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The Darkest Night: The Murder of Innocence in a Small Town

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Casper, Wyoming:1973. Eleven-year-old Amy Burridge rides with her eighteen-year-old sister, Becky, to the grocery store. When they finish their shopping, Becky’s car gets a flat tire. Two men politely offer them a ride home. But they were anything but Good Samaritans. The girls would suffer unspeakable crimes at the hands of these men before being thrown from a bri Casper, Wyoming:1973. Eleven-year-old Amy Burridge rides with her eighteen-year-old sister, Becky, to the grocery store. When they finish their shopping, Becky’s car gets a flat tire. Two men politely offer them a ride home. But they were anything but Good Samaritans. The girls would suffer unspeakable crimes at the hands of these men before being thrown from a bridge into the North Platte River. One miraculously survived. The other did not. Years later, author and journalist Ron Franscell—who lived in Casper at the time of the crime, and was a friend to Amy and Becky—can’t forget Wyoming’s most shocking story of abduction, rape, and murder. Neither could Becky, the surviving sister. The two men who violated her and Amy were sentenced to life in prison, but the demons of her past kept haunting Becky…until she met her fate years later at the same bridge where she’d lost her sister.


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Casper, Wyoming:1973. Eleven-year-old Amy Burridge rides with her eighteen-year-old sister, Becky, to the grocery store. When they finish their shopping, Becky’s car gets a flat tire. Two men politely offer them a ride home. But they were anything but Good Samaritans. The girls would suffer unspeakable crimes at the hands of these men before being thrown from a bri Casper, Wyoming:1973. Eleven-year-old Amy Burridge rides with her eighteen-year-old sister, Becky, to the grocery store. When they finish their shopping, Becky’s car gets a flat tire. Two men politely offer them a ride home. But they were anything but Good Samaritans. The girls would suffer unspeakable crimes at the hands of these men before being thrown from a bridge into the North Platte River. One miraculously survived. The other did not. Years later, author and journalist Ron Franscell—who lived in Casper at the time of the crime, and was a friend to Amy and Becky—can’t forget Wyoming’s most shocking story of abduction, rape, and murder. Neither could Becky, the surviving sister. The two men who violated her and Amy were sentenced to life in prison, but the demons of her past kept haunting Becky…until she met her fate years later at the same bridge where she’d lost her sister.

30 review for The Darkest Night: The Murder of Innocence in a Small Town

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elle's Book Blog

    :: 3.5 Horrific Stars :: This book details the heartbreaking, true account of the abduction of two sisters- one who was murdered and the other was left for dead. Franscell (the author) does a good job describing what happened on that horrific night and pays tribute to both of the victims in a caring way. This is how all true crime books should be written! I feel like the author did his research really well with this book and most of the facts seem to be legit according to fellow reviewers and t :: 3.5 Horrific Stars :: This book details the heartbreaking, true account of the abduction of two sisters- one who was murdered and the other was left for dead. Franscell (the author) does a good job describing what happened on that horrific night and pays tribute to both of the victims in a caring way. This is how all true crime books should be written! I feel like the author did his research really well with this book and most of the facts seem to be legit according to fellow reviewers and those who knew the victims. Also, the author gave us some good information about the killers so we could get a feel for who they were and what may have lead up to this unspeakable crime. The only downside of this book for me was that we got a lot of information about Becky (one of the sisters who was left for dead) and only a small amount on the younger sister, Amy. I really feel like we should have heard a bit more about her as to pay tribute to her. All in all though, this is a good true crime book that will leave readers horrified. The two men who committed this crime are clearly monsters and I have no sympathy for either one of them. The book is told well- in three different parts. Part 1 focuses on where everything happened, part 2 describes the crime, and part 3 describes the aftermath of everything and how Becky’s life played out after it. It is not confusing by any means, and it is not long and drawn out with facts that don’t pertain to the actual happenings of that night. If you enjoy a good true crime book than this one may be for you!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Terrible and horrific rape and murder in 1973 in Casper WY. Told with immense detail and decades of aftermath. Repetitive and sopping with melodramatic side bars. This dwelt on the states and mental health of the perpetrators as much as it did on the victims. The victim who lived through this nightmare committing suicide decades later. Just not my style of writing preferred for this genre. Too verbose and endlessly effusive to dozens of others' reactions. Determinant facts are there but too diff Terrible and horrific rape and murder in 1973 in Casper WY. Told with immense detail and decades of aftermath. Repetitive and sopping with melodramatic side bars. This dwelt on the states and mental health of the perpetrators as much as it did on the victims. The victim who lived through this nightmare committing suicide decades later. Just not my style of writing preferred for this genre. Too verbose and endlessly effusive to dozens of others' reactions. Determinant facts are there but too difficult to focus primarily on them. Probably made it even harder on the one living victim.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Ferak

