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Deadly Rather Than Deadbeat: 5 True Crime Books About Fathers Who Murdered to Avoid Losing It All In A Divorce

Updated on May 22, 2016
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1. No, Daddy, Don't!: A Father's Murderous Act of Revenge by Irene Pence

For years Mary Jean Pearle had taken John Battaglia‘s verbal and emotional abuse but when things took a physical turn she knew it was time to get out. She knew her husband wouldn’t take the news well but she knew this marriage was no longer conducive to the well-being of her self or her daughters.

No, Daddy, Don't! by Irene Pence
No, Daddy, Don't! by Irene Pence

But the things she feared, were coming true.

John loved his daughters but he hated his ex more and frequently used the little girls to try and control his soon-to-be ex-wife. Mary Jean begged the Courts for the help in keeping this abusive man at bay but, time and time again, her pleas fell on deaf ears.

It would be August 2000 before anyone listened to Mary Jean’s cries – and then it would be too late. Her daughter’s last words will forever ring in her ears. “No, Daddy, don’t!” Gunshots. Silence.

I think it’s obvious by now that I’m an avid (and jaded) reader of true crime.

Yet, to date, not one book has touched me or evoked emotion from me as did this riveting tale from Irene Pence about John Battaglia who murders his 6 and 9 year old daughters as an ultimate act of control and revenge toward his ex-wife.

While reading No Daddy Don’t!, I was taken from gut-wrenching sobs to intense anger; often times having to put the book down to regroup my thoughts and emotions.

The thoughts of those young girls’ last moments in the hands of their father bundled with inexcusable follies of the justice system as relates to domestic violence kept me on the edge of my seat; allowing me to finish this book, starts and stops in all, within less than 36 hours.

Extremely intense!

If never before there has been such an argument for tougher domestic abuse laws that tie in with divorce proceedings and the determination of visitation and custody, John David Battaglia has set the stage for the changes made in Texas and the changes that will follow in many other states.

That is the only “credit” this lowlife bottom-feeder deserves for anything!

2. Marrying the Hangman by Sheila Weller

Born and raised in a small Indiana town, Diane Pikul wanted to live a glamorous lifestyle. Although a college graduate, Diane preferred to live by the means that, in the 1960s and 1970s (even early 1980s), could only be provided through a man’s income – at least for a woman who was unmotivated to push through the male dominated ranks.

Marrying the Hangman in Sheila Weller
Marrying the Hangman in Sheila Weller

And eventually Diane met Joseph “Joe” Pikul, a wealthy New York stock analyst with a desperate need for control of his women and a penchant for domestic violence.

Diane had long since been tired of Joe’s abuse and was ready to divorce. Her greatest fear, however, was being unable to provide the lifestyle to which she and her children had become accustomed. But having recently landed an entry level position at Harper’s, she filed for divorce wherein she was holding firm to equitable distribution of marital assets and sole custody of the children.

Unfortunately Diane’s would come to a murderous end at the hands of Joe during a last family weekend in the Hamptons. Joe had played, in a manner of speaking, the ultimate trump card in a game of child custody.

Shiela Weller covered the Pikul murder trial and a precedent setting child custody case for Ms. magazine, so it should come as no surprise Marrying the Hangman has a feminist slant. Even though I am a female, I don’t believe my gender entitles me to certain things or excuses insane behavior and I’m really put off by books that strive to do so.

Fortunately, Weller’s book was only a slant and therefore was tolerable enough to read. An energetic pace and detailed background information (more on Diane than Joe) coupled with only the interesting bits of trial and an updated (to the time of the 1993 publication date) epilogue undoubtedly helped smooth (what I perceived to be) the anti-male wrinkles.

Marrying the Hangman by Sheila Weller is definitely worth adding to your reading list.

3. Never Leave Me: A True Story of Marriage, Deception, and Brutal Murder by John Glatt

Jonathan Nyce didn’t have a lot of time for socializing. He was busy in the labs discovering medical cures and trying to seduce investors whose money would allow continued work which would save many lives.

Never Leave Me by John Glatt
Never Leave Me by John Glatt

Nyce had been married once before, but it had fizzled out to a divorce. Years had passed and he’d occupied himself with work, but he was beginning to feel the first nagging of loneliness.

He didn’t want an American or European woman, they were too independent and strong-willed, so he turned to mail order bride magazines.

