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A Death in White Bear Lake: The True Chronicle of an All-American Town Paperback – November 28, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345487176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345487179
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,584,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is a masterfully depicted true-crime tale of the murder of a child by his adoptive mother and the resolution of the case 27 years later. In 1980 Jerry Sherwood, who had given her first child up for adoption, searched for him only to discover that Dennis had died at age three in 1965 under mysterious circumstances. Her accusations prodded the town of White Bear Lake in Wisconsin, which had already suspected adoptive mother Lois Jurgens of killing the child, into action. The resultant trial, a landmark case, established the legal principle that circumstantial evidence is sufficient to convict in a child-abuse case, and served to reinforce the now commonly accepted contention that those abused as children frequently become child abusers themselves. Jurgens is now in prison. This perceptive analysis of the case by a Los Angeles Times reporter is stirring. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Using nonfiction novel style, Los Angeles Times reporter Siegel tells the story of Harold and Lois Jurgens, a Minnesota couple who adopted two children and beat the younger one, Dennis, to death in 1963. The Jurgens later adopted four more children, all of whom were also abused. Lois Jurgens was successfully prosecuted for third-degree murder after Dennis's natural mother came looking for her son and expressed suspicions about his death, 22 years after it happened. Drawing from many sources, Siegel has produced a well-written account of a particularly troubling child abuse case. He also provides some informative commentary on the failure of society--in particular its social service, legal, and medical systems--to protect its children from abuse. Recommended for public libraries.
- Donna L. Miller, Lebanon Valley Coll. Lib., Annville, Pa.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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So I read the book and could not put it down.
CGayALOHA@aol.com
The book is meticulously researched and well written.
J. E. Nelson
One of the best true crime stories yet written.
Judith Hammerquist

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Audrey on April 9, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A haunting and horrifying book that I couldn't put down. It will break your heart & make you very angry indeed! Should be required reading in the social work & psychology fields. It is an excellently researched book with fascinating characterizations of the real people involved - the evil, the apathetic, the meek, the tormented. A truly unforgettable book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By kazbez1@aol.com on September 23, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A fascinating true story of how A 3 1/2 year old child was brutally abused and ultimatly murdered by his adopted mother, Lois Jurgens. You Will learn how her husband, family and friends were very aware of the abuse and did absolutly nothing to help this poor child. You will also read how the justice system and adoption agency failed to save Dennis. And the painful events for the natural mother, Jerry Sherwood and her family to get justice for her dead son. Very well written book that goes into the background of Lois and Harold Jurgens and how this evil women was able to adopt a total of 6 children (all which ran away and was removed from her home due to abuse). The book also gives a compelling account of the trial and finally the conviction of murder for Lois Jurgens, who almost for 22 years got away with it.
As a parent myself, I will never forget what happened to little Dennis Jurgens.
Karen, OHIO
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Philip R. Hall on August 22, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
On Sunday morning, April 11, 1965, the badly bruised and battered body of 3 1/2 year old Dennis Jurgens was reportedly found in his crib by his adoptive parents, Harold and Lois Jurgens, who claimed he had fallen down the evening before. Rigor mortis had already set in when the police arrived, and the autopsy determined that his death was due to peritonitis, due to a rupture of his bowel. Although virtually everyone who knew the family suspected that the death was due to child abuse, the case fell through the cracks and was eventually forgotten, until the birth mother walked into the police station in White Bear Lake, Minnesota in 1986, demanding justice for her son. This is the fascinating story of the events leading to his death and the subsequent investigations, both at the time and later, when it was successfully prosecuted. Only 3 days ago, I drove by the house in White Bear Lake where little Dennis suffered and died, and one of the principals in the book, Lt. Jerome Zerwas died last October (1997). Five stars.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have lived in White Bear all of my life. My parents grew up there. We all attended classes in the "new" high school that is talked about. My aunt was in that school's first graduating class in 1965. I say this because, horrifying as the Dennis Jurgens case may be, it is not hard to see how it happened. Even today, it is a small community where most everybody knows everybody else. My family often attended holidays at the Zerwas home, and even today they find it hard to speak ill of Lois. This book does a wonderful job of telling what so many people have been trying to keep quiet for so many years. This is a story that needs to be told in order to make sure that it never happens to another child. Siegel does an excellent job of projecting the difficulty of following up a 20 year old crime that nobody would admit was committed. This is a powerful story that will make you look at child abuse in a whole new way.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Trisha E. Lisk on October 18, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A stellar performance on the part of Barry Siegel and Peter Borland. The detail, history, and character development are exquisitely attended and because of that the writer's talent has created a smooth and clear and compelling flow of the story, when it could have been quite muddled. I am a voracious reader and prefer nonfiction to fiction. This is one of the best. Thanks, Mr. Siegel. More. More. Do it again!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 27, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book many years ago and was moved by its fine detail into one childs life of suffering. The author was exceptional with the detail into the abusers life and family history, the history of White Bear Lake, the adoption, and the trial. I felt the boys pain and suffering and was outraged at the husband,the police department,the coroner,the family, and everyone involved who allowed this horrible act of child brutality to happen. I will never forget what happened to this child, thanks to this book. A must read for all who want to protect children from abuse.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By L. Jonsson VINE VOICE on November 18, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Get out your kleenexes when you start this book. It is a sad, and unfortunately true tale of child abuse in an all american town. Child abuse is often hidden and ignored, and the abuser and her husband seemed to be enabled to continue their behavior by most of the town. Unfortunately their is no happy ending here. You will never forget this book when you read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E.P. Brookshire VINE VOICE on October 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
I think the reviews that have been crafted thus far are really perfect. This is one of the saddest books I have ever read. No hyperbole. It is easy to read a book like this and want to assign all blame to the evil "mother dearest" Lois, the crazy neurotic abusing adopted mother but there is more blame to be shared. What a sad state of affairs in what was seemingly a lovely small town that they could all turn away from bruises, open genital wounds and sick cruelty for their own hides. No one would challenge her cop brother. No one would speak aloud. Child abuse was unrecognized. Doctors were considering skull fractures and femur breaks as some kind of spontaneous anomaly. Doctors are very cautious now and report anything suspicious. Only good can come from these breakthroughs we have made in treating our young. As a professional reviewer stated, "From horror to enlightenment".
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