Newest offering by Jennifer Graeser Dornbush being released today
By Ken DeLaat
On a stifling summer night in northern Michigan, a vivacious 18 year-old, Nina Laramie, is brutally raped and murdered. Her killer is never found. Three months later, a local hunter finds Nina’s skeleton in the Hole in the Woods, a forested party area several miles from Nina’s house. It is determined by the medical examiner that she has been brutally raped and bludgeoned to death.
There are no fingerprints. No hair. No biological samples. No murder weapon.
A witch hunt by local law enforcement brings several suspects to the forefront, but there isn’t enough evidence to make an arrest. Detectives are convinced Nina’s friends know more than they are letting on. But a code of silence prevails. Rumors grow. Suspicions form. But ultimately, there is no proof. Lives move on. And thirty years march by...
It describes a fictionalized account of the Shannon Siders case that haunted the area for decades before a cold case team was formed in 2011, a team that doggedly pursued every aspect of the murder before breaking it open, and sending the convicted killers to prison in 2015.
I covered the trial for the Times Indicator at the time and remember meeting Ms. Dornbush who was doing research to write a book on the subject.
Hole in the Woods is that book.
She also held a special interest in the case.
“I first learned about Shannon and her death by my father who was the county Medical Examiner at the time. He determined after examining her remains that Shannon had suffered a brutal death, disturbing details that I wouldn’t find out until sitting in on the trial some 25 years later.
“This was, of course, a shocking event for our rural, tight-knit community and it cast a dark cloud on our rural county. And that’s why it stuck with me all these decades. I kept up with the case as it unfolded in little layers for 25 years... through newspaper stories, documentaries, and finally attending the three-week trial in the spring of 2015.
“I desired justice for Shannon just as much as anyone in my county. We all wanted to believe that someday her killers would be found and put away. We wanted her story to be complete and her family to have catharsis. We all wanted order from this chaos. We wanted good to win over evil for her. We wanted to see right come from a very wrong situation.”
Ms. Dornbush, who also penned the popular “Coroner’s Daughter” series, will be the featured guest at the Fremont Library’s Author’s Night on Tuesday, September 22, at 7pm. She has partnered with The Cold Case Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting law enforcement agencies that take on the hardest to solve, least funded cases, working closely with victim’s families and providing victim prevention services and a percentage of of Hole in the Woods books sold will go to the Cold Case Foundation.
“As a crime fiction writer, I look at crime for its story and entertainment value because that’s my job. But I have always believed that it is essential to give back something positive to the real-life crime fighting world and the real life crime fighters (aka the TRUE heroes and heroines).
“When I found the Cold Case Foundation, they became an instant heart connection for me. They share my personal mission to shed light into the darkest recesses of human spirit. My work with the CCF primarily involves being a public ambassador for their victim prevention training, which seeks to train others on how to significantly lower their risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime.”
In addition to being an accomplished author Jennifer is a screenwriter, a forensic consultant, and a much sought after speaker. Her appearance at the Fremont Library should prove to be an engrossing evening particularly for anyone who recalls the long unsolved crime and the efforts undertaken to bring those responsible to trial and conviction.
From the book:
Find the criminal. Make the arrest. Attend the trial. Hope for fair sentencing. Life in prison. Satisfaction? Yes. Justice? Yes. Closure? Never. Trace the deep lines on the brows of the victim’s family. They weren’t there a few years ago. They etched themselves into the flesh the moment they got that call. Trawling deep, gnarled trenches in the faces of loved ones. They grow more creviced as the case drags on. Closure. Never.
No amount of confessions, jail time, or penance will ever be enough retribution for the act committed.
And in the dark recesses of your soul, you pray, you beg the very God that gave that a-hole life, that he doesn’t have some crazy deathbed conversion. Because you want to be certain he’ll burn in hell.
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