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About John Ferak
A native of Joliet, Illinois, John Ferak returned to his roots in 2017 to become the editor/reporter for the Joliet Patch. He previously spent five years with the Wisconsin Investigative Team for USA TODAY NETWORK and nine years in Nebraska at the Omaha World-Herald newspaper.
He is an authority on wrongful arrest and conviction cases. His 2016 book for WildBlue Press, FAILURE OF JUSTICE, chronicled the nation’s largest wrongful conviction case. His first book, BLOODY LIES told the story about a CSI director who went to prison for planting blood in high-profile Nebraska murder cases. Ferak's fifth true-crime book, WRECKING CREW: Demolishing The Case Against Steven Avery, is being published through Colorado-based WildBlue Press on November 20, 2018.
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In this thrilling true crime book, bestselling and award-winning author John Ferak explores the murder, investigation, trial, conviction and eventual exoneration—the largest such ever in the United States—of the Beatrice 6.
On February 5, 1985, one of the coldest nights on record, Beatrice, Nebraska widow Helen Wilson was murdered inside her second-floor apartment. The news of six arrests was absolutely stunning to the locals in this easy-going, blue-collar community of 12,000 residents. But why were six loosely connected misfits who lived as far away as Alabama, Colorado and North Carolina being linked to the rape and murder of a beloved small-town widow?
After all six of the condemned were convicted of murder and sent away to prison for the ghastly crime, the town moved on, convinced that justice was served. For more than twenty-five years, the Beatrice 6 rotted in prison, until the unthinkable occurred in 2008 . . .
In Failure of Justice, John Ferak delivers a “riveting account . . . [of] an overzealous police investigation that generated false confessions and false evidence. The unbelievable story of the Beatrice 6 provides a wake-up call at a time when serious wrongful convictions continue to come to light with disturbing frequency” (Brandon L. Garrett, Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law).
“One of the most bizarre stories I’ve ever heard of.”—Burl Barer, Edgar Award-winning true-crime author, host of Outlaw radio’s True Crime Uncensored
Scott and Dixie Shanahan lived in a gray ranch along Third Avenue in the sleepy Midwestern town of Defiance, Iowa. With a population of less than 400, everyone in Defiance knew the home for its recurring episodes of screaming, mayhem, and horrific domestic violence.
Then one day, Scott Shanahan was gone. Some thought the abusive husband had packed his bags and left town. After months went by with still no sign of the volatile wife beater, people began to ask questions. But what really happened to him was so shocking that even long-time law enforcement officials were aghast by the sight and awful smell. When Dixie was arrested for Scott’s murder, she made a credible claim of self-defense. But how did she manage to live with her husband’s rotting body inside her master bedroom for fourteen months?
In Dixie’s Last Stand, investigative journalist John Ferak explores a tragic tale of marital abuse to ask: did Dixie Shanahan deserve to be convicted of murder?
The award-winning journalist and author of Dixie’s Last Stand delves into a troubling murder trial gone wrong in this “superbly crafted” true crime (Jim Hollock, author of Born to Lose).
When Jessica O'Grady met Christopher Edwards, she was a starry-eyed Nebraska college girl in search of Mr. Right—and Edwards had a dark and deceitful soul. In May of 2006, Jessica's mystifying disappearance and a blood-soaked mattress sparked a state-wide media frenzy. Enter Douglas County Sheriff's CSI stalwart Dave Kofoed, a man so driven to solve high-profile murders that he had twice before planted false evidence.
With public pressure high, Kofoed knew he had to act fast. But while Edwards was known to be the prime suspect, the baffling disappearance of the body and weapon made his guilt nearly impossible to prove. And when Edwards finally did face trial, his defense had questions about the forensic evidence used against their client. In Body of Proof, investigative journalist John Ferak explores why “the case of Jessica O’Grady’s disappearance remains controversial” in this “compelling account” (Peter Vronsky, author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters).
A “fascinating” deep dive into the Making a Murderer case. “Get ready to change your mind or be more convinced than ever”(Steve Jackson, New York Times bestselling author).
In 2016-17, while working for the USA Today Network’s Wisconsin Investigative Team, author John Ferak wrote dozens of articles examining the murder case again Steven Avery, who had already beat one wrongful conviction only to be charged with the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005. The case became the wildly successful Netflix Making A Murderer documentary.
In Wrecking Crew: Demolishing the Case Against Steven Avery, Ferak lays out in exacting detail the post-conviction strategy of Kathleen Zellner, the high-profile, high-octane lawyer, to free Avery. To write this book, Zellner, perhaps America’s most successful wrongful conviction attorney, gave Ferak unique access to the exhaustive pro bono efforts she and her small suburban Chicago law firm dedicated for a man she believes to be a victim of an unscrupulous justice system in Manitowoc County.
In the summer of 1983, an elusive serial killer stalked the blue-collar industrial city of Joliet, Illinois. One overnight killing spree took five victims, including members of the Will County Sheriff’s Office. The following month brought a quadruple murder inside a shop known for its pottery classes.
The plague of violence sparked the controversial New York City-based Guardian Angels to descend on Joliet, generating more unwanted media attention for the community. The National Enquirer labeled Joliet “Terror Town, U.S.A.”
With an arrest that seemed to come out of nowhere, authorities linked their suspect to a chilling fourteen homicides, plus three women who miraculously survived their agonizing encounters. But with multiple murder trials on the horizon, it remained anyone’s guess whether Milton Johnson was guilty of mass murder and if so, would he die by means of lethal injection at the Illinois Department of Corrections?