By Stacy Cacciatore
This book was written by a journalist who wrote about the murder of two women in 2009 by a young man who was mentally disturbed. The opening scene was riveting and the description of the scream, red house and white curtain billowing out of the window placed me directly in the scene. We are thrust into the violent aftermath of what we learn is a sexual assault of a young lesbian couple in love, the attempted murder of both women and death of Teresa Butz. Eli may start the book at the climax, but the story is just getting started.
He provides an in-depth tour of Isaiah’s descent into madness. We learned of Isaiah’sdisturbing childhood, his mentally ill mother and absent father. We can see as Isaiah’smental state gets worse and worse. Even though I knew the ultimate outcome, I found myself on the edge of my seat, hoping Isaiah would get help. Hoping that someone would see the extent of his illness. But by the time those around him finally realized the extent of his illness, it was too late.
When I read the passage in which Isiah is a young boy and his sister describes how he was “odd” because he would come up and start talking about random topics, such as history, chemistry or science. This sent chill bumps up my spine, as I also knew someone personally who was mentally disturbed who did the same thing. He scared me and I felt that he was a danger to society. I tried to notify the right individuals to help make sure that this man was not a danger to anyone, but he too fell through the cracks. Their stories were eerily similar.
This leads me to see how this is a pervasive issue in our society. Eli shines the light on an important subject. We have to do more to ensure that these crimes do not occur in the first place with early intervention and programs to help those who have mental illnesses. Given the stigma of mental illness in our country, there are many challenges in tackling this issue. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that Eli provides the most in-depth coverage I’ve ever seen to answer the question, “how is a killer made?”
I’m also impressed with how Eli garnered sympathy not only for Jennifer Hopper and Teresa Butz, but also Isiah. He brought the human experience to each of their stories, which is incredible considering he never met Teresa nor spoke with Isiah. This book is an incredible piece of journalism that opens the lid on how mental illness is treated. It brings a sense of urgency to fix the system that allowed these horrific crimes to occur. This book is a must read.