Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sleep In Heavenly Peace by M.William Phelps

In May 2003, an Arizona man who had bought dozens of sealed boxes at an auction of unclaimed property made a horrifying discovery: the bodies of three plastic-wrapped infants, one of which had become mummified over the years. Police traced them to Dianne Odell, 50, a mother of eight children, who admitted the babies were hers but claimed that they had died of natural causes. Prior to that in 1989, police had found the remains of a long-dead infant in a suitcase in the trunk of a car Odell had abandoned. The statute of limitations on manslaughter had saved her then from prosecution. She maintained that the fetus was the product of a rape by her father, and stillborn. Odell said her own domineering mother had forced her into teen prostitution and murdered what she viewed as bastard children.Both parents were dead and unable to contradict her.

My views on the writing style:
It is obvious from reading this book that there was extensive research done by the author M William Phelps.The investigation portion occupies a major part of the book.M William Phelps chose to have chapters on the background of Diane Odell mixed in between with the running current investigation.Each chapter would end with an exciting bit of information but not all of it.Then it goes back to the investigation again.The positive thing about this is the "edge of my seat" feeling the reader gets but the negative for me is I could never truly relax and enjoy the investigation part as I would rush through it to get to find out the whole story he "hinted" at in the previous chapter.If you have ever watched CSI and felt that you would love to investigate crimes then you should perhaps read this book.You will get a real idea of what is usually involved in the investigation of a crime.It is time consuming and tiring.The book is also far too long and could have told the story in much less pages but in the same breath provides an extremely well researched book.I was a bit put off by the obvious author bias against Diane Odell.I need to include this portion to better explain what I mean.Diane Odell had said that with each birth she had passed out and when she came round the babies would be dead.This is what M William Phelps chose to include in his book."And one would have to imagine that after being pregnant for the better part of 9 years,her body was used to it by 1999".I took this to mean as well that a woman would have less pain giving birth the more times she has done so.I do believe Diane Odell was responsible for the deaths of those children,one way or the other,and in no way do I condone this crime,but I was disgusted by remarks like this.From glorifying law enforcement and demeaning Diane Odell,the bias was unrelentless.After all of this bias,M William Phelps then concludes by saying he does not believe she should be in jail but should be in a hospital instead.I believe she should be in jail and she can then access a psychiatrist from there to help her battle her demons.

My views on this crime case
I believe that Diane Odell passively allowed those babies to die by wrapping them up in a blanket and putting them in a closet.She was able to do that becasue she was always alone at home when she gave birth.The babies either then suffocated or starved to death.She did this because they were illegitimate or "bastards" as she called them and her mother would not have approved,which is why she kept the pregnancies concealed from her mother.This part also convinced me that Diane adds to her story to try and embellish a lie.Alice,her one daughter,had reported that her step father,Robert(Diane Odell's common law husband and father of 5 of her children)had assaulted her.This is how Diane Odell explained it "I had asked the children what happened and Alice had given me her story.I had asked Maryann what took place and she said that Robert never touched her sister.Because of what I had gone through with people not believing me,I believed her"How convenient!!! And what about believing Alice??
Despite this,I believe she did not receive a fair trial.The number of times I shouted out in my mind "leading the witness" and yet her lawyer never objected once.As her lawyer,I would have brought an expert witness to testify to how a human would react when suffocated i.e. the knee jerk reaction.Then I would have gone back to the skeleton of Baby No 3 which shows the baby in a foetal position and not spasmic.Not conclusive,I know, but it does establish reasonable doubt.Bear in mind,that she was questioned without a lawyer for 3 days and the only reason she was indicted was on her statement that she heard a sound and slight movement from the babies.Without that,the state would never have been able to prove that the babies were born alive and hence,no case.

My Rating System

Low-little info
Medium-acceptable info
High-above average research and details

History & Background of Main Characters-Low
Irrelevant Info/Embellishments-Medium
Graphic Details Of Crime-Low
Investigation Process-High
Court Case Details-Medium
Author Bias-High
Insight into Psychological Profiles-Medium
Disturbance Factor-Low

I would recommend reading this book because of all the information it provides on investigations,especially if you read true crime books because you love the investigation part of the crime cases.It does succeed in getting you thinking about court cases and fair trials and how influenced we really are by the media.For readers from South Africa who would like to find out more about this book please go to Kalahari Books and for all the readers who would like to access some more reviews on this book then the Amazon link below will provide that.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace: Library Edition

I read this book in April 2009 and I found the author interview with Diane Odell to be very insightful and one of the best parts of the book.I wondered for a while who was the man on the book cover and then realised that it was Diane Odell's eyes.What this book did teach me is that if I am ever in trouble I will say nothing to the police except for "I want a lawyer,I want a lawyer,I want a lawyer" over and over again until I eventually get one.


  1. I love reading your reviews and this one is no exception. Thanks for always being so good and truthful.

  2. Oh Debbie thank you so much.If you only knew how excited I get when I see I have a comment in my "inbox".It really makes my day.

  3. Okay - I took your advice and went a did another review. I have several that I could do on books that I have read. I just would rather read then do reviews. Is that a bad thing? I have three books that I have been sent from publisher that I have to do in May/June so watch out. Thanks for the nice encourgement.

  4. No,not a bad thing unless your reviews are good which yours are.

  5. What a wacko! I can't believe she would kill her babies. People are stick sometimes.

    Great review, as always. :)

  6. I too enjoy reading your reviews. I too noticed that Phelps was very critical of Dianne and had no sympathy for her at all. I was in a similar situation as Dianne being pregnant with no one to help me and being single. However my daughter is very much alive as I could never do what she did to her babies. Of course I am horrified that any mother could do this. Definitely not the right way to handle this. However, Phelps obviously does not understand women who become pregnant alone with no one to help them. This is probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It takes a lot of courage to be a single mother and raise a child alone. He will never understand.


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