And Then She Killed Him – Book Review
Author: Robert Scott
Publisher: Pinnacle Books, Kensington Publishing Corp, 119 West 40th Street, NY, NY
Copyright: 2012, ISBN: 0786020386
Reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, May 26, 2014
Summary: Two rather titillating features of this book. First, the author did not include any mention of a “black widow” in the title nor in the narrative. Second, it makes you realize that there are some places in this country where “justice” really is a principle as opposed to a doctrine. The difference between criminal trials in Colorado and Florida are exemplars, though the author never brings the subject up.
AND THEN SHE KILLED HIM is the third book this reviewer has read by Robert Scott. His last book, GIRL IN THE LEAVES was reviewed here in March 2013. (His 2008, DRIVEN TO MURDER about a murder committed on a ranch owned by TV journalist Sam Donaldson, though not reviewed in TGJ, is definitely worth checking out). One element of Scotts’ writing is very clear: he evaluates his subject matter and unravels it appropriately in precise and limited topics. In GIRL IN THE LEAVES the narrow focus on just the essentials lead to a great deal of extraneous and un-necessary information—padding, in other words. In AND THEN SHE KILLED HIM, there is none of that. He sticks to and expands on the subject and in the process provides some truly enlightening information about the judicial system.
The June 2008 murder of Alan Helmick had no clear and identifiable reason. After reading AND THEN SHE KILLED HIM, you are left with a list of possible top-three picks. This is understandable given the reasons behind most murders are extraordinary lame and reflect the mentality of the persons who commit them.
Alan Helmick was shot in the back of the head while in his kitchen. There was no real evidence of a robbery though an FBI agent said the murder scene had been staged to look like a robbery. Helmick had no identifiable enemies. He certainly had no enemies who would walk into his home and shoot him in the back of the head. Under the circumstances, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office was left with “the usual suspects”—family members.
From the time Miriam Helmick walked into the kitchen of her home and called the police reporting her husband’s murder to the time she was arrested in December 2008, the author give a fairly detailed account of how the police wadded through the circumstances to arrive at who they thought was the guilty party. The details are important. The details, circumstantial though they were, were the only evidence pointing to Miriam as the killer of her husband. While the police did the work, Scott does an excellent job of taking the reader through those circumstances in a clear and straight-forward way.
Despite what appears to be good work by the police and good writing by the reporter, there are still many unanswered and even unfathomable questions surrounding Alan Helmick’s murder. Prosecutors maintained that Miriam started on her mission to kill her husband sometime before January 2008. The couple married in 2006. First, there were suspicions that Alan was being poisoning. As Scott reports based on Mariam’s trial, the symptoms Alan’s daughters and friends suspected as poisoning were most likely the result of a horrendously bad heart. If Alan had not been brutally shot in the head while in his kitchen, he most likely would have died of heart trouble within a couple of years. Someone however—it could have been Miriam or Alan—had used Miriam’s computer to look up information on poisons. It was a circumstantial fact that had multiple explanations.
Not so easily dismissed was what looked like an attempt on Alan’s life in April 2008. Scott opens AND THEN SHE KILLED HIM with a description of this incident. It is very good structuring for the book because the incident encapsulates what is to come. Some person or persons unknown stuffed a “cloth article” into the gasoline spout of Alan’s Buick and set the article on fire with the apparent expectation that the gas tank would explode. Alan, sitting in the car and waiting for Miriam to return from the restroom, noticed white smoke in the rear of the car. He investigated and extinguished the smoldering “article” after it singed the rubber gasket around the gasoline tank opening. The police investigated. No culprits to the potential murder-crime were found. The incident became another building block of guilt in Miriam’s trial. Everything about it remained circumstantial because there was no physical proof indicating who did it.
The November 2009 trial of Miriam Helmick for the murder of her husband was based on circumstantial evidence and one questionably piece of physical evidence. It is in describing the events of this trail that author Robert Scott elevates AND THEN SHE KILLED HIM above just another true crime report to an informative piece of history.
For a trial based on circumstantial evidence and witnesses attesting to atmospherics rather than deeds and consequences, Miriam Helmick’s defense attorneys had to come up with plausible explanations to negate what the prosecutors presented as odd behavior. Unable to do so, the defense relied upon the old tactic of accusing the police of targeting Miriam to exclusion of any other suspect. The jury was obviously paying attention. Through the judge, the jury asked questions relevant to the mind set of both the investigating officers and the defendant. It is a pleasant surprise to run across such reporting in a true crime book. Even more surprising, though it should not be, is the relevancy and insightfulness of the questions asked by the jury members.
Robert Scott is one of the few really good writers in the true-crime genre. He does not have an agenda. Or, he does not regurgitate words in the pretense of having an agenda. Just the facts please. AND THEN SHE KILLED HIM is one of his better efforts and is worth reading.