The time has finally come to tell folks what my daughter Victoria Hester and I have been working on. Our next true crime book is about the Freeway Phantom serial killing spree, 1971-72. We have been working for over a year and a half on the book, gathering research materials, interviewing investigators, etc.
We have both been heads-down writing and are nearing the completion of the first draft.
For those of you not familiar with the Freeway Phantom, he struck in Washington DC’s Southeast neighborhoods (primarily) in the early 1970’s. Depending on the list you use, he killed between six and eight young girls, sexually assaulting then strangling them. On one, he had the victim write a note that was left with her body – taunting the authorities to “Catch me if you can.” The book title comes from a key word in the note he had his victim write.
Was the murderer cunning and crafty, or damned lucky? Why did he stop…or did he? Were there other victims? Who were the suspects, and why? We have been able to really pry this case wide open in some areas – providing more facts than the public has known before.
This book will be different than our last book, A Special Kind of Evil, in several ways. Our last book focused heavily on the victims and their stories. With Tantamount, we are focusing more on the investigation. Our efforts to contact the family members have, understandably, been either disregarded or in some cases, outright rejected. These folks have had nearly fifty years of reporters dredging their painful losses up – and we respect that. On top of that, the victims were very young, making it difficult to write a great deal about them.
It is a different style of book, as a result…a little grittier, with some real insights as to how and why the case became so cold.
My co-author/daughter Victoria and I have been immersed in this for a while now. Even how we split the book up is different this time around. I’m not sure which one of us had the harder job. There are nights when I am done that I feel physically and mentally exhausted. Serial murders are like that.
We are quite excited about the book. For us, it is a chance to thaw some cold cases…bring them to the light of day and expose new information, facts, and details that might bring in new tips for the authorities. Our books on cold cases have always succeeded in that in the past, and we’re confident this one will as well. Though with this one the solvability gets harder each passing day.
In some instances we have struggled to get information – where in other areas, we almost have too much data. I’ve corresponded with prisoners, which is interesting and weird at times. Victoria and I have been all over Washington DC meeting with former detectives who themselves are still on the case. From a local bar on Pennsylvania Ave to hours at the DC Superior Court, we’ve been finding information in the most interesting of places.
The book will present reams of new data about the cases that has never been made public before. We have learned a lot about not only the key suspects, but how the case went off the rails and has remained cold all of these decades. We have been stonewalled by the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department on numerous fronts. Still, I think we have prevailed and have been successful in crafting a meaningful story out of these murders.
Something else we will be doing differently with Tantamount is that we will be doing a podcast about the Freeway Phantom that will coincide with the book. We’ll be talking not only about the case, but about writing about the book as well. It will be an insider’s look into the Freeway Phantom cases and is likely to include some details we couldn’t confirm or include in the book. Think of this as a companion. We’re new to producing a podcast, so we ask you to be patient with us. Our goal is simple – get this right and get it with a high quality.
Don’t worry, we will still be talking to other podcasters out there too. The true crime community is tight knit. Several podcasters out there encouraged us to take this step to go out on our own.
Wild Blue Press is going to be the publisher. We liked what they did with A Special Kind of Evil and you tend to stick with a winning combination.
So there you have it…another serial killing case near our homes and hearts.