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Straightforward Account of a Twisted Crime
on June 23, 2011
The facts of this "Lord of the Flies" crime are presented in straightforward, chronological order, without any editorializing, without any attempts at creating suspense. The book reads like an extended police blotter report. But this crime was shocking enough without the need for any fine writing to describe it. A Capote-caliber treatment would always be welcome, but the reader doesn't need the embellishments of literary skill in order to feel the pain and horror of the murder committed outside of the picturesque, Mayberry-like town of Madison, Indiana, in 1992.
In this generally complete account of the crime, a few things don't seem to be addressed fully enough. For example, the reader is left wondering how the victim, a 12-year-old girl, was socializing so intensely with 15 and 16-year-olds. Those two age groups usually don't have anything to do with each other. Also the title of the book is a little misleading because the word "Sacrifice" could, in one sense, steer the interpretation of this crime back to the rumor that it was the result of the girls' practicing Satanic rituals. Actually, any interest in Satanic rites or witchcraft played virtually no part in the actual crime.
However, this book overall does a good job of telling who the victim and the perpetrators were. One of the best things about Jones' account is that it includes extensive information about the home lives of the teenage perpetrators. We see the extreme dysfunction that existed in these families. There was one father's frequent abuse of his wife and of his three daughters, including many kinky intrusions into the girls' lives. There was a mother's complicity in making such perversions commonplace in their household. There was religious fanaticism. We get an insight into the fierce, but fluctuating, crushes that the teen girls developed on each other. When it came to these love affairs, every emotion the girls felt was immediately translated into operatic hyperbole and acted out in Grand Guignol style.
The sheer amount of physical activity these teens engaged in was another surprising element of their lives. Whereas other generations of teens and even many modern teens might go to school, come home, do some homework, and then just slouch around the house, watching TV or goofing off for a while - these teens were up and about virtually every waking hour. They were going to clubs and hooking up sexually with both boys and other girls out in parking lots. They were going to punk rock concerts and getting piercings. They were experimenting with drugs. They were constantly going to each other's houses or talking to each other on the phone. None of them ever seemed to have a moment of quietude, a moment of being alone with herself without being hammered into conformity with peer group mores.
So Jones' plainly written account is very revealing about trends in modern life on a number of levels. Many teens and adults alike are leading these always-in-touch hyperactive lives now. However, very few commit such heinous crimes. Reading this, you might be reminded of the Roman playwright Terence's remark that, "Nothing human is alien to me." This book will have you asking over-and-over, "Could I, under any circumstances, be capable of such a crime?"