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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Drinking blood and being undead has never been more hazardous — especially in the heartland of Kentucky! Just ask the young, self-proclaimed vampire and his devoted followers who haunt The Embrace: A True Vampire Story. What started as a simple role-playing game soon became an all-too-real horror story of cult worship and cold-blooded murder. New York Times bestselling author Aphrodite Jones's true-crime vampire saga takes the vampire myth into the realm of reality and takes us on an unforgettable journey to the heart of human darkness.
The popularity of vampire lore has reached an all-time high, and millions are fascinated by the dark and often bloody tales of these fictional immortal creatures. Yet no vampire story could be as bloodcurdling as the real-life saga of Roderick Ferrell, a young man whose belief in vampires culminated in the heinous cold-blooded murder of two innocent people.
Author Aphrodite Jones, a published journalist whose focus of late has been on human interest and true-crime stories, brings the story of Rod Ferrell to life with the kind of stark detail and chilling insight from which the worst of nightmares are spawned. Jones, whose meticulous research includes the review of court records, psychological reports, sworn depositions, and news stories, ended up interviewing dozens of the parties involved in the case, including Ferrell himself. The end result is a terrifying look into the minds and lives of those who believe themselves to be modern-day vampires.
It was just before Thanksgiving in 1996 when the vicious and bloody murdersofRick and Ruth Wendorf rocked a small Florida community. Both victims were beaten so badly their faces were unrecognizable, and the gore shocked even a seasoned medical examiner. The bodies were discovered by the Wendorfs' oldest daughter, Jennifer, upon her return home from a night out with her boyfriend. The Wendorfs' other daughter, Heather, was nowhere to be found, though there was a note explaining she had run away with Rod Ferrell, the dark and disturbed 16-year-old boy from Murray, Kentucky, who believed he was a vampire. It wasn't long before authorities gathered enough evidence to suggest that Rod was the primary suspect.
Rod Ferrell's fate seemed determined early on. Born to Sondra Gibson, a disturbed and promiscuous woman raised by strict Pentecostal parents, Rod was introduced to his vampire beliefs early in life by his mother, who was herself a follower. Though married twice, Sondra didn't stay with either husband long and made her living primarily as a welfare recipient, with brief stints as a professional dancer, a street prostitute, and a fast-food worker. As a young teenager, Rod was skinny, longhaired, and strawberry blond — a rather geeky looking young man. But by the age of 15, his appearance changed dramatically in concert with his proclamation that he was both a vampire and the Antichrist, immortal and over 1,000 years old. Donning dark clothes and a black trench coat, he dyed his long locks black and began to experiment regularly with a variety of drugs, including LSD, pot, and various prescription pills like Prozac. His unusual appearance, quicksilver moods, and oddly charismatic rhetoric quickly earned him a cadre of devoted followers.
Among those who would later play a crucial role in the murders was Charity Kessee, who adopted Rod's Goth style by dying her hair black and wearing dark makeup and clothes. As Rod's on-again, off-again girlfriend, Charity was intrigued by Rod's dark side and vowed to run away with him. Heather Wendorf first met Rod when he lived in Eustis, Florida, and kept in touch with him frequently by phone once he moved to Murray, Kentucky. Though she willingly ran off with Rod after the murders of her parents — an act that would lead to her public crucifixion by the press — the evidence shows that Heather had no idea Rod intended to kill her parents and didn't know he had until sometime after the fact. Prior to Rod's arrival in Florida, Heather had briefly corresponded with Scott Anderson, a geeky 16-year-old who was one of Rod's Kentucky recruits. Scott, who was smitten with Heather, would later stand by and watch as Rod brutally beat Heather's parents to death. Rounding out the murderous group was Dana Cooper, an unpopular girl who managed to worm her way into Rod's group and become his trusted servant.
All of them had a strong belief in vampirism and the power of the occult. All engaged in regular blood-sharing ceremonies in which they would cut themselves with razor blades and drink one another's blood. And in the end, all of them would become intimately involved with one of the most brutal murders ever committed.
Jones's thorough and balanced presentation of the facts and players involved with the case allow readers to make their own judgments as to who should ultimately be held to blame. One thing that is not in doubt is the terrible tragedy spawned in the Gothic underground of America's heartland — a dark horror that no one recognized until it was too late.