Whatever happened in the past, the story wrote right over it. The story became the truth. What you see in Ricky killing Jeremy, I have come to believe , depends as much on who you are and the life you’ve had as on what he did. But the legal narrative erases that step. It erases where it came from.
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: 3rd May 2018
When law student Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is asked to work on a death-row hearing for convicted murderer and child molester Ricky Langley, she finds herself thrust into the tangled story of his childhood. As she digs deeper and deeper into the case she realizes that, despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar. The Fact of a Body is both an enthralling memoir and a groundbreaking, heart-stopping investigation into how the law is personal, composed of individual stories, and proof that arriving at the truth is more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.
I got this one from Netgalley.co.uk
I thought I’d heard of this case before, covered by Small Town Murder #36; it was the strange pronunciation of Iowa, Louisiana – ‘Iowaaaay’ – that triggered the memory.
But it isn’t that case, it’s a different case, that also happened in 1991. Iowa, Louisiana must have been a really dangerous place in 1991; apparently there were a lot of paedophiles around, at least 11. Violent crime is still high in the area, Seriously, listen to the podcast, James has all the stats.
Iowa is in the middle of nowhere, in flat grassland. It’s poor, it’s a place that’s barely there, and in 1991 a terrible, terrible crime took place. A 6 year-old boy, Jeremy, walks from the house he shares with his mother Lorelei, her friend Melissa and Melissa’s baby, to see if his friend, Joey, wants to play in the woods, with a ravine and stream that they can play soldiers in, behind the white, two-storey house Joey lives in with his sister, parents and their lodger, Ricky. Joey isn’t home. Neither is any of his family. Ricky invites Jeremy in to wait for his friends, Joey and June. Friends who he claims will be home soon, but who have just left with their father to spend the afternoon fishing.
At this point it gets a bit hazy. Did Ricky abuse Jeremy then kill him, kill him and then molest his corpse, or ‘merely’ murder him? Was he psychotic at the time, as his lawyers claim, or a paedophile out of control, as the state claims? Either way. he murdered a child. Ricky had a history molesting children, something he started doing at the age of nine. He’d served prison time in Georgia for it, he’d seen multiple psychiatrists, and counsellors, on occasion he begged for help, begged to be kept locked up so he wouldn’t hurt anyone else.
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich intertwines the story of Ricky Langley and Jeremy, with her own story of childhood abuse by her grandfather, the silence of her parents about her dead triplet sister, her sick triplet brother, her mentally ill father’s rages and depressions. She charts her love of the law, her disillusion with the law, and her self-acceptance as a gay woman.
More memoir than true-crime investigation, this book charts, in lovely prose, Alexandria’s personal journey and the first real case she worked on as a law student/intern at a New Orleans law firm. She finds parallels with her own life, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, working on a case for a firm that defends the child murderer/paedophile Ricky Langley. She finds the story not told in the courts and the newspapers, years after first meeting Langley in Angola prison, Louisiana, and in the process starts to heal her own hurt.
This book is haunting, and beautifully written.