America’s #1 true-crime writer fulfills a murder victim’s desperate plea with this shattering New York Times bestseller.
“If anything ever happens to me...find Ann Rule and ask her to write my story.”
In perhaps the first true-crime book written at the victim's request, Ann Rule untangles a web of lies and brutality that culminated in the murder of Sheila Blackthorne Bellush—a woman Rule never met, but whose shocking story she now chronicles with compassion, exacting detail, and unvarnished candor.
Although happily ensconced in a loving second marriage, and a new family of quadruplets, Sheila never truly escaped the vicious enslavement of her ex-husband, multi-millionaire Allen Blackthorne, a handsome charmer— and a violent, controlling sociopath who subjected Sheila to unthinkable abuse in their marriage, and terrorized her for a decade after their divorce. When Sheila was slain in her home, in the presence of her four toddlers, authorities raced to link the crime to Blackthorne, the man who vowed to monitor Sheila's every move in his obsessive quest for power and revenge.
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About the Author
Ann Rule wrote thirty-five New York Times bestsellers, all of them still in print. Her first bestseller was The Stranger Beside Me, about her personal relationship with infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. A former Seattle police officer, she used her firsthand expertise in all her books. For more than three decades, she was a powerful advocate for victims of violent crime. She lived near Seattle and died in 2015.
Date of Birth:October 22, 1935
Place of Birth:Lowell, Michigan
Education:Creative Writing Program, University of Washington
Read an Excerpt
In my three decades of writing about actual crimes, only once have I been personally involved in a case before I wrote about it. That, of course, was the story of Ted Bundy, who had been my partner at Seattle's Crisis Clinic a few years before he was exposed as a merciless serial killer. During the years I knew him, I had no more knowledge of the man behind the "mask" than anyone else who interacted with him. Indeed, I had a contract to write a book about an unknown killermy first book contractonly to find out I would be writing about my friend.
Now, twenty years after that almost incomprehensible coincidence, another singular circumstance has touched me, making this book much more than the recounting of a tragedy that echoes and re-echoes in the lives of so many people. In a sense, I was chosen by the victim herself to tell her story, even though we never spoke, never met, and when I read about her fate, I had no reason to believe that we had any connection at all.
Her name was Sheila Bellush, and she was the age of my daughters. The premonition that haunted her for the last ten years of her life finally found her in Florida. Before that, she lived in San Antonio, Texas, and in Hawaii. I had never been to those places. My home territory has been the northwest since the mid-'50sOregon and then Washington.
My father's lifelong wish was to have a homestead in Oregon, a house high on a hill that overlooked trees, fields, and rivers. He found his beloved forty acres south of Salem, Oregon. For the last thirty years of their lives, my parents lived there on a ranch where the only sounds beyond the wind in the fir trees were the cries of hawks and eagles and the occasional cougar. It was such an obscure part of Oregon that few people had ever heard of it. I never lived there myself; I had long since moved up to Seattle.
Years after my parents were gone, but only two miles away from that ranch, a young couple found their perfect section of earth to build on. They were patching together their lives after three years of horror and bereavement, and a decade of dread before that. The wife had a number of missions to accomplish, and one of them was to find me.
She was Sheila Bellush's sister. When we finally met, she told me that she had tried many avenues to locate me, unaware of how easy it really was. Had she only called information in Seattle, she could have obtained my office phone number. In January 2000 I received an
e-mail signed with her name; I learned later it was really her husband who wrote to me because his wife had grown discouraged when her efforts brought only dead ends.
Sheila's sister told me they were determined to try one last time, and then give up because they didn't know where else to go. Fortunately, she found me on the Internet, and I wrote back to her immediately.
"Ten years ago," she said, "when Sheila ended her marriage, she told me, 'If anything ever happens to me, promise me that you will see that there is an investigation.'"
Her sister promised.
There was more: seemingly a throwaway remark said half in jest. It happened that Sheila Bellush was watching the miniseries of my book Dead by Sunset in the fall of 1995. Recognizing something in the character of a man accused of murder, she called her sister Kerry Bladorn and asked her to turn on her television set. "Remember what I told you about what to do if anything happened to me?" Sheila asked, and Kerry said she did. "And now promise me one more thing," Sheila said. "That if I'm not here, you will find Ann Rule and have her write my story."
Again Sheila's sister promised. I learned later that Sheila had asked a number of her friends to find me if anything happened to her. And so I face an awesome project; I have been given a huge responsibility by a young woman who once read my books. After so many years this is the first time a victim has chosen me to tell the story of her lifeand deathlong before her premonition of disaster came true. I owe her the truth and the compassion of those who read this book. I owe her a voice when she no longer has one.
For a long time I have felt a kind of "presence" of the people I write about, much in the way homicide detectives come to know the murder victims they strive to avenge. But never, never have I honored a commitment urgently foisted upon me by a woman who was a complete stranger, and who has become as familiar to me as someone in my own family.
So this is for Sheila. I hope I get it right.
Copyright © 2001 by Ann Rule