A Need to Kill: Confessions of a Teen Murderer

A Need to Kill: Confessions of a Teen Murderer

by Michael W. Cuneo

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429954242
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 03/01/2011
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 175,608
File size: 336 KB

About the Author

Michael W. Cuneo's research has been featured in media coast to coast. The author of the critically acclaimed American Exorcism and Almost Midnight, Cuneo divides his time between New York City and Toronto.

Michael W. Cuneo teaches at Fordham University. His research has been featured in media coast to coast. The author of the critically acclaimed American Exorcism and Almost Midnight, Cuneo divides his time between New York City and Toronto.

Read an Excerpt


It was shaping up to be a perfect Friday evening for the Haines family. A soft breeze was blowing through their Blossom Hill neighborhood. The air was filled with the sweet fragrance of early spring. Best of all, the entire family was on hand. Twenty-year-old Maggie had just gotten back from college the day before, and both she and her younger brother, Kevin, were planning on spending the evening at home. Parents Tom and Lisa couldn't have been more pleased. They'd always treasured times such as this, when they were all together with nothing more to do than bask in the pleasure of one another's company.

They cooked spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and afterward lingered at the dining room table. Maggie talked about her sophomore year at Bucknell, the courses she'd liked and several others she'd been less than crazy about. Sixteen-year-old Kevin talked about a school-sponsored trip to Germany that he was planning on making in mid-July. Lisa gushed about the terrific bunch of kids she'd taught over the past year at a church-affiliated preschool in town.

After taking care of the dirty dishes, Lisa and Maggie sat down at the family computer and tried solving a crossword puzzle. They then hopped into Lisa's Jeep Cherokee and swung by their local video outlet. They picked up the mildly naughty romantic comedy Because I Said So, starring Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore, and also a Will Ferrell feature called Stranger Than Fiction.

Everyone gathered in the family room at eight o'clock to watch the romantic comedy, which was Lisa and Maggie's first choice. Kevin, for his part, probably would have preferred watching just about anything else. He wandered off intermittently throughout the course of the movie, eventually abandoning it altogether and going upstairs to bed. Lisa lasted until the closing credits before likewise calling it a night. Tom and Maggie stayed up a while longer and caught the end of the Philadelphia Phillies game on TV. The Phillies won in a breeze, defeating the Cubs seven to two, and when the final out was recorded Tom also went to bed.

Maggie followed suit shortly afterward, hopeful about getting an early start the next morning. Still not tired enough to sleep, however, she curled up in bed with her laptop and watched the pilot of a new TV show called The Traveler and also an old episode of Brothers and Sisters. At midnight or thereabouts she went to the bathroom down the hall and then returned to bed and chatted online with a couple of friends from college. Finally she shut down her laptop, set it aside, and fell asleep.

Roughly an hour later, shortly past two, Maggie was awakened by the sound of yelling. She got out of bed, put on her glasses, and stepped into the hallway. The yelling, which had a menacing ring to it, seemed to be coming from Kevin's room. It was accompanied by loud thumping noises, suggesting some sort of physical struggle. Was there an intruder in the house, possibly beating up her brother?

Concerned for her own safety, Maggie retreated into her bedroom. Her door didn't close properly because the frame was warped, so she braced herself against it and tried formulating a plan of action. She'd left her cell phone on the kitchen counter, which meant that she couldn't call for help. But neither could she safely remain where she was, not if there really was an intruder on the premises. She doubted that she was strong enough to hold firm against somebody intent on breaking into her room.

Steeling her nerve, Maggie opened the door again. There was a stench of blood in the air that she hadn't noticed before. She ran the full length of the hallway and went into her parents' room. Maggie's mom, Lisa, was sitting on the edge of the bed, with Tom lying motionless beside her. Lisa seemed distressed, practically in hysterics.

"Get out of here," she said, her voice scarcely a whisper. "Get out and go get help."

Maggie charged down the stairs and exited the house through the side door. She raced to the end of the driveway and paused for the briefest of moments by the curb, not entirely certain where she should go for help. Despite having lived in the area virtually her entire life, she wasn't especially close to any of the neighbors.

She ran through the darkness to the house across the street and rang the bell. She rang and rang and pounded on the door. Just when she was on the verge of giving up and trying elsewhere, a woman turned on the porch light and let her inside.


Officer Steve Newman was on patrol nearby when the call came over the radio. For reasons not yet entirely clear, somebody required assistance on Peach Lane, a winding, leafy street in the Blossom Hill neighborhood of Manheim Township. For Newman, a straitlaced kid fresh out of the academy, it had already proven a difficult shift. Besides the usual Friday night complaints about rowdy teenagers, he'd had to contend with a street fight on the New Holland Pike that almost erupted into a full-blown riot. Hopefully this latest call was simply a matter of some poor soul having locked himself out of his house.

