Agony Column Home
Agony Column Review Archive

This Just In....News from The Agony Column

06-29-03: Block Novel is Evidence in Murder

Dangerous Reading

Everybody Dies, and those who read about it are likely murder suspects.

Here's the kind of news article to send you shivering away from the bookstore -- a man who was convicted of murder because of what he on, as long as you're sure you're innocent....,1299,DRMN_15_2074406,00.html

Jury: Man shot wife, put her in trunk

Still proclaiming innocence, Hebert sentenced to life


By Julie Poppen And Sue Lindsay, Rocky Mountain News

June 28, 2003

Hal Hebert continued to proclaim his innocence Friday, even after jurors found him guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife.

Family members of Carol Hebert gasped quietly and wept as the unanimous verdict was read after jurors deliberated for less than five hours.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

"We felt this was justice done," Carol Hebert's brother Joel Haataja told the court before the sentencing. "My sister didn't deserve to die."

Haataja asked the judge for the maximum sentence.

"We don't want him to enjoy any nice food, books, liquor," Haataja said.

Denver police said Hebert, 60, shot his 55-year-old wife in the back of the head and put her body in the trunk of her car April 11, 2001. Her body was found the next day in the car, which was parked in the 1500 block of Valentia Street with the engine running.

Hebert showed little emotion at the verdict.

In his first comments in the two-week trial, Hebert told the court he loved his wife.

"I didn't hurt her," an impassive Hebert said. "I'm very, very sorry I let her down."

Hebert turned toward members of his wife's family and apologized.

"From the first moment I saw her I would have sacrificed my own life to protect hers," he said.

Judge Michael Mullins said he had no discretion in the sentencing and said the evidence of guilt "seemed to be overwhelming."

Defense attorney Harvey Steinberg declined comment but said he will appeal the verdict.

Before the verdict was reached, Steinberg said the government's case lacked a crucial ingredient - motive.

"The big question is why," Steinberg said. "Even her family members all testified that he adored her."

Not knowing why "is the hardest thing for me to deal with," said Lynn Peterson, Carol Hebert's sister.

"We're not going to have any answers," Peterson said as she left the courtroom with tears in her eyes.

Prosecutors said hard science put Hebert away.

"The physical evidence, DNA and trace evidence all indicated she was killed in her home," prosecutor Stephanie Villafuerte said.

Prosecutor Kerri Lombardi said a Listerine bottle was a key piece of evidence. Bits of plastic found embedded in Carol Hebert's head matched plastic from a Listerine bottle found in the trunk of the car that police contend was used as a silencer in her murder.

A similar Listerine bottle with a hole in the bottom was found in a makeshift firing range Hebert had in his basement.

Prosecutors said a book called Everybody Dies that belonged to Hal Hebert also was a key piece of evidence because it outlined a similar murder. The book features a scene in which two men put a body in the trunk of a car with the windows down and engine running with the hope the car will be stolen.

"It appeared he planned it for a while and quite well," Lombardi said of the murder plot.

Prosecutors also focused on a letter Hebert wrote to an ex-lover after he was arrested, in which he described his wife's death as a "a terrible, grievous accident."

Prosecutors still suspect Hebert had help carrying out the crime, but they may never know who.

"Someone had to have been helpful in some way," Villafuerte said.

Prosecutors contend Hebert shot his wife in the back of the head as she worked at her desk in the office of their home at 655 S. Monroe Way.

Police said a trail of blood droplets showed Carol Hebert's body was dragged through the house to the garage, where prosecutors said Hal Hebert loaded her body into the trunk of her car.

Hebert claims he was frantic when his wife failed to return from a shopping trip and wound up going to the police station to report her missing.

The house didn't contain large amounts of blood, but police said carpet in the office and hallway had been cleaned. There was no sign of an intruder.

But some family and friends said Hal Hebert adored his wife and the couple were happily married.

"Frankly, it was the best marriage I've been around in my life," said Mason Beau Hebert, Hal Hebert's son. "It was very loving. They just never fought."

The couple overcame a yearlong affair Hal Hebert had in 1998-1999, at the same time Carol Hebert was battling breast cancer, witnesses said.

But Carol Hebert's family said they had no doubt who killed her.

"I'm just so thankful," Carol Hebert's mother, Kathleen Haataja, said of the verdict. "He took her life. He took her future. He ruined ours."



06-25-03: A Long Strange Trip with Douglas Coupland

From Gen-X to Nostradamus

Note the sun-faded spine this book developed in its place of honor in the livignroom.

This icon is rather unsettling. Drop drill, anyone?

We had just moved to Northern California when a friend of my wife gave me Generation X. I then lived the Married With Children version that lifestyle for ten years before I fell off the rails and ended up ready to read Coupland's latest 'Hey Nostradamus!'. In it the reverberations of a Columbine-style massacre in the late 1980's spread out through successive generations. Psychic scams and child victims of violence. There's a column in there somewhere. More on Mr.Coupland who is touring for this novel, as the story develops.

06-24-03: Graham Joyce's The Facts of Life Now available in US

The Facts of Life

The fact is that this is likely to be one of the best books of this year. Even Isabel Allende likes it.

In case you missed my review of 'The Facts of Life' or Serena Trowbridge's review, you now have the links and if you're in the US you can pick up a hardcover version at your local bookstore. Well, I liked the UK cover better, but the fact is that this is surely one of the best books you're going to get to read this year or last. Even Isabel Allende likes this book, the significance of which will eventually unravel on this site.

06-23-03: Stephen King Story Online at New Yorker, More Moore, Non-Net Signing, Garland of Awards

Stephen King Story Online at New Yorker

Stephen King's newest books are re-issues with new text and bountiful illustrations.

What more do you need to know? Times have certainly changed at the New Yorker. Here's the URL:

More Moore

Christopher Moore returns to Northern California for another reading at Borderlands.

For those who missed Christopher Moore on his first swing through Northern California, you can catch him on the tail end of his tour, shortly before you see his new personalized 'Bite Me' license plate. He'll be at Borderlands Books on Sunday, July 6, 2003 at the eminently doable time of 2:00 PM. if there's a single book so far that should be in your summer reading lineup, 'Fluke' is that book.

Live Editor

Catch Mr. Anders live without a net at Borderlands Books.

And continuing the Borderlands June newsletter info-dump, Lou Anders who edited the most interesting 'Live Without a Net' anthology, will be appearing in July. He's pulled to gether an intriging list of authors, which suggests that a live appearance may include some authors and certainly some informative and entertianing commentary.

Garnering Award Nominations

Another nomination for this beautifully produced graphic novel.

Rizky Wasisto Edi, artist for the acclaimed Garlands of Moonlight which debuted The Malay Mysteries series last year, was honored with a nomination for the2003 Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award. This is a really a different and gorgeous work; worthy of your time even if (like me) you're not a giant fan of the graphic novel format.