“ Paperback: 400 pages / Publisher: Sphere / Published: 7 Oct 2004 „
I'm reviewing a true crime book by Ann Rule.
It can be bought for around £6 brand new ,or for under £3 used.
Don't be put off by books being sold as used on amazon or similar sites (unless you are extremely fussy) because they can be almost perfect/as new. Just pay attention to the seller's description before clicking to buy.
This is the paperback version measuring just 110mm x 180mm x 25mm.
It contains 365 pages.
It is also available in the much larger hardback,but I personally find those too cumbersome.
And it comes in an abridged audio version at around £7-£8
Lisa Ann DeWitt was born in New Mexico in 1962.
By the time she murdered her 44 year old husband Chris Northon in the year 2000 she had been through three marriages & and had two children. And changed her christian name to the more exotic (in her mind) Liysa.
The story kicks off with the murder...BANG ! Except that Liysa claimed it was self defense and was done to protect herself & her 3 year old son ,or as she constantly referred to him "Baby Bjorn". Yes,I know there is a joke there,but his name WAS Bjorn,even if at three & a half he was not a baby.
The murder occurred on a weekend camping trip in the mountains of Oregon in October. Some would say it was too cold for a camping trip in October ,or that there were many other similar camping places nearer their home in Bend that they had used before .Some would say Chris had no intention of going camping that weekend,because he was just back from a stint piloting for Hawaiian Airlines & had planned to spend the weekend painting the brand new storage shed at his home & getting the home ready for the harsh Oregon winter that was rapidly setting in.Some would say he even told the man due to help him paint the shed that Liysa had planned an unexpected camping jaunt & he was going along with it, to avoid her moaning if he refused.
Apparently 'some' would be wrong according to Liysa. SHE says Chris planned the trip. HE chose the site,despite the three hour drive to get there. HE insisted they leave Liysa's older son, 8 yr old Papaka behind with friends and just take 'baby Bjorn',despite the child having a heavy cold & being on meds . But she lied as Liysa often did.
Lisa was a writer. A prolific writer of everything. Scripts,plays,diaries,short stories, love-letters & emails. She even almost got a Hollywood deal colluding with a big screenplay writer (yes really!). Unfortunately their pitch failed because someone else got in first with a similar idea.
She was also a great pro photographer . She even co-wrote a book filled with surfing pictures (her forté) with her 2nd husband and it was published & sold quite well.She was in demand for photo shoots involving Hawaii & surfing in general.
Her husband was a Hawaiian Airlines Pilot & flights between their homes in Hawaii & Oregon (and anywhere else ,more or less ) were free.
She had many properties in Hawaii & a beautiful family home in Bend Oregon.Money was never an issue you'd think.
Liysa should have been happy with her lot,but she never was. She got bored with her men & her marriages too quickly and would seek out replacements while still in relationships,so that she would go directly from one relationship/marriage straight into the next seamlessly.
Chris Northon was such an 'overlap' man. They met in Hawaii while both were living there .Liysa was seeing him while still married to Nick Mattson (Papako's father). She bombarded him with letters,as she always did with men. Letters promising the Earth, Moon & stars and offering deals & pre-nups if he would just marry her...PLEASE ! Said she'd keep house & they'd grow old together....promises & more promises. What Liysa wanted ,Liysa got. Within weeks of her divorce in 1996 he caved in & agreed at hours notice to marry her on the beach in Hawaii by moonlight.Oh the romance of the moment ! Liysa had been single for precisely 26 days.
Yet,within months Liysa was bored. Asked by friends WHY she had pursued Chris she openly admitted she wanted all the free flights his Pilot job got her. She said the money saved by her on photography jaunts was beyond calculation....she just never saw their looks of utter disbelief,or if she did she just didn't care.Plus she claimed the sex was fabulous.
Anyways,there the plans began.
She started telling tales to friends & family of Chris abusing her,raping her,being cruel to the children. All very hush hush........"Shhh,please don't let Chris see that you KNOW!".........setting up a battered wife scenario . And she pushed Chris to the limits.She refused to clean their home & it was filthy,but she had never done cleaning ever ,so Chris was aware of that & hired a cleaner & did many chores himself anyway .His friends recall visits watching him try to put some order into the home while Liysa went off chasing surf pictures. Luckily he was a laid back personality & would walk away when rows escalated.He arranged counseling for them. Liysa went & spent the first three sessions berating Chris to the counselor while he sat in silence. When the man said she must let Chris speak now she flounced & never went back. Chris did,and agreed (fortunately) that his sessions could be used in public if needed in future. The counselor testified at Liysa's trial making Chris appear simply a human being trying his best in a difficult situation with a harpy of a wife .He freely admitted his faults & wanted only to give Liysa what she wanted & enjoy their time together,but who knew just what Liysa wanted at any given moment ?
The mainstay of this book is Liysa's background & personality.It is 80% about her . Frankly she was/is a bit of a freak. It was her way or the highway. But she was a mistress of deception & could ingratiate herself incredibly when meeting people of use to her. She was a fantasist and told weird tales of being battered by her mum,broken bones,amnesia for a whole year causing her to miss schooling......yet her mother denies any of that happened .Well, she would, you say,but Ann Rule trawled through Hosp & School records & there is not one indication that what Lisa said was true. She pulled the amnesia stunt with an ex boyfriend in Hawaii . She wanted to break up without hassle,so she pretended to have a minor breakdown . Yes,I suppose she COULD have just said "Bye bye Tim,I'm moving on" but that was too ordinary . A journal found after she moved home detailed her amnesia being a plot ....that pesky writing of hers! Dropped her in it.
She was pregnant to Chris while still married to Nick,but near the end of the pregnancy she declared there were 'complications',flew to Seattle alone and returned some weeks later with no child. No-one knows what happened. Chris was too private to speak of it & anyway,he was dependent on what Liysa SAID happened. She refused to talk of it. She was too far on for an abortion, so Chris's friends assumed an adoption had happened. It was a baby girl though & Lisa favoured boys,so who knows what happened to that child. She did have a baby with Chris in 1997, during the marriage.This was baby Bjorn.
So,she went to trial & blustered & lied in her usual fashion ,even to her own Lawyers, regarding what happened on that weekend camping trip ,what happened beforehand and their life in general.
Unfortunately for Liysa Liar there are a couple of "Perry Mason moments" just prior to & during the trial. This caused her to plead a reluctant 'guilty' in exchange for a reduced sentence rather than have these things brought up.
I won't spoil those by explaining.....in case you buy the book.
The fact was she wanted EVERYTHING . All the communal property as well as her own personal real estate and Chris's. All life insurance payouts & a Hawaiian Airlines widow pension which entitled her to free flights. And she wanted the boys to herself. The only way to achieve all that was for Chris to die.
Even from jail she tried to control things regarding her sons & who they could visit with,because she is/was a control freak.Plus she bombarded anyone who'd listen with complaints about her Lawyers,the judge,the police investigators.Even Chris's parents were called a paedohile & an ex prostitute during her court appearance re where the boys would reside. An appalling woman . No-one escaped her ire.
Again it is a book that skips about a bit,which at times annoyed me & seemed unnecessary,but other than that small point it is a cracking read.
True life can be more unbelievable than fiction.
Liysa was given a projected release date of April 10th, 2013........Which is today,the date of this review.
Would I recommend this book ? Yes,definitely. Ann Rule rarely disappoints.