Review of Death Sentence: The Inside Story of the John List Murders by Joe Sharkey
What would cause a man to kill all members of his family? Your first thought might be that he would have to be a deranged psychopath or someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You wouldn’t expect the answer to be a mild-mannered accountant. Author Joe Sharkey dives into what the publisher describes as the first mass murder in the United States.
The murders took place in 1971. It would be nearly two decades before police finally catch up with the killer. The author tells the story of what took place before, during, and after John List killed his three children, his wife, and his mother. The motive? According to List himself, was to spare his family from a life of poverty after he lost his job and could no longer provide for them financially.
Plenty of people pick up and leave, hoping for a fresh start. They simply walk away and let their family fend for themselves. In John Lists’s twisted mind, that wasn’t an option. He was doing them a favor.
The author does a commendable job delving into the psyche of John List. At no time does Jon List seem to show any remorse for his wrongdoings. He planned the murders, left meticulous instructions on what authorities were to do with the bodies, and then disappeared.
John List began his new life with a new name – Bob Clark. He laid low in Colorado, taking low-paying jobs in the restaurant business where they don’t normally do background checks. He met a woman who he later married. As time went on, and his new identity took hold, John List started working once again as an accountant.
If this same crime were to happen today, it’s unlikely that the perpetrator would so easily be able to escape punishment as long as John List did. There was no Internet or cable news to broadcast his picture and the gory details of his crime. He seemed to have gotten away with the perfect crime, that is until his past caught up with him.
I won’t give away how he was finally brought to justice. Let’s just say that it came about in an unexpected way.