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Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore Paperback – June 23, 2011

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About the Author

About the Authors STEPHEN JANIS is an award-winning reporter who publishes Investigative Voice, an online watchdog journalism website based in Baltimore Maryland. As a staff writer for the former Baltimore Examiner (and one of only a handful of reporters who worked at the paper for its entire existence) he won a Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association award in 2008 for investigative reporting on the high rate of unsolved murders in Baltimore. In 2009 he won an MDDC Press Association award for Best Series for his articles on the murders of prostitutes. As co-founder of the independent investigative website Investigative Voice, Janis’s work uncovering corruption and government waste in Baltimore City will be chronicled in the upcoming national documentary “Fit To Print.” The site has won worldwide critical acclaim for its unconventional presentation and hardnosed reporting and is read regularly by insiders in city government as well as the police department. Janis is the author of two novels, Orange: The Diary of an Urban Surrealist and This Dream Called Death. In addition to reporting and directing content for Investigative Voice he currently teaches journalism at Towson University. KELVIN SEWELL is a 22-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police Department. A former narcotics officer tasked to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, he worked on major drug investigations for nearly a decade, later becoming a supervisor in the BPD’s Internal Affairs Division, where he led several high profile integrity operations. Sewell worked as a supervisor and investigator in the fabled Baltimore City Homicide Unit, working some of the most notorious cases in one of the most violent cities in the country. He attended Harvard Associates Forensic Science School and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in criminology from Coppin State University. Following his retirement as a Baltimore homicide detective he took a job as Lieutenant in the Pocomoke City Police Department on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, where he currently continues to serve.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1463534809
  • ISBN-13: 978-1463534806
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

STEPHEN JANIS is an award winning investigative journalist whose work has won acclaim in both print and television. As the Senior Investigative Reporter for the now defunct Baltimore Examiner he won two Maryland DC Delaware Press Association Awards for his work on the number of unsolved murders in Baltimore and the killings of prostitutes. His in-depth work on the city's zero tolerance policing policy garnered an NAACP's president's award. Later he founded Investigative Voice, an award winning web site that is the subject of the upcoming documentary Fit To Print. As an Investigative Producer for WBFF/Fox 45 he has one three successive Capital Emmys, two for best Investigative Series and one for Outstanding Historical/Cultural piece. He is the author two books on the philosophy of policing Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore, You Can't Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond, and two novels This Dream Called Death, and Orange: The Diary of an Urban Surrealist. His teaches journalism at Towson University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bill Hughes on July 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
"[He] was breathing when his body was doused with gasoline and set on fire. He was burned alive!" - Kelvin Sewell

How bad is the crime situation in Baltimore City? Leaving the grim statistics aside for the moment, it's so bad that I no longer watch the local TV newscast at 11 PM! (1) Who wants to go to bed with gory images of mindless violence dancing in their heads?

The mantra is always the same from the news reader--murder, mayhem, drugs, tears, blood and outrage! The only thing that changes are the names of the victims. Some are totally innocent, such as children and teenagers who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Enter Kelvin Sewell! He's a former homicide detective with 22 years of in-your-face experience with the Baltimore Police Department (BPD). Sewell, an African-American, has encountered it all--from the inside--like "in the box." That's "the room" at BPD headquarters, where suspects in a crime, and witnesses, too, are questioned by the cops. It's where Sewell would deflate the ego of a street-hardened thug by simply asking him: "Can you recite the alphabet?" He underscored, "not one" was able to do it!

In his compelling memoir, "Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore," Sewell teams up with award-winning investigative reporter, Stephen Janis, to tell his uncompromising story from a down-at-the-crime-scene perspective. (2) In Baltimore, Sewell relates: "People kill because they're angry over a slight. Frustrated over a hard look. Pissed off because somebody talked with their girl. They kill and will kill for nothing."

This jarring insight rang with relevance as Sewell's book was going to press. It involved a city court case and a BPD officer. He was convicted of manslaughter.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Pushed 60 on September 19, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I decided to download this book after seeing that Kelvin Sewell was going to be featured at next week's Baltimore Book Festival. Being a huge fan of "The Wire" and "Homicide: Life on the Street" and having read "The Corner" I felt this book would be in a similar vein. It was indeed but because it's a true story, it's incredibly sad. I was born and raised in Baltimore in the 1950's and my family like tens of thousands of others, left for the suburbs in the 1960's. What's left is a shell of a community that was once vibrant and family-friendly. Bodies in Leakin Park are as alien to me as a UFO since I lived directly across from the park and played there as a child. What's even more sad is that Sewell himself left for the rural Eastern Shore of Maryland. If a career police officer and detective gets as far as he can from Baltimore, then there's little hope the city will ever be more than what it is now...a glittering Inner Harbor and drug-ridden slums. If you're from the Baltimore area, it's a "must-read." If you're from any other old, formerly "great" city, read it as well. I think something will resonate with just about everyone.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Higgins on August 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reportage of Baltimore's crime, criminals, and underclass has been dominated by David Simon (`Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets', `The Corner', `The Wire'), who as a Jewish, urban, white, liberal may not be considered overly representative of the black population that constitutes the majority in the city.

In this slim book, Kelvin Sewell, a black resident who joined the Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD) in 1987 and spent 22 years in various assignments, provides a genuine `insiders' look at murder and mayhem on the streets of Charm City.

The first half of the book provides concise descriptions, or `case files', of 11 of the more noteworthy cases Sewell handled as an investigator in the Homicide Unit.

The second half is a quick overview of Sewell's career in the BCPD, focusing less on specific cases and more on the nature of police work, and a blunt appraisal of the role of race, politics, and bureaucracy on the operations of the BCPD.

The title's use of the pronoun `We', as opposed to the more typical `They', reflects Sewell's attitude that as a black man and a resident of the city, he saw its perps, and its victims, with a mindset different from that of many white officers and observers. It is this philosophy that gives Sewell's memoir a tenor and perspective that Simon's work is necessarily less apt to provide.

The case files in the first half of `Why Do We Kill ?' review genuinely cold-blooded acts of mayhem taking place from 2008 - 2010. With the exception of one case involving Paul Pardus, a white man who murdered his mother, shot a Hopkins hospital physician, and then killed himself, the case files describe acts of violence committed by low-income blacks upon other blacks of the low-income and working classes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By BLS on February 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
Having seen some of the previous reviews here I thought that this book might not answer the question posed by it's title but in fact it does. Murder plagues Baltimore because Baltimore is a city where industry, civility, education, empathy and responsibility are almost unknown or perverted beyond recognition. Children and teenagers kill for one very simple reason: they have been taught to do so. Human life is looked upon as having no value whatsoever. Nowhere is this clearer than the case where Detective Sergeant Sewell recounts the confession of a teenager who, after admitting to the premeditated murder of an elderly woman, asks when he will be allowed to go home. The death of the family unit and the loss of gainful employment have created a netherworld in Baltimore. In that netherworld only the strong survive while the weak are hunted.

All of the problems in Baltimore are exacerbated by its Police Department which Newell casts as being institutionally defective to the core. The saddest part of the book for me, oddly enough, was the description of Baltimore City's once vaunted Homicide Unit. When David Simon wrote his book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," the BPD Homicide Unit was staffed almost entirely with competent veteran detectives, men and women who knew what needed to be done and took their duties seriously. Dark humor was expected but it never got in the way of the work itself. At one time an assignment to Homicide was rightly considered to be the capstone of an already long and distinguished career. Only the best were considered and those who didn't make the cut were washed out. The depths to which the unit has been allowed to sink as described by Newell, himself a Homicide supervisor, is absolutely disgusting.
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