experience likely tried his best.

To this day, no one has been charged with the murder of Maggie Hume. Such a tragedy is difficult to ponder because it shows that brutal killers sometimes get away with their crimes.

The authors did an excellent job of treating this subject with respect while presenting the technical details. Extremely well written, the book presents a gripping read with the evidence and numerous interviews. Although the bureaucratic labyrinth of details was overwhelming at times for me as a reader, I still devoured the book because it was so interesting. I knew I wasn't going to get a definitive answer at the end, but I wanted to consume all the evidence myself and come to my own conclusion.

The prime suspect was Maggie's boyfriend. The book piled on the evidence that included some extraordinary events. And when I was convinced he was the killer, the authors introduced another suspect: a man who was convicted of killing another young woman who happened to be staying in the apartment below Maggie's the night of her murder. This was a shocking coincidence, and for a few pages made me think that the boyfriend actually was innocent.

The second suspect even confessed, but the courts threw out his confession because of numerous conflicts with the physical evidence and his ulterior motive of seeking permanent transfer to a prison in Michigan.

The local prosecutor never brought a case against the boyfriend because the evidence was not a slam dunk. With such a shocking high-profile murder there would be too much political fallout for failing to convict.

As I read the book I came to the realization that's it's ridiculous for prosecutors to be political positions. This introduces variables that the prosecutors have to deal with beyond the job of delivering justice.

A long and twisted tale of turf wars, egos, and petty politics is detailed within the book that shows how a murder investigation can go no where despite the erratic and disturbing behavior of the main suspect.

As a local reader I enjoyed reading a true crime story that included places that I've been around town. This really drew me into the story, but this cold case is sufficiently fascinating for someone to enjoy no matter where he or she lives. The authors did a fantastic job of organizing a tremendous amount of material and imbuing it with emotion.

What struck me most about the story was how much I could relate to Maggie. Her story made me think about when I was 20. I lived in an apartment with a roommate. I had a job and spent my time partying with what little money I had. And I had a lame boyfriend who added stupid drama to my life. I felt like I could have been Maggie if not for the luck of the draw.

That her vicious boyfriend got away with the crime and will likely live free all his days are extremely disturbing realitites. Not all killers are brought to justice.

My condolences to the Hume family.

I highly recommend The Murder of Maggie Hume. The authors created a compelling tale that kept me turning the pages.

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