Y’all, true crime is chilling. Trout: A True Story of Murder, Teens and the Death Penalty by Jeff Kunerth is absolutely no exception. This book chronicles a crime committed by teenagers in 1991 Florida. The book also explores the nuts and bolts of how minors can be treated as adults in the court system.
Patrick Bonifay, Cliff Barth and Eddie Fordham killed a man at Trout Auto Parts at the urging of a slightly older friend who had recently been fired. One particularly gruesome factor of the crime was that they didn’t even kill the intended target! Billy Wayne Coker was killed instead of Daniel Wells (who had called in sick).
The details of how Patrick (the main instigator), Cliff (accomplice) and Eddie (getaway driver) carried out the deed are covered. I found Trout to be extremely well written. It read very much like a typical crime novel versus non fiction. Jeff Kunerth’s writing skills definitely impressed me.
Everything in Trout was also bumped up a notch because it was never far from my mind that these events actually occurred. I wanted to fist pump during the chapter describing how the police found the three stooges and then their subsequent questioning.
Trout also briefly covers the New York murders that spring-boarded the 1978 Juvenile Offenders Act, which allows minors to be tried as adults for committing murder. Florida followed with a similar law three years later. Very relevant, considering that two of our three model citizens were minors.
“In the summer of 1991, as Patrick, Eddie and Cliff awaited trial, the penalty for murder was execution or life with the possibility of parole after twenty-five years. For Patrick and Cliff, the determination of whether they would be indicted as adults for Coker’s murder was in the hands of a grand jury convened by Special Prosecutor Michael Patterson.
It would not be a difficult decision.”
Check out Trout: A True Story of Murder, Teens and the Death Penalty by Jeff Kunerth on Goodreads / Amazon
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