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Fatal Vows: 8 True Crime Books About Marriages That Ended in Murder

I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.


1. Fatal Kiss by Suzanne Barr

When Sylvia Ipock found herself suddenly widowed and a single mother of three boys following her husband’s suicide, she didn’t let mourning keep her from eying the handsome husband of a mentally ill neighbor down the street.

Fatal Kiss by Suzanne Barr

Fatal Kiss by Suzanne Barr

Whatever Sylvia wanted, Sylvia got; including the attractive neighbor Billy Carlyle White.

After a few months of sneaking around, Billy quickly and quietly divorced his institutionalized wife and walked down the aisle with his mistress, officially making herSylvia Ipock White.

Blending their families like the Brady Bunch, the couple should have lived happily ever after yet, as second marriages, especially those born of infidelity, are prone to do, the shine wore off and real life set in.

First, Billy’s four year-old son, Billy Carlyle White II, choked to death on a dry cleaning bag. Then the elder Billy, who had always enjoyed “spirits,” took to drinking heavily as he mourned the death of his son. This caused constant fighting between the couple.

Yet the marriage continued on for more than two decades until….

In February 1992, Billy White was lured to a secluded area in Jones County, North Carolina, under the pretense of quoting an insurance policy. Instead, he was shot do death and his widow stood to inherit a tidy sum of life insurance.

Suzanne Barr chronicles the murder-for-hire case wherein Sylvia Ipock White served as the leading lady in her 2012 book Fatal Kiss. Readers are made privy to Sylvia’s sad childhood to her rebellious teenage years, from her multiple marriages and affairs to her playacting grief as a twice widowed woman, and finally to the smack down from Karma she so rightly deserved.

2. House of Lies by Linda Rosencrance

Kelly Cannon was pretty and married to a wealthy Nashville lawyer. But she also had a horrific drug problem.

House of Lies by Linda Rosencrance

House of Lies by Linda Rosencrance

Kelly’s drug addiction was so strong that rehabilitation proved pointless and her husband, Jim Cannon was tired of making the effort. Feeling he had no other option, he filed for divorce and asked for temporary custody of the couple’s three children.

She’d lost her home, her only source of income, and now her children. Needless to say, Kelly Cannon was angry. Very, very angry.

When Jim is found dead at his home in June 2008 and the children are no where to be found, Kelly is a prime suspect – especially after police find the children in her custody and hear her tale of stopping by her former home and being unable to locate Jim, leading her to take the children and flee.

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Kelly’s story simply doesn’t ring true to detectives and as they trace Kelly’s steps in the hours before Jim’s murder, they’ll find there is a good reason why. The more they learn, the more proof they gain in proving Kelly is guilty of murdering the man she vowed to love forever.

Linda Rosencrance tackles the little publicized case of Jim and Kelly Cannon, a elite Nashville couple, whose marriage comes crumbling down amid a prescription painkiller addiction in House of Lies.

3. Deadly Mistress: A True Story of Marriage, Betrayal and Murder by Michael Fleeman

Dr. Kenneth Stahl wasn’t happy in his marriage to optometrist Carolyn Mae Sokolowski Stahl. It wasn’t really anything to do with her, more to do with his numerous affairs. Fidelity had never been Dr. Stahl’s strong suit, even long before he wed Carolyn.

Deadly Mistress by Michael Fleeman

Deadly Mistress by Michael Fleeman

But having been divorced once before, Dr. Stahl knew he’d pay mightily for his indiscretions in another divorce so he needed another way out. Murder seemed a viable option.

So Dr. Stahl turned to his former receptionist and lover, Adriana Vasco, for help in finding a hitman to kill his wife. Adriana wasn’t really in a position to decline his request, considering that she was extremely dependent on Dr. Stahl for money to pay the rent and raise her children.

Through Adriana, Dr. Stahl was introduced to Dennis Earl Godley, a low life from North Carolina, and the pair subsequently struck a murderous deal.

Things didn’t go according to plan, however, and soon Adriana found herself in a heap of trouble. Very serious trouble.

In his 2005 book, Deadly Mistress: A True Story of Marriage, Betrayal, and Murder, author Michael Fleeman recounts the case of murder for hire by Dr. Kenneth Stahl and the the surprise murder about which most won’t feel very bad at all.

4. BLOOD AND MONEY: Murder, Passion, and Power Among Houstons Very Rich by Thomas Thompson

It’s been more than four decades since the death of Houston socialite Joan Robinson Hill rocked Texas residents. Since then, the conflict in Vietnam, which claimed the lives of more than 50,000 American soldiers, came to an end, the space shuttle Challenger exploded in the sky as millions watched, terrorists claimed thousands of American lives in simultaneous attacks on September 11, 2001, and American voted in their first African-American President but for Texans, at least, the Robinson-Hill affair is still the biggest scandal to ever grace The Lone Star State.

