Together, Harvey and I reached the conclusion that it was highly improbable the police would not discover at least one more victim, now that the question had been raised. How does one comprehend that number? I needed to talk to someone. But who? If I talked to the wrong person and the story leaked, Harvey could die.
And I could not live with that possibility. Nevertheless, the seal of confession appealed to me now. In search of some kind of wisdom, I went to St. Xavier Church. It was a weekday, and the door was locked, so I went to the undercroft.
There, a woman told me to go up to the church by the inside stairway and the priest would be right up. The beautiful interior of the sanctuary calmed me.
When the priest arrived, I was reassured to find he was elderly. I entered the confessional and began the prayer. Then I stopped. He assured me that it did. The protection of the seal of secrecy gave me a sense of safety. I outlined the situation, giving no names or numbers. I felt relief at just having the opportunity to talk. When 1 finished, he spoke softly. I left feeling cheated and disillusioned; I had turned to the Church for help, and the priest rejected me.
Later of course, I realized how prophetic his words had been. Harvey was never mentioned.
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By the end of the second week the tension of waiting for the story to drop led me to call Minarcin. He was jovial and friendly until I asked about the story, then his mood immediately changed to depression. He explained that the nurses were not willing to waive their demand of anonymity. He could find no other evidence that would permit him to go any further with this story.
Serial killers : murder without mercy / by Nigel Blundell. - Version details - Trove
There were too many people who were aware of this situation, and I could not leave it to fate. We needed to use public pressure for action to force the prosecutor to bargain. How many has he killed? The barrage of questions and the changed attitude caught me by surprise. I told Minarcin that I could not discuss the matter any further but urged him to go forward with the story, then hung up. Minarcin called the next day. Excitement had returned to his voice. Minarcin tried another tack. What do I look for? I sank into a chair, only to hear the phone ring, and my wife inform me it was Pat Minarcin again.
Minarcin was understanding and got off the telephone. The case haunted me. There had been some articles in the paper about Harvey, but nothing sensational. I knew that the whole story would eventually come out and that when it did, sensationalism would be a mild term for what followed. My wife, Diane, had many contacts in the community. I was concerned about the consequences for them if I were included in the public castigation of my client.
Serial Killers: Murder without Mercy
The trauma might be unbearable. At this point, only Harvey, Minarcin, and I were aware of the whole horrible story. I struggled with the problem for two days before deciding what to do. I had to offer my family the option of my removing myself from the case. I wanted the professional and personal challenge, but if my family were not willing to face it, I could abide by their decision. The mood at dinner that night seemed light, but my stomach was churning. I laid down my knife and fork. They sensed the change and were silent.
When this comes to light, and it will, there is going to be a lot of publicity—most of it bad. The media will rip into my client, and probably me for defending him. You will get some of the fallout. I saw concern on their faces, but no one said anything. I continued. If you feel it will be too much stress for you, I will. I was meeting with Harvey every day, delving into the thinking and actions of one of the most prolific serial killers in the United States. At the same time, Minarcin was calling me, and I began to feed some of the information to him.
During our conversations, we reached a pact: Minarcin would use none of the information I gave him without my specific agreement, unless he found a second source to confirm it. If he did find a second source, he would inform me of his intention to use the material before putting it on the air. Jim Lawson, the police officer to whom Harvey had confessed, had asked Harvey if he had killed any other people—a reasonable inquiry by a homicide detective.
If Lawson had pushed him, Harvey would almost certainly have admitted to other murders.
But Lawson had moved on and the door was closed. I made a copy of the confession and turned it over to Minarcin. The reporter was in disbelief. We were perplexed. Was Lawson, an excellent homicide detective, just having a bad day?
Did he deliberately not go down that road to protect the city from lawsuits? Did they already know the answer? Many years later, I had the opportunity to ask Lawson. Lawson did not want to pursue the subject and have Harvey expound on his mental difficulties and perhaps ruin all the cases, including the John Powell case. A police interrogator must concentrate upon obtaining answers that will stand up in court; Lawson opted for staying with the issues at hand. The outcome would almost certainly have been different had the question been asked. Broadcasting the story was an act of journalistic courage.
The decision to put it on the air was ultimately made by Donald L. With his dignified mien, Minarcin avoided sensationalizing his presentation, letting the story speak for itself. Minarcin then presented charts showing the numbers of deaths on each of five comparable wards from April to April He added for comparison that the deaths on C during the previous month period had been The program included interviews of hospital staff with their identities disguised and their voices altered.
The staff members told of their suspicions of Donald Harvey and of their unsuccessful attempts to induce their supervisors to take action. The steps taken to protect the anonymity of those who consented to be interviewed heightened the drama. The station was meticulous in reporting that although Harvey had confessed to the murder of Powell and was in custody, he had not yet been convicted of any murder. Minarcin also stated three times that the station was not accusing Harvey of being a serial killer; they were just raising a question.
The broadcast lit a fuse.