Our Very Own, Marilee Strong, And Her Latest Book
Marilee Strong‘s third book, In the Name of the Children, was praised by the New York Times as one of the best true crime books published in 2018 and its central case is the subject of a 2-hour 20/20 special airing on ABC on January 25, 2019.
Co-authored with FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Rinek, the book examines the painstaking and emotionally fraught work of investigating crimes against children: from stranger abduction to serial homicide to ritualized child abuse. Rinek, who specialized in these type of cases for most of his 30-year career with the Bureau, is most famous for getting serial killer Cary Stayner to confess to four sexually motivated killings known collectively as the Yosemite Murders. That enormously detailed and probing confession, one of the most revelatory examinations ever of the mind and modus operandi of a sexual predator and serial killer, was all the more extraordinary considering that the FBI had wrongly arrested other suspects it believed responsible for those crimes. Rinek’s unorthodox humanistic approach to interrogation is almost the polar opposite of the controversial Reid Technique taught and used in most police agencies but increasingly believed to induce false confessions.
With each chapter telling the story of a real case Rinek investigated, In the Name of the Children explores the devastating impact of unthinkable crimes against society’s most vulnerable victims. It also looks at the emotional toll on those whose work requires them to plumb the depths of human depravity and must, on some level, connect with those who murder and molest children. Rinek developed PTSD and even attempted suicide, believing he needed to “be with the children” he couldn’t save. Rarely has anyone in law enforcement been willing to speak with such openness and candor about his work. By placing readers inside the heart and mind of a rigorously honest and self-reflective investigator, we see what it takes – and what it costs – to try to keep our children safe and bring to justice those who prey upon them.
In Marilee’s two previous books she has attempted to speak up for victims of violence, abuse, and trauma. Her 1998 book A Bright Red Scream was the first outside of academic or medical literature to explore one of the most misunderstood aftereffects of childhood abuse and trauma: the phenomenon of deliberate self-harm. Those who cut and burn themselves are literally unable to put the pain inside them into words, so they write it out, through wounds and scars, on the body.
In her second book, Erased, she analyzed hundreds of murder cases around the country and presented an original psychological and criminal profile of a particular kind of domestic homicide in which the killer, almost always a man, tries to eliminate his intimate partner and sometimes also his children in order to live out a different, unencumbered life. Unlike more typical domestic homicides, these murders are not committed crudely in the heat of the moment but elaborately planned and staged to appear as something else—a mysterious disappearance, a robbery gone wrong, a suicide – something, anything that points away from the killer and his true motive. The victim and the crime are, in effect, erased.
Marilee has received more than a dozen reporting and writing honors, including a Pulitzer Fellowship, a National Headliner Award, and the Society of Professional Journalists Excellence Award.