Publisher: Pinnacle Books, Kensington Publishing Corp, 850 Third Ave
Location: New York, NY 10022
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 12/23/2008
Summary: Rhode Island serial killer Jeffrey Maihot confesses to murdering prostitutes in Woonsocket. The real story of this book is the hype and the execution.
Interrogation techniques. RIPPER, a title seemingly aimed at conjuring the sinister flaying of a psychopath, is one long transcript of the interrogation of Jeffrey Maihot. The interrogation takes up forty-percent of this 311 page book. This particular interrogation resulted in a genuine confession. There are some which do not. (See the April 2005 TG review of Jeanine Cummings’ excellent A Rip In Heaven.
On July 16, 2004, Jeffrey Maihot was arrested and eventually charged with the murder of three women in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The women, Audrey Harris, Christine Dumont, and Stacie Goulet were prostitutes and drug abusers. Maihot appeared to be, in practically every respect, a normal, law-abiding motorcycle enthusiast with a compulsion for neatness and orderliness. Authors Linda Rosencrance and Captain Edward Lee Jr. gives us the surface of Jeffrey Maihot. We also get the interrogation and confession. Neither justifies a book. However, the authors go one step farther which mitigates this opinion.
The lives of the three women Maihot murdered and those he merely assaulted are sketched in this book in a way that makes the reader realize that they are real people with real problems. All were inherently self-destructive–the drugs, the prostitution. But those attributes do not make them less people. They come across as ordinary, very troubled women. The man who murdered and assaulted them also comes across as ordinary. Ordinary except that he murdered. The disconnect here is that you have victims whose life-style and attitudes plasters a sign on their foreheads screaming victim. But the victimizer, Jeffrey Maihot, is merely a guy who went to work everyday and was, according to those who knew here, incapable of committing the crimes he was accused of committing. Victimizers don’t walk around with a sign on their foreheads screaming victimizer.
If this is the point RIPPER is attempting to make, it makes the point with numbing precision. The basics of police investigative interrogations are repetitiveness. The same questions are asked over and over. The duration of the repetitiveness is fed by the degree of inconsistency in answers received. When Detectives Edward Lee and Steve Nowak started the interrogation of Jeffrey Maihot, they were immediately confronted with an inconsistency in Maihot’s answers to questions. The detectives were as persistent as Maihot was evasive. What was demonstrated was Detective Lee’s belief that “. . . you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar.” So the reader ploughs through nearly six hours of interrogation spread out over one-hundred and twenty pages.
Of course, RIPPER presents a practical example of interrogation. But there is more going on than mere education. Aside from showing prostitutes as human beings with problems, the book also shows what is apparently an improved side of the Woonsocket, Rhode Island police department. It is not until late in the book that the authors disclose that one Raymond “Beaver” Tempest Jr. was convicted of murder in 1992 based on the work of the department. By the time the Maihot investigation got underway, the Tempest investigation and his subsequent conviction for the murder of Doreen Picard was being re-examined in light of charges of a police cover-up. It is a fascinating side-trip from discussing the crimes of Maihot. If it were the only side-trip, then one might speculate that the entire purpose of RIPPER is to show how the Woonsocket, Rhode Island police department has recovered from a binge of nepotism and incompetence. But there are other side-trips. The authors make a comparison between Maihot and other serial murderers to bolster their contention that Maihot, despite his calm exterior, and relatively calm upbringing as a child, fits neatly into the profile of a serial killer. In a way, their contentions is very convincing because there is nothing on the surface of Jeffrey Maihot’s life, as outlined in this book, to explain why he seems totally devoid of empathy and compassion.
RIPPER is recommended for the way it presents a police interrogation technique employed by the detectives. If you have no interest in investigative techniques, you will not find anything of thought provoking interest in this book.