Archive for the ‘organized crime’ Category

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 29, 2017

Former Chicago Outfit Mobster Implicates Tony Spilotro in Numerous Unsolved Murders

DENVER, May 28, 2017:

“…There are probably more killings I don’t know about,” wrote former Chicago Outfit hitman Frank Cullotta in his new book The Rise and Fall of a ‘Casino’ Mobster. The killer he referenced was Tony Spilotro, one of the Outfit’s most notorious enforcers.

Cullotta’s book implicates Spilotro in over twenty murders—most of them still thought of as usnolved. But in Cullotta’s mind, Spilotro was the clear culprit.

One of the murders Cullotta attributed to Spilotro is former Chicago police officer Richard Cain. In his book, Cullotta wrote:

Some called him [Cain] the most corrupt cop in Chicago history because he was also a hit man for the Outfit… In late December 1973, while I was locked up in the federal prison in Terre Haute, the story broke that Cain was murdered in Chicago on December 20 in Rosie’s Sandwich Shop at 1117 West Grand Avenue. Reports were that three masked gunmen entered Rosie’s and shot him twice in the head with a shotgun at close range, virtually decapitating him.

During one of the many conversations I had with Tony after I got out of prison in 1974, Cain’s murder came up. Tony said, “You were in jail with him weren’t you?”

“Yeah, we were in Cook County together for a while. Why?”

“What did that jackoff have to say?”

“Not much, Tony. He was a real quiet guy, but I knew he was tight with Giancana [Outfit Boss] and Willie Potatoes [Outfit big shot William Daddano]. I had a connection with the deputy warden and got him to give Cain extra visits with his wife, and we teased him about the bathrobe he always wore. Other than that, I don’t remember much about him.”

Tony laughed. “Me, the Little Guy, and the German [Frankie Schweihs] whacked him.”

I was surprised he said it like that, kind of a boast. It made sense, though. As I said, Tony came to my mind as one of the hitters as soon as I heard about the murder. I assumed the “Little Guy” Tony mentioned was Saint. He and Tony did a lot of things together, and Saint was the only guy Tony worked with who was shorter than he was.

Was Tony just blowing smoke that day for some reason?

My money is on he was telling the truth.

“Oftentimes mob hits go unsolved because no one’s willing to talk,” said WildBlue Press co-owner and New York Times bestselling author Steve Jackson. “But Cullotta is done covering for Spilotro, for Giancana, for all those guys. The book truly exposes one of Chicago’s most dangerous eras.”

The Rise and Fall of a ‘Casino’ Mobster is now available from WildBlue Press. Promotions for the book will take place in Chicago this summer. To arrange an interview with the author, please contact WildBlue Press at Promos@WildBluePress.com.

Frank Cullotta is a former enforcer for the Chicago Outfit. He is now an author and has been involved in making documentaries. In 2012, he was inducted into the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.

Dennis N. Griffin is an award winning true crime author, focusing on organized crime in Las Vegas and the Tony Spilotro era in particular. His books have been the basis for multiple organized crime documentaries, and he has frequently been a featured speaker at the Las Vegas-Clark County Library’s Mob Month.

Contact:

Michael Cordova

promos@wildbluepress.com

(303) 744-2178

Note: Review copies of this book are available by emailing promos@wildbluepress.com. Interviews can also be arranged with the authors. Please include your mailing address and note the web address where you post your reviews/interviews. Thank you.

 

 

 

