Innocent Victims" recounts the 1997 murder of Eddie Werner, 11, by Sam Manzie, the mentally disturbed 15-year-old victim of 43-year-old pedophile Steve Simmons. It's a remarkably compelling & well-told story & it gets better as it goes along. One theme is the failure of the court system to respond to the warnings & pleas of Manzie's own parents before the murder. The scene where a prosecutor attacks Manzie's mother in court is genuinely enraging--it's an incredible moment that demonstrates how successfully the author pulls the reader into the story. It made me fervently wish the prosecutor lost his job. The real achievement of this book is getting the reader to care about all sides of the case. Brian J. Karem shows the pain & frustrations of both Werner's parents & Manzie's parents excellently, shows the consequences for both sides, the remarkable similarity between their situations. He shows the families' period of feuding in such a way that you don't judge them for hating each other, you empathize for both sides. And Karem goes above & beyond by presenting the pedophile's point of view in spite of its inherent odiousness. He shows who the pedophile is & lets you decide for yourself what to think (it's not a difficult decision). This was a complex case & Karem presents it very clearly, very economically & compellingly in a way that surely even those involved would find strikingly empathetic. The only people who emerge with dignity in this are Ed & Valerie Werner & Nick & Dolores Manzie. The justice system was at its indifferent worst from start to finish. Karem also manages to deal with thoroughly distasteful subjects sensitively. Excellent.
This was a slow read for me. I found it to be very repetitive. Definately not one of my favorites. But worth browsing through.
Great book & hard to put down.
Sam Manzie, 15, was a loner and misfit whose dark fantasies included raping and murdering boys. Unable to make friends his own age, he retreated to the cyber world of internet chat rooms, where he met Steve Simons, 43, a pedophile who preyed on lonely teens. After gaining Manzie's trust, Simmons began sexually abusing his latest conquest, Often photographing him in compromising positions. Filled with te rage of humilation. It was only a matter of time before the troubled teen exploded in a spasm of lust and murder.
In his generically titled true-crimer INNOCENT VICTIMS, Brian J. Karem has melded a tragically murdered 11 year old boy; an angry, mentally ill, and gay 15 year old boy; and a bizarre 44 year old pedophile and created an above average book. Other main players include two devastated and heartbroken families and a police department and legal system in eastern New Jersey in the late 90s that was at once incompetent, insensitive and dishonest. I will not describe the story in further detail so as to avoid spoilers.
Karem's writing, though not exceptional, is fine for what he is doing, which is reporting a crime, the crime which led to the crime, and their legal and social ramifications.
He is essentially objective although he tends to be highly critical of the New Jersey legal system - which is a positive and which adds interest - and for the most part he tells his story well. There are an unfortunate 60 or so pages which deal with the heartbreak and frustration felt by the involved families which quickly become boringly repetitive, and which soon put me in mind of the fine padding in the leather seats of the classic 1955 Lincoln Capri I once owned. But Karem pulls out of this nosedive with a well done segment about a highly interesting courtroom sequence involving the 15 and 44 year olds.
INNOCENT VICTIMS is not must reading, but it is good work and will appeal to a lot of fans of the genre.
Very interesting true crime story...in great shape