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Illinois Issues Summer Book Selection

Serial murder in Illinois


Gera-Lind Kolarik with Wayne Klatt. Freed to Kill: The True Story of Larry Eyier. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1990. Pp. 379. $18.95 (cloth).

Like all too many members of the mass media profession, former Chicago TV reporter Gera-Lind Kolarik researched and wrote her book in order to get it rapidly into print rather than to present an accurate picture of this serial murder case. In addition to providing a poorly written account of the case, she presents many fallacious assumptions as well as numerous diversions from fact.

The author's argument in Freed to Kill is that the judicial system freed serial killer Larry Eyier, who had already left a trail of more than a dozen gay victims in Indiana and Illinois, to kill again before he was caught and convicted. Since Eyler's right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was violated by the Indiana State Police when officers searched his truck, evidence obtained from this illegal search could not be used against Eyier and he was released from custody. It is ironic that the constitutional comment written by Loyola law professor George Anastopio as an after word to the book decimates Kolarik's indictment of the judiciary. Professor Anastopio correctly observes: "... criminal law specialists generally believe that, contrary to a widespread public perception, the Exclusionary Rule [resulting from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Mapp v Ohio, 1961, that evidence obtained from an illegal search and seizure was not admissible in a criminal court of law] has had relatively little adverse effect on the criminal justice system and no discernible effect on the crime rate or on law enforcement's ability to control crime in this country."

Although Kolarik's prose is sometimes stilted, particularly when she writes about her own investigation of this case, her writing is certainly better than the average narrative found in newspaper columns. The major flaw in this book is not with the quality of the writing. Rather, the problem occurs when the author writes about herself in the third person, which is almost always self-serving and sometimes leaves her open to charges of inaccuracy at best.

At worst, the author can be accused of manipulating facts that have been documented elsewhere. For instance, David Ford, a sociologist who was a member of the Central Indiana Multiagency Team assembled to investigate the homicides Larry Eyler is believed to have committed, contributed a chapter subtitled "The Case of Indiana's Gay Murders" to my book, Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon (1990). There Ford correctly states what numerous press references and official police reports confirm: that the efforts of this

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investigative team first brought Eyier to the attention of Illinois law enforcement authorities. Yet, Kolarik blatantly claims that she was the first to identify the link between Eyier's victims in Illinois and Indiana. According to her account, she did nothing wrong in her investigation and reporting on Larry Eyier, while the police were inept and made major mistakes on the case. Indeed, at times the book reads as if it were promotional material designed to facilitate the author's move to a more prestigious station on the coast.

From information I collected on Larry Eyier and this serial murder case prior to reading Freed to Kill, it became readily apparent after I finished the book that the author had not only turned fantasies about her serial-murder sleuthing into fact but also excluded important players from her account because they refused to be interviewed or cooperate while she was researching and writing. Furthermore, Kolarik never makes any attempt to put the phenomenon of serial murder into context for the reader. Nor does she attempt to define the term "serial murder" or to discuss the extent of this crime in the Midwest or the United States.

Rather than providing the reader with an in-depth view of Larry Eyier and the reasons he became a serial killer, the author focuses on who is to blame for releasing Eyler to kill again. Two villains are offered to the reader: the judge who excluded the evidence in Eyier's first trial or the police who conducted the illegal search. In either case such reasoning is superficial for it ignores the determinative relationships of Eyler's childhood and later life which resulted in his commission of these brutal and horrific crimes.

Readers interested in accurate and well-written accounts of serial homicide could better spend their time with The Sleeping Lady: The Trailside Killings above the Golden Gate by Robert Graysmith (1990) or Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer by Tim Cahill (1985). All in all. Freed to Kill was a very disappointing read.

F Steven A. Egger is an associate professor in the Social Justice Professions program at Sangamon State University. Egger has been researching and writing on the phenomenon of serial murder since 1983. His book, Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon, was pubsMed by Praeger.

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