Busy, busy!

October 20, 2007

What a crazy year!

I finished two books this past year: "A Descent Into Hell: the True Story of an Altar Boy, a Cheerleader, and a Twisted Texas Murder," coming out in April on the terrible yet fascinating Austin murder of a beautiful young woman named Jennifer Cave. "Descent" answers many of the questions revolving around this infamous case, including offering, for the first time, a motive for the murder. The investigation took me where I hadn't ventured before, into the dark side of college life, a dangerous world of suburban kids who play gangster and develop a fascination for drugs and guns

This past year's second project is my first novel: "Singularity," set for release in July. It's my first published fiction, and I'm incredibly excited. The main character is Sarah Armstrong, a profiler/Texas Ranger on the trail of a dangerous killer. (You knew it would be a crime novel, didn't you?) I hope you enjoy Sarah, her eleven-year-old daughter, Maggie, and Sarah's sometimes cantankerous mom, Nora, as much as I do.

Now I'm hard at work on a second Sarah Armstrong novel. For ideas, as I did with the first, I'm drawing on my more than two decades of law enforcement and courtroom experiences. Twenty years writing true crime, believe me, I've interviewed enough cops and murderers to understand what makes them tick. I'm not a stranger to this world, and I believe that comes through loud and clear in the novels.

At the same time, I'm researching a new true crime book. This one's on Houston's David Temple case. It's an amazing story, the nearly nine-year-old murder of Belinda Temple, David's wife, a beloved teacher and young mother. In many ways, this case echoes the sensational Scott Peterson case, including that Belinda was eight-months pregnant when she was found in her bedroom closet, her skull shattered by a close-range shotgun blast. The trial's just begun, and two of Texas' greatest lawyers, prosecutor Kelly Siegler and defense attorney Dick DeGuerin are battling in the courtroom.

That's actually my topic today. (I know it took me awhile, but hang on, I'm getting there.) I thought perhaps ya'll would like a feel for what it's like in a courtroom during a real murder trial. It's not much like television. Little is accomplished in minutes, rarely anything substantial in hours, but more often days, weeks, even months. For the most part, cases are laid out methodically, attorneys carefully lining up facts they believe will convince the jury, witness by witness, while trying to dismantle the opposition's theory.

As for the mood, courtrooms are quiet places, somber much of the time. The families line up squarely behind their advocates, the victim's behind the prosecutors, and the defendant's behind the defense team, often just a few feet apart. The quarters are tight, and it's hard not to bump into one another, an often uncomfortable situation for both sides. They run into each other in hallways, restrooms, even the courthouse cafeteria.

Understandably, emotions run high on both sides. There's much on the line for the defense, the freedom, sometimes even the life of the accused, while victims' families hope for a conviction to give them justice. As a reporter, I am a fly on the wall, sitting back, taking notes and observing, listening as the jury does to the evidence, weighing the facts, and making up my mind about the vital issue: guilt or innocence.