Each month, the True Crime Cases series brings together those into serial killers and unsolved murders to the Laurel County Public Library. Led by library staff member Trish Caudill, attendees examine real criminal cases and the people involved, focusing on criminal psychology, police investigation and trial procedures.
"We started this program in October of 2018. We were looking to do a different kind of book discussion group and I've always been passionate about true crime, so I wanted to try to find a way to merge those two worlds together," Caudill explained.
January saw a look at the death of Rebecca Zahau, who, on July 13, 2011, was found hanging from a balcony of the Spreckles Mansion in Coronado, California. She was nude, gagged with a blue T-shirt and her hands bound behind her back.
The mansion belonged to Zahau's millionaire boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai. Zahau's death occurred two days after Max Shacknai, the 6-year-old son of Jonah, fell down a set of stairs in the mansion and taken to the hospital in critical condition. Max would die from his injuries on July 16, 2011.
San Diego Sheriff's Department ruled Zahau's death a suicide, speculating that she felt guilt over Max's injury. According to investigators, it's not unheard of for those who commit suicide by hanging to tie their hands behind their backs, with Zahau potentially trying to mask the nature of her death. Additionally, the only DNA evidence found belonged to Zahau.
The case faced scrutiny by the media and the public. A civil trial in September of 2011 found Adam Shacknai, the brother of Jonah, responsible for Zahau's death. In February 2019, Adam appealed that judgment. A settlement of $600,000 was reached between the Shacknai and Zahau families.
Participants of the True Crime Cases program met to discuss evidence surrounding the case and their theories as to what happened. A set of discussion questions passed out by Caudill helped spark a conversation among attendees.
"Right now there's a really big growth in the popularity of true crime. I think people want to be part of a community that brings light into situations of missing person cases and unsolved murders. In a lot of situations, when hearing about these cases, it feels like you're sitting back, watching helplessly. The program gives us an outlet to work through that energy."
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, True Crime cases will meet in the Laurel County Public Library auditorium to discuss the disappearances of Sherrill Elizabeth Levitt, Suzanne Elizabeth Streeter and Stacy Kathleen McCall. Referred to as the "Springfield 3," the women went missing on June 7, 1992. Streeter and McCall had made plans to meet with their friend Janell Kirby and travel to Branson, Missouri. They stayed at the home of Streeter's mother, Levitt.
The vehicles of the three women were found still parked at Levitt's home, as were their purses and car keys. $800 was found in Levitt's bag. The bulb on the front porch was broken, but the light was still on. To this day, it's unknown what happened to the three women.
"I welcome anyone and everyone who has any interest to come and hang out with us," said Caudill. "If you're into true crime or just interested in seeing what it's all about, the True Crime Cases program is a great way to get into it."
To ensure enough information and question packets are printed for all who attend, it's asked if you plan to attend that you contact Caudill via her email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the True Crime Cases program or the Laurel County Public Library, visit the library's website at https://www.laurellibrary.org/, or call at (606) 864-5759.