we were asked to write a second volume of True Stories
of Law & Order, based on the SVU series,
we naturally (and enthusiastically) said yes. While the format
is the same as the original—twenty-five episodes, twenty-five
true crimes, twenty-five chapters—the research and writing
processes was not quite as clear-cut.
As we began looking into which cases inspired which episodes,
we quickly learned that the writers of Law & Order: SVU
use the “ripped from the headlines” slogan more liberally
than the L&O writers do. That is, the SVU writers
will often take one detail of a crime and run with it, unlike
their counterparts, whose plots more closely match the true crime.
instance, chapter eight covers the murder of Kendra Webdale by
a schizophrenic man named Andrew Goldstein, who pushed her in
front of the New York City subway train in January 1999. Goldstein
was not on his medication and claimed to have been in a psychotic
state during the incident. The L&O: SVU episode "Uncle"
revolves around the murder of a mother and daughter in their home;
it ends with a mentally ill homeless man pushing the killer in
front of a subway.
“Uncle” isn’t exclusively about the subway murder,
but there is a clear parallel. And because the case was important
enough to prompt legislators to pass Kendra’s Law, which
allows a family to force treatment upon a mentally ill relative,
we decided to write about it. (The “Uncle” episode
ran on October 10, 2006, the day Andrew Goldstein pled guilty
in court, almost eight years after his crime.)
We also covered a few crimes that have been highly publicized—
cases that, we assume, you’re no doubt familiar with. In
such instances, we’ve focused on certain aspects of the
case that you might not know about. In our chapter about the Boston
Strangler murders of the 1960s, we cover the crimes, of course,
but dedicate much of the chapter to the well-argued theory that
the man who is traditionally blamed for the killings, Albert DeSalvo,
was most likely not the only killer.
in our section about Elizabeth Smart, we do cover her abduction
by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, but we spend equal time
on the fascinating legal argument about whether Mitchell is mentally
competent to stand trial, which, as we write, has yet to be decided.
This brings us to another point. By the time of publication, not
every case here has been resolved. We will, however, post updates
on our website www.TrueStoriesLawOrder.com.
in our last book, the crimes here defy imagination. Kidnappings,
vicious sexual assaults, serial murder, human traffickers—the
levels of depravity human beings are capable of never cease to
amaze us. No wonder the writers consult true crimes for inspiration.
Where else would they get these ideas? If this book can be said
to have a theme, it’s the same as the last: Truth is, without
a doubt, more chilling than fiction.