    Franscell's investigative research is rock solid. His depiction of the killers is accurate, chilling and spot on. It's my belief that The Darkest Night is one of those true-crime books that should -- or maybe it has -- wound up on your special reading shelf -- not just to read once, but to pull back out at a later point in your life. Maybe a year after you've read it. Maybe five or 10 years from now. It's one of those special non-fiction books that makes you think about human life. Your values. Y Franscell's investigative research is rock solid. His depiction of the killers is accurate, chilling and spot on. It's my belief that The Darkest Night is one of those true-crime books that should -- or maybe it has -- wound up on your special reading shelf -- not just to read once, but to pull back out at a later point in your life. Maybe a year after you've read it. Maybe five or 10 years from now. It's one of those special non-fiction books that makes you think about human life. Your values. Your surroundings. The frailty of human life. It's a grim reminder that VERY BAD things happen to good people purely based on randomness and happenstance.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    3 stars--I liked the book. Content warning for rape/abuse. I don't read a lot of true crime, but this one is notable for its focus on people's lives, not the gory details of the crime. A terrible tale of a heinous act and lives destroyed, told with compassion. 3 stars--I liked the book. Content warning for rape/abuse. I don't read a lot of true crime, but this one is notable for its focus on people's lives, not the gory details of the crime. A terrible tale of a heinous act and lives destroyed, told with compassion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Despite the alleged title, this one is "The Darkest Night." Here's the scoop: two sisters in a small town in Wyoming (already scary to me) go to the store at 9 p.m. and come out to find a flat tire and two guys are there to offer help. They take them out in the boonies, throw the 8 year old off a bridge (down 120+ feet to the Platte River below) then rape the 18 year old and toss her over as well. Well, guess what? She lived to ID them, testified, etc. The two guys were just the scum of the eart Despite the alleged title, this one is "The Darkest Night." Here's the scoop: two sisters in a small town in Wyoming (already scary to me) go to the store at 9 p.m. and come out to find a flat tire and two guys are there to offer help. They take them out in the boonies, throw the 8 year old off a bridge (down 120+ feet to the Platte River below) then rape the 18 year old and toss her over as well. Well, guess what? She lived to ID them, testified, etc. The two guys were just the scum of the earth, and just when you think maybe she can get on with her life, she goes to a psychiatrist and he molests or rapes her, but she thinks no one will believe her...it is just gruesome. So, about when you feel like you have had all you can take of her sadness, she spirals into depression and sadness, booze and pills, and commits suicide - BY JUMPING OFF THAT SAME BRIDGE. Holy crap. Pretty well written, and another one that reminds me how easily I might have met a similar fate -- too trusting. Just recently I stopped to talk to a man at the State Park and he offered to show me the insterior of his motor home, and I WENT IN - with no clue if he was a serial killer or what...so, the best advice is, just keep yelling to yourself "DON'T GO INTO THE BASEMENT!" I mean, really, there ARE people like the 2 guys that "helped" these two females in their idyllic little town...so just to be safe, don't trust ANYONE...

  6. 4 out of 5

    LibraryCin

    3.75 stars In a town in Wyoming in 1973, 18-year old Becky and her 11-year old sister Amy went to pick up some groceries. By the next morning, Amy was dead in a canyon, thrown of a high bridge, and Becky somehow managed to survive the night with a broken pelvis after having been raped and also thrown off the bridge. The author was the girls’ neighbour. The book not only looks at the crime, but it also looks at Becky and Amy’s lives, the lives of the two convicted murderers/rapists, and the author 3.75 stars In a town in Wyoming in 1973, 18-year old Becky and her 11-year old sister Amy went to pick up some groceries. By the next morning, Amy was dead in a canyon, thrown of a high bridge, and Becky somehow managed to survive the night with a broken pelvis after having been raped and also thrown off the bridge. The author was the girls’ neighbour. The book not only looks at the crime, but it also looks at Becky and Amy’s lives, the lives of the two convicted murderers/rapists, and the author thinks back on his own life in the small town where it happened. The first half of the book was the most interesting, where it focused on the crime and aftermath, including the trial. The next part of the book follows Becky’s life, as well as Ronnie’s and Jerry’s, in jail for their crimes. The books slips a little (at least I found it less interesting) as it looks closely at an autobiography written by Ronnie; as the author scrutinizes the autobiography, it becomes more clear why he includes as much of it as he does in the book. But, it is due to this section that I brought my rating down to just under 4 stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I was eight years old when the crime in this book occurred in Casper where I lived. My parents must have done a good job of sheltering me from what happened because I don’t remember hearing about until my late teens at the earliest. It was surreal reading this. The sheriff at the time, Ray Clark, lived across the alley from us. The police chief, Zipay, had a daughter who was in my class in elementary school and lived about two blocks away. One of Becky Thomson’s coworkers at KVOC was a good frie I was eight years old when the crime in this book occurred in Casper where I lived. My parents must have done a good job of sheltering me from what happened because I don’t remember hearing about until my late teens at the earliest. It was surreal reading this. The sheriff at the time, Ray Clark, lived across the alley from us. The police chief, Zipay, had a daughter who was in my class in elementary school and lived about two blocks away. One of Becky Thomson’s coworkers at KVOC was a good friend’s dad. I don’t read a lot of true crime,so I don’t have many examples to which I can compare this, but I thought it was well written - beyond just the facts that I would have expected from a journalist.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sixty

