Your Top Comments (April 10th)

Sharing readers’ comments to my recent true crime stories

I’m trying to write one story a week here at Medium. I’m no longer focused solely on stories about the Manson Family, but on a spectrum of true crime narratives.

I’d also like to share some of my readers’ comments.

In my most recent story I talked about the case of the West Memphis Three, and of a mystery suspect that has never been identified.

To remind you, three 8-year old boys were found murdered in May 1993 in a waterway in West Memphis, Arkansas. They had been hogtied, tortured and then drowned after going missing around 7pm the night before.

Reader Rebecca Earl noted:

Good point, Rebecca. Abuse in the home could be the reason why Chris was no longer responding to his prescribed ADHD medication and was showing signs of behavior changes. If he was experiencing physical, emotional or sexual abuse (none of which we have specific evidence of) this might have made Chris unable to properly communicate with medical professionals, to help them understand what was happening.

There was also evidence that Chris’ mother Melissa, who died less than a year after her son of uncertain causes, might also have been abused. The coroner found signs of multiple drug intoxication, needle marks, bruising and other physical marks on her body. When the EMTs showed up to the Byers’ home after being called to assist an unresponsive woman, they noted a cup of whitish-looking liquid near her bed and wondered if it contained narcotics mixed into fluid. Could she had been given an overdose in her drinking water? Was Mark Byers, Chris’s stepfather, abusive?

Rebecca also wondered:

This is an excellent point! I admit, I hadn’t considered the possibility that the reason the boys were out as late as they were (7pm when at least one — Stevie Branch — was told to be home by 4:30pm) was because they were considering running away. Could Chris have decided to take off, but when his friends came back on their bikes, he either talked them into leaving with him or at least confided his intentions to run away?

Wondering if anyone out there has seen speculation about the runaway angle of this case?

Thank you to Rebecca Earl for both of these thought-provoking questions!

For my story about singer Mia Zapata , who also died in 1993, reader John McCormick was not so thoughtful:

Gee John, I guess you didn’t read where I explained that I saw Mia and her boyfriend come into the restaurant where we both worked, and my comment that he was “much older” older than Mia was based on my personal observation.

It always amuses me when readers criticize my writing. Especially when they offer none of their own. I have no problem with those who may not care for my style of writing, or who dispute the information I provide (after all, true crime cases have a lot of speculation and often inaccuracies) but John’s eleven word criticism of one comment in my article seems intended to score points, and misses the mark.

For my story about the stabbing death of Nancy Spungen and my ruminations on whether it was really her boyfriend, Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, who killed her, readers responded to the fact that Sid himself later died of an overdose, given to him by his own mother.

Reader Chris Pratt-Scanlon’s comment above is indicative of the way that I also felt about Vicious. Whether he was the one who killed Nancy, it seems clear that he was not well-suited for fame or longevity. He began using drugs as a teen with his own mum, and when he took up with Nancy Spungen, it was certainly a recipe for disaster.

Like me, Chris took the approach that even a suspect is a human, and found compassion for that person regardless of that guilt or innocent. Thank you, Chris!

For my story about Elisa Lam, the young woman from Vancouver who disappeared in Los Angeles and was later found dead in the water tower of the downtown hotel in Los Angeles where she was staying, I had a number of comments.

One of those comments, which I won’t post, was from a reader who took offense to the ways that I categorized some of Lam’s behavior in regards to her mental health illness. The response was a lengthy argument about the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, a condition that the reader herself acknowledges she has been diagnosed with. There were several points in her statement that I responded to, to clarify. I understood, however, that this was a sensitive matter and wished her ongoing success with her treatment.

But there were two comments from other readers that I did wish to share here:

Tatiana Santana is another true crime writer here at Medium. (Love your page layout, Tatiana!) She concurred with my assessment that Elisa’s death was likely not the result of criminal intent but that the Cecil Hotel still bears investigating. After all, they were aware that Elisa was having a mental health crisis (she originally checked into a shared hostel-room and after a few days her roommates complained to the staff, who moved the young Canadian woman to a private room; AND front desk personnel personally witnessed Ms. Lam speaking and behaving irrationally in the lobby) — while they may not have been civilly (or criminally) liable for her death, it doesn’t mean they don’t bear any responsibility for what happened while she was occupying one of their rooms.

But my favorite comment from the past week came from reader anna/vacek:

Touché, anna, touché! You win the week in comments for giving me a giggle.

Readers: please continue to share your thoughts, comments, ideas and inspiration on my articles. Even your criticisms are welcome — as long as they’re kind and constructive.

Don’t murder anyone, y’all…

H. Allegra Lansing is the author of the true crime book The Manson Family: More to the Story ©2019 Swann Publications.

Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series.

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