BLOOD RELATIVE by Crocker Stephenson


Portrait of a Mass Murder
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 Using what he calls ``novelistic strategies,'' Milwaukee Sentinel reporter Stephenson vividly recounts events surrounding the July 4, 1987, murder of five members of the bizarre Kunz family of northern Wisconsin. Stephenson opens with the 1905 murder of one Mary Kunz by her ``imbalanced'' son, J. Wenzel. It was Wenzel's nephews and nieces- -Clarence, Irene, Marie, and Helen, all in their 70s and 80s--as well as Helen's 30-year-old son, Randy, who were murdered at the family home in 1987. The bodies--except for Helen's, which was found nearly a year later--were discovered by Helen's oldest son, Kenny, whose father, it was believed, was his own murdered Uncle Clarence, Helen's brother. Kenny told investigators of observing his mother and uncle having sex, and the murdered Randy was known to share his mother's bed as well. Apparently, it was Randy's watching of pornographic videos that prompted Helen to complain to a local merchant that she ``could kill them all.'' At first, Helen was considered a prime suspect, but when Kenny mentioned some teenagers he'd sold old cars to, the information led to the arrest of Chris Jacobs III, an auto thief and ``kind of a troublemaker'' who, the cops believed, murdered the five Kunzes during a robbery gone wrong. Jacobs owned several .22-caliber weapons of the sort used in the murders; at his home, police found shells that matched those that killed the Kunzes; his car's tires matched tracks found near the scene; and Helen's body surfaced near his family's farm. But since the murder weapon was never found and so much of the evidence was circumstantial, a jury found Jacobs not guilty, and the killings remain unsolved. Stephenson intelligently pieces together autopsy and police reports, newspaper accounts, and court testimony to tell his grisly and creepy, but irresistible, story. (Thirty b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: June 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-929387-91-0
Page count: 220pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1993