Longform’s Favorite Crime Stories of 2011

Longform.org's guide to the greatest long articles ever written.
Dec. 12 2011 4:25 PM

Longform’s Guide to the Best Crime Writing of 2011

True crime masterpieces, from Seattle to St. Pete.

Longform Best of 2011

This week, Longform.org will be counting down its list of the year’s best articles on Slate. For our full list—including the top 10 stories about sports, politics, tech, and more—check out Longform’s Best of 2011. First up: our favorite crime stories of the year. —The Editors

Eli Sanders • The Stranger • June 2011

The victim of a brutal crime testifies in court:

“The reason for her sitting on the witness stand of a packed and sweltering eighth-floor courtroom at the King County Courthouse on June 8, in jeans and a short-sleeved black blouse, hands clasped over knees, a jury of strangers taking notes, a crowd of family and friends and strangers observing, a bunch of media recording, was to say: This happened to me. You must listen. This happened to us. You must hear who was lost. You must hear what he did. You must hear how Teresa fought him. You must hear what I loved about her. You must know what he took from us. This happened.’”

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Matthew McGough • The Atlantic • June 2011

On the reopening of a murder case gone cold and one of the most unlikely suspects in LAPD history:

"The detectives went back over the whole investigation—but this time with the assumption that they were looking for a female suspect. When they finished going through the case file, they had a list of five names, among them that of Stephanie Lazarus, who was cited in the original police work as John Ruetten’s ex-girlfriend, with the further notation “P.O.” Nuttall didn’t make anything of the initials until he called Ruetten, who told him that Lazarus had been a Los Angeles police officer."

8. The Survivor

Ryan D’Agostino • Esquire • July 2011

"He doesn't have good days; he tries to have good hours. He goes to UConn basketball games still, and people stare at him, but he has an okay time. The old Bill Petit was connected to the world through his family and through his work. He has neither now. Does the old Bill ever shine through? ‘I haven't seen him yet,’ Ron says, with a faint smile. And Bill Sr.: ‘I don't think we'll ever get him back.’"

Nathaniel Rich • Rolling Stone • June 2011

On the most sensational murder in the history of study abroad:

“When an attractive young woman from a privileged British family is murdered in Italy, you've got a popular crime story. When the person suspected of killing her is an attractive young woman from a privileged American family, you have tabloid gold. When the prosecutor hypothesizes that the victim was slaughtered during a satanic ritual orgy, you've got the crime story of a decade. When a sitting U.S. senator declares that the case "raises serious questions about the Italian justice system" and asks if "anti-Americanism" is to blame, and when 11 Italian lawmakers in Silvio Berlusconi's coalition request a probe of the prosecutor's office — well, at that point, you have an international crisis."

Ben Montgomery • St. Petersburg Times • October 2011

On a 1934 lynching and the Florida town that kept the identity of those responsible a secret:

"Allie Mae Neal pushed through the screen door and found a shady spot on her porch where the summer sun didn't bite. Kittens purred at her feet and wasps flitted in and out of holes in the roof. The few neighbors who passed by saw an old woman in a wheelchair, blue eyes lazy and unfocused behind thick glasses. She'd wave and they'd wave back. Black or white. She has never held a grudge.

‘I never blamed nobody,’ she said. ‘I never knew who to blame.’ ”

For Longform’s top five crime stories of 2011, click here.


Max Linsky is a founding editor of Longform.org.