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The Murder of Karly Sheehan

Pete Springer/OPB

Karly Sheehan was brutally murdered by her mother’s boyfriend in 2005, when she was three years old. Her death shocked her Corvallis community. It even lead to a new law in her name: Karly’s Law mandates that children who show suspicious injuries in the course of an abuse investigation need to be given medical attention within 48 hours.

Reporter Karen Spears Zacharias, who lives in Eastern Oregon, was one of many people who were shocked by the crime. She wrote a draft of a book about it, which she shared with her agent. Her agent liked it, but said that one major piece was missing: Karen’s relationship with Karly’s family. Because Karen wasn’t just a journalist; she was once a mother figure to Karly‘s mother, Sarah Sheehan.

So Karen re-wrote the book, this time with the personal bits mixed in. The result, A Silence of Mockingbirds, is a kind of hybrid. It’s one part straight crime reportage, and one part anguished memoir. She holds nearly everyone involved — from police and DHS officials, to Karly’s mother, to herself — responsible for Karly’s murder.

Have you read A Silence of Mockingbirds? Do you remember Karly Sheenan’s murder? How did the crime affect you?

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OPB | Broadcast: May 23, 2012