Love Me To Death – Book Review
by: Steven Jackson
Publisher: Pinnacle Books (Kensington Publishing Corp.)
Reviewed By: Lynard Barnes, January 24, 2004
Summary: Little crimes leading to a “big” crime. Thought provoking: maybe the little crimes should have been viewed the same as the “big” crime.
Okay, so this is a typical true-crime book. The redeeming quality of this book however is the absence of insight the author gives us into the mind of William Neal.
Neal killed three women in July 1998. The murders were senseless in every meaning and connotation of the word. However, that leaves open the word-gates for someone to come up with a meaning. Steve Jackson does not do that. Instead, he does an excellent job of providing us the rational of William Neal himself for his crimes, and the suspicions of the police and, more importantly, the rationale of the remaining family members of the victims as to why the three women ended up dead at the hands of a con-artist turned killer.
LOVE ME TO DEATH is not a must read book. It does a better job than most in this genre of exposing the interlocking web of people as products of social conditioning. The stark world of victim and predator does not exist. Yet, our senses rebel at the notion that extraordinary predators, like murders, and extraordinary victims like those murdered, are extraordinary because they are locked into a mindset by social conditioning. Steve Jackson does not address these issues head-on. The approach is oblique: Hints and innuendo.
William “Cody” Neal seduced Rebecca Holberton in 1996 and within two years had weaseled at least $60,000.00 out of her, primarily through her credit cards. He had also moved into her condo. To seduce Holberton, Neal was able to flash a lot of money stolen from his former business partners and other women who fell prey to his flash and con. When Neal’s existence as a parasite started to lose its grip, Holberton started demanding her money back and he had to deliver on the outlandish monetary promises he made to his other two romantic victims, Candace Walters and Angela Fite.
The horror of Neal’s crimes is their seeming senselessness. As an observer reading through the chronicles of events in Neal’s life, the voice in your head peppers thought with rational expectations. Okay, he cons one, two, three and countless other women out of money and love and is about to get caught in a web of lies. Leave. Move on to unpolluted pastures. Instead, he decides upon murder. There is no rational basis for such a decision. Likewise, there was no rational basis for his victims to believe the pie-in-the-sky claims Neal made of repaying ten or a hundred-fold money he had conned from them merely because he was a “nice” guy.
In Jackson’s telling, it is easy to spot the factors in the lives of the three victims that made them gullible, almost self-deceivers. In Neal’s life however, there was nothing that came even close to explaining how he could “suddenly” decided he had the right to adjudicate life and death matters. Neal was an evolution. He was an evolution that should have been cut short long before he extinguished the lives of three women in Rebecca Holberton’s condo in 1998.
By the time of his trial, William Neal has evolved to the point where he believed he had the right to decide upon the matter of his own life and death. Jackson has allowed the reader to see Neal for what he really was–an egotist with delusions of self-importance. A judge sentenced Neal to death. Neal’s death will be the end of the story for Neal of course and possibly for members of the victim’s families. For society as a whole, the execution of William Neal should not be the end. In an epilogue, Jackson touches upon the ripple effect of Neal’s crimes. There is a memorial fund to benefit the children left behind as a result of Angela Fite’s death for instance. More than a ripple effect upon those directly affected by the murders, there is a ripple effect upon a society that tolerates the evolution of criminals like William Neal. Neal managed to escape responsibility for a lot of “little” crimes before he finally decided he had earned the “right” to commit a bigger crime.
Steve Jackson has written a thought provoking report on the murder of three women which should not have been allowed to happen.