By: James W. Marquart
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: October 25, 2022
Review Date: December 13, 2022
Author and academician James W. Marquart brings his work within the legal system to bear in Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother?, a disturbing account of a brutal murder and its aftermath.
Marquart was drawn to composing the story of the 2014 killing of Mildred “Dodie” Harrington by a remarkable set of personal circumstances detailed in his opening chapter. The victim, age 85, was found early one morning in her home in Dundee, Illinois, lying on her bed, her throat slashed open. Investigation showed no sign of a violent entry, and no witness of any perpetrator. But, as Marquart points out, “Cops are very clever people, especially investigators.” Questioning Rich Schmelzer, Dodie’s grandson whom she partially raised, the police noted one peculiar anomaly despite his many alibis: he claimed that the night of the murder he had gone to a certain restaurant and, he insisted, had paid cash for his meal – but his wallet contained a receipt for the meal – paid with his credit card. Gradually stitching together the clues as to his whereabouts and motivations, it came to light that Schmelzer was in line to inherit half of Dodie’s property. Added to that clue was the fact that Rich was married but not the most dedicated husband; he had been spending huge sums for online and in-person sexual activity and begging acquaintances for loans that were not forthcoming. Rich was tried and found guilty of Dodie’s savage killing - though still declaring his innocence - sentenced to forty-five years in prison with no possibility of parole.
Marquart, who has served as President of The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and authored extensive works treating with legal matters, makes the alleged events easy to envision, from the relevant bits and pieces uncovered by diligent law enforcement and the emotional testimony by those who knew Schmelzer as someone who seemed to enjoy inflicting pain. It seems clear that Schmelzer wanted his grandmother dead for selfish reasons, and carefully, willingly delivered her horrifying demise. Marquart balances his well-organized account by speaking of innocent men who yet reside in prison, and pointing out in the final chapter that “people you thought were harmless can become violent monsters, depending on the situation.” This fair-minded approach will appeal to his readers as much as his rigorous attention to legal process and his dramatic offering of the eerie scenario of a kindly grandmother’s coldhearted killing.
Quill says: James Marquart has collected records, collated data, and constructed this combination crime thriller and courtroom drama that will evoke pity for an innocent victim and justifiable anger at a seemingly unfeeling perpetrator.
For more information on Unthinkable: Who Kills Their Grandmother?, please visit the author's website at: https://jamesmarquart.com/