    I really had a hard time deciding between 2 or 3 stars. While the story of these girls is compelling and heartbreaking, there just isn't enough substance there to justify the length of this book. The author also over-dramatizes quite a bit, which I did not enjoy. I really had a hard time deciding between 2 or 3 stars. While the story of these girls is compelling and heartbreaking, there just isn't enough substance there to justify the length of this book. The author also over-dramatizes quite a bit, which I did not enjoy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gary Taylor

    The good, the bad and two kinds of ugly By Wyoming standards, the horrifying 1973 murder of 11-year-old Amy Burridge and the rape of her older half-sister still looms as a contender for crime of the century. As a subject for traditional, in-depth true-crime treatment, however, the case pales beside more complex and gruesome events. It remained a mysterious “who-dunnit?” for just eight hours and the resulting trial unfolded as a slam-dunk conviction complicated only by a half-baked, desperate atte The good, the bad and two kinds of ugly By Wyoming standards, the horrifying 1973 murder of 11-year-old Amy Burridge and the rape of her older half-sister still looms as a contender for crime of the century. As a subject for traditional, in-depth true-crime treatment, however, the case pales beside more complex and gruesome events. It remained a mysterious “who-dunnit?” for just eight hours and the resulting trial unfolded as a slam-dunk conviction complicated only by a half-baked, desperate attempt at an insanity plea in which the defense doctors even failed to declare the defendant insane. In the hands of Texas journalist Ron Franscell, however, this case transcends the true crime genre to become a powerful exploration of good, bad and ugly. In The Darkest Night, Franscell nails the good of the two sisters, the bad of two criminals and takes a stab at the hardest part of the literary equation: the ugly that is easy to see but hard to explain. He delivers two kinds of ugly: the tragic ugly of a girl who died twice and the pathetic ugly of her tormentor’s disgusting survival. The result is a book that deserves its awards and stellar reviews. The girl who died twice was Burridge's 18-year-old sister, Becky Thomson. The two girls were kidnapped from a Casper convenience store by a pair of local punks, Jerry Jenkins and Ronald Kennedy, who took them to a spot near the Fremont Canyon Bridge. After tossing Burridge over the bridge into the North Platte River to her death 100 feet below, they raped Thomson and pitched her over the rails as well. Although Thomson survived to identify her rapists and send them to prison, she never recovered from the emotional shock of the event and committed suicide 19 years later by leaping from the bridge at the same spot. Franscell paints a stark contrast between the guilt-wracked post-crime life of Thomson as a victim and the unrepentant existence of the rapists, particularly Kennedy, who became a trusty, enjoyed conjugal visits and even penned a ludicrous, cowardly memoir accusing Thomson of stalking him. Although obviously a fairy tale about his youth as a legendary pre-teen reincarnation of both Robin Hood and Lothario in 1950s Casper, Kennedy's memoir actually sheds more light on the mental state of a psychopath than a dozen psychiatric reports could do. Franscell offers a literary MRI of Kennedy's twisted brain by summarizing the memoir while dodging the temptation for editorial pot shots. He recognizes that some jokes require no punchline. Franscell even goes the extra mile by investigating some of Kennedy's outrageous historical claims, providing a few flakes of fact that add more perspective to Kennedy’s blizzard of bull. Although he now lives in Texas, Franscell is able to add another dimension to his narrative from the perspective of his past—growing up in Casper at the time of the crime. He had no direct involvement but still manages to inject a personal perspective without overreaching to give the reader an insider feel for the events. He describes the book as a memoir of his personal quest for understanding what had been an influential episode in his development. In the end, of course, Franscell finds no complete answer to the question of evil’s origins. But The Darkest Night does provide an entertaining and thought-provoking portrait of his search.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bill reilly

