[Reading] ➾ Shallow Grave in Trinity County By Harry Farrell – Motyourdrive.co.uk



10 thoughts on “Shallow Grave in Trinity County

  1. says:

    This is a well written true crime account of the kidnapping and murder of 14 year old Stephanie Bryan in 1955 The story is laid out in a concise manner without too many details that often bog down a non fiction book I was amazed at all the excuses lawyers and family members tried to find in order to explain Stephanie s purse, school books, and bra that were buried in the suspect s basement Even though it was clear how the story would end, it was fascinating to see how the lawyers collected evidence and laid out their case.


  2. says:

    Finished it this morning This book had been on my wish list for many years till finally managed to buy a secondhand copy I can say it was worth the wait.Maybe not as gripping as some true crime books, Harry Farrell writes with a bit distance but you must not forget that when he finally got all the documents and trial papers, a lot of people who played a big role in the Abbott case had already died.It is much harder probably to write about a case that happened long ago, I think of Harold Schechter s great books but I can truly say this author did just as well.A good writer who even though the case happened than 60 years ago,managed to grab the attention of readers.I for one had never heard of this case and yes there have been maybe cruel and infamous killings this case was really interesting thanks to the excellent writing of the author.Now I know there is another book about this case where that author thinks Abbott was innocent but checking the reviews of his book A Trail of Corn by Keith Walker , the majority of his readers still think Abbott was guilty, even after reading Walker s book view spoiler They his lawyers could only try to get him free by pretending that Abbott was framed They had to cause the girl s items were found in Abbott house and then later her body was found near his bungalow very far from where she disappeared But apparently he was never asked why someone would frame him or if he was asked he did not know the answer and to me it was all far fetched and really there was never a real suspect besides Abbott hide spoiler


  3. says:

    Shallow Grave is an incredibly detailed, day by day account of the disappearance of fourteen year old Stephanie Bryan in 1955, and the subsequent search for her and the trial and execution of her presumed murderer, a young accounting student named Burton Abbott Methods to find missing children were very primitive back then compared to now if Stephanie had been kidnapped today, an Amber Alert would probably have been issued and while it might not have saved her, it certainly would have lead police to her killer sooner It is chilling to think that Burton, a skinny, sickly and deceptively bland man, would certainly have gotten away with his crime and very possibly kept on killing had he not been stupid enough or arrogant enough to hide Stephanie s belongings in his own basement.The issue of Abbott s guilt or innocence is controversial even to this day, and though Farrell never outright states his opinion, it s pretty obvious from the writing what he believes And that s fine This is a compulsively readable story I ve re read my copy so often that some of the pages have fallen out My only complaint about Shallow Grave is that while there is pretty good characterization of Abbott, Stephanie s personality is less clear I think this is in part because Farrell chose to interview her brother rather than her sister, who had been much closer to her.


  4. says:

    A fascinating read with great personal resonance for me, because the author casually revealed midway through the book that the victim was not only the first cousin of someone I grew up with, but also the niece of my dad s boss It was even satisfying than average to read about this guy going to prison Unusually well written, too The author passes no judgement on the parties involved but also refuses to sympathize with the killer, which is refreshing.


  5. says:

