Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Five Gold Stars for "Fighting the Devil"

Fran Lewis (Author/BookReviewer)
***** 5 Gold Stars for "Fighting the Devil"

When you want justice to be served you often have to handle it yourself. When Jeannie Walker realized what really happened to her ex-husband at the hands of his wife and bookkeeper, she could not longer keep silent and took matters into her own hands. What you are about to read in this review is the story of one brave and courageous woman who decided to Fight The Devil with everything she had!

Money often plays an important role in some marriages and there are women who will go to any extreme to fleece, milk and gain control of their husband’s estates and wealth; whether during their marriage, as a result of a divorce or in this case collecting a huge insurance policy upon a spouse’s death. The pleas for help from Jerry Sternadel were unanswered and fell on deaf ears. Strapped down, tied to his hospital bed, tubes places throughout his body, unable to articulate his wishes, Jerry dies a slow and torturous death many times over. While his wife Lou Ann refused to allow him the medical help needed for his recovery when sick at home, his son Sandy took the appropriate action necessary without any regard for Lou Ann’s rants and raves. The fear in his eyes, the helplessness and torment he received reminded the author of an incident the she endured at the hand of her late ex-husband. Recounting how he tied her to their bed, raped her without any regard for her dignity or feelings makes the reader wonder why she would even show any compassion for him other than he is the father of her 2 children. Abused, mistreated both during and after the marriage verbally and physically, Jeannie Walker withstood more than any one ever should. As she continues to relate another incident involving Lou Ann’s sadistic behavior regarding her two children you see the most heinous, diabolical and sick plot unfolding filled with hate, lies, deceit and betrayals even before the final outcome plays out.

When Jeannie enters the funeral home with her daughter they are both taken aback by the physical injuries, scratches and bruises on Jerry that can be readily observed.
But, it is an acute and astute observation by Jeannie that sets a chain of events in motion. Noticing that his right ear appeared pink and soft as opposed to the left one that is hard and cold made both mother and daughter think that Jerry was trying to send them a message. Knowing in their hearts that he was poisoned and abused by Lou Ann and his bookkeeper Debbie Baker, Jeannie’s next stop was the Sheriff’s office and doing some detective work on her own. While Becky and Sandy remained at the funeral home with Lou Ann, who banned Jeannie from seeing Jerry, Jeannie set out to get her own brand of justice.

As the author shares their beginning life to together and the tragedies incurred both hers and his, you begin to see another side of Jerry that should have signaled what was yet to come. Angered that she stayed out with a friend and accusing her of not going to Church, which is where she was, Jeannie spent the night praying and driving around locked out of her own home. Many other unhappy incidents happened during the marriage, but Jerry decided to become his own man and develop his own plumbing business, even so their life together would take many downhill turns.

The loss of a friend and family member comes into play as more than tragic and Jeannie's premonition that something was going to happen to Jerry’s brother is quite chilling. But, Jerry had his own obsessions and no matter how much money he made and how close to his dream of becoming a millionaire he reached, he was never satisfied, never had enough and his verbal and mental abuse of Jeannie as described in detail by the author helps the reader understand just how difficult her life was and why she decided to leave him. As you listen to the author’s words, hear her voice and understand the frustrations, accusations and harangues that she went through with Jerry you wonder why she fought so hard for justice after his death.

The moments and days before his death are vividly described and seriously disturbing as the author relates what happens to Jerry each time Debbie and Lou Ann are in the room and the fact that not one person on the staff of the hospital realized that his condition turned sour and really critical each time they left the room or gave Jerry something to drink. You can visualize the deterioration in the man’s body, demeanor and his spirit as he tried to tell everyone that he was in trouble and telling who was causing his pain. But no one listened or seem to believe him. So, why didn’t anybody really hear what he was saying?

How could anyone stand by and let this happen? With the voices of  his children coming through loud and clear, along with Jeannie’s, why wouldn’t the hospital staff take some action to find out just what Lou Ann and Debbie were doing since the doctors were aware of the fact that Jerry was poisoned? It makes no sense that they did not heed the warning signs or even realize the gravity of the situation until it was too late. Even after Jerry's death the only ones that grieved were his children, his mother and his close friends. Jerry Gamble, the man he worked with in plumbing and a good friend, realized too late what Jerry was trying to tell him when he was strapped down in the hospital. Sometimes what we do comes back to haunt us and in this case Jerry paid a heavy price.