    Thomas Wolfe famously wrote that you can’t go home again. Ron Franscell did precisely that when he decided to go back to his childhood home of Casper, Wyoming to investigate a crime from thirty years previous. A police report of September 1973 was his starting point. Eighteen year-old Becky Thomson and her eleven year-old sister Amy were shopping at a local store and discovered a flat tire on the family car. Two men offered help but then abducted them at knife point. Becky was raped and Amy was Thomas Wolfe famously wrote that you can’t go home again. Ron Franscell did precisely that when he decided to go back to his childhood home of Casper, Wyoming to investigate a crime from thirty years previous. A police report of September 1973 was his starting point. Eighteen year-old Becky Thomson and her eleven year-old sister Amy were shopping at a local store and discovered a flat tire on the family car. Two men offered help but then abducted them at knife point. Becky was raped and Amy was killed. Becky was thrown off of a canyon bridge, but survived, despite a 120 foot plunge and broken legs. She pulled herself up the canyon and was rescued by a couple driving by. Her sister Amy was later found in the river by an EMT diver. It was his last dive, due to continuing nightmares. Two suspects were quickly arrested based on Becky’s descriptions at the first interview. Jerry Jenkins placed all of the blame on his partner, Ron Kennedy. A change of venue was necessary due to death threats. Wyoming has a long history of vigilantism. At the trial, Becky Thomson was the first witness. She identified the men and described the rape and the bridge toss to a rapt jury. I just had my own experience as a juror and the six days gave me a deeper understanding of the process. My case was a home invasion and robbery, but the logistics were similar. They were not dealing with the still unsolved Jack the Ripper case, but instead with two morons with Becky’s blood in their car; a virtual slam dunk of a trial. The more vicious of the two criminals, Ron Kennedy, was raised in a Dickensian household with no running water and an outhouse. His mother worked as a dishwasher and his father was mostly unemployed and drunk. A shrink testified that Ronald was antisocial, but not legally insane. He understood right from wrong. Jerry Jenkins childhood was equally bad with a drunken father and whore mother (like Charles Manson) whose promiscuous lifestyle traumatized the future killer. The jury had to decide whether these mitigating circumstances were enough to deny capital punishment. Kennedy’s mother Hilda prayed to Mary and the saints for the souls of her son and for those of Amy and Becky. My feelings are mixed regarding the death penalty due to mistakes (read John Grisham’s The Innocent Man) and someone being executed by the state in error. In this particular case, I would have tied the two men together and thrown them off of the same bridge where the crime occurred; a proper burial at sea. The law works in mysterious ways, and it did in this case. As expected, Becky’s life was turbulent after the trial; drugs, alcohol and a failed marriage. Franscell posts excerpts from Kennedy’s prison autobiography. The unpublished memoir is a self serving, delusional mess. Ronald is not Oscar Wilde or O. Henry. The tales contained within are worthy of Stephen King’s imagination. Franscell writes with great passion, as he was a neighbor of Becky and Amy on that fateful night in 1973. The tragedy haunted him and the result is this excellent book