Champion equestrian Joan Robinson and plastic surgeon Dr. John Hill had been married for eleven years when he began an affair with single mom and hellcat Ann Kurth in 1968. Before long, the doc had deserted his wife and son and was playing house with the new woman in his life.

A scenario rather scandalous, in and of itself, in 1968.

Joan’s father, Ash Robinson was known to have an almost obsessive-like relationship with his daughter and when he learned of son-in-law’s absconsion, he immediately set out to make things right for his daughter. And after some underhanded maneuvering, Dr. Hill came home with his tale tucked between his legs.

But he never gave up the other woman in his life.

Dr. Hill wanted to be with Ann. He proclaimed his love for her. He promised to marry her. But how was such possible without the wrath of his father-in-law?

When Joan suddenly fell ill and died on March 19, 1969, it seemed the road to freedom had been paved for the talented doctor.

A scenario rather scandalous, in and of itself, in 1968.

Joan’s father, Ash Robinson was known to have an almost obsessive-like relationship with his daughter and when he learned of son-in-law’s absconsion, he immediately set out to make things right for his daughter. And after some underhanded maneuvering, Dr. Hill came home with his tale tucked between his legs.

But he never gave up the other woman in his life.

Dr. Hill wanted to be with Ann. He proclaimed his love for her. He promised to marry her. But how was such possible without the wrath of his father-in-law?

When Joan suddenly fell ill and died on March 19, 1969, it seemed the road to freedom had been paved for the talented doctor.

With passion, wealth, power, scandalous affairs, lies and half-truths, Blood and Money has all the makings of a spellbinding read.

5. Ladykiller: The True Story of a Texas Cop and Wife Killer by Donna Fielder

Bobby Lozano thought he was God’s gift to women; tanning his natural-brown Mexican skin to an even tone, wearing expensive tailored suits in his job as a detective with the Denton, Texas, police, and dieting and exercising to maintain a perfect physique.

But Bobby was not a one-woman man. No, Bobby liked having a wife, a mistress, and scores of other women on the side whom he could have at his beck and call – and control.

Ladykiller by Donna Fielder

Ladykiller by Donna Fielder

His wife, Viki Lozano, had been under his control for sixteen years but it’s likely Bobby saw it all unraveling when she delivered their only child – a child Bobby had told his wife and mother-in-law would never exist because pregnancy made a woman fat and sloppy. Viki adored her son and many would later say it was the happiest they had ever seen her.

Just after midnight on the day following Bobby and Viki’s sixteenth anniversary, Bobby snuck out to visit his mistress, Cindy Waters, who had just recently called it quits with him after realizing he was never going to leave Viki. With his promises of undying love, Bobby wormed his way back into Cindy’s bed.

Later that day, July 6, 2002, Viki was dead.

Was it a suicide? A horrible accident? Or did Bobby Lozano, who realized leaving Viki meant leaving behind her mother’s wealth, find a way out of the marriage while still having access to the purse strings?

Denton Record-Chronicle reporter Donna Fielder never believed it was

a gun-cleaning accident as Bobby claimed and she felt certain it wasn’t a suicide. Too many thing just didn’t add up. And she vowed to uncover the truth.

In her debut book Ladykiller, Fielder chronicles the case the case from it’s very beginning, the nerve-wrecking twists, all the way through until the triumph end eight years later. Well written with plenty of insider and first-hand research and interviews, the book is an interesting read.

6. A Socialite Scorned: The Murder of a Tucson High-Roller by Kerrie Droban

Pam Phillips had recently divorced her high-powered Tucson attorney husband after finding out had terminal cancer and now she was looking to replace him. She wasn’t looking very far, though, because her sites were set on businessman Gary Triano.

It was of no matter to Pam that Gary was married with two children. She wanted him, and she was going to do whatever it took to get him.

And she did.

But not long after the marriage, Pam began figuring out that Gary only appeared more wealthy than he was. He was a litigant of numerous lawsuits, many of which had gotten judgments. Regardless of his true financial status, Gary spent money freely and continued to sink deeper and deeper into red ink.

That’s when, according to Pam, Gary began being abusive and she was terrified. So she snatched up the kids and fled to Colorado. In a series of Court hearings, Pam demanded high dollar child support and alimony. The Court also awarded Gary parenting time, but Pam always made excuses of why the kids couldn’t come, sometimes she just outright refused. Other times, Gary would make the journey to Colorado from Arizona on a promise from Pam that he could see his children only to be turned away when he knocked on the door.

Pam was furious and panicked when she learned Gary had filed bankruptcy. She knew the money was drying up. Pam had tried the whole working thing, and it wasn’t for her. She preferred to be a kept woman, but it was obvious employment was on the horizon for Pam if she was going to survive.

Or was there a better alternative? Say, murder so she could receive more than a million dollars in life insurance proceeds?

Criminal defense attorney and author Kerrie Droban follows the case ofPam Phillips Triano, from Gary’s explosive death to a tug-of-war between a murderer and greedy woman, from the days of dining with Donald and Marla Trump to the days of insanity for a woman who wanted it all to herself in 2012 true crime A Socialite Scorned.

