Head Shot – Book Review
by: Burl Barer
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp. (Pinnacle Books)
Copyright: 2001, ISBN: 
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, May 3, 2006
Summary: Readable crime reporting of murders in Tacoma, Washington. Not much of interest however.
When the good ol’ boys get together, strange doings. People get shot, the near innocent just barely escape the death penalty, and some scribe starts writing.
Could be a situation comedy. Only thing is, there is nothing funny here, the situation is depressing, and the good ol’ boys were a bunch of alcoholic, drug intoxicated psychopaths in Tacoma, Washington of all places.
There are some stories which must be told. The story of the St. Pierre brothers-Paul and Christopher-and their sidekick, Andrew K. Webb, is not a must tell. If not for the blood and gore, there would not be a sentence worth of ink capable of being distilled into a thought necessitating an entire book on the St. Pierre brothers and Andrew K. Webb. However, in the near-quirky world of crime and prolonged justice (possibly leading to additional punishment) some fairly interesting tidbits popup making even the mundane worth a look. Author Burl Barer’s 412 page book fits into this category. It is this kernel of an issue worthy of everyday relevancy, reinforced by the structure Barer chose for the story, forcing the reader to surmise that it is the sole reason Barer pounded out a story.
Two men were murdered by or with the assistance of the St. Pierre brothers. Andrew K. Webb was the third party involved and was the motive force behind the first of the murders. The St. Pierre brothers owned a house in which they rented rooms to a varied assortment of individuals. They also held parties. Apparently, lots of parties. Alcohol and drugs were menu items. Barer also makes reference to a young girl being held captive in the house at one point. Just one more illicit detail surrounding the brothers.
Barer picks up the murder and mayhem at the denouement. Paul St. Pierre shoots Andrew Webb during an argument. Precisely what the argument was about is not known though Barer quotes one of the witness as saying Paul was being repeatedly asked about missing car keys by one of the house tenants. Paul St. Pierre, as was his wont, directed his initial irritation at the questioner then turned on Webb . They reportedly argued over money Web owed Paul. While killers killing killers is not unheard of, the shooting of Webb by Paul St. Pierre roused one of the non-involved house tenants to get the police. A gun was fired. A man shot. It was a criminal offense. Luckily for Web, the gunshot from the .45 pistol “went through” him and did not cause lasting damage. The police considered the crime an instance of one drug-impaired drunk shooting another drug-impaired drunk. While Webb was in the hospital, Paul St. Pierre was held in jail while an investigation was undertaken. Unluckily for Webb and Paul St. Pierre, the police also had a tip hotline by which the public could call in anonymously and leave information. It was through the tips that the police began to expand their investigation of the shooting.
The everyday relevancy issue of HEAD SHOT crops up when Christopher S. Pierre draws a map, literally and figuratively, for the police, detailing the murders committed by himself, his brother and Andrew K. Webb. Victim John Achord, age 22, was killed by the trio and had
his head cut-off and placed his a bucket of cement. The rationale for the decapitation was that it would make the body hard to identify if it were ever discovered which it was. Next to Achord’s body was that of Damon Wells. He had been shot in the face, his throat slashed and stabbed in the back. Both bodies were found near Salmon Beach in Tacoma. Christopher’s knowledge of the murders did not mean that he confessed only that he had knowledge of them.
After Christopher S. Pierre’s admission, everyone is hauled off to jail if they are not already there-Christopher specifically-and charged with murder. Of course lawyers begin to popup like gophers on a Texas prairie and the deal-for-justice game begins.
Andrew K. Webb entered into a plea-bargain arrangement in which he admitted “that he ‘slashed [Damon] Well’s throat because he feared he would be killed himself if he didn’t'”. He then agrees to testify against the Pierre bothers in exchange for life in prison. The Pierre brothers would be tried for the two murders. Lots of things happen on the way to trial however and author Barer relates them around Webb’s confession and his on and off attitude toward testifying against the St. Pierres. Overshadowing the confession and the facts surrounding the murders is the court hearing on the competency to stand trail of Paul St. Pierre. To say that there was something wrong with the procedure is an understatement. Then again, nothing much needs to be said about it because Paul St. Pierre provides his own answer to the question of his sanity, or lack thereof.
You come away from HEAD SHOT with the observation that justice should be blind, but it need not a ritual performed in an underground labyrinth. The Andrew K. Webb confession and subsequent trial of the St. Pierre brothers has that feel. Shine a little light in the tunnel, as Barer does, and you may capture only part of the picture.
There is a hint in Barer’s treatment of events leading one to suspect that he believes Christopher S. Pierre was unfairly treated by the justice system. Given the no-hassle, life in prison deal Andrew K. Webb received for his qualified confession and the blazing effort the prosecution made to get Christopher St. Pierre strapped into an electric chair (or strapped onto a gurney), it is easy to see how “unfairness” pops up as an issue. However, two men were murdered. All three charged were participants in the murders.
It is difficult to get beyond the victims when the issue of “unfairness” crops up. Burl Barer gives only a sketchy picture of John Achord and Damon Wells. In many ways, they appeared to be like the three men who killed them. If it was unfair for the state to ask for the death penalty for Christopher St. Pierre, it was also unfair that the two men were killed.
HEAD SHOT is worth a read if you want to look at another instance of the justice system in action. What you get is not very flattering. But then, maybe the author over-reached a bit.