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Very sad true story, of two young sisters who are kidnapped by two drunken men outside a convenience store, on the whim of one man because he finds the older sister attractive. The story covers the rape of the older sister, then how both girls were thrown off a bridge into a gorge 40m down, in the middle of the night, in order to kill them to prevent them identifying the men. The older sister miraculously survives and testifies at their trial etc... However the story is definitely not put across Very sad true story, of two young sisters who are kidnapped by two drunken men outside a convenience store, on the whim of one man because he finds the older sister attractive. The story covers the rape of the older sister, then how both girls were thrown off a bridge into a gorge 40m down, in the middle of the night, in order to kill them to prevent them identifying the men. The older sister miraculously survives and testifies at their trial etc... However the story is definitely not put across in the best way. The writing is appalling! For someone who claims to be a journalist, I am amazed at how badly written this book is. The editor should also be out of work! There are so many contradictions throughout the book, I found myself re-reading sentences just to find out what was being said. For example: "His mother, Dorothy, who didn't drink or smoke but certainly wasn't religious, occasionally worked as a maid, but mostly did nothing beyond drink and bang other men".... Hang On a minute, didn't that sentence start with 'didn't drink', and yet before the sentence is even over she's drinking....and this is throughout the book. I read to the end just because I wanted to know what happened to the older sister....but it was truly a struggle not to throw the boom out the window for how badly written it is.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    The Darkest night is a horrific true story about a night in 1973 in Casper, Wyoming when two half sister's lives (18 year old Becky and 11 year old Amy) would forever be changed. After going to the store to do some shopping they had a flat tire. They were picked up by Ronald Kennedy and Jerry Jenkins two people they thought were going to help and take them home. Instead they came face to face with pure EVIL! After suffering unspeakable crimes Becky and her little sister were thrown off a remote The Darkest night is a horrific true story about a night in 1973 in Casper, Wyoming when two half sister's lives (18 year old Becky and 11 year old Amy) would forever be changed. After going to the store to do some shopping they had a flat tire. They were picked up by Ronald Kennedy and Jerry Jenkins two people they thought were going to help and take them home. Instead they came face to face with pure EVIL! After suffering unspeakable crimes Becky and her little sister were thrown off a remote Wyoming bridge. Only after Becky had been raped by Kennedy and Jenkins. One survived yet sadly one didn't. Amy died almost instantly. Becky somehow made it out barely alive. Even after 30 years this brutal crime is as relevant today as it was then. It robbed the town of it's innocence. I can't give away the whole story but No one could have told this story better than Ron Franscell himself because he grew up next door to the victims. If your looking for a true crime book that holds your attention from beginning to end, this is it. Ron Franschell you did it again!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fishface

    Finally, a little relief from the "plucky survivor brings inspiration to all" theme that plagues the true-crime genre. This was an act of rare ugliness and I like that the author, a neighbor kid a little older than the younger victim and a little younger than the older one at the time it happened, really drew a picture of what it was like for the girls next door and for their family. Aren't they the ones who really count here? He also shows the perps for what they are, just by letting them speak Finally, a little relief from the "plucky survivor brings inspiration to all" theme that plagues the true-crime genre. This was an act of rare ugliness and I like that the author, a neighbor kid a little older than the younger victim and a little younger than the older one at the time it happened, really drew a picture of what it was like for the girls next door and for their family. Aren't they the ones who really count here? He also shows the perps for what they are, just by letting them speak for themselves. This book could have really used a final copyediting to clear up the redundancies and mangled metaphors, but the story comes through loud and clear.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kim Stiegel

    The only thing that would have made this book a teeny bit better is if it didn't spend 20+ pages quoting one of the killer's (obviously delusional) ""autobiographies"" - a shorter synopsis would have been fine. After learning about his delinquent youth, and the nature of this horrid crime, I didn't think we needed to hear anything further from that lunatic. The only thing that would have made this book a teeny bit better is if it didn't spend 20+ pages quoting one of the killer's (obviously delusional) ""autobiographies"" - a shorter synopsis would have been fine. After learning about his delinquent youth, and the nature of this horrid crime, I didn't think we needed to hear anything further from that lunatic.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Sillitoe

    This is a heartbreaking case, but I felt the narrative didn't weave together as seamlessly as I would have liked. One highlight is the prison autobiography of one of the suspects. It's a primer in the megalomania of a sociopath. This is a heartbreaking case, but I felt the narrative didn't weave together as seamlessly as I would have liked. One highlight is the prison autobiography of one of the suspects. It's a primer in the megalomania of a sociopath.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jill Crosby

    Author gets a little too overblown with the prose; he really forces his metaphors and waxes almost too philosophical about crime, justice & death. He devotes too much time and effort printing and dissecting portions of convicted Ronald Kennedy's "autobiography." Author gets a little too overblown with the prose; he really forces his metaphors and waxes almost too philosophical about crime, justice & death. He devotes too much time and effort printing and dissecting portions of convicted Ronald Kennedy's "autobiography."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Natasha

    An Urban Legend that was True I chose those book because I grew up in Casper, WY. Born 5 years after the crime I remember whispers of afults who knew a friend who knew a friend of the girls. Always in whispered and hushed tones, this story became an urban legend to me. Too horrifying to be real. But, it was and it showed me that monsters are real and even exist in my Wyoming. I chose this book to know the truth behind the legend that I thought existed. And life can be as scary as the imagination. An Urban Legend that was True I chose those book because I grew up in Casper, WY. Born 5 years after the crime I remember whispers of afults who knew a friend who knew a friend of the girls. Always in whispered and hushed tones, this story became an urban legend to me. Too horrifying to be real. But, it was and it showed me that monsters are real and even exist in my Wyoming. I chose this book to know the truth behind the legend that I thought existed. And life can be as scary as the imagination. Franscell writes narrative-like and his research is so detailed that I, again, couldn't believe the realities of the lives that were intertwined on September day. I was riveted and when the book was ending, I didn't want it to. Such a tragedy-2 souls who will forever haunt the stories of Casper, WY.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Edwina Callan

