True Crime Resources Online
This week’s post is devoted to some outside true-crime resources discovered on the Internet:
I learned of Sword and Scale only recently and was surprised to see a true-crime site with such high production values. It looks more like a thrillist.com than a wikipedia. Sword and Scale is chiefly renowned for its podcast: “A show that reveals the worst monsters are real.” I listened to a podcast featuring the 911 call with a neighbor of Christy Sheats, the Texas woman who shot her two daughters in summer of 2016; it transports the listener to the scene. The site also features articles, including a great piece on the Benders, the Kansas inn-keeping family who in the late 1800s systematically murdered their guests; it includes rare photos. Those who like more-recent crime phenomena can delve into When Uber Drivers Attack.
I’ve been visiting this site from time to time for the last decade. It’s entirely devoted to the murders of Colette Stevenson MacDonald, 26, and her daughters, Kristen and Kimberley, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1970. Her husband, former military surgeon Jeff MacDonald, has been at various times accused, exonerated, defended vigorously, condemned entirely, and convicted of the triple homicide, which became world famous with the publication of Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss in 1983. Under the impression that the book would create a testament to his innocence, MacDonald had participated in the project with the author and was shocked when he learned it portrayed him as a homicidal narcissist. At least two other books have made a case for his innocence, and legions of his friends and former colleagues are still working to get him freed from a Cumberland, Maryland, prison cell. Christina Masewicz, editor of thejeffmacdonaldcase.com, is convinced of MacDonald’s guilt and has the support of Colette’s surviving brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Pep Stevenson. Masewicz has collected an incredible trove of photos, court documents, letters, articles, and other information concerning the case — including such things as a link to the December 15, 1970, clip from the Dick Cavett Show on which MacDonald appeared as a guest. If you’re new to the MacDonald murders, you might want to start with the Vanity Fair article The Devil and Jeffrey MacDonald by Robert Sam Anson. As far as the website, you’ll probably want to begin with the resource page.
This is likely the most comprehensive storehouse of information on homicidal criminals, including some Forensic Files subjects (Mark Winger and Ronnie Neal among them) and an array of household names like David Berkowitz, Charles Manson, and Jeffrey Dahmer. The alphabetized list of hundreds of killers takes a long time to navigate, so you might want to just Google “murderpedia” & the person’s name. Murderpedia often includes pictures and illustrations (example: a sketch of the Winger house’s floor plan) that you won’t easily find elsewhere, plus links to related stories, so it’s definitely worth investigating, especially if you want quick access to names, dates, incarceration locales, and legal actions.
• Also, a word about an all-time favorite site — which, unfortunately, went under a few years ago. The Crime Library featured New Yorker-length stories with all the obscure photos you longed to see, like the serial killer’s eighth-grade prom picture. I mention the site because, according to a Reddit posting from one of the former editors, there are still ways to access the old content online. If anyone has success doing so, please share the secret.
Update: Reader Heather S. mentioned the Internet Archive. The December 15 post gives instructions for using the WayBack Machine to reach the Crime Library.