    The extremely controversial Abbott case fair bids to go down along side the Borden case as a classic American study in ambiguity,hysteria,and lurking hints of subsurface malevolence which suggest far appalling evil than evan the original crime.As in the Borden case,we have the situation of a well liked young person of some intellectual ability Lizzie was the first woman to ever sit on the board of an American hospital caught in a web of circumstances,all of which with a bit of perhaps excessive ingenuity can be logically explained.Moreover,Abbott, like Lizzie,was backed by independent witnesses with absolutely no axe to grind who,if believed, and they had no conceivable incentive for lying provided him and his automobile with an iron clad alibi.Both defendants had,and still have,a surprising and almost inexplicable charisma which s continues both to attract, and repel, quite intelligent people these long generations after their deathsMuch of the genuine fascination which both their almost unique cases hold,lies,of course, in the absolute certainty that if either defendant were innocent the jurors must, inevitably, have met the real killer or, at least, one other person who knew the truth of what happened very precisely indeed.As in the Borden case,despite its international notoriety,the Abbott case remained without its historian for nearly fifty years as in the Borden case at the very last possible moment the prosecution has opened its files,for the first time and handed them to an already like minded crime reporter of literary credit to prepare the definitive account or rather the definitive account of the prosecution for posterity,all packaged in three hundred pages.As in the Borden case it is inevitable that another equally gifted and less biased investigative reporter will come along within the next thirty years, review the files, and debunk Mr.Farrell s book,just as Edward Radin mercilessly reduced the efforts of hostile Lizzie biographer Edmund Pearson to a heap of little pieces in the early sixties.The anti Lizzie forces skulked for about fifteen years and then came back swinging.Who won Check out your internet.There have been four mock trials of the Borden case held since then one presided over by a chief justice of the United States Supreme Court and all four have ended in acquittals as did the original trial in 1893.Does this ever convince the losers Of course not,they will write books and eventually get yet another posthumous trial.Fortunately for posterity,Mr Farrell s book was,almost simultaneously, balanced by an even comprehensive treatment of the defense case, A Trail of Corn by Keith Walker,who likewise spent some thirty five years on the case starting from near day one.He is a professional court room reporter who has incorporated what must be thousands of pages of original interviews with now deceased individuals and trial transcripts into his text.Unfortunately,Mr Walker has chosen to publish his massive notes in the form of conversations between the interrogators and the witnesses without indexed references to his original sources Farrell doesn t give his specific sources for quotes either but he professes and I am sure that he is largely citing otherwise unavailable interviews however biased with people whom he specifically names and which caan be found next time the State of California decides to open them up in the government archives.His accuracy can and will ,eventually,be checked out.Mr Walker is dealing with private people he was the confidant for many years of the late Elsie Abbott,Burton s mother unless he deposits his raw materials in a museum archive posterity will have no way of fairly appraising his efforts.He is the nearly last survivor of one of the most bitterly fought cases of its time.He owes it to his friends to see that their position is correctly represented I will post a separate review of A Trail of Corn shortly.One thing is certain Mr.Walker is a professional stenographer who reproduces the already known testimony in painstaking nearly agonizing detail.He regularly serves as a corrective to Mr Farrell s quite consistent hit and run techniques.Let s take an elementary example of how the two authors handle a single indisputable fact.The jurors after eight days deliberation found Abbott guilty and, knowing that they would be judged most unfavorably by a large minority of the public,one of them immediately issued an extremely detailed statement Walker,pp.613 615 explaining exactly what part by no means all of the prosecution evidence they believed and why they were rejecting the alibi witnesses even though they believed them to be honest.Farrell,incredibly,not only fails to print this but fails to indicate that it even exists.Probably because it is highly skeptical of two of the three identification witnesses called by the prosecution.What is it specifically state that they did not convict on the basis of the forensic evidence, on which most subsequent writers including reviewers here, justly, lay most of their emphasisOn the other hand Walker has probably crafted most of his book by following up the juror s statement, and he systematically ,and effectively, attacks the credibility of each witness on whom the jurors relied.This reviewer checked every indexed citation of these witnesses in both books and it is obvious that Farrell as well as Walker knows exactly what the game is.He owed it to his readers to make plain that the jury that convicted found key parts of the police case to be unbelievable or barely believable.Or to take just one other example.The jurors certainly did believe the third and last identification witness called by the prosecution during its direct case,a woman named Reva Leidecker.No question,if Reva is to be believed,she takes them the whole way,and they did believe her.She swore that she saw Burton beating Stephanie Bryant in his 1949 Chevy at a very precise place and time.But Farrell mentions her only three times in his entire book.He has Reva being called to the stand then cuts,omitting all of the examination and the cross examination pp.208 209 She is mentioned only once in the book.We never find out, from him , what she said.Now Walker spends pages on this witness and with equally good reason.She was the last of fifteen alleged eyewitnesses to come forward,a mere few days before trial.Hundreds of thousands of words had been written describing an altercation which may,or may not,have involved Abbott,or Stephanie,or the Chevy.Thousands of pictures of both suspect and victim had been printed and featured on television.And Reva rushes in at the last minute to say she is the only one in the world to identify all three.In these enlightened days her testimony would be thrown as scientifically incredible, and legally inadmissible as she was sprung on the defense at the last minute.Nevertheless she was the only eye witness called by the prosecution on whom the jurors in the end relied,not upon the eminent Paul Kirk Kirk was the equivalent of to day s Henry Lee who gave the odds as 125,000 to one that certain hairs found in the Abbott car came from Stephanie.But just a minute 125,000 in a city of several million means there were over a dozen local women who could have supplied the hairs and Mrs.Abbott was professional beautician and Kirk didn t find those hairs till months after he started his investigation and his pupil Lowell Bradford,who testified reluctantly for the defense,said he agreed on Kirk s analysis on everything except one of those hairs.It appeared to have been dyed.In which case it definitely came from the beauty parlor,not from the head of the victim.The defense has repeated moved to have all these items retested in the light of modern DNA discoveries.So far the state has successfully stone walled the motions.But why should it if DNA can prove the hairs and the blood and the fibers came from Stephanie so much the better for people who are as positive as Mr.Farrell.If not, Let some amends be made to a most gallant gentleman who was in quicklime laid But,of course,to cite just this one example there are hundreds of other possibilities should it someday turn out that the hair did originally come from Stephanie BUT that it has been dyed,the case will,as in the Borden case,be right back in the fascinating limbo of perhaps permanently irresolvable historical mysteries.I have singled out a number in my review of A Trail of Corn.