    "Pain is the price we pay for memory." This is the true story of a little girl murdered to keep her silent and of the sister who survived rape and attempted murder to tell the tale. Written by the "boy next door" over 30 years later. More info here: http://casperjournal.com/news/article... "Pain is the price we pay for memory." This is the true story of a little girl murdered to keep her silent and of the sister who survived rape and attempted murder to tell the tale. Written by the "boy next door" over 30 years later. More info here: http://casperjournal.com/news/article...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I heard about this one first on a radio program detailing the crime, so I already knew how it would end. Still, the author has a way of telling this story that really appealed to me. Obviously, don't read this one if you are not prepared to hear details of a horrific crime, but also understand that there is a lot of healing and reflection in these pages as well. I heard about this one first on a radio program detailing the crime, so I already knew how it would end. Still, the author has a way of telling this story that really appealed to me. Obviously, don't read this one if you are not prepared to hear details of a horrific crime, but also understand that there is a lot of healing and reflection in these pages as well.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anita Heveron

    Very good true crime. Although the author meanders sometimes, he paints a mostly unbiased version of a horrific crime

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maryann MJS1228

    When someone who doesn't read true crime asks me why I'm devoted to a genre made up of quickie exploitation tales about serial killers I point them in the direction of one of the classics. Like any genre true crime has bad books, good books and some that are truly great which not only transcend the genre, they ennoble it. The Darkest Night has become one of those books that I recommend to anyone who thinks true crime is a wasteland. The story itself is haunting. Two young sisters are kidnapped an When someone who doesn't read true crime asks me why I'm devoted to a genre made up of quickie exploitation tales about serial killers I point them in the direction of one of the classics. Like any genre true crime has bad books, good books and some that are truly great which not only transcend the genre, they ennoble it. The Darkest Night has become one of those books that I recommend to anyone who thinks true crime is a wasteland. The story itself is haunting. Two young sisters are kidnapped and thrown off the Fremont Canyon Bridge. One is killed instantly but the other survives to bring her attackers to justice. The survivor never entirely escapes that horrible night though. It must be counted among whatever small good fortune Amy Burridge and Becky Thomson could claim that Ron Franscell is the writer who told their story. Franscell is simply an excellent writer. His four page description of what it was like to grow up in Caspar Wyoming is reason enough to buy this book. The empathy and compassion with which he tells Amy and Becky's story balances perfectly with his clear, reportorial style. Somehow Franscell manages to extend his compassion to the lowlifes, Ronald Kennedy and Jerry Jenkins, responsible for the crime. He tells their story as completely and honestly as he tells of their victims. The contrast between the bleak lives that created such pathetic monsters as Kennedy and Jenkins with the ordinary and seemingly safe lives of their victims is all the more breathtaking for taking place in the same town. Easily one best true crime books of the last decade. Highly recommended to all and essential reading for true crime fans. (Review first appeared on Amazon.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lady ♥ Belleza

