THE SEALED TRUTH is based on a heinous crime that occurred in Rhode Island in 1975 when five-year-old freckle faced Justin Doherty (real names and places have been changed) was kidnapped and murdered. After a week long search by Hopeville police and volunteers, Justin’s mother Jane and Detective Rick Thurston began a gut-wrenching, futile crusade to find Justin.
In 1982, Norman Stedman, a twenty-three-year old loner and neighbor, was arrested when he tried to strangle the local paperboy, and while interrogated, confessed that he had killed Justin.
During the search of Norman’s house, the police found Justin’s skull and bones and a journal that described in grim detail what he had done to the dead boy’s body. In a plea bargain, the trail judge sealed the journal. This action caused a series of despicable rumors that exist to this very day about what Norman actually wrote in his journal.
Gary Thomas, a retired school principal, sought answers to a series of questions raised by the crime. What caused the killer, a capable student and considered harmless, to go over the edge and kill an innocent child? What exactly was written in the sealed journal? What long term effect has this brutal crime had on its victims?
The names of the real killer and victims were changed in the book to protect their privacy, however, after book was completed ,the Rhode Island Departement of Corrections publicly announced intended early release of the actual child killer, Michael Woodmansee, in the summer of 2011. The surprise announcement became a national story that ignited passions and generated new fear as people remembered rumors of cannibalism and other alledged horrible things surrounding the gruesome murder of five-year-old Jason Foreman in Peace Dale, Rhode Island in 1975. The father of the murdered boy publicly stated on national television that he would kill the boy when and if Woodmansee is released.
Organized protests have occurred and legislation filed to change a“good time” early release law that allowed a child killer like Woodmansee to serve only 28 years of his 40 year sentence. Because any new law will not be retroactive, state officials are looking instead at civil institutional commitment for Woodmansee, something that will only occur if two independent psychiatrists find him a danger to himself and to the community. Meanvhile, the public remains outraged to think that Woodmansee will be free in the near future to walk their streets again.
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