Tuesday, November 17, 2009

While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family-Kathryn Harrison

While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family
Kathryn Harrison
Ballantine, Nov 24 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780345516602

Almost a quarter of a century ago in Medford, Oregon, eighteen year old Billy Gilley stabbed to death his parents and his younger sister eleven years old Becky. He swore that he killed them so he and hi sixteen year old sister Jody could live abuse free. A shocked Jody testified against her older brother who was convicted of the homicides and is serving three consecutive life sentences as he could not blame parental mistreatment for the murder of Becky.

This is a terrific true crime tale that uses the court record and intense numerous interviews with the surviving siblings, who do not communicate with one another, to tell the story of the Gilley family leading to the killings. The fascination is how far apart Billy and Jody are when it comes to parental physical and verbal violence, but clearly they agree that there was some even if he fails to explain why he killed Becky. Although Kathryn Harrison includes a memoir re her abusive relationship with her father, that feels out of place padding, and should be ignored as the Gilley family murders are tragic enough for one true story.

Harriet Klausner