In With One Shot: Family Murder and a Search for Justice, Dorothy Marcic writes about her own four-year investigation of the 1970 murder of her favorite uncle, Laverne Stordock. On the surface, the case seemed simple. In a quiet town south of Madison, Wisconsin, on a cold winter night, her uncle’s second wife, Suzanne, confessed to shooting the career policeman and combat veteran with his own military-style Mauser rifle, killing him with a single shot. She pleaded guilty by reason of temporary insanity, claiming her husband had abused her. She spent eleven months in a psychiatric hospital before being released.
Marcic’s traumatized family was outraged when she was released and then inherited all her late husband’s assets, cutting out even his daughter, Shannon. Suzanne disappeared from Wisconsin, and they lost all track of her and her children from three previous marriages. But they never believed Suzanne had been able to kill an experienced policeman with one clean shot to the head from a heavy rifle. They never believed Suzanne was insane or her claims that Vernie had abused her.
In 2014, Marcic got a call from her cousin, Vernie’s only child. Shannon had discovered that Suzanne was living in a small town near Chattanooga, Tennessee, with a daughter, Louisa, from her first marriage and son David from her second. (A third child, Daniel, had died in 1992 of a drug overdose.) Over the decades she had earned a bachelor’s degree, a Ph.D., and a law degree, and she had married a fifth husband.
This discovery launched Marcic, a playwright and professor of management at Columbia University, on a four-year investigation of the cold case. Marcic interviewed hundreds of people, including Suzanne herself. She became close to David, although she had long suspected him of being the one who had actually fired the gun that night.
The discrepancies between Suzanne’s version of the events and the police and coroner’s reports, along with the disappearance of crucial evidence from the state prosecutor’s office, suggested a cover-up. As the facts began to coalesce, Marcic uncovered a disturbing pattern of mysterious deaths in Suzanne’s past-deaths which combined to enrich her to the tune of $1.2 million in 2018 dollars. “If she had been born fifty years later, Suzanne could have been a CEO,” Marcic writes. “She knew how to plan for the future and how to maximize resources. Each of her husbands had more status and financial potential than the previous one. The tapestry of her life seemed to be woven around ambition.”
Marcic began to study psychopathology and found that female serial killers generally commit murder for the sake of personal profit and tend to stick to family members. There is often a significant gap between one murder and the next. “Because she will wait for years for the need to destroy someone else,” Marcic writes, “people don’t often see the pattern of killing.”
In this fast-paced true-crime investigation, Marcic patiently unravels the patterns in Suzanne’s life. The picture that emerges is both chilling and fascinating. Marcic’s conclusions may be colored by family feeling, but her narrative is compelling and her interpretation of the facts persuasive.
Lyda Phillips is a veteran journalist who grew up in Memphis and has earned degrees from Northwestern, Columbia, and Vanderbilt universities. The author of two young-adult novels, she worked for United Press International before returning to Nashville.
Tagged: Book Reviews, Nonfiction