Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Book Review - To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder, by Nancy Rommelmann

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

An estimated five hundred children are killed by their parents each year in the United States, according to homicide data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This number has been static for decades. It is also unreliable and certainly low. The picture of parents killing their children is anathema to most people and makes us susceptible to seeing even the suspicious death of a child explained away: the infant died in her sleep, the child struck his head falling off the coffee table, and who are you to say it did not happen this way? Unless a filicide, the killing of a child by a parent or stepparent, is committed in public, we may not hear about it at all, the circumstances of anonymous people killing their kids too tawdry, too sad, too somehow private to report on. The news you read this week is unlikely to include ten children being murdered by their parents.

But ten were murdered, at least ten. The murdered children of the last week of June 2017 included a six-month-old in Fresno (June 23); a two-month-old in Hanford, CA (June 23); a two-year-old in Houston (June 24); a one-month-old in Terra Bella, CA (June 24); a two-month-old in Valdosta, GA (June 24); a four-year-old in Tullahoma, TN (June 28); a two-year-old and a six-month-old in Paron, AR(June 28); a three-year-old in Rancho Cordova, CA (June 28); and a three-year-old in Chandler, AZ (June 30).

Any story of a parent killing their own children is jarring and hard to process. To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder by Nancy Rommelmann was no different. Ms Rommelmann did an excellent job of telling a lot of Amanda Jo Stott-Smith’s story of her life with her husband Jason, and the circumstances surrounding her despicable act of throwing two of her children off of the Sellwood Bridge in Portland, Oregon in the dead of the night.

Book Review - To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder, by Nancy Rommelmann
Official Synopsis: The case was closed, but for journalist Nancy Rommelmann, the mystery remained: What made a mother want to murder her own children?

On May 23, 2009, Amanda Stott-Smith drove to the middle of the Sellwood Bridge in Portland, Oregon, and dropped her two children into the Willamette River. Forty minutes later, rescuers found the body of four-year-old Eldon. Miraculously, his seven-year-old sister, Trinity, was saved. As the public cried out for blood, Amanda was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to thirty-five years in prison.

Embarking on a seven-year quest for the truth, Rommelmann traced the roots of Amanda’s fury and desperation through thousands of pages of records, withheld documents, meetings with lawyers and convicts, and interviews with friends and family who felt shocked, confused, and emotionally swindled by a woman whose entire life was now defined by an unspeakable crime. At the heart of that crime: a tempestuous marriage, a family on the fast track to self-destruction, and a myriad of secrets and lies as dark and turbulent as the Willamette River.

This was a very unique book, at least among those I’ve read. The author’s interest in the topic and the specific story was clear – she wanted to understand, and help us understand, that which can never be fully understood. But by researching more than a court requires, and more than a reporter filling a headline story has time for, she provided so much more reasoning behind an action that can never be understood with logic.

Amazingly, the background story didn’t start revealing much until after a plea and sentence were issued, and a trial was avoided. People familiar with the family didn’t speak up when they might have been subpoenaed, but still wanted their opinion of the defendant, her husband, and their relationship to be known. While a story about a woman attempting to kill two of her children doesn’t sound like something with more than one side, the author did a wonderful job of showing some of the complexities of the relationships that led to a desperate woman’s unthinkable act.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. While the subject matter was frequently alarming, the telling of it was compelling and I find myself still wondering what became of some of the people talked about in the book.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is mostly an introvert, who loves hearing the stories people have to tell. She tells bits and pieces of her story at


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