The 1971 slaying in New Jersey of five members of his family went unresolved for 19 years until the apprehension and sentencing of John List to five consecutive life terms. List, a Michigan native raised in a German-American community, was the only son of parents who were relatively old when he was born. Growing up isolated from other children and furiously overprotected by his mother, he was also indoctrinated into the most conservative, rigid sort of Lutheranism. As a consequence, argue novelist Benford and psychologist Johnson, he turned into an obsessive-compulsive with no ability to deal with people, a defect that led to failure in job after job. He married a widow who had syphilis (but hid that fact) and became an alcoholic. Apparently believing that he was doing what was best for them, List killed his wife, their three children and her mother. He then disappeared, assuming another identity, but was identified through the TV program America's Most Wanted . A full-length and riveting portrait of an anomalous killer. (Aug.)
John Emil List truly loved his family. He made sure they lived in one of the nicest houses in the neighborhood. He worked extra long hours at his accountant's position so that he made enough money to buy nice things for his mother, wife, and three children. He attended his Lutheran church and insisted his family be as devout Christians as he was. So, what else could he do when he lost his job and his life was in shambles? How could he ask his family to face the humiliation of going on welfare? He just couldn't. So he shot them all. From behind, so they wouldn't have to witness what he had done. Then he disappeared for 18 years. Ironically, his favorite TV show, America's Most Wanted , helped capture him by showing a bust of what he could look like 18 years after the crime. Benford and Johnson do an excellent job of illuminating a dark personality and explaining the why of List's need to eliminate his whole family. For true-crime collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/91-- Belinda J. Pugh, Kings Bay Base Lib., Ga.