I felt compelled to write "Fighting the Devil" - A True Story of Consuming Passion, Deadly Poison and Murder to speak for my ex-husband, a Texas millionaire, who no longer has a voice. His widow and his bookkeeper poisoned him to death, allegedly. I became involved in this murder case because I was the mother of my ex-husband's only children. I felt in my heart that I had to seek justice for the horrific murder — something I had to do for my children’s sake.
The Oxygen Channel series "Snapped" featured and aired this murder in 2005. It is one of "Snapped" 's most popular stories and is re-run several times each year.
Everyone kept telling me I needed to write a book about the murder, because they wanted to read it. I knew more information about my ex-husband and the murder case than anyone. So I finally decided I needed to write a book about the murder case, which, by the way, is still an open murder case.
Over the years that followed the murder, I collected information, studied things for the sheriff’s office and became a key player in the team that held one woman accountable for Sternadel’s death.
I started writing down memories and notes on the plane ride from my home in Long Island, N.Y., to Texas for the funeral of my ex-husband. I was jotting down thoughts that were racing through my mind. That note taking was paired with the snapshots I took during my first visit to Texas after the murder. After I met with the chief investigator, Clay County Sheriff Jake Bogard, I started getting deep into the case. I made phone calls, talked to specialists and did large investigation projects the county could not afford or did not have the resources to do. “The sheriff would call and ask me, ‘Do you think you could help us out on this?’”
In the book I recall a predicament. I started getting questioned by some of the people I called, such as the head of the FBI, John Douglas, who questioned, “What agency are you with?” When I informed the sheriff, he promptly fixed that problem for me. He had me put my hand on a Bible, and, over the phone, he swore me in as a deputy.
As I continued to search for justice, I continued to take snapshots and keep notes. I was encouraged by the Sheriff to record interviews if I could, too. I started documenting my memories and put them in a folder. I would write down what was said in an interview and transcribe the tape if I recorded it. “People would tell me, ‘This needs to be a book, and you’re the one to write it.’ I started thinking, "I need to write a book about this.”
I started writing, but, oft times I would put the book aside. Something would trigger me, and I would write some more, then put it aside. “I had two file cabinets full of folders to go through, and I basically wrote enough for three or four books.”
For a while I struggled with how to end the book. “How do you end it? The bookkeeper was arrested, tried, and convicted of First Degree Murder of my ex-husband, but the convicted murderer was given probation by the jury. That’s not a very good ending.”
However, in 2003, the bookkeeper, Debra Baker, violated the terms of her probation and was put in prison in Gatesville, Texas. This again triggered me to pick up and start writing. But this time, I had an ending — at least one suspect was behind bars.
I interviewed jurors who sat through the murder trial. I reviewed medical records. I stayed close with investigators and friends of the murder victim. “In the end, I tried to make the book as interesting as I could — if murder can be interesting.”
This book was very difficult to write. I still cry when I think about (things I wanted to keep private) that I had to put in the book, since it is a true story and depicted the way it really happened.
I am glad I wrote the book to speak for my ex-husband, who no longer has a voice. It is my hope to let others know that if their lives are ever touched by anything as horrific as a murder; that they have the ability and the right to become their loved one's advocate, and if necessary their own, real-life Sherlock Holmes.
Wow, right? I thoroughly commend Jeannie for her courage and strength! Here's more about "Fighting the Devil":
Now you have an opportunity to win your very own copy of this remarkable book! Just show your support for Ms. Walker by leaving your comments (along with an email address) on this post. On or around September 7th, she will choose one lucky commenter to receive a FREE ecopy of "Fighting the Devil"! Feel free to leave a plethora of comments but remember, only one per person will be entered in the contest. Comments must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. EST! Thanks for visiting and best of luck!!!
Jeannie Walker is an Award-Winning Author, Award-Winning Songwriter and freelance writer. She studied creative writing in New York and Connecticut and is a member of the International Association of Writers. She is an avid reader of mystery novels and the ex-wife of a murdered man.