I am pleased to host an extract from Kate Moretti's new book In Her Bones as part of the #InHerBones blog tour.
Excerpt from The Serrated Edge: The Story of Lilith Wade, Serial Killer, by E. Green, RedBarn Press, copyright June 2016
Some people will argue that Lilith Wade killed for love. More accurately, her killings were all rage-induced as a direct result of sleeping with married or soon-to-be-married men. She would not speak directly to us but has given various accounts of the sequence of events. The following transcript is taken from police and psychiatric interviews, all published and footnoted.
My mam always said the only thing that mattered was keeping a husband. Her whole life was lived for him, until they died together ’n left me alone, which if she had to pick is how she woulda picked anyhow. I ain’t nothing but living competition to her. He was a snake, that one, my father, I guess, though I never called him that. Never called him much of ’nything to ’is face. [Psy. Case Stu. 2004 Jul;19:310–12]
Lilith Wade broke the serial killer mold on several fronts. She was female, of course; the majority of serial killers are men. She behaved more like a “mass murderer” who kills primarily to right a perceived wrong, except in her case, the wrong was personal, not societal. She did not kill for sexual gratification, like Ted Bundy or Dennis Rader. When asked why she killed six women, all wives or fiancées of men she’d seduced, she simply shrugged and said, “Because they deserved it.” She was also one of the least prolific serial killers. Officials do not believe there are unaccounted-for murders.
“She’d laugh, you know? She said she didn’t kill them all. I took that to mean she didn’t kill all the wives of men she’d seduced. From what we’ve been able to gather, she was sexually active after her shift at the bar,” says Dr. Phyllis Bond, a psychiatrist who has studied Lilith Wade extensively, referencing her case in her recently released case files nonfiction title, Serial Criminals, New York: Pinkerton Press, 2014. “We do not understand why she ‘picked’ these women, specifically, to kill.”
Bond goes on to say, “No one has been able to get what happened in the house she grew up in out of Lilith definitively. She shows an incredible amount of rage toward her mother. She is very clear about her father. He raped her, regularly. I once asked her if she blamed her mother for all the hell her father put her through. If she was angry that her mother never protected her. She laughed. ‘Protect me? That bitch would no sooner protect me than . . . well, let’s just say she called me his little whore, that’s all.’ I’ll never forget the way she laughed. You have to remember, she was ten when her parents died. What kind of person calls a nine-year-old a whore?”
Experts note that a key component in the characterization of a serial killer is repeated killings, spaced months or years apart, with a “return to normalcy” in the downtimes. Lilith Wade’s normalcy was highlighted by bouts of mental illness, even once an institutionalization. Most serial killers have severe personality disorders but not necessarily a mental illness diagnosis. Lilith Wade had both.
Many psychiatrists have argued over Wade’s various mental illness and personality disorder diagnoses. She has been labeled with borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder, as well as bipolar disorder with delusions, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and severe depression. One prominent psychiatrist argued that Wade held no mental illness diagnoses at all, save for her personality disorders, because she was “devoid of emotion.” This assessment has been largely discredited. Some of these diagnoses also conflict with one another, which makes a formal assessment difficult to obtain.
Serial killers, by nature, have learned to camouflage themselves. They are charming, well spoken, manipulative. Lilith Wade displayed all these traits when she worked at the bar, Drifter’s. They can shape-shift into regular people on instinct.
Mitchell Cook, husband of victim Penelope Cook, gave one interview where he said this of Lilith:
She could charm the pants off a snake. She looked at you like you were the only one in the room. Like you were interesting. She was just so goddamn interested in everything you had to say. In my whole life, no one has ever thought I was that funny, that smart. She made you feel like a hero, you know? She was damaged, too, you could tell. That combination, though? Beautiful, damaged, and intensely interested? It could lure anyone. People forget that, when they talk about her. That she was pretty.
This is not an uncommon description of Lilith Wade. Her coworkers and acquaintances describe someone who was always intensely interested in whomever she was talking to. She asked detailed, almost prying questions. She is described as having trouble with boundaries.
After an accident involving her neighbor’s daughter, whom Wade’s tweenaged daughter was tasked with babysitting, Linda Reston said that Wade brought her flowers.
“She’d always ask about Hazel. Was she doing okay? Was there anything they could do? She was so concerned,” says Reston.
But Yolanda Fink, another neighbor in Faithful, Pennsylvania, only says this:
Lilith Wade was not a mother to those children. They ran feral from May to September. Half the time I fed them. They hung out on the steps with my boy, and Mrs. Wade paid them no mind until she wanted or needed something. Everyone said she looked at you like she cared, but I saw right through her. She didn’t care about anyone but herself. She wasn’t caring, she was calculating. Always wanted to know: What could you do for her?-->
In Her Bones by Kate Moretti published by Titan Books
Fifteen years ago, Lilith Wade was arrested for murdering six women. After a death row conviction and media frenzy, her daughter Edie is just trying to survive out of the spotlight, but has a disturbing secret: an obsession with the families of Lilith's victims. Then one man is found murdered and she becomes the prime suspect. Edie remembers nothing of the night of the murder, and must get to the truth before the police-or the real killer-find her.