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Property of the Folsom Wolf – Book Review

PropertyOfTheFolsomWolfby: Don Lasseter

Publisher:  Pinnacle Books

Copyright: 1995, ISBN: [0786000902]

Type:  Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, September 5, 1995

Summary: Well written social history with a murder event as backdrop with victims Corinna Novis and Lynel Murray as the focus. 

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 9 – Sept 1995 – Copyright 1995:


In 1980 Cynthia Anderson, eighteen at the time, married Ron Coffman. In March 1982, when she was twenty, she left her husband, taking their two year old son. A year later she left her son with grandparents and headed off to Arizona. Her use of drugs–marijuana, cocaine, occasionally heroin but mostly methamphetamine–started before she was a teen. During the almost three years between arriving in Arizona and meeting Greg Marlow, Cynthia Coffman’s life does not appear radically unusual. There were the drugs of course. She worked as a bartender and had a number of boyfriends, one of whom was more or less a constant. She learned to ski and would call back to her native St Louis to inquire about her son.

The only trouble Cynthia Coffman had with the law during this time was when her boyfriend got into a fight with a couple of thugs. After leaving the scene, he and Cyndi were stopped by the police. They found a derringer in Cyndi’s purse. They also found cocaine. She was arrested for possession and being under the influence of a controlled substance. She was released four days later, on April 9, 1986, pending criminal charges.

Then in June of 1986, Cynthia Coffman met Greg Marlow. By November of 1986, both were in the custody of the Redlands, California police being questioned about the murders of two young women.

Don Lasseter provides historical sketches of the lives of Cynthia Coffman and Greg Marlow. He also relates why Corinna Novis and Lynel Murray were at the places they were when Coffman and Marlow singled them out for murder and rape. Up until the times their paths crossed those of Coffman’s and Marlow’s , the two victims could have been from a different planet, so removed they were from the life-styles of their murderers. Coffman and Marlow killed the two young women in their constant search for drug money and money to finance a trip to Texas where Marlow was to kill a pregnant woman and collect $10,000 for the job. In the latter part of the book, the parents of Corinna Novis drove out from Gooding, Idaho and lived in a camper-trailer to attend the trail.

The most interesting details in PROPERTY OF THE FOLSOM WOLF concerns the defense of Cynthia Coffman against the murder charges. Her defense lawyers attempted to show that Cynthia suffered from the battered woman syndrome, “a subcategory of post-traumatic stress disorder”. Dr. Lenore Walker, an expert on the subject, provides analysis of the five-and-a-half month relationship between Coffman and Marlow.

It was Dr. Walker’s belief that Marlow had succeeded in making Coffman totally subservient to his will. He did this by beating her, cutting off her hair during one of their drunken arguments and threatening to kill her son if she ever left him. Marlow did these things, according to Dr. Walker, because of his hatred of women–starting with his mother. His  mother, a prostitute, had initiated him into sex when he was thirteen. She had injected him with heroin around the same age. It was Doris, his mother, according to Dr. Walker, that Marlow was attempting to destroy when he struck out at Coffman, making her a participant in the killings of Corinna Novis and Lynel Murray.

In reading Dr. Walker’s analysis of the relationship, you realize how desperate we can sometimes become to excuse our behavior. At one point, Dr. Walker, the expert, says that any woman, even women not normally suspected of being passive, could be suffering from the battered woman syndrome. The entire concept as used in the trail is simply amazing.

For their part, the prosecuting attorneys make a somewhat more reasonable argument. When Cynthia Coffman and Greg Marlow joined together, they created a third entity. Both became influenced by this third entity and came under its spell. Each was satisfied in their own way. When the time came that they should have pulled away–she leaving him or he leaving her–they didn’t.

In an epilogue, Don Lasseter provides some rather surprising information on the judicial system in California as of 1994. Taken together, the story of Coffman and Marlow and the fact that “nearly 400 condemned killers were lodged at various stages in California’s pipeline of appeals”, it makes you wonder about the purpose of courts and trails and punishment and social convention. Something is wrong here.

PROPERTY OF THE FOLSOM WOLF is very well written and appears to have been put together as a work of social history. It is thought provoking to say the least.

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