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FATAL ERROR
by Mark Morris and Paul Janczewski
Kensington, February 2003
334 pages
$6.50
ISBN: 0786015241


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sex, lies, and the Internet - who could ask for more? Sharee Miller is a twice-married housewife from Michigan with a real liking for cybersex. Jerry Cassaday is an ex-cop from Missouri who meets Sharee in an on-line chatroom, and believes everything she tells him. Fatal Error is the story of their romance, and the murder that results from it.

Without going into a lot of detail, which is readily available in the book, Sharee is a woman who wants what most women realize is a fantasy life: a lot of money, a lot of sex, jewelry, and a man who will do whatever she wants. Jerry Cassaday wants a home and a family, a woman who will love him, and it would be great if she was rich.

Sharee is married to a man much older than she, with more money than she is accustomed to. Bruce Miller falls in love with Sharee, even with three kids from previous relationships. His family is a little surprised, but willing to accept Sharee because Bruce is happy with her.

Jerry is divorced, with three children. He used to be a cop, and now is dealing blackjack in Reno. He has some problems with alcohol and pills. He's not bad looking.

Sharee and Jerry meet in an on-line sex chatroom, and hit it off right away. They start doing Instant Messaging (IM), and talk to each other for hours at a time, day after day. They decide to meet each other in Reno. Sharee tells Bruce she's going to Reno for some Mary Kay Cosmetics function with a girl-friend, and that's fine with Bruce. Sharee and Jerry become intimate very quickly, although she manages to keep this from her friend. Sharee makes the trek to Reno several times, always "on business". So far, this sounds like a pretty mundane affair. What makes it so very complicated is the little matter of Sharee's lying. First she tells Jerry she's married to "Jeff, who had been injured working on the roof of their new dream home. Now Jeff lay comatose, with little hope of recovery . . .". After a while, she tells Jerry that Jeff has died. Jerry is thrilled; now they can get married. Sharee then tells him she is now married to Bruce, who is Jeff's older brother, and it was an impulse marriage, when she was grief-stricken over Jeff's death. She tells Jerry that she owns a nursing home or two; that when some lawsuits are finally settled , she'll come into some big money; that Bruce is really connected to the Mafia; and that Bruce beats her.

Jerry still loves Sharee. Sharee informs him that she is pregnant with his child. Jerry is thrilled. He wants her to leave Bruce. Sharee then tells him that Bruce raped her and she lost their child. Jerry is beside himself. They continue to meet. She tells him she is pregnant again, this time with twins. He wants her to leave Bruce, and again she won't. Again Bruce beats her, and she loses the twins. Sharee has been dropping hints for most of the relationship that she would like out, but the only way she can see "escaping" from this marriage is if Bruce were to die. Jerry either doesn't get the hints or ignores them, until this last beating.

Remember, most of this communicating between Sharee and Jerry has been on-line, although she has sent him some videos. She sends him pictures over the computer - pictures of her, pictures of her pregnant tummy, pictures of the bruises Bruce gave her. Some days the e-mails and IM are almost constant . Jerry drives from Missouri (he has moved back to Missouri to try to get off the drugs and alcohol with the support of his family) to Michigan, kills Bruce, and drives back to Missouri. Then he waits for Sharee. Who doesn't come. Who has a new boyfriend. Who doesn't answer his e-mails or return his calls. Overwhelmed with guilt, Jerry kills himself. He leaves behind a detailed record of his affair with Sharee, which leads to her arrest for Bruce's murder.

The authors talked to just about everyone connected with the case, and use that material effectively. They present the case starting with the finding of Jerry's body, after he commits suicide. Then they backtrack to brief life histories for Sharee, Bruce, and Jerry, seguing into the beginning of the relationship between Jerry and Sharee. They follow it all the way through the murder, the investigations, and the trial. There is a condensed version of a post-trial interview with Sharee Miller in jail. It's a well-told tale. The one jarring note is the cover art: the picture of Sharee looks almost like Hannibal Lecter on a bad day. It's ugly enough that it would deter me from picking up the book in a bookstore.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, February 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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