Speed City Sisters in Crime is the Indiana chapter of Sisters in Crime, a national organization of aspiring mystery writers open to women and men. This blog features excerpts from the short stories and novels of our members, book reviews, announcements and news of interest to aspiring writers of every type.
SPEED CITY SISTERS IN CRIME
Thursday, August 2, 2018
53 Year Old Unsolved Murder of Classmate; "Too Good a Girl" set for release August 4
“Too Good a Girl,” the Book That Took
53 Years to Finish, Launches August 4
By Janis Thornton
I’ve always loved that old Don
McLean song, “The Day the Music Died.” But for me and most of the kids who grew
up in Tipton, Indiana, during the insulated, enchanted days of the 1950s and
’60s, the day music died was Monday, October 18, 1965.
That was the day we learned our 17-year-old classmate, Olene Emberton, had been found dead, her body lying in a
ditch alongside a remote country road.
Although local and state police
conducted a vigorous investigation, they found no clues, no evidence, no
witnesses, no cause of death, and ultimately no answers. The case could not be
solved. Today, nearly 53 years later, the case remains open.
Like Olene, I was also 17 — almost
an adult, but still a kid. For kids of any age, losing a school friend is
traumatic under any circumstance. But the circumstances under which Olene had
died were unthinkable. Her death rocked my world.
The idea of writing Olene’s story
first occurred to me some thirty years ago. I felt that someone needed to set
the record straight, so why not me? Frankly, 30 years ago, it shouldn’t have
been me. I had no writing experience and lacked the skills to report on a
sensitive, emotionally charged topic that was certain to ruffle feathers, stoke
anger, and hurt feelings.
However, by 2004, I had been a staff
writer at a daily newspaper for four years, and I was ready. I pored over court
records, combed through news articles, tracked down and interviewed law enforcement
officials who had worked the case, sent Freedom of Information Act requests,
talked with forensics experts, studied criminology, attended conferences,
surveyed my classmates, met with Olene’s friends and family, and followed the
The result of this 14-year-long
pursuit for truth has manifested in my book, “Too Good a Girl,” scheduled to
launch Saturday, August 4, at the Tipton County library.
Did I solve the mystery? No.
Instead, I have unraveled all the strands of Olene’s complex story so readers
can weave their own tapestry of truth and discover their own solution. And who
knows? One of them might just be right. •
How You Can Help Preserve Olene’s
Memory and Give Her Life Renewed Meaning
Readers of “Too Good a Girl” can
also help preserve Olene’s memory by helping graduating Tipton High School
students achieve their dream of a teaching career.
When Olene was a freshman at Tipton
High School, she authored a brief autobiography. In it, she noted her dream for
the future. “I plan to graduate from
high school in 1966,” she wrote. “I want to attend Ball State University. After
I graduate, I want to be a junior or high school teacher.”
No one can give Olene’s life back to
her, but I believe I’ve found a way to give her life new meaning by assisting
graduating Tipton High School students who share her dream.
With the help of the Tipton County
Foundation — a publicly supported organization that helps Tipton residents set
up and oversee philanthropic projects — the Olene Emberton Memorial Scholarship
has been established. The scholarship will benefit college-bound Tipton High
School seniors who, like Olene, plan to pursue teaching.
Reaching the fund-raising goal of
$25,000 by the end of 2018 will ensure that an award of $1,000 will go to a
deserving student in Olene’s memory each year in perpetuity.
I invite you to visit www.tiptoncf.org and make a gift. In
addition, the proceeds from book sales will go to the fund. And every donor of
$100 or more will receive a copy of “Too Good a Girl” with my compliments and