The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing That Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family

The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing That Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family

by Suzanne Handler

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Overview

The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing That Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family by Suzanne Handler

Every family has its secrets. In 1937, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, an anguished father made the momentous decision to end his mentally ill daughter's life rather than commit her to an insane asylum. After signing a joint suicide pact to die together, the father first killed the girl and then attempted to take his own life. Forever known as Cheyenne's "mercy slayer," the man survived to face the consequences of his unimaginable crime. Yet the question remains: What power on earth would compel a father to murder his own child? Now, after more than seven decades of silence, events surrounding this long-ago tragedy are at last being told. Author Suzanne Handler shares with readers the secrets of her family's dark past. You will be moved by this extraordinary story of murder, mental illness, and the impact of secrets on families.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780988563902
Publisher: iLane Press
Publication date: 01/14/2013
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.37(d)

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The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing that Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I typically prefer fiction, this true story of a 1930's mercy killing and it's impact on the remaining family was compelling. Anyone who has dabbled in geneology knows every family has it's premature deaths, and relatives seldom spoken of to children. Author Suzanne Handler unravels her family's 70 year old mystery by interweaving historical photographs and court documents with her personal quest to discover the truth about her grandfather and aunt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Secrets They Kept is a documented, true account of a sad and shocking mercy killing of a daughter by her father in the 1930's. With careful wording used by the author, Suzanne Handler, one can feel the anguish and impact on all immediate family members when a pact is made to never expose or tell of their sister Sally's disappearance. One can only immagine the psychological trama this secret had on each member of the family and their adult relationships to follow. After all, this was always to be kept a secret. Read this story to find out when and how this secret becomes exposed, and the impact it has on the family offspring. The author writes this story in a way that peaks your curiosity. and uses words of compassion and sensitivity toward her family. This book is one you will not want to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Imagine for a moment trying to keep a secret from your family and friends,  How long before you feel compelled to share it with someone?  Now imagine an entire family keeping a secret for over 70 years (3 generations) without so much as a word,  Suzanne Handler, the author, is part of such a family and only learns of the secrets they kept recently.  How she deals with that knowledge is revealed in this well documented, touching account of the loving grandfather she grew up knowing, and the murder and attem[ted siocode that he committed years before.  Her depth of research and the toll that secret has taken upon family members past and present, gives the reader insight into how such secrets are destructive and insidious. The author is bravely revealing something to the world that her family wouldn't and couldn't divulge and she does it with warmth and compassion.
StuGoldberg More than 1 year ago
The questionable morality of mercy killing is at the center of this book: The Secrets They Kept. On August 16, 1937, a father—Sam Levin fatally shot his 16 year old daughter—Sally, at her pleading. She had attempted suicide on at least two separate occasions, and was desperate for her father’s help. Sally had been diagnosed with incurable and progressive dementia praecox, now known as schizophrenia. Her doctors had no other option than to order her commitment in the Wyoming Insane Asylum in Evanston—a location 400 miles from the only home she had ever known. This commitment constituted a life sentence behind bars, and in all likelihood in restraints. As succinctly stated by the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming: “The case now before the Court is of a strange paradoxical nature and therefore the more difficult to dispose of. It can probably be most aptly described as one which is sometimes called ‘Mercy homicide’.” It is here noted that one definition of the term “homicide,” is “the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another.” If this unlawful killing had a moral component, the Court could exercise its discretion in providing for a lenient sentence, and that constitutes the mystery of this well written book. Today, two states—Oregon and Washington—have enacted Death with Dignity Acts, which legalize physician assisted death, thus providing support for the claim of morality for such actions. All things considered, it is the opinion of this reviewer that the actions of the father—Sam Levin, while being clearly illegal, were nevertheless of a moral nature. I would highly recommend reading this book. Stuart Goldberg, Esq. former Asst. U.S. Attorney Author of Death with Dignity
DRB1 More than 1 year ago
Interesting, fascinating and impressive. Well researched and documented. Early mental health issues explaned very well, the understanding of which applies to our current mental health issues. The discussion of euthanasia was well done.
BonnieMcCune More than 1 year ago
A Life Revealed, Questions Unfolding When Suzanne Handler discovered an astounding fact about her family, some sixty years after it occurred, she became so consumed with it that she promised herself she would solve its mystery. The book’s subtitle (The True Story of a Mercy Killing that Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family) summarizes the entire process. For decades Handler’s relatives never mentioned Sallie, the teenage girl imprisoned by mental illness, who begged her father to kill her rather than send her to an asylum. This was Handler’s maternal aunt, and the author conducted her own research through newspapers, court records and personal interviews to try to create a sketch of the forgotten girl’s life. She was as successful as she could have been, given the scarcity of material. She was more successful in posing the questions inherent in the situation. What led her grandfather to comply with his daughter’s wish? Why did descendents agree to keep the girl’s existence secret? Was the killing justifiable in any circumstances? What impact did the family’s Judaism have on the individuals and their decisions? Readers also will wonder about the larger issues that come to mind. Have treatments for the mentally ill improved since the 1930s? Do other families have secrets that they keep to the same degree? Can secret-keeping ever be valid? It could have improved the commentary to include more reference to these topics, particularly the first. Still simply by telling Sallie’s story, Handler gives her aunt a legacy as well as encourages us to consider our own family relationships and confidences and how we deal with them.