Thursday, July 17, 2008

When Fiction Becomes Reality . . .

In a previous blog, I touched on real events mimicking those that I’ve created. Last week, I learned about another coincidence that parallels some elements in Diablo’s Shadow. As in my novel, this story is set in Redwood Regional Park, near my parents’ house in the Oakland hills. (See photo.) High above San Francisco Bay, this extensive woodland is part of the environmental “green ring” that surrounds the Bay. Here, endless trails traverse dense forests of redwood, madrone, pine, and eucalyptus trees. The Regional Parks Police use infra-red equipped helicopters to detect vagrants and stalkers, but in their absence, this park becomes a perfect location to dump a body.

My father told me he heard the distinct thumping of a helicopter hovering close by. For weeks, California has been battling horrific wildfires, and with the continued extreme dry and heat, there was a good possibility that another fire had erupted. Dad’s interest was piqued by the lack of smoke plumes, and the helicopter hovering in the same proximity as my fictitious helicopter in Diablo’s Shadow. He had to wait for the Ten O' clock News to find the answer.

As it turns out, the police helicopter on scene was supervising a man convicted on circumstantial evidence of killing his wife, lead officers to where he said he had buried her. Sure enough, the woman’s body was unearthed, right where he pointed. Apparently, the killer, who lived near the park, presumed that he couldn’t be convicted without a body, so he took advantage of the park’s remoteness, and started digging. But as in a scene from a true crime tale, justice prevailed, and the bastard was convicted anyway. I suspect that his leading police to his wife’s grave was part of a plea bargain. After all, why else would his lawyer accompany him? But wouldn’t it be great if they had just tossed a rope over one of those tall pine branches and saved the California taxpayers a lot of money? Better yet, make it a package deal and throw in the lawyer! (Just kidding, Ben.) Sadly, only fiction writers can get away with such things—but that’s the beauty in writing. And that’s also why readers love our novels.

This isn’t the first time that police have found a body in an East Bay regional park, nor will it be the last, but it’s also what makes Redwood Regional Park the perfect setting for Diablo’s Shadow. Of course, the chances of something happening while walking through a park are remote, but none of that matters if you happen to become the next victim. So, the next time you’re trekking through a forest, beware, for the sounds you hear may not be coming from branches clanking in the wind . . . Can you dig it?

3 comments:

Pat Browning said...

Mark,
Was that the Hans and Nina Reiser murder case? I read the SF Chronicle online and followed that case. I've never believed in convicting someone on circumstantial evidence, but since he finally caved in to make a deal I suppose it doesn't matter.

I was surprised and a little disappointed that it turned out that way, and now 2 little kids will grow up in Russia.

Pat Browning

Mark W. Danielson said...

Yes, Pat, it was indeed convicted killer Hans Reiser who led police to the body, presumed to be his wife’s, two days before he was to be sentenced for first-degree murder. His plea bargain for doing this reduced his sentence to second degree murder. The human remains were found buried on the side of a steep hill off a deer trail between Redwood Regional Park and the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, less than 200 yards behind a house on Skyline Boulevard. The body was buried less than half a mile from his mother’s home on Exeter Drive where he was living. It was also the last place where Nina Reiser was seen alive. She disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006.

According to Reiser’s lawyer, William Du Bois, "They never would have found [the body] . . . It was so obscure, but I admit it was also clever because it was not that far off the road."

Hans Reiser, 44, a child prodigy who left junior high at age 15 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, later became a successful software programmer. Coincidentally, like my characters in Diablo’s Shadow, Reiser and his wife were separated at the time Nina Reiser, 31, disappeared. But Reiser’s genius didn’t carry over to his personal life, or his ability to plan a murder. In fact, he purchased two crime-solving books after strangling her to help him avoid conviction.

Reiser met his doctor/wife in Russia, which is where his surviving children are now residing with their grandparents. Thankfully, his two children are far away from the world they once knew. Time will tell whether they can put their past behind them.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Yes, Pat, it was indeed convicted killer Hans Reiser who led police to the body, presumed to be his wife’s, two days before he was to be sentenced for first-degree murder. His plea bargain for doing this reduced his sentence to second degree murder. The human remains were found buried on the side of a steep hill off a deer trail between Redwood Regional Park and the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, less than 200 yards behind a house on Skyline Boulevard. The body was buried less than half a mile from his mother’s home on Exeter Drive where he was living. It was also the last place where Nina Reiser was seen alive. She disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006.

According to Reiser’s lawyer, William Du Bois, "They never would have found [the body] . . . It was so obscure, but I admit it was also clever because it was not that far off the road."

Hans Reiser, 44, a child prodigy who left junior high at age 15 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, later became a successful software programmer. Coincidentally, like my characters in Diablo’s Shadow, Reiser and his wife were separated at the time Nina Reiser, 31, disappeared. But Reiser’s genius didn’t carry over to his personal life, or his ability to plan a murder. In fact, he purchased two crime-solving books after strangling her to help him avoid conviction.
He met his doctor/wife in Russia, which is where his surviving children are now residing with their grandparents. Thankfully, his two children are far away from the world they once knew. Time will tell whether they can put their past behind them.

P.S. I had problems posting this response from Dubai, so if it appears twice, that's why. (Must be too hot over here!)