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Posted July 14, 2008
Mr. O'Connell did an incredible job of capturing a very raw moment in history. Growing up in the area, the reading and level of detail took me back to 1968. Although I was about David's age I was unaware of the story. I am sure that my parents did not want to share the headlines with us. Mr. O'Connell, thank you for sharing your memories with all of us. I have passed on the word to many.
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Posted December 22, 2007
Covering a span of forty years, Bill O'Connell's 'Fourteen: the Murder of David Stukel' delivers true crime reporting that is both incisive and unflinching. David is 'the good son,' the 'all-American boy,' a kid you'd want as a brother or best friend - the last person you would expect to fall victim to a grizzly killing by two bullies his own age, toughs who didn't even know him, who had been raised within biking distance of David, but also a world apart. O'Connell reveals both worlds, the solid middle-American, nurturing, life-affirming home of the Stukels and its converse, the criminally crass, clannish, poisonous environment of the killers and their families. From a chilling re-creation of the murder itself, O'Connell plays the story forward to the present day, contrasting the Stukel family's journey from despair to acceptance through strength and unity with the killers' steady degradation and their virtual contamination of those people who have the misfortune to be drawn to them, as by some kind of 'nostalgie de la boue.' The setting of 'Fourteen' is Illinois, mainly Joliet, particularly the more working class, sometimes shabby, even squalid East Side, but it is an American story that could have taken place in any American town with a 'wrong side of the tracks.' O'Connell was a Little League teammate of David and had a slight familiarity with the family in his youth. He must have lived with the idea of the book as well as worked on it for several years. He traveled to prisons, attended parole board hearings, and interviewed everyone even remotely associated with the victim and the killers. Although it's clear that O'Connell cares a great deal for the Stukel family, he has done an admirable job of keeping his own emotions from taking over the book. What we read is clear, concise but thorough reporting. O'Connell leaves it up to us readers to form our own conclusions. I found the book stimulating. It raises a variety of questions about human nature and needs, the legal and penal system, educational institutions, and class in our society. One is tempted to judge the killers and then to judge one's own responses to them. The book makes one think about the role of accident in our lives - 'what if . . .? what if . . .?', age-old speculations that can be made about any incident and often arise in times of tragedy. Where is the fault? Is society to blame? Nature or nurture? Failure to nurture? O'Connell does not pound us over the head with these questions - it is we who surface them in response to his uncompromising descriptions. I found myself recalling that last, understated line of Bruce Springsteen's 'Nebraska': 'Well sir I guess there's just a meanness in this world.' I finished 'Fourteen' a few weeks ago, but I'm still living with it. The story and characters insist on breaking into my thoughts, unbidden and at times unwelcome. I often judge a movie as a good one if I find myself thinking about it or referencing it long after the viewing. I'm betting that will be the case with 'Fourteen.'
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Posted December 28, 2007
Anyone who is even remotely disturbed by the increasing violence among America's children and young adults must read Chicago Tribune editor Bill O'Connell's 'Fourteen: The Murder of David Stukel.' Haunted for almost 40 years by the unresolved questions surrounding the incomprehensible, brutal murder and sexual assault of O'Connell's Little League teammate David Stukel, this first-time author meticulously and thoughtfully explores the minds and hearts of everyone involved in the case - from the friends and families of both the victim and his assailants to the criminal justice players to the convicted murderers themselves. Meticulously researched from legal records, newspaper articles and personal interviews, this book is a heart-breaking account of one of the most chilling but least publicized crimes in Illinois history: the 1968 abduction, sexual assault and murder of 14-year-old David Stukel by 14-year-old Billy Rose Sprinkle and James Perruquet. Though written in the precise, detailed style of an insightful and thorough investigative reporter, the book is clearly a journey travelled through the author's heart as he struggles to make sense of a senseless act of brutality that changed the lives of all who came to know these three youngsters. Through his skillful storytelling, O'Connell captivates the reader with his eye and ear for re-creating the sounds, sights and smells of a time of innocence - when all young men had visions of athletic trophies dancing in their heads. O'Connell recounts how on his fifth and final day as a freshman at the relatively new Joliet East High School, happy-go-lucky David 'speeds across shiny floors past the young school's room-to-spare trophy cases' on his way to cross county practice. One senses O'Connell's sad awareness that those mostly empty trophy cases would forever be devoid of any tribute to the young Stukel's budding athletic prowess. Telling his story in the present tense, O'Connell brings the past alive, painstakingly painting the vivid contrast between the lives and upbringing of the always affable, well-behaved, good-natured, freckle-faced Stukel who was so cherished by friends and family and the contrasting lives of repeated abuse and neglect experienced by Billy Rose Sprinkle and James Perruquet. Though originally driven to pursue the answers to 'the haunting questions surrounding the incomprehensible slaying of a five-foot, 95-pound boy,' O'Connell's passionate and personal search for meaning evolves into unexpected