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Meeting Frank Cullotta

May 25, 2017

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Jim Cooley describes meeting Frank Cullotta
Meeting Frank
I sat with my head on a pivot and my heart in my chest. It was early for me as I was up late the night before announcing an MMA event in this amazingly over-the-top town, Las Vegas. I was not sure what to expect or how to act. What do I say to him? What will he ask me? My friends had made the usual sarcastic comments upon hearing of who I was meeting. Things like, “Don’t go to his car with him,” and “Don’t make him angry.” I laughed and smiled, but it did get me thinking. Of course they were only joking and he was not going to kill me. Yet, I still had no idea what to expect.
My line of work brings me into contact with some very famous people. I have enjoyed a casual cocktail with people like Mike Tyson and interviewed A-list celebrities including actors, athletes and musicians on numerous occasions. Having traveled all over the United States while announcing in front of huge raucous crowds, I have come into contact with people from every walk of life. It has given me a unique perspective on people and left me almost numb when in the face of fame and celebrity, as a result I rarely get nervous or flustered in any situation. I consider myself cool and collected and a bit of a chameleon. I can attend an event with outlaw bikers at their clubhouse in the afternoon and in the evening go to a black tie affair with someone like Evander Holyfield. From a t-shirt and jeans to a suit and tie, I am thoroughly comfortable around any person from any culture.
I found out very quickly though, that nothing had prepared me for this day. This was not breakfast with a celebrated athlete or a first meeting with a well-known actor. This was a meal with an admitted killer. A sit down, so to speak, with a real-life Mafioso.
I was sitting in a half circle booth waiting for the gangster who once ran Vegas. The man who stood up and did not back down from the very Mob he was part of when his life was on the line. The restaurant was a who’s who of Vegas stereotypes. There were the locals who looked like they could have eaten in this place every day, the ones who smoke cigarette after cigarette and sit in front of a video poker machine with dreams of wealth. There were tourists who were taking in the scenery of this storied restaurant while having their photos taken by the staff. There were the twenty something weekend warriors who had clearly had a bit too much to drink the night before and were hoping to find solace and headache relief in mimosas and scrambled eggs. Perhaps they had received their hangover from the bar in this very building. The one that was recognizable to anyone who has seen the movie Casino. This was the Peppermill in Las Vegas and I was here to meet him.
To say I was nervous would be a serious understatement. Truth be told, I was more nervous than I can ever recall being at any time when meeting another human being. However, that is exactly what I had to remind myself of, this is a human being, a man just like me. His past is just that, his past. The difference was this was a man I had studied; a man I had wanted to meet for some time. This was a man whose books had intrigued me and left me wanting more of the story. As I pondered all of this in my head I happened to look up and I saw a figure making his way toward the booth. He was graying but somehow still seemed young and spry. A shorter than average man who obviously had lived his life to the fullest, yet he was still stout and solid. At 78 years old you would assume he was past his prime, but upon seeing him I was not sure that was true. On any other day I would say this was merely an older gentleman who happened to be a snappy dresser. However, this gentleman was different. Once known for being a feared fighter, a stone killer and a master thief who had connections to the storied Chicago Outfit. Best friend and cohort of famed Mob enforcer Tony “The Ant” Spilotro. I had seen this man’s life play out on the silver screen. I had read of his experiences in books and been amazed at the life he had lived. This however, was no book, nor movie, this was real life.
As he approached the table I stood up to greet him. Keep in mind I am six foot two inches tall and weigh 240 pounds. As an ex bouncer and mixed martial artist I do not rattle easily. But at this moment none of that mattered. I was scared. I was intimidated. This man was probably 7 or 8 inches shorter than me and 32 years my senior. Yet I was close to puking from nerves. Just as I felt I was going to stumble over my words and come off like a blundering idiot fan boy, Frank Cullotta reached out his hand and said “You must be Jim.” His smile and demeanor were very disarming. All of the sudden I was comfortable. I was relaxed as we sat for our meal. I had been worried over nothing. This was not the 70s or the 80s, this was 2016 and Frank Cullotta was a different person. A Las Vegas Mob Tour guide and an author with a family and a contagious smile.
Over the next couple of hours, we shared stories and he told me things I never knew about the Chicago Outfit, his life and the mafia in general. I was enthralled. Not only was I sharing a meal with the former “Boss of Vegas,” but very quickly I realized something. This man was an encyclopedia of organized crime. In addition to living it and being there he also had clearly studied and in the process become one of the most knowledgeable people I had ever come across on his chosen subject. I have heard the so called “Experts” speak and have learned what I could from them. But it is apples and oranges between these guys and Frank.
My belief has always been that reading a book written by an expert on a subject is the quickest way to gain facts. However, reading a book written by someone who lived the material is life- changing and the quickest way to feel the history. In this case, when you read a Frank Cullotta book you have the unusual advantage of being treated to both. A man who lived it and is also an expert on the topic. This is the reason I maintain that reading a Frank Cullotta book is a must for any mafia fan (for lack of a better term), true crime buff or those just intrigued by biographies and history. This man doesn’t just write about history he is a living piece of history and is an expert at sharing it in the most creative and engaging ways. I left that day feeling like I had been one of the luckiest people alive. I had the opportunity to break bread with and learn about one of the most interesting figures alive today.
In the past year I have become friends with Frank and I consider him to be one of the most genuine and honest men I have ever met. He has given me life advice, shared with me things he has not to my knowledge even written in his various books. Hell, the guy even flirted with my mother right in front of me! It was tongue in cheek and I took it as such, but that is Frank You never know what you will get. He is all at once funny, intriguing and real. So if this is not your first Cullotta authored book then you know what to expect, unbelievable stories, amazing insight into the world of organized crime and the history of both Chicago and Las Vegas all rolled into one. Comedy mixed in with heart pounding drama and a historical account of when organized crime ruled the United States.
In his new book, The Rise And Fall Of A ‘Casino’ Mobster, Frank tells his the inside story of Tony Spilotro and the days when they ran Las Vegas. In the process he names the killers in many murders that are currently listed as unsolved. So get the book and sit back and enjoy as you delve into the mind of a gentleman, a family man, a thief, a killer, and a man who today has nothing to hide.
Jim Cooley “The Voice Of Champions”
VOC NETWORK
(925) 389-0138
www,lastroundpod.com

