Anyone that writes true crime will tell you that you are never completely done with the book. New things surface from time-to-time. I will tell you that as an author, you get attached to the case and people bring you new information or images all of the time. The internet is a great way for me to share the more interesting tid-bits.
My book Secret Witness was my first true crime book. It details the postal bombing murder of Nola Puyear in 1967 in Marshall Michigan. The perpetrator of these crimes was Enoch Chism who killed Mrs. Puyear in a bizarre quest to get her husband to sell the Tasty Café on Marshall’s main street.
One of the crimes that Chism had committed prior to his arrest for murder was the arson of his brother’s property at 114 Fountain Street in 1963. Chism had doused the house with fuel oil and had set the blaze, then raced to work at Kellogg’s in Battle Creek in hopes that would provide him an alibi. It didn’t work, but the justice system failed miserably, giving Chism a slap on the wrist for his crime. He received probation for two years, a $50 fine for the arson, and was forced to pay $100 court costs and five dollars for the State Police training fund.
Chism clearly abused his wife – it was the subject of many calls to police. In the 1960’s there were no domestic abuse laws in place. Unchecked for his arson, Chism’s horrific temper spilled over beyond his family. More than one officer on the case told me that if Chism had been properly sentenced for this crime, he would have never been able to mail the package bomb to the Tasty Café and take Mrs. Puyear’s life.
When I was in Battle Creek with my daughter during our book tour for our latest New York Times Bestseller, The Murder of Maggie Hume, a person handed me a folder filled with images from the arson. From the markings, they look like old newspaper photos but these images were never in the papers (except the one of Chism himself) – which makes them intriguing. While far too late to include in the book, they were interesting and I thought I would offer them up for people who have read the book. Here they are:
The site of the arson on Fountain St.
The damage from the fire and the investigators
If you know who the men are in the photo – please feel free to comment on the blog.