feelings of compassion and empathy for the murders, who are eventually revealed as victims of their own unchosen circumstances. The reader is compelled to re-examine the forces behind the vicious circle and consequence of intergenerational childhood abuse, neglect, lack of affection and the tendency to write off 'delinquents' and 'troublemakers.' Without providing any evangelistic manifesto for public reform, O'Connell's mesmerizing story succeeds in awakening our instinctive understanding that all human beings require love, affection and encouragement to thrive. In the last paragraph of the book's prologue, O'Connell describes the reaction of Marilyn and Ray Stukel after being told of his intentions to write about their son's life and death. David Stukel's mother comments, 'We're touched that someone else is thinking about David... We thought we were the only ones.' One cannot read this book without wondering how many people's lives could be changed if we all made a commitment individually and as a society to discover what we could do differently to help our young people navigate circumstances beyond their control. Thanks to this book, perhaps the Stukel family's immeasurable loss will become an unexpected lasting legacy that will inspire the kinds of changes that could help save so many lost souls. If so, what an accomplishment! 'Fourteen' is a 'must read' for adolescents, teachers, parents, counselors, social workers, law enforcement
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Posted January 2, 2008
What an awesome tribute to a great family and boy who did not deserve any of this to happen to them. It is also very incredible how Bill O'Connell portrayed the lives of Billy and James and illustrated how the lives of children brought up with such terrible home lives themselves are simply a product of society.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 1, 2008
This is a book that you just cannot put down. It is a horrendous story told with professionalism and yet with compassion and honesty, encompassing a rural neighborhood in the 60's that was changed forever with one brutal unforgiveable act of violence. Despite the harshness of this story it reminds you of the wonderful person David was and the strength of his family whose loss was unimaginable.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 4, 2008
First I'd like to say this is a very personal book. It will hit you in your heart. I have read it once, and am reading it a second time. The first time I was blinded by shock to details and contradictions. I couldn't put the book down. It's a haunting account of how bad things do happen to good people. Bill O'Connell brought to life so-to-speak the whole murder with reminiscent times of the 60's and the one horrible day Dave walked a familiar path of his neighborhood for the last time. It also shows the strength of a family to get back up after they have been knocked down as low as they could go, somewhere none of us ever want to go. This book is a job well done and brings you face to face with Dave, his family, and the two 'FOURTEEN' year old murderers who changed the course of history for many lives. It also shows the faith of a family to go on when fate has robbed them of a sweet, ever-smiling, obedient and loving son. This book should remind us all to love in the moment, for no man is promised tomorrow. Good job Bill O'Connell.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 30, 2007
Bill O'Connell tells the story about the horrendous death of his former little league teammate in 'Fourteen: The Murder of David Stukel. This is a factually chronicled, detailed account of David's murder at the age of fourteen by two boys of the same age. The author does a great job portraying the events leading up to, during, and after the tragedy without showing any bias or judgement. Although the gruesome details of David's mutilation are difficult to read, I highly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 27, 2007
This is a must read. Bill O'Connell gives an insightful detailed description of a chilling murder. Told in a reporter-like fashion O'Connell recreates the events surrounding the murder of a childhood friend. He goes on to describe how 40 years later those affected by it are still haunted. I highly recommend this book, you won't be able to put it down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 4, 2007
The sweet reminiscence in the first chapter of a simpler time long ago serves as a stark contrast of two radically different worlds that will collide in a single, horrifying act that shocks and enrages. Yet, O¿Connell details the lives of those involved before, during and after the crime in such a compelling manner that I could not put the book down. The writer tenderly introduces us to a victim long forgotten to many. We come to intimately know David Stukel as a real person and not simply a murder statistic, and that makes this crime all the more repulsive. But this is not a shallow one-sided tale of good and evil. O¿Connell exposes us to the dark world of the two murderers ¿ where they came from before that fateful encounter with David, and how their horrible actions have haunted them throughout their lives. We see how a good, loving family copes with the most devastating event anyone could endure. And, we learn how neglect and abuse within a family can spill over to effect a whole community. But most importantly, we learn that what goes around comes around. When a bureaucratic justice system fails a family, the guilty never truly escapes punishment. This is a powerful story expertly handled by a seasoned and talented reporter. I highly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 14, 2007
Fourteen begins with the very accurate picture of a community and a time, and it ends with O'Connell's vision that perfectly closes the account of the murder of David Stukel. In between is the carefully delineated story of a boy who cannot be forgotten, his family, and two murderers that is told in such a way that the reader is compelled to keep turning the pages.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.