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4 True Crime Books About People Who Murdered Their Family

Updated on June 8, 2016

1. Brothers Blood: A Heartland Cain and Abel by Scott Cawelti

Jerry Mark grew up farming alongside his three brothers on their father’s Iowa farm. As the boys reached adulthood, the oldest would head north to Canada, another brother would suffer from schizophrenia, and Jerry would go to law school only to toss it aside for a hippie lifestyle; leaving the third son, Leslie “Les” Wayne Mark.

Brother's Blood by Scott Cawelti
Brother's Blood by Scott Cawelti

When family patriarch Wayne Mark was diagnosed with cancer and the outcome inevitable, he called his nomadic son home and there announced that Les was officially taking over the family business.

Filled with jealousy, greed, anger, and humiliation at being passed over for a younger sibling, Jerry fumed and sulked and then began planning.

Over a thousand miles Jerry would travel to cold-bloodedly slay his brother, his sister-in-law Jorjean Marks, 5-year-old niece Julie Julane Mark, and toddler nephew Jeffrey Wayne Mark in the wee morning hours of November 1, 1975.

When police arrived at the Leslie Mark Farm to find the brutally murdered family, a shiver went through them; the Clutter Family murders of only 16 years before still fresh in their minds. Vowing to get justice for this well-liked family, investigators went to work and it didn’t take long to figure out that Les’s big brother Jerry was the culprit.

Jerry used his skills as a defense attorney to create the perfect crime, but he didn’t count on the determination of police. And that, simply put, washis fatal error.

Scott Cawelti grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with the Mark kids; Jerry being just one year his senior. He too felt the shock that flowed like water through the town when Les and family was murdered and Jerry, Les’s own flesh and blood, stood charged with the crime.

Now he tells the story of the Cain and Abel Murders, as they came to be dubbed by local media, in his 2011 true crime book appropriately named Brother’s Blood.

Just as the crime gives a feeling of déjà vu, so does the writing as Cawelti uses creative licensing to develop dialogue between characters. However, since the banter is created from interviews it stays pretty much parallel to the facts.

2. Whisper to the Black Candle: Voodoo, Murder, and the Case of Anjette Lyles by Jaclyn Weldon White

When Anjette Lyles‘ first husband died, the Macon, Georgia community pitied the young woman and her two young daughters. And when her second husband died a few years later, they grieved with her yet again; thinking how terribly dreadful it was that Anjette should be widowed twice in such a short a relatively short time.

Whisper to the Black Candle by Jaclyn Weldon White
Whisper to the Black Candle by Jaclyn Weldon White

But when her when her mother-in-law suddenly fell ill, people gave Anjette a sideways glance. Indeed Mrs. Lyles was elderly but something just didn’t sit well with the situation at hand; especially when the old woman expired. And when Anjette’s oldest daughter became sick so quickly following her grandmother’s death, Macon tongues begun to cluck rapidly among those who frequently visited Anjette’s diner and others.

Whisper to the Black Candle by Jaclyn Weldon White chronicles the case of Macon’s popular restaurateur who became one of the first white women in Georgia sentenced to death in the twentieth century.

Aside from the events surrounding such a character as Anjette Lyles, Whisper to the Black Candle is an extremely interesting historical true crime; a time before desegregation in deep south Georgia and before women were allowed to serve on a jury. In addition, avid crime and punishment followers will be amazed at the testimony permitted during this trial – quite a variance from today’s rules of evidence some fifty plus years later.

3. House of Secrets by Lowell Cauffiel

Eddie Lee Sexton, Sr. wasn’t smart enough to recruit a following, so he formed a cult with the only ones he could control: his family.

House of Secrets by Lowell Cauffiel
House of Secrets by Lowell Cauffiel

Sexton, with the willing aid of his wife,Estella “May” Sexton, performed satanic rituals within the home, habitually beat the children, and subjected their children to incestuous sexual abuse – producing three children with two daughters.

Lowell Cauffiel’s House of Secrets is an addicting read from the very beginning and for the very same reason that Eddie Sexton was able to get away with such atrocities for so long: the stories yielded from inside this home are unimaginable, unbelievable.

But they are real.

At least the majority.

Unfortunately no one but those who lived it will ever know one hundred percent what went on in that home as memories are warped and the twelve children often dispute one another’s stories; and, sadly, have a penchant for lying – no doubt a learned behavior from their parents.

Irregardless, DNA proves that, at the minimum incest occurred. And the bodies of Joel Good (Pixie Sexton’s, daughter of Eddie and May, husband) and their 9-month-old baby, Skipper Lee, are evidence of murder.

The twists and turns leading to the arrest and conviction Eddie Lee Sexton and his wife are sickening, yet engrossing; reading like fiction, with tales of satanism, manhunts, conspiracies, cons, and family feuds and cover-ups that put television soaps to shame.

4. Zero at the Bone: Story of Gene Simmons Mass Murderer by Bryce Marshall and Paul Williams

Ronald Gene Simmons had once been an Air Force Sergeant but those days were long gone. Now he was a tyrant; a cruel, evil man who took pleasure in tormenting and humiliating his family. Except Sheila, one of his daughters.

Zero at the Bone by Bryce Marshall and Paul Williams
Zero at the Bone by Bryce Marshall and Paul Williams

Forcing her into an incestuous relationship, Sheila bore her father’s baby. Despite the “relationship” and Gene’s efforts to control her, Sheila would one day reject him for another man. She was determined to start her own life, free of her cruel father.

Realizing that Sheila was free, Gene went on a rampage that killed fourteen members of his family: wife, children, sons and daughters-in-law, and grandchild. Tossing their bodies into a hole in the family home’s backyard, Gene then took his rampage to town where he continue to murder in cold-blood.

Bryce Marshall and Paul Williams tackle the enraging and heartbreaking story of Gene Simmons in their 1991 true crime Zero at the Bone.

Where Are They Now? Warning! May Contain Spoilers!

  • Eddie Lee Sexton has been unsuccessful in his numerous appeals and remains on death row in Florida’s Union Correctional Institution.
  • Estella May Sexton is presently incarcerated in the Ohio Reformatory for Women. Her first parole hearing was in February 2011 where she was denied release. Her next parole hearing won’t occur until December 2017.

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