The forensic term "serial killer" had yet to be added to our lexicon in 1928. If it had, that term might have been heard at my great-grandmother's second grand jury hearing....
When I discovered that I had an ancestor who had spent the last years of her life in an institution for the criminally insane, I was compelled to determine why, for several reasons. First, because I love a good mystery, and her guilt had never been fully established. Second, because of an admitted romantic notion that I just might clear her name, if that were warranted. And last, because I needed to know more about my history so that I could understand more about myself.
This is a complex and convoluted story, with twists, turns and irony that is so bizarre at times it seems contrived or surreal....
Tainted Legacy is available through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, or direct from Publishamerica.com. To order from the latter, simply go to the website, click on the Online Bookstore tab at the top of the page, and enter S. Kay Murphy into the search box.
What reviewers have said about Tainted Legacy:
Martin Lastrapes, novelist:
Like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, S. Kay Murphy's Tainted Legacy explores the chilling effect of murder in a small, rural town. Unlike Capote, Murphy is not simply a city-slicker fascinated by a brutal crime; she is the great-granddaughter of the accused: Bertha Gifford.
Murphy does a terrific job of pulling you into her world, letting you feel what it's like to discover your great-grandmother might have been a serial killer; with every new discovery, which either brought jubilant triumph or devastating heartbreak, you soon realize that you're on this ride with Murphy, driving cross country to Missouri, contacting descendants of the dead, touring courtrooms and visiting graveyards.
The true victory of this book is Murphy's tireless research and her unflinching search for the truth, even if it brings her answers which she doesn't really want to know.
Denise Cherryholmes, teacher:
S. Kay Murphy takes on the fascinating--if not riveting--unfolding of the murders and suspected murders at the hand of a simply Missouri farmwife--her own great-grandmother. S. Kay Murphy presents the story as it unfolded to her mother and herself during a trip to Missouri uncovering documentation through microfilmed newspaper and magazine articles. This family secret has been kept long enough, and S. Kay Murphy has shaped a brilliant telling of something too long regretted. It is a restoration of the fascinating history and missing pieces for this family and shows how it has shaped the identities of some of the descendants of the killer. A word of caution: don't start it late at night, as you can't put it down and its raw content leads to over-amplification of every tiny sound in the house, tiny hairs standing on end, and a chill running down the spine.
Libby Grandy, writer:
If you discovered that your great-grandmother may have been a serial killer, what woud you do with the information? Keep it a deep dark secret? S. Kay Murphy made the courageous decision to explore her family's history and attempt to uncover the truth.
Bertha Gifford was known for her kindness and devotion to those who were ill. She nursed many members of the community back to health and sat by their bedside as they died. The latter is the controversial focus of the story.
The research is meticulous. Transcripts of the trial of the author's great-grandmother and newspaper articles are reproduced. It is Murphy's skill in reading between the lines, however, that keeps the reader riveted to the page. She leads you through a labyrinth of facts, rumors and sensationalism in the newspapers (not unlike today's media).
The insightful, thoughtful perspective of the author makes this an exceptional book.