ENGAGED TO MURDER: The True Story of Love and Death in an American High School by Loretta Schwartz-Nobel

ENGAGED TO MURDER: The True Story of Love and Death in an American High School

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An engrossing account, in which murder, sex, money, and drugs cut through to the uncivil body beneath the social fabric in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia. By 1985, one of the top-rated high schools in the country had seen its English department chairman and the principal sent to prison for killing an English teacher and her two young children. Joseph Wambaugh's Echoes in the Darkness (p. 1852) covers the same case. The story is told by a woman who first became involved with the case as a reporter during the trial of the teacher, William S. Bradfield. Her research included interviews with both Bradfield and the principal, Jay C. Smith, in prison. What emerges are three different renderings: Bradfield's, Smith's, and the prosecutor's. Schwartz-Noble refrains from conjecture while relating the facts, but her association with Bradfield adds a personal dimension. The motive for the murders was presumed to be the $750,000 life insurance policy of Susan Reinert, made out to Bradfield. Her nude body was left in the open trunk of her car, dead from a massive dose of morphine. But the sensational details of the crime are not the primary interest here. Bradfield, at the time of his arrest, had at least one other woman who believed she was to be married to him, as well as Reinert, whose life he dominated. A gentle, scholarly man, he had the ability to charm and enthrall women--so much so that the author, interviewing this convicted killer over many months, finds herself fascinated by him, and then frightened as she realizes the depth of her involvement and its echo of his depravity. Compounded from several lives, several murders investigations, trials, and incarcerations, this is a biography of a crime. A compelling study of human nature that envelops and disturbs the reader.

Pub Date: March 9th, 1987
Publisher: Viking