Murder on Birchleaf Drive by Steven B Epstein
Murder on Birchleaf Drive even all these years later, the events described in the foregoing pages left virtually everyone involved too wrought with emotion to sit down with me for interviews—including Jason and Michelle Young’s family members, prosecutors, defense lawyers, family-law attorneys, detectives, and jurors. With the one exception noted below, my efforts to interview them and obtain their feedback on my drafts were unsuccessful.
To my good fortune, however, I was able to stumble upon the full transcripts of both trials and virtually every hearing. And thanks to WRAL never taking down from its website its daily, gavel-to-gavel video footage of both trials, I was able to watch—on my laptop and at my leisure—nearly everything that happened in the courtroom as if I had been there. That allowed me to convey the emotions displayed by the lawyers and witnesses—and even the judge—in ways that would have been impossible solely with the written transcripts at my disposal.
Amanda Lamb, who covered both trials for WRAL-TV and who is herself a published true crime author (as well as novelist), was gracious enough to sit with me as I started this project and persuade me that, despite this being my maiden voyage, I could actually do it. I greatly appreciate her time, encouragement, mentoring, and thoughtful feedback on my early drafts.
I am grateful to Jack Michaels, with whom I attended the same church for many years, who provided valuable information and insights about his and his brother Paul’s representation of Linda and Meredith Fisher in the wrongful death case that loomed so large over the criminal and appellate proceedings.
My managing partner at the Poyner Spruill law firm, Dan Cahill, was aware of my work on this project and could have steered me away from it. Instead, he encouraged me, even if it, from time to time, distracted me from my day job. My amazing personal assistant at the firm, Sandy Chrisawn, couldn’t have been more encouraging, reading every chapter hot off the press and making me believe she loved it. Whether she did or didn’t, her enthusiasm and support kept me going.
My mom, Evelyn Epstein, grammar police officer that she is, relished her job ferreting out typos and grammatical errors, which she did with aplomb. She encouraged me the way only a mother truly can—and I sincerely appreciate her support.
My beautiful and talented South African tutu-designing bride, Aletia Ferreira, couldn’t have been more supportive, despite me beginning this project barely a year after we exchanged vows on our back deck. Her support didn’t waver even when I would go dark for days on end in my attempts to polish the many rough edges that hopefully disappeared before these pages saw the light of day.
Though I purposefully kept our kids, Benjamin, Madeline, Enzo, Tucker, and Thomas blissfully unaware of what I was doing until Black Lyon Publishing came calling, they nonetheless served as an inspiration to me, and always will be. Murder on Birchleaf Drive
As I neared the end of my first draft, I decided to contact another reporter who covered this story for years, Anne Blythe, who had the courtroom beat at the News & Observer, Raleigh’s long-time daily newspaper. Not only did Anne agree to read the draft, her initial comments convinced me it was nowhere near ready for “prime time.”
At my request, she labored tirelessly to help me edit and revise each chapter into something much better than it was before. Without Anne’s help, this book would never have been ready for prime time. I am enormously grateful for her able assistance.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge a certain treadmill at the gym I frequent, upon which I had many epiphanies that led directly to words and passages found on the foregoing pages. To the extent credit is due for any particularly insightful thoughts or elegant or pithy turns of phrase (including this one), that credit rightly belongs to that treadmill, rather than to me.
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