XOXOAD has a twofer for our readers today: not only do we have a guest post from bestselling true crime writer Ann Rule, but we also get to hear from her editor, Mitchell Ivers! Fans of true crime, suspense, and current affairs will love Ann’s work, and her personal connection to this book is particularly special. Even better, you can read IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT for FREE right now on our site!
When Ann Rule told us that she wanted to write a story that ended without a conviction or an acquittal, I wondered how she would be able to end her story. A true-crime reader has every right to expect that the end of the book will bring a killer to justice or, at the very least, show how justice was denied. But just as Ann was moved by a mother saying, “Don’t let the record state my daughter committed suicide,” so were we all.
The two things that often distinguish Ann Rule’s true crime from that of other writers are the empathy she evokes in the reader for the victim and the personal connection she often forms with the victim’s survivors. What distinguishes this book is that is that we get to see, up close, a mother’s determination to do right by her child and a friendship that rises from the ashes of grief. We would all be lucky to have a mother like Barb Thompson and a friend like Ann Rule. –Mitchell Ivers, editor
Readers sometimes ask me if I keep in touch with the survivors of the victims I write about. I do and many have become close friends, particularly Barb Thompson, whose daughter Ronda was shot in her home—and the local sheriff’s office quickly closed the case as a “suicide.” Barb knew, however, that her daughter didn’t commit suicide, and Ronda’s friends knew it too.
Barb called me several times, asking me to write about Ronda’s death, and I told her I couldn’t write about a case unless there was an arrest and trial. But, finally, she wore me down. Our first meeting, however, was far from promising. We got along fine—but my dogs wrapped their ropes around my ankles and I fell, hitting my head on a concrete wall. Barb mopped up the blood and stayed with me until help arrived.
We became an investigative team—a slightly more mature Cagney and Lacey. Barb and I went to the drug houses, trailers, and houses that surrounded the crime scene. We talked to any number of witnesses the sheriff’s detectives had somehow missed. Some of these witnesses were receptive and wondered why no detective had talked to them before; others were tight-lipped. The next-door neighbor had never been questioned—and he had some very interesting things to add.
But the young woman living in an isolated trailer who had obviously attended a drug party in the house on the night Ronda died wouldn’t say a word.
Barb and I hit pay-dirt when we located the first paramedic to arrive at the crime scene. For some reason, no one had ever questioned her.
The suspect had told 911 that he had touched the thick blood near Ronda’s ear, but the female paramedic said that wasn’t possible. “There were absolutely no marks in the blood there before I got there.”
A coroner’s jury eventually found unanimously that Ronda Thompson had been murdered. It took eleven years, but Barb found justice at last.
Barb Thompson and I traveled from Canada to San Antonio and points in between, discovering Ronda’s story. We became fast friends, sharing tears and sometimes ribald humor, even as we were facing up to tragic circumstances. When I broke my hip last year, Barb Thompson was one of the first people to rush to my side to take care of me and she now shares Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. –Ann Rule, November 18, 2014