When Jeannie meets with Sheriff Bogard she learns more about the workings of the case, who the suspects are and how she can assist in the investigation. Lies are told by many of the players in this case and a girl named Holly changes her story several times in order to protect the guilty. Even though a young man named Tommy gets sick from drinking the Cranapple juice in the refrigerator in Lou Ann’s house. Lou Ann changes her story and the order of events several times, even though the Sheriff knows she is lying. As the case draws on more evidence comes to light that Debra Baker might have poisoned not only Jerry but her parents too. One shrewd and sick woman who will do anything for money and now for Lou Ann’s friendship or is it Jerry’s wealth too? When Sandy, Jeannie’s son comes forward and talks with the Sheriff more information comes to light. Yet, no matter how much solid evidence they get no one has been arrested. No matter how you look at it why didn’t the hospital staff realize that every time Lou Ann and Debra left Jerry’s room after being alone with him he got worse?

Suspects questioned. Fraud, lies, checks to many people that were drawn, horses sold off and one woman who stood to gain it all. The case drew a lot of attention and many of Jerry’s friends came forward but too late. One friend Jerry Gamble did not heed the words of his friend when he saw him in the hospital right before he died. His son enlisted a lawyer but finally came forward to assist with the case. His mother Jeannie seems to be in the thick of it all and the Sheriff and police included her just about every step of the way. Throughout the book author shares the biographies of many of the characters so the reader gets a first hand picture of the character of each of the suspects, those involved in the investigation and some of Jerry’s friends and neighbors. Added to the mix are the premonitions and feelings that both Sandy and Jeannie get as if Jerry is guiding their every move. Asking Jeannie to become a direct part of the investigation, handling the arsenic piece and trying to find the many links that would solder the chain of events and hopefully catch a killer or killers, makes the story even more interesting and an ending, even though true, filled with twists, turns and the unexpected.

Sometimes the victims stand trial along with the guilty. The system does not always prevail as we learn in the horrific ending to a quest for justice. Fighting the Devil is not just about the two demon women and their accomplices to kill a man, who might not have been a sterling citizen, honest husband and not exactly the great person, but nonetheless did not stop the wrath of these two woman and the end result. Court transcripts, news articles, medical reports and observations plus the voice of Jeannie tells the story. The twists and turns will make you cringe and bring chills down your spine.

As Jeannie did the research about arsenic poisoning why didn’t the police launch the investigation while he was in the hospital? Where this winds up and who is brought to justice and who is not I won’t give it away.

Wait until you learn who was accused, who stood trial and who the suspects were? Wait until you learn the verdict? Wait until you see who attended the trial? Wait until you hear the discussion of the jurors and their interviews and when you hear the verdict you will be flabbergasted.

The book is quite compelling, difficult at times to digest the events, which situations filled with graphic accounts and pictures of the events. Marked with greed, hate, forgiveness and cruelty Jeannie Walker has resolved in her own mind to forgive him in death and I think if he had survived even in life. Read the trial transcripts and the first verdict you just won’t believe it. But, Jeannie Walker was relentless and her oath and promise to many did not stop her from filling the court as a victim of a violent crime. The Texas Department of Justice Victim Services responded as she wanted to make sure Debra Baker, now in prison for check fraud would not get parole. Reliving the entire 13 years and telling her story to them in writing was quite compelling. There were letters from her family, friends, the DA and much more. Now: For the end result! Read it to find out for yourself you won’t believe the verdict, the end result and just who was found guilty and who still needs to be brought to justice. The Devil has not been quieted or permanently fought until Jeannie’s quest is completed. This is truly a remarkable, compelling and well-written story of a system gone wrong, of a jury that did not measure the end result and one woman who won’t give up.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

Let’s dedicate this review to Becky, Sandy, Jeannie, and Shana and of course Jerry.
You will rest in peace because Jeannie will never give up!

Personal message to Jeannie: You give everyone that has ever gone through an unjust tragedy the courage to continue on and more forward with their lives and not give up until all of the question marks are properly answered. Fran


Call in number: 646 595 4478


  1. I've not read your work but after reading more about it I hope to read it soon.

  2. This is an amazing recount of not only murder, but the pain that the author had to revisit over and over again. I pray that Jeannie and her son and daughter will recover from such a heinous act of her tortured and the tortured of the children. May God place His Hand above yours and give you peace. I don't know you, but I think someday we shall meet. Augie