Maggie was standing watch at the neighbor's kitchen window. She saw Newman pull over at the curb and went outside to meet him. She still had on the outfit that she'd worn to bed, orange terrycloth shorts and a light blue T-shirt decorated with a picture of the comic strip character Opus. She gave Newman her name and said that she lived directly across the street. She said that she was terribly concerned about her family.

Given her moist eyes and quavering voice, Newman didn't doubt that this was so. He asked her what she thought the problem was.

Maggie told him about the yelling she'd heard and also about her mother pleading with her to go for help. She said that she'd initially assumed an intruder was in the house but now she wasn't sure. Her dad had recently undergone surgery for prostate cancer and might have suffered some sort of setback after going to bed. Perhaps this was why her mother had seemed so distressed.

A second patrol officer, Chris Keenan — a tall gregarious guy in his mid-thirties — arrived on the scene and conferred with Newman. Then both patrolmen crossed the street and rang the front doorbell to Maggie's house. They returned after a minute or two and told her that no one had answered. She seemed surprised by this, saying that her mother had excellent hearing and would normally respond to even the faintest of sounds on the property. She wondered aloud if perhaps there really were an intruder in the house and her family had taken refuge in a locked room.

The patrolmen went back to Maggie's house, this time taking her with them, and tried ringing again. Keenan asked her if she'd actually seen an intruder. Maggie said that she might have but in her panicked state she wasn't precisely certain what she saw. She said that perhaps it was all just a bad dream.

The patrolmen instructed her to go back across the street and wait for them. They then opened the front door, which was unlocked, and went inside. They switched on the light in the hallway and several times called out "Manheim Township PD." Hearing no response, they proceeded down the hallway and made a preliminary check of the rooms on the main floor. A sliding glass door leading from the kitchen into the backyard was slightly ajar, but otherwise they noticed nothing untoward.

They ascended the L-shaped staircase by the front door and saw a spot of blood on the lower landing, then two larger spots farther up. At the top of the stairs they saw bloody footprints in the carpeted hallway and, to their immediate right, a teenage boy lying facedown in a pool of blood. He was wearing briefs and a green T-shirt labeled TROOP 99 — LANCASTER, PA. There was a gaping slash to the right side of his throat and a deep gash across his right cheek, as well as five obvious stab wounds to the left side of his back and numerous cuts on his forearms. The wall in front of him was spattered with blood. Judging from the position of his body, it seemed likely that he'd collapsed to the floor while trying to exit his bedroom.

Both officers drew their weapons, and Keenan called for emergency assistance on his portable radio.

The officers walked to the far end of the hallway and entered the room above the garage, which was illuminated by a lamp on a night table. A middle-aged man, his eyes wide open and lifeless, was lying supine across a queen-sized bed. He was wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt, and there was a catheter by his side. A crimson stain was spreading across his T-shirt from a wound in his chest. His hands were raised, palms outward, in a futile gesture of self-defense.

A woman with no immediately visible wounds was curled up in a fetal position at the foot of the bed. She had on a pajama top and bloodstained briefs. She was still warm to the touch but she wasn't breathing and had no pulse. Keenan lifted some strands of hair from her forehead and shined his flashlight into her eyes, which showed not the least sign of life.

The two patrolmen retreated into the hallway and searched the rest of the second floor. They then went down the stairs, weapons still drawn, and searched the basement and the backyard. By the time they got around to inspecting the interiors of the vehicles that were parked in the driveway, more than a dozen additional cops, and nearly as many emergency medical workers, had arrived on the scene. Keenan and Newman briefed the officer in charge for that night's shift, Dave Bair, about their conversation with Maggie and also about their grim discoveries inside the house.

One of the newly arrived cops was Ray Bradley, a seventeen-year veteran of the force with a deft touch at dealing with people in crisis. At the instruction of Dave Bair, he went across the street to the neighbor's house to check on Maggie.

Maggie saw him approaching. She'd been standing at the kitchen window with the neighbor and her teenage daughter, wondering why the process was taking so long. She met him at the door and told him who she was.

Bradley recognized her almost at once. He'd been her DARE instructor in the fifth and seventh grades at Neff Elementary School, and her appearance hadn't changed much in the intervening years. His heart went out to her now, this young barefooted woman with tousled hair and a tear-streaked face, desperately hoping for some good news concerning her family. Bradley knew, from what Dave Bair had told him, that the news was as bad as it could possibly be.

Maggie once again ran through the sequence of events that had resulted in her fleeing the house, telling Bradley how she'd been awakened by a strange voice and had eventually sprinted down the hallway into her parents' room only to find her father lying motionless in bed and her mother in a state of hysterics. She asked if he knew how her family was doing.