  6. says:

    As a Bay Area native, this book was pretty spellbinding as a criminal case study with lots of local history and trivia thrown in I mean, Earl Stanley Gardener even makes a cameo at the courthouse near Lake Merritt The book stands alone, though, as a well crafted tale of true crime Burton Abbott is as enigmatic a character as any fictitious villain The opening scene which takes place months after Bryan s disappearance seems to cast a great shadow of guilt over Abbott from the very beginning items belonging to the missing girl are found in the Abbott s basement in Alameda He quickly becomes the focus of the investigation and too many coincidences come to light for there to be any doubt who killed the poor Bryan girl.The reader can t help but wonder what evidence might have been found if this case were being investigated today The case presents a very difficult dilemma in the ethics of juris prudence should someone be penalized to the fullest extent of the law if the only evidence against them is circumstantial Burton Abbott s story and its ethical implications will simmer in your mind well after you ve finished the book.


  7. says:

    on page 125 or so the author suggests a flaw in the defendant s alibi, says it is impossible to get lost in sacramento because the streets are laid out so well HA i ve done it three times of course i can get lost following a straight line maybe i shouldn t be bragging about thatinteresting read knowing the places, roads talked about makes for a good and uncomfortable read.


  8. says:

    Another very interesting true crime story about one of the first serial killings in the Bay Area Farrell does a great job at explaining how innocent people were then, and how unusual this type of crime was for the times The 1950s It s very sad, but very sensitively written Such a good author and a great reporter.


  9. says:

    This book was a little too distant I never felt like I knew the victim, or the alleged murderer for that matter The most interesting aspect was the way laws have improved to protect the accused, and also the difficulty in gathering evidence before DNA testing.


  10. says:

    This is the non fiction story of a fourteen year old girl who was kidnapped and murdered in Berkeley, California in 1955 My oldest brother was in the same grade in school as this girl s brother so I was aware of this tragedy during my childhood.


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