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Patricia Shipp Lieb; published by Twilight Times Books, Solstice Publishing, Xlibris Press and Amazon Kindle.

 I like lots of space; photography, writing, reading, diddling around on the computer, playing Poker, spending time with family and friends, walking on the beach, and hiking through the woods. Author of: The Adventures of a Squirrel Named Peanut, Twilight Times Books; My Eighteenth Birthday, 1960 suspense-adventure; Solstice; Danger In The Cliffs, Solstice; Saying I Love You, poetry on Amazon's Kindle; The original version of Murders In The Swampland is available in hard-back books from Xlibris.com; Murders in the Swampland (third edition, updated) true crime now on Amazon Kindle.   
 
 

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Introduction to "Murders in the Swampland"

http://www.amazon.com/MURDERS-THE-SWAMPLAND-3rd-ebook/dp/B009GB138W
New 3rd edition available at Amazon.com

Covering crime was new to me when I moved to Florida's west coast and started working for The Daily Sun-Journal.
For a couple years prior to giving up the north for the Sunshine State, I wrote for The Daily Journal in Kankakee, Illinois. Before that, I was a co-editor/co-publisher of a literary magazine, wrote feature stories and a newspaper column about children, and had stories and poetry published here and there. That was it. Zip. A far cry from crime.

I had been living in Florida for three weeks when I returned to my apartment after a photography job interview and noticed the light blinking on my telephone answering machine. That is when I got the most rewarding call of my career as a journalist.

The recorded voice was that of Ken Melton, a man I didn't know but one who would become my boss and friend.

Ken was editor of The Daily Sun-Journal and needed to replace his crime reporter who was leaving for a bigger newspaper in another county. A copy of my resume had crossed Ken's desk. Needless to say, I returned the call immediately.

I reported to Ken the following morning, was hired and remained with the newspaper for the next three-and-a-half years, until the newspaper went to a weekly and along with more than half the staff, I got the ax.

Ken's eyes were teary when he said, "We're family here." On that sad day in 1991, The Daily Sun-Journal had started to fold--a process that would take a year to complete.

Ken was editor of The Daily Sun-Journal and needed to replace his crime reporter who was leaving for a bigger newspaper in another county. A copy of my resume had crossed Ken's desk. Needless to say, I returned the call immediately.

I reported to Ken the following morning, was hired and remained with the newspaper for the next three-and-a-half years, until the newspaper went to a weekly and along with more than half the staff, I got the ax. Ken's eyes were teary when he said, "We're family here." On that sad day in 1991, The Daily Sun-Journal had started to fold--a process that would take a year to complete.

The memories of working at The Daily Sun-Journal are lasting. Daily briefings in Sergeant "B" Frank Bierwiler's office were nearly always fascinating. Sergeant B and some of the five reporters from local media would usually come out with jokes or funny remarks that would bring humor to the morning. We sat in Sergeant B's office and read sheriff reports, sometimes with a chuckle, repeating aloud and commenting about off-the-wall incidents, like somebody picking mushrooms out of cow manure with the intentions of boiling them and drinking the juice to get high. But there were many reports far from the light side.

While a lot of incidents reported as criminal seemed somewhat rediculous, the amount of hard crime in the small county was inconceivable. Recently, some former staff of The Daily Sun-Journal gathered on Ken's patio to talk about the old days. He said that when he first arrived at The Daily Sun-Journal from a newspaper in the north, he was told Brooksville was a "lousy news town," a place where nothing ever happened. In the early-to-mid 1980s the county's population stayed pretty much at 20,000. "You used to really have to concentrate to find this place," Ken said, jokingly, of the area some 55 or so miles north of Tampa.

"Then bodies were being dug up in Billy Mansfield's back yard. I thought, 'My God!' Come to find out, Billy would take these girls home, rape them, kill them, and bury them in his mother's back yard. They (family) talked about hearing people screaming back there. Of course, nobody ever did anything. They'd say, 'Oh, that's just Billy.' It's amazing to me how his family didn't turn him in. I don't think there was any question whether they knew what was going on. It was like they thought: 'He's just killing somebody in the back yard--don't worry about it.' Mansfield was kind-of scary, like Charles Manson.

"In an unrelated incident a few years later, four men showed up at a house for various reasons at different times and were murdered. One man, later convicted of the crime, ran off to a far-away island in the South Pacific. A couple years later, detectives followed his mother when she went to visit her son.

"Now why would a killer have his mother fly in for a visit, as if he weren't being hunted anymore?"

Putting murder aside, some wild happenings in thecounty covered everything from a horse drinking too much wine to a man attempting to drown his wife in the waterbed because he didn't like her new hairdo. And there was the time, during one of the jailbreaks at the new jail, when a couple prisoners actually kicked a hole in the jail wall and escaped through it.

Laughing, Ken said, "Didn't they consider when they were building the jail that there might be people locked in who want out?"

Ken recalled hilarious happenings occurred in the old days, too. "Deputies in cruisers were chasing a car and the driver got away. When cops found him a little later, after he had smashed up his car, he was beside a garbage bin on the parking lot at a convenicence store having sex with a woman he had just met. "

It is the funniest story I've ever heard and it happened here. "The man got away from officers again. "I think the cops must have been laughing so hard that night they couldn't even catch the guy. Now what are the odds a man would meet a woman who would do that,"Ken said, laughing.

"They told me Brooksville was a lousy news town. Then they started digging up bodies in Billy Mansfield's yard and another guy got beat to death with a rock--then all hell broke loose. Brooksville was no longer a sleepy little town."

In this book, I am sharing with you some of the criminal acts that have occurred in Central Florida's once far-removed swampland adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. The "swamp" collection also includes extensive accounts of lawmen and their search for clues in one of the most horrific cases in Tampa Bay history after the boater's sighting led to the discovery of the bodies of a mother and her two teenage daughters weighted with concrete blocks and floating in the bay.

As well as covering most of these murders for The Daily Sun-Journal, I wrote accounts of the cases for the various true-crime magazines over a 10-year-period. In some stories, the names of witnesses and defendants' families have been changed; some have not. Several cases in this collection occurred before and after my tender with the newspaper. But they are crimes that still haunt folks who remember.

Be forewarned, some details herewith are gruesome.

I used literary license in writing these stories. Some quotes are assumed, as nobody really knows what was said during the crimes. Many quotes were taken directly from court records, including police reports, depositions, confessions, and trials. The happenings and moods are as close to truth as I could detect while studing the cases.
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