    September 24, 1973 started like any other day in Casper, Wyoming, the events that transpired that evening into the next day changed life for everyone. Eleven-year old Amy Burridge and her half-sister Becky Thomson had been abducted from a local store, Amy was thrown off the Freemont Canyon Bridge, afterwards Becky was raped by the two men that had abducted them and was also thrown off the bridge. Becky survived, Amy did not. Ron Franscell lived next door to Amy and Becky. Because of that we get a September 24, 1973 started like any other day in Casper, Wyoming, the events that transpired that evening into the next day changed life for everyone. Eleven-year old Amy Burridge and her half-sister Becky Thomson had been abducted from a local store, Amy was thrown off the Freemont Canyon Bridge, afterwards Becky was raped by the two men that had abducted them and was also thrown off the bridge. Becky survived, Amy did not. Ron Franscell lived next door to Amy and Becky. Because of that we get a uniquely personal view of the account. Besides learning biographical details of the people involved we also learn how the town was affected by this horrifically violent crime. This book is about more than the murderers, the victims, the crime and trial. It is about a town and how one act can have widespread consequences. Becky struggled with PTSD, with survivor guilt, she self-medicated with alcohol and drugs. She was quite possible the victim of another sexual assault. She lived in fear of the men who raped and tried to kill her. In 1992 they were seeking a new trail, as unlikely as it was they would be successful, she feared they would one day be free. In July she returned to the bridge where it all started and as the back cover of the book states: “she met her fate . . . at the same bridge where she’d lost her sister.” This is an extremely detailed account of this tragic event. Some have said it was too long, and took too many side trips into the history of the town and other people, I found it rich in detail and well rounded, never boring and recommend it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    For about 2/3 of this book, I was enjoying it (as much as you can "enjoy" sad true crime books), and then all of a sudden the story goes from being about the crime and the victims to including a poorly spelled and written autobiography by one of the rapists/killers. The book went from sad facts to sociopathic sexual fantasies, and I just slipped page by page until it started to make sense again. I can appreciate trying to get the readers to understand the one killer/rapist, and his mind. But by For about 2/3 of this book, I was enjoying it (as much as you can "enjoy" sad true crime books), and then all of a sudden the story goes from being about the crime and the victims to including a poorly spelled and written autobiography by one of the rapists/killers. The book went from sad facts to sociopathic sexual fantasies, and I just slipped page by page until it started to make sense again. I can appreciate trying to get the readers to understand the one killer/rapist, and his mind. But by using poorly written sexual fantasies??? I think anyone who reads this will agree that we can pretty much skip from the sad ending to the basic statement that Kennedy is a sociopath, and then just skip to the updates on the other people from the story. I just don't feel like.the attention should have been given to Kennedy. This was a book for Amy and Becky, and their story. This crime happened a couple of years before I was born, so not being from the area I wasn't familiar with it. I am, however, familiar with the Matthew Shepard crime, and I didn't care for the way the author mentioned Matthew almost so he could dismiss Matthew's story in comparison (at least that's how it read to me). I really wish Goodreads allowed 1/2 star ratings, because this really fell to a 2.5 in my opinion (and until Kennedy's ridiculous autobiography I felt it was a 4. It's like the author didn't know how to wrap it up once he was done with Becky's story).

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    What sets this apart from other True Crime books I’ve read is the author’s personal connection to the victims. Franscell grew up in Casper, Wyoming at the time that eleven-year-old Amy Burridge was murdered, and her half-sister Becky Thomson was raped and left for dead. This is not only the story of the crime, its perpetrators and their victims, but of the lasting impact of that horrific night on an entire community. Amy’s life was not the only thing taken - Becky’s innocence and Casper’s sense What sets this apart from other True Crime books I’ve read is the author’s personal connection to the victims. Franscell grew up in Casper, Wyoming at the time that eleven-year-old Amy Burridge was murdered, and her half-sister Becky Thomson was raped and left for dead. This is not only the story of the crime, its perpetrators and their victims, but of the lasting impact of that horrific night on an entire community. Amy’s life was not the only thing taken - Becky’s innocence and Casper’s sense of security were shattered. Plagued with survivor’s guilt, the fate of Becky is truly sad. The bizarre recollections of convicted killer Ron Kennedy in excerpts from his autobiography are chilling, but I think Franscell should have incorporated them in the narrative more instead of giving them their own chapter towards the end of the book. It felt like an afterthought – as if he had written a majority of the book, only to be handed this juicy content when he was almost done. Otherwise, the book was well structured, outlining the history of the town, the crime itself, the backgrounds of the murderers Ron Kennedy and Jerry Jenkins, and their arrest and trial. Franscell created a powerful tribute to Becky and Amy and effectively shared the emotional impact the crime had on him personally and on all those who knew the girls.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    I knew this book would be heartbreaking, but I didn't expect it to be as gut-wrenching as it was. The author has a great voice, but I am pretty sure that this is his first book of this nature. You can kind of tell. That being said, I think he did pretty well. I understand why he sidetracked the story to include the backstory of Casper, Wyoming but I feel like it didn't help the story. My guess is that he included it to beef up the page number. Oh well. The one major problem I had with this book I knew this book would be heartbreaking, but I didn't expect it to be as gut-wrenching as it was. The author has a great voice, but I am pretty sure that this is his first book of this nature. You can kind of tell. That being said, I think he did pretty well. I understand why he sidetracked the story to include the backstory of Casper, Wyoming but I feel like it didn't help the story. My guess is that he included it to beef up the page number. Oh well. The one major problem I had with this book is that the last third of it was almost entirely dedicated to the autobiography of Ronnie Kennedy. It bothered me that he was given a spotlight to parade his narcissism in the form of a ridiculously written personal fantasy. And it wasn't just a paraphrase or summary of the killer's work, but the actual writings of that horrible sociopath. The author tried to excuse its inclusion as a form of evidence against him, but it came across to me as just more time in the spotlight for Kennedy. People like that should not be given a microphone, I don't care how sensational their journals/manifestos are.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tiana Harris

