LAW & CRIME

Serial Killers of the ’70s: Stories Behind a Notorious Decade of Death

Sterling. (Profiles in Crime, Bk. 2). Aug. 2020. 280p. ISBN 9781454939382. pap. $17.95. CRIME
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In the 1970s, hitchhiking was an accepted mode of transportation, law enforcement agencies lacked DNA analysis, and missing teenagers were assumed to have joined communes. Under these conditions, predators such as the Machete Murderer, the Co-ed Killer, and the Skid Row Slasher racked up appallingly high body counts—John Wayne Gacy notoriously buried 26 of his 33 victims in his crawl space, and Juan Corona hid 25 bodies in shallow graves among Californian peach orchards. Profiling 14 prominent serial killers, journalist Fritsch lays out their crimes and the court cases involved with bringing them to justice. The author doesn’t linger on the gruesome details, spending more time instead on the machinations of the legal system, with three appendixes providing court documents. Fritsch contextualizes these killers, explaining the reactions of law enforcement and the media. The writing is compelling, but some of the entries are overly condensed and it’s unclear why the author sometimes, but not always, lists the names of victims.
VERDICT True crime buffs will be familiar with most of these names, but Fritsch competently captures the era.

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