MURDER AT 75 BIRCH: A True Story of Family Betrayal by Richard T. Pienciak

MURDER AT 75 BIRCH: A True Story of Family Betrayal

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Flatly told story of a dentist who strangled his wife but wasn't prosecuted for years. Early in the morning of August 30, 1986, 33-year old Dr. Glen Wolsieffer called his brother Neil for help. Arriving at 75 Birch St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Neil found his brother semiconscious on the floor, and called the police. When they arrived, they discovered Wolsieffer's wife, Betty, strangled in the bedroom. A screen was cut open and a ladder rested against the bedroom window from the outside. Wolsieffer was taken to the hospital, where he was found to have a bump on the back of his head and ligature marks on the back of his neck only. His story that he had been strangled and knocked unconscious by an intruder immediately came under suspicion due to the minor nature of his possibly self-inflicted injuries and to the ladder having been placed with the rungs backwards. In time, it was discovered that Wolsieffer had been carrying on a long affair with his dental assistant and having a sporadic fling with a woman he'd met in an aerobics class. All evidence against him was circumstantial, though, and, according to Pienciak (Deadly Masquerade, 1990), a shifting cast of D.A.'s and investigators, as well as police incompetence, kept him from trial for nearly four years. Wolsieffer finally was convicted, on circumstantial evidence, of third-degree murder; he remains free on appeal. Unfortunately, the characters whom Pienciak describes are so blandly middle class that they'll hold little interest for many readers. Wolsieffer himself is presented without color, as a golf-playing dentist bored with his profession and having lunch-time trysts at the Busy Day Motel. There's minimal character development (leaving readers unsure as to why Wolsieffer murdered), too much trivia about cops checking records, little dramatic build-up, and an unduly confusing narrative trail. True crime that's truly dull.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1992
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Dutton