From the first pages, Droban lays out a story that is captivating and difficult to put down. Pleasantly surprising was that Droban doesn’t get weighted down in legalese which, as we all know, happens too often with writers who are also lawyers.

Beginning to end, A Socialite Scorned is a fantastic read about a woman who was willing to steal another woman’s husband, tolerate his (alleged) abuse until the house of cards is tumbling, attempt to live off what’s remaining in the name of alimony and child support, and then murder him so she doesn’t have to work like a commoner.

7. A Deadly Affair: The Shocking True Story of a High Profile Love Triangle and Gruesome Death by Tom Henderson

Michael “Mick” J. Fletcher was a Michigan attorney with a struggling practice. Although he was ashamed of her profession as a cosmetologist, Mick was dependent on his wife’s, Leann Fletcher, income to make ends meet.

A Deadly Affair by Tom Henderson

A Deadly Affair by Tom Henderson

Mick had long had a problem staying faithful to his wife and they had separated numerous times. Mick had filed for divorce this last go ’round and was shocked when Leann borrowed money from her parents to counter-file. When he realized that Leann intended to make sure she was awarded custody of their daughter, Hannah Fletcher, and received a fair share of child support and assets, Mick suddenly had a change of heart. With promises of fidelity and change, Mick weaseled his way back into the marital home and Leann’s heart.

And now there was another baby on the way.

On August 16, 1999, Mick convinced Leann to go with him to a local firing range while her parents babysat their 3-year-old daughter. Spending only about twenty minutes at the range, they decided to take advantage of their alone time for a little afternoon rendezvous.

Within twenty minutes of arriving home, Mick was frantically calling 911 claiming Leann had committed suicide while he was in the bathroom.

Would a woman who was so excited about the impending birth of a baby so suddenly kill herself? Police didn’t think so. Digging into the deep of a adulterous slacker would uncover quite a few motives for murder.

8. A Wifes Revenge: The True Story of Susan Wright and a Marriage that Ended in Murder by Eric Francis

She’d worked two months as a topless dancer, tried her hand at nursing school, and was now trying to figure out what to do with her life while working as a waitress. Susan Wyche was on a path to, well, no where.

A Wife's Revenge by Eric Francis

A Wife's Revenge by Eric Francis

Then she met Jeffrey Wright, a 29 year old man with the mindset of a teenage boy. Although he held a steady job, his nights were filled with getting drunk and cocaine binges. But as his 30th birthday approached, Jeff began thinking more seriously about settling down and starting a family.

A few months after he began dating Susan, she announced she was pregnant and it seemed to be a sign from above. So they wed in a quickie ceremony and thus began their life together.

Till death they did part.

The prosecution believes Susan seduced her husband with the idea of kinky sex, tied him to the headboard of their marital bed and then, when he was properly restrained and defenseless, proceeded to inflict her rage via a hunting knife repeatedly – 193 times!

However, Susan’s defense said she was a battered wife who had grown tired of her husband’s cocaine-fueled rages that often led to physical violence toward her and killing Jeff was the only way she knew to escape.

Author Eric Francis recounts the murder of Jeff Wright by his wife as he lay spread-eagle and tied to the bedposts in his 2005 true crime A Wife’s Revenge.

Francis’ moment by moment replay of the actual crime is extremely vivid and recreated from forensic evidence and Susan Smith’s own testimony. It is spine-shivering reading that’ll leave readers taking a harder look at their spouse.

Where Are They Now? (Warning! May Contain Spoilers!)

  • If any one person in this entire story garnered the most of my sympathy, it would be Robert Ashton “Boot” Hill. I couldn’t help but ache for the little boy who had to bury both of his parents and live amongst Houston gossip. By the time I read this book, that little boy was a grown man (older than me, actually) and was reported to be working as a prosecutor in Montgomery County, Maryland. He is married to a D.C. lobbyist and they have a daughter, Linden Joan Hill. Robert refuses to grant media interviews to discuss his family or the tragedies in his life. Personally, I don’t blame him and, knowing that sun has shone on the “after years” of his life, I say let him be.
  • After the civil suit, Ash Robinson sold his home and moved to Pensacola, Florida, and died on February 14, 1985, at the age of 87. His remains were cremated. His wife, Rhea Robinson died two years later in June 1987 at the age of 86.
  • Lilla Paulus died in prison in 1985. Marcia Mckittrick was paroled in 1986 but life hasn’t been much good for her since. In 2005, she was arrested and charged with forgery and false impersonation.
  • Connie Rae Loesby Hill remarried in 1980 (or thereabout) to oil and gas businessman James “Jim” Calaway. At the time of this writing, the couple lives in Aspen, Colorado, where they spend much of their time volunteering in civic organizations and rubbing elbows with the Colorado elite.

© 2016 Kim Bryan

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