    I moved to Casper, WY in 1979, 6 years after this happened but it was one of the first things I was told by other kids my age. Every time we went out to the lake, we remembered the story. I always got a cold chill when going over the bridge at Fremont Canyon. After all these years knowing the bits and pieces I had been told, I decided to read the book and get the whole story. The author can describe Wyoming as only someone who has lived here can. "The middle of April is not spring in Wyoming. It I moved to Casper, WY in 1979, 6 years after this happened but it was one of the first things I was told by other kids my age. Every time we went out to the lake, we remembered the story. I always got a cold chill when going over the bridge at Fremont Canyon. After all these years knowing the bits and pieces I had been told, I decided to read the book and get the whole story. The author can describe Wyoming as only someone who has lived here can. "The middle of April is not spring in Wyoming. It is the bitchy end of winter." This book was a hard one to read knowing that it happened here, where I still live. In the city that I love. I had a hard time putting it down even when I knew so much of the ending of this tragic story. I don't think I want to go to Fremont Canyon again, though. I will not take the "back way" from Alcova to Pathfinder ever again.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Candy

    This is a tragic true story for the 2 girls and the book does show how it affected the community. However I found no sympathy for the 2 criminals locked up for life escaping the death penalty. Ron Franscell obviously did much research and spoke to many people (good newspaper skills) to obtain some many angles and follow up with the outcome of the people embedded in the town in 1973. However, I felt that there were too many side tracks, other cases mentioned, stories that had no real connection t This is a tragic true story for the 2 girls and the book does show how it affected the community. However I found no sympathy for the 2 criminals locked up for life escaping the death penalty. Ron Franscell obviously did much research and spoke to many people (good newspaper skills) to obtain some many angles and follow up with the outcome of the people embedded in the town in 1973. However, I felt that there were too many side tracks, other cases mentioned, stories that had no real connection told. I got bored. Though I finished it ... via audio ... I believe the book should have ended after Becky's fate in 1992 because the next 3 hours added nothing in mind except giving Kennedy a voice and letting the author ramble.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This was a horrific and heart breaking book about a terrible act committed upon 2 sisters. One murdered and the other, well I'll just say the ending shocked me. Didn't see it coming. Sometimes I wonder why I read true crime so much. Usually I am just interested in how nutty some of these dudes are. This story though just hurt to read. I couldn't imagine how much pain and emotional turmoil the one sister suffered after the actual assault and murder. A sad story indeed. The book though is very wel This was a horrific and heart breaking book about a terrible act committed upon 2 sisters. One murdered and the other, well I'll just say the ending shocked me. Didn't see it coming. Sometimes I wonder why I read true crime so much. Usually I am just interested in how nutty some of these dudes are. This story though just hurt to read. I couldn't imagine how much pain and emotional turmoil the one sister suffered after the actual assault and murder. A sad story indeed. The book though is very well written and despite it being a tough subject it was a very good read. My heart goes out to all that knew and loved these girls.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    This would have been a good New Yorker article or something, but there is just not enough material here for a book. A crime was committed, the criminals were quickly apprehended, and were then easily convicted. There is one small twist that occurs years later which I won't reveal and which does add some interest to the story. However, there still isn't a book's worth of material here. The author includes all kinds of irrelevant and/or boring information to pad it. My other quibble is that much o This would have been a good New Yorker article or something, but there is just not enough material here for a book. A crime was committed, the criminals were quickly apprehended, and were then easily convicted. There is one small twist that occurs years later which I won't reveal and which does add some interest to the story. However, there still isn't a book's worth of material here. The author includes all kinds of irrelevant and/or boring information to pad it. My other quibble is that much of the writing is melodramatic in the extreme.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Turner

    I found The Darkest Night to be a very interesting story, but not the best written put together story..I think the book overall lacked depth for the reader to stay interested in the story for very long..It took ages for myself to finish reading the book and that is because the book went off topic a lot ,describing such long drawn out writing as of the history of Casper Wyoming,which didn,t quite relate too much to the importance of the story and the tragedy of a true crime case that truly deser I found The Darkest Night to be a very interesting story, but not the best written put together story..I think the book overall lacked depth for the reader to stay interested in the story for very long..It took ages for myself to finish reading the book and that is because the book went off topic a lot ,describing such long drawn out writing as of the history of Casper Wyoming,which didn,t quite relate too much to the importance of the story and the tragedy of a true crime case that truly deserved to be written for Amy and Becky and all victims of true crime.

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