True Crime Raises Issue of Violence Against Women

Nearly thirty years ago, while camping in Cline Falls, Oregon, two 19-year-old Yale undergraduates were assaulted by a man dressed as a cowboy. He drove over their tent in the middle of the night, and then attacked them with an ax, causing severe injuries. Many people within the community had strong suspicions about the man’s identity, but none of them came forward. The crime was never solved. Now one of the women, Terri Jentz, has written a memoir about her ordeal: Strange Piece of Paradise. When Jeff Baker interviewed Jentz for the Oregonian a couple of weeks ago, she told him she didn’t identify the cowboy in the book because she didn’t want to feed into a celebrity culture of “charismatic villains.” Rather, she wanted the incident to be viewed in the larger context of how violence is dealt with by communities.

Also in the Oregonian, George Rede, who thirty years ago covered the case as a young reporter for The Bulletin in Bend, shares his thoughts in an opinion piece:

[H]ere’s my mea culpa. I wish I had done more to write about the Cline Falls attack as more than just a crime story. I wish I had thought to report with more context to the broader issue of random violence.

I wish I had thought to interview the crew of young emergency room nurses who saw themselves in Terri Jentz and her college roommate.

I wish I had pried myself away from the office phone in Bend and driven up the road to Redmond to interview townspeople who had suspicions about one of their own.

I wish I had been more aggressive in asking state and local police about their investigative methods and lack of suspects.

For God’s sake, I wish I had gone out to Cline Falls to see the crime scene for myself. It astounds me that I didn’t — and that my editors didn’t suggest or insist that I do so.

Lastly, in the New York Times, Mary Roach has this to say in her review: “Imagine that it had been Truman Capote himself who’d been savaged in Holcomb, Kan., and that he had survived to describe his ordeal. That is the level of command and sinew at work in the writing.”