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Runaway Devil: How Forbidden Love Drove a 12-Year-Old to Murder Her Family [Hardcover]

Robert Remington , Sherri Zickefoose
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 4 2009
Marc and Debra seemed to have it all — a lovely home in the Prairie town of Medicine Hat, fulfilling careers, a supportive marriage, and two beautiful children: eight-year-old Jacob and twelve-year-old JR. After years of struggle to reach this point, they finally felt their future held promise. But on April 23, 2006, their bodies were discovered in their basement, covered in savage stab wounds. Upstairs, Jacob lay dead on his bed, his toys spattered with blood.

Investigators worried for JR’s safety, but unknown to them, the pretty honour roll student had been developing a disturbing alter ego online. Runaway Devil professed a fondness for a darker world of death metal music, the goth subculture, and a love for Jeremy Steinke, a twenty-three-year-old high-school dropout who lived in a rundown trailer park. Soon, shocking evidence in JR’s school locker — printed here for the first time — led police to believe the girl was a suspect in her family’s murders.

The case horrified parents everywhere. Journalists Robert Remington and Sherri Zickefoose have been covering it from the beginning, and in Runaway Devil, they reveal what really happened: the unlikely young love, the teenage rebellion, a troubling world of adolescent drifters, and a small community torn apart by an unthinkable crime.

A modern cautionary tale, Runaway Devil is also a chilling portrait of an approval-seeking man smitten with a manipulative young girl — who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.

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“A page-turning thrill.”
Publishers Weekly

“The authors have done a masterful job of crafting the true story like a crime novel … chilling and compelling.”
Fast Forward Weekly

“An authoritative account of the murders that rocked this city.”
Medicine Hat News

Runaway Devil tells a story you don’t forget…. gripping … I also commend Zickefoose and Remington on humanizing the victims.”
Peterborough Examiner

“A great read … powerful, scary, maddening, but you can’t put it down.”
— Gord Gillies, Global TV Calgary

“In spite of severe legal restrictions, Runaway Devil effectively details … a shocking Canadian triple murder… it brings to life the characters — the victims, the criminals and the supporting cast. This book does a better job than many in the genre.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Well written, excellent, highly recommended.”
— Reg Hampton, CTV News Calgary

“The book is a cautionary tale on several fronts: the perils of the Internet, Goth culture, heavy-metal music, violence in film.”
National Post

“Dogged reporting had led the pair to countless scoops and insights into the bizarre case even before the girl was taken to trial and found guilty of murder….[it’s] as full a picture as we are likely to get into how the unimaginable happened.”
Calgary Herald

“Expert journalistic handling … Runaway Devil will have you checking the contents of your daughters’ iPod and watching how much time she spends on social networking.”
January magazine

“Elegantly crafted and written, Runaway Devil is a fine attempt to explain the inexplicable.”
— Elliott Leyton, author of Sole Survivor: Children Who Murder Their Families

“A finely constructed narrative of a horrific crime that shocked a nation … never again will I see youths hanging around a mall with nothing to do and not think about JR and Jeremy.”
— Nick Pron, author of Lethal Marriage: The Unspeakable Crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

About the Author

Robert Remington is a columnist with the Calgary Herald. His journalism career has taken him to Pakistan, East Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Central America. He was formerly a western Canadian correspondent for the National Post, an editor and columnist at the Edmonton Journal, and a syndicated columnist for United Features, New York.

Sherri Zickefoose is a crime reporter for the Calgary Herald. Her tenacious reporting on the murders led her to an exclusive interview with Steinke’s mother, who revealed a different side of the man being called a monster.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging narrative of a horrific story Aug. 26 2009
"Why?" That's apparently the last word uttered by the father of Canada's youngest mass murderer and certainly the first question asked by most people who have heard her story. JR was just twelve years old when, with her 23-year-old boyfriend, she participated in killing her father, her mother, and her younger brother in the grisly April 1996 murders that took place in Medicine Hat, Alberta. We are used to adolescents having rebellions, but many people continue to struggle to make sense of this particular tragedy.

The vast majority of criminal offences happen in a context, though, and finding an easy answer to the question of "Why?" risks missing some of those important nuances and circumstances. Robert Remington and Sherri Zickefoose are reporters from the Calgary Herald who covered every aspect of this case, from the initial discovery of the bodies by a boy looking for his playmate, through the separate trials of JR and of Jeremy Steinke, and even up to the annual review hearing for JR's court-mandated Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision (IRCS) order. They are skilled writers with knowledge of the intricacies of the murders and of the murderers, though the story they tell in Runaway Devil never wallows in unnecessary detail. Tenaciously, Mr. Remington and Ms. Zickefoose tracked down members of the perpetrators' families, as well as friends of JR and Jeremy, verifying versions of events, weaving in courtroom testimony, and adding evidence never admitted in the trials, all to tell the story of how a seemingly bright, friendly, athletic young girl so quickly turned against her family.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars anything can happen Sept. 18 2009
I found this book to be very well written - it kept my interest from beginning to end - although this story was very sAd; terrifying, perplexing and shocking; it certainly gave me a jolt in realizing how your seemingly normal life can suddenly take a horrible turn. Although this was a difficult subject to write about; this story needed to be told. The most perplexing part to me was how does a parent deal with this problem when it starts - I don't mean Jeremy; I can understand to a certain part why he ended up the way he did - but the 12 year old girl really scared me - this book should open up many parents eyes - good job to the authors.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and devilish Aug. 11 2009
This case is fascinating and strange, and it's hard to believe a young girl from a loving family background could do something so horrific. It was almost a Bernardo-Homolka situation, where JR and Jeremy met and fed off each other and did horrible things that they might never have done on their own. The book is a page turner and includes a lot of details that I don't remember ever reading in the news. It really gets inside the minds of these kids. I'm a big true crime fan and there aren't many stories like this: goths, a 12-year-old girl dating a 23-year-old guy, small-town boredom, teenage rage, death metal music, the influence of the Internet. I couldn't put it down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, yet scary Aug. 18 2009
It's pretty scary knowing all of these events are true. Reading it makes me think I'm just reading a typical fiction crime book but it freaks me out that it's real. It's quite fascinating and interesting how all of these events occurred in a step-by-step process. The way they thought and executed their crime was quite impulsive, yet they rationalized their own actions at the time. I think this book tells the truth to the story and people should know what really happened. A very good inspirational book to young people who may have similar problems. Recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 14 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
a great read
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