Through a personals ad in one of these catalogs, Nyce met Mechily Nyce, or Michelle as she told the American men she met to call her. After several months of exchanging letters and telephone calls, Jonathan Nyce went to the Philippines to claim his bride.

After the newlyweds returned to America, Jonathan continued his medical work while Michelle played the role of dutiful wife and, before long, mother to three children.

But there was something missing: a sense of being alive, of being loved.

Michelle began spreading her wings when she took on a part time job. Next she began an affair the Nyce’s gardener Miguel de Jesus, although the man told her his name was Enyo Castaneda – an alias he used to avoid child support authorities.

Michelle Nyce had never felt so alive. She decided it was time to break free of the last thing weighing her down: her obsessive, control-freak husband.

But Jonathan Nyce had too much invested in Michelle and he wasn’t going to let her simply walk away.

Never Leave Me by John Glatt offers a very indepth view of the case of Johnathan Nyce who was convicted of passion provocation murder in the death of his wife Filipino-born wife Michelle Nyce.

4. A Murder in West Covina: Chronicle of the Finch-Tregoff case by James Linder Jones M.D.

It was July 1959 and Barbara Jean Finch was sick and tired of her husband’s cheating; so she had tossed him out of the house, filed for divorce, and was no waiting for the Court to award her custody of their son and a majority of their assets.

Dr. Bernard R. Finch, however, was less than enthused about the divorce. Several times he’d asked Barbara Jean for a reconciliation, but she saw right through her husband: it was all about keeping his money. She knew he’d never give up his extramarital affairs.

A Murder in West Covina by James Linder, M.D.
A Murder in West Covina by James Linder, M.D.

The divorce was moving forward and the couple was within just a couple of weeks of having it finalized when Dr. Finch wrap it up with his own style: murder.

Along with his mistress, 18 year old Carol Ann Tergoff, Dr. Finch lay in wait for Barbara Jean to return home one evening. As she pulled her car into the garage, her husband went on the attack. When she managed to escape, Dr. Finch chased after her. When he caught her, he killed her.

Despite being identified as the killer by the family nanny Marie Ann Lindholm, too attacked by Dr. Finch when she tried to help Mrs. Finch, Dr. Finch and his girlfriend would proclaim innocence of being cold-blooded killers.

Author James Linder Jones may be a doctor by profession but he’s long been fascinated with West Covina, California murder case that occurred more than a half a century ago. Spending years doing his own research and interviewing people close to the main characters, Dr. Jones now compiles into a fascinating 450 page book titled A Murder In West Covina: Chronicle of the Finch-Tregoff Case.

5. The Doctors Wife: A True Story of Marriage, Deception, and Two Gruesome Deaths by John Glatt

Dacula, Georgia, dentist Bart Corbin may have been ensconced in his own affair but he couldn’t stand it when his wife, Jennifer Corbin, began having her own. And after she told him she wanted a divorce, Bart decided if he couldn’t have her then no one could.

On December 4, 2004, little Dalton Corbin rushed to a neighbor’s house clad only in his underwear and screaming uncontrollably, “My Daddy shot my Mom!”

The Doctor's Wife by John Glatt
The Doctor's Wife by John Glatt

At first glance, it seemed the pressures of a divorce and internet love affair had finally taken their toll on Jennifer but a further examination showed that she had actually been murdered; the scene set to appear a suicide.

When investigators began digging into the background of the new widower, they’d experience déjà vu when they learned about the death of Bart’s former girlfriend fourteen years earlier.

Many of you may already be familiar with Ann Rule’s book about the case, Too Late To Say Goodbye, as it was also a movie by the same title on Lifetime. But veteran true crime writer John Glatt also wrote a book about the Bart Corbin murders titled The Doctor’s Wife.

Where Rule’s book is very, very in-depth, giving more focus to other possible crimes by Corbin, Glatt’s is shorter with less details about the things that contribute little to the story. Readers will also find it’s more unbiased neutral than Rule’s which is very biased toward the victims and they story is often skewed as such.

It’s a real toss up when you have two good books by two great authors but, to be honest, I have to say my recommendation would go with John Glatt’s The Doctor’s Wife. It’s an interesting case that’s intriguing but not for almost 500 pages.

© 2016 Kim Bryan

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