 

The Process

May 9, 2017

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After writing three manuscripts with Frank Cullotta, we have developed a process that allows us to write efficiently although we are 2,500 miles apart. Our primary tool is Free Conference Call (FCC). It’s a free program with many features, but I only use it for calls with more than three participants or if I want the call recorded, which is the case with Frank.

The way it works is that Frank makes notes of what he wants to talk about in a particular chapter. When he finishes putting his ideas on paper we schedule a day and time to get together on FCC and I activate the recorder. We go through his notes item by item. He lays out the bones and I ask him questions that will put the flesh on them.

When we’ve completed Frank’s list and I’ve elicited all the information I can from him, the ball is in my park. I do the necessary research to verify Frank’s information, such as finding newspaper articles or TV news clips that verify dates and the correct spelling of the names of persons involved with the specific incidents. As part of the process I replay our recording several times to make sure I haven’t missed anything and run any questions past Frank via phone or email.

When I’m satisfied I have sufficient and accurate information I begin the writing. I do a first draft and email it to Frank for his review. We go back and forth until he is satisfied that each event has been described as he remembers it; and I’m satisfied that I have ample corroboration.

However, there are times when available corroboration is lacking or it doesn’t precisely match Frank’s memory. When that happens we talk it over and decide what to do. If it is a minor detail that is not critical to the story, we will likely simply omit it. If it is something that needs to be included I’ll insert wording such as “approximately,” “around that time,” or “to the best of my recollection.”

When the first draft is completed we do a read through via telephone. Frank focuses primarily on the accuracy of the information while I look for organization, grammar, typos, etc. Depending on how many problems we find, the read through may take two or three sessions.

After that process is over I do a solo read through and then send the manuscript to one or more proofreaders I have confidence in. Upon making any suggested corrections or changes they find, it’s time to start submitting to a publisher.

 

The Rise And Fall Of A ‘Casino’ Mobster

April 28, 2017

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My latest book, The Rise And Fall Of A ‘Casino’ Mobster, has been released. Following is the background leading up to writing the book.

I first spoke with Frank Cullotta by phone in 2005 while doing research for my book The Battle for Las Vegas. The following year we met in person in Las Vegas and agreed to co-author Frank’s biography, CULLOTTA. Although Tony Spilotro, Frank’s one-time friend and criminal associate, was frequently mentioned in that book, it was Frank’s story. In 2013 Frank and I conspired on another book, Hole In The Wall Gang, which also included Tony but was again, Frank’s story.

In 2015 Frank asked me if I’d be interested in doing another book with him. He explained that he was getting up in age and wanted to set the record straight about Tony Spilotro—to correct the misinformation about Tony that is out there and provide his personal insights about the man, his rise in the Chicago crime family called the Outfit, his fall from grace and ultimate murder by his former associates.

Thinking I already knew pretty much all there was to know about Tony; I interrupted Frank and expressed my concerns.

