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Love Me or Else: The True Story of a Devoted Pastor, a Fatal Jealousy, and the Murder that Rocked a Small Town Mass Market Paperback – February 28, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Colin McEvoy and Lynn Olanoff are reporters for The Express-Times, a daily newspaper based in Easton, Pennsylvania. They covered the Rhonda Smith murder case extensively and it was during a jailhouse interview with them that Mary Jane Fonder first acknowledged responsibility for her crime. Colin and Lynn have been married since 2008. Lynn is a graduate of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and Colin graduated from East Stroudsburg University in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. They currently reside in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's True Crime; Original edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312540825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312540821
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #704,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I became interested in this story after having watched the crime profiled on Dateline. Wanting to know more about it, I was excited to come across "Love Me or Else". The book doesn't disappoint. It's not too long, it gives a good history of the characters and crime, and best of all, the court trial is condensed very nicely. I tend to like true crime books that summerize the court proceedings, rather than just relying on filling the book with verbatim transcripts. I always keep a shelf of my favorite true crime books that I will read again someday, and this book definitely makes the shelf. It's a good, easy weekend read. I recommend it for true crime buffs like myself.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A well-done True-Crime tale. I appreciated that photos were included (important with True-Crime, but sometimes not included in the kindle versions). It's yet another example of someone feeling "excluded" from the group taking revenge. In this case unique because it's a woman in her 60s.
One of the primary functions of a church is creating fellowship and community. It would be nice if someone would write another book that delves more deeply into all the circumstances and psyches involved. For privacy reasons alone, that probably won't happen. But if it does, I'll read it for sure!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The writing team of McEvoy and Olanoff, a married couple who write for The Express-Times of Easton, PA, are a welcome addition to the true crime genre. No cliche-ridden, unedited passages and gratuitous descriptions of gore that frequently befall true crime books are to be found here. The authors set the murder of the unfortunate Rhonda Smith in an interesting context, and they know the local area well. It's only for the predictable nature of the crime and the trial that this book doesn't merit five stars.

Overall, highly recommended.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
LOVE ME OR ELSE, written by newspaper reporters Colin McEvoy and Lynn Olanoff, chronicles the story of the sad case of Mary Jane Fonder, a less-than-well-preserved 60 year old woman and longtime faithful churchgoer who shot fellow parishioner, Rhonda Smith, to death as Rhonda worked in the church office. The incident took place in 2008 in Springfield Twp., PA, and was the result of a number of factors, the first being that Mary Jane was mentally ill, a condition which was at least partly responsible for the fact that she talked non-stop and in non-sequiturs which made her a chore - and often an irritation - to be around, though she certainly seemed benign and non-threatening.
Due to this facet of her personality she often felt excluded, not invited to "in crowd" gatherings, for example, and was subsequently hurt.
She also had an unrequited crush on her 20-years-younger pastor, Gregory Shreaves, and couldn't understand why he wouldn't admit to feeling the same. She hounded him by leaving many rambling messages on his machine and even breaking into his house and leaving food in case he needed it. Shreaves grew increasingly uncomfortable and eventually frightened of Mary Jane.
And finally she was jealous of Rhonda, a recent church member who was younger and prettier than herself. The church had helped Rhonda out in times of financial hardship, which not only had not been done for Mary Jane, but which she had been unaware, increasing her sense of isolation and exclusion. Finally, when the regular church secretary was out, Rhonda was chosen to fill in, and Mary Jane's unhappiness and jealousy boiled over resulting in Rhonda's death.

The book contains the standard elements of true crime including an interesting police investigation and a short trial.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was very well written and full of details. I had to keep reading to see how it would end. I do wish that there would be closure for Mary Jane Fonder's father, perhaps some day. I look forward to more books by Olanoff and McEvoy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mystery buffs are sometimes dissatisfied with the True Crime genre because the author is somewhat limited in the use of his creative genius. This story contains the elements of a good mystery but is limited to what actually went down as per the real life police investigation. That is not always an exciting road to travel.

I found satisfaction in the straight forward, yet somewhat limited expertise of the investigators in that it is real. The pastor is not superman in this book, the characters are human, the plot sometimes goes nowhere, and the findings leave the reader needing more to answer the questions of why, what, where, who, and why.

So many holes can be shot into this entire scenario by a discerning reader that he or she comes away with a gut feeling that there really was more to it, but what?

I'm not a True Crime fan, but I tried this one out for size after seeing it on television, and knowing something about it on the front end. I must say that it crawled slowly along through the pages of testimony and reports, waited for revelations ad nauseum, and displayed the limitations of small town investigatory powers and polish. It was good that the local law enforcement guys could depend on the state boys to help them out.

I didn't come away satisfied that justice was served, not the murder victim was justly or aptly protrayed, nor was the accused. The reader will have to decide for him or herself.
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