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4 True Crime Books About Tennessee's Murdered and Missing You Want To Read

Updated on March 26, 2016

1. A Season of Darkness by Douglas Jones and Phyllis Gobbell

When Marcia Trimble was murdered in Nashville in February 1975, I wasn’t even out of diapers. But her murder would have resounding affects throughout my generation’s childhood years – especially to those of us living in the middle Tennessee area.

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Nine year old Marcia was delivering Girl Scout cookies ordered by her neighbors when she suddenly disappeared. It would be 35 days before her body was found in a neighbor’s storage building.

Attorney Douglas Jones teams up with Nashville author Phyllis Gobbell in their recent book A Season of Darkness to bring readers Marcia’s story and the not-so-publicized stories behind it.

Readers of this book will get the answers to some questions that have never fully been disclosed before. Such as:

  • How a 15-year-old boy’s life was changed forever after he was publicly named and arrested as a suspect .
  • Why there were so many differing opinions on how long Marcia was in the Thorpe’s outbuilding.
  • How cops missed the vital clues between a serial rapist, a Vanderbilt co-ed’s murder, and the missing Marcia Trimble.
  • Which Nashville detective was on the verge of discovering the killer’s identity in 1976 and the Nashville investigator who pieced it all together three decades later.

A Season of Darkness is written with "just the facts" style, yet in a flowing narrative that leaves readers intrigued, outraged, and relieved as they read about the Middle Tennessee case that forever changed Girl Scout policies, shocked a sleepy state’s residents to the core, and proved that it’s never too late to find justice.

2. Her Deadly Web: The True Story of a Former Nurse and The Strange and Suspicious Deaths of Her Two Husbands by Diane Fanning

In 1991, William Edward "Ed" Dossett was a well-liked yet aggressive Knox County District Attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee. Ed wasn't a perfect man, considering his philandering ways, but he was one heck of a DA. And since a lot of people found his wife, Raynella Bernardene Large Dossett, a native of nearby Oak Ridge, to be somewhat unlikable, it was easy to look past the mistresses.

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By the middle of 1992, however, Ed Dossett was stricken with cancer and every day was becoming a struggle to survive. Friends and family could only watch as Ed, once strong and valiant, withered away before their eyes. They knew his days were numbered but they were shocked when those days came to a sudden, unexpected end: trampled to death by cattle.

Fifteen years later, Raynella's second husband died unexpectedly. Cause of death: suicide. At least according to Raynella.

There's a common saying, "Lightening never strikes the same place twice." But obviously Raynella Dossett Leath thought, with her political clout, she could beat that theory.

She was wrong. Very, very wrong.

True crime veteran author Diane Fanning recounts the case of State of Tennessee vs. Raynella Dossett Leath is her newest book Her Deadly Web: The True Story of a Former Nurse and The Strange and Suspicious Deaths of Her Two Husbands.

While some of Fanning's books have been labeled overly dramatic (and it's not something I necessarily agree with), I found this one to be one of her best written books to date. It was thorough and accurate, sans melodrama, and, with the exception of a couple of chapters, was an interesting story without being weighted down by legalese and boring courtroom scenes.

3. The Pastor's Wife: The True Story of a Minister and the Shocking Death that Divided a Family by Diane Fanning

When Pastor Matthew Winkler was found dead at his Fourth Street Church of Christ parsonage in Selmer, Tennessee, parishioners were shaken: How could evil strike this cradle of faith? And where were Matt's wife Mary and his three daughters?

A frantic search for Mary Winkler and the girls ensued; ending on an Alabama beach. Everyone in Selmer breathed a sigh of relief.

Until Mary was arrested for Matt's murder.

In the months that followed, Mary's reason for murdering her husband was disclosed and it would shock both present and former parishoners of Matt's who in turn would offer refuge and support for Mary as she awaited the beginning of her murder trial.

Method and motive are just a couple of topics of debate among followers of the case detailed in Diane Fanning's The Pastor's Wife: The True Story of a Minister and the Shocking Death that Divided a Family.

While I found it to be too biased for my taste, it was a well-written, interesting book nonetheless.

4. Unsolved Disappearances in the Great Smoky Mountains by Juanitta Baldwin

The author kicks off the book with three strange disappearances: Dennis Lloyd Martin,Thelma Pauline Melton, and Trenny Lynn Gibson. Although I believed I had heard or read everything about this trio of unsolved disappearances, I was surprised to find I had not. While not anything that changes my own personal theories, it was facts which made the people more personable – something difficult to obtain from archived newspaper articles and television footage, with information related directly from the families by weaving in local rumors of related interest.

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Next, readers are introduced to the “red haired boy” who was found frozen in snow in the Sugarlands community in 1915. He would remain in an unmarked grave for more than six decades until finally a family member stepped forward to claim him.

Then it’s on to the story of Abe Carroll Ramsey, the three year-old son of moonshiner. When the little boy disappeared from his own yard in March 1919, local townsfolk searched frantically for the lad to no avail. Three stories have been told about this disappearance. The truth is in there somewhere and it is shocking and heartbreaking.

Just as readers recover from the gut-wrenching of little Abe’s likely demise, they are introduced to William Bradford Bishop, Jr., a U.S. Foreign Services Officer whose station wagon was found abandoned in the park in March 1976. Much to the surprise of park rangers, Bishop was wanted for questioning in the deaths of five family members.

And last but certainly not least, Robert Eric Rudolph, today better known as the Olympic Park Bomber and a native of Andrews, North Carolina, is featured when it’s believed he has returned to his mountain roots to avoid arrest for bombing the New Woman All Women abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, 1998. Little did authorities know the true extent of his crimes.

Unsolved Disappearances in the Great Smoky Mountains is a thoroughly interesting read about crimes from one of the nation’s most popular parks. Although these mountains are a yearly trek for my family, I was unfamiliar with these stories until just recently.

Definitely on my recommended list. My only suggestion would be to invest in the paperback version if badly formatted Kindle versions irritate you.

show route and directions
A markerA Season of Darkness -
Green Hills, Nashville, TN, USA
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B markerHer Deadly Web -
Knoxville, TN, USA
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C markerThe Pastor's Wife -
Selmer, TN, USA
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D markerUnsolved Disappearances in the Great Smoky Mountains -
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee 37738, USA
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© 2016 Kim Bryan

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    • GalaxyRat profile image

      GalaxyRat 3 months ago from The Crazy Rat Lady's House

      Nice Hub, and very interesting!