Five Crime Writers Who Turned Out to Be Actual Murderers
The grisly cases in which life imitated art—or the other way around.
Photo of Nancy Crampton Brophy (L) via the Portland Police Bureau. Photo of Blake Leibel (R) by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.
Earlier this month, 68-year-old Nancy Crampton Brophy, an Oregon novelist who wrote a book about a woman who “spent every day of her marriage fantasizing about killing [her husband]," was arrested for, well, allegedly murdering her husband. In 2015, the gritty romance writer self-published a book called The Wrong Husband about a woman who tries to escape her abusive husband by faking her own death. And in 2011, she penned an essay titled “How to Murder Your Husband” for a blog called See Jane Publish.
"As a romantic suspense writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure," she opined. "After all, if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail."
Though Crampton Brophy's alleged murder is a particularly absurd case of life imitating art, it's not a totally uncommon occurrence. Here, we've collected the most gruesome and terrifying examples of what happens when crime writers turn their fiction into reality, sometimes echoing the content of their work:
In August 2017, Chinese writer Liu Yongbiao was working on a book when he was arrested for four cold case murders that happened more than two decades earlier. The book, called The Beautiful Writer Who Killed, was reportedly about a "female writer who has killed many people, yet the cases remain unsolved." From VICE:
According to Chinese website Sixth Tone, Liu was arrested at his home on Friday under suspicion that he and an accomplice were involved in a gruesome botched robbery back in 1995. Police believe that the two suspects—Liu, 53, and a man named Wang, 65—initially went to a hostel in the city of Huzhou to rob its guests but ended up beating a man to death in the process, the Guardian reports. They then allegedly killed the owners and their 13-year-old grandson to cover it up.
Since then, the case has gone cold—until new DNA evidence led police to Liu's door. When the officers apprehended him on Friday, he reportedly told them, "I've been waiting for you here all this time."
Liu's second to last novel was titled The Guilty Secret. In a letter Liu reportedly wrote to his wife, where he confessed to his crimes, he said, "I lived in fear for 20 years. I knew the day would come. I can finally be free from the mental torment I've endured for so long."
According to the Daily Mail, Liu was sentenced to death in July 2018.
In June of this year, writer Blake Leibel was sentenced to life in prison for the torture and murder of his girlfriend Iana Kasian "whose body was drained of all of her blood in a crime that a prosecutor said mirrored the script of a graphic novel he co-wrote," per CBS Los Angeles.
Beth Silverman, the prosecuting attorney, called Leibel's brutal torture and murder of Kasian in 2016 “a case of life imitating art,” noting that his 2015 graphic novel Syndrome had depictions of bloodletting. The cover of the book also depicts an image of a baby doll being scalped, which resembled body parts found at the crime scene.
In 1992, a year after the wife of Dutch crime writer Richard Klinkhamer disappeared, the author gave his publisher a manuscript of a novel that, according to the Guardian, "was a grisly, detailed exploration of seven ways in which Klinkhamer could conceivably have killed his wife, Hannelore. In one of the scenarios set out in the book, he disposes of her body by pushing her flesh through a mincer and feeding it to the pigeons."
Although Klinkhamer was an immediate suspect in the police inquiry into his wife's disappearance, they couldn't proceed with their investigation because they didn't have a body. After the Dutch crime writer's grisly and seemingly autobiographical manuscript was rejected by his publisher for being too gruesome, excerpts began popping up in the Dutch underground press. He then became a sort of literary celebrity, appearing as a guest on various TV shows.
After he moved to Amsterdam, a family moved into the house Klinkhamer formerly shared with his wife. While making home renovations, they hired a digger who found a skull burried beneath the concrete floor of a backyard shed, which belonged to Klinkhamer's wife, Hannelore. In 2000, police finally arrested Klinkhamer for the murder, and he confessed.
Novelist Krystian Bala might have gotten away with murdering a Polish businessman in 2000, but three years later he published Amok, which told the story of a Polish intellectual named Chris (the English version of Krystian) who "murders a female lover for no reason...and conceals the act so well that he is never caught."
In Amok, the description of the woman's murder—bound with her hands behind her back with a cord that's also looped into a noose around her neck—was eerily similar to a murder case that left investigators stumped a few years earlier. In 2000, cops found the body of Dariusz Janiszewski in a river after having been starved and tortured. He was also tied up.
"Part of the rope, which appeared to have been cut with a knife, had once connected his hands to his neck, binding the man in a backward cradle, an excruciating position—the slightest wiggle would have caused the noose to tighten further," David Gann wrote in the New Yorker.
When Detective Jacek Wroblewski took over the case in 2003, he traced a suspicious call made to the victim's office right before the murder to a cell phone purchased by Krystian Bala, which the author later sold on eBay. Wroblewski began researching Bala, and read Amok. Per the New Yorker, "[He] was struck, in particular, by the killer’s method: 'I tightened the noose around her neck.'" The book couldn't be used as evidence, but it led Wroblewski to other clues, and eventually Bala was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the murder. During his hearing, the judge noted, "There are certain shared characteristics between the book's narrator and the author."
Before Anne Perry became a best-selling crime novelist, she spent five years in prison for the murder of her best friend's mom. Born Juliet Hulme, the 15-year-old was found guilty of bludgeoning Honora Parker to death, along with the woman's 16-year-old daughter, Pauline Parker.
The bloody crime occurred in 1954 after Hulme's parents told her they were getting a divorce and shipping her off to South Africa to live with an aunt. Having developed a close bond with Parker, Hulme thought they could leave New Zealand together, but Parker's mother Honora refused.
"Her refusal triggered Parker's murderous rage and Hulme believed she owed it to her friend to help lure Mrs. Parker to a Christchurch park and cosh her with a brick in a stocking," the Guardian reports.
After her release, Hulme moved to Scotland and reinvented herself as a crime novelist, changing her name to Anne Perry and going on to publish roughly 40 books. Her true identity was only outed in 1994 after Peter Jackson made Heavenly Creatures, a film based on the real-life events.
According to a 60 Minutes interview from 2012, Perry believes she paid her debt to society, saying, “One needs to pay, when you know you’re in the wrong. Then you can leave it behind you. It’s not a terrible thing, it’s a good thing, it’s a healing thing, to pay, and then leave it behind you."
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