Bradley excused himself for a moment and went back across the street to confer with Dave Bair, who suggested that he tell her the truth about her family without going into graphic detail.

He then returned to the neighbor's house and told Maggie that both of her parents and also her younger brother were dead. He said nothing about them having been murdered but it didn't really matter. Maggie apparently drew the inference herself. The menacing voice she'd heard, the stench of blood in the hallway, the condition in which she'd found her parents — all of this could only mean one thing. If they were indeed dead, it wasn't merely by accident.

She went into momentary shock, alternately crying and insisting that Bradley must be mistaken. "They can't be dead," she sobbed. "I just saw them. I just saw my mother."

She calmed down after several minutes and slumped into an armchair. Bradley asked her if there was a friend she'd like him to contact, somebody who could help see her through the rest of the night. She said that all of her friends were at Bucknell now, and with school out for the year they were scattered across the country. He pressed her on the matter, suggesting that there must be somebody with whom he could get in touch. She said that her contact numbers were in her cell phone, which she'd left on the kitchen counter. She asked if she could go across the street and retrieve it. Bradley said that this wasn't a feasible option at the moment.

She became reflective, saying that she'd been planning on running in a race with her dad during the summer. She said that they were running partners and best buddies, and that she'd missed him a lot when she was away at college. She also said that she'd been looking forward to teaching her younger brother, Kevin, who was in the habit of wearing calf-high white socks with shorts, how to dress more fashionably. She said that she and Kevin had purchased Mother's Day cards the previous afternoon, which would now go to waste.

She then asked Bradley if he'd mind phoning her Aunt Tammy and Uncle James, who lived only two or three miles away. He rang their number and, without getting into specifics, requested that they come to Peach Lane as soon as possible.

They arrived within fifteen minutes, only to find the street blocked off by police barricades. Dave Bair directed them to the neighbor's house, and as soon as she saw them, Maggie blurted out: "My life will never be the same."

The uncle, who was one of Tom's two brothers, asked Bradley what was going on. Bradley told him that Tom and Lisa and Kevin had all been killed. Not quite believing his ears, the uncle pulled Bradley aside for a moment and asked if this were really true. The patrolman nodded in confirmation.

Bradley gave the three of them some time together, and then told Maggie that he was under orders to transport her to the police station for questioning. She asked if he could wait a little longer, saying she'd just thought of somebody else whom she wanted to try contacting.

She sat down at a computer and searched for the phone number of a young guy, Luke, who ran a campus ministry at Bucknell. She'd started attending the ministry the previous semester upon learning that her dad had been diagnosed with cancer. She'd found Tim's spiritual counsel helpful then and hoped that he could also lend her support in this latest hour of need. She eventually succeeded in finding his number but wasn't able to get hold of him. Finally, sensing that Bradley was growing impatient, she borrowed a sweatshirt and a pair of flip-flops from the neighbor's daughter and announced that she was ready to leave.

Maggie sat in the backseat of the cruiser during the short drive to the station. At one point, while they were stopped for a red light, she told Bradley that she recognized him as her DARE instructor from elementary school, adding that she wished that she were still eleven years old. Bradley tried lightening the mood by asking her about college and the courses she was taking. Maggie said that she was a science major, specializing in animal behavior. A bit farther along, she exhaled deeply and said: "What am I going to do? I could be in grief counseling for years."

Bradley found the remark oddly detached. Her parents and brother had just been murdered, and this was what she was thinking about? But then again, she was a fledgling scientist. Perhaps the remark simply reflected her analytical cast of mind.

They reached the station at half past three. The night was dark and starless, with a slight chill in the air. Bradley escorted Maggie to a large conference room and chatted with her some more about college and the like. The aunt and uncle soon joined them, along with a minister from their church whom they'd contacted en route.

It was difficult for Bradley, sitting directly across from her, to tell exactly how Maggie was coping. Seemingly calm one moment, she'd break into a crying fit the next. She'd ask him various questions about the crime scene, none of which he was in a position to answer.

And time and again, she'd look up at him and say: "My mother was alive when I saw her. How could she be dead when the police arrived?"


Excerpted from "A Need to Kill"
by .
Copyright © 2011 Michael W. Cuneo.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Need to Kill 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
deedge More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was good; nothing this graphic could be exceptional, but the author does report the crime honestly and with little predjudice. I felt sad for the victims and later felt sad for the murderer of them. I am used to true crime books that explain some mitigating circumstances, unfortunately there aren't really any circumstances in this young man's life that would cause him to be a bitter person. It's a mystery to the author and to the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is as well written as might be expected . However , you would reap more information in any teenage crime story . More questions than answers as might be the case with teenagers. Tragedy with little attention to the actual crime. If you're considering this spend your cash elsewhere , you'll learn more .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plz tell me whether or not i should get this!!
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