Book Review: “The Serial Killer Whisperer” by Pete Earleyon February 27, 2012 in Book Reviews, Serial Killers by Judi Roth Crippen
In 1992, Tony Ciaglia suffered a traumatic brain injury no one should have survived. He did, in spite of being pronounced clinically dead three times. His recovery was not an easy one as he was prone to uncontrollable behavior for which he was heavily medicated. Throughout his life he would question why he had survived; it had to have been for a reason but as to what he did not know.
When his therapist, Nick Ponzo, discovered that Tony loved to write poetry and short stories (in and of itself amazing as he had to relearn how to read and write) he suggested that Tony take up writing as his hobby. It would turn out to be possibly the best suggestion ever made. It was during this time Tony discovered serial killer memorabilia sites; the beginning of a lifelong obsession with the subject.
Tony researched the notorious killers voraciously. When Ponzo suggested he write as a hobby, Tony wrote to the people with whom he had become obsessed. The response to his letters was overwhelming as he’d sent out twenty-nine and received responses from at least twenty killers including Arthur Shawcross ( “The Genesse River Killer”), Joe “Tiny” Metheny (“The Cannibal Killer”), David Gore (one half of “The Cousin Killers”), and Robert Hansen (“The Butcher Baker”) although it was Hansen’s roommate Bryan Tompkins who responded.
Throughout the book the letters are published verbatim. The details are graphic in nature, some hard to stomach. As Tony wrote and received letters, having no preconceived thought of why they did what they did, how the proverbial guy next door could kill so easily and with no remorse, Tony and his family would begin to understand the minds of sociopaths.
Over time David Gore as well as Bryan Tompkins (the cellmate of Robert Hansen) began to share details as to where additional bodies were buried. Apparently some killers do have consciences. Tony and his father were able to assist in solving cold cases and bringing closure to the families of the victims.
Tony ventured into hell and discovered his purpose; his reason for surviving.
Although I did learn how a serial killer’s mind works, I did not care for this book. It wasn’t a particularly easy read, and there was almost no timeline which is a crucial part of true crime. There were too many letters published and not enough content; I would have preferred to read more about Tony’s life and work. The majority of the book was the exchange between Tony and Arthur Shawcross. It’s almost as though Pete Earley was trying to fill up space. I was left wanting to learn more about this amazing man but disappointingly came away having learned very little about Tony.
I have had a brief correspondence with Tony regarding an interview for Brian Combs’ website, but have not received a response as of this writing. Should he be receptive to an interview, I will make sure to publish it on this site.
Tony Ciaglia currently lives in Las Vegas with his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @tonyciaglia.
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