He said this book would be different, though, in that the focus would be on Tony and not him. It would include his personal knowledge and beliefs about murders that Tony committed, ordered, planned or was a suspect in. Much of that information would be disclosed for the first time—even to me—and several of the murders he’d discuss are still officially unsolved.

I was intrigued, but pointed out that several killings had been covered in CULLOTTA and Hole In The Wall Gang and I didn’t want to just do a rehash of what we’d already written. Frank said that although it would be necessary to talk about some of those killings again because they are part of Tony’s history, he assured me that anyone who read the book (including law enforcement) would learn a lot.

In addition to clarifying Tony’s role in various killings, Frank said he wanted to discuss the details of Tony’s own murder which were revealed in the Family Secrets trial in 2007. During that trial one of the killers took the stand and explained exactly how Tony and his brother Michael were murdered. Frank also said he planned to provide the inside story of Tony’s racketeering mistrial in 1986. Finally, the book would contain Frank’s opinion on how Tony’s poor decisions and ill-advised actions contributed to the Chicago Outfit losing control of Sin City. I told Frank I was in.

During the writing process I learned the rest of the story about Tony Spilotro’s rise from a Mob wannabe to a feared enforcer and boss. I also gained a better understanding of how his weakness for women and his quest for money and power eventually contributed to the Mob’s ouster from Las Vegas, and in the end cost him his life.

I’m glad I didn’t turn this project down.

The Rise And Fall Of A ‘Casino’ Mobster

March 16, 2017

Tony Spilotro was very popular with the ladies, as shown in the movie Casino. In fact, his many affairs cost him some difficult times with his wife Nancy. And one affair in particular, his involvement with Geri Rosenthal, contributed to his death.

The Mob frowned on its members and associates fooling around with the wives of other mobsters. Lefty Rosenthal was running Chicago’s Mob-controlled casinos that were generating millions of dollars for the Midwest bosses. Tony compounded that sin by letting news of the affair get into the newspapers, a definite no-no to an organization committed to flying below the radar. As Tony’s friend Frank Cullotta said about Tony, “When one head gets hard the other goes soft.”

You can read more about Tony and how his poor decisions contributed to the Mob losing control of Vegas in my new book, The Rise And Fall Of A ‘Casino’ Mobster, scheduled for  release on April 26, by WildBlue Press.

Las Vegas & the Mob

March 5, 2017

In the 1970s several organized crime families had illegal business interests in Sin City. The most powerful operation there was run by the Chicago Outfit. The main earner for the mobsters was known as the skim, which was simply the removal of large amounts of cash from the casinos before it was recorded as revenue and transporting it back to the Midwest crime bosses.

In 1971 the Outfit sent one of its most fearsome enforcers, Tony Spilotro, to Vegas to make sure everything ran smoothly and any problems that arose would be dealt with swiftly, using any means necessary. Tony was a good choice or so it seemed. But his Vegas reign was marked by his thirst for power, weakness for women, and poor decisions that eventually cost the Mob its control over Vegas.

The Spilotro was dramatized in the blockbuster 1995 movie Casino, in which Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony. The film received accolades for its accuracy. One of the reasons for its realism was that director Martin Scorsese hired a man named Frank Cullotta as his technical consultant. Frank and Tony had been friends and criminal associates since childhood, and Frank was Tony’s underboss in Vegas – he knew the whole story. As screenwriter Nick Pileggi said, “If not for Frank Cullotta there would have been no Casino.”

For nearly a year Frank and I worked on a book that tells the true story behind the movie, and provides details about several unsolved murders.

That book is currently at the publisher with a tentative release date of April 26. We are planning a kickoff in Vegas shortly after the release. I’ll post more details as they become available.

Meet Burl Barer and Ken Eurell, co-authors of Betrayal In Blue.

February 21, 2017

Crime Wire on February 22.
BETRAYAL IN BLUE: The Shocking Memoir of the Scandal That Rocked The NYPD is the story of Mike Dowd and Ken Eurell, two cops who ran the most powerful gang in New York’s dangerous 75th Precinct, the crack cocaine capitol of 1980s America. These “Cocaine Cops” formed a lucrative alliance with Adam Diaz, the kingpin of an ever-expanding Dominican drug cartel. Soon Mike and Ken were buying fancy cars no cop could afford, and treating their wives to levels of luxury not associated with a patrol officer’s salary.

They were daring, dangerous and untouchable. Then “the biggest police scandal in New York history” exploded into the headlines with the arrest of Mike, Ken, and their fellow crooked cops. Released on bail, Mike offered Ken a long shot at escape to Central America—a bizarre plan involving robbery, kidnapping, and murder—forcing Ken to choose between two forms of betrayal.

Adapted from Ken Eurell’s shocking personal memoir, plus hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with the major players, including former international drug lord, Adam Diaz, BETRAYAL IN BLUE reveals the truth behind what you didn’t see in the hit documentary THE SEVEN FIVE.

9:00 p.m. Eastern at

 

BETRAYAL IN BLUE: The Shocking Memoir of the Scandal That Rocked The NYPD is the story of Mike Dowd and Ken Eurell, two cops who ran the most powerful gang in New York’s dangerous 75th Precinct, the crack cocaine capitol of 1980s America.

Teflon Tony

February 19, 2017

In 1979, the two major agencies investigating Tony Spilotro—the FBI and Las Vegas Metro— resumed cooperating with each other. They both made bringing Spilotro down one of their top priorities. But by that time Tony had already been in Vegas and building his organization for almost eight years and was well entrenched as Sin City’s most powerful mobster. His gang was comprised of top notch professional criminals, and his ferocious reputation discouraged witnesses from coming forward.

In fact, a 1974 study by the Los Angeles Times found that in the three years Tony had been in Vegas, more gangland-style murders had been committed there than in the previous 25 years combined. A casino executive and his wife were gunned down in front of their home, another casino executive was murdered in a parking lot, a prominent lawyer was blown up in his Cadillac, a loan shark victim went missing, and another casino boss was beaten and crippled for life. It didn’t matter whether or not Spilotro was responsible for the violence. People, including the cops, believed he was, and his reputation for viciousness grew.

“Everybody on the Strip is scared to death of the little bastard. He struts in and out of the joints like Little Caesar,” the Los Angeles Times quoted one casino owner as saying at the time. The same piece also quotes a store owner who first met Spilotro when Tony stopped in to buy clothes for his son. “When he came in the store the first time, you almost wanted to pat him on the head, until you looked into his eyes.” Tony’s eyes, described as pale blue and reptilian, looked through people, and not at them. Many who dealt with Tony, including law-enforcement personnel, agreed you could find death in those eyes.

Among the homicides Tony was suspected of being involved in between 1971 and 1975, was the June 23, 1973 murder of William “Red” Klim. A Caesars Palace employee, Klim was shot and killed gangland style in the parking lot of the Churchill Downs Race Book. There were multiple theories regarding scenarios as to the motive for Klim’s murder. One held that the deceased was cooperating with authorities in an investigation of illegal bookmaking that targeted Lefty Rosenthal. Another suggested that the dead man had information pertaining to Spilotro’s implication in a fraud against the Teamsters Pension Fund. Yet another designated Klim as a loanshark who refused to pay the Ant a tribute. All three theories involved Tony either directly or as Rosenthal’s protector.

Although Spilotro was charged with Klim’s murder the following year, the case against him fell apart when witnesses were unable or unwilling to positively identify the killer.

And then there was Marty Buccieri, a pit boss at Caesars Palace and a distant relative of Chicago underboss Fiori “Fifi” Buccieri. He reportedly had connections to most of the Vegas crime figures worth knowing and had used those connections to facilitate the granting of a number of Teamster Pension Fund loans to Allen Glick, CEO of Argent (Allen R. Glick Enterprises), the Outfit-installed owner of the Stardust, Hacienda, Fremont and Marina casinos. In the summer of 1975, law-enforcement sources learned that Buccieri had approached Glick and demanded a $30,000 finder’s fee for his help in obtaining the loans. At one point he’s said to have physically threatened Glick. The Argent boss then informed Lefty Rosenthal—the behind-the-scenes power of the operation—of the incident.

A few days later Buccieri was found shot to death. The law immediately suspected that Tony Spilotro was involved.

Another killing—one that was depicted in the movie Casino—was the November 9, 1975 murder of Tamara Rand, an erstwhile friend and business partner of Allen Glick. She invested heavily in his Vegas casinos and, in spite of having no gaming experience, had signed a contract as a consultant at the Hacienda for $100,000 per year. Rand believed that through investments she had purchased five percent of Glick’s casinos, so when Glick denied such a deal, she filed suit against him for breach of contract and fraud. A court trial could have blown the lid off the mob’s hidden interests in the Las Vegas casinos. Consequently, just days after a bitter argument between her and Glick, Tamara Rand was murdered at her home in San Diego.

Although Tony was a prime suspect in the Rand killing, there was insufficient evidence to charge him with the murder.

As the years passed Tony’s status grew until he was the undisputed king of the Vegas underworld. He knew everything that went on within the Las Vegas criminal element. No one did anything—from contract killings to burglaries, robberies, fencing stolen property, or loan sharking — without his approval and without paying him a monetary tribute where appropriate.

Even before the FBI and Metro launched their cooperative effort, Spilotro had been a target of the agencies at various times. But he had proved to be a worthy adversary. In spite of being almost continuously under investigation, and a suspect in some 25 murders and countless other felonies, Tony conducted his affairs for more than a decade without being convicted of even a minor offense. No matter what the law threw at him, nothing stuck.

Part of the reason for that impressive run could have been his skills and reputation as a criminal. Another likely factor was the legal work done for him by his lawyer, Oscar Goodman. Together, Tony and Oscar, each using his own unique talents, made a team that prosecutors seemed unable to beat.

But as the old saying goes, nothing lasts forever.

 

The Rise and Fall of Tony Spilotro

February 6, 2017

The manuscript is at the publisher and is in the second of three phases of editing. When the editing is completed, the cover will be designed and we’ll go on the production schedule. I’m hoping the book will be released by early May.

Our current plan is to do a kickoff book signing at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.

cruise-mobster

Denny Griffin, true crime author

 

A Mother’s Resolve

February 2, 2017

The Debi Whitlock Case

On March 25, 1988, 32-year-old Debi Whitlock was murdered at her home in Modesto, California. Her throat was slit and her dead body sexually assaulted while her three-year-old daughter slept in a nearby bedroom. Initially, Harold Whitlock, Debi’s husband, was the chief suspect in his wife’s death. But he wasn’t charged and no arrests were made. For the next nine years Debi’s mother, Jacque MacDonald waged a determined but uphill battle to get justice for her daughter.

Jacque knew that the best chance to develop new investigative leads required keeping the case alive in the minds of the public. In order to do that she had to get the media involved. She reached out to programs such as America’s Most Wanted again and again without success. The frustration Jacque experienced could have caused her to give up, to accept that her daughter’s murder might never be solved. It could have, but it didn’t. If anything, she became even more determined.

As she fought to get Debi’s case the attention it deserved, Jacque realized there were probably other parents—she prefers to call them “walking wounded” rather than victims—who were going through the same things she was. To help others she created her own local radio and TV shows called The Victim’s Voice (http://www.mercedcountysmostwanted.org/victimsvoice.html). The show profiled unsolved homicide cases and included interviews with police officials and members of the victim’s family. Jacque felt it was very important to have a family member involved to give a face and voice to their deceased loved one.

Setting up and running her show took a lot of time. But Jacque didn’t let that interfere with her efforts to track down Debi’s killer. She learned what resources were available to her in the community. Among them were the Merced County Victim/Witness Program and Citizens Against Homicide (http://www.citizensagainsthomicide.org). Both proved invaluable to her in her struggle.

Not long afterward Jacque had something she’d long desired. A billboard was put up with Debi’s photo and a plea for help in finding her murderer. Eventually that billboard would pay huge dividends. After that America’s Most Wanted and other national shows picked up the story.

In 1997 Scott Avery Fizzell was arrested for Debi’s murder. The friend of Fizzell who gave the police the information that led to the arrest explained why he finally came forward. Debi’s photo on the billboard haunted him to the point he felt compelled to name the killer. On May 26, 1999 Fizzell pled guilty to the murder.

In addition to accomplishing what she’d set out to do, Jacque’s tenacity earned her the National Crime Victim’s Service Award from the United States attorney general. And in 2009 the story of Debi’s murder and Jacque’s quest was released in a book authored by Debi’s step-daughter, Angela Dove, titled No Room For Doubt (http://www.angeladove.com).