This is a true crime book and features detail of child sexual abuse and murder. The review, let alone the book, might not necessarily be something everyone would choose to read. I put this as the beginning to give you that choice.
Of course neither Alexandria or 6 year old Jeremy Guillory were able to choose.
In 1992 Jeremy Guillory knocked on the door of his neighbours house to see if his friend was available to play. In actual fact his friend had gone fishing for the afternoon with his father but Ricky Langley choose to tell Jeremy that he wouldn’t be long and invited him in to wait. Ricky’s story of what happened after that has changed on a number of occasions over the years but the fact of the matter is he murdered Jeremy, wrapped his body in blankets, stuffed a sock in his mouth, and hid him in his wardrobe. When Jeremy’s mother knocked later to see if anyone had seen her son Ricky said he hadn’t. Later Ricky called the police on her behalf. He gave her coffee whilst the search continued in the area that night.
Days later the police were notified that Ricky Langley was a sex offender. They found Jeremy’s body in his wardrobe.
At trial Ricky was sentenced to the death penalty. Years later, when his case was appealed, Jeremy’s mother gave evidence that whilst she wanted him punished for her sons’ death she did not want him to die. His sentence was transferred to one of life imprisonment.
Shortly after that the author began working for the defence firm that had represented Ricky Langley. She was at that time at Law School and vehemently opposed to the death penalty. She watched the video tape of Ricky Langley being interviewed and admitting to murdering Jeremy. She wanted Ricky Langley to die.
Over the course of the book we learn that Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich was herself the victim of sexual abuse, her maternal grandfather being the perpetrator. He took the opportunity, late at night, to sexually abuse her and her sister in their family home. He threatened her, should she tell. When, eventually, her parents because aware of the abuse, also experienced by her sister, they never challenged the matter they simply stopped him staying over. They did not involve the authorities though they were both lawyers.
Alexandria was just a young girl when the events took place and the book follows her as an adult trying to make sense of the decisions taken by her parents. Trying to make peace with them.
In telling her story Alexandria uses the framework of the story of Ricky Langley, the paedophile responsible for murdering Jeremy Guillory. She retells his story using court transcripts as the basis but elaborating with fictional assumptions as necessary. Ricky has a tragic background and it started long before he was born when his parents had a car accident that resulted in the death of their son and a daughter. Ricky’s mother was so badly injured in the accident that she spent months in hospital, in a full body cast. She was allowed to go home for New Year and somehow, despite this literal full body cast, she got pregnant with Ricky. She was advised to terminate the pregnancy given that she had been pumped full of drugs and that the pregnancy had only been discovered at 5 months and the cast had prevented her body from growing as it should. She would not hear of it. She hoped that this was a blessing come from all that had happened.
There were secrets in this family too and when Ricky started having dreams about a dark headed boy his mother told him about the brother who had died before he was born.
By his late teens Ricky knew that he needed help because he was attracted to children, particularly 6 year old boys. He knew that he needed locking up. He didn’t get help and started offending. He was a model prisoner when locked up though it was reported that he had said his only mistake in what he had done was leaving the child alive.
His next prosecuted event of abuse was the murder of Jeremy. Langley denied that he had abused the little boy in anyway although there was semen on the blanket wrapped around his body.
The retelling of the life of Langley was fascinating and the facts of the murder of Jeremy horrific. But they happened and it is interesting to see how people deal with these events. How Jeremy’s mother dealt with what happened to her little boy over time. How the trial Judge at the retrial dealt with the matter. How the father of the little boy the friend who Jeremy had gone to visit, dealt with it.
Alexandria shares her own story so honestly and it’s not without emotion but it isn’t overly dramatic. The events are dramatic, there’s no need for embelishment. She is respectful of her family and clearly loves them but presents them warts and all, showing how families are but also how hers was. How many things are done because they should be or because at that moment in time that’s the best you can manage and you never get to revisit that moment and make a better decision. Should you be judged therefore? Should you punish yourself forever because perhaps that was the wrong decision? How do you move on.
The most poignant part for me was when she told her mother one day about having counselling. She said to her mother that the counsellor had suggested that should their family home ever be destroyed she should drive the digger. Her mother replied, “No I’ll drive the digger”. And yet they had never really spoken about the abuse, her father at one point suggested that it had never happened and her sister decided to live as if it hadn’t.
It just goes to show that just because you don’t think they’re processing it doesn’t mean that they aren’t.
This is a horrifying story but a common one. Paedophiles offend in the shadows of secrecy, fear and silence. Those occur because of shame. People in families with paedophiles have to realise that it is a disease, a sexual preference. It is not a one off mistake. You can’t hide from it. This book shows us the damage that can be done, not only to the next child but to the previous one, by brushing it under the carpet.
This is a very highly recommended read